The “best” case for life versus the “best” case for abortion. It’s not even close

By Dave Andrusko

As part of my job, I do my best to tackle pro-abortion dishonesty. Of course, since there are a gazillion of them and only one of me, the best I can do is tackle an admittedly small but representative sample, not only of flat-out lies, but also examples of their fondness for dissembling, deceiving, and duping the public.

Occasionally, I come upon a close to fair representations of both sides of the abortion debate, even if the writer presses her thumb on the scale in favor of the pro-abortion side. An example would be Caitlin Flanagan’s post in the Atlantic a while back: “The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate: Why we need to face the best arguments from the other side” which I re-read this morning.

I don’t think it’s either unfair or inaccurate to conclude from reading her 3,323 word essay that Ms. Flanagan comes down on the side of “choice.” But does she, in fact, offer the strongest argument both from the “pro-choice” side and from the pro-life side? Let’s see, bearing in mind she was not writing a piece that covered all the arguments from both perspectives, just what she considered the strongest.

When making the “best” case for “choice,” Flanagan goes right for the gut, appreciating that can be a very effective block to any consideration about the fate of the child or of trying to find better solutions for mother and child.

So it doesn’t matter that the abortion techniques Flanagan writes about in enormous and gruesome detail are a thing of the past. Or that even Planned Parenthood conceded, as far back at 1960, that 9 out of 10 illegal abortions were done by licensed doctors: “they are physicians, trained as such…Abortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is in the main no longer dangerous, because it is being done well by physicians, to quote Dr. Mary Calderone, a former medical director for Planned Parenthood.

Flanagan writes about them because of their shock value and because they are to serve the bedrock argument for pro-abortionists—Women have always had abortions and always will—so go away pro-lifers.

But what makes Flanagan’s essay so powerful is that she really does offer the best argument for life– ultrasounds/sonograms– and uses her own pregnancy experience as powerfully supporting evidence. 

Here are a series of quotes. The first one sets the stage:

These sonograms are so richly detailed that many expectant mothers pay to have one made in a shopping-mall studio, much in the spirit in which they might bring the baby to a portrait studio. They are one thing and one thing only: baby pictures. Had they been available when I was pregnant, I would definitely have wanted one. When you’re pregnant, you are desperate to make contact. You know he’s real because of the changes in your own body; eventually you start to feel his. The first kicks are startling and exciting, but even once they progress so far that you can see an actual foot glancing across your belly and then disappearing again, he’s still a mystery, still engaged in his private work, floating in the aquatic chamber within you, more in touch with the forces that brought him here than with life as it is lived on the other side.

Then

The argument for abortion requires many words. The argument against it doesn’t take even a single word.

For a long time, these images made me anxious. They are proof that what grows within a pregnant woman’s body is a human being, living and unfolding according to a timetable that has existed as long as we have. Obviously, it would take a profound act of violence to remove him from his quiet world and destroy him.

So what has Flanagan done? From the pro-abortion perspective, she has made concessions to reality that cannot—cannot—be made.

First, there is a baby inside every pregnant woman. Second, left to follow the laws of fetal development, this “human being” will be born in 40 weeks unless there is “a profound act of violence to remove him from his quiet world and destroy him.”

But these two acknowledgements of the truth are not as devastating to the “pro-choice” position as a third: the undeniable, recognizable humanity of the unborn child as early as the 12th week (it’s actually sooner but that’s something for another day). This “baby,” this “human being” is “one of us.”

Flanagan tells us she was “comforted” when a friend told her most abortions occur in the first trimester, which is true. But then “it occurred to me to look at one of those images taken at the end of the first trimester. I often wish I hadn’t.”

A picture of a 12-week fetus is a Rorschach test. Some people say that such an image doesn’t trouble them, that the fetus suggests the possibility of a developed baby but is far too removed from one to give them pause. I envy them. When I see that image, I have the opposite reaction. I think: Here is one of us; here is a baby. She has fingers and toes by now, eyelids and ears. She can hiccup—that tiny, chest-quaking motion that all parents know. Most fearfully, she is starting to get a distinct profile, her one and only face emerging. Each of these 12-week fetuses bears its own particular code: this one bound to be good at music; that one destined for a life of impatience, of tap, tap, tapping his pencil on the desk, waiting for recess.

Flanagan is not only saying that the baby “looks” like a baby. In some ways more devastating, she is, by inference, also telling us that each and every one of these babies is unique, a one-of-a-kind, not interchangeable, disposable “fetal material.”

Flanagan doubles back in the very end to give the last word to the “pro-choice” side. But before she does, Flanagan summarizes why she is so unsettled by abortion:

What I can’t face about abortion is the reality of it: that these are human beings, the most vulnerable among us, and we have no care for them. How terrible to know that in the space of an hour, a baby could be alive—his heart beating, his kidneys creating the urine that becomes the amniotic fluid of his safe home—and then be dead, his heart stopped, his body soon to be discarded.

Flanagan is making one final acknowledgment of what abortion does and to whom: “the most vulnerable among us” that is literally alive one minute and dead the next, “his heart stopped, his body soon to be discarded.”

I would highly recommend that you read her post for yourself.