The abortion industry behaves like the entrenched power it is
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I have my doubts that the Planned Parenthood videos will change the culture and the law as much as we hope. Perhaps enough people in the partly pro-life, partly pro-choice middle will be shocked into realizing what it is that they’ve tolerated and begin working to defend the unborn, but I’m not betting on it. I feel bad to be speaking so pessimistically, but if we are to take full advantage of the public revelations we’ll have for a few more weeks, we need to know who has power and how they’ll use it.
Abortionism is an entrenched industry, from which a lot of people profit. It has the advantage of having not only the lobbyists every other large business has but ideological lobbyists as well. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of them, energetic, convinced, unpaid, and utterly committed to the business. A lot of them also hold office in the Democratic party, starting with the president and all but two Democratic senators.
Worse, it’s a culturally necessary industry. A sexualized society like ours, whose cultural ideal is frequent sex without consequences, must make abortion readily available. No matter what precautions people take, when they have sex, sometimes they will find themselves with child. A child they don’t want or feel they can’t have. Abortion’s part of the cultural infrastructure, as fundamental to what we do as the interstate highway system.
But still the pro-choice apologists rally. The borders of their kingdom remain secure, but they start shelling the other army just in case. As usual, they’ve tried to divert attention away from the issue at hand. They’ve gone on the offensive with the claim that pro-lifers don’t care about born children. It’s a “gotcha!” kind of argument that appears whenever the abortion regime seems threatened.
The point is usually made simple-mindedly, as by Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B., quoted a few days ago by the Daily Kos:
child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth.
First, it says that unless you’re an economic liberal, which is to say a Democrat, you don’t really care about children. You don’t want the child fed, educated, or housed. You apparently want him starving, ignorant, and living in a cardboard box. One can be far from a libertarian and think the question of what policies will create the greatest wealth, justice, and equality requires a better answer than “tax money.”
People like Sister Joan should see, because it’s an easy point to see, that disagreement with their politics doesn’t in any way suggest a lack of compassion for poor children. They can be wrong in their politics and still care deeply about children.
Third, it’s not true anyway, as the Catholic theologian Charles Camosy wrote on Facebook, in response to an article by Damon Linker. “First of all,” he wrote, “it’s an absolute and shocking canard that pro-lifers don’t do anything to lower the abortion rate outside of trying to make abortion illegal. They are the ones adopting children (and, indeed, running adoption agencies), running pregnancy help centers (think about Sisters of Life, et al), pushing for adoption tax credits, etc. Could we do more? Absolutely. Is your overarching premise false? Absolutely.”
Fourth, and I think most important at the moment, it’s not the wisest argument for the pro-choicer to offer. Any argument that begins with “Just look at you!” invites the response “Well, look at you!” If the moral condition of the pro-lifers is relevant, so is the pro-choicers’. One can ask them if they’ve had an abortion, or urged their girlfriend or wife to abort their child, or helped a friend abort her child, or have lived a sexual life which required the possibility of aborting an “unwanted pregnancy.”
They should disclose their self-interest in winning the debate, for one thing. That’s just fair. For another, we should know about the acts that have formed their character which has formed their minds. One reason so many people deny the unborn child’s right to live is their own complicity. It would be best for them, and for the public debate, if they were honest about it.
This is the tricky point, because the pro-life movement has spoken so long and so earnestly about respect and dialogue. But having an abortion, or paying for an abortion, or performing an abortion will change you. Some pro-lifers I know have been shocked at the casual, banality-of-evil way Planned Parenthood’s officers speak of the child in these videos.
They shouldn’t have been. The professionalized, routinized, commercialized killing of unborn children, day after day, paycheck after paycheck, for years on end, corrupts. It’s an absolute power that corrupts absolutely.
former executive editor of First Things
, is a senior editor of
The Stream , editorial director for
and columnist for several Catholic publications. His latest book is
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