In his latest piece, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who is liberal and gay, wrote about an anonymous former college classmate who was an observant conservative Catholic back then, but who has since changed his mind. Excerpt:
He had researched and reflected on much of this by the time he graduated from medical school, and so he decided to devote a bit of each week to helping out in an abortion clinic. Over years to come, in various settings, he continued this work, often braving protesters, sometimes wearing a bulletproof vest.
He knew George Tiller, the Kansas abortion provider shot dead in 2009 by an abortion foe.
THAT happened in a church, he noted. He hasn’t belonged to one since college. “Religion too often demands belief in physical absurdities and anachronistic traditions despite all scientific evidence and moral progress,” he said.
That sort of thing. Bruni ends with his anonymous friend, now a doctor, performing an abortion on one of the loudest pro-life protesters, who came to him on the sly because he was a familiar face. She supposedly told him that she wasn’t like those other loose women who sought abortions. A week later, we are told, she was back in front of the clinic, protesting.
The story is incredibly difficult to believe, even if you're not a naturally skeptical person.
The quotes and anecdote form what seem to be a too-perfect illustration of "what a gay secular liberal would want to see from the 'conversion' of a conservative Catholic. He becomes a pro-gay, agnostic abortionist." I agree.
Because I am a reporter, I've learned that perfect quotes are almost impossible to come by. Even more difficult are the perfect anecdotes. That they would combine in one individual is truly remarkable. I've never even come close to having it happen.
In other ways, though, the anecdote falls apart. We're told that the devout Catholic turned abortionist both led Bible studies after college but also never went to church. Right.
But the piece combines all sorts of predictable tropes -- that the only reason in the world someone might oppose the taking of life in the womb is because of irrational religious views, that (without abortion on demand) millions of women would be bleeding in the back allies and that deep down all abortion opponents are dirty rotten hypocrites.
That last part, about how each and every abortionist's worst protester magically arrives in his office at some point for an abortion, is such a regular tale as to be cliche. But I suspect that the operating word is 'tale.' I can see why abortion doctors and staff would want to justify what they're doing through the telling of such stories, but I just don't buy it. I'm sorry. I'm not saying it's not possible. Of course it is. But why does each and every abortion doctor tell exactly the same story? I mean, there are variations -- the worst protester brings his underage daughter in, for example.
But if you were going to devote your life's work to praying outside abortion clinics to end the scourge of abortion and then decided it would be a great idea to kill your unborn child, wouldn't you at the very least drive to a different clinic?
Journalists need to be more skeptical of too-perfect and "just so" stories.
Ramesh Ponnuru says he doesn't doubt the existence of the character, although he concedes the story "seems awfully pat." But, he asks, what's the point of the column?
Near as I can tell, it’s that liberals should look past their prejudices against fellow college students who wear suits to Mass, because some of them turn out to be really thoughtful, as evidenced by their growing up to be abortionists.
Which means it actually makes more of a point than most Bruni columns.