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“Personally Opposed, But…” Five Pro-Abortion Dodges
Crisis Magazine ^ | April 2004 | Todd M. Aglialoro

Posted on 04/14/2004 1:56:28 PM PDT by NYer

In that passage from Orthodoxy so familiar that it is almost now cliché, G. K. Chesterton wrote that there are a thousand angles at which a man may fall but only one at which he stands. By this he argued for the unique, enduring character of orthodox Church doctrine, of the one, true, upstanding strand of Right Teaching. Though the same tired heresies may reappear to contest it-;mutated, renamed, warmed-over-;the old, wild truth remains standing, “reeling but erect-;

This well-worn lesson takes on a new freshness, I think, when applied to the culture war. The wild truths that inform Christian ethics-;our insistence on a moral universe, on a real human nature with its own teleology, on the transcendent significance of human acts and human relationships-;also reel but remain erect in the face of perennial challenges. We are not gods. Moral truth is something we discover, not invent. From the Garden of Eden to the Supreme Court of the United States, we have fought the same battle under different banners.

In what is probably the modern culture battle par excellence, the fight against abortion, we see displayed with perfect clarity the principle of a single upright truth (that directly killing an unborn child is an evil and a crime) being contested by a rotation of errors; taking turns or working in tandem, passing in and out of fashion, each seizing upon the vocabulary, events, and moods of the cultural moment until the next comes along to supplant it.

In some cases cultural developments render one of them obsolete. In the years shortly after Roe v. Wade, abortion debates inevitably featured three words the pro-abortion side considered a trump card: “blob of tissue-; This factually empty but sound-bite-perfect catchphrase made a great impact with its implication that the fetus was roughly equivalent to a ball of snot. Which put abortion about on par with picking your nose: bad form, a messy affair that ought to be kept private, but nothing to get overly excited about.

Of course, advances in the study of human embryology, most notably the window to the womb afforded by the sonogram, all but pulled the teeth from the “blob of tissue”canard. The 1980 film The Silent Scream, an ultrasound depiction of an abortion at eleven weeks, provided a chilling, graphic look at abortion’s inner workings. And today, expectant mothers keep pictures of their “blobs of tissue”on the refrigerator. They make copies and stuff them into Christmas cards.

So that particular line was no longer viable. But it wouldn’t be the last. More would follow, and we who are engaged in the culture have surely heard most of them. However, even for those who have heard them all, I think it can be valuable to gather them up and define them; to identify their originators, exemplars, and champions; to understand their appeal; and to consider how to counter them. Let us now look, then, at five (a nice number, though by no means exhaustive) of history’s most insidious pro-abortion arguments.

1. ‘Don’t Say the “A”word’: NARAL

Names are important to propagandists. One could hardly imagine, for example, Planned Parenthood enjoying the status it does had it not in 1942 dropped “American Birth Control League”in favor of its current benevolent-sounding moniker. What if Greenpeace had instead called itself “Vegan Freaks Against Ambergris”? Would society still look on that organization in the indulgently tolerant way it does today? Would Bono still play its benefit concerts? There are some things we are just never meant to know.

Early last year, in a calculated PR move, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) changed its name to NARAL Pro-Choice America. Amazingly, the new name is even more cumbersome than the old. “NARAL”juts out at the front like “Nokia” before “Sugar Bowl-; But this name change was not about streamlining signage and business cards. It was an attempt to deflect notice from the singular object of NARAL’s 30-plus years of existence-;unlimited access to abortion-on-demand-;and toward broader, more high-minded, and less gruesome concepts of gender equality and personal self-determination. The change was timed to coincide with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign depicting the new-and-improved NARAL not so much as an advocate of “abortion rights”as a defender of women’s suffrage, satellite TV, and 31 Flavors.

Semantic games have always been part of the battle, of course. No one-;no one, mind you-;is “pro-abortion-; Folks are “pro-choice,”“pro-reproductive rights,” or, slightly more courageously, “pro-abortion rights-; In each case, even the last, the emphasis is steered away from the repugnant reality of abortion itself-;a sure loser in focus groups time and time again. Whenever we debate abortion or write a letter to the editor, we engage in a struggle for the linguistic high ground.

But NARAL’s gambit takes things to a new level. By all accounts, abortion’s popularity is waning steadily. Recent polls show high school and college students reporting pro-life leanings in growing numbers. The pro-life side’s rare propaganda advantage in the partial-birth abortion debate has riveted public attention with clinically graphic descriptions of the violence abortion inflicts on the unborn.

