Hardly "A New Way of Thinking About Abortion"

As I listened to pro-abortion President Barack Obama respond to a question about abortion, I immediately thought of a quote from Cardinal Francis George. After meeting with the President, Cardinal George commented that Obama will "always tell you he agrees with you." But the fact of the matter is, as Cardinal George said, "'No, Mr. President, we don't agree (on abortion).'"

What appeared to be Wednesday night's something-for-everybody answer is the kind of Obamaspeak that sends thrills up and down the spines of his media admirers. Stripped to its essence, Obama told us 1) Abortion isn't simple, but the "complex" answer is that the decision to dispatch babies is entirely up to the woman; and 2) we really ought to "reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies," but don't bother me while I reduce to rubble every legal protection built in the past 36 years--no matter how small or widely supported by the public-- and in the process greatly increase the number of dead babies. (You can read Ed Henry's question and Obama's full response in Part Two.)

As it happened I had just re-read the transcript minutes before I read (with equal parts amazement and bemusement and confusion) a piece entitled, "Safe, Legal & Early -- A New Way of Thinking About Abortion." It was authored by Steve Waldman, and appeared earlier this week on his beliefnet.com site.

Waldman has been a key player in assembling a flying wedge of religious "Third Way" blockers for Obama and other pro-abortion Democrats. Under the phony baloney guise of finding a way out of what Waldman called the "toxic" debate over abortion, their objective is to open massive holes in the pro-life community's defenses. If even some pro-lifers can be persuaded that our approach is futile (and perhaps even "immoral"!), Obama and his pro-abortion allies will not only sprint to complete their entire agenda but also do so in way advertised as "bringing together" pro-lifers and "pro-choicers."

It's a complicated piece with many working parts, but for our purposes the key is how Waldman handles survey results showing (in one poll he cites) that 69% say that abortion is the "taking of a human life," but "72 percent believe it should be legal."

His answer is that, "Most Americans believe there are gradations of life. Some living things are more alive than others, and so the later in the pregnancy it gets, the more uncomfortable people become with the idea of ending it. But in reality they believe both that a life stirs very early on and that a one-week-old embryo is more 'killable' than a nine-month-old fetus. For them, determining whether 'life' begins at conception really doesn't determine anything."

This leads him off into a lengthy discussion, the point of which is that  pro-lifers and pro-choicers ought to come together not to reduce the number of abortions but to ensure that they take place earlier. "Success would be measured on the basis of moving abortions earlier in the gestational cycle--even if that conceivably means more overall abortions," he writes. "It would be not about whether, how or how many, but when. Not 'safe, legal and rare' as Bill Clinton once said, but 'safe, legal and early.'"

In exchange for giving up the core convictions that have served as our true North, pro-lifers can console themselves with the thought that there might be a "less toxic debate."

First, two background points. #1. Waldman completely misrepresents what Roe actually said, borrowing Justice Blackmun's this-is-no-big-deal spin which was blatantly inaccurate. It took 34 years for the Supreme Court to choose not to strike down a ban enacted by the Congress of the United States on a grotesque abortion technique inflicted on a mature baby inches away from a live delivery. If that expansive definition of the "right" to abortion isn't extreme, I can't imagine what qualifies.

#2. In his attempt to persuade the reader that "earlier" abortions ought not to bother anyone, Waldman says that "An embryo is a clump of undifferentiated cells." I asked Dr. Randall K. O'Bannon, NRLC's director of education, about that. He said,

"Whether intentionally or not, this reveals a real lack of appreciation for the stunning, amazing programming in each of those cells.  It's because of their amazing nature and capacity that some scientists lust so thirstily after those cells -- not the egg or the sperm cells, not cells from later in development, but those right there at the beginning.  'Undifferentiated' makes them sound like an amorphous, meaningless mass.  They are nothing of the sort."

And just to be clear an "embryo" is the term given the child through the eighth week. By this time (just to offer a few highlights) the child has a beating heart, brain waves can be measured, the baby is swallowing amniotic fluid, and taste and teeth buds are beginning to form. Hardly "a clump of undifferentiated cells."

Now, it is quite true that pro-lifers believe (paraphrasing Dr. Seuss) that "a life is a life, no matter how small." Pro-lifers of faith may come to this conclusion out of a recognition that God is the Author of life and therefore (to quote Waldman) that "a life that God creates on Day One is morally equivalent to a life at month one or month nine or 18 years." But people of any faith or no faith or even those who hate people of faith can and do come to the same conclusion--that this life ought to be protected--for a raft of reasons, including Ben Franklin's immortal truism that we hang together or we hang separately.

What I found most intriguing was Waldman's clumsy attempt to turn the tables on pro-lifers. Hey, you guys may believe that a very "early" abortion is as abhorrent as a much later abortion. "But if you believe that the later an abortion happens, the more fully human the fetus has become then a strategy of delay is immoral."

In other words any and all efforts that result in giving women the opportunity to make a decision after considering what she is doing and to whom--rather than out of sheer panic--is immoral, if that woman is "forced" to abort later than she would have. I suspect he is particularly unnerved by the use of ultrasounds which can have a transformative impact on whether a woman or girl aborts.

The other fascinating comment is a backhanded admission that the legal status of abortion is unconscionable. If you eliminate everything early in the pregnancy (including requiring parental notification) and kill many more kids earlier, well that helps Waldman out of a particularly troublesome corner.

"By pushing toward earlier abortions, policy could indirectly limit one of the most ethically problematic types of abortions: those done to select for factors like gender or fetal abnormalities. It's difficult to find out many characteristics of the child if it's being aborted in the first week. These policies would therefore push away from eugenically oriented abortions."

Get it? If you find it insanely inconsistent to abort females in the name of women's equality, Waldman has just the answer: obliterate her before we know she is a she. Now there's a profile in courage.

The really toxic idea is that we just ought to make our peace with the notion that many people will now and forever extend protection only to babies who most closely resemble "real" babies. With that in mind I will end with excerpts from a respondent on another blog who answered the thrust of Waldman's "new" argument in an absolutely brilliant fashion. He or she took that logic in a different direction.

Yet perhaps most Americans believe there are gradations of life. Some living things are "more alive" --- that would be the ones who are most like us…. Maybe for some people of European extraction, a really black, black person is more "killable" than a Nordic blonde. Or for some dark-skinned persons, it's more evil, more of a 'hate crime' to kill a kill of person of color than it is to kill a person of --uh, pallor.

So success in terms of "Sanctity of Life" would be measured on the basis of moving homicides more towards the other end of the spectrum from one's own complexion. It would be not about whether, how or how many, but what color. Not homicides being "safe, legal and rare" as some would have it, but "safe, legal and some other race."

Dave Andrusko
Source: National Right to Life
Publish Date: April 30, 2009
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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.


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