Douthat on Abortion in the NYT


“The culture of (sometimes violent) protest that once defined the movement is largely a thing of the past: Pay a visit to any locus of anti-abortion sentiment — an evangelical megachurch, say, or a conservative Catholic parish — and you’ll find that the bulk of pro-life energy is being channeled into grassroots efforts, from crisis pregnancy centers to post-abortion counseling, that seek to reduce the abortion rate one woman and one child at a time…”


  1. Matthew,

    the right-wing humorist P. J. O’Rourke was blunt (pro-lifers should “give the issue a rest”).

    How ’bout the complete context on this one?

    My own take (adopted from a lengthy, alcohol-soaked evening with a seminarian and a philosphy professor – both my generation, and both close friends) is this: if the pro-life movement is to make any headway in the coming days, months, years, it has to get a few basics on the power of the rhetorical argument. Sad to say, but most Americans have been pretty much brainwashed when it comes to abortion. “Oh, a Supreme Court decision – must be right.” (Even the constitution argues against a court decision being ever final. A little known constitutional fact: a president has the perogative, if he so chooses, to IGNORE or REJECT a Supreme Court decision – the administrative version of “Nah, try again, guys (and gals)…” There’s nothing in the Constitution which empowers the court’s decision – there’s no enforcement except respect for the wisdom of the court itself.)

    But back to the main point: The pro-life movement, so I am convinced, must begin to show how disgusting abortion is by beginning with the particulars. All Americans are for rights, but how many Americans are for poking sharp instruments into the brains of third-trimester babies WHO ARE HALF OUT OF THE WOMB? Partial birth abortion isn’t the end of the discussion, of course, but when you have a populace which -besides being ungovernable – doesn’t know it’s ass from its Aristotle – you can’t go whole measures on it. Ask them to read a lengthy arguement and they’ll just glaze over. OK, let’s just take Catholics – even prolife Catholics – how many do you think have actually read a papal encyclical – any encyclical? The problem is only magnified when you consider the secular world – which won’t even take the time to read a good book, let alone one that’s essential to living a good life….

    So, whither the prolife movement? The argument should be made raw and clear – principle is trumped by pragmatism, unfortunately. Start with something more basic than “right to life;” start with a baby, it’s head poking out with it’s first breath of life, done in with a doctor’s dirk… Or a baby that is born and left alone in a dark room while the mother is ushered into a comfort zone with gentle hushes and cruel consolations…

    Get radical. Don’t, as O’Rourke says, give it a rest; rather, find the intelligence to cast the argument afresh – and make it effective.

    Of course, it would also help to have access to a wider media outlet… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


  2. cubeland mystic says


    I don’t disagree, but I would add that my feeble understanding of law is that this type of law can be used as precedent in similar issues such as the right to die.

    If it is determined that you have a right to die. My very good understanding of corporations leads me to believe that you will have an obligation to die. When confronted with the choice between a few extra months of diminished life and financial ruin most people will drink the hemlock. Mark my words you will die on schedule.

    I typically present the issue as a human rights issue in the above context, namely your human rights.

    Since I was not formed from youth to be a Catholic I still recall the bad old days, and I am afraid that most cannot assign personhood to a cluster of cells.

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