Unquestioning groupthink is a Leftist hallmark, especially for blacks. Antonia Okafor details how she escaped from that intellectual prison.
If you haven’t yet heard, Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, died today. She came to fame as a rape victim who, claimed abortion proponents, should have been allowed an abortion. After the Supreme Court decision, McCorvey became an abortion rights activist.
McCorvey also made her life story public and a terrible life it was, one of poverty, abuse (including being raped as a child), broken marriages, sexual confusion, drugs, and alcohol. Faith finally saved her and, with that faith, she came to realize that human life has value.
Norma McCorvey spent the last two decades of her life campaigning for the pro-Life movement. That is, with age, wisdom, peace, and chemical detox, she abandoned the belief system she’d developed during a twisted, impoverished, chemically-altered, depressed, deeply abused youth.
The above is a very short precis of a complicated and consequential life. I may be wrong, but I think the trajectory that took her to the place at which she ended is just as important as the point from which she started. The New York Times does not agree with me.
If you’re wondering why I turned to the Times obituary for Norma McCorvey, I did it both because the Times often does obituaries very well and because I was curious about how the Times would cover McCorvey’s inconvenient ideological conversion. Perhaps if Margalit Fox had written the obituary, it might have been different, because she’s a genuine talent. The assignment, however, ended in a lesser writer’s hands.
The obituary is 41 paragraphs long, so you can assume that most readers will give up about 10 to 20 paragraphs in. Keep that in mind as you read the following, which briefly summarizes each paragraph’s contents. Also, to give you a visual sense about the Times’ heroic effort to downplay the fact that Norma McCorvey eventually found emotional peace in the pro-Life movement, I’ll highlight in red all of the references to the last twenty years of her life’s work. I’ve also included my own commentaries in square brackets.
Para. 1 — Identifies who Norma McCorvey was — a central figure in the divisive abortion debate — and announces her death at 69.
Para. 2 — Cause and location of death.
Para. 3 — 50 million legal abortions performed since 1973, although “although later court decisions and new state and federal laws have imposed restrictions.” [Bookworm here: This sentence implies that the pro-Life movement has significantly moved the dial at a judicial and legislative level. The reality is that Roe v. Wade itself imposed significant restrictions on abortion relating to the development of the fetus: in the first trimester, the woman controls completely; in the second, there’s a balancing act; and in the third, the state has the greatest interest. Later decisions did away with that. No statute has successfully returned abortion to the original Roe v. Wade limitations.] In the same paragraph, the author states “abortions have declined with the wide use of contraceptives.
Para. 4 — McCovey an almost mythological figure who never wanted the spotlight. “[p]ulled by the forces of politics to one side of the abortion conflict, then by religion to the other.” [Bookworm here: This is the first mention of the last 20 years of her life and it is so opaque only the knowing reader would understand that McCorvey spent the last 20 years of her life as a principled pro-Life activist.]
That title is correct: I’ll give you a brief rundown of Dinesh D’Souza’s Hillary’s America, an abortion panel, and a military panel. Things happen quickly on a National Review cruise and if I miss a bit of blogging, I’m seriously behind the eight ball.
Hillary’s America. Because Hillary’s America showed only briefly in Marin, I missed it. Fortunately for me, the movie’s two writers and producers were on the cruise and hosted a special showing yesterday.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s quite a good movie, as it is well-researched, well-written, and very professional produced. The movie begins with Dinesh’s sentencing for a campaign donation crime that, when it is a small, first-time infraction, as was the case with Dinesh, is invariably treated with fines and other minimal punishments.
Dinesh was special, however, for at the time the Justice Department got him in its sights, he was the writer and producer of the scathing (and prescient) Obama’s America, a documentary that ranks immediately behind Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine when it comes to popularity and revenue. Not only was Dinesh prosecuted with the full force of federal law, he had the misfortune to appear before a Democrat-appointed judge who sentenced him to time-served, plus two years of sleeping in a supervised facility, five years probation, mandatory public service, and court supervised therapy.
The first four items were the normal punitive stuff one would expect from a corrupt government. The last punishment was purely Orwellian punishment for “wrong thinking.”
The vast majority of my Facebook friends are Progressives, ranging from hard Left to really hard Left. Despite their political orientation, I’ve discovered that some of them are still pro-Life — pro-puppy and pro-kitten life, that is. Opposing animal shelters that kill strays is the only politically correct pro-Life stance the Left will countenance.
With just a little tweaking, though, one of the pro-Animal life posters really makes a very good anti-Abortion poster. What do you think?
Finally, here’s the third and last part of a three-part series in which I attempt to deconstruct the lies, misstatements, and illogical conclusions of posters popular amongst the Progressives on my real-me Facebook feed. Part 1 has a longer introduction about my goals, and analyzes a painfully misleading and quite vicious post about Paul Ryan. Part 2 tackles stupid gun control posters
And now it’s time for part three, the abortion edition. As always, I put the poster up first and then add my commentary:
Excuse me Ms. Leftie, but do you understand that the government does not fund churches? Yes, it’s true that churches don’t pay taxes. This comes about because the power to tax is the power to destroy,n or at least to discriminate against something. The First Amendment prevents our government from doing that.
Do you also understand that churches don’t have a political say over your body? That is, unlike a theocracy (say, Iran), the church does not run the government. Instead, it’s the parishioners who, applying religious doctrine as they understand it, use their rights as citizens of a representative government to vote for representatives whose views align well with theirs? No? I didn’t think you knew that.
Having exposed your ignorance about religion and government in America, perhaps you can explain to me why we fund Planned Parenthood in the first place? If Planned Parenthood really is just about women’s health,why do we fight over it with every budget rather than paying the same money to other neighborhood clinics that provide only women’s health care without also providing abortions?
Could it be because the real nudge-nudge, wink-wink going on is that everyone knows that those federal funds aren’t really for generic women’s health care but, in fact, meant to subsidize abortions? Keep in mind, little lady, that money is fungible. (Fungible is a fancy word meaning that one dollar can readily be substituted for another.) The fact that Planned Parenthood ostensibly applies its federal funds to manual breast exams — since the clinics don’t offer mammograms — and other basic health care means that the money saved on those breast exam appointments can be applied to other services . . . such as abortions.
The anti-Second Amendment Left was feeling very smug the other day (as my Facebook feed attested) because they think that The Daily Show’s new hack, Trevor Noah, hit one out of the park in attacking the sheer inhumanity of the crazed pro-Life gun holders on the Right:
The point is, if pro-lifers would just redirect their powers toward gun violence, the amount of lives they could save would reach superhero levels. They just need to have a superhero’s total dedication to life. Because right now they’re more like comic book collectors. Human life only holds value until you take it out of the package, and then it’s worth nothing.
There’s your logic for you: All those people who claim to be pro-Life but support the Second Amendment are gross hypocrites; while the pro-Abortion crowd that wants to use government force to disarm the American public is all about “life”!
