12 Rules for Protecting Life (Part Four)
This is Part Four of "12 Rules for Protecting Life: An Antidote to Abortion"—which applies Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life to the issue of abortion.
Rule #7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
Of all Jordan Peterson’s rules for life, I would call this one the most explicitly anti-abortion. Abortion, after all, is almost always carried out in service to expedience while opposition to abortion stems from the conviction that every human life is meaningful—and worth protecting. Peterson himself calls Rules 7 & 8 the most central of the twelve. It’s not hard to see why. They are the broadest and most far-reaching. Peterson writes:
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Expedience—that’s hiding all the skeletons in the closet. That’s covering the blood you just spilled with a carpet. That’s avoiding responsibility. It’s cowardly, and shallow, and wrong. It’s wrong because mere expedience, multiplied by many repetitions, produces the character of a demon.
Virtually all of the arguments for abortion are pragmatic in nature while those against are almost entirely principled. If you doubt that, start lining them up. Then consider what is gained by supporting abortion and what is gained by opposing it. Abortion is a business; opposing abortion is not. Abortion generates a profit; opposing abortion does not. And while it’s true that some people do make money in the anti-abortion sector—I’m one of them—I don’t know anyone who’s growing rich opposing abortion. More to the point, the money we make is money we must first painstakingly raise.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with making money—not by a long shot, but in a highly-contentious moral debate, monetary motivation is worth considering. If one position is financially lucrative and one is emphatically not, that reveals something. At the very least, those who perform abortions, and those who sell abortions, and those who lobby for abortion rights might be in it for the money. That’s not even a possibility for people on the other side.
It’s frequently asserted that those who oppose abortion are just trying to control women. It’s an accusation so detached from reality that it would be laughable were it not so insidious. Most abortionists are men. Most pregnancy care center directors are women. Let that sink in. The cultural narrative is backwards. Abortion has given far more relational leverage to men than women since the cost of getting a girl pregnant is now exponentially less than it was before. Some men demand abortion; others ostensibly leave it up to the woman—believing that to be the honorable play. It’s hard to say which is more cruel.
Historic feminism—which vehemently opposed abortion—has given way to an ideology that seems devoted to the systematic de-feminization of women. Abortion doesn’t celebrate femininity or motherhood. In some measure it attempts to make women into men—by eliminating their most quintessentially-female distinction. I’m not denying the fact that there are countless women in the world who champion the right to abortion and count it a good thing, but these women are by no means objective. Here again, since abortion offers a tangible benefit to those who embrace it—the elimination of pregnancy (through violence)—there is a tremendous conflict of interest. Abortion cannot be justified behind a veil of ignorance. Peterson notes the following in a 2018 Saskatchewan lecture:
One of the truths that psychologists have uncovered is that you tend to justify what you do. And that’s something to be very wary of. Because perhaps you have your ethical qualms about doing something, but you do it two or three dozen times and you can be absolutely certain that as a consequence of doing it that many number of times, that you will now formulate a story that you will tell yourself and other people—and will also come to believe—about why doing that is not only okay, but good.
The only thing abortion has going for it is expedience. What’s so bad about expedience? Consider a few lessons from history. In service to expedience, Josef Stalin placed millions of political prisoners into forced labor camps where he literally worked his ideological opponents to death. In service to expedience, Adolf Hitler inaugurated the Holocaust by eliminating Germany’s “useless eaters.” In service to expedience, tens of millions of innocent people died in Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward when the communist dictator commandeered the property, tools, and yield of Chinese farmers—which led to unprecedented famine and death. When principles are sacrificed to “the greater good,” terrible things happen. Peterson shared the following with an Ontario audience:
The communists came up with this universal vision of brotherhood and the promise of a better future. That’s attractive, even psychologically, because one of the things you are working towards is a better future… and so it’s really easy to hook you with a utopian vision because it fits right into your psychology... What’s the danger of a utopian vision?... To bring in the beatific vision and the dawn of the new utopia, a lot of things had to be sacrificed along the way. And most of those happened to be other people… The Russian revolutionaries were willing to sacrifice everyone—Everyone—to their heavenly vision… You have to sacrifice something to obtain what is necessary. If it isn’t going to be you who sacrifices yourself, then it’s going to be you who sacrifices someone else.