Clearly, the long-term survival strategy, from NARAL’s perspective, is to make the abortion debate about anything but abortion.

It can be wearying sometimes, but the counter-strategy is continually to return the debate to where it belongs: the humanity of the unborn child and his right to life. It may also be effective to ask just why abortion is so repugnant to so many.

2. ‘Personally Opposed, But...’: Mario Cuomo

It is these days thoroughly engrained in abortion discourse; its premises taken for granted and its logic never questioned. It is all too common for a politician, clergyman, or fellow parishioner to claim that he is “personally opposed” to abortion but wouldn’t dream of “imposing”that opinion on a public with diverse religious and ethical beliefs-;and then sit back, secure in the feeling that his is an ironclad position.

Yet this line about being “personally opposed, but…”has only the appearance of reasonableness, acquired through sheer repetition. It also fits perfectly in a society valuing tolerance above all other virtues, conflict-avoidance over tackling unpleasant truths.

Some might trace this attitude back to John F. Kennedy, who as the price of the presidency swore that he would not let his Romish religious convictions dictate his politics. And if you want to point to JFK as a kind of spiritual grandfather to the “personally opposed, but…”position, you’ll get no argument from me. But in its full form it must be credited not to Kennedy but to the former governor of New York, Mario Cuomo.

In a 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame (at the invitation of the notorious Rev. Richard McBrien) titled “Religious Belief and Public Morality,”Cuomo laid out the basic premises of the “personally opposed, but…”line, by way of reconciling his soi-disant devout Catholicism with his political support for abortion-on-demand. Skillfully equivocating Catholic teaching on abortion with Catholic teaching on contraception and divorce, as well as a presumed Catholic perspective toward nuclear weapons, he asks, would it be right for a Catholic to make (or sign) laws forbidding divorce? Withholding state funds for contraception? Instituting a unilateral nuclear freeze?

“Should I argue,” he asks, “to make my religious value your morality? My rule of conduct your limitation?” Clearly not, is his conclusion. Not, absent a democratic consensus, in a society of varied and sometimes flatly contradictory moral values, a society in which even the collective voice of Christianity is not monolithic on issues but fractured and sectarian. Not, he notes, when “there is no Church teaching that mandates the best political course for making our belief everyone’s rule, for spreading this part of our Catholicism.”

The forceful case made by Cuomo in his speech (he quotes for support, in places, Michael Novak and even Pope John Paul II; the whole thing makes for fascinating reading) touches only on the context of politics, and mostly from the politician’s perspective. But its spirit has crept out of the corridors of power into general society. It is the spirit that makes the saying “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one”sound to some ears like a devastating rejoinder. The spirit that gives rise to slogans like “You can’t legislate morality,”when in fact the morality that protects human rights and thus the common good is the first and best thing worth legislating.

It is also the spirit that animates our next argument.

3. ‘Safe, Legal, and Rare’: Bill Clinton

Among politicians only Bill Clinton could devise a line like this, during his 1996 campaign, brilliantly triangulating liberal abortion-on-demand orthodoxy with Middle America’s broad-based distaste for the practice. Ultimately nonsensical yet somehow familiar and reassuring, like a couplet from Dr. Seuss, this buzz phrase became an instant and enduring success, for two reasons.

First, it validated the internal conflict that the majority of Americans were (and still are) experiencing over the abortion question. They were conscious of a natural sense of revulsion toward abortion itself, yet unwilling for whatever reason to sign on whole-hog with the pro-lifers. Clinton let them know that he felt their pain and that his administration’s policy would include a subtle nod toward the general feeling that abortion is a Bad Thing (which ought to be “rare”) but would not place restrictions on its availability (“legal”) that might send women to back alleys (“safe”). Thus he accomplished an unprecedented political feat: co-opting the vaguely antiabortion sentiments of the masses and mollifying the blood lust of the radical pro-abort left with one simple statement.

“Safe, legal, and rare” also subtly but definitely realigned the terms of the abortion debate. No longer would the question center on whether the aborted fetus was a blob or a baby; no longer would it be necessary to make tortured distinctions between public and private morality. In the first place, safety and legality are conservative concepts, not radical ones. Now the pro-choicer could consider himself a guardian of the status quo—an American tradition, even. In the second place, with the word “rare,” the focus shifted away from abortion itself (which we now presumed to be beyond debate) and toward abortion’s presumptive root causes. The abortion issue was now really a health-care or poverty or education issue-;right in the liberal Democrats’ wheelhouse.