I have just a couple of numbers to share with you, both from 2011, because I found reports for that year that I could easily compare. I doubt the numbers have changed significantly since then:
Number of abortions performed in 2011 in the United States: 1,100,000
Number of homicides using guns in 2011 in the United States: 8,583
The only way for the Leftists to think they win when comparing pro-Lifers who support gun rights to pro-Abortion types who want to ban guns is if the Leftists do not believe that a fetus is human. Of course, every woman who’s carried a baby to term knows, if only in her heart of hearts, that this is a lie.
To hold that those fetuses are not human, so that their deaths cannot be counted when compared to crime victims’ deaths, is possible only when a belief system has turned into a death cult. The Nazis did this when they convinced themselves that Jewish lives weren’t human lives; and the Left has done it when it comes to fetal lives.
The problem, always, is that once a culture starts deciding which groups among it, no matter how human they appear, aren’t really, truly human, then that culture inevitably slides into mass genocide. This is especially so when resources become scarce, whether through natural causes (droughts, floods, volcanoes), or through unnatural science that declares, all evidence to the contrary, that humans are so destructive to Gaia that they must begin to erase their presence from Planet Earth.
First they came for the fetuses, and I said nothing because I was no longer a fetus….
Several ladies of the Leftist persuasion posted on their Facebook pages an article entitled “7 Badass Defenses Of Reproductive Rights To Explain Why A Woman Should Have The Right To Choose.” I looked at them and had my doubts about their badassery, so I thought I’d fisk the article just for a little Sunday afternoon fun.
As is often the case with fisking the Left, a short Leftist statement takes a lot of work to break down, because everything is flawed, from the facts through the underlying premise through the argument based on the erroneous facts and premise. The structure below is that I first quote the “badass” pro-abortion arguments and then counter with my own thoughts.
1. Male Lawmakers Sometimes Don’t Get It
Who could forget Rep. Todd Akin’s cringeworthy “legitimate rape” comment back in 2012? Unfortunate as the statement was, it highlights a larger problem in the argument to restrict reproductive freedom: Men, who are often out-of-touch with the problems that women face, are more often in positions to make decisions than women. For instance, Tina Fey dropped this truth bombin 2012 while speaking at the Center for Reproductive Rights Gala:
If I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m gonna lose my mind.
Fey’s point of view drives home the point that too many people who make decisions about reproductive rights are out of touch with the actual impact that their decisions have.
Some male law makers are morons. So are some female lawmakers. The reality, though, is that we don’t insist that all women shut up because some are stupid. In our Bizarro World of sexism, though, the stereotype of an out-of-touch male is applied to all men, who are told that they should remain immured in the wood shop and no longer bother their female overlords (overladies?).
Moreover, this line of argument, which I see frequently on Leftie Facebook pages, denies that men have any interest in fetuses, babies, or children. In fact, men have two very strong interests: First, if the fetus/baby/child is a man’s, that man has the same interest in it as the mother, and that is true even though she is the vessel in which it is nurtured for the first 40 weeks from conception forward. In a moral world, the fact that so many fathers walk away from their children is a disgrace — and, one must say, an inevitable byproduct of a socialist government policy that, through welfare, makes father’s economically unnecessary, at least for those who were raised in and consider normal a fairly marginal economic existence. Fathers who express an interest in their biological child from conception onward should be praised, not told to shut up.
Imagine if this argument had been around in mid-19th century America. Famed white, free abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher, or Harriet Beecher Stowe would have been shouted down before they even began their arguments about the morality of slavery: “You’re not qualified to speak about slavery because you’re not a slave. So shut up.” Morals are not tied to race, sex, or creed; they exist irrespective of those petty human dividers.
Second, men have just as great an interest as women in a healthy culture. To the extent that the Left’s sacrament of abortion is focused on death, not life, all members of our society have a say in the matter. I’ve long contended that the Left’s fetishistic obsession with abortion is a death cult. The videos showing abortion centers engaged in organ harvesting hasn’t changed my mind. Indeed, the whole thing is eerily reminiscent of other cultures that engaged in organ harvesting, allegedly for the greater good:
Every moral citizen, male or female or fluid or whatever, has a say in preventing our society from going Aztec.
2. Reproductive Freedom Is About Trust
Mark Ruffalo has become a strong supporter of reproductive rights and a particularly vocal male advocate because of his mother’s traumatic experience with an illegal abortion years ago. At a rally in Mississippi in 2013, he reminded us that to take away a woman’s reproductive rights is to take away her ability to make decisions for herself.
I actually trust the women I know. I trust them with their choices, I trust them with their bodies, and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that right at the risk of death or jail time.
If this doesn’t make you want to throw up a “preach” emoji, I don’t know what will.
I misread that last sentence. I thought its comment on the Ruffalo post was “If this doesn’t make you want to throw up get a ‘peach’ emoji….” I wasn’t sure what the “peach emoji” reference, but I was actually on board with the “I want to throw up” concept. Re-reading it, though, I realize that the “badass” post’s author was applauding Ruffalo.
Full disclosure here: I can’t stand Mark Ruffalo as an actor. There’s something about him I find creepy, so hearing him go on about trusting women with their choices sounds smarmy, not supportive.
Once again, this “trust” argument is predicated on the fallacy that all women are wise. They’re not. Who can forget the woman who had a “selective pregnancy reduction” (i.e., aborted the overage resulting from her IVF procedure) so she wouldn’t have to shop at Costco? That decision showed a whole lot more class snobbery than wisdom.
I know a woman who had eight abortions before she tried, unsuccessfully, to become pregnant. Apparently after abortion Number 8, her body, Mother Nature, or God decided that she couldn’t be trusted with a baby.
In any event, the whole trust argument pretends that there isn’t another life involved here. What Ruffalo is arguing is that he trusts all women to be impartial arbiters capable of intelligently exercising the role of judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to the life they carry. Frankly, I don’t “trust” anyone to have that much responsibility, especially when there is self-interest at play.
3. Nobody Thinks Abortion Is Fun — But It Should Be An Option
Let’s get one thing straight here: No one is saying that abortion is a great thing, but it’s important that women have the power to make that choice themselves. Being pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion. That’s the point Whoopi Goldberg seemed to make on a 2007 episode of The View.
Very few people want to have abortions. … Most people do not want to have abortions. Most women do not have them with some sort of party going on. It is the hardest decision that a woman ever has to make, so when you talk about it, a little bit of reverence to the women out there who have had to make this horrible decision.
Is it just me or this observation irrelevant to whether our society should continue to allow wholesale abortion rights up to and even after the moment the infant is born? Whether a decision or action is hard doesn’t address whether it’s moral. The fact that I might find it a bit physically or emotionally challenging to off my mother doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
Morals exist outside of our own perceptions of easy or hard. Either it’s wrong to have a culture that has killed more than 51 million people since 1973, with special weight on the deaths of African Americans, or its wrong to have that culture. Whether some of the people doing the killing are sad when they do it doesn’t make it more moral.
Abortion, birth control, Plan B — they’re all often considered taboo things to talk about in public, particularly around men. Yet some politicians have no problem criticizing women for trying to make their own decisions about reproduction in a personal setting. Ultimately, Ruth Bader Ginsburg summed up this train of thought excellently.
