An Elementary but Crucial Distinction

By Dave Andrusko

There is an old idiom about not breaking a butterfly upon a wheel. It can mean a couple of different things but usually it’s advice not to waste massive effort on unimportant items. Or, coming from a different vantage point, don’t pulverize when a good swat will suffice.

I thought of that admonition not to indulge in overkill when I read a letter to the editor that appeared in today’s New York Times. The writer was firmly in the corner of a typically hysterical Times editorial that unmercifully walloped the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” recently passed by the House of Representatives. There was a proviso: the editorial was too “black and white” on religiosity and abortion.

Her point, in this context, was that you can choose to have an abortion on the basis of faith, or choose not to abort on the basis of faith. Either is an exercise of religious faith and “just as the government may not legislate the practice of religion, it may not proscribe women’s autonomy based on religious belief.” The point in any case is that it’s all about choice.

Two quick points, which have been made four of five trillion times but are routinely ignored. First, not financing abortions out of the public’s purse is not banning abortions. Even during its most rabidly pro-abortion days in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Supreme Court understood—and upheld–that distinction.

Second, passage of each and every law reflects a moral posture. We do or do not do something out of a sense that the behavior should be praised, condemned, or tolerated but not encouraged.

That is not a “religious belief” per se. I know plenty of people who are not just “pro-choice” but pro-abortion who are adamant that public dollars not be commandeered to pay for abortions.

The current state of the law allows abortion. But it does not mean that we have to be financially complicit in the deaths of 1.3 million babies every year.

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