To be truly pro-life, they could argue, meant to “get over this love affair with the fetus”(as former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders put it, with typical elegance) and instead pay attention to alleviating the conditions that led women to get abortions in the first place. Implied here, of course, is a kind of false dichotomy: The qualities of justice and mercy are not strained, nor must the interests of the mother and unborn child be necessarily set at odds. But the argument worked by playing into multiple stereotypes: pro-lifers as single-issue fanatics, misogynists, icy-hearted grinches. And it allowed politicians to spin abortion questions into Great Society sermonettes.

Pro-abortionists’ next major tack would ratchet to a new level the lip-biting empathy invoked by “safe, legal, and rare”and that slogan’s tacit admission of abortion’s unpleasantness. But at the same time, it would rebuke the Clintonian strategy of ignoring or spinning away from the question of abortion itself.

4. ‘Embrace the Guilt’: Naomi Wolf

Feminist-at-large Naomi Wolf is perhaps best known for her work as a consultant to Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 1999-2000. Charged with creating, ex nihilo, a personality for the vice president that would play better with women voters, Wolf devised the “alpha male”strategy, which began with Gore donning earth tones and lumberjack duds and ended (mercifully) with his PG-13 smooch of Mrs. Gore on convention night. In years previous, Wolf had been credited with identifying the “soccer mom”constituency while advising Clinton’s reelection bid and caused numerous stirs with her books and publications on gender conflict and female sexual “liberation-;

But in an earlier writing-;an article for The New Republic in 1995-;she caused quite a different kind of stir. In it she claimed that her recent firsthand experience of pregnancy and childbirth had given her a new perspective on the abortion debate, a perspective she believed her fellow feminist pro-choicers needed to hear and act on.

In “Our Bodies, Our Souls,”Wolf called for “a radical shift in the pro-choice movement’s rhetoric and consciousness about abortion-; Self-deluded by their long practice of dehumanizing the unborn (what she termed “the fetus-is-nothing paradigm of the pro-choice movement”), pro-choicers, she argued, were falling dangerously out of touch with the reality of abortion and women’s experiences with it. In order to avert the loss of credibility and thus political influence the abortion movement would suffer thereby (although to her credit, Wolf also cited the need simply “to be faithful to the truth”), she asserted the “need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death-;

This remarkable essay is liable to engender, in the pro-life observer, the same kind of cognitive dissonance that “safe, legal, and rare”does. In it Wolf admits bluntly that the fetus is a live human being with a certain value and that abortion undoubtedly kills that human being. She laments the prevalence of casual, “‘I don’t know what came over me; it was such good Chardonnay’ abortions-; She insists that abortion calls for a period of “mourning”and recommends spiritual “mending”ceremonies for women who abort, for vigils outside abortion clinics “commemorating and saying goodbye to the dead-;

Yet her practical aim all along is to help other pro-abortionists develop a better strategy for keeping abortion legal.

Wolf avoids adopting conventional pro-life convictions by assigning the significance of the guilt and blood and killing to interior categories only. “If I found myself in circumstances in which I had to make the terrible decision to end this life,”she writes, “then that would be between myself and God-; For the unhappily pregnant woman, oppressed by patriarchal society and burdened by this fellow-victim inside her womb, abortion is not a social injustice but a personal “failure”; an evil to be borne and acknowledged and slowly atoned for.

For its frank admission (and thus diffusion) of the evidence that abortion kills a living human being, and its conclusion that this evidence doesn’t logically require prohibition of abortion-;and in fact may even lend its perpetrators a certain tragic nobility-;Wolf’s argument is a powerful one. Its effects live on in every pro-choice apologist who tries to imbue his position with moral gravity-;or, as with our next case, in those who invoke the name of God.

5. ‘Pro-Faith, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice’: The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Some abortion advocates pick up Wolf’s ball and run even farther with it. For some, God might be not merely patiently tolerant, even sympathetic, toward this business of feticide; He may in fact positively endorse it, as the exercise of a mature and devout conscience. For sure, the landscape is dotted with liberal churches and associations of them, each self-defined as “pro-choice-; But the biggest and best organizational representation of the religious pro-abortion folk can be found within the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), Planned Parenthood’s collar-and-chasuble lackey.

