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Abortion is Not Freedom
Joe Kral, M.A.
Society of St. Sebastian | 12 October 2023
On October 6, 2023, Steven Ertelt of LifeNews.com, published an article discussing the recent events of Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs mentioning that abortion is freedom.[i] This seems to be one of the latest marketing ploys of pro-abortion advocates, that is to say, that abortion is foundational to freedom. This, of course, makes it something much more than a right for pro-abortion advocates. In essence, it makes the implication that freedom itself cannot exist without abortion. How exactly is this philosophically wrong?
In many ways, these pro-abortion advocates confuse autonomy with freedom. Autonomy, properly defined, is the ability to do whatever one desires. Whereas freedom, which is directed toward the good, is the ability to do what one ought to do. With that said why, are pro-abortion advocates making the argument that abortion is freedom? To say that there is an absolute right to bodily autonomy one dives into the realm of logical fallacies.[ii] It is easily proven that an absolute right to bodily autonomy does not exist. There is no moral duty that exists that someone must let another take illicit drugs that can harm. In fact, that would be contrary to the moral duty of a social-intellectual being to not try and intervene since one can see the harm that is being done. As a result, since there is no duty to let people take illicit drugs, no right can develop. Furthermore, we see civil laws that reflect this moral duty of ensuring that people do not self-harm or harm others. One is required to use a seat belt while in a car, people do not have the right to prostitute themselves, and certain drugs are illegal to consume, just to name a few. But the most damning argument that proves this point was likely issued by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he stated, “That 50 years have passed since Roe and abortion advocates still cannot coherently articulate the right (or rights) at stake proves the obvious: The right to abortion is ultimately a policy goal in desperate search of a constitutional justification.”[iii]
This certainly made pro-abortion advocates shift their verbiage. Now it moves from the context of rights to freedom itself. In fact, it is typically stated in such a way that it appears to literally be freedom. But again, why is abortion not freedom? As stated above, freedom is the ability to do what one ought to do. People do not mention that folks are free to murder or free to steal or even free to plagiarize. One certainly could argue that another is not free to solicit a prostitute. But why is this the case? Firstly, it comes down to an understanding of what human beings are. As St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Nevertheless it must be observed that a thing tends to an end, by its action or movement, in two ways: first, as a thing, moving itself to the end, as man; secondly, as a thing moved by another to the end, as an arrow tends to a determinate end through being moved by the archer who directs his action to the end. Therefore, those things that are possessed of reason, move themselves to an end…”[iv] This means a couple of things: 1) humans are intellectual creatures who can know the truth, and 2) we are moved by ends. In particular, Aquinas gets a little more specific in our actions towards ends, “The object of the will is the end and the good in universal.”[v] Man is rational and can know the good and has a will that seeks the good. In this way, man is connected to the moral law, or rather what is called the Natural Law. As Aquinas states, “Consequently, the first principle in the practical reason is one founded on the notion of good, namely, that the good is what all desire. Hence this is the first precept of law that good is to be pursued and done, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this, so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man’s good belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided.”[vi]
Ultimately, it is by doing good one is able to fulfill his nature. Now, it is clear that one can voluntarily choose what he does. But remember, since it is a first principle that one is to do good and avoid evil, the correct voluntary choice is to do the actual good. One might say that you can choose to steal, but since that violates the principle of doing good and avoiding evil, one can also say one is not free to steal. Why? Because 1) it is contrary to human nature since it is contrary to the good, and 2) one can also see that one has an obligation to do good to others.
In essence, freedom is inherently good. As such, it is directed to the good. Evil actions are contrary to freedom. This is why it is an absurdity to claim abortion is freedom. Since abortion, by its nature is an intrinsically evil act, it cannot be directed to actual freedom. Again, pro-abortion advocates want it to sound like pro-life laws are contrary to the very idea of freedom. But as shown above, freedom is rooted in the good. Civil laws are supposed to help mankind to be free. What does this mean? That laws are directed to help people fulfill their human nature. Laws that prevent murder, theft, etc. are helping people act in such a way that they are not acting contrary to their nature. That is why pro-life laws actually help with freedom. One is never free to commit evil. Abortion will never be freedom.
[i] Ertelt, Steven, “Katie Hobbs: Killing Babies in Abortions is “Freedom””, LifeNews.com, October 6, 2023. Accessed October 11, 2023: https://www.lifenews.com/2023/10/06/katie-hobbs-killing-babies-in-abortions-is-freedom/.
[ii] As I discuss in a previous article. Please see Kral, Joe, “Bodily Autonomy Doesn’t Justify Killing Babies in Abortion”, LifeNews.com, October 17, 2022. Accessed on October 11, 2023: https://www.lifenews.com/2022/10/17/bodily-autonomy-doesnt-justify-killing-babies-in-abortions/.
[iii] Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19 – 1392, 597 US ___ (2022), Thomas, J. concurring at page 5.
[iv] Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 1, A. 2.
[vi] Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 94, A. 2.