Josie Luetke:

Interim writer, Josie Luetke, Talk Turkey

The death of Roe v. Wade was a death for women and progress, but you can’t say it didn’t birth some amazing comedy—from Andrew Schulz, Chris Rock, Bill Burr, and others.

Louis C.K. recently mused about a law which keeps abortion “available,” but “limits it”—maybe turns down the enthusiasm a notch. He (modestly) proposed, “Let’s make this the law: You can get an abortion anytime, anywhere, but if you get an abortion, you have to eat it. I think that’s fair.”

This bit has stuck with me; it scares me.

He has a point. If you can kill a baby, why not eat it? Sure, it’s kind of disgusting to think about, but as I realized, we once used to think anal sex was disgusting too, and now we celebrate it on the street and ostracize anyone who objects.

So, is that the line for people? Would everyone who was fine with tearing a child limb from limb suddenly decide that ingesting those limbs was a step too far?

As I ruminated on the question, it seemed more likely to me that if that was the law, if that was the norm, most people would go along with it, just as they’ve been going along with abortion, euthanasia, and sex change surgeries.  In fact, one man (who had the gall to call himself “pro-life”) told me that, sure, if the abortion was early enough in the pregnancy, he’d eat it. 

I was left wondering if there was any horrifying idea remaining that could shock the Canadian public back into a genuine sense of morality.

Of course, if you were to conduct a poll, most would say they believe in right and wrong, and could probably name some things they thought wrong. In a 2020 Angus Reid poll on “Modern Morality,” having an affair, not declaring income when doing taxes, telling racist jokes, animal testing, and spanking a child were fairly widely condemned. “Doctor-assisted dying,” abortion, and homosexual couples raising kids were not. In fact, they were less controversial than eating meat, flying, and buying a fur coat or driving an SUV.

I can’t help but think that the practices viewed as wrong were viewed as such only because the poll respondents believed they were supposed to view them as wrong. In other words, their responses were not independent of popular opinion and political correctness.

Recently, I’ve got a few ads on Facebook urging me to become a surrogate. I’ve dutifully left “angry” emojis, commented that surrogacy is deeply unethical, and linked to an article explaining why, but otherwise not engaged (knowing full well how useless Facebook debates are).

If I was to reply, however, I would probably ask those spouting some variation of the “my body, my choice” argument in the comments what they think about indentured servitude (or slavery by choice). I suppose too I could have asked about voluntary cannibalism. 

In my May 2022 column on euthanasia, I asked: If you can consent to being killed (to choose to be deprived of all future choices, to use your autonomy to put an end to your autonomy), what can’t you consent to, really?

I believe in God partly because if our universe is just one big, random, cosmic accident, and we are nothing more than evolutionary blips, then we no longer have a basis for morality. There is no way to resolve disagreements about “right” and “wrong.”

Unfortunately, our Judeo-Christian foundation fell out from underneath us long ago; we are running on air like a classic cartoon character who has unwittingly shot off a cliff. Arms and legs spinning, we look down and realize that any remaining sense of objective morality is simply an illusion, an echo of sentiments for which we used to have an explanation.

The idea of autonomy and consent are the last remaining points on our moral compass, but even these principles cannot last. Why respect one’s choice if you don’t respect the chooser? For a decision to carry any weight, the decision-maker ought to possess some sort of dignity, some special status that elevates him or her above artificial intelligence or non-human organisms.

The argument for a being’s inherent value is not particularly convincing if said being can choose to rent out a uterus or their genitalia (or to cut them out all together), to be abused or humiliated with the excuse of sexual fetishes, to kill or be killed.

The devil’s advocate may cite the “social contract”– if you want your own choices respected, you must respect others.’ But this tit-for-tat agreement only applies to choices made in the light of day, when their impact has the potential to reverberate back onto yourself. This arrangement only exists because of a semi-equal power dynamic, without which there’s no apparent need for reciprocity. I won’t give it the credit of being described as “morality.”

All this is to say, why not cannibalism? It is the natural conclusion of moral relativism. The revulsion we may feel at the thought of consuming human flesh is a vestigial twitch of an atrophied conscience. It’s a sweet sentimentality we nostalgically hold onto, from the days when we really believed humans were special.

If other people began eating fetuses, if that became a criterion for abortion, our quiet protestations would surely fade.

We do have reasons to hope for the future. We are not going gently into that good night. With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, it’s clear at least some of us are going to put up a fight against the dying of the light (all due credit to Dylan Thomas). But will it be enough?

The worse things get, the clearer our choice, and the more preposterous the possibility of remaining lukewarm. Something I’ve asked my colleagues, though, is whether enough of the “good ones” will hold onto their values when push comes to shove. Will I?

When your neighbour is eating a baby next door, there are only two possibilities: You do something to stop the baby-eating, or you start justifying to yourself why baby-eating isn’t so bad and doesn’t warrant intervention.

Already, we are incurring the cost of romantic notions of goodness. Your friends, family, job, and freedom are all on the table, and eventually maybe your life. The writhing, immoral throng views any reminder of morality as an existential threat.

So, how will everything shake out in the long run? Will the phantom limb feeling of queasiness at cannibalism, discomfort at seeing abortion victim photography, or distress at comparing suicide and euthanasia jump-start enough consciences to return us to godliness?

Will the willpower of the last of us desperately trying to mount some sort of defense fizzle out before then? I know the Divine victory has already been written, but does Rome fall first? Will the death of our civilization precede the rebirth of faith?

Or it’s just one guy doing comedy, and people laughing, because eating a dead fetus is silly and gross.