Beginning with the assertion that “most people of faith are pro-choice because of their religious beliefs, not in spite of them,”the RCRC attempts to build a case for abortion on both sectarian and interreligious principles. First, compassion: “People who follow Jesus…should bring healing and wholeness to those in distress,” claims one of the canned sermons the group offers as a resource. This means not forcing them into back alleys for their “healing”abortions and not forbidding them to opt out of the life-threatening ordeal of childbirth. Of course, there’s good ol’ freedom of conscience, too. Didn’t Jesus “emphasize the moral agency of each person”? By this He compels us to believe that a woman’s “life, health, and freedom…are more important than the potential life in her womb-;

Not convinced? Then there’s the cleanup issue: religious freedom. Church and state are separated in this country; without this separation we would be in danger of losing the freedom to believe and worship freely. “And at the center of religious freedom is keeping the government out of personal moral decisions such as terminating a pregnancy-;

This rather bald assertion is a kissing cousin to the “libertarian”pro-abortion argument one is beginning to hear more frequently (which I do not treat fully here due to space limitations): According to this argument, the whole question hinges on whether “the government”has the right to interfere with personal medical decisions. Here the RCRC simply substitutes “moral”or “religious” for “medical-; The antiabortionist’s affront is not to the presumed sacrosanctity of medicine but to the cherished American ideal of religious liberty, of which the right to an abortion has apparently become iconic.

One could spend a great deal of time deconstructing the RCRC-;its sophistic mastery of religious vocabulary and concepts; its historical place in the disintegration of American mainline Protestantism; its clever self-positioning as an “equal but opposite”voice in the abortion debate and thus its successful bid to neutralize the natural advantage the pro-life side enjoys in religious contexts.

But I will make just one other observation: It’s the pro-abortion side that always wants to turn this into a religious issue. Sure, there’s no shortage of biblical positivist pro-lifers, but by and large, the pro-life side would like to frame the debate in social-justice terms. One needn’t be a Christian to oppose murder or to look at a sonogram. Conversely the pro-abortionists need desperately to paint the issue as a struggle against religious zealotry.

To these folks it is always an effective-;and unexpected-;rejoinder to ask that they stop talking about God so much.

Wesley Clark and the Eclipse of Reason

There may be a thousand angles at which a man can fall and an equal number of ways to justify killing the unborn, yet all pro-abortion arguments really boil down to one root fallacy. General Wesley Clark, once a pretender to the Democratic presidential nomination, expressed it quite well to a New Hampshire newspaper earlier this year. Keen to display his abortion credentials (having entered the race too late to attend the NARAL fund-raiser at which the other major candidates had already pledged their obeisance), Clark claimed to oppose all restrictions to abortion, up to the point of complete delivery. After fumbling for a moment with a follow-up question about where life begins, he replied, “Life begins with a mother’s decision-;

Here we have a philosophical phenomenon aptly summarized by the title of Bernard Nathanson’s second film, The Eclipse of Reason. Here we have nothing less than a fundamental crisis of being at the heart of our culture: a legal and societal status quo wherein a person is defined (and thus has rights apportioned to him) not by what he is but by how another person feels about him. This has been underscored in the debate over the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. If “life begins with a mother’s decision,”kill a pregnant woman on the way to an abortion clinic and you’ve committed one murder; kill a pregnant woman on the way to buy baby clothes and you’ve committed two.

The human mind can barely contain such a violent conflict of premises, forced together against the laws of nature and reason like identical poles of powerful magnets. How much more can the national soul contain it?

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: catholicpoliticians
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1 posted on 04/14/2004 1:56:29 PM PDT by NYer
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To: american colleen; sinkspur; Lady In Blue; Salvation; Polycarp IV; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; ..
Catholic Ping - let me know if you want on/off this list

2 posted on 04/14/2004 1:57:51 PM PDT by NYer (O Promise of God from age to age. O Flower of the Gospel!)
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To: NYer;; Coleus
This looks like a good article. Bump, and ping!
3 posted on 04/14/2004 2:09:29 PM PDT by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: NYer
of course, it helps that the black leaders are helping PLANNED PARENTHOOD kill off the black helps that the mainstream media are nazi hacks,just like the hacks back in nazi germany never bothered to tell the germans the truth about what was really happening at the hands of the nazis....
4 posted on 04/14/2004 2:24:42 PM PDT by fishbabe
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To: NYer
kill a pregnant woman on the way to an abortion clinic and you’ve committed one murder; kill a pregnant woman on the way to buy baby clothes and you’ve committed two.

looks like a tagline to me...

