Events of late suggest that the pro-life movement is getting under progressives’ skins. I don’t mean—merely–that the merchants of unrestricted abortion have become more than normally deracinated from reason. That is true, of course; but the good news is that they now seem genuinely spooked (rather than in the usual, performance-art sort of way).
The beginnings of the progressive crack-up can be traced to legislation enacted by a number of Democrat-controlled state houses making abortion permissible through the last trimester of pregnancy, indeed, right up to the moment of birth. (Such ventures in abortion absolutism, it should be noted, anteceded the more conventionally notorious measures of Republican states to impose restrictions on the practice: i.e., the Democrat initiatives were entirely gratuitous, and hardly retroactive, as the media has portrayed them.)
In any case, the new legislation is at least morally clarifying. It has belatedly exposed the pharisaical argument according to which it is barbarously unethical and illegal to kill a baby once it has emerged from the birth canal, but perfectly licit to do so a millisecond before.
Now, we are all tempted to seek refuge in legalisms from time to time–like Bill Clinton when, with a certain technical scrupulosity, he asserted that he did not have “sex” with that woman; (or my own relatives, for that matter, who always maintained that it was impeccably Kosher to eat Chinese food as long it was consumed on paper plates). But the millisecond-before-birth dividing line between “reproductive health” and barbarism is too metaphysically thin to obscure the moral enormity that hides behind it, and too easily recalls those other scholastic distinctions once invoked by slave-owners and Nazis to justify their own crimes against similar “non-persons”.
One of the states that passed legislation permitting abortion up to the moment of birth was Virginia, whose Democrat Governor Northam nonetheless got into temporary hot water, for stumbling onto the wrong side of the ontological divide. In a radio interview, Northam was asked what would happen if an abortion eventuated in a live birth (as it so often has; cf. Gosnell). The baby, he assured his interlocutor, would be kept “comfortable”, until the mother, “in consultation with her reproductive health care professionals”, decided what ought to be done. In the absence of the possibility of repatriating the baby to the womb, there can be little doubt that what the mother–in consultation with her “reproductive health care professionals”–would be deciding presses hard on the edge of, and includes, infanticide.
Northam’s careless admission that infanticide is a remedy should a procedure conducive to a woman’s “reproductive health”–forgive the pun–miscarry, was an edifying moment in the protracted abortion debate. It put the lie to all those “pro-choice” prettifications according to which it is permissible to kill the baby in the womb because it remains an amorphous mass of protoplasm, “part of the mother’s body” that hasn’t yet achieved “autonomy”, “viability”, or “personhood”. Well, apparently, being born alive and healthy doesn’t confer the indemnification of personhood on the infant either. And now we see that these distinctions were, all along, post-hoc excuses for getting rid of the inconvenience of offspring, whether developing normally in the womb, kicking and gasping for breath on the abortionist’s slab, or sleeping peacefully in the cradle.
Northam’s extemporaneous musings about infanticide were briefly embarrassing to progressives, until a few days later when that story was completely supplanted—I’m tempted to say aborted–in the liberal media by the revelation that the Governor had appeared in black-face in a photograph on his school yearbook page. It is instructive in itself that, in the progressive hierarchy of sins, infanticide ranks so far below racism (even as it is now so promiscuously defined) as to be generally uncontroversial, if it’s on the scale at all. (Since then, both affronts have been bleach-bitted from liberal memory as immaculately as Hilary’s 30,000 emails. A six-month long “investigation” supposedly determined that there was no conclusive evidence that it was Northam under the make-up, notwithstanding that he had already admitted it, apologized, and groveled, in the obligatory manner, for forgiveness. One wonders how a photo of a man in black-face standing next to a man in KKK robes got onto Northam’s yearbook page in the first place, if it wasn’t put there by Northam himself. Scribal error? Russian meddling? Still, however implausible his exoneration, none of the Democrats in the Virginia Statehouse or on Capitol Hill are currently, in indignant Pelosi-face, alleging a “cover-up”, or calling for a Special Prosecutor, congressional oversight, and impeachment. In progressive politics, the watchword—a la the #MeToo movement–is “Believe the Democrat”.)
Even if Northam’s out-Heroding of Herod hadn’t been so completely eclipsed by his Al Jolson impersonation, the liberal media would have yawned. One notes that “extreme” is a word that is never used to describe the position that abortion should be permissible even in extremis: that is, for any conceivable reason and at any time up to and beyond the threshold of birth. That adjective is reserved exclusively for any attempt to place restrictions, however modest, upon it, even though they are supported by a significant majority of the population. Conversely, no other constitutional “right”–though abortion is no such thing–is ever treated by progressives in quite this way. For them–with the exception of abortion–, there are no unqualified rights in a constitutional democracy, and the completely untrammeled exercise of any right (e.g., the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, or religious conscience) is the very definition of “extreme”. In the restraint of these rights, it is only “responsible”, in the view of progressives, to impose certain reasonable limits upon them (gun control; the criminalization of “hate speech”; the “accommodation” of gays, the transgendered, or other vulnerable minorities by Christian business owners). But the merest velleity to contemplate equivalent limits on abortion is prima facie evidence of the “extremism” of pro-lifers.
