By Dave Andrusko
Anyone who keeps track of the abortion debate is painfully aware how amazing it is that some observers can tip-toe right to the edge, conclude that all the reasons for abortion are examples of shoddy and/or self-exculpatory reasoning, and then….punt.
Or better put, say “Forget how I have just decimated the standard pro-choice talking points, because in the end….”
I don’t think I’ve read a better example than George Jonas’s piece for the Canadian newspaper, the National Post. The headline certainly catches the bottom line—“ Abortion is a parent’s decision, not the government’s”—but it misses the wrecking ball Jonas wields to dismantle the basic foundation of excuses for abortion.
He tells us right out of the chute
“I don’t necessarily oppose abortion; I oppose fuzzy thinking. I oppose the arguments ‘pro-choicers’ customarily use to support abortion. I find them flimsy at best, and at worst, false.”
“Pro-choicers argue, for instance, that society shouldn’t interfere with what a woman does with her own body. Well, society doesn’t. Society interferes with what she proposes to do with someone else’s body. Few societies expect a woman to keep her baby if it’s inconvenient for her. They only expect her not to kill it.”
“There are those who say that, well, you can outlaw abortion, but women will just keep doing it in back alleys. I suppose on the same basis we could legalize holdups since people keep robbing banks anyway. Others argue that men shouldn’t participate in the debate because they can’t get pregnant, which is true. That’s why I never rely on my credentials as a man in the abortion debate, only on my credentials as an ex-fetus.”
Jonas also has a brilliant critique of what he calls the essence of the feminist argument: “grant[ing] women an 007 license to kill, à la James Bond.”
But…but just because abortion is killing doesn’t end the discussion (it does not “dispose of the matter”).
“All societies, religious societies included, authorize individuals, sometimes classes of individuals, to kill for certain reasons. Judges, parents, police officers, ship’s captains, inquisitors, soldiers, executioners and others have been entitled to terminate human lives, provided they did so for compelling reasons. I actually believe the state has no business in the bed-chambers of the nation, not even when they turn into death-chambers.”
I’m still scratching my head about the left turn. What constitutes a “compelling reason”? Outside the abortion context, what if cranky, exhausted parents in the middle of the night are awakened yet again by a crying newborn? Would we not want to step in to prevent the death of that child? How about a boyfriend who brutally beats his girlfriend? Is it enough to say in all these cases it makes you nervous that the “government” steps in to protect the utterly vulnerable?
I don’t honestly believe Jonas entirely believes what he wrote, or even large parts of it. He ends with this:
“In ancient Sparta parents used to toss their substandard children off a cliff called the Taigetos. Spartan society had no use for physically infirm children. We find this shocking. Our preference is to kill healthy children. The year we appointed Dr. Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada for aborting unwanted fetuses was the year we released Robert Latimer after nearly a decade in jail for having killed his disabled daughter.
“Imagine a time-travelling spaceship of Spartan tourists discovering that in this destination the natives jail parents for killing incurably sick children, but honor doctors who kill perfectly healthy children at their parents’ behest. It’s lucky Canada doesn’t rely on time-space travel tourism from antiquity.”
Is that supposed to be a paradox? Perhaps to Jonas. To me, it’s a backhanded acknowledgment that what Latimer did was awful, but so, too, what is done to millions of unborn babies around the world each year.
Only in one case we can more readily avert our gaze. In the other—a disabled teenager—it’s a lot harder to pretend there is no victim.