by Rod D. Martin
September 14, 1997
I was speaking, as I am often prone to do, to an irate liberal. He was talking about abortion. His face was flushed, and he was nearly screaming at me, and it would have been kind of amusing if it hadn’t been so sad.
“You conservatives just have to get over your love affair with the fetus,” he half yelled, leaving me to wonder if he realized Joycelyn Elders had already said this. “The government doesn’t have any right to say anything about this issue at all. It’s a moral problem first and last!”
He glared at me triumphant. I guess he thought his conclusory statement had settled something.
Now as everyone who knows me would attest, I’m not above a bit of tit-for-tat, but what he said really hit me. Completely without realizing it, my antagonist had hit on something. Something important. And so rather than go into the obvious point that no liberal claims there should an absolute right to choose to murder your teenager, I pondered what he said. And now I report it to you.
The truth is, he’s right: abortion (infanticide by another name) is indeed a moral problem first and last. He just left out a crucial step in between. Had he realized this middle step, he would have understood how completely he’d condemned himself, but that is beside the point. We can learn from this omission, and maybe someday he’ll come around.
The first step to the problem is surely a moral one: do we, as a people, have an obligation to legally protect human life? This is a fundamental question which every society decides at its inception, and generally speaking, the consensus of man since the Garden has been “yes.” Every society outlaws at least the majority of murders, and while they do it for different philosophical reasons, ultimately they all do it, even if they leave rather large loopholes for themselves. In America we have done it because we affirm the sanctity of human life. On this point virtually all Americans agree.
What is this sanctity? It does mean different things to different people. To the Christian, it means that man is made in the image of God, and God has placed high legal and moral barriers around his physical person that may only be breached in the defense of other life or in the punishment of crime. To the humanists in America, sanctity means that man is the measure of all things, that he is possessed of certain rights to individual and corporate fulfillment which are overwhelmingly important, and that nothing may be allowed to come between him and his desires (this is why many liberals oppose the death penalty). In either approach, clearly, the taking of a life goes beyond mere legalities and rises to the level of what would popularly be called a “sin.” It would be very hard to find a liberal, faced with a serial killer’s fruit, who would deny this.
And it is this which brings us to the crucial second step, the one my antagonist left out; for it is ironic beyond measure that this man who affirms all things “scientific” and demeans all things “religious” should be so thoroughly hoisted on his own petard. The question is obvious: is the fetus (Latin for “baby”) a human life or not? This is the question no NOW rally has ever addressed, no feminist ever wants to discuss.
Is a fetus (Latin for “baby”) human? Well, I’m not aware of any woman ever having given birth to a pig (except in the behavioral sense), so I guess we must say it is human. Does its life begin only at birth, or is it already a life? The latter is obviously true: no one needs to abort a baby that’s already dead. Is it, as some feminists claim, merely a parasite, a lump of tissue which is part of the mother’s body much like a cancer, or is it a separate human being, a tiny baby being nurtured by its mother? Clearly the latter: it has it’s own DNA, half of which came from elsewhere, and it often has it’s own blood type even in the womb. And in that womb today, medical technology will show you it sucking its thumb.
Some will throw up the issue of viability at this point: my friend did. But this is a red herring. Certainly a week old fetus would not live long outside the nurture of its mother’s womb, but see how long the same baby two years after birth will live if its mother abandons it in the woods. For that matter, see how long I would live if you abandoned me it the woods (I was a terrible Boy Scout). Viability is just a cover: we are all dependent on others to some degree. It is hypocrisy to pretend otherwise.
In short, science has laid to rest all the abortionists’s claims: it is human babies they kill. And yet again, my friend was right, for this is indeed a moral question first and last: what liberal would accept a woman’s right to kill her two year old? Her teenager? Her husband? (Well, he lost his job, so he just wasn’t viable anymore. . . .) What liberal is prepared to say that it should be “a woman’s right to choose” to murder whoever is financially inconvenient to her (her banker?), whoever causes her embarrassment at an inopportune times (her ex-boyfriend?), whoever gets in her way? None of whom I’m aware. And they know it.
The fact is, the “last” part of my friend’s “moral problem” is that liberals in America have aligned themselves with the butchers of history in saying “we will kill whomever we please.” Babies don’t vote; they don’t elect Congressmen, they don’t appoint judges: and neither did German Jews or Russian Kulaks or other “inconvenient” minorities swept aside through the ages.
It is a dark path indeed we tread, when we first choose to arbitrarily disregard a whole class of people’s very humanity. And once the journey is begun, what liberal can tell us where and how far the next politically powerful group with an agenda may go? But to a liberal, that’s a silly question, for as their great economist Alfred Hansen said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” So it is left to us — the great majority “rest of us” — to think about it long and hard, and decide for our children what sort of civilization they will inhabit, or whether they’ll inhabit anything we can call “civilization” at all.