The only way for an “enlightened” society to justify such sacrifices is to besmirch the value of the victims. “To dehumanize a fellow being,” Peterson writes, “to reduce him or her to the status of a parasite, to torture and to slaughter with no consideration of individual innocence or guilt, to make an art form of pain—that is wrong.” Do you see the connection to abortion? Is it mere coincidence that so many abortion advocates refer to unborn children as parasites? Is it an accident that they use the term “products of conception” rather than baby? This is not the language of tolerance and inclusion. It’s the language of dehumanization. Who are we sacrificing today in the service of a utopian vision? “Unwanted” unborn children. And if you think it’s unreasonable to compare abortion to these historic manifestations of evil, consider the fact that abortion’s death toll dwarfs them all. But these aren't real deaths, you insist. They’re just fetuses! If that’s your argument, then you have already aligned yourself with those who dehumanize the weak and the vulnerable for personal gain.
Let us not forget that slavery, too, was anchored on expedience and justified through the dehumanization of a marginalized people group. And though it’s hard to imagine anyone of sound mind defending slavery in the West today, abortion is defended with the same basic arguments. The government never forced anyone to own a slave. People were free to choose. If you were morally opposed to slavery, you didn’t have to own one. Sound familiar? The Supreme Court—in the Dred Scott decision—ruled that certain human beings should be regarded as property under the law, and then did so again in Roe v Wade. It may be expedient to dehumanize people who get in your way or have something you want, but it’s a wretched and immoral way to live. Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. How do we do that exactly? Jordan Peterson suggests the following:
The quality of the relationship I had with my children, partly because of what they revealed to me as children, did more than pay me for the responsibility that I adopted in choosing to take care of them. And so that was really interesting. You think, well, here’s a weird idea. What if the meaning in life that you need to help lift you out of the tragedy is to be found, not in rights and impulsive freedom, let’s say, which has been the damned dialogue in our culture for at least (four or) five generations as far as I can tell. Maybe we got that wrong. Maybe the fundamental meaning of your life is to be found in responsibility.
In many ways, existence is not expedient. It is painful. It is rife with suffering. And it always ends in physical death. This rather harsh assessment has caused some to conclude that existence—despite its promise and potential—isn’t worth the price. And yet, and yet! Things could be so much worse than they are. For those who forsake meaning and responsibility, things are worse, but the opposite is also true. “It is in fact nothing short of a miracle,” Peterson writes, “that the hierarchical slave-based societies of our ancestors reorganized themselves, under the sway of an ethical/religious revelation, such that the ownership and absolute domination of another person came to be viewed as wrong.” Against all odds, slavery went from being culturally accepted—and celebrated—to being culturally condemned. There is a lesson here, of course. Historic injustices are always propped up by expedience. This was true of slavery, true of the Holocaust, and it’s true of abortion today. To pursue what is meaningful is to emphatically reject the expedience of abortion.
Rule #8 Tell the truth – or, at least, don't lie
Roe v Wade—the Supreme Court decision that invalidated all state abortion prohibitions—is anchored on the assertion that abortion is a constitutional right. That is not true. In rendering the decision, Justice Harry Blackmun claimed that those trained in medicine “[could not] resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” That is not true. The attorney for Jane Roe told the court that her client was pregnant because she’d been gang raped. That is not true. Planned Parenthood—the largest abortion business in America—says that abortion is the “gentle” removal of a “pregnancy.” That is not true. Planned Parenthood further states that abortion doesn’t increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer, depression, or infertility. None of that is true.
Legal abortion—from start to finish—is built on a long and tangled series of lies. Some are big, and some are small. Some are public; some are hidden. Some are bald-faced, and some are barely detectable. Dr. Bernard Nathanson—who co-founded NARAL before his conscience got the best of him—confessed that lying was an acceptable and useful practice for abortion advocates. To their thinking, it did not compromise the “morality” of their revolution. “The overriding concern,” Nathanson wrote, “was to get the [abortion prohibitions] eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible.” The end, as they say, justifies the means.
In large measure, Jordan Peterson’s Rule #8 is an application of Rule #7. To tell the truth—when it would be more convenient to tell a lie—is to choose meaning over expedience. That is what lies and abortion have in common. Both are deemed more expedient than the alternative, but that is an exceedingly shortsighted calculation. The problem with even a small lie is that it never lies dormant. Neither does abortion. “Don’t lie about anything,” Peterson warns. “Lying leads to Hell. It was the great and the small lies of the Nazi and Communist states that produced the deaths of millions of people.” The same could be said of Roe v Wade. The lies of Roe operate at the macro level, but it is the micro-level lies that fuel each and every abortion. Here are some of them:
There’s nothing wrong with abortion.
