Paglia and pro-life morality

Camille Paglia is interviewed about her new book, Free Women, Free Men:

You say in the abortion chapter in your new book that pro-lifers have the “moral high ground” in trying to protect the innocent. Yet you’ve also argued that overcoming nature is a moral imperative and that we should “thwart nature’s procreative compulsions” through activities like abortion. How do you reconcile those two views?

In ethics, one of the many branches of philosophy invented by the ancient Greeks, we are usually faced not with a simple, reassuring scheme of right versus wrong but rather an often painfully conflicted choice between morally mixed options. I stated in Vamps & Tramps (1994): “Women’s modern liberation is inextricably linked to their ability to control reproduction, which has enslaved them from the origin of the species.” However, as an atheist who nevertheless respects religion, I see and respect the contrary position. As I went on to say: “We career women are arguing from expedience: it is personally and professionally inconvenient or onerous to bear an unwanted child. The pro-life movement, in contrast, is arguing that every conception is sacred and that society has a responsibility to protect the defenseless.”

Contemporary American feminism has distorted and desensitized itself by its inability or refusal to recognize the ethical weight of the pro-life position, which it routinely mischaracterizes as “anti-woman.” In contrast, I wrote (again in Vamps & Tramps): “Modern woman has become an agent of Darwinian triage. It is or should be ethically troubling: abortion pits the stronger against the weaker, and only one survives.” The inflammatory abortion issue has consumed far too much of feminism, to the point of monomania. I used to be a contributing member of Planned Parenthood, until I realized that it had become a covert arm of the Democratic party. If Planned Parenthood is as vital to American women’s health as feminist leaders claim, then why can’t it be removed from the violent political arena altogether and fully funded by wealthy liberal donors? Let the glitterati from Hollywood to Manhattan step up to the plate and put their money where their mouths are.

One of the reasons I have always admired Camille Paglia, despite the plethora of my disagreements with her policy positions, is that she is a proper ethicist. Even when she comes down on the wrong side of the moral equation, at least she understands that there is a moral equation involved.

Like Umberto Eco, Paglia represents the best intellectual aspects of the noble post-Christian. However, it must be understood that they were produced by Christian societies, and are neither indicative of, nor can be replicated by, any post-Christian society.

Anyhow, read the whole interview, it’s rather better than the run-of-the-mill book launch interview.