Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock lit up the media yesterday with the following comment:
The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
I’m less interested in the political ramifications of the comment than its logical and philosophical bankruptcy. We can argue about when life begins (Colorado has a cadre that floats blastocyst=person amendments about every election cycle). What we can’t argue with is that God’s will is somehow vivid in the case of abortion.
What Mourdock is saying — and he’s far from alone in this belief — is that when it comes to conception, God’s will is embodied in a biological process that shouldn’t be interrupted. That is, because conception has occurred, everything that follows is simply a matter of fate.
We can argue about the morality of abortion and the impact of unwanted pregnancies to mothers and society. We can’t argue that Mourdock’s worldview is at odds with how humans actually operate. His take is fatalistic. We are anything but fatalistic. If simply letting biology take its course were “God’s intent,” Mourdock put it, then polio and MMR vaccines are contrary to God’s intent, and so are radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Microbes and viruses are God’s creatures, like it or not. Cancer cells are a manifestation of a creature of God’s own cells. In treating disease, we meddle with biological manifest destiny.
We are part of nature and survive with its blessing. But we also control nature: we dam rivers, we reshape shorelines, we extinguish forest fires, we stop disease. We also decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy. God’s intent plays no role.