Immigration and Abortion: Two Sides of “The Other”


At the heart of metaphor is the ability to see relationships between seemingly unrelated things. For instance, there are some ways in which “my Luve” is like “a red, red rose.” (Bobby Burns–simile being a subset of metaphor.) I want to propose a relationship between our attitudes about immigrants/immigration and about the unborn/abortion, one that presents a moral challenge to all socio-political ideologies.

The concept of “the Other” (thank you Hegel, Husserl, de Beauvoir, et al) has suffered the fate of many other once useful concepts and become a generic slogan to be used whenever needed to establish one’s social sensitivity and moral superiority. (It appeared gratuitously about a dozen times—sometimes capitalized, sometimes not—in a handful of pages of a book I am reading about, of all things, brain physiology.)

The concept and term appears constantly in discussions of how we should think about the worldwide challenge of mass migration and immigration. Those who lean toward embracing the immigrant frequently use the term as part of an argument for seeing the humanity and value of those in need and responding compassionately. In brief, we should not see such folks as “the Other”—threatening aliens—but as fellow humans who deserve any help we can give them.

Question: why do they not similarly see the soon-to-be-born this way?

On a different part of the ideological spectrum are those who advocate for those not yet out of the womb. They are not likely to use the term “the Other,” but they provide similar arguments as those who defend the immigrant. The child in the womb is a human being—the most helpless and threatened of all creatures—and therefore deserves our valuing and protection.

Question: why do many (not all by any means, but many) not similarly see the immigrant?

Here, as I see it, is the moral challenge to supporters of immigrant rights: if you want a bias of acceptance and support toward immigrants (the born unwanted), you ought also to have the same bias toward the soon-to-be-born unwanted.

And here is the moral challenge, as I see it, for those who call themselves pro-life: if you want to protect the unborn unwanted, you should have a bias toward support for the born unwanted.

I discern only a relative handful of people who feel the weight of this quasi-metaphor: “my love of the unborn is like my love of the unwanted at my borders—and vice versa. Therefore, I will advocate for both.”

Daniel Taylor