By Dave Andrusko
Big Picture time.
Beyond what is for now the impregnable fortress known as the Supreme Court’s posture on abortion, what are some of the other principle factors sustaining abortion’s unspeakable ugliness? It seems to me they can be divided up into two major categories: human frailty and a pattern of demands which makes the preborn child a hostage to a kind of peculiarly American utopianism.
By the former, I mean our seemingly genetic predisposition to grasp what appears to be the “easy” way out of difficult straits; the immense difficulty reestablishing, after decades of killing, the taboo that prevents parents from assaulting their defenseless children; and an unloosening of familial bonds which makes it possible to see our unborn children not as our own flesh and blood but as strangers.
By the peculiarly American utopianism, I mean what characteristically happens even to those who know better when they try to reconcile their firsthand knowledge of the preborn’s marvelous complexity with their unwillingness to do anything to prevent the deaths of millions of preborn children.
There are countless examples, including many recently. But in this post I return to a column once written by Peter Aleshire, who was then the medical and science writer for the Oakland Tribune.
The title is apt: “Rethinking the Abortion Issue.”
Aleshire writes movingly of an international conference he attended “devoted to talking about how much smarter are babies – born and unborn – than we once thought.” For the most part, his remarks are a nonstop tribute to the unborn child’s extraordinary beauty and completeness even early in development.
He confesses being especially shaken by a presentation that details behavior in utero, behavior that is uncannily like what we will see in the newborn. Aleshire, for instance, writes of the baby rubbing his forehead, furrowing his brow, of learning to distinguish certain musical sounds that he/she will subsequently show a preference for after birth.
But what can he do with this immense body of cliché-altering information? Precious little, I’m afraid.
No sooner does he deplore the thought of aborting something with the capacities of a 20-week preborn child than he reverts instantly to the classic “until and unless” posture assumed (oftentimes unconsciously) by people who are truly uncomfortable with abortion on demand but who also don’t want what they assume abortion either alleviates or eliminates.
Aleshire’s clear vision of the death of a vibrant, learning human being is clouded by mythunderstandings and the belief that killing babies somehow contributes to the “solution” of many serious societal dilemmas. Unfortunately, Aleshire subscribes to several outworn clichés, myths about how and why girls and women typically find themselves with “unwanted” pregnancies. …
It might be easier to reach people such as Aleshire if they only made the mistake of rationalizing abortion as a kind of necessary backup, needed supposedly to correct for people’s ignorance and poverty. (Which, by the way, not only offers a rationale for people like himself to stand by while the babies die, but also infantilizes the adolescent and the poor by refusing to consider them moral agents responsible for their own conduct.)
But Aleshire compounds the error of not holding individuals accountable by washing his hands of any responsibility to protect the babies until society completely cleans up its act. He bemoans child abuse and parents who don’t know how to parent, women who are not lovingly sustained during their pregnancies and/or who don’t obtain proper prenatal care – as he should.
But while it is one thing to insist that we have a duty to do what we can to alleviate these major shortcomings, is it really fair to the babies to hold their lives hostage to attaining the millennium here on earth? Is it just and right to say (as Aleshire does in effect), “All we ask before we protect you, little ones, is that the world be a perfect place for you and your parents to live in”?
The same people who would boil in oil before they would “blame the victim,” have no problem holding a tiny preborn baby responsible for most of what is unpleasant in our world. Isn’t that quite a load to place on the tiny shoulders of a little boy or girl?
Those who’ve devoted their lives to multiplying the number of abortions of course come unglued at the thought that abortion might once again become a matter of democratic discourse. But my guess is that the explanation goes far deeper than the fact that as long as the Supreme Court remains in unsympathetic hands, many pro-life initiatives will be dashed.
Pro-abortion champions understand the crucial importance of the American people not thinking about what lies beneath the surface rhetoric about “choice.” You might ask, why is it so important for pro-abortionists to maintain that bulwark?
Because it positively guarantees sloppy thinking, what-are-you-going-to-do-it’s-legal? excuse mongering, and the reflexive use of the kind of language George Orwell once described as “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Abortion proponents fear most of all the day when the American public brushes aside the doomsday rhetoric and genuinely asks itself two questions: Do we really want to kill close to a million babies a year? Is the countless number of unborn children killed for no more pressing a reason than that women do not wish to be pregnant at that point in their life a fact of death we are prepared to live with?
Once the dialogue is unfrozen, we can hope that intelligent people like Aleshire will be free to move beyond the moral idiocy of blaming the victim. And, it is my fervent conviction that once our brains are unfrozen, so too will be our hearts.