Words of Choice
A leading abortion advocate, Kate Michelman, says that if it had been up to Judge Samuel Alito, she might not have been allowed, many years ago, to have the baby she was carrying killed. As you may know by now, Alito once ruled in favor of a law requiring that a married woman get her husbands consent before aborting.
For Ms. Michelman, this ruling brings both bad memories and dark forebodings. At the time of her abortion, she recalls, her husband had abandoned her, leaving her with two other children; even so, she says it was a painful decision.
It probably was, assuming she had a conscience. Thats what we are told, of course; its always a painful or difficult decision. But somehow nobody ever seems to make the wrong decision. Every woman who gets an abortion is obeying her conscience, not violating it.
We all have to make hard choices at times, because we know we may decide wrongly. But were expected to believe that women deciding whether to have their unborn children killed in the womb always decide rightly, no matter what they choose to do.
Notice that I use the old, crude verb kill. Its a habit I see no reason to shake. When I go to the drugstore or hardware store, I see products boasting that they kill germs, kill crabgrass, kill mosquitoes, kill rats, and so forth. Why be squeamish about what abortion does to a child?
But abortion advocates are squeamish about this. They never say that abortion kills. They prefer roundabout expressions like terminate a pregnancy, though a live birth also terminates a pregnancy. And they never call the child a child; they call it a fetus, as if to give the impression that modern medical science has discovered that its something other than what we all know it is. Actually, science seems to have found that the fetus is infinitely more complex than the blob of tissue (as in fetal tissue.) its more convenient to imagine. We used to say that a pregnant woman was with child, or carrying a child.
Even opponents of abortion now shrink from using the impolite term baby-killers to describe its proponents. Maybe we could spare their little feelings by saying fetus-terminators.
Aristotle wasnt squeamish. He not only saw nothing wrong with abortion; he also argued that deformed infants should be killed. The ancient Greeks and Romans, like some pagans today, considered infanticide a perfectly acceptable option, though it was the fathers prerogative, not the mothers. The usual method was exposure; the unwanted child would be left out to starve, dehydrate, freeze, or be eaten by wild animals.
In those days it was up to the father. No doctors skills were needed; you just abandoned the baby outdoors somewhere. We have no indication whether it was often, or ever, a difficult or painful decision. Who knows? Times have changed.
Today the law, supposedly more humane, allows unwanted infants to be killed, but usually in the womb, and only by qualified physicians. The big difference is that we keep hearing that the mother makes the choice only after considerable anguish. And choice is the word. The less we talk about whats actually being chosen, the better. Its just choice. Maybe not as easy as a choice of wallpaper, but choice all the same.
Be that as it may, the doctors dont seem to suffer any pangs of conscience, or things could get complicated. When you hire a professional killer, you dont want a Hamlet. A Macbeth is more like it though even Macbeth has qualms at first. The act requires the steady hand of a helpful, seasoned specialist who has put his tormented soliloquies behind him.
Still, apologists for abortion dont like to dwell on this. Their theme is that the only violence is committed by the fanatics who dont want to let us kill our babies. Such people, we are told, want to impose their views and will stop at nothing, including bombing the clinics where the choice can be safely consummated with minimal disturbance of the mothers conscience.
And after all, what is conscience? Isnt it just an emotion one of those unpleasant emotions we have to conquer by avoiding, for instance, certain rude words?
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