Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

red in tooth and claw

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 25, 2004

Conscious that the 1970s language of abortion-on-demand turns off many waverers, Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice pens an essay appealing for a more feelings-friendly abortion vocabulary -- out of respect for the comfort of those morally queasy folks who, in spite of blenderizing the occasional baby, need to be reminded that they too are caring and giving people. Yet Kissling's profound intellectual dishonesty defeats her in every paragraph. She begins each argument by trying to concede some tiny measure of good will to her adversaries, but her ideological demons overmaster her, and the fetus she claims to "value" is sacrificed to her hatred -- that is, her hatred of the possibility that pro-lifers might be right. Kissling seems unaware that her utero-Stalinism is self-defeating, that she has provided an embarrassing abundance of ammo for the very people she seeks to wound. A few specimens:

  • Inherent in our focus on women's rights has been our belief that fetal life does not attain, at any point in pregnancy, a value that is equivalent to that of born persons, most specifically women, infants or children who are most often cited in discussions of abortion.
  • After a number of failed attempts to overturn Roe outright, opponents of abortion developed a long term incremental legislative strategy designed as much to win the hearts and minds of moderate supporters of abortion rights as to change the law itself. They aimed to chip away at access to abortion services for groups perceived to be powerless and unpopular, such as poor women and adolescents.
  • One colleague who reviewed this article noted that the term "right to life" and its unrelenting and vague formulation obscures the fact that some life is dangerous and does not deserve to be respected. Cancer cells are a form of life as are viruses like polio and HIV/AIDS. Should they be respected?
  • The most emotionally charged legislation was the Unborn Victims of Violence Act which introduced an extra penalty for anyone convicted of harming a fetus during the commission of certain federal crimes ... Crafted in the wake of the death of Laci and Conner Peterson, the legislation captured people's sympathy. Prochoice responses that focused on the fact that the legislation was not needed or that argued that it was a back door attempt to eviscerate the right to abortion made us seem heartless. As difficult as it may be, this may have been one piece of legislation we could have tolerated. In the war of ideas, not every hill is worth climbing.
  • For some, these realities lead to a greater connection to fetal life; perhaps not as a person, but as part of the continuum of what we are, of humanity. Examples include 3-D and 4-D pictures of fetuses in utero that appear to be awake, asleep, walking, yawning -- engaging in activities that are related to human identity -- and the few, very few, very premature babies who struggle and appear to have a great determination to live.
  • For an infertile couple who deeply want a child, someone else's fetus is very precious and potentially their child. For a woman who has been raped, that fetus may well be seen as a monster. The relation of value to wantedness is complex and at times troubling.
  • Those countries with long-standing liberal abortion laws have been among the most supportive of life. Japan, for example, widely uses abortion as a method of birth control. Yet the respect the Japanese show for the elderly is great and their love of children renowned.
  • There is nothing aesthetically attractive about the abortion of fully formed, relatively well-developed fetuses and there is equally nothing simple and painless about the situations women face that lead them to seek abortions later in gestation.

And let's not omit my favorite:

  • Concerns that the additional cost of [fetal] anesthesia would raise the cost of abortion beyond the means of some women, while serious, would be seen as a problem to be solved. Treating the fetus humanely during the termination of its life would be seen as an important human value -- more important than the extra cost factor.

Who says pro-aborts aren't concerned about the, um, intra-procedural surgical waste? Why, Kissling has even talked fellow Catholic Anna Quindlen around.

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