Go Forth and Multiply

Article excerpt

This will be an important week for the world, and I've no idea how it's going to go. So let me come at it from another direction: Abortion.

Last week was the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. If the greying harpies of the abortion movement were looking to get their groove back on anniversary fever, it didn't work out that way. As has been noted, polls show more and more Americans are opposed to more and more abortions. This isn't the way it's supposed to go. The assumption behind judicial activism is that the guys in the fancy robes are ahead of the curve: Being more educated, intelligent and sophisticated than the unwashed masses, our judges reach today the positions that the grunting, knuckle-dragging public won't come round to for another decade or so. But eventually we will, and we'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Well, America has had constitutionally mandated abortion absolutism for a third of a century, and it's further away from broad social acceptance than ever. If Roe v. Wade hasn't caught on by now, it never will. In abortion as in war, Americans are at odds with their Canadian and European "allies." My colleague Patricia Pearson thinks this is because "Canadians are becoming more tolerant, Americans more conservative"-conservatism being the opposite of tolerance, presumably. I'd say the abortion crowd's problem is that they're up against science. There are those of us who are opposed to all abortion-I'm one, at heart-and those who are hot for a woman's right to kill full-term healthy partially delivered babies. But in the middle are a big swath of people whose position is more nuanced, and the trouble for the abortion absolutists is that, thanks in part to advances in medical science, all the nuances are moving in the pro-life direction. The most fascinating of last week's polls, for ABC News, found that 57% of Americans thought that abortion should be legal in "all or most cases," which must have heartened the "pro-choice" types. But when "all or most cases" were spelt out one by one the numbers were very different: over 80% of Americans will support abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save a woman's life; 54% will support the abortion of a "physically impaired baby." But, when it comes to terminating an "unwanted pregnancy," only 42% approve.

But that's what abortion is: the "unwanted pregnancy" category accounts for 95% of cases. The rest-the stuff with the 80% approval ratings-are a tiny number of exceptions to the overwhelming rule-that abortion for most of its devotees is a belated, cumbersome and inefficient form of contraception. Which is what "a woman's right to choose" boils down to. When the crazed ideologues at The New York Times ran a story on the Administration's approach to abortion under the headline "Bush's War On Women," they overlooked the inconvenient fact that the President's views are now more reflective of American womanhood than the Times' or the abortion groups'. Only 40% of women are in favour of the right to end an unwanted pregnancy. In other words, 60% of women don't support a woman's right to choose. The euphemism doesn't work anymore.

Right now, the only significant demographic moving toward Roe v. Wade absolutism are the ever swelling numbers of Democratic Presidential candidates. That's because the Democrats brook no qualms on the subject. In the candidates' big panderfest at a "pro-choice" rally, the former Vermont Governor, Dr. Howard Dean, was so anxious to demonstrate his bona fides that he all but offered to perform a partial-birth abortion on audience volunteers. Dr. Dean's candidacy is unlikely to be carried to term, or even survive the first trimester of 2004, so he need not detain us long. But what's more interesting is the broader phenomenon his creepy suck-up represents.

For what it's worth, I don't accept "a woman's right to choose." Given that humanity's only current widely available method of reproduction involves access to a woman's womb, society as a whole has a stake in this question. …