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The Reactionary Utopian
July 3, 2008

Obama and Abortion
by Joe Sobran

[Breaker: What is he really saying?]

Barack Obama, that gourmet among dung beetles, appeals strongly to the sort of smug people I used to find mildly irritating when I was in college — the sort who wore lapel buttons bearing such bold messages as "Question authority" or "I read banned books." In America, everything is mass-produced, including non-conformity, and these buttons were a standard part of every young non-conformist's uniform. The most comically egregious of these "non-conformists" were the hippies of the late Sixties.

You know the type: I think it was the art critic Harold Rosenberg, who memorably dubbed them "the herd of independent minds." They confirm Samuel Johnson's witty remark that most people's opinions are "not propagated by reason, but caught by contagion." One of the marks of this breed is an unconscious predictability, a certainty that one has achieved one's own views, however trite they may be, without the assistance of any Authority.

Such folk are usually Darwinians, political liberals, and advocates of "sexual freedom." They favor abortion, which they curiously call "choice," meaning, of course, that the child will never have any choice about anything.

They are passive yet passionate agents of fashion. As G.K. Chesterton puts it: "There is everywhere the habit of assuming certain things, in the sense of not even imagining the opposite things." He explains: "The thing I mean is a man's inability to state his opponent's view, and often his inability even to state his own."

Small children often have highly original thoughts, and one of the purposes of education is to correct them early, before originality reaches the point of heresy or psychosis. A wise Christian, George MacDonald, notes: "Our Lord never thought of being original." Amen. Jesus said the truth will make us free. He said nothing about being "original," or clever, or eloquent.

Only the Catholic Church, as Chesterton says somewhere, can save a man from the degraded slavery of being a child of his age. Obama, who calls himself a Christian, has never explained, as far as I know, why human life in the womb is not precious. In effect, he has said that his own wife has a constitutional right to abort his own child. Is this really what he means to say?

Amazing how many people discovered simultaneously, around 1973, that abortion was not a revolting crime but a constitutional right; just as a roughly equal number of people realized that sodomy was not a perversion but a source of pride. And what has always amazed me even more is how indignant such people can get at those of us whose moral convictions are less mutable than theirs! Has it become our duty to be fickle about matters of right and wrong? To adapt a slogan, this is change I can't believe in.

It would be one thing if such people had been lonely advocates of these evils back when it was unpopular and even risky to favor them. But why did so many millions suddenly take up these causes only when they became fashionable and politically profitable? Nobody is willing to suffer very much for the unhallowed cause of legal abortion; but thousands have been willing to endure arrest, injury, and calumny in the remote hope of stopping it.

One way to judge a controversial question is to begin by asking on which side the martyrs are. Another is to ask on which side the money is. Abortion is a lucrative business. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the abortion laws of all 50 states (all of them, mind you, not just most of them) were unconstitutional, it was saying in effect not only that the legislative majorities of the states had always been wrong, but also that no legislative minority had ever been right.

And, of course, no justice of the Court before that infamous ruling had ever held that abortion was constitutionally protected. Nor had any of the Framers of the Constitution suggested such a thing. Apart from its sheer cruelty and immorality, the ruling was perhaps the most preposterous extrapolation in the history of jurisprudence. You might as well argue that laws against cannibalism are unconstitutional because government should be kept out of the kitchen.

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