The metaphysics of murder
That anti-abortionists and pro-abortionists talk past each other is no secret. Conflicting anthropologies stemming from conflicting cosmologies ensure one dictionary but two languages. Less out in the open but becoming clearer by the day is that we can sort anti-abortionists themselves into two competing camps.
On gradualism, ending the mass murder of God’s children revolves around a two-part commandment: “Thou shall not mention God or murder.” Gradualism meekly toils away within a “secular” framework (a pluralistic public square is no place for theological facts) and hands recruits a starter pack containing science, a valuable future, a burning IVF clinic, and a famous violinist. The worldview is humanistic, abortion is bad, the mother is a victim, and “lethal violence” against “the fetus” is “unconstitutional” because it has no deep roots in US history and tradition. The master plan is to formalise a specific interpretation of a clause in an amendment to a legal document. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey.
On abolitionism, God and murder are indispensable terms in the anti-abortion vocabulary. America’s legal environment welcomes religions; furthermore, “godless law” is oxymoronic. Abolitionism counters gradualism’s anemia with confident blood-and-thunder preaching, unpacking abortion by unpacking identity and authority. The worldview is biblical, abortion is sinful, the mother is a criminal, and deliverance demands national repentance. The beast abolitionism tries to catch is no monkey and patience no virtue.
The future belongs to abolitionism. Its superior grasp of things means many organisations fighting the good fight must submit to a bout of soul-searching. However, tomorrow’s anti-abortionists will be neither apologists nor lawyers — natural or besuited — but rather fishers of men, telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. For while the gradualism-dominated pro-life industry plows the bulk of its financial, emotional, and spiritual resources into lowering the number of abortions to zero, counterintuitively emphasising the legal over the physical unveils an earth-shattering metaphysical truth that currently eludes gradualists and abolitionists alike. Here, I write of an invisible coup, something worse even than murder.
Back to basics
To reveal why greenlighting murder in the womb is monstrous absent bloodshed, we must reacquaint ourselves with five oft-forgotten rudimentary facts.
First, human value is an illusion unless we reference God. Only a non-human person can endow value present at our zygotic stage. Second, the germane use of person communicates our essence, that which we cannot extract without leaving nothing. Context renders any alternative use specious. Third, human law exists precisely because humans are persons. Infinitely valuable, our sacred nature warrants protection by God’s commandments alone or our rules in conformity with His. (Since manmade law owes its boundaries to our unchosen nature, we are impotent to reset them. Some things cannot be legal; others cannot be illegal.) Fourth, murder denotes the deliberate taking of an innocent person’s life, where innocence is possible because morality is actual. And fifth, abortion is shorthand for murder modified by the victim’s location, the womb. Again, any alternative use is specious. Morality transcends language.
Now, the physical world (reality) is not the world of human law (legality). Reality features three-dimensional items such as trees, creatures, and cars, whereas legality is immaterial, composed of facts and beliefs expressed via two-dimensional language. Similarly, the physical act (abortion) is not the legal act (Abortion). Whether voted through by a legislative body, authorised by a court, or proclaimed by a king, Abortion withdraws earthly punishment for committing murder in utero, doing so on explicit grounds: “The fetus is not a person.”
But the human creature at the earliest moment has no defining characteristic. We categorise him in terms of an age universal to being human. (Not everybody reaches ninety-nine, but we all “reach” conception.) Our understanding of the unborn child’s value is thus our understanding of human value as such. Contra the stubborn myth, then, Abortion does not withhold legal protection from unborn children and leave everybody else undisturbed. No, “The fetus is not a person” translates to: “Humans are not persons.”
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In negating legality’s raison d’être, Abortion exposes itself as an unadulterated lie. Reason then tells us gradualism’s principles do not apply because there is no law to improve incrementally, only a hallucination to overcome. Measures that impede injustice (e.g., mandating admitting privileges) may be tolerable, but any “less bad” “law” that directly permits abortion (e.g., a heartbeat bill) is a lighter shade of lawlessness, sustaining murder by sustaining the hallucination.
