unaccounted for

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 27, 2006

Today, we talk imprecisely about the "right" to many things -- the right to be happy, the right to be stress-free, the right to have our views respected. But this promiscuous use of the term degrades the concept of a "right."

Almost sounds like a natural law-based complaint about the corruption of rights-language penned by a social conservative, doesn't it? Read on:

For those of us who emerged from a progressive, humanist tradition, "rights" designates the requirements for participation in bourgeois, democratic society. Rights are what are required to make people equal. Thirty years ago, this specific concept of rights was shared by democrats and those concerned with social justice. The right to abortion and contraception was a basic tenet of the women's liberation movement in its early years, along with the right to equal pay and equal job opportunities, because activists understood that women needed control over their fertility to play an equal role in public life. When you deny me a means to end my unwanted pregnancy, you deny me the opportunity to participate in society in the way that my brother or husband can. Better nurseries and better financial support can mitigate some of the consequences of motherhood, but nothing can mitigate the impact of pregnancy itself, which is why women need the means to end it.

This is Ann Furedi, director of the UK's principal abortion provider BPAS, writing in the magazine of Catholics for a Free Choice. Her notion of a right as a requirement for participation is not only ironic but, in context, macabre. It requires treating unborn children as invisible, as not even candidates for participation-rights -- an extreme example of the willful injustice that Furedi herself claims to oppose as a feminist. Nor is this mere inadvertence, as the following passage makes clear:

This unfashionable privileging of rights is not divorced from the more acceptable stress on responsibility. Surely it is right, if not "a right," for women to be allowed to make their own moral choices concerning their pregnancies. The decision must be made by someone; why should it not be made by the person whose life is most connected to it?

The person whose life is most connected to the decision is the unborn child. As is the case with infants, the mentally defective, and the very sick, the unborn child is not in a position to "make a decision" regarding his proposed execution, nor even to make his opinion heard. Society acknowledges that the "default" interest of babies, the sick, and the defective is to go on living, and will even appoint a legal guardian who, as the word suggests, is commissioned to defend his ward's interest. Yet Furedi concedes no weight whatsoever to the interests of the unborn child, and this because it is "deemed" -- as it were by legal stipulation -- not to be the kind of being that can have interests at all (cf. James Taranto's observation earlier).

Even in the 1970s it required a studied blindness not to see unborn children as rights-bearers. But to cling to that view today -- when, weeks before her granddaughter is born, grandma (who already knows her sex and her name) can watch her somersaulting in the womb on ultrasound video -- requires more than studied blindness; it takes a positive will to obliterate reality.

There's a scene in Macbeth -- (III,2), after Duncan and his servants have been murdered, and after Banquo's suspicions have been noted and his assassination arranged -- when Lady Macdeth begins to understand that things are spiraling out of control. She'd reached her goal (Macbeth's kingship), but was deprived of the peace of mind to take satisfaction in it. There's no going back to the time before her hands were bloodied, and yet the way forward can only mean more murder:

Nought's had, all's spent
Where our desire is got, without content.
'Tis safer to be that which we destroy,
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.

If I'm a business owner who is made to realize I was unjust to my employees, I might make amends -- say, by paying back-wages. Now suppose you're Ann Furedi, with a hand in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prematurely ended pregnancies. Should you ever come to suspect you were even partly wrong, how do you make your injustice real to yourself? How does your conscience do the accounting? Keep in mind that every maternity dress you see in a shop window and every Christmas carol you hear from a doorway gives another twist to the knife. What back-wages can you pay to your victims? Nought's had, all's spent. What I hear in Furedi's tensely constructed silence about the child is a kind of moral desperation akin to Lady Macbeth's. 'Tis safer to be that which we destroy, than to admit that anything was destroyed in the first place.

The magazine of Catholics for a Free Choice, incidentally, is named Conscience.