It’s no big deal.
Abortion is my right.
I don’t have any other choice.
Adoption isn’t feasible.
It’s just tissue—a clump of cells.
Everything will go back to normal.
I’ll be fine once it’s over.
There won’t be any longterm consequences.
Abortion is safer than childbirth.
“The prideful, rational mind,” Peterson writes, “is easily tempted to ignore error, and to sweep dirt under the rug.” And so is the terrified, irrational mind! Virtually everyone in the world who is facing a crisis pregnancy has already fallen victim to one monumental lie. They thought they could have sex without getting pregnant. They thought sex and pregnancy could be reliably separated, but they can’t. Actions have consequences, and as Jordan Peterson frequently asserts, nobody gets away with anything. Ever. He explained it this way in his biblical lecture series:
I've never, in all my years as a clinical psychologist—and this is something that really does terrify me—seen anyone, ever, get away with anything at all, even once... Maybe you disagree, and you think people get away with things all the time. I tell you, I've never seen it. What I see instead is that someone twists the fabric of reality. They do it successfully, because it doesn’t snap back at them at that moment. And then, like two years later, something unravels and they get walloped… You can't twist the fabric of reality without having it snap back. It doesn’t work that way, and why would it? [People are tempted by] the idea that you can get away with [things]. It’s like, yea, you try. You see how well that works. You get away with nothing, and that is the beginning of wisdom.
The attempt to separate sex and pregnancy is an attempt to twist the fabric of reality. When that doesn’t work, abortion is brought in to twist the fabric even further. Millions upon millions of innocent human beings have been sacrificed to this reckoning. Does that not have consequences?! For individuals? For society? Does anyone actually believe that what we reap can be separated from what we sow? Consider a few more testimonies from women who have sought to circumvent fate through abortion:
When people say, "You get over it and you move on," they are lying.
Anyone who says they don’t feel guilty is lying, or will feel it later. I was in psychological treatment for more than a year and went to church retreats where old women still regret their abortion.
When they tell you at the clinic that this will "solve your problem," they lie. That baby is not some theoretical child of the future that you may be considering. That baby is already there, and in order to take care of the problem you have to kill it. Please, please, think about that. Murder puts your very soul in jeopardy.
Don't get an abortion, you WILL regret it for the rest of your life. I'm not saying this to scare you. I'm saying it because I am living proof… Evil beings around me pressured and coerced me into it. I should not have believed their lies. I should have fought for that baby's life. I'm so sorry. Nothing in this world would EVER make me get another abortion.
When I was in my twenties, I had three abortions. Yes, three. Why? Because I was selfish, afraid, and I bought into the lie that abortion was simply a procedure that I was entitled to. Never once, prior to any of these abortions that I had at Planned Parenthood, did anyone talk to me about alternatives. Never once did anyone talk with me about what multiple abortions could do to my body.
I started using drugs and selling my body to get the money for the drugs after my abortion. I couldn't stand not to be high because the pain and the nightmares of the abortion were so bad. I needed something to numb the pain, so I used drugs and sex. The abortion clinic told me it was a procedure—that the baby was just tissue, that I would go on with my life. That was not true. Don't believe their lies.
Everything about the procedure was completely void of life, and the lies were manifold… I was not given any counseling or information about other options… I knew nothing about fetal development. I did not know that my baby had a strong heart-beat, eyes, ears, fingerprints, toes, a firm grip, and had probably already experienced a few annoying cases of the hiccups… Abortion didn’t “help” me as I exercised my “right to choose” at seventeen years old. I hurt myself even more, and I knew it instantly… I tried to lie to myself to quell the anguish and guilt, but I couldn’t bury the truth forever.
Lies beget lies. And instead of making things better, things go from bad to worse. Call it karma; call it whatever you like. Nobody gets away with anything. But there is a pathway forward. There is another option. “If you cease to utter falsehoods,” Peterson writes, “and live according to the dictates of your conscience, you can maintain your nobility, even when facing the ultimate threat; if you abide, truthfully and courageously, by the highest of ideals, you will be provided with more security and strength than will be offered by any short-sighted concentration on your own safety.” If that doesn’t apply to those facing a crisis pregnancy, it doesn’t apply to anyone. You can commit yourself to truth, or you can commit yourself to abortion, but you cannot commit yourself to both.n
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