The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control.
As if we needed another reason to love RBG.
Ah, the reductio ad Ruth Bader Ginsburg argument. You see her come up a lot in abortion discussions. Just as I dislike Ruffalo, I really dislike Bader. Even when I was a Leftie myself I disliked her. Reading her Supreme Court decisions is torture. Her writing is awful, and her arguments, which always involve making sure the state wins, are convoluted, turgid, confusing, and often incomprehensible.
Turning conservative didn’t make me like Ginsburg more, especially when the woman sworn to protect the Constitution voiced a gem such as this:
“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg said in an interview on Al Hayat television last Wednesday. “I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, have an independent judiciary. It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done.”
Ginsburg is so over that whole notion of individual liberty and limited government. The best Constitution is one that micromanages individuals for the good of the state.
(An aside: When I first heard the term “living Constitution” I couldn’t understand why conservatives had their knickers in a twist about it. You see, I assumed it meant that our Constitution is a “living” document because it states overarching principles that transcend time and place. It lives, because it is applicable at all times to all people in all places. I was shocked when I discovered that, to the Left, a “living” constitution is one that can be rewritten to the point of meaninglessness or, worse, to the point at which it is used in a way to destroy individual liberty and limited government.)
But back to Ginsburg’s statement about “privacy and reproductive control.”
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973) is a most imperfect vehicle, having found an imaginary “right of privacy” to justify abortion. Even subject to this imaginary right, though, that past generation of Supreme Court tyrants . . . er, justices recognized that when there is more than one life at issue, the state has an interest in both lives.
Contrary to most people’s assumptions about Roe v. Wade, that case does not create an unfettered right to abortion. Instead, it established a delicate balancing act over the entire length of the pregnancy between the State’s interests and the woman’s interest in the fetus. In the first trimester, when the fetus is not viable outside the womb, the balancing favors the woman’s right to choose how she wants to handle her pregnancy. In the second trimester, as the fetus nears viability, the balance begins tipping in the State’s favor. And, in the third trimester, when the fetus is viable, the State’s interests may triumph:
With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the “compelling” point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications. If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. at 163, 93 S.Ct. at 732.
A lot has happened since 1973, of course. Ultrasounds and imagery have established that, in the first trimester, the fetus is already a recognizable baby; while advances in medicine have made it entirely possible to save an infant born early in the second trimester. At the same time, the Supreme Court has continued to expand each lone woman’s decision-making power over the fetus, while decreasing the state’s interest.
The new Leftist position, which Ginsburg articulates, is that the state has no interest at all in protecting the unborn — a woman’s “privacy” right trumps all. While the Supreme Court may have worked its way to this position, that most certainly doesn’t mean that my right to privacy is a justification for my killing another human being. Imagine if Jeffrey Dahmer could have used this defense: “That search in the freezer violated my absolute right to privacy. Just as the Supreme Court recently found a new right to gay marriage dignity that wipes out the First Amendment right to religious freedom, that new right to personal privacy wipes out the Fourth Amendment’s implication that the government can engage in search and seizure activity for the greater societal good. The Fourth Amendment no longer exists.”
I guess the bottom line is that just because the Supreme Court has stretched its own inane constitutional holding to a point justifying unlimited abortion, that doesn’t make this a good, let alone a “badass” argument.
5. It’s A Socioeconomic Issue, Too
Just as the fight for reproductive rights is about more than abortion, it’s also about more than gender discrimination. It’s about equality in all aspects: race, socioeconomic status, gender, and more.
We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country.
Leave it to Ginsburg to deliver two great one-liners about reproductive rights.
This is not an argument. It’s as meaningless as trying to counter that stupid campaign slogan of “the future starts today.” And Ginsburg is still awful.
6. Whatever Happened To Work-Life Balance?
No matter how much you love your job or your boss, it would probably feel weird if he/she tried to control your personal life. Again, decisions about reproduction, contraception, etc. should be made on a personal level, not a professional level. A representative from Nevada, Dina Titus made a compelling case for reproductive freedom from employers.
Employers should not be able to impose their religious beliefs on female employees, ignoring their individual health decisions and denying their right to reproductive care. Bosses belong in the boardroom, not the bedroom.
This is a re-hash of the whole “ObamaCare allows government to force businesses to provide birth control” argument, and it was fully developed during the Hobby Lobby debate, which is whether the government can force corporations to provide birth control.
In 1993, a Democrat Congress passed, and a Democrat president signed, the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (“RFRA”). RFRA holds in relevant part that the federal government may act in a way that substantially burdens the exercise of religion only if it can establish that its action is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest. Nothing in the Act distinguishes between individuals and corporations.
The administrative rule at issue is the edict from Health and Human Services (“HHS”) mandating that all corporations affected by Obamacare must provide their female employees with unlimited access to all contraceptives available on the market.
Hobby Lobby is a closely-held, family-run corporation. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, has a strong Christian faith, and is open about the fact that it runs its company in a way that is consistent with the family’s religious beliefs. These beliefs affect every aspect of the way in which Hobby Lobby is run, whether it’s the fact that even the least of Hobby Lobby’s employees gets paid an hourly amount that’s almost twice as much as minimum wage, or the fact that many of the store’s craft products come complete with little crosses attached to them.
Hobby Lobby has long provided comprehensive insurance for its employees. As part of this insurance, it makes available to its employees 16 different types of contraceptives. Moreover, Hobby Lobby has never said (a) that it would stop covering contraceptives entirely or (b) that contraceptives should be outlawed in America. Instead, it made a very narrow protest to the HHS mandate: It objected to the fact that the mandate would force it to offer, not 16, but 20 contraceptives to its employees. The additional 4 contraceptives are or can be used as abortion-causing agents. The Green family’s religious faith means that it is adamantly opposed to abortion, which it considers murder.
The HHS mandate put Hobby Lobby in an impossible position: It could either use its own money to pay directly for abortifacient drugs or it could pay $475 million a year in penalties. It was this dilemma, it argued, that constituted a substantial burden on its exercise of religion under RFRA. Put another way, Hobby Lobby argued that it faced a Hobson’s choice: directly fund something it opposes on core religious grounds or go bankrupt. On these facts, the Supreme Court agreed that Hobby Lobby had satisfied the “substantial burden” requirement under RFRA.
There was something else that the Supreme Court accepted as given: For purposes of the ruling, the Supreme Court accepted as true HHS’s claim that forcing corporations to pay for their female employees’ contraceptives (simply because the Obama administration says it’s unfair not to) serves a compelling government interest.