Said differently, the pro-life movement has spent half a century trapped inside a question that presupposes an impossibility: “Should abortion be legal?” In truth, the Roe Court did not legalise abortion. Powerless to extract the child’s essence, it perpetrated a linguistic sleight of hand and instituted a novel legal meaning of person. If that strikes you as altogether undramatic, observe that “personhood” scoured of God’s thumbprint is personhood in name only. In virtue of unnaming persons for legal purposes, Abortion pierces the heart of human law, severs legality from reality, and is the quintessence of our refusal to obey God, our purest non serviam.
Nemesis stalks hubris. Our refusal inevitably manifests, predominantly in the sphere of identity.
Personhood does not entirely capture human identity. We are a particular kind of person, the embodied kind. And as human personhood and embodiment are inseparable, denying one in fact denies both. Accordingly, a post-Abortion legal system can undo every law apt for the human creature by obliterating any sign of maleness and femaleness, up to and including familial bonds. The chief unseen effect of Abortion was a revolution in legal anthropology, the body’s banishment from human law.
A second revolution had to transpire eventually, because abolishing ourselves in legality necessitated obscuring ourselves in the material realm. Just as an undersea earthquake expresses itself as a tsunami slamming into dry land, the logic of Abortion had to catapult into society, propelled by legality’s unique and formidable powers of persuasion. Everywhere we look, boys, girls, men, and women are drowning under that invasion of lies, a state-imposed, all-encompassing social engineering project.
The Christian intelligentsia’s best guesses notwithstanding, the legal execution of bodiless “identities” is not feminism gone wrong (or right), institutionalised psychiatric malpractice, a powdery amalgam cooked up by gnostic Marxist capitalists, or a surreal academic proposal careering through every kindergarten’s front door. Those who imagine queer theory has penetrated the law’s walls forget that our identity crisis occurs while the world of law refuses its subject a name.
“Legalised murder” plucked corporeality from legality — not because queer theorists wanted it to but because how our Maker constructed the moral universe determines how it falls apart. All else is a powerful delusion arising from the presence of gender, the legal use of which symbolises the body-shaped hole at the heart of post-Abortion law.
Lest anybody forget, the conventional term for sundering the human person from the body is death. Having failed to detect our legal demise, we are mindlessly resurrecting ourselves in the image and likeness of nothing. Then how can legality ignore public utterances that disclose embodied personhood? The second most pronounced curse courtesy of our absolute refusal is the breakdown of legal language.
Initially, nobody spotted the annihilation of his legal identity because the reflective veneer of linguistic continuity camouflaged the conceptual exchange of something for nothing. In plain English, everything vanished except the words. Nevertheless, starved of personhood and embodiment as twin structuring reference points, under the sheer weight of the irresistible tag team of coherence and time, post-Abortion legal language began to deform. Today, it is melting uncontrollably before our very eyes, a once-beautiful ice sculpture dripping ever faster from every extremity. See her sperm and pregnant man.
See also male and female melting into each other’s arms to become two spellings of one thing. For where emptiness reigns, every word means the same thing, nothing. Hence, the rise of scare quotes and “circular definitions,” respectively nullifying meaning and disguising nothingness.
As with language and the family, there is no such thing as half a legal system. Authentic law is on or off because the human creature is infinitely valuable or a modern incarnation of pond scum. Chillingly, in an imperceptible flash, Abortion converts law into anti-law, legal language into anti-words, and legal identities into a blasphemous anti-substance overnight. But while repudiating murder engenders an instant verdict, the sentence arrives in stages, as evidenced by the piecemeal collapse of legal language.
For those with ears that hear and a mind inclined to listen, time’s quiet, steady voice whispers two lessons. Regarding the verdict’s instantaneousness, time tells us that lowering the number of abortions to zero will not lift the curse because what sparks legality’s divorce from reality is Abortion’s nature, not the shedding of innocent blood. Regarding the drip-drip fashion of the sentence handed down, time’s lesson explains why the pit of our collective stomach reports anxiety, disequilibrium, and dread: We are in motion, yet to enter the land that is our darkest destination.
