“Late-Term” Abortions: Beyond Right and Wrong?

By Dave Andrusko

Will Saletan

By happenstance I learned a while back that Will Saletan, an author and columnist for Slate magazine, would be debating Ann Furedi, who runs a big-time British abortion service, over the issue of “late abortions” in October. Saletan is the kind of “pro-choicer” who, I have no doubt,  blanched at Furedi’s there-can-never-be-a-too-late-abortion position and likely squirmed in his chair.

Spiked-online posted a transcript of Furedi’s remarks yesterday at  www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/11848/. (I have been unable to find Saletan’s remarks, which were part of a “Battle of Ideas” festival.) Anyone who has the slightest qualms about abortion in general, late/late/LATE abortions in particular, can only read Furedi in amazement. There is a reason she is the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisor Service: she would never, ever say no.

Ann Furedi

Reading the transcript, she understands the “politics” of the situation, especially in the United States. We get real squeamish (as you would think any sentient human being would) when we cannot pretend that the little one we are about to rip limb from limb is anything other than a miniature baby.

But, to a woman with her worldview, there is the woman, her “decision” (which by definition is morally unimpeachable because it is HER decision), and…. and that’s it. It’s not just tunnel-vision, or ideology, I believe, that wipes the unborn child out of the picture as cleanly as an eraser removes chalk from a blackboard. It is something far worse and even more dangerous.

The pro-abortion zealot means it when they say the child exists when, and only when, the mother acknowledges that he or she exists. Which is why discussions of heart beats and brain waves and fingers and toes and fetal pain are irrelevant.

Furedi mentions that she is “very pleased that Will [Saletan] passed around a handout, which identifies the developments that take place during gestation, each week.”

Why? ”Because for Will, what this does is indicate that there are firm points at which things morally and practically change in the abortion debate. But for me, what this does is actually illustrate my argument that there isn’t any profound point at which you can say there is a difference between one kind of fetus and another.”

What is painstakingly obvious to practically anyone else is to Furedi a way of backing everyone who is not pro-life into a corner. As a debater, Furedi has long since found the stick she can use to herd any potentially wayward “pro-choicer” back into the fold. She concedes abortion stops a “beating heart” so if you think abortion is coarsening us (which she obviously denies), then you should be like those pro-lifers and oppose all abortions. 

If you have a sliding scale, then you are inconsistent, she taunts “pro-choicers.” Speaking both to the “mushy middle” and perhaps especially to hard-core pro-abortionists, Furedi says if you’ll accept any abortion at any point, you have no grounds ever—ever– to say “No!”  Who is to say what is “too late”?

So why is almost everyone else (“ill-informed public opinion,” according to Furedi) nervous about “late abortions”? Don’t you see, she tells her audience, it’s all sentimentality and hormones that makes pregnant women (or anyone else) get antsy about “later” abortions. And then she throws down the gauntlet:

“This is a decision that must be taken by the people who are most involved – not by policymakers, not by journalists and not even by people like me, who run services. Women make decisions about abortion in the context of their own lives, and there are some women who would feel that 11 weeks is too late for them, or that 10 weeks is too late for them, because of their personal circumstances. There are other women who, faced with the decision quite late in their pregnancy, will feel that they can no longer bear to carry a child to term.

“I would really question why, if there is no objective reason, no objective sudden value change, we need to intervene and create a point at which we apparently have the right to override a woman’s own subjective decision-making process. Because actually, any definition of late abortion is arbitrary and subjective.”

So, let’s be clear. Women are the ultimate decision makers, and if a woman feels she “can no longer bear to carry a child to term” at 39 weeks and six days, who is Furedi, or anyone else, to say this is too late. To do so is to risk a kind of reverse slippery slope: stop at the edge of the precipice and they’ll take the skis off the right to abort  at the top of the mountain.

I believe it’s fair to say that to Furedi abortion is beyond right and wrong. As she headlined one of her op-eds,  “a principled defence of abortion – as late as necessary.”

And, really, what can you say to someone like that?

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