McFadden, Maria, The Human Life Review
ANNIVERSARIES ARE A NATURAL invitation to reflect on the past, to relive memories as well as to ponder the changes that have taken place since the remembered event. The 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22, 2003) is a prevalent theme in this issue of the Review, as our contributors join many in the pro-life movement in taking stock of our struggle.
Our lead article takes as its starting point, however, another anniversary-it has been twenty years since the unveiling of the Seamless Garment, the sanctity of life strategy, if you will, offered in 1983 by the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin. James Hitchcock, prolific Catholic author and professor of history at St. Louis University, critiques the concept of the Seamless Garment and its effects, specifically on liberal Catholics. He confronts the liberal Catholic community with its own record on abortion-as chronicled in the weekly paper, the National Catholic Reporter, the "principal organ of American liberal Catholicism for almost forty years."
Although the paper formally accepts the Catholic position on abortion, Hitchcock finds little evidence in its pages of pro-life commitment. Focusing on the January 17th issue, which was largely devoted to assessing thirty years of Roe, Hitchcock objects to the tone set by left-friendly pro-life activist John Cavanaugh O'Keefe, who pronounced the "pro-life movement a failure." Hitchcock writes:
Although pro-lifers of course regret their failure to achieve their ultimate goals, the movement has had a profound effect on American society scarcely noticed by the NCR's writers. The movement has successfully blocked most kinds of public funding of abortion and has finally achieved legislation to prohibit partial-birth abortions. . . . Above all the movement has kept the issue alive in the United States, in contrast to most other Western countries.
That last point resonates-when my late father, founding editor J.P. McFadden, began his anti-abortion campaign soon after Roe, he sought, at the very least, to keep the issue alive. He worked relentlessly, for the rest of his life, to do that, to keep the issue an issue, amidst the ups and (crushing) downs of the legislative struggles, believing the very worst thing that could happen to American society would be for abortion to cease being controversial.
My father was also among the anti-abortion activists whom Hitchcock remembers as being "sceptical, even dismayed" by Cardinal Bernardin's Seamless Garment. Whatever good intentions there may have been-to transcend, for example, single-issue politics-critics of the approach feared the message of inclusivity would "distract Catholics from the primacy of the abortion issue," and actually lend "legitimacy to the pro-abortion stance by broadening the definition of pro-life." Hitchcock argues here that this is precisely what occurred.
Some of our readers may disagree with the severity of Hitchcock's assessment (though I have no doubt my father would find it on-target). The fact is, though many wish it were not so, there are substantial disagreements among those committed to the pro-life struggle, obviously not just within the Catholic community. Our next piece illustrates another such debate-about the Constitution. "Constitutional Persons: An Exchange on Abortion," between Nathan Schlueter and Robert Bork, caught our eye-it appeared originally in one of our favorite journals, First Things. Schlueter begins by energetically objecting to a position held by many pro-life leaders, a position he calls the "restoration interpretation": that "a proper reading of the Constitution would reject the concept of a privacy right to abortion, and thus return the nation to the pre-Roe status quo" in which abortion law would be "left to the states." Against this position he posits what he believes is the "proper" interpretation-the "unborn person interpretation": that is, "one which would extend the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to unborn persons." He argues that a new constitutional amendment which would extend the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process protections to the unborn would be "constitutionally superfluous," because "the issue of protecting the basic rights of persons" is already there. He sharply criticizes Justice Antonin Scalia for his arguments re abortion and the Constitution, charging him with "moral agnosticism"-his point being that whether or not the unborn are persons is not a "value judgment" but a critical question "definitively answered decades ago."
Schlueter's position is roundly opposed by Judge Robert Bork, who says Schlueter "belongs to the 'heart's desire' school of constitutional jurisprudence." Bork insists it is "clear that the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion," and that Schlueter's interpretation of the two Amendments, however "nobly inspired," is "absurd": "When the two amendments were proposed and ratified, abortion was known, had been known for millennia, and there had been arguments about whether life began at quickening or some other stage prior to birth." Yet there is no reference to abortion in any records of the discussions leading to the amendments. Bork sees playing "word games with the text of the Constitution" as what brought us Roe in the first place, and he sums up with a stinging rejoinder to Schlueter's criticism of Scalia. You won't want to miss this lively exchange, which is an excellent example of how deep divisions can be, even among persons unequivocally devoted to the pro-life cause.
