If any little good could come out of our Western culture’s embedding of first the practice of, then the celebration of, abortion it’s this: The issue a cast iron example of a slippery slope in action.
We do not have to postulate, or construct flow charts, to determine whether radical social changes have huge unintended consequences, this is a clear example of where they do. It’s like, as a biologist might say “evolution in action.”
Or when a volcano erupts out to sea and builds an island in double quick time. Right there and then you get to see something unfold before your very eyes that you would not otherwise see.
The current state of the abortion issue is just like that. It is a clear example of what perhaps a tiny percentage of those advocating the change did want, but which a huge percentage did not envisage, and perhaps still today, even deny, especially if their word choice is any indication. And it’s unfolded in a few short decades before our eyes like an volcanic island being, er, born.
The place we are in late modernity today vis a vis abortion is a prime example of a decision being made about a matter in which all of the presenting arguments at the start of the process are swamped and overrun by the landslide that follows once the decision has been taken.
For all of the scornful who dismiss claims of slippery slope arguments as mere moral panic over nothing, then the abortion narrative since 1973’s Roe vs Wade surely silences that scorn.
It is a prime example of how a narrative, and a practice, moves from “a few clumps of cells at an early stage” to the considered killing of babies who have actually been born and are lying there, clearly independent of, but fully dependent on, adults around them.
For many evangelicals who don’t view themselves as stridently conservative politically, there’s been almost a contentment down the decades to let bygones be bygones.
We lost the abortion argument legally, politically and culturally, – and emotionally – so it’s our role to be a little quieter now and get on with what social justice issues are still open to us. After all if we do carry on too loudly about abortion we could be disbarred from even those justice issues that people, progressive secular AND conservative religious can get alongside each other with.
And besides, as the accusation went, Christians should put their money where their mouths are, get on with adopting and fostering more if they really care about unwanted babies, and providing in ways they don’t provide. To not do so is to be hypocritical. And with that many of us have been, over the years, cowed into silence.
Funnily enough though, the families I know who do adopt have such trouble doing so with all sorts of legal and financial strictures in place, and cannot find children in Australia to adopt. A couple in our church adopted a young boy from Taiwan, because as his mother said euphemistically, “unwanted babies in Australia don’t make it to adoption agencies”.
So it was that guilt-inducing putsch, not wanting to be seen to be uncouth, uncultured or uncaring, that led many of us to stay silent over the past 46 years, or at least if we said anything, to say it sotto voce.
And those on the other side of the argument? Slippery slope all the way.
And sotto voce? Not on your life. Oprah wants you to shout it.
And for every pop cultural icon such as Oprah, there’s a well considered, implacably progressive political leader to ensure the ride down the slope continues.
Which is why we get to a video like the one below, in which just this week the Governor of the State of Virginia, who is also a doctor, stated on a public broadcaster that it’s justifiable – and now legal – for a baby to come to full term, be delivered, given medical attention, kept comfortable, and then be killed if that is the decision that the parents and the practitioners decide.
Watch and listen for yourself:
What’s most sobering about this is the calm, sober manner in which the governor addresses the situation. To be honest I would have preferred a ranting placarding activist, because the sobriety in the man is chilling.
Here is a well educated physician, speaking in his plummy north east coast baritone, explaining to listeners on air, just how this thing would proceed, qualifying only that instead of the one medical provider being required that legislation is seeking, that two would be preferable.
The governor’s reply attempted a gravitas and suggested a due respect for what were quite horrifying words. And his words are proof again that when it comes to ethics, our rootless and baseless modern West is shaped more by aesthetics than by anything else.
It just seems that in the past 46 years, the desire to be seen as sober and a part of the wider academic and cultural narrative has led many a well-educated evangelical to say nothing, assuming the best in our leaders who would pull us back from the brink.
But when the brink was jumped 46 years ago, all that is left is to arrest the slide, and there seem to be precious few secular leaders who will thoughtfully and with conviction speak out against this.
If we were to cut out the time between 1973 and 2019 and paste the two years together, I wonder how many of those who championed Roe vs Wade would be jumping up and down celebrating what the Governor just said. Surely, surely to God, I hope that some of them would put their hands to their mouths, be silenced, and ask themselves “What have we done?”
All this has told us is that when the culture went over the end of the slope nearly five decades ago on this, the rope they rappelled with did not contain an ethical knot in the end of it to break their fall. Which leaves us with the question: Where does this thing bottom out?