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The curious opposition of capital punishment and abortion

April 21, 2011

It’s a commonly noted hypocrisy, the universal diametric opposition of abortion and the death penalty.  If you are for one, almost assuredly you are against the other.  Why is this?  From the conservative side, the answer is rather simple.  Babies have done no wrong, criminals convicted of heinous crimes have (according to our legal system).  Our supposed opposition to one but not the other is based on the concept of guilt.  A baby, having yet been born, can bear no guilt for any crime, yet a criminal obviously bears guilt as evidenced by his conviction (again, not arguing the merits of individual convictions, but on the nature of the penalty).

But the progressive stance is rather different.  They almost universally support abortion, yet are fervently opposed to capital punishment.  If we take the conservative view and apply it to the progressive stance, we get an obscene view of the world.  Babies should be aborted because they are guilty (of what I don’t know) and criminals should be saved because they are without guilt.  Obviously one can’t apply the conservative criteria to the progressive argument, it is rather ludicrous.  So what must it be?

First we have to understand progressives view humanity as inherently evil.  Humans are the most corrupt, disruptive and deadly creatures on Earth, not just to nature, but to each other as well.  If it were not for laws, we would just rampantly go about killing, raping and torturing each other because it is in our nature, which begs the question, “How did humans survive for the thousands of years before codified law?”  Regardless, take this to heart, the progressive believes you, me, Joe Smoe, and even their mother is one evil bastard.

But the evil is unique.  It is not evil motivated by some nefarious plot to destroy each other, humans are not Lex Luther’s, well not universally.  We are just generally incapable of being good.  Even when we are good, we are denying our nature.  It is this concept of humanity that explains the odd progressive stance on abortion and the death penalty.

On abortion, progressives (and I would say all of us) have a hard time reconciling the freedom of a woman to make decisions of her own body and the inhumane killing of an unborn child.  The rationalization for many of them is that they aren’t really killing a human, just a jumble of nerves or something to that effect:

“I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I have in fact presided over 60,000 deaths. There is no longer serious doubt in my mind that human life exists from the very onset of pregnancy”

–Dr. Bernard Nathanson, “Deeper Into Abortion” New England Journal of Medicine Nov 1974 pg.1189

It only took him 60,000 abortions to conclude that?  Wow, thank god he is quick on the uptake, imagine the number of lives lost otherwise.  Others fully accept what they do is murder, but its murder in a good cause: (from the Daily Kos – actually a pretty good, well argued piece)

As a society, we Americans devalue the mother, we force women into untenable positions to assuage the vocal demands of a small group of control freaks, we force children into untenable lives of poverty and violence, we make all of society colder, meaner, and more selfish.  We cut funding for Medicaid, for education, for child nutrition, for food stamps, for housing, and have the unmitigated gall to consider ourselves decent, moral people.   We get laws that restrict pay and job conditions, and we attack mothers forced onto welfare because we prevented them from making the hard, informed choices they must make.

Abortion is not easy. It is as life-altering a decision as giving birth, and there’s not a woman who has had an abortion who doesn’t regret the need for that decision. They may not regret the decision itself, they may rejoice that they could have that choice, but they will always regret the need that forced the decision upon them, a need our society should have prevented, but didn’t because we refuse to provide the support pregnant women and mothers need.

Of note in that quote is, “we force children into untenable lives of poverty and violence, we make all of society colder, meaner, and more selfish.”  That is a pretty strong assumption.  I would like to point out I am neither arguing for nor against abortion, but trying to point out the reasoning behind each side’s stance.

Okay, so now that we know why progressives embrace abortion, lets analyze why they are against the death penalty.  It’s because humans are evil, all of us, and WE CAN NOT HELP IT.  Its pretty simple.  If humanity is destined for evil deeds, then how can someone be guilty of performing such deeds?  He is only doing what nature tells him to do.  He is not guilty!  For sure he is guilty of the crime, but he is not guilty of going against his nature.  If humans were inherently good, this would be a different story, a murderer would be correctly shunned because he is acting in an inhuman manner, but if humans are inherently evil, then the murderer is just like the rest of us.  Nothing explains this better than the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog: (from allaboutfrogs.com)

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.

The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn’t see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.

Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

“Hellooo Mr. Frog!” called the scorpion across the water, “Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?”

“Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?” asked the frog hesitantly.

“Because,” the scorpion replied, “If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!”

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. “What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!”

