The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“Twisting Our Language to Fit the Courts”: Hadley Arkes in The Catholic Thing

In the latest installment of his biweekly column in The Catholic Thing, JWI founder and director Hadley Arkes considers how the courts will view abortion clinics as “essential services” that must remain open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Arkes questions whether people in authority, issuing edicts to shutter small businesses who have no other means of surviving while holding abortion clinics open, are really so bankrupt of moral consistency that they cannot see their own contradictions.

Some quotations from the article follow:

“In times of contagion and war, unelected judges have been rightly timid about challenging and checking the decisions made by those high figures in elective office, who bear a more direct responsibility to the people whose lives are in danger.   And so I told a correspondent who wrote to me last week. But I told him also that we are likely now to see the first dramatic case to impose limits on those powers, for the question was bound to arise as to why it was vital to keep abortion clinics open and thriving while other businesses are being closed down in the current crisis.”

“All about us, we see legitimate businesses closed down as governments assert the paramount importance of protecting human life.   And yet, are we really to suppose that people in authority, issuing those edicts, are so morally numbed that they will not notice that one of those businesses makes the killing of innocent lives its daily office work?”

Read the full article here.

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790