5 posted on 04/14/2004 2:30:36 PM PDT by CharlieOK1 (kill a pregnant woman on the way to an abortion clinic =1 murder; on the way to the store=2 murders)
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To: NYer
6 posted on 04/14/2004 2:31:46 PM PDT by Skooz (My Biography: Psalm 40:1-3)
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To: Pyro7480
Is there a Pro-life ping list? Please add me if so...
7 posted on 04/14/2004 2:31:48 PM PDT by CharlieOK1 (kill a pregnant woman on the way to an abortion clinic =1 murder; on the way to the store=2 murders)
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To: NYer
bump for later read
8 posted on 04/14/2004 2:32:43 PM PDT by Joe Republc
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To: NYer
"Safe, Legal, and Rare’: Bill Clinton"

Well, one out of three ain't bad.
9 posted on 04/14/2004 2:46:37 PM PDT by Tabi Katz
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To: Joe Republc
Pro-Choice philosophy is evidently akin to quantam physics. "Life begins with a mother's decision", must mean that a fetus is kind of like Schrodering's cat. The same way that Schrodering's cat is both alive and dead before Schrodering looks in the box, the fetus is both alive and dead until the mother makes a choice.

Thanks for clarifying things, General Clark.
10 posted on 04/14/2004 2:48:14 PM PDT by jimbokun
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To: NYer
Excellent article!
11 posted on 04/14/2004 2:49:08 PM PDT by Frank_2001
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To: NYer
ping me......
12 posted on 04/14/2004 3:25:16 PM PDT by fishbabe
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To: Pyro7480; american colleen; sinkspur; Lady In Blue; Salvation; Polycarp IV; narses; ...
I once saw a statistic that suggested fatalities from "back alley abortions" actually increased after Row. Can anyone verify this and point me to a link? Thanks.
13 posted on 04/14/2004 3:33:55 PM PDT by presidio9 ("See, mother, I make all things new.")
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To: NYer
1. "... the counter-strategy is continually to return the debate to where it belongs: the humanity of the unborn child and his right to life. It may also be effective to ask just why abortion is so repugnant to so many." Emphasize that the child being taken to the abortionist is already living its own lifetime, is alive and will be killed by the serial killer.

2. "I'm personally opposed to serial killing, but ..." can often focus the mind of the person to whom you are speaking where it needs to be, on the reality of the act being defended!

3. "So, serial killing of alive human beings should be safe and legal? I'm sure Jeffrey Dahmer--and if they were still alive, John Wayne Gacey and others-- will appreciate that sentiment. Are you fishing for votes, as Clinton was when he issued that absurdum?"

4. "Embracing your child is far and away the better action when contemplating the hiring of an institutionalized serial killer. Giving yourself absolution is still deadly to the alive child you contemplate slaughtering."

5. "Ah, so you have reinvented the Almighty to be a god of bloody sacrifice to be repeated over and over, negating His sacrifice of His only son?... Do you expect congratulations on this cosmic coup?"

'Clark claimed to oppose all restrictions to abortion, up to the point of complete delivery. After fumbling for a moment with a follow-up question about where life begins, he replied, “Life begins with a mother’s decision ..." ' Ahh yes, that's the dnc's smartboy, the clinton's gambit, the bankrupt soul of the dnc on dispaly. But the media ... well, you get the gist.

NYer, I apologize for the coarse nature of this post, but I could contain the words no longer. The DNC is founded and drenched in the blood of the innocent, and they are not particular regarding the age of their sacrifices either, from alive unborn babies to pregnant teens to our Soldiers fighting in Iraq against terrorism.

14 posted on 04/14/2004 3:54:49 PM PDT by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To:; Mr. Silverback
15 posted on 04/14/2004 4:47:11 PM PDT by NYer (O Promise of God from age to age. O Flower of the Gospel!)
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NYer, I apologize for the coarse nature of this post, but I could contain the words no longer.

I perfectly understand! Thank you for your comments; they are most appreciated and valued.