Our journey toward out-and-out nihilism is not mission creep. Au contraire, Abortion is perfecting itself, just as the young sunflower tilts its head to follow the sun. Legality is in transition. To be exact, it is dissolving language across three phases. During phase one, normality, different words represent different things. Without a change of trajectory, its trip will terminate at phase three, a no-man’s-land where every word is totipotent, capable of representing anything for anybody for any reason and duration. In the meantime, our home is phase two, a blurred world that juxtaposes conceptual sameness with linguistic difference. For example, whereas yesterday had different restrooms with different names and tomorrow will tolerate identical nameless restrooms only, today taunts us with identical restrooms bearing different names.
Cognitive dissonance assaults us from every angle, because phase two is the halfway mark of the process of deleting language in the wake of deleting meaning. Be not deceived; legality is slowly but surely rounding up the linguistic vestiges of personal identity and forcibly escorting them off the legal premises, manhandling us from presence, truth, difference, and language to absence, lies, sameness, and empty words. Foundational terms such as male and female live on borrowed time, leaves of a tree struck dead by lighting.
The Dobbs decision lifted not one finger to end the metaphysical violence. Why? Because the impossibility-presupposing question that traps the pro-life movement likewise traps the Supreme Court: “Should abortion be legal?” The Roe Court answered yes and surmised it had the final say, the Casey Court stripped Roe to a skeleton before applying fresh flesh, and the Dobbs Court blindly accepted the question but differed in respect of who votes.
Alas, press-ganging the states into opining unleashes a chain reaction that arcs 360 degrees and devours the Court’s legitimacy. Spying the devil in the detail is as straightforward as asking and answering the question on the ballot: “Is murder possible?” If yes, the result is invalid precisely as the result of a vote. If no, legality has no shape that precedes and exceeds our desires and is merely a game wherein anything can be “legal” or “illegal.” Yet no game can incorporate the rule: “Everybody must play.” Incapable of presenting itself as a source of authority, the game — an atheistic desire-balancing mechanism — is an impostor with law emblazoned on its forehead.
Simply stated, since “This state permits murder” is a conceptual impossibility, so is “This Court permits that state to permit murder.” As was always true of its elder siblings Roe and Casey, Dobbs is not legally binding because it is not a legal decision, just lawlessness with a smile.
It follows that abolitionism is entirely correct to analyse Abortion through the dependable lenses of identity and authority. After all, they match the radical claim undergirding the Abortion mentality: “Humans can choose the meaning of meaning, the definition of definition.” Obeying the truth of definitions means operating them at the level of being: “The unborn child has a rational nature.” The pro-abortion mindset operates them at the level of doing: “The fetus is not rationalising.”
In the context of manmade law, where identity and authority converge, exchanging being for becoming is not arbitrary, accidental, or a failure to comprehend the relationship between actual and potential. It is the spirit of rebellion. Anchored to being, bona fide definitions affirm the goodness of Creation. Anti-definitions oppose said goodness by inserting an insulating layer between creature and Creator in the vain hope of fabricating a Goldilocks zone wherein being no longer restricts us, yet meaning and value remain.
In short, beneath the excuses and legalese, attempting to disprove the possibility of murder is how we wage war against God, rejecting His personal nature by rejecting ours. Phrased positively, to defend the unborn child’s infinite value is ultimately to defend that Christ entered this world as a Person. Ours is not the victory, though. To expect mankind to triumph over itself is to misidentify the combatants. Ours is to tell the truth — the whole truth — to the glory of the Lord, who teemed with life when a child in the womb.
Daniel Moody is a philosopher who specialises in the relationships between bodies, minds, words and law. He lives in Dorset, England, and is the author of Flesh Made Word. This piece has been adapted from the forthcoming book, Blinded by Blood.
This article has been republished with permission from the Humanum Review.
Image credit: Pexels
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