I hate clicking on a title like “Abortion is Morally Good,” especially on my first-born’s birthday. But I thought I should. We won’t sway public opinion unless we’re willing to engage the reasoning on the other side. So I clicked, but as far as reasoning goes, I found this article remarkably weak. It’s so weak that I can’t help feeling a little sorry for its author. She reminds me of “Baghdad Bob,” convincing only those who desperately want and need to be convinced. “We are not afraid at all! We will triumph! Pay no attention to those coalition tanks massing on the horizon.”
It goes without saying that to be persuasive, you have to be in reality. You have to come to grips with facts and counter the arguments and witness of your opponents. If all you’ve got to offer is euphemism and caricature, you may manage to rally your demoralized troops for a little rearguard action, but you won’t prevail.
The article full of stuff like this:
When abortion ends a wanted pregnancy, it is one grief-sodden moment in a series of tragedies.
Note the absence of any reference to the baby. What’s wanted (or unwanted) is the pregnancy, not the baby. What’s “ended” is the pregnancy, not the baby. This is dishonest rhetoric. Does a pregnancy get sucked into a tube and thrown into a medical waste bin? Does a pregnancy have a heartbeat? Does it have fingers and toes and the genetic makeup of a completely unique human being?
And what does she mean by abortion ending a wanted pregnancy? I thought abortion was all about unwanted pregnancies. Is she referring to forced abortions? But those would be evil, not tragic, wouldn’t they? Isn’t her side all about choice? Or is she referring to the situation where the mother wants a baby, but not this particular baby, because this baby has a defect of some kind? Is that the tragedy? Maybe it’s got genetic or medical problems? Or maybe it comes at a really inconvenient time? In that case, it’s the particular child that’s not wanted and gets killed and thrown away in favor of a merely potential child—a possible future child, who (hopefully) won’t have such defects.
It’s amazing how even the most ardent abortion advocates can’t seem to spell out what it is they really want and hold. They have to keep it veiled in verbal fog.
But a lot comes through, even so, via projection. For example, speaking of the problem of Democrats ceding rhetorical territory to the pro-cause she writes:
When your enemies pick up your arguments and tolerate your allies in their midst, you can be relatively confident that you’ve achieved the social and political dominance that you’ve worked toward for years.
Evidently, as she sees it, the goal is “dominance,” not justice. So, she’s blunt in calling for total unison among Democrats on the issue. They must all be 100 % gung-ho for abortion. No support for pro-life Democrats seeking office, no tolerance for rhetoric that concedes any moral ground whatsoever to the pro-life cause.
Anything less but the prioritization of women over the pregnancies they carry cedes ground the left cannot afford to lose.
Notice, again, the obfuscatory wording suggesting that what women “carry” is pregnancies rather than nascent human beings.
She offers lots of caricature and contempt when’s she’s describing pro-life people and positions. She twists words to make us seem both vicious and irrational. When she wants to hold up a spokesman for our cause, to show how risible we are, she chooses the 89-year-old Pat Robertson, “who believes that you should pray over anything you buy from a thrift store because demons can hide in the fabric.” When she wants to state our case in a nutshell, she quotes abortion advocate Rebecca Traistor, who puts it like this:
“The imaginary futures — the ‘personhoods’ — of the unborn have taken moral precedence over the adult women in whose bodies they grow,”
Never mind that no pro-lifer ever talks that way. I’ve been pro-life all my 50-plus years. I don’t think I’ve ever come across the term “personhoods” before today. “Personhood” is a term of abstraction. It makes no sense in the plural form. (“Look at those adorable little boyhoods playing soccer with their fatherhoods.”) To oppose abortion is to stand for the right to life of concrete individuals, living human beings, not abstract “personhoods.” As for the future, it’s unknown and undetermined by definition, but, provided we’re talking about a fetus that already exists, its future isn’t any more “imaginary” than yours or mine.
Nor does anyone in the pro-life movement argue that fetuses take moral precedence over their mothers. (Has anyone ever heard a pro-lifer suggest killing abortion-minded mothers to save their fetuses?) Rather, we hold that no human being is disposable. Each one matters. Each one has inherent value and an unalienable right to life. (Many, though not all of us, believe that individuals who commit violent crimes abrogate that right, but that’s an argument for another place.) Even the staunchest pro-lifers will grant exceptions if the mother’s life is at stake, because our cause rests on the dignity of human life as such. It’s not about who takes precedence over whom. We reject that kind of invidious moral reasoning. We’re about love, not power.
The author makes some concessions. She admits that not all pro-lifers are as odd or idiotic as Pat Robertson. And some of us “do try to deploy science to bolster [our] arguments.” She is even fair-minded enough to say this:
I don’t believe that female pain is a policy goal for all abortion opponents.
Maybe most abortion opponents have female pain as their policy goal, but not all of them.
She’s very concerned about the female pain (male pain doesn’t come into her picture) that might result from the undoing of Roe v. Wade, but apparently not at all with the female pain that has resulted from that decision of 7 men. Even if we set aside the scores of millions of tiny humans (at least half of them girls) who have been killed in the womb in our country since 1973, what about the women who have died or been mutilated in the course of legal abortions, or who suffer life-long bitter regret, or who are pressured into abortions they don’t want by boyfriends or husbands or parents or friends? Doesn’t their pain count for anything? Or does she want to pretend that all the female pain is on one side of this issue?
In the end, she has no argument at all. She only has a flat assertion, unbolstered by any form of reasoning: “A fetus is a possibility, not a person. While abortion can be the tragic end to a wanted pregnancy, it’s never murder.” She doesn’t even try to deploy science or philosophy to make her case. Probably she senses the effort would backfire. Better to caricature, heap contempt on the opposition, talk vaguely and anecdotally about female pain, then make a bald assertion and pretend you’ve been dispositive.
That’s apparently good enough for publication in New York magazine. Maybe they thought it was especially compelling because the author used to be an evangelical. Regardless, it gave this pro-lifer hope that the abortion lobby is on its last legs.Published in