16 posted on 04/14/2004 4:53:53 PM PDT by NYer (O Promise of God from age to age. O Flower of the Gospel!)
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To: NYer
17 posted on 04/14/2004 6:49:31 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: 2nd amendment mama; A2J; Agitate; Alouette; Annie03; aposiopetic; attagirl; axel f; Balto_Boy; ...
ProLife Ping!

If anyone wants on or off my ProLife Ping List, please notify me here or by freepmail.

18 posted on 04/15/2004 5:59:44 AM PDT by Mr. Silverback (Ted Kennedy has questioned Dubya's integrity. Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.)
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To: NYer
cognitive dissonance

This accounts for most of the logic used by supporters of abortion. Selective perception seems to rule the way so many of us lead our lives.

19 posted on 04/15/2004 6:15:17 AM PDT by johnb2004
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To: presidio9
I once saw a statistic that suggested fatalities from "back alley abortions" actually increased after Row. Can anyone verify this and point me to a link?

Related ...

A. If abortion is restricted, women will again die by the thousands from dangerous back-alley abortions

1. This argument begs the question: it assumes the unborn are not human. Otherwise, this argument is tantamount to saying, "Because some people will die attempting to kill others, the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so." As Professor Schwarz points out, this is not really an argument for abortion (i.e. it does nothing to show that abortion does not murder a child or that the choice being offered is morally justified), but is a kind of veiled threat: "Give us choice or else!" Its appeal is psychological, not moral. (The Moral Question of Abortion, Loyola University Press, 1990, p.141)

But inciting fear over the consequence of restricting an evil behavior hardly justifies that behavior. To cite a recent example, racists once argued that equal treatment for blacks would result in terrible riots and cause untold suffering among law abiding citizens. But this in no way proved that blacks did not have equal rights or that a policy of racial discrimination could be morally justified. The same is true with abortion, as pro-abortion philosopher Mary Anne Warren, questioning the validity of the back-alley argument, readily admits:

The fact that restricting access to abortion has tragic side effects does not, in itself, show that restrictions are unjustified, since murder is wrong regardless of the consequences of prohibiting it. ("On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," in The Problem of Abortion, Joel Feinberg, et al, Wadsworth, 1984, p.103)

2. The claim that thousands of women died annually from illegal abortions prior to Roe is completely false and cannot be supported by any reliable statistical data:

• In 1972, the year prior to legalization, the Centers for Disease Control recorded 39 deaths from illegal abortion, not 5,000 to 10,000.

• Dr. Christopher Tietze, a leading pro-abortion statistician for Planned Parenthood, The Centers for Disease Control, etc., calls the claim of 5,000-10,000 deaths a year prior to legalization "unmitigated nonsense." Noting that 45,000 women of reproductive age die each year from all causes, Tietze states, "It is inconceivable that so large a number as 5,000-10,000 are from one source" (Harvard Divinity School, Kennedy Foundation International Conference on Abortion Washington D.C., 1967. See also Scientific America, Vo1.220 [1969] pp.21,23).

• Dr. Herbert Rather, a Public Health expert, noted in 1968 that 25,000 women die each year from cancer, lung and heart complications while 7,000 die from auto accidents. These figures do not even account for all the other possible causes of death. Rather told Child and Family magazine (Winter, 1968) that given these statistics, the claim of 5-10,000 deaths a year from illegal abortion was nearly impossible.

• Dr. Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL):

"How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL, we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter, it was always '5000 to 10,000 deaths a year.' I confess I knew the figure was totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the morality of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of the way to correct it with honest statistics. The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible" (Aborting America, Doubleday Pub. p.193)

3. Prior to Roe, the number of abortion related deaths had been declining steadily:

• Dr. Andre Hellegers (late Prof. of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University) pointed out in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (April 25, 1974) that improved medical care and use of penicillin resulted in a drop from 1,231 deaths in 1942, to 133 deaths in 1968.

• Dr. Thomas Hilgers and Dennis Horan compiled a highly reliable study in 1981 using data from the U.S. Department of Vital Statistics. They note that deaths from illegal abortion dropped from 501 in 1940, to 58 in 1970. (Hilgers, et al "An Objective Model for Estimating Criminal Abortions and Its Implications for Public Policy," in New Perspectives on Human Abortion, University Publications, 1981).

4. There is no reliable statistical data to support the claim of a million illegal abortions a year (in the U.S.) prior to Roe:

Reasonable estimates range between 39,000 and 210,000 annually, with a mean of 98,000. (Hilgers,et al New Perspectives on Human Abortion ).