(As an aside, I was thinking about this “unfair” point. According to my Progressive friends, the demand that corporations pay for contraceptives arises because it’s not fair that women have to shoulder these costs, while men don’t. Let’s put aside the fact that the Progressive can’t explain why it’s fair that corporations must bear contraception costs. The really important point is that, if the reason to force corporations to shoulder the burden is so that women don’t have to pay more in costs related to their unique biology just because they are women, corporations should also be required to pay for tampons, sanitary pads and, most importantly, chocolate, all of which are costly menstrual necessities that burden women, not men. Additionally, corporations should be entitled to learn which employees have gone through menopause, so as to scale back on those uniquely feminine costs. And now back to the Hobby Lobby case…)
With the Supreme Court having accepted that Hobby Lobby had proved that it was being significantly burdened and that HHS had proved a compelling government interest, the sole issue before the Court was whether HHS was using the least restrictive means to advance its compelling interest. Based on this single, limited issue, the Supreme Court concluded that HHS’s birth control mandate did not meet the RFRA test. The Court had a very simple metric for proving this conclusion: HHS itself handed the Court proof that there was a less restrictive way to serve this compelling interest.
HHS created this less restrictive contraception mandate when religious non-profit organizations objected to paying directly for contraceptives and abortifacients. HHS said that religious institutions could avoid the mandate by signing a document stating that their religious beliefs prevented them from complying with the contraception mandate. With this document, the onus shifts to the insurance company to apply the mandate. (The Little Sisters of the Poor are challenging this workaround on the ground that it cannot apply to self-insured entities. Likewise, even if the religious entity has a third party insurance company, the insurance company will simply increase its rates, with the result that the money for the contraceptives and abortifacients will still come from the corporation that has religious objections. The Supreme Court’s eventual decision should be interesting.)
With HHS having already figured out a less intrusive method for getting “free” contraceptives to women, the Supreme Court held that the same workaround that applies to religious non-profits can apply equally well to closely held corporations if the owners have a sincere belief in a core religious issue. And that’s it. That’s the whole Hobby Lobby decision — and nothing in this allegedly “bad ass” argument counters it.
7. Religion Can Be Part Of A Pro-Choice Country
Regardless of your politics, it should be pretty clear that no discussion of reproductive rights is complete without mentioning Hillary Clinton. This quote, in particular, is important because it raises the point that faith can still be involved in the conversation about contraception and abortion if pro-choice policy is the law of the land:
These Democrats will never shame and judge a woman for decisions that are complex and deeply personal, decisions that belong between a woman, her family, her faith, and her doctor; not with her boss or a politician.
In other words, if your faith or belief system prevents you from getting an abortion, then by all means, don’t have one. But don’t let your belief system make the decision for a woman you don’t even know.
Again, this is a non-argument. It simply says that if I want to have an abortion, there’s nothing you can do to stop me. The fact is, every member of a society has a say in what kind of society they want. One that is dedicated to life or one that is dedicated to death.
Incidentally, those reading this may think that I’m totally anti-abortion and pro-Life. I’m not. Like a lot of Americans, I recognize that different circumstances call for different approaches. Like most Americans, I think a third trimester abortion is murder, unless the mother’s life is in imminent danger. Second trimester abortions are pretty damn iffy at a moral level, given that we can keep alive babies that are only 22 or 24 weeks old. First trimester abortions — well, they should be discouraged, but it’s possible to imagine situations in which they’re reasonable.
I should add here, as I always do, that having children changed my mind. Being pregnant and giving birth forced me to acknowledge that the zygote is a fetus is a baby — and at all times, that zygote, that fetus, and that baby is a fully-realized person. Killing a fully realized person is murder. And just as we recognize degrees of murder when it comes to the deaths of already born people (killing an enemy in war, manslaughter, second degree murder, first degree murder, etc.), we can do the same with those who are not yet born.
But that’s not what the Left wants. It wants wholesale slaughter in the name of feminism. And that’s just wrong — and we all have a say in that.
One of my favorite silly jokes goes as follows:
A man runs into a friend. “Oh, my God!” he says. “I just made the most terrible Freudian slip.”
His friend asks “What did you do?”
The man answers, “Well, I was having lunch with my mother. I meant to saying ‘Mom, please pass the peas,” but what I actually said was ‘You horrible woman! You’ve ruined my life!'”
I don’t know why I find this joke so funny — beyond the obvious point that what the man said was not a Freudian slip — but I just do. It makes me laugh every time.
As is always the case, though, Progressives manage to go one better than any joke, but they invariably ruin the punch line. The latest example comes from Britian’s Guardian, a reliably Left wing publication. The article is entitled — no kidding — “I wish my mother had aborted me.” The author, Lynn Beisner, assures us that she’s not one of those sad-sacks who has a miserable life and, therefore, wishes she’d never been born. Instead, she explains, she wrote the article as a counter to those ridiculous emotional pro-Life stories that revolve around a woman who contemplated abortion, decide not to do it, and raised a child very grateful to be alive. How disgustingly bathetic, Beisner says:
What makes these stories so infuriating to me is that they are emotional blackmail. As readers or listeners, we are almost forced by these anti-choice versions of A Wonderful Life to say, “Oh, I am so glad you were born.” And then by extension, we are soon forced into saying, “Yes, of course, every blastula of cells should be allowed to develop into a human being.”
Beisner is going to counter this horrible narrative — by pitching an emotional story about how her birth stunted, not her own, but her mother’s life:
An abortion would have absolutely been better for my mother. An abortion would have made it more likely that she would finish high school and get a college education. At college in the late 1960s, it seems likely she would have found feminism or psychology or something that would have helped her overcome her childhood trauma and pick better partners. She would have been better prepared when she had children. If nothing else, getting an abortion would have saved her from plunging into poverty. She likely would have stayed in the same socioeconomic strata as her parents and grandparents who were professors. I wish she had aborted me because I love her and want what is best for her.
Or, to use fewer words: “I’m a horrible child! I ruined your life.”
What Beisner doesn’t realize is that she’s not breaking new ground here. She’s treading the old, hard-packed pro-abortion ground, only in a way that’s more silly than usual. Because the pro-abortion crowd has always and only focused on the woman (“It’s a woman’s choice”), the issue always has been that the woman gets to ask herself “Will this baby ruin my life?” and then to abort if her answer is “Yes, probably.”
Well, I’ve got news for Beisner. Babies always ruin a woman’s life. That is, they ruin the life she knew before babies came along. Goodbye, lithesome figure! Goodbye, sleeping through the night! Goodbye, privacy! Goodbye, eating a meal without interruptions! Goodbye, ready money! Goodbye, dancing all night (at least, without bouncing a crying baby in your arms)! Goodbye, spontaneity! It’s all over. Everything that made for your youthful existence is gone.
What Beisner misses, though, is the “Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window” aspect of having children. For every goodbye, there’s a hello Hello, bidding farewell to your immature self and saying welcome to the you that is a fully realized adult! Hello, to a little one entwining himself or herself around your neck and saying ‘Mommy, I wuv you so much’ — and meaning it! Hello, to having an incredibly rich social life, one that doesn’t revolve around the drunken hook-up scene, but one that involves other parents who are so glad to welcome you into the Parent Club! Hello, feeling connected to your country, because it’s not just yours anymore, it’s also your children’s and your grandchildren’s.
Some people are going to be horribly damaged by their inability to turn their backs upon giddy youth in favor of responsible maturity. But for every one of those people, there’s going to be someone grateful for the love, stability, and meaning that parenthood brings.
