My thesis question is this: Is it not the case that the New Natural Law approach to the Moral Object is badly suited for the practical task of pro-life legislation?
All Catholics ought to be pro-life. But the pro-life stance involves the will and the effort to achieve legislation protecting the unborn. This is achieved by laws against abortion.
Now, on the New Natural Law approach, we supposedly don’t know if an act of in-utero-child-death-dealing really is murder, really is abortion, until we ask the agent what her / his intention is. So the NNL approach contends: Only if the agent proposes to himself / herself “I seek the death of the child,” then the act constitutes directly procured abortion and should thus be punishable by law.
But if the agent proposes to himself / herself “I seek only the removal of the child,” then – on this account – the act does not constitute direct abortion but simply “removal of the fetus.”
In the latter case, the New Natural Law analysis does have further questions; chiefly, Is there “proportionate reason” to remove the fetus? If not, the act is not justified. If so, the act is justified. The NNL analysis then submits that if the mother were to die unless the fetus is removed, there is proportionate reason. A fortiori, the argument goes, is there proportionate reason if both mother and fetus were to die unless the fetus is removed.
What is the upshot? The upshot is that on the New Natural Law account, pro-life legislation would require examination of the intention of the agent.
Now, it is notoriously difficult for a human tribunal to discover with moral certitude the intentions of an agent. Sometimes these intentions are shown in evidence. Example: Someone plotting a death in writing leaves evidence of First Degree culpability. But just what would be the way in which one might reliably, for the most part, determine the intention of the agent seeking or providing abortion? What could be done if someone simply claimed to have "proposed" to himself / herself that the action is "removal"? Further, would every abortion provider be examined, after each abortion, concerning what his / her proximate intentions were?
Clearly, the New Natural Law approach is on this score very ill-suited to practical application. This is ironic, since practical application is one of the leading reasons suggested in defense of NNL. Even some who eschew the theory tolerate it – or donate to its richly endowed foundations - because of its purported applicability, its status as receivable public argument. But here, practical political application seems doomed to a bad fate.
Is this fate not definitional to the NNL approach? For, as Steven Long has argued, NNL denies the basic point that some actions have per se effects and that for any agent intelligently to propose to commit the action just is to propose to bring about these per se effects.
Consequently: Let the money go to the Traditional Natural Law.