Our next article confirms Bork's point that abortion was a controversial subject in 19th-century America. Opposing it was a cause taken up by some doctors, as first-time contributor Frederick N. Dyer tells us: "In 1857, while much of the nation was consumed with the issues that would soon lead to civil war, a young Boston doctor took action on another matter of life and death. Dr. Horatio Robinson Storer's effort, dubbed the 'physicians' crusade against abortion,' was wonderfully successful." What follows is a fascinating account of nineteenth-century abortion mores (you may be surprised to read how prevalent abortions were, and among what class in society) and the launching of the doctors' "crusade," which resulted in anti-abortion legislation that remained in effect for over a hundred years. Though this social activism saved many lives, Dyer explains that "the physicians' crusade was largely forgotten until the 1970's, when it was exhumed from the archives and cited in amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Supreme Court." However, those citing the doctors' activism "were not pro-lifers, but pro-choicers, and they used it in a most ingenious and disingenuous way," making false claims about these doctors' motivations in order to do away with abortion restrictions.
Another crucial question that causes divisions in the pro-life movement is: How should we talk to our opponents, and what are acceptable methods for convincing others of the unborn's humanity? Our intrepid contributor Mary Meehan takes on this thorny subject, and reports on differing views of some of the most controversial activities of pro-lifers-for example, the use of bloody photos of aborted babies. While Meehan never lets up on the urgent need to persuade people to defend the unborn, she makes the case that it is possible not only to win over the undecided, but even "bitter adversaries-and save many lives-by thoughtful choice of words and tactics." As she reminds us, passions run high when abortion is the subject because "abortion complicity is the great iceberg below the surface of the abortion debate": an L.A. Times poll estimates that 52 per cent of the U.S. adult population has either had an abortion or knows someone who has. Guilt, repression, denial-these may all be factors lurking behind reactions in debates, and Meehan argues that some methods are more effective than others for getting past the defenses, to the place where minds and hearts can be changed.
Telling the truth ought to be an effective way to get people to listen. But one truth about abortion that advocates try desperately to hide is that it's dangerous for women. In our next article, Kathyrn Jean Lopez applauds a new advertising approach that aims to end the conspiracy of silence. The "Women Deserve Better" campaign is "designed to make women think about what they are doing to themselves, as well as to their unborn child." It's sponsored by a coalition which includes Feminists for Life and the "Silent No More" Campaign, a new group which has mobilized women who've had abortions (including national spokeswoman, the actress Jennifer O'Neill) to speak out publicly about abortion's painful aftermath. The "Women Deserve Better" sleek promotional materials target "trendy" young women-a smart move, says Lopez, because college-age women are most likely to have abortions. And the timing is right: recent polls indicate (as reported in the NY Times 3/30/03) that "teenagers and college-age Americans are more conservative about abortion rights than their counterparts a generation ago"-and their mothers now!
Our final article is encouraging evidence that intelligent young women are questioning not just abortion, but the broader feminist movement's agenda to "free" women from their biology. As is evident in her article "Overcoming Motherhood," Christina Rosen, a young woman herself, has become proficient in the scientific facts and the philosophical theories behind reproductive technologies and "feminist bioethics." And her knowledge has led her to conclude that "Pandora's box of dark arts is an apt metaphor for human reproductive technologies. . . . the next generation of these technologies offers us a power that could prove harmful to our understanding of what motherhood is." Not only are countless women now suffering from infertility as the unintended effect of embracing "choice," but, Rosen warns, the elevation of choice as "an unassailable right" is already starting to affect the way women view their offspring. New genetic technologies offer a different kind of "choice": "one that inexorably pulls us toward making intentional decisions about the kind of children we have." Running through Rosen's bracing article is her indictment of a cardinal rule of feminism: that women's "choices" in reproductive matters must be defended because they are made by women-which rests on the "feeble hope that women will not choose to do detrimental things," a stance that has always struck us as opting out of common sense.
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We have a full serving of remarkable appendices, with the first round being variations on the theme of "30 years after Roe'' Heading the list is "Abortion Now," a clear-eyed overview of the prolife movement by the eminently eloquent Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor of National Review. He wraps up with an important challenge: "When pro-lifers began their campaign against partial-birth abortion, they knew that they ran the risk of legitimizing infanticide rather than delegitimizing abortion. In the courts and in the academy, that danger may be coming to pass. This is thus as important a moment as any in the last thirty years. . . . If they succeed in banning cloning, they can establish that human beings have a right to life regardless of their age, size, wantedness, location, stage of development, or condition of dependency."
Ponnuru is followed by Candace Crandall's "Thirty Years of Empty Promises," which recalls the arguments used to push the legalization of abortