The Abortion Distortion

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. My family is on vacation. While we are gone I’ll be running articles from the past 12 months that you’ve indicated you particularly enjoyed. Dave

Even someone who writes as much as I do can use the occasional reminder that items that make their way onto the Worldwide Web have remarkable staying power. An example: I wrote a piece for “Today’s News & Views” last December under the headline, “What Happens When a ‘Pro-Choicer’ Faces the Gruesome Truth about Abortion?”

Just today I received an email from someone who had just bumped into my piece on the Internet. Her request (ALL IN CAPITALS) was, “Where do I find this?!” referring to the article in New York magazine about which I had commented. [At the time there was a working link to “Abortion Distortion: Just How Pro-Choice is America, Really?”; that no longer is the case.]

There is much about Jennifer Singer’s article that is even more true today than it was when first written. Let me talk for a few minutes about what she had to say, beginning with a couple of quotes from her article.


Even the most radically pro-choice will tell you that the political discourse they hear about the subject, with its easy dichotomies and bumper-sticker boilerplate, has little correspondence to the messy, intricate stories of her patients.

They hear about peace and guilt, relief and sin. And it is they who will acknowledge, whether we like it or not, that the rhetoric and imagery of the pro-life movement can touch on some basic emotional truths. Peg Johnston, who manages Access for Women in upstate New York, remembers the first time her patients unconsciously began to co-opt the language of the protesters outside.

“And it wasn’t that these protesters were brainwashing them, she says. It’s that they were tapping into things we all have some discomfort about.”


Senior’s “Just How Pro-Choice is America, Really?” is the kind of pull-back-the-covers-and-reveal-the-truth-about-abortion article that were it to come from the word processor of a pro-lifer would be instantly trashed. On those increasingly frequent occasions when pro-abortion authors are telling tales out of school, it’s a pretty clear sign they are grappling with more important issues than caricaturing pro-lifers.

And aside from an occasional nod to pro-forma by-the-number denunciations, Senior’s essay is remarkably free of snide asides.

What it is replete with, however, is candid admissions that the pro-abortion creed is wearing thin, outpaced by technology, outflanked by the consciousness-raising impact of the debate over partial-birth abortion, and a mystery to many young people who find NARAL’s the-sky-is-falling clichéés outlandish.

The best debunking typically begins by critiquing whatever reassuring blather it is that helps someone feel at peace. For pro-abortionists it is the assurance that they are in the majority. Senior provides a quote from two pro-abortion names from yesteryear who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times bashing Democrats for allowing a pro-life amendment to pass (which was later thrown under the bus).

Kate Michelman, NARAL’s former head, and Frances Kissling, once the head of Catholics for Choice, insisted, “The House Democrats reinforced the principle that a minority view on the morality of abortion can determine reproductive-health policy for American women.”

Senior’s bold question: “But is that actually right?” Her analysis is unflinchingly honest and no doubt deeply unsettling to her colleagues.

Senior paraphrases a conclusion from a very interesting three-year-old essay that makes all pro-abortionists squirm, then and now: “Roe v. Wade was one of the few Supreme Court decisions that was out of step with mainstream public opinion.” She goes through the poll numbers which, on first blush, do not seem to have changed all that much, but when examined more closely reveal a ticking time bomb.

“If forced to choose, Americans today are far more eager to label themselves ‘pro-life’ than they were a dozen years ago. The youngest generation of voters–those between the ages of 18 and 29, and therefore most likely to need an abortion–is the most pro-life to come along since the generation born during the Great Depression, according to Michael D. Hais and  Morley Winograd, authors of Millennial Makeover, who got granular data on the subject from Pew Research Center. Crisis Pregnancy Centers, dedicated to persuading women to continue their pregnancies, now outnumber the country’s abortion providers, who themselves are a rapidly aging group (two-thirds are over 50, according to a National Abortion Federation study from 2002).”

Not to be overly obvious, but with an aging cadre of abortionists, at one end, and a growing pro-life sentiment among young people, at the other end–it’s not hard to figure out that the demographic trends are trending well for us.

There are 20 different points that could be developed at length.

Let me summarize four.

#1. The stigma surrounding abortion is alive and growing.

#2. Roe’s out-of-control approval of abortion for any reason or no reason never enjoyed majority support. Nearly 37 years later, there is more popular support for limitations than ever before.

#3. What was once a kind of abstraction was personalized in a terrain-shifting manner by the enormously important debate over partial-birth abortion. Even though the simple line drawings showing what these abortions actually are were quite mild and meek, “The procedure was extremely upsetting to behold,” Senior writes. “In it, the fetus–or is it a baby?–is removed from the uterus and stabbed in the back of the head with surgical scissors. It’s a revolting image, one to which the public was ritualistically subjected on the evening news as the debate raged on the House and Senate floors.” She adds, unnecessarily, “Defending it was a pro-choice person’s nightmare.”

#4. An awful lot of women had (and have) difficulties with their decision to abort. The impact of the pressure boyfriends exert to abort cannot be exaggerated. (Any relationship between the two?) Often it is a sick joke to say that a woman–and particularly a girl–has exercised her “choice” to abort.

Abortion is (as one former abortion clinic owner once confessed) “a kind of killing.” And although Senior does not recite the actual words, in 1993 Michelman admitted to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We think abortion is a bad thing.” (Michelman soon backtracked, but the interview had been taped which left her flailing for a way to explain the discrepancy.)

Why is this important? Because at least some pro-abortionists (for whatever amalgam of psychological reasons) have grown perilously close to being almost casual about abortion’s soul-numbing brutality.

My conclusion is simple: to quote Senior. Having talked at great length and with admirable honesty, she concludes, “[I]t’s hard for a pro-choice person like myself to see how the ball rolls forward.”

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