Slouching towards Sodom

Article excerpt

On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court, in its Gonzales v. Carhart decision, upheld a ban on partial-birth abortion. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg complained that the ruling treated sympathetically such traditional notions as "the bond of love a mother has for her child." Ginsburg believes, uncompromisingly, in a woman's "autonomy" and "privacy."

Abortion would be finally free of all controversy if only human beings could be seen as purely individual entities that bear absolutely no affiliation with any other human beings. But affiliations persist, despite consistent attempts to deny, dissolve, or degrade them. The very word "affiliation," in fact, bears testimony to the normalcy of parent-to-child sympathies. "Affiliation" is derived from affiliatus, past participle of affiliare, meaning to adopt a son (filius = son; filia = daughter).

If unborn life must be denied, its incriminating witness, language, must be denied along with it. Even the apparently politically correct term "compassion" must go. In Hebrew, the word for womb is rechem, which is also the root for the word "compassion." Accordingly, a mother naturally has compassion for her child that has dwelled in her womb. Nonetheless, motherly feelings aside, Justice Ginsburg states that "the destiny of me woman must be shaped ... on her own conception of her spiritual imperatives and her place in society." And such an "imperative" might be one of a radical individualism that harbors no concern for anyone else.

The one philosopher who has best depicted the human being as absolute individuality and privacy is Ludwig Wittgenstein. In his Tractatus he sees man, as well as everything else, solely in terms of so many logical atoms that have no relationship with each other. Thus, he declares: "Any one fact can either be the case, or not be the case, and everything else remains the same."

We will put aside the metaphysical conundrum of how a "fact" can not be the case. In response to Wittgenstein's proposition, the distinguished philosopher William Barrett, in The Illusion of Technique, rightly finds it to be "an astounding statement to fling in the face of our ordinary experience ___ Connectedness is more generally the case than not. One fact does make a difference to others; and if certain facts did disappear, it seems to me that everything else would surely not remain the same." Indeed! If my mother never existed (if the fact of her being was not the case), would my existence not be affected? If the fact that an unborn child is no longer the case, does the aborting mother remain completely unaffected? An abundance of women have come to regret their decision to abort. Their public testimonies indicate that abortion has not left them unaffected.

Perhaps the root of the problem is the very word "child," which denotes an intrinsic relation to a parent. Ginsburg and her Planned Parenthood affiliates would prefer to define "child" in Wittgensteinian terms as a fact that is or is not the case without affecting anything else. A lost child, therefore, is one that is equivalent to one that never was. Why then, as the majority stated in Gonzales v. Carhart, do "women who have abortions come to regret their choices, and consequently suffer from '[s]evere depression and loss of esteem'"? Perhaps it does not happen. According to Ginsburg, the majority "has no reliable evidence" for claiming that such negative sequelae could happen to aborting women.

Redefining human beings as disconnected and essentially unrelated to others, however, has dire consequences. Non-relatedness, as psychiatrists have amply elucidated, is a psychiatric disorder. The attempt to justify partial-birth abortion by denying the importance of the sympathetic bond between mother and child is also an attempt to multiply the number of psychiatric disorders in society.

A college student is quoted as saying that he wants abortion to remain legal because he does not like using condoms. …