“This is true,” agreed the scorpion, “But then I wouldn’t be able to get to the other side of the river!”

“Alright then…how do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?” said the frog.

“Ahh…,” crooned the scorpion, “Because you see, once you’ve taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!”

So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog’s back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog’s soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog’s back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.

“You fool!” croaked the frog, “Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?”

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog’s back.

“I could not help myself. It is my nature.”

In essence, the human on death row couldn’t help himself, it is in his nature.  But that is not the whole story.  Progressives fear their own concept of humanity.  Because if they truly believe what they believe (I know, it’s a little silly), then any single one of us is capable of ending up on death row.  Any single one of us only has to stop denying our evil tendencies and to act out with our destructive nature.  The progressive can see themselves in the convict’s shoes, counting the years, months and days to his appointed time with death.  And they can not blame him for his crime.

It’s an interesting dichotomy, more intriguing for the progressive than the conservative.  The former views humanity as evil and corrupt, the latter waits for the individual human to prove it.  Which do you think is a better view of life?

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2011 1:06 am

    Well it is about the “I.” The “I” (woman) should be able to choose her reproductive rights. The criminal (I) stands above the state which should not decide whether someone lives or dies.

    • April 22, 2011 10:21 am

      I don’t have a definitive stance on abortion, it is a very nuanced issue. What I do have a problem with is the wholesale industry of abortion in America. It is being “sold” to women as the first and best alternative, and it is definitely a money-making scheme by the clinics involved. Interestingly, abortion is the least regulated “health care” industry in the United States, an ironic perversion of the progressive norm. So we have women going into these “clinics” for counseling on their options, and the only viable option the “salespeople” give them is the abortion, the others are poo-pooed. Its easy to understand why. Abortion earns a profit, an adoption referral gives you nothing. Its simple capitalist profit motive. Only the progressives could embrace capitalism through the act of killing babies.

      On the other hand, I know your stance on the death penalty (I think I do, I remember we discussed this before) and it seems you are most against it because of the costs involved. So I ask a simple question, if the cost of a life-sentence or a death sentence were the exact same (assuming the actual stats given for their costs were accurate) would you still be against the death penalty and why? The cost issue absolves you of the moral argument, I want to hear you philosophy behind the punishment, for or against.

  2. April 22, 2011 5:35 am

    An interesting explanation and one I hadn’t thought of before. The baby can be killed in order to prevent another evil human to enter the world, yet the criminal is just a victim of human nature so it wasn’t his fault that he committed a crime; using this logic I guess we could call abortion preventative capitol punishment.

    • April 22, 2011 10:24 am

      You got it pretty much. But the progressive has to convince themselves the baby is not human yet…it could be a human, but it is also just a tumor, or a jumble of nerves. This absolves them. The criminal is just acting out his nature, so it was his fault, but he isn’t guilty. They don’t believe he should be let free (most don’t), but they don’t believe any crime is great enough for the ultimate punishment because how can we be held to such a lofty standard when humanity is so corruptible and evil to begin with?

      • April 23, 2011 7:06 am

        You end up twisting yourself in circles when you try to figure the liberals out!

      • April 23, 2011 11:56 am

        That is for damn sure. lol

  3. JustFacts permalink
    April 22, 2011 5:41 am

    It is very simple for the Progressive to justify their stand on abortion. They don’t consider a fetus as a human being. It must live outside the womb before it can be classified as alive. So, an abortiion just removes a “growth” from a woman’s body, just as surgery would remove a tumor. This makes it all so sanitary for their thought processes, so they don’t have to deal with killing a life. This is why the Progressives are so opposed to any laws that would require a woman seeking an abortion to see an ultrasound of the fetus in their womb. If you don’t see the beating heart and the hands and feet and eyes, then it is relatively easy to block out that it is a living human being that you are allowing to be killed.

    The Progressives that are so rabidly pro-abortion must really feel like Gods, since their mothers must have been prescient to their rolls in today’s society. Otherwise they would have been aborted. So, in a way, this validates their self-identified eliteness. How else can they justify their existence?

    • April 22, 2011 10:27 am

      Yeah, but you and me both know they truly know what a fetus is. They delude themselves, but if you read the thousands of quotes from former abortion-workers, they know they are killing babies. It is one thing to give some disassociated clinical description of what an abortion is, its quite another when you see the aftermath with little arms and a head in a bloody sink.