• Daniel Callahan (pro-abortion researcher from the Hastings Center): "The plausibility of the very high estimates of illegal abortions each year does not appear very strong." (Abortion: Law, Choice & Morality, Macmillan, 1970 p.135)

5. Even abortion advocates admit that prior to Roe, abortions were not performed by doctors with rusty coat hangers:

• In 1960, Mary Calderone, then medical director of Planned Parenthood, pointed out that Dr. Kinsey had rightly demonstrated that 84% to 87% of all illegal abortions were performed by licensed physicians in good standing with the law. Writing in the American Journal of Public Health (July 1960) Calderone stated:

"...90% of all illegal abortions are done by physicians. Call them what you will, abortionists or anything else, they are still physicians, trained as such; and many are in good standing in their communities. Whatever trouble arises usually comes after self-induced abortions, which comprise approximately 8 percent, or with the very small percentage that go to some kind of non-medical abortionist. Another corollary fact: physicians of impeccable standing are referring their patients for these illegal abortions to colleagues they know are willing to perform them."

• According to Kinsey's research, only 8% of all illegal abortions were self-induced. Of those abortions that were operative in nature (i.e. involving the use of surgical instruments--knives, probes, etc.) only 1% were self-induced. The other 9% of self induced abortions involved less hazardous methods (Paul Gebhard, et al, Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion, Harber & Brothers, 1958, pp.194,197. Gebhard was Kinsey's chief researcher).

• Kinsey researchers conclude by downplaying the exaggerated dangers of illegal abortion:

"In our sample, ill effects after an induced abortion appear less frequently than had been previously assumed." (Gebhard, et al p.214)

"There is a considerable quantity of material in the literature concerning the horrors of abortions and their deleterious consequences. Our own data shows that in three fourths of the white non-prison sample cases there were no unfavorable sequelae of any sort reported. Among single women about two thirds reported no unfavorable results, whereas among married women, 82% reported none." (p.212)

6. Current restrictions on abortion have not resulted in death or injury to women. When the Hyde Amendment cut off federal funds for abortion in 1976, liberals worked themselves into near hysteria claiming that poor women would die by the thousands from back-alley abortions. A literal bloodbath was predicted. But in 1978, Dr. Willard Cates of the Centers for Disease Control (who had done much to create the hysteria) conceded rather candidly, "The bloodbath many predicted simply is not happening. Our numbers don't show that there has been any mass migration to illegal procedures." (Washington Post, Feb. 16, 1978)

7. As Stephan Schwarz points out in The Moral Question of Abortion, the true response to back-alley abortions is to be outraged at all abortions, to condemn all abortions--not to propose one kind (legal) in place of another (illegal).

B . Women will still seek abortions, despite the law. Hence, it's best to make sure they can do so safely and legally 1. This argument begs the question: it assumes the unborn are not human. Otherwise, the abortion advocate would be arguing, "Since some people will murder others anyway, despite the law, the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so."

2. It is trivial to claim that because the law cannot stop all abortions, prohibitions should not exist:

• Laws against rape do not stop all rape, but no one is arguing that we should repeal these laws.

• Laws against drunk driving do not stop all drunks from driving under the influence, but it's hard to imagine someone arguing, "People are going to drive drunk despite the law, so let's make it safe and legal for them to do so."

• Laws banning racial discrimination are hard to enforce and are often disobeyed. But that hasn't led the NAACP or the ACLU to call for their repeal. Instead, these organizations continue to call for more tax payer money and tougher laws to fight both real and imaginary racists.

The fact is that no law can stop all illegal behavior. Hence, the issue is not, "How many people are breaking the law?" but "Is there a sound moral principle (such as protecting human life) that justifies the law?" If there is, the law remains valid in principle despite widespread disobedience. Writes Professor Schwarz:

Perhaps what the objection has in mind is that there would be widespread resistance to outlawing abortion. That should not be a factor in deciding law. "We will protect you as long as it is not too difficult to do so, as long as it meets with popular approval." Imagine saying this to a minority suffering discrimination. Persons must be given equality before the law because it is demanded by justice, not because (or only if) it is easy. (Moral Question of Abortion, p.209)


20 posted on 04/15/2004 10:28:51 AM PDT by NYer (O Promise of God from age to age. O Flower of the Gospel!)
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