The only thing that Beisner gets right (although she fails to live up to her own standards) is that emotional pitches are meaningless, because different people have different emotional responses. What she When emotions are meaningless, the only thing that matters is principle: Do you believe that (a) life begins at conception and (b) that this life is immediately entitled to full respect? If yes, you must be pro-Life; if not, well, then pro-abortion is a reasonable position for you. But don’t try dressing it up with sob stories about living children or unhappy mothers.
The Anchoress examines Obama’s peculiar devotion to abortion, one that sees him put it ahead of all other policy considerations and that allows him to violate freely the consciences of others.
As I’ve said here repeatedly, while I have not yet made the journey to being whole-heartedly pro-Life, after a lifetime of being pro-Choice, the Left’s fealty to abortion, one that transcends even garden-variety morality, logic, and basic Constitutionalism, is pretty good at driving me ever further into the pro-Life camp.
As others have commented, the Catholic Church is making the loudest noises about the new Obama Care mandate regarding birth control, abortifacients, and sterilization, but the policy is really a strike against everyone who is pro-Life in America. If you’re a pro-Life employer, you have to pay for your employees’ abortion pills. If you’re a pro-Life health insurance company (or health insurance company employee) you must write policies that cover every woman’s birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients. If you are a health insurance consumer (as we all must be in Obama’s America), you will pay for abortions.
Anybody with a pro-Life conscience, even if that person has arrived at that position without benefit of organized religion, is in the line of fire.
But if you’re thinking that Obama is hostile to religion, you’re right about that too. Check out the first update to the Anchoress’ post about the health care mandate, and you’ll see that Obama is starting to put the squeeze on in other areas when it comes to people of faith.
I’m hoping that hubris is driving the administration’s unpopular decisions now, in an election year. To date, though, the administration has shown itself to be sufficiently Machiavellian that I wonder if it knows something about the upcoming elections that the rest of us don’t know.
UPDATE: Oh, and for the pointedly humorous take on Obama’s policy stand, I know you’ll enjoy this. I’ve come to the conclusion that we live in a very peculiar world, one that sees me, a loosey-goosey theist (sort of), deeply offended by the federal executive’s full force attacks on religious freedom in America.
(And please sign the petition.)
My views on abortion have changed mightily over the years. The selfish, immature side of me still longs for a pro-choice label, but the mature, moral side of me has concluded that, subject to a few exceptions, pro-Life is the way to go. I won’t expand on that right now, but you can see more on my views here.
On the subject of abortion, I want to draw your attention to three things:
First, if you somehow managed to miss this headline story, let me be the one to tell you that the Superbowl, of all things, is at the center of an abortion controversy. Tim Tebow, super-duper college quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, is going to be in a television commercial that is slated to air during the Superbowl. In it, he and his mother talk about the fact that she elected to go ahead with a difficult pregnancy, even though the medical establishment assured her that the baby was likely to be dead or damaged at birth. Tebow, of course, was neither. Women’s groups are outraged (h/t Soccer Dad), although they sound more foolish than persuasive in their anger:
A national coalition of women’s groups called on CBS on Monday to scrap its plan to broadcast an ad during the Super Bowl featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, which critics say is likely to convey an anti-abortion message.
“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year — an event designed to bring Americans together,” said Jehmu Greene, president of the New York-based Women’s Media Center.
The protest letter from the Women’s Media Center suggested that CBS should have turned down the ad in part because it was conceived by Focus on the Family.
“By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers,” the letter said.
Hmm. While I know that large sectors of the American public watch the Superbowl (I guess that’s the coming together part), I always considered it a rather divisive thing, considering that half the audience is devoutly hoping that the other half turns off the television set in deep despair.
But more to the point, I found interesting the fact that the women’s groups state, with no authority, that celebrating a successful life that resulted because the baby’s mother made a choice, is something that will “damage [CBS’s] reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers.” I think the women’s groups are backing the wrong horse.
Which brings me to my second point about abortion.
The invaluable Zombie was out on the streets of San Francisco this past weekend, documenting the annual pro-Life rally held in that bastion of radical liberalism. What you’d except from a photojournalist is a series of photos showing a few cowering pro-Lifers, surrounded by screaming pro-Choicers, all carrying “keep your hands off my uterus” signs and wearing kuffiyahs (because who doesn’t go to a feminist rally wearing the clothing symbol of the most repressive, misogynist culture on earth?). But there you’d be wrong. In a stunning combination of photos and text, Zombie reveals that the rally was a blow-out for the pro-Life crowd. As Zombie says:
[W]hen the anti-abortion group Walk for Life staged a march in San Francisco last Saturday, January 23, they turned out an overwhelming and jaw-dropping 40,000 pro-life activists, who were met by a well-advertised counter-protest which managed to draw no more than 80 (that’s eighty, eight-zero) pro-choice advocates. 40,000 vs. 80 is a 500-to-1 pro-life advantage, something that seems inconceivable in the sex-positive liberal stronghold of San Francisco. How did this happen?
Talk about must-read journalism.
And the third and last thing I want to discuss about abortion isn’t really about abortion at all, it’s about the culture that supports unfettered, unlimited abortion. As you probably read somewhere the other day, the teen pregnancy numbers rose a bit higher in 2006. Robert Rector tells us that (a) those numbers are not what they seem and that (b) more seriously, those numbers reveal, not about a problem that can be corrected with ever more birth control and abortions, but a fundamental societal breakdown amongst young Americans.
As for me, with one pre-teen and one very observant 10 year old, I spend a lot of my time talking about values and self-respect. I’ve learned that, in a wired world, I cannot protect my kids from exposure to our sex saturated culture. All I can do, over and over, is talk about the value they should place on themselves, the respect they owe others, the moral forces in favor of marriage and abstinence, and the risks associated with disease and young, out-of-wedlock pregnancy. I hope, devoutly, that my kids take these messages to heart, because I really don’t have much else in my armament.
My parents always complained that, raising children in the late 1960s and 1970s, they had a hard time parenting against societal trends. They couldn’t have imagined how much worse it would become. Yes, they had to deal with hippies and self-actualization, but pop culture was still reasonably traditional. The Brady kid actors may have been getting into trouble behind the scenes, but the message to the viewing audience was still one of traditional values. Who would have imagined then MTV, YouTube, Lady GaGa, Adam Baldwin Lambert (isn’t that the crotch-grabber from American Idol?), and the whole parade of degradation that oozes out of every pore of American society? Looking around, it’s clear that abortion is both a cause and a symptom of a society that has lost its sexual bearings, bearings that should be grounded in respect for the opposite sex and reverence for human life.
I dreamed last night about the first ultrasound I had when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was sixteen weeks pregnant, and had been throwing up non-stop for 15 1/2 of those sixteen weeks. I was not happy. I resented the parasite within me. And then I saw the sonogram image and discovered that the parasite had a little round head, two arms and two legs, and an incredible spinal cord that looked like the most exquisite string of pearls. That image did not instantly reconcile me to the next 26 weeks of non-stop vomiting, but it made me aware that “the fetus” is not simply an aggregation of cells, or a thing indistinguishable from a dog or a chicken fetus. It’s a baby.
