by Paul Stark, National Right to Life
Hobbes: “How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?”
Calvin: “I didn’t make any. See, in order to improve oneself, one must have some idea of what’s ‘good.’ That implies certain values. But as we all know, values are relative. Every system of belief is equally valid and we need to tolerate diversity. Virtue isn’t ‘better’ than vice. It’s just different.”
Hobbes: “I don’t know if I can tolerate that much tolerance.”
Calvin: “I refuse to be victimized by notions of virtuous behavior.” — Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes (Jan. 2, 1995)
Often a defender of legal abortion will say something like, “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” But this seems to be a misunderstanding. For opponents of abortion are not saying they don’t like abortion; they are asserting that abortion is wrong, whether they like it or not. (It is true that we dislike abortion, but that stems from the wrongness of the act, not the other way around.) To clearly see the error, imagine someone saying, “If you don’t like spousal abuse, then don’t abuse your spouse.” That’s absurd.
The pro-choice advocate has misconstrued the pro-life position as a subjective claim, rather than a claim of objective morality. He has reduced abortion to a question of personal preference — e.g., “If you don’t like Pixar, watch Dreamworks instead” — rather than objective fact.
Consider another claim: “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t want to force my view on everyone else by telling them they shouldn’t have abortions.” Again, the person making this statement sees opposition to abortion as a mere personal preference. Imagine someone saying, “I’m personally opposed to slavery, but I don’t want to force my view on everyone else. So if you want to enslave the Canadians, go right ahead.”
Underlying these statements is an idea called moral/ethical relativism. It holds that no objective standard of right and wrong exists; rather, morality is relative to each individual or culture. “What is right (or wrong) for me,” the explicit relativist says, “might not be right (or wrong) for you.” The alternative view is called moral objectivism or realism, which holds that morality is independent of what any particular person or culture thinks, feels or decides.