  4. April 22, 2011 8:23 pm

    An interesting treatment of the fetus v. death row “prolife” dichotomy of the right and left. Progressives view humans as inherently evil? I dunno. That they view most humans as beneath them, yes. But not inherently criminal or animal, for they seek to attain a level of humanity that brings society into godliness, perfection. A few eggs will have to be broken to make that perfect omelet, but nevermind.

    Now, as a Christian I view us humans as inherently evil from birth–original sin and all that. And yet as a Christian I must still hold myself and all others to personal accountability–free will and all that. So I am not opposed to the idea of capital punishment under this belief system.

    Except.

    There is something pesky that interferes with this clean little philosophy. We can make a rule that says, all who kill must be killed.

    But we don’t.

    We make exceptions.

    For good reasons: well that lady was just saving her lifelong mate from prolonged suffering. Well that kid was abused by his dad for years before he lashed out. Well that man came home and found his wife in bed with someone else. Etc.

    Actually, capital punishment is more complicated than that. We need “aggravated circumstances” in order to use the death penalty. We need that because folks were using their prejudices (usually against blacks) to decide who lives and who dies, before SCOTUS dreamed up aggravated circumstances in order to force some objectivity into the question of who lives and who dies.

    And there’s the root of that pesky problem: when we have the death penalty, we end up deciding who lives and who dies.

    Sorta Gods job.

    If we stuck to an absolute rule (if you do ___, then you will be killed), we could safely say we are not deciding who lives and who dies. The perpetrator decides when he commits the crime.

    But by our human nature we cannot be so absolute. We flinch. We end up deciding who lives and who dies.

    Kill ’em all, or kill none of them. It’s the only way to truly be objective, and keep out of God’s role.

    On to abortion. Not a nuanced issue at all in my book. Life begins at inception. Yet as a libertarian I do not want to ban it. Who am I to tell an atheist what to do with her own body and unborn child? In this regard, we must change hearts, not minds. Showing sonograms is a good way to do so.

    For me the two issues are not tied together. Mostly, I assign the fact that progressives are on the wrong side of the issue on both counts because they are on the side of evil, whether they realize it or not.

    Cheers! Sorry for writing such a long comment.
    Linda

    • April 22, 2011 9:18 pm

      No need to apologize for length, you make some excellent points.

      I think your view on capital punishment has one flaw in regards to the absolute black and white rule. Law in America, because of the presumption of innocence, demands motive for a crime. Then it is up to a jury of your peers (roughly speaking) to look at evidence AND motive to decide guilt or innocence, and in the case of a capital crime, determining life or death. The reason we use jurors and not 12 lawyers, is because it makes the prosecutors job so much harder. He has to convince regular folks that somebody did something, legal tricks etc. etc. only work on the judge, they don’t work on people who don’t have an even shallow grasping of the law. Of course this can backfire, the prosecutor can play on the emotions of a jury and sometimes get a conviction, but more times than not, it is to the advantage of the defendant, but even then, a capital conviction has guaranteed appeals just for that instance. It is the requirement for motive that makes our legal system what it is, if it were not a requirement, then law could be black and white. I could be a woman suffering from post-partem depression and drown my kids in a bathtub and instant electric-chair, but considering the responses from women on that very real case, I feel most people would not feel that justice was properly served if that women was put to death. And that is the real point behind our system of crime and punishment, serving the people/s concept of justice. That is why the District Attorney is an elected position, his job is to pursue justice according to the beliefs of his constituency. That does not mean law all of a sudden got lasik surgery, it means the pursuit of a certain conviction is flexible. I’m sorta rambling, =(.

      • April 23, 2011 10:58 am

        I think I see your point. Let me check. Is your point, that you don’t personally mind the idea of 12 people/the community at large deciding on a case-by-case basis who lives and who dies (based on the particular circumstances of the crime)?

        If I’ve got it, then you and I have a simple disagreement. Both opinions are rational but perhaps irreconcilable.

        The thing is, those cases go up the appeals process after the 12 have decided. And as a matter of law, a judge ends up deciding whether the SCOTUS requirement of aggravated circumstances have been fulfilled.

        Somebody has to decide whether the facts constitute torture, or premeditation, or whatever the particular agg factor happens to be. I clerked for a judge for a little while. Without fail these kinds of cases devolve into a most horrific hair-splitting.

        I didn’t like it. It felt pointless, wrong, and an impossible task. No one should have to answer these kinds of questions.

