A 2003 newsletter article. The demographic assertions may be dated. Most of the argument is not., I think.
My two main sources of daily news are, some of you may be shocked to learn, National Public Radio and the Athens Banner-Herald. Both have improved in recent years in their coverage of abortion, as was evident to me last month during the 30th anniversary of Roe versus Wade, the Supreme Court decision that claimed to discover an abortion license in the penumbra of the Constitution. I say abortion ‘license’ because it cannot in truth be called a right. That which violates the natural law cannot be rightful, whatever the positive law may pretend. Some years ago I wrote the one and only letter I have ever been moved to write the Banner-Herald. I wrote the editor of the day – a very nice and sensible man – to suggest that he consider the professional advisability of asking his reporters to change their practice in one matter. What they were doing was referring to the parties in our national debate as ‘pro-choice’ and ‘anti-choice’. I wrote the letter personally, not for publication. I received no reply, but never again saw that very unprofessional usage: a small gain for journalistic fairness.
NPR reporters were using the same biased terms in the same period. They stopped such tendentiousness around about 1994-5. I remember the date because I wondered at the time if their new restraint were perhaps connected to some major political changes that occurred on the national scene then and that might have affected their federal funding. [The Republican party took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in a generation.] Whatever the cause, in both cases I was glad for the change.
This year both NPR and the Athens paper let articulate people from each side give voice to their views. The most interesting commentary that I heard on the anniversary last month came on NPR. A woman described her change of views over the period. In 1973 she was a young feminist, convinced not only that free abortion would liberate women but also that it would end the abuse of children. Every child born would be a wanted child was the theory, and so abuse would end. Moral revolutionaries always ignore the law of unintended consequences, and so it was in the case of abortion. The commentator by 2003 has had her illusions dispelled. Some women no doubt felt coerced into bearing unwanted children. Now some women are coerced into having unwanted abortions. Some people before Roe no doubt abused and neglected children who were not aborted. Now people abuse children by abortion with no apparent decline in other forms of abuse for those who escape ‘termination’ in the womb. Abortion coarsens the national character with ill effects.
What seems to be happening in our country today is a gradual movement of opinion away from acceptance of abortion. The most pro-life age group in the country at the moment seems to be teenagers and young adults. The numbers of people opposing abortion under every circumstance have grown. So have the numbers opposed to abortion in most circumstances. The extremism of the organized pro-abortion community is uncovered in particular by the partial birth abortion debate. Very few people approve of late-term abortion under any but the most extreme circumstances. Yet any attempt whatsoever to prohibit or regulate any abortion arouses the political fury of the politically powerful pro-abort lobby. The courts so far protect this extremism and forbid any limits at all on the abortion license, even at the moment of birth. The courts, by rejecting the natural law (remember ‘inalienable right’?), cast their own legitimacy into doubt. If the Constitution is what five Supreme Court justices say it is, and if they say that the Constitution guarantees a right to dismember a nine month old fetus, then the Constitution is worse than an ass and so is the Court which invents such a meaning.
In the Old Testament Israel’s final, self-destroying crime was to kill her own children. In the New Testament our Lord warns us that it were better that a millstone drag us to the bottom of the sea than that we hurt a child. In the oldest Christian writing outside the New Testament itself (the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) abortion is directly condemned. Abortion is the most violent possible resolution to real conflicts and difficulties. There seem to be some second thoughts occurring to folks in our society. Good. Let us continue to recall and teach and press in the public arena the simple dictates of the natural law: life is sacred and to be protected from conception until natural death. There are many other things to be said, problems to be addressed, needs to be met. But nothing should distract us from the most basic duty of all: to choose and to cherish life.