Speaking of performance art, in response to the legislation in Alabama, the pro-abortion players predictably mobilized for a protest rally on the steps of the Supreme Court (no doubt picking up a few stragglers still camping out there from the anti-Kavanaugh melodrama). New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand opened the ceremonies by warning gravely that “President Trump has started a war on America’s women.” One is used to Democrats crediting Trump with being the inventor of every human evil, but “started a war…”? I thought there had always been a Republican war on women. (What with incessantly waging war on women, one wonders how Republicans have had time to prosecute all their other wars on gays, Muslims, Blacks, the disabled, the elderly, and the poor.)
But Gillibrand was only the warm-up act for a chorus of fellow Democrat senators, all of whom ritually repeated the Republican-War-on-Women battle-cry (oughtn’t it to have its own acronym by now: R-WOW?), noting that “Latinas, minorities, and women of colour” were being particularly targeted, while also dilating on the threat to women’s “health” and “autonomy over their own bodies”, not to mention America’s hard-won “civil and constitutional rights”, and throwing in the GOP’s intersectional depredations against homosexuals and the transgendered for good measure. After Amy Klobuchar pronounced the Republican heartbeat laws “so extreme” [sic] (but not the laws passed in New York or Virginia), Richard Blumenthal declared that “Any restriction on a woman’s reproductive rights is too much, unconstitutional, morally repugnant, unnecessary, and immoral”, thereby demonstrating the pro-choice movement’s contrasting moderation.
Liberals have heard these vacuous nostrums so often, I suppose, that they don’t even pause to think about them. Calling restrictions on abortion “morally repugnant” suggests that abortion itself must now be a moral good. And “unconstitutional”? Has anyone ever challenged Blumenthal et al. to show precisely where in the U.S. Constitution abortion has been enshrined as a fundamental human right, let alone where the word is even mentioned? Whether as eighteenth-century Christians, Deists, or secular adherents of natural law, it’s unimaginable that any of the Framers could have regarded abortion as anything other than a moral evil, and restrictions on it as anything other than merely civilized. And even if the U.S. Constitution were a “living document”, it ought to strike one as odd that it should always and immutably choose to pursue the alternative lifestyles championed by 21st century progressive Democrats. (Shouldn’t a living document just occasionally, once in a while, speak in the voice of a traditional Christian or Alabama Republican?) For the advocates of abortion, in any case, this “living document” is apparently credited with rather more volitional freedom and personal autonomy than a baby in the womb.
Seizing the bull-horn, Hawaii’s senator Mazie Hirono then bragged about indoctrinating middle school children:
I just left 60 eighth-graders from a public school in Hawaii, and I told them, I was coming to a rally in front of the Supreme Court, and they said, “Why?” And I said it is because we have to fight for abortion rights, and they knew all about it. And I asked the girls of that group of eighth graders, “How many of you girls think that government should be telling us, women, when and if we want to have babies?” Not a single one of them raised their hands. And then the boys who were there among the 60, I said, “You know, it’s kind of hard for a woman to get pregnant without you guys.” They got it. “How many of you boys think that the government should be telling girls and women when and if we’re going to have babies?” And not a single one of them raised their hand.
Not a single eighth-grader disagreed with her! Stand back and wonder at the Ciceronian powers of persuasion this must have required.
How would Crazy Mazie have reacted had an evangelical minister or Catholic priest addressed the same class of eighth-graders on the evils of abortion? (I know that these days no pro-life advocate would ever be allowed within a mile of a public school, but let’s continue with the thought experiment.) Any doubt that she would have decried it as “brainwashing”, “exploiting intellectually defenceless children for political purposes”? But such contemptible means are always justified by the noble end of evangelizing abortion (even if Hirono’s visit must have taken valuable time away from the eighth-graders’ cross-dressing and gender-questioning tuition. Come to think of it, in addressing her queries separately to the “boys” and “girls” in the classroom, wasn’t Hirono making certain dubious assumptions about gender on the accidental grounds of anatomy?)
Notably, a number of speakers at the rally announced proudly that they had personally had at least one abortion, to the boisterous cheers of the crowd. Not that long ago, even pro-choice activists described abortion as an unfortunate and emotionally painful decision compelled by “desperate circumstances”. Several years ago, Barbara Kay compared the desperate circumstances of a pregnant teen to a shipwrecked sailor set adrift in a life-raft at sea, and compelled to eat the flesh of a dead mate to stay alive. Leave the hyperbole of Kay’s comparison aside for the moment. Even if true, no such survivor would later boast about his act of cannibalism and expect to be lauded for it. Evidently for progressives, having an abortion has now been exalted from a cruel necessity to a positive achievement, worthy of public celebration. Has any civilization ever set the bar of glory so abysmally low?