The Academic Left, The Christian Right, and The “A” Word

If his initial idea of the academic left and the Christian right forming a political coalition was a misty but hopeful notion, William J. Stuntz’s latest elaboration of the idea is a pipe dream. A Harvard Law professor, Stuntz claims that having belonged to evangelical churches for the last twenty years gives him a unique perspective on how the two worlds of left and right might interact.

It’s a unique position indeed, but Stuntz has now taken a leap into the deep end by succumbing to the left’s view of abortion. He writes:

Abortion. Begin with the hardest nut to crack. The secular left believes strongly in abortion rights. Conservative Christians believe passionately that abortion is evil. Surely common ground can’t exist here.

Yet it might. The key is that the two sides don’t need to agree on premises in order to buy the same conclusion. Pro-life Christians want to see fewer abortions. That is already happening: the abortion rate has been falling since 1981; from that year to 2000 the rate fell by 27 percent, according to census data. Among teenage girls, the decline is greater still. The abortion rate is probably lower today than in 1975; it might be lower than in 1972, the year before the Supreme Court legalized the practice nationwide. What lies behind these trends? Strangely enough, the answer has a lot to do with the law being pro-choice. When the culture is sharply divided on some kind of behavior, the side that wins the law’s endorsement tends to lose ground, culturally and politically. Roe v. Wade has been the pro-life movement’s friend. Those who want abortions to be rare would do well to keep them safe and legal.

This type of reasoning shows that although he has spent 20 years in evangelical churches, Stuntz still views abortion through the eyes of his leftist colleagues. Let’s apply Stuntz’s logic to another antithetical group—storeowners and shoplifters. Storeowners and shoplifters are sharply divided on a particular behavior (you guessed it–shoplifting). Storeowners think shoplifting should be eradicated. Shoplifters long for further success in their chosen field. The answer to this dilemma of division, according to Stuntz’s reasoning, would be to make shoplifting safe and legal—which would consequently produce a drop in shoplifting.

The statistics Stuntz cites to show that abortions have declined neglect many other factors that bear upon the abortion rate. The increasing availability of birth control and the ever-unveiling knowledge by the public (via education by pro-life groups) of what occurs during abortion procedures are just two of many factors that have influenced the decrease in abortions. “But there’s no evidence that these factors have directly influenced the number of abortions,” one might say. There is likewise no evidence that the legalization of abortions has reduced their number—only correlation, which we all know does not equal causation.

A society that permits a behavior it deems destructive for the purpose of reducing the occurrence of said behavior has lost its collective mind. Such a utilitarian view of law has no respect for right and wrong. Christians, who believe in an absolute God who defines absolute good and evil, should seek to make abortion illegal—not just because it saves X number of lives, but because it is wrong. Any “Christian right” that embraces legal abortion for the purpose of the greater good has in effect become a “Christian wrong.”