By the time I had my second child, I knew, without question, that every “fetus” is a nascent human being. I finally recognized on an emotional level that the zygote created on the first day is the same life as the baby you hold in your arms on the last. It is also the same as the toddler that lisps “I wuv you,” and the pre-teen who says “Y0u’re the best mommy ever.” They all start there, right inside each mother.
You’d think, of course, that this realization should have been obvious to me, and should have long predated the birth of two children. But I grew up in the feminist abortion oriented culture, and that culture shies away assiduously from focusing on the life within the woman and focuses, instead, only on the woman herself. There’s a great deal of logic to that focus. During my lifetime alone, there was little to focus on other than the woman. Doctors doing autopsies and medical students studying anatomy might have had a sense of fetal development but, really, no one else did. We weren’t peeking in the womb just a few decades back. Premature babies died as often as not, so our cultural sense of their viability was limited. Heck, in the old days, huge numbers of full-term babies died as often as not. In the pre-modern era, up to 50% of all children died before their 5th birthday — and that’s just counting live births.
And so what we saw in the old days of the abortion debate was the woman. And in a pre-birth control, high morality era (and yes, I mean morality, not mortality), the unmarried, or even the married, woman’s lot wasn’t an easy one when it came to pregnancies. First off, married or not, short of abstinence, there were only the most limited ways to stop pregnancy. The married woman whose husband (reasonably) didn’t want celibacy, could expect a lifetime of pregnancies until her early death, often as the end of a torturous labor, when she’d be laid in her grave alongside probably half of the children she had borne. For the unmarried lady in a high morality era, rape, or simply the romantic impulse of the moment, could lead to horrific social ostracism, to which was then added all the risks of childbirth. In short, for many women, pregnancy was a truly rotten deal, and abortions, legal or illegal, safe or unsafe, seemed like a very reasonable option.
How the world has changed! Nowadays, condoms are everywhere, whether in the vending machine at the nightclub bathroom, at Walgreen’s, or even at your local Safeway grocery. Women also have available to them the ubiquitous Pill, IUDs, diaphragms, contraceptive sponges, and contraceptive gels. All of these forms of birth control can fail even if used properly, but the main result of pregnancy in America is probably the decision, conscious or not, not to use any birth control at all. Some decide not to use contraceptives because they want to get pregnant, and some decide not to use them because, whether for the man or the woman involved, they’re uncomfortable, inconvenient, or embarrassing. Still, compared to the old days, sex that is free of the risk of pregnancy is normative, not impossible.
The world has also changed in that the stigma of pregnancy outside of wedlock has vanished. Whether the young woman intends to keep the baby or to put it up for adoption, no one would judge her for getting pregnant. Indeed, so totally has our culture changed, I had to explain to my son why I thought it was a good idea that his Mommy and Daddy got married before having children. To him, it was six of one, half dozen of the other. (Incidentally, I explained it by telling him that a stable married relationship was the best thing for the child, and you wanted to make sure you had that relationship in place before the child came along. As a child himself, he could appreciate that reasoning.) With Angelina Jolie, a most admired young woman, going around adopting and giving birth to multiple children, either alone or with a partner to whom she is not married, you know your culture has crossed a line to a time and place in which marriage and pregnancy bear no relationship to each other.
Finally, the world has changed in that both maternal and infant mortality in America are but a small — beyond small, minute — fraction of what they once were. When a woman dies in childbirth, or has a stroke, it’s so rare it makes the news section of the paper. In the old days, it was just another obituary and a tombstone. I don’t need to describe to you the rarity of infant deaths. We know they still happen, but they too are rare events, and often result from terrible birth defects that are beyond the reach even of modern medicine.
In our modern era, therefore, many of the forces that once drove abortion are gone. You’re infinitely less likely to get pregnant than you once were (unless you want to). If you’re married and get pregnant, you’re much less likely to die than ever before. If you’re unmarried and get pregnant, not only are you less likely to die than in the past, you’re also going to get baby showers, not social ostracism. If you keep your baby, you know that, even though it’s a tough row to hoe, you’ll be supported. If you give it up for adoption, you know that there are nice middle-class families who are desperate to give your baby a good home and tons of love.
Why then, in our modern era, should we still have abortion? That’s the question we ought to be asking, especially as the Democrats are currently demanding the Americans directly fund abortions for those women who choose to have them.
Certainly, I think most of us would agree that abortion is a good, even a necessary, thing if the mother’s life is in danger. That the mother’s life is in danger with much less frequency than once was the case doesn’t change the moral force of protecting the existing life over the nascent life.
There’s room for debate over abortion for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. Some could say that the fetus is innocent of the violence and betrayal visited on the woman, and therefore shouldn’t be destroyed. Others would say that rape and incest are such heinous moral crimes that it is equally immoral to force the woman to carry the result of that evil in her body. To be honest, both arguments make sense to me. I think the majority of Americans side with the former line of thinking, and I can certainly live with the legal outcome of accepting that argument.
And then there’s the last argument to justify abortion, the “convenience argument,” although no pro-choice person would ever describe it in those terms. This is an argument that once sat very well with me, but that now makes me very unhappy. It is a purely modern argument, once that exists in an era where few women fear accidental pregnancies, death or social stigma.
The “convenience argument” says it’s just not fair that both the man and the woman get to make whoopee, but that it’s the woman whose life is put on hold for nine months or, depending on her decision, for 18 years or more. It’s not fair that she has to throw up for months, go through labor, stop her education, give up her career, lose her figure, and just stop having fun, while the man, if he chooses not to marry her, gets to go on with his life as before. Even if they marry and the man takes on economic responsibility for the child, his figure, his career, and his free time can be remarkably untouched by precisely the same event that irrevocably changes a woman’s life. To which I would say now (although I wouldn’t have said it 20 years ago), life is tough. The child didn’t ask to be conceived but, now that it is, you owe it an obligation, whether it’s a nine month obligation through to adoption or a lifetime commitment.
Interestingly, one of the things you’ll notice about pro-choice advocacy (usually in movies) is that it roots its emotional arguments in the past, when women couldn’t stop pregnancies, when they died far too easily, and when an out-of-wedlock pregnancy was the end of the world. Think back, for example, to 2004, when the movie Vera Drake opened to immense critical approval, was nominated for three Oscars, and won a whole slew of other awards. The movie tells the story of the saintlike Vera Drake, a loving wife and mother in the 1950s, who also provides pathetically poor, distressed women with abortions. The women getting abortions are all desperately in need of them — a mother of seven children, a rape victim, an isolated immigrant, a wife who had an affair while her husband was in Korea, etc. The movie also shows a rich girl getting away with a medical abortion, so as to emphasize the Marxist theory that the rich get richer and the poor get children. The dramatic tension in the movie comes about because Vera Drake is arrested and prosecuted for this then-illegal act.
