I have often observed that debates about abortion among political pundits tend to miss the point. There is no serious moral contemplation of the issue, but only crass calculations of how a particular point of view might help or hurt some politician.
That is why I was struck by this conversation on Chris Matthews’ program “Hardball” (see above). Matthews and his guests seem to have discovered for the first time that pro-lifers actually believe life to begin at conception. They are astonished and appalled by this revelation, and it is almost as if they have never even heard of this point of view before several GOP candidates signed the Personhood USA pledge. As a result, the panel lampoons the view as if it represented some extreme, unheard of ideology. They don’t seem to realize that the pro-life position consists precisely in the view that individual human life begins at conception. How could they not know this?
The entire pro-life debate hinges upon the status of the life that is taken in an abortion. If it’s just a blob of cells, then abortion on demand would be no problem. If it’s a person (as pro-lifers have been arguing all along), then that unborn person should be protected in law. I am happy to welcome Matthews to the national conversation now that he has discovered what it is really about.
I give you fair warning that what you are about to see is completely morally unserious. Matthews argues that the politics of abortion should be totally disconnected from “metaphysical” questions about personhood. The panel even suggests that the reality of miscarriages somehow constitute prima facie evidence against the personhood of the unborn. The arguments here are really weak, but they are precisely the kinds of opinions that proliferate among unthoughtful pro-choice advocates.