Adam Seagrave (’05): What Pro-Lifers Can Learn from Frederick Douglass
March 25,
2013

Frederick DouglassFrederick DouglassA professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), has written a thoughtful article for The Public Discourse about the present state of the pro-life movement:

In a manner similar to the case of slavery as outlined by Douglass, there are two simple points that, once admitted, join to condemn clearly the practice of abortion: (1) the embryo is a human being from the moment of conception, and (2) all human beings have a natural right to life.…

The problem is that the younger and less developed the embryo is, the less it excites what some have called our “moral sense,” our sympathy with it as another human being like us. And as Hume correctly notes, human beings tend to be moved more by their passions and feelings, including the so-called “moral sense,” than by their intellectual understanding of the world when determining their actions. Even if our reason and common sense tell us clearly — as they undoubtedly do — that the embryo is a human being with the right to life, our moral sense or sympathy lets us off the hook. 

So where does this leave pro-life advocates? How can we bridge the Humean — and human — gap between intellectual understanding and actual practice in our nation? The answer lies in the parallel between the issue of abortion and those of slavery and subsequent civil rights. The pro-life movement needs to model more closely in its organization and practices the antebellum abolition movement and the civil rights movement in order to achieve similar success in ending the evil of abortion.

The entire article, Abortion and Our “Moral Sense,” is available on The Public Discourse website, published by The Witherspoon Intstitute.