Last night, as I watched right-to-life activists at the capitol I was struck, as I always am at their sincerity. I do not have the same trust in all of their leaders, but I believe the rank and file right-to-life activist really believes in what they are doing.
Thinking back to my own right-to-life days, I understand. As long as I believed that the human personality resides in little invisible fleck called the “soul,” then I could believe that abortion is no different than taking a fully developed life. As long as I was ignorant of the scientific evidence, I could believe that a fetus can feel pain even before it has a nervous system. Before I began to work with survivors of rape and domestic violence, it was easy for me to ignore the fact that a woman who did or could not say “no” to sex, might need to say “no” to pregnancy.
I have no doubt that most right-to-light activists are sincere, but sincerity only goes so far. Many inquisitors believed salvation depends on confessing Jesus Christ as one’s savior and so they tortured Jews and others to confess Jesus. From within their religious assumptions, torture was an act of kindness. It is better, they reasoned, to suffer pain for a short time on earth than for an eternity in hell. Sincerity only goes so far. We have a duty to test our beliefs, and if we cannot present demonstrable evidence that others can accept, we have no right to force our private convictions onto the public sphere.