        If we can’t stick to an inflexible rule, and we insist on deciding that only the “worst of the worst” murderers will be put to death, than some human/s at some point have to split some rather unpleasant hairs.

        I could accept the death penality if justice were truly swift and objective. Yet, that search for objectivity is the exact reason why we force judges to have factual debates about things like what level of pain or fear constitutes “torture.”

        I’m not opposed to the death penalty. But I am uncomfortable with the current state of capital punishment law. I would prefer either more rigidity, or just doing away with it altogether.

        Woo, think I better stop typing. Cheers!

      • April 23, 2011 11:59 am

        Good stuff. =) And I see your point. I do agree, I wish our administration of the punishment were more rigid, but I do not think the removal of it is the solution if we can’t get what we want. Not going to go into the slippery slopeness of that argument. Nevertheless, we can agree to disagree, although I think we agree more on this issue than otherwise, lol.

    • April 22, 2011 9:51 pm

      I have a real problem saying a baby has been born with sin.

      • April 22, 2011 11:11 pm

        Yeah, I am not a big fan of original sin either.

      • April 23, 2011 11:22 am

        Oh, my choice of words is harsh. But “born evil” or “born in sin” in my mind means nothing more than born flawed and prone to sin.

        A newborn baby has not yet actually committed any sins. He’s just born flawed, with a strong propensity (inevitability?) to sin in the future.

        As soon as a human has developed enough, this propensity shows itself. For example, no one has to teach a toddler to lie. The impulse just surfaces, naturally, as soon as his brain is mature enough to conceive of it.

  5. April 23, 2011 6:46 am

    Interesting post, Colin and one that raises a few questions. For me, abortion is a tragedy, first and foremost. I can understand it being necessary in cases of incest, rape, or medical emergencies, sort of. However, that is not the case in the vast majority of the abortions that are performed in America. The procedure is being used as a form of birth control and for me, that is inexcusable. Even in the cases I mentioned above, I still get the feeling that aborting a baby then still gets us into playing God, deciding who gets to live and who has to die.

    Concerning the death penalty, I suppose there are cases where it is justified, cases that involve such cruelty and viciousness that it defies comprehension. However, in cases like that, where it could be argued that the perpetrator deserves to die, I ask myself one question. Does he/she deserve to die so much that I would be willing to pull the trigger, flip the switch, inject the drugs, etc? I hope I never get to the place where even such a terrible case would make that an easy decision for me. It would make me question my humanity and my Christian salvation.

    Sorry for rambling on like this. 😉

    • April 23, 2011 11:29 am

      LD it sounds like you and I both have a discomfort with the idea of “playing God.”

      I like the way you phrase it so personally: would you be willing to pull the trigger/flip the switch?

      Like you, I hope I never have to be in that place where the answer is “yes.”

      • April 23, 2011 11:35 am

        Thanks, Linda. I would like to think I never get to the place where I am willing to play God.

    • April 23, 2011 11:55 am

      Good response. Is a soldier playing God when he kills his counter on the field? Or are the politicians when they send that soldier to war? I would presume you would say no to these questions, but isn’t it basically the same thing? If killing is killing, then it is wrong. But in my opinion, exacting the harshest punishment on a perpetrator after concerned and careful consideration is in some cases, the only justice for the victims and society, anything less devalues the victim. You suppose in some cases the death penalty is justified, and I agree with you, that’s the point. We don’ put people to death on a daily basis like the progressives would have us believe, in fact, since 1609, the US (or her previous colonial incarnation) has put to death about 17,000 people, which is a lot, but by no means an epidemic, nor does it show a callous regard for human life. Put in its perspective compared to abortion, the death penalty is a drop in the bucket, with 40 million abortions since 1973! In 2010 there were 46 executions for capital crimes, an up year believe it or not in a population of over 300 million that averages 2.5 million deaths per year, so the death penalty accounted for .00000184% of the deaths last year, hardly a stat that says we are haphazard in the administering of the ultimate penalty. And that is the way it should be, reserved for the most nefarious crimes.

  6. April 23, 2011 9:36 pm

    Excellent article and the commentary afterward is extraordinary. Kudos to all.

