Jeff Jacoby and “the culture of death”

It’s time to put the phrase “culture of death” to rest. Those who oppose abortion (such as Jeff Jacoby in his most recent column) use it to demean everyone who disagrees. The term is self-righteous, ignorant, and obnoxious.

The vast majority of Americans (including me) do not view a single cell fertilized egg in the same way that we view a baby, and we do not consider the fertilized egg as meriting the full protection under the law that babies get. But we also value human life very highly.

And we all have our own beliefs as to when the embryo or fetus is deserving of government protection. It may be somewhat arbitrary, but this is the sort of arbitrary distinction that is critical in a civilized society, and that we make constantly. Why should a person whose 18th birthday is on November 5th be forbidden from vote if the election is on November 4th? We draw distinctions because we have to, and not because the lines that we draw are in and of themselves meaningful. We even draw distinctions that are practical (or purport to be practical) that are without philosophical merit. Why should a person who is 18 be permitted to serve in the military, drive a truck, vote in national elections, marry, and have children, but not be old enough to be served a drink of beer in a restaurant?

By the way, if you are a Jain, then your use of the term “culture of death” for others would be much more accurate. You don’t eat meat.   You value all living creatures including insects. You oppose all wars and oppose capital punishment. Nevertheless, even for you, I might think that your use of the term “culture of death” was a little on the obnoxious side.


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