Pro-Life Perspective: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing, Part 1

Editor’s note. This can be heard at

Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf

For decades  the abortion lobby has swung back and forth between a full-throated embrace of abortion for any reason or no reason at any time in pregnancy and hedging its bets with more qualified language that speaks, for example, of abortion as a “necessary evil.”

Whatever the public posture (and most of the time the language floats somewhere in between these two extremes), their evil genius is in improvisation. Like chameleons, pro-abortionists change colors rhetorically to adapt to the political environment.

Recently we’ve talked about Planned Parenthood’s decision to pretty much discard the “pro-choice” moniker and replace it with a kind of warmed-over “who decides?” idiom. Planned Parenthood’s pro-abortion critics hammered the nation’s largest abortion “provider” for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Don’t they know THEIR man—Barack Obama—was just been re-elected?

Of course Planned Parenthood does, but they also know that state pro-life groups have already shrugged off the loss and are busy attempting to pass more protective language. They know that the public may have seemed to have been in their corner last November but that was a function of special circumstances. They also know that while younger pro-abortion feminists demand a different brand of leadership, as the senior partner, they still largely control the messaging.

One of the most famous pro-abortion essays ever written was penned by Naomi Wolf. Her 1995 essay is very worth revisiting because it remains a case study in how pro-abortionists pretend to accept the “ambiguity” of abortion but never a single protective measure.

In what Wolf called  this “time of retrenchment,”  she wrote a  remarkable New Republic essay entitled, “Our Bodies, Our Souls.”  Words such as “sin” and “iniquity” and “evil” (albeit necessary evil) actually make an appearance.  Wolf’s firmly pro-abortion, but she stirred up a hornet’s nest of opposition from abortion supporters.  (Sound familiar?) But exactly why?

Granted, she makes a string of breathtakingly candid admissions. But her pro-abortion colleagues missed that Wolf offered assurances that if they placed abortion in a “moral frame,” it would “consolidate rather than scuttle abortion rights.”

Typically, in those days the question pollsters asked was whether people believed the abortion decision ought to be “between a woman and her doctor.” But, Wolf observed, if this is reformatted to be a matter “between a woman, her doctor, her family, her conscience and her God,” support jumped a whopping 30%!

“Clearly,” she advised, “abortion rights are safest when we are willing to submit them to a morality beyond just our bodies and ourselves.”

Wolf went to great length to show that because most people are acutely uncomfortable with abortion, “amoral rhetoric” is hugely counterproductive.  Such insensitivity conveys the impression that women are destroying their babies for “self-absorbed reasons.”

To Wolf, this cedes discussion about right and wrong to pro-lifers.  “Pro-choicers,” she maintained, need to frankly talk about “good and evil.”  This signals that they are not making up their morality on the run, but are, in some sense, accountable.

But even if Wolf comes down with the “right” pro-abortion conclusion, it’s easy to see why her pro-abortion feminist colleagues were very unhappy.

“Too often,” she wrote, “pro-choice rhetoric leads us to tell untruths,” leading to three destructive consequences: a “hardness of heart, lying and political failure.”  For example, the feminist movement has insisted on treating the unborn as a nonperson. The result is “a lexicon of dehumanization.”  And to “revile” pro-lifers for showing disturbing graphics or to dismiss as “propaganda” the “incontrovertibly true” slogan that “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart” is the very height of hypocrisy,” Wolf admonishes.

After contrasting the language which writes off the unborn as a “mass of dependent protoplasm” when unwanted with the lengths to which “overscheduled yuppies” will go when they have a baby they want, Wolf sharply asked the following: “So, what will it be.  Wanted fetuses are charming, complex, REM-dreaming little beings whose profile on the sonogram looks just like Daddy, but unwanted ones are mere ‘uterine material’?”

Join us again tomorrow as we continue our look at Naomi Wolf’s 1995 essay and current pro-abortion efforts to change the rhetoric of “choice.”