The Supreme Court continued its crusade for cultural redefinition on Monday, June 27th, when five justices struck down a Texas law that significantly limited access to abortions. Justice Kennedy, the voice of the infamous Obergefell decision, claimed that state governments could not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion services, such as “unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.”
But one has to wonder, why are these justices so willing to infringe on our rights, as when it comes to the Second Amendment, and yet so adamant about defending a right that doesn’t even constitutionally exist? Why is abortion so sacred to a secular society and its judicial elite?
I think the answer goes back to something C.S. Lewis wrote midway through the twentieth-century. In his Abolition of Man, Lewis recognized that the modern age represents a fundamental shift away from more traditional societies and civilizations. For the earlier traditionalist mind, the world was filled with divine meaning and purpose, and therefore all people were obligated to orient their lives in such a way that fulfilled that divine obligation.
But Lewis saw the modern age as characterized by a fundamental break from that vision. Instead the modern age assumes that the world is inherently meaningless, made up only of biological, chemical, and physical processes. So the world is not there to teach divine obligation; rather, the world is there to be conformed to our own desires and ambitions.
This is why we moderns depend so much on science and technology as over against, say, wisdom and prayer. While the latter practices orient the human person toward divine meaning and purpose, the former practices reorient the world toward our own desires and ambitions. While the ancients thought man was most free when in prayer, we moderns see man’s freedom as bound up with scientific and technological advancement and progress. Thus, our conquest over nature secures our highest happiness.
And so, what is abortion? Abortion, unlike the Second Amendment, controls nature and thereby secures our freedom and happiness. Lewis himself saw this logic as operative behind modern attitudes towards contraception, and abortion is simply the backup for when such contraception fails. This is why abortion is so sacred: secular society is predicated on a vision of freedom that enthrones scientifically inspired manipulation as the means of realizing our highest happiness. The manipulation of nature is necessary to our freedom, and abortion effectually manipulates nature.
However, while this may explain why moderns are so protective of abortion, it doesn’t explain why secular elite institutions such as the Supreme Court are so devoted to its perpetuation. Indeed, scholars have recognized that, as a territorial monopolist of ultimate decision making, the state operates according to its own interests which do not necessarily reflect those of society. Why would a bunch of judges care what the masses think?
For this question, Lewis goes one step further. Such a conquest over nature and the promised benefits therein requires our trusting dependence upon a class of elites who have the expertise to so conform the world. These engineers promise us life without limit, health in perpetuity, psychological wholeness and wellness, the protection of group rights and bodies, unlimited educational and career opportunities and prosperity for all. And Lewis recognized that the genius of this new modern division of labor is the success it has had in enslaving the masses by convincing them that their freedom is contingent upon the extent to which they are dependent on social engineers.
For example, do you know the name of the card the state of Maryland issues to access public food and cash assistance? It’s called the “Independence Card.”
Now we can see why the Supreme Court considers abortion so sacred. By protecting and perpetuating abortion, the Supreme Court exercises their social engineering power to conform and manipulate the natural world towards our own desires and ambitions. As is it turns out, our jurists consistently rule in favor of abortion and any other secular sacrament not because such rulings empower us; no, but because such rulings ultimately empower them. Protecting abortion perpetuates the myth that our highest happiness is dependent on an elite class of engineers and experts who manipulate reality to our own benefit.
The tragedy in all of this, as Lewis saw it, is that if manipulation is at the heart of the modern age, then by definition there must exist two classes of people: manipulators and manipulatees, or, in Lewis’ terms, the “conditioners” and the “conditioned.” In a world governed by manipulators, inevitably we become the objects of manipulation. For the manipulators to remain in power, they will have to do more than merely conform and control nature to our desires and ambitions; no, they will need to conform our desires and control our ambitions.
And when that happens, Lewis argues, nature has the last laugh; for we end up being conquered and manipulated right along with nature itself. In our attempt to conquer nature, nature has conquered us; hence his title, The Abolition of Man.
Once we’ve opened the door, however slightly, to dehumanization, it becomes the one thing that we can no longer control. Heaven help us when our class of secular elites considers such dehumanization sacred.
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