As President of Right to Life of Michigan and now vice president of National Right to Life, I am often asked by those outside the movement whether my involvement in the abortion issue was primarily motivated by religious conviction. They always seem somewhat disappointed when I point out that in fact religious conviction by itself initially kept me from becoming actively involved in the abortion issue. I was naturally horrified by abortion statistics, but like many of my contemporaries in the late '60s, I erroneously felt that I could not impose my sectarian morality upon a pluralistic society.
Then a young philosophy professor pointed out to me that involvement in the abortion issue was imperative for the same reasons that I felt it necessary to become involved in the civil rights issue--like the blacks, another group of human beings, the unborn, were being violently discriminated against. The realization that abortion is a form of discrimination of the most violent sort made it less plausible for me to say, "It's a private moral question," or "I would not have an abortion, but..." This kind of objection arose because I was connecting abortions with sexual ethics, which is a private moral matter in a way that violence and discrimination are not. Prejudice is the most common feature of injustice. The kind of prejudice here is not so much an explicit rejection of someone, but a failure of imagination--a failure to identify with the person whose rights we are violating.
This whole problem of a prejudicial lack of imagination is very much a problem in the case of abortion: We don't see "fetuses"; we don't identify with them. We can't remember what it was like when we were small and defenseless unborn children.
Jane Muldoon lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when this article appeared.