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  • Posted by: - Nov. 29, 2006 1:36 AM ET USA

    Unum. it is too bad that "Catholics" or Free Choice is getting so much backing, although it is not a surprise. The American Bishops should put them out of business by constantly repeating from the pulpit or ambo, that if a Catholic belongs to this group, they are automatically excommunicated. The organization has been Condemned by the Pontiff, therefore, you are excommunicated and your "Soul is in Peril". It is the Bishops' and Priests' duty to publicly warn all Catholics of this pseudo group.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 28, 2006 3:47 PM ET USA

    The free choice on this issue is a valid point,BUT incorrectly applied to the time of consent. When the pregnant woman should decide if she wants a child is before engaging in the sexual act, NOT AFTER.

  • Posted by: unum - Nov. 28, 2006 9:47 AM ET USA

    Ross Dee, "Catholics" for a Free Choice is still in business because of funding from the Ford Foundation and other liberal sources that find it useful to have a "Catholic" front organization to attack the Church's pro-life pronouncements. The mainstream media is all too willing to reprint CFC's press releases without wasting time on fact checking or interviewing other sources.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 28, 2006 9:15 AM ET USA

    The magazine of Catholics for a Free Choice, incidentally, should be named Brainsickly.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Nov. 28, 2006 12:30 AM ET USA

    " . . women needed control over their fertility . . ." If these women bothered to exert some self control, there'd be no 'need' for abortion. They've 'chosen' to be sexually active, and they can 'choose' to have the child killed, but to say they're exerting any sort of control over themselves is fatuous. That's the one thing they're NOT doing, and therein lies the problem. It's the height of selfishness, and reminds me of Orwell's "Animal Farm": some are more equal than others.

  • Posted by: Charlie742 - Nov. 27, 2006 9:14 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, you are brilliant.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Nov. 27, 2006 7:48 PM ET USA

    Nobody seems able to tell me what the difference is between an abortionist and a Mafia hit-man, except that the person offed by the Mafioso was probably guilty of something, and a majority of Supreme Court justices declared the former to be doing a legal act, as long as there is a signature on the consent form by the mother. Absurdities persist.

  • Posted by: Sterling - Nov. 27, 2006 6:31 PM ET USA

    I weary of this maternity-dress rattling. Not being able to repay victims is true for all life-taking and other injuries as well. (You negligently cause someone to lose a limb - how do you pay him back?) Here's how the conscience of these women should keep the accounting: Christ paid the price for sins of abortion and all other sins for penitents. Much as we twist it in ourselves and in others, the ever-twisting knife of remorse gives God no glory. Penitent women, be happy.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 27, 2006 5:50 PM ET USA

    The Catholic poet John Dryden put it well when he said that the worldly equate conscience with self-interest: "O Proteus Conscience, never to be tied! ... Immortal powers the term of conscience know, / But interest is her name with men below." (The Hind and the Panther, 3:818-24)

  • Posted by: - Nov. 27, 2006 5:12 PM ET USA

    If one views the world as absurd or nihilistic, I suppose abortion as a means of securing "an equal role in public life" has no rebuttal -- but then so would "aborting" the lives of the wealthy in order to ensure one's personal financial security, assassinating a political opponent who happens to be better financed, and so on. There are no higher values to be devalued. What a bleak house Ms. Furedi inhabits.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Nov. 27, 2006 12:30 PM ET USA

    It occurs to me that someone ought to sue the “Catholics for Free Choice” (and others who claim to be “Catholic” but reject the Church’s teachings) for false advertising. As a result of that rejection, they have been excommunicated and should not go about falsely claiming to be something that they are not.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 27, 2006 11:14 AM ET USA

    Catholics for Choice have been condemned by this Pope way back when... Why are they still in existence? Anyone that belongs to this group has an ideology that is "Heartless and Mindless" and has more than one foot in Hell. Not only are these women and men against Jesus's Church, they are against God's greatest Miracle. This group is promoting killing a "Soul" which belongs to the Kingdom of God. It takes a morally corrupt or despicable person to destroy a baby, in or out, of the womb.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 27, 2006 10:18 AM ET USA

    Even a cursory look at thier website shows this organization to be about nothing but promoting abortion and contraception with alot of blah-blah about "reproductive health" Abortion and contraception are NOT healthcare - they are a destruction and a violence to women and to our society. Look behind thier words, I suspect Legion speaks there. I pray the Lord will open the eyes of all to His truth of His will revealed through Catholic teaching.