A leading abortion advocate, Kate Michelman, says that if it had been
up to Judge Samuel Alito, she might not have been allowed, many years
ago, to have the baby she was carrying killed.
As you may know by now, Alito once ruled in favor of a law requiring
that a married woman get her husband’s consent before aborting.
For Ms. Michelman, this ruling brings both bad memories and dark
forebodings. At the time of her abortion, she recalls, her husband
had abandoned her, leaving her with two other children; even so, she
says it was a “painful” decision.
It probably was, assuming she had a conscience. That’s what
we are told, of course; it’s always a “painful” or “difficult” decision.
But somehow nobody ever seems to make the wrong decision. Every woman
who gets an abortion is obeying her conscience, not violating it.
We all have to make hard choices at times, because we know we may
decide wrongly. But we’re expected to believe that women deciding
whether to have their unborn children killed in the womb always decide
rightly, no matter what they choose to do.
Notice that I use the old, crude verb kill. It’s a habit I
see no reason to shake. When I go to the drugstore or hardware store,
I see products boasting that they “kill” germs, “kill” crabgrass, “kill” mosquitoes, “kill” rats,
and so forth. Why be squeamish about what abortion does to a child?
But abortion advocates are squeamish about this. They never say that
abortion “kills.” They prefer roundabout expressions like
terminate a pregnancy, though a live birth also terminates
a pregnancy. And they never call the child a “child”; they call it a “fetus,” as
if to give the impression that modern medical science has discovered
that it’s something other than what we all know it is. Actually,
science seems to have found that the fetus is infinitely more complex
than the blob of tissue (as in fetal tissue.) it’s more convenient
to imagine. We used to say that a pregnant woman was “with child,” or “carrying
Even opponents of abortion now shrink from using the impolite term
baby-killers to describe its proponents. Maybe
we could spare their little feelings by saying “fetus-terminators.”
Aristotle wasn’t squeamish. He not only saw nothing wrong with
abortion; he also argued that deformed infants should be killed. The
ancient Greeks and Romans, like some pagans today, considered infanticide
a perfectly acceptable option, though it was the father’s prerogative,
not the mother’s. The usual method was exposure; the unwanted
child would be left out to starve, dehydrate, freeze, or be eaten by
In those days it was up to the father. No doctor’s skills were
needed; you just abandoned the baby outdoors somewhere. We have no
indication whether it was often, or ever, a difficult or painful decision.
Who knows? Times have changed.
Today the law, supposedly more humane, allows unwanted infants to
be killed, but usually in the womb, and only by qualified physicians.
The big difference is that we keep hearing that the mother makes the
choice only after considerable anguish. And choice is the word. The
less we talk about what’s actually being chosen, the better.
It’s just “choice.” Maybe not as easy as a choice
of wallpaper, but choice all the same.
Be that as it may, the doctors don’t seem to suffer any pangs
of conscience, or things could get complicated. When you hire a professional
killer, you don’t want a Hamlet. A Macbeth is more like it — though
even Macbeth has qualms at first. The act requires the steady hand
of a helpful, seasoned specialist who has put his tormented soliloquies
Still, apologists for abortion don’t like to dwell on this.
Their theme is that the only violence is committed by the fanatics
who don’t want to let us kill our babies. Such people, we are
told, want to “impose their views” and will stop at nothing,
including bombing the clinics where the “choice” can be
safely consummated with minimal disturbance of the mother’s conscience.
And after all, what is conscience? Isn’t it just an emotion — one
of those unpleasant emotions we have to conquer by avoiding, for instance,
certain rude words?
Copyright © 2011 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on November 8, 2005.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
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during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran in December 2009.
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