    Mike

    • April 24, 2011 2:26 am

      Thanks, and you are most definitely correct about the commentary. =)

  7. JustFacts permalink
    April 23, 2011 10:57 pm

    My personal belief is that capital punishment needs to be more immediate for it to be a major deterent in society. If the “perp” knew that by killing someone, he risked being put to death next month, he would give it a lot more thought. Because we have these endless appeals for the most insignificant reason, the segment of society that is most prone to commit a capital offense does not have any qualms about offing someone for the least affront. If he kills someone today, he won’t see the electric chair for a current average of fourteen years. That is an eternity, in which the victim’s family must live with the consequences of the perps actions every day of their lives.

    But then, I’m an evil old insensitive racist conservative. I believe that if you are willing to do the crime, you have to be willing to do the time, or in this case, pay the ultimate price for your actions. The speedy trial and execution would certainly not eliminate murder, because crimes of passion will always occur. Human emotions are a difficult thing to quell in the heat of the moment. But, for the gang member, it would certainly bring an immediacy to his actions.

    • April 24, 2011 2:43 am

      I never saw legal punishment as a deterrence. That’s not its purpose, though death penalty opponents use this argument. Punishment is just that, a punishment. If incarceration was a deterrence, it is an amazing failure, so I don’t know why the subject even gets brought up. The concept of deterrence takes a certain mind frame very similar to the progressive – you have to believe humans are evil, scheming bastards, who would rape, murder and steal at the drop of the hat, but we refrain from such actions by the laws and “deterrent” punishments to “keep us in line”. I don’t think you believe that, but that is basically what you are saying. The truth is, if you wanted to deter people from committing crime, the punishment would be so heinous no human could imagine to suffer through it, basically we would have to throw out the “cruel and unusual punishment” restriction in the Bill of Rights.

      Deterrence and justice are very sticky subjects. Policing any free society necessitates a reactive stance, because whenever our protectors switch to a proactive roll, they get frighteningly close to stopping crime before we even commit it, like the recent arresting of Terry Jones in Dearborn, MI, he didn’t even protest yet, but they felt justified in arresting him because of the “peace he WOULD disturb”. I don’t like to use slippery slope arguments, but this is definitely one of them. More proactive efforts of government to deter crime? How about the progressive sterilization campaigns of the early 20th century. Perfect examples.

      We should not expect our legally enacted punishments to serve as a deterrent to others committing crime, its has no intended purpose to that effect. Its purpose is to punish someone for a certain act.

      • JustFacts permalink
        April 24, 2011 10:02 am

        But, by nature, man will do whatever he can get away with. The fear of punishment or retribution is what society is built around. Even the supposedly “peaceful” religions (i.e., Quakers, Amish, etc.) invoke severe punishment on their members who break their rules. So, in that vein, yes, capital punishment IS a deterent. I firmly believe that virtually everyone has a price for which they would be willing to commit murder. It is our human nature. Your price might be $200,000,000 and a desert island with absolutely no chance of retribution. And, to be honest, I don’t know what my price might be (it would definitely be higher than that). I’ve never thought what it would take. But, I firmly believe that there is a price that even I would stop and think about it. Now, the other side of that coin is, would anybody be willing to pay that price? I also believe that circumstances play a roll in what that price might be. If you knew that your loved ones would be murdered unless you committed a murder for the hostage taker (ala TV scripts), could you do that?

        I hate to discuss these sorts of things on Easter Sunday, but it does go back to our human nature. Swift punishment (whether it is execution or otherwise) is a real deterent to most crime. That is one reason why our Founding Fathers included that phrase in the Constitution. Of course the other was to prevent the authorities from holding someone for years without bringing them to trial. I love it though when a convicted criminal uses this swift justice portion of the Constitution as a basis for granting a commutation of a death sentence when they have used every legal trick and appeal to prevent the execution from occurring.

      • April 24, 2011 1:33 pm

        The one failure with your argument that by our nature man will do whatever he can get away with is the concept of morality. According to your take, law begets morals, as opposed to morality begets laws. I firmly believe in universal morality, irrespective of law. Man knows murder is wrong, man knows stealing (even governmental stealing) is wrong, laws only systematize the punishments humans would be on enacting on each other as retribution for said crimes, as well as protecting the innocently accused. What happened to principles? Do conservative Americans milk the government for every program we can get away with? I can speak for myself and say HELL NO! So what is causing me not to? It is not illegal, the government is happy to add me to the list of folks on the dole, so how come every American isn’t chomping at the bit for a handout from the government. Because we have morals and principles which guide our lives, the law just naturally mimics those morals, they don’t spawn them.

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