So What If Abortion Ends a Life? (A Response)

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In her article “So What If Abortion Ends a Life,” Mary Elizabeth Williams writesImage

~~~Of all the diabolically clever moves the anti-choice lobby has ever pulled, surely one of the greatest has been its consistent co-opting of the word “life.” Life! Who wants to argue with that? Who wants be on the side of … not-life? That’s why the language of those who support abortion has for so long been carefully couched in other terms. While opponents of abortion eagerly describe themselves as “pro-life,” the rest of us have had to scramble around with not nearly as big-ticket words like “choice” and “reproductive freedom.” The “life” conversation is often too thorny to even broach. Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.~~~~

The author is trying to negate the powerful truth that girds the pro-life movement with its very name: namely that we support and promote life (over death).   She asks the question: “who wants to be on the side of not-life?”  Evidently, she does, and the whole of the pro-abortion movement with her.  I would ask her the same question: who does want to be on the side of not-life?  Yet, knowingly and clear eyed, she answers by raising her hand in the affirmative. 

~~~~As Roe v. Wade enters its fifth decade, we find ourselves at one of the most schizo moments in our national relationship with reproductive choice. In the past year we’ve endured the highest number of abortion restrictions ever. Yet support for abortion rights is at an all-time high, with seven in 10 Americans in favor of letting Roe v. Wade stand, allowing for reproductive choice in all or “most” cases. That’s a stunning 10 percent increase from just a decade ago. And in the midst of this unique moment, Planned Parenthood has taken the bold step of reframing the vernacular – moving away from the easy and easily divisive words “life” and “choice.” Instead, as a new promotional film acknowledges, “It’s not a black and white issue.”~~~~

I’d like to see this survey that claims seven in ten Americans favor letting Roe v. Wade stand.  Even if it’s true, there is no doubt that the pro-life movement has put substantial pressure on Planned Parenthood, if they’re taking steps to “reframe” the issue.  There cannot be any doubt that the pro-life movement has made legal gains, as the author states herself above, even if Roe v. Wade still stands “strong” in the eyes of many Americans.

Planned Parenthood attempts a more sophisticated ‘reframing’ of the pro-abortion stance. 

~~~~It’s a move whose time is long overdue. It’s important, because when we don’t look at the complexities of reproduction, we give far too much semantic power to those who’d try to control it. And we play into the sneaky, dirty tricks of the anti-choice lobby when we on the pro-choice side squirm so uncomfortably at the ways in which they’ve repeatedly appropriated the concept of “life.”~~~~

“the complexities of reproduction”?  The author here is simply trying to mask the very simple choice of life versus death by using a vague and ambiguous phrase like complexities of reproduction.  Her point is something like, getting pregnant and the consequences of that pregnancy are so complex that somewhere in that morass are warranted reasons (to her mind) to abort the unborn child.   She states all this without, of course, listing any reason or example showing these “complexities.”

~~~~Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.~~~~

Let me phrase her more precisely (something I’m sure she was careful not to do).  When stating that “all life is not equal,” the author states that each and every human life is not of equal value.  This is a position so untenable as to be dismissed outright with but one analogy.  Born children.  The author’s argument here can be used to equal affect to support infanticide.  A new-born infant is “non-autonomous,” and therefore (seemingly) the mother is still “the boss” and the mother’s life and “what is right for her circumstances and health” should always trump the rights of this new-born entity outside of her.  The author’s obtuse and flagrant dismissal of logic and three thousand years of consideration of these topics, to state triumphantly: “all life is not equal,” as if she’s suddenly solved the perennial debate, leaves me incredulous. 

If her argument by the same logic can be used to support infanticide, it seems it’s not a good argument, or it’s at least a premise she ought to give further consideration.  Nothing that the author says gives us any reason as to why a mother ought to have the right to kill her child (born or unborn).  Laws against murder have been supported in every society from the beginning of time and recorded history.  But it seems the author is now offering a “reframing” of that whole question here. 


~~~~When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born.~~~~

At least she sees the illogical contradictions inherent in the pro-abortion stance.

~~~~We’re so intimidated by the wingnuts, we get spooked out of having these conversations. We let the archconservatives browbeat us with the concept of “life,” using their scare tactics on women and pushing for indefensible violations like forced ultrasounds. Why? Because when they wave the not-even-accurate notion that “abortion stops a beating heart” they think they’re going to trick us into some damning admission. They believe that if we call a fetus a life they can go down the road of making abortion murder. And I think that’s what concerns the hell out of those of us who support unrestricted reproductive freedom.~~~~

“Indefensible violations like forced ultrasounds.”  Is seeing the “fetus” so powerful an experience to deter abortion that it warrants being called an indefensible violation to those who would have that abortion seen through?  Clearly so. 

“They believe that if we call a fetus a life they can go down the road of making abortion murder.”  Yes, exactly.  If the fetus is an innocent human life, then, yes, the intentional killing of it is wrongful and therefore murder.  This author now concedes that the fetus is human life (I don’t think anyone is challenging (yet) that it’s innocent), therefore, abortion is by definition murder. 

~~~~But we make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise.~~~~

Having “passionate debates” does not change the objective truth of abortion.  Either it’s the intentional killing of an innocent human life, or it’s not.  If it is, then it’s murder and it’s wrong.  If it’s not, then indeed the jig is up.

~~~It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better. Instead, we let right-wingers perpetuate the sentimental fiction that no one with a heart — and certainly no one who’s experienced the wondrous miracle of family life — can possibly resist tiny fingers and tiny toes growing inside a woman’s body. We give a platform to the notion that, as Christina Locke opined in a recent New York Times Op-Ed, “motherhood had slyly changed us. We went from basking in the rights that feminism had afforded us to silently pledging never to exercise them. Nice mommies don’t talk about abortion.”~~~~

Again, at least she sees the inconsistency in the argument offered by many pro-abortion activists: that what isn’t human life inside the womb, suddenly is outside of it.  Sadly, this author’s answer is to simply cast the debate into the insidious murk of amoral and wanton godless murder… in the name of exercising feminisms’ “rights.”

~~~~Don’t they? The majority of women who have abortions – and one in three American women will – are already mothers. And I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your ass I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion.~~~~

It’s hard to respond to this.  Is she trying to be funny?  Is she making a point?  Or is she simply so callous as to think this actually passes for substantive and appropriate commentary?


~~~~My belief that life begins at conception is mine to cling to. And if you believe that it begins at birth, or somewhere around the second trimester, or when the kid finally goes to college, that’s a conversation we can have, one that I hope would be respectful and empathetic and fearless. We can’t have it if those of us who believe that human life exists in utero are afraid we’re somehow going to flub it for the cause. In an Op-Ed on “Why I’m Pro-Choice” in the Michigan Daily this week, Emma Maniere stated, quite perfectly, that “Some argue that abortion takes lives, but I know that abortion saves lives, too.” She understands that it saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.~~~~

A life worth sacrificing… easy for her to say.  Think hard upon her words here.  For in them lie the core of the abortion “debate.”  In the United States the feminist movement has attempted and continues to attempt to convince us that the unborn is exactly that, a life worth sacrificing, for the convenience of the mother, so that she can avoid embarrassment, so that she can avoid giving birth to the child.  In short, the author supports sacrificing the life of the unborn for the birth control reasons of the mother.  

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About Jeremy

Glad to have a second chance on life, by God's grace.

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