June 25, 2003

Today's abolitionists

By: AFF Editors

More than one million children are killed in abortions every year in the U.S., and our government sponsors, condones and protects it all. This is the single greatest injustice in American society today. Abortion is a moral crisis on or near the level of slavery.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will pass a bill banning a procedure we call “partial-birth abortion.” This year, it is likely this ban will become federal law. While making our society more civilized by ending the barbaric practice, the ban may not save many human lives at all–it does not keep abortionists from using other procedures at late stages in the child’s development.

It is an important step, nonetheless. The debate on this issue has brought to light the lie on which any broad defense of abortion is based: the lie that a child, before she is born, is not a human being.

The analogy to slavery comes across to many as overblown, but it is an apt one. Slavery could exist only because a large portion of the population was willing, for economic gain, to put on blinders to the glaring truth that Blacks are human beings.

In one sense, it is harder to see that an unborn child is a human, because he or she cannot walk or talk or even be seen by the naked eye. In a twist that is almost ironic, modern science–so often the tool of secular humanists working to undo the traditional order–is what tells us with certainty what we already know in our hearts if we do not deceive ourselves: the unborn child is a living human at conception.

Over 20 years ago, novelist/doctor Walker Percy made this point in a New York Times Magazine article:

Nowadays it is not some misguided ecclesiastics who are trying to suppress an embarrassing scientific fact. It is the secular juridical-journalistic establishment.

As slavery’s lie was driven by economic “necessity,” abortion’s lie is driven by serious concerns, too. Unwanted pregnancies out of wedlock are the fruit of a society in which marriage and sex are devalued. It is obvious that raising a child when you are not emotionally ready, economically sound, or possessing the family support necessary is no light burden by any stretch. The specter of this burden creates the “necessity” for the self-deception on what an abortion is.

Conservatives are often too insensitive to the suffering of the poor and the infirm. Inner-cities are neglected and children are abused, and often liberals are the only ones who raise a cry. It is immoral, for sure, to turn a blind eye to such suffering (although providing federal government aid is neither sufficient nor necessary to pass for real compassion).

But abortion is the killing of innocent life. Our federal government not only allows this mass-killing, but actually usurps the power of individual states to ban it. The federal government would never consider telling the states they could not feed a starving child on the verge of death, yet Washington, since Roe v. Wade, won’t let the states intervene to save a child, halfway out of his mother, from the scalpel of an abortionist.

However, you can still find folks who call themselves conservatives, but say abortion is not a big deal. One such writer, increasing in prominence of late, is former Wall Street Journal editorialist Max Boot. In his December 30, 2002 article “What the Heck is a Neocon?” Boot wrote, “I, for one, am not eager to ban either abortion or cloning, two hot-button issues on the religious right.”

For Boot, such hesitance to ban abortion is not based on a libertarian purity–in the same paragraph he swears off “extreme libertarianism” and presumes to speak for his neocon ilk, saying “they are not as troubled by the size of the welfare state as libertarians are.”

No, for Boot, the abortion of millions of children is just not a big deal. Sadly, Boot is not alone in this relative disregard for the issue. Many young rightists I know feel that abortion is of only secondary concern to limited government or aggressive foreign policy.

There’s no reason to assume that this stems from any lack of concern for the innocent and defenseless. More likely, conservatives who don’t see abortion as the most pressing evil of our day suffer from a lack of attention–attention to the fact that abortion is the taking of a human life.

Libertarians can argue that the government should not play a role in stopping abortions, but it’s hard to make that claim unless they believe the government should not try to stop murder either. Regardless, no freedom-based argument relieves a libertarian from speaking out against this initiation of force against our society’s most defenseless.

Conservatives also can claim that abortion is a matter for the states–meaning Roe v. Wade ought to be overturned, but this partial-birth abortion ban is a federal overreach. This argument is appealing, but it requires ignoring the 14th Amendment passage reading, “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

I’m not a big fan of how Congress and the federal courts have used this amendment to take power from the states, but being a strict constructionist doesn’t mean abiding by only our favorite parts of the Constitution.

Even the narrowest reading of the phrase “equal protection of the laws,” requires a state to prosecute the killer of a small person the same as the killer of a large person; or prosecute the killer of a person in her mother’s womb the same as the killer of a person anywhere else.

Abortion is the greatest evil in American society today. Conservatives have a moral responsibility to speak out against it–to convince women that aborting their child is not an acceptable choice (and subsequently to help these mothers and their children), and to try to outlaw its practice.

As a label, “anti-abortion” is more to the point (and at times more honest) than “pro-life.” We ought to wear it proudly, because, one day, abortion’s enemies will hold a place in America’s history alongside the abolitionists.