Vera Drake is blatantly pro-choice, but also blatantly dishonest as an instrument in today’s debate. Both the troubles faced by the poor women and the advantages offered to the rich are no longer issues in today’s abortion debate.
Another movie that cheated when it came to the abortion issue was HBO’s 1996 movie, If These Walls Could Talk, which follows three abortion events affecting the residents of a single house, over a period of decades:
The 1952 segment deals with Claire Donnelly (Demi Moore), a widowed nurse living in suburban Chicago, who becomes pregnant by her brother-in-law and decides to undergo abortion in order not to hurt her late husband’s family. However, abortion at the time is strictly illegal. Donnelly eventually finds another nurse (CCH Pounder) who provides her the name of a woman who can find her someone who will perform the abortion. After a clandestine procedure she finally manages to abort but dies shortly afterwards due to hemorrhage.
The 1974 segment deals with Barbara Barrows (Sissy Spacek), a struggling and aging mother with four children and a policeman husband who works the night shift, who discovers she must welcome another addition to the family, despite having recently gone back to college. She considers abortion with the support of her teenage daughter (Hedy Burress) but ultimately chooses to keep the child.
The 1996 segment deals with Christine Cullen (Anne Heche), a college student who got pregnant by a married professor, decides on an abortion when he breaks up with her and only offers her money. She is operated on by Dr. Beth Thompson (Cher). However, the abortion takes place during a violent protest, and an abortion protester (Matthew Lillard) walks in on the operation and shoots Dr. Thompson.
If These Walls Could Talk is quite a carefully thought-out movie, making sure to keep sympathy in places that still resonate today: the woman who is incestuously raped, a situation that we sympathize with now, dies because abortion is not legal; the woman who keeps getting pregnant, a situation we find less sympathetic in a birth control era, chooses life; and the least sympathetic woman, the one who has the convenience abortion, is trumped by the even more evil murderous pro-Lifer.
It’s also a dishonest movie. Nowadays, as I said, few quarrel with the legality or morality of an incest or rape abortion; birth control should help keep women from repeat pregnancies (although I do know a woman who claims that she and all four of her siblings were each born clutching Mom’s diaphragm); and the fact that there are loony-toons out there doesn’t lessen the dubiously moral choice of abortion for convenience.
Outside of the movie industry, if you go to the NOW website, that organization still has a page devoted to women who suffered abortions in the past, at a time when women daily had to face down endless pregnancies, childbirth mortality, and extreme social stigma. As I have tried to prove, though, those emotional arguments do not provide a good rationale for unlimited abortion in 21st Century America, especially at the taxpayers’ expense.
A much more intellectually honest movie view of abortion was Juno, a sleeper hit in 2007 about a teenage girl whose foolish moment of passion with a friend left her pregnant. That movie was honest about how the pregnancy happened (no birth control), honest about the absence of social stigma (lots of familial love and support), honest about the almost frightening ease with which even teenagers can obtain abortions, and honest about the desperate middle-class couples looking for a baby. It was also honest about the fact that, given all of these circumstances, it was entirely logical for the teenager to opt not to abort.
As for me, long time readers of this blog know that, even though intellectually and morally I’m no longer pro-choice, I’m still not entirely pro-life. I accept abortion to protect the mother’s life, and can agree to abortion in cases of rape or incest, even though that’s not fair to the innocent fetus. My problem is that, while I know that convenience abortions are morally wrong, I still get this emotional, lizard-brain feeling of a trapped rat in a cage when I imagine myself being a young woman who finds herself pregnant when she doesn’t want to be. For me, although motherhood has had many rewards, it’s also entailed many sacrifices. When I think of those sacrifices, and then apply them to, say, a 22 year old version of me, or when I imagine my daughter grown, and in the same situation, I still want to cry out “But that’s not fair.” When that happens, though, I squish my lizard-brain, tell myself “Life isn’t fair,” and try to focus on the fetus and not my feelings. I only hope that, if my daughter, before she’s married, ever does come to tell me she’s pregnant, I remember that deeper morality, and give her the right advice.
UPDATE: The Anchoress took my rather limited argument one step further, and examined the implications of using taxpayer money to fund everyone else’s potential abortion. It’s a superb bit of writing. Here are my thoughts, triggered by her thoughts.
Bear with me here, because I’m thinking out loud. It all started with the fact that today’s Chronicle had a sad, sad story that began like this:
Expectant mother, fetus shot dead in Oakland
Kennah Wilson, 18, was eagerly anticipating the birth of her daughter this fall. She was going to name her baby Kamilah and had plans for a baby shower in October.
But gunmen opened fire outside an East Oakland apartment complex on Friday night, killing both Wilson and her 7-month-old fetus, police said Saturday.
A less awkward way to have headlined and told the story would have been “Pregnant woman killed in Oakland.” Reading that, most would have assumed, unless explicitly informed otherwise, that the baby died too. I therefore found this verbose, clinical phrasing surprising.
My assumption, since the Chron is a very pro-choice paper, is that the only way to bring out the true pathos of this story — which would ordinarily be just another death in the more crime ridden part of Oakland — was to make it a mother-baby death. And the only way to do that was to emphasize the nascent life inside of poor Kennah.
The problem, though, is that once you start emphasizing those nascent lives, you’re acknowledging that the Democratic platform commitment to entirely unfettered abortion (including Obama’s belief in the right to abort the baby after it’s already born), runs headlong into the fact that a seven month old baby has truly become a person in its own right. Had the fetus survived the shooting, it would have had as much chance of life as the average premature baby — which is pretty darn good in our modern world.
Which gets me to something that’s making me increasingly uncomfortable about the modern Democratic party. To explain my discomfort, let me start with my own journey on abortion. I was raised strongly pro-Choice — abortion without limits would have been my unthinking mantra in the 1980s. With the passage of time, though, I’m become ever uncomfortable with that absolute position.
Having had children of my own, having seen (through sonograms) those lives grow within me, and having seen the survival age of premature babies pushed further and further back, I am uncomfortable with unfettered abortions, especially those that occur simply because pregnancy is inconvenient. I’m also highly uncomfortable with late term abortions (and, unlike Barack Obama, with post-birth abortions).
As I’ve said in other posts — and perhaps I’m driven to this by some Jewish genetic instinct — I’m hewing closer and closer to the traditional rabbinic view of abortion, which seems to me to strike an admirable balance between the lives of both baby and mother (footnotes omitted):
The easiest way to conceptualize a fetus in halacha [Jewish law] is to imagine it as a full-fledged human being — but not quite. In most circumstances, the fetus is treated like any other “person.” Generally, one may not deliberately harm a fetus. But while it would seem obvious that Judaism holds accountable one who purposefully causes a woman to miscarry, sanctions are even placed upon one who strikes a pregnant woman causing an unintentional miscarriage. That is not to say that all rabbinical authorities consider abortion to be murder. The fact that the Torah requires a monetary payment for causing a miscarriage is interpreted by some Rabbis to indicate that abortion is not a capital crime and by others as merely indicating that one is not executed for performing an abortion, even though it is a type of murder. There is even disagreement regarding whether the prohibition of abortion is Biblical or Rabbinic. Nevertheless, it is universally agreed that the fetus will become a full-fledged human being and there must be a very compelling reason to allow for abortion.
As a general rule, abortion in Judaism is permitted only if there is a direct threat to the life of the mother by carrying the fetus to term or through the act of childbirth. In such a circumstance, the baby is considered tantamount to a rodef, a pursuer after the mother with the intent to kill her. Nevertheless, as explained in the Mishna, if it would be possible to save the mother by maiming the fetus, such as by amputating a limb, abortion would be forbidden. Despite the classification of the fetus as a pursuer, once the baby’s head or most of its body has been delivered, the baby’s life is considered equal to the mother’s, and we may not choose one life over another, because it is considered as though they are both pursuing each other.
It is important to point out that the reason that the life of the fetus is subordinate to the mother is because the fetus is the cause of the mother’s life-threatening condition, whether directly (e.g. due to toxemia, placenta previa, or breach position) or indirectly (e.g. exacerbation of underlying diabetes, kidney disease, or hypertension). A fetus may not be aborted to save the life of any other person whose life is not directly threatened by the fetus, such as use of fetal organs for transplant.
Despite agreeing with the careful balancing act that is expressed under Jewish law, I can readily recognize the rational and moral choices that drive those Christian pro-Lifers who argue, accurately, that life begins at conception. While I would engage in more of a balancing than they would, I still think that theirs is a completely coherent viewpoint.
Ultimately, on the pro-Life side, there is a continuum of reasonable beliefs ranging from the absolute purity of the completely pro-Life person, to the practical and moral balancing act of the religious Jew. While these views may lead to different practical outcomes, their focus is on the preservation of life.
What’s unseemly and icky about modern Democrats is that they’ve created an ideological corner in which they start sounding like a baby killing factory. For all the “safe, rare and legal” (or whatever that slogan was) that emanated from the Clintons, the party faithful don’t think that way. They don’t acknowledge reasonable gradations. Instead, they see things as binary: Either abortion is unfettered or its entirely fettered. They’ve gotten themselves locked in a box where they can no longer have a rational debate that tries to balance the differing interests of mother and child and, as to both, to do so with an eye to life.
This shrill, binary message means that hardcore Democrats, the ones who dominate the message and the media, sound dreadful. While it once appeared that they were trumpeting rights for women, they now sound fossilized. Arguments for abortion that made sense when we merely guessed at fetal development and when pre-term babies routinely died; or when babies born out of wedlock (and their mothers) were horribly stigmatized; or when birth control was impossible to obtain, sound brutal in this day and age when we see (and save) in utero babies; when out-of-wedlock children are normative (especially in Hollywood); and when birth control is sold at every grocery store.
Unwanted pregnancies still happen, but the social dynamics have shifted dramatically. To get back to where I began — the tragic death of Kennah and Kamilah — it’s worth noting that this story was all about a teenage girl without a husband (and there’s no mention of the baby’s father in the article). While her unwed status would once have relegated her to society margins, this story makes it clear that an out-of-wedlock baby is a non-issue. Mom’s abandonment was not part of the tragedy at the heart of this story.
In this scientific and social climate, to continue to insist on “all abortion, all the time” is too morbid and self-serving to sit well with a fundamentally moral citizenry. I think this fact is important because there is no doubt that Sarah Palin is absolutely and entirely pro-Life — she’s walked the walk and talked the talk.
While there are many Americans like me, who are not absolutely and entirely pro-Life, the intellectual coherence of Palin’s position may stand out in splendid contrast to the ghoulish moral house in which the Democrats now live. Between these two extremes, Life may prove less frightening to independents and conservative Democrats than death — no matter how much hardcore Democrats continue to believe that unfettered access to abortion will be the pivot that drives women voters to their party. In other words, moderate voters may tolerate Palin’s pro-Life stance, not because they’re embracing her, but because they need to reject the Democrats’ deathly absolutes.
In any event, it’s worth reminding people worried about Palin’s stand that neither Presidents nor VPs directly affect abortion policy. All they do is try to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices. And, unless these justices are themselves activists, all that they can do is reverse Roe v. Wade, which in turn will throw abortion back to the States (unless Americans unite to have an Abortion Constitutional Amendment). And after 35 years of the abortion revolution, the outcome in the states is likely to be more liberal towards abortions than it was 35 years ago across America. While an unpleasant scenario for those deeply committed to unlimited abortion, it’s also not the end of the world.
From a Jonah Goldberg column (a very good one incidentally) about Obama’s approach to the Saddleback questions:
At Saddleback, Obama offered the ritualistic support for Roe v. Wade expected of all Democratic politicians, “not because I’m pro-abortion,” but because women “wrestle with these things in profound ways.”
That rather typically obvious Obama statement got me thinking.
As long time readers know, I am not whole-heartedly pro-Life. I do believe that there are circumstances in which abortion should be allowed. As I grow older, though, what I find repugnant is what pro-Lifers have long called “the culture of abortion.” I never understood that when I was young, when I didn’t have children, and when I hadn’t started seriously examining many of the precepts that underlie the political thinking on the Left.
For all the Clinton’s lip service about keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare” (an idea the Democrats have dropped this year), the fact is that the popular liberal culture does not aim to keep abortion “safe, legal and rare.” Instead, as Kathryn Jean Lopez demonstrated in a post about Planned Parenthood’s approach to sex, the message may be birth control, but the meta message is have sex all the time, whenever you want it. And as even the most diehard Planned Parenthood person will acknowledge, once you actually engage in sex, there is no such thing as perfect birth control. Pregnancies will happen.
This cultural approach to sex — have it whenever you want, however you want, but try to be careful — means that a certain number of women will inevitably have to wrestle in a profound way with the big decision of whether to have an abortion. What Obama misses, though, is that women should be doing their profound wrestling much earlier.
In a culture that is not abortion friendly (and one can imagine such a culture even if abortion is legal and safe in certain circumstances), women won’t wait until they’re pregnant before they start asking the big questions. Instead, the profound wrestling (and women always have to do the profound wrestling because they’re the ones who get pregnant) will take place back at the beginning of the relationship: Should I go to bed with a guy I’ve known only a half hour? Should I believe him when he says he’s had a vasectomy? Having known him only a week, do I have enough knowledge about the guy to envision him as the father of my child? Do I love this man? Is this a guy who bounces from woman to woman to woman? Do I really want to sleep with all these men who are, essentially, strangers?
I’m not advocating a return to a culture that forbids premarital sex. Frankly, I don’t know whether we can put that genii back in the bottle, short of some draconian sharia-like laws that include stonings and beheadings. However, is it asking too much to have a popular culture that sees sex as something you do with someone you can imagine sharing with you the burden of parenthood? And if you, a woman, can’t even conceive of your potential sex partner in that role (possibly because you’ve known him only a few minutes), shouldn’t you be making different decisions about whether to have sex with him?
Yes, Obama is right that women wrestle. What’s wrong, though, his is unthinking belief that you start wrestling only after everyone has already had his or her fun.