Editor’s note. This first ran in the January 2005, edition of National Right to Life News, around the time pro-life President George W. Bush was about to be sworn in for a second term. Much has happened since—much of which revolves around President Obama—that is dismaying. But far more is taking place that is re-orienting the abortion debate in a direction that will ultimately benefit all unborn babies. This is our latest “Roe at 40” story in which we bring you some of the best accounts that have run in NRL News going all the way back to 1973! I hope you share it, using your social media.
“By looking for earthquakes to describe changes in the political landscape, the effects of erosion and drift are easily overlooked, even though the end results can be at least as substantial.” — Greg Adams: “Abortion: Evidence of an Issue Evolution”
Imagine you are an archeologist working at a famous, well-excavated site. You’ve been there for some time, when, seemingly out of the blue, you start making significant finds every 15 feet or so.
First, you’d be pleased, then you’d think about the responses of most of the handful of specialists who were the only ones who were more than casually aware of the site. With monotonous regularity, they had insisted all along that what you’d found to date was trivial – – and that if there was anything of significance in the locale, it would have long ago been unearthed.
But with the latest diggings, honeycombed with amazing artifacts, suddenly a larger, more comprehensive picture of the site came into focus, placing what you had discovered previously in a new light as well. Clearly, you are onto a major scientific discovery – – clearly, that is to you, but not to the habitual naysayers who’d always insisted the expedition was a waste of time.
Wedded to a position that was growing more untenable by the hour, these “experts” reacted as they always had: by offering lame, beside-the-point excuses in an attempt to explain away what you had unburied.
You’d expect that from people whose thinking had long since fallen into an inescapable rut, or who may have had ulterior motives. But once news leaked out, what about those coming fresh to the evidence?
How would those not loaded down with the burden of defending an entrenched position for decades evaluate the discoveries, old as well as new? Would they be more receptive to the same old talking points (shouted perhaps a little bit louder), or to the discoveries’ soft but clear message?
This may, at first glance, seem a stretch, but I honestly think this is where the abortion controversy stands on the brink of pro-life President George W. Bush’s second term and the 32nd anniversary of the toxic Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions.
In the abortion context, “insiders,” such as you and me, on one side, and the we’ve-never-met-an-abortion-we-wouldn’t-condone crowd, on the other side, have been privy to a thousand different discoveries made in the last decade or two. Unbeknownst to most people, there are two dimensions to this, both damaging to anti-life forces: a greater appreciation of the marvelous complexity of the preborn child, and a growing shock as Americans learned to their horror what happens to that same baby in an abortion.
Even prior to 1973, no sophisticated medical tests or full-color four-dimensional ultrasounds were required to know that pregnant women carried living human beings. Those “discoveries” didn’t require a shovel to unearth. They were there, plain as day, for all to see.
But in the last 20 years, an appreciation of what world-renowned geneticist Jerome Lejeune once called the “symphony of life” has increasingly become part of our common cultural literacy. Not so long ago knowledge of the unborn’s shared humanity was limited to a select group, rather like the audience that could afford to attend a concert at Carnegie Hall.
Now, it’s akin to watching Great Performances on PBS. Thanks to medical technology, we can all enjoy the “music.”
Not so long ago the little ones were dismissed in elite circles as little more than stowaways, if not far worse. We now know that the developmental journey of unborn children is as thrilling as any voyage to a South Sea island written by Robert Lewis Stevenson.
Which is merely to say that maintaining the old dismissive orthodoxy is a far tougher sell when a baby’s first picture is an ultrasound, held to the refrigerator door with a small magnet, and admired daily. Seeing really is believing.
You may know there is an entire school of thought that argues that a major reason the old Soviet Union fell was because computers, e-mail, and fax machines undermined the regime’s rigid control of information. Once the corruption endemic to the Soviet State could no longer be hidden, the empire collapsed.
This is precisely the fate befalling the Abortion Establishment. Let me explain why.
A few years ago, I reviewed “Articles of Faith,” written by former Washington Post reporter Cynthia Gorney. The book is, hands down, the best, most even-handed examination of the abortion controversy ever written.
In the November 2005 Harper’s magazine, Gorney updated her analysis, zeroing in on the three trials that took place across the country challenging the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Let me offer two quotes.
“For two decades the people who frame legal-abortion campaigns in this country had been working assiduously to keep the door to that procedure room shut, redirecting the national attention to the action beforehand and afterward: the choice to seek an abortion, the decision to have an abortion, the values inherent in a society that gives women the liberty to make this momentous decision without interference from the state. They had worried for years that if the general public were forced into a mangled-fetus-versus-women’s autonomy trade off, the mangled fetus would win.”
The irony is, of course, that the simple black-and-white drawings used to illustrate the partial-birth abortion technique were anything but gory. Gorney keenly captures why they had such extraordinary impact:
“[T]he fetus was intact. It looked human. It looked human and helpless and small, and the rendering of the scissors and suction catheter made visible, as far as the viewer was able to discern, the instant of the ending of its life.”
The collective impact of numerous pro-life initiatives and almost magical medical technology, working hand in hand, is to uproot lies and plant truth – – brutal truth – – in its place. One other excerpt from Gorney’s Harper’s essay illustrates this perfectly.
Gorney tells us that she attended the San Francisco trial which was presided over by Judge Phyllis Hamilton. Gorney gives the reader a flavor of the chillingly detached testimony of Maureen Paul, who “teaches abortion practice.”
One of the tactics of opponents (a charge vigorously contested by the bill’s authors and the Justice Department) is to insist that the ban on partial-birth abortions necessarily covers a different second-trimester abortion technique, known as Dilation and Evacuation (D&E).
Paul describes how in “evacuating” the child, sometimes the “whole fetus” comes down to the vagina, “at least as far as the head.” What to do?
“‘You can disarticulate at the neck,’ Paul said. She made a tiny up-and-down gesture with one hand. ‘Or what I prefer to do is to just reach in with my forceps and collapse the skull, and bring the fetus out intact.'”
It’s suggested to one of the reporters covering the trial that he call Gorney, because of her extensive background in covering the abortion issue, about some questions he has about “wording.”
“He said he had not heard second-trimester abortion described in detail before,” Gorney writes. “He sounded pretty upset. ‘I never,’ he said, and stopped. Never what, I asked. ‘I never really thought about this before as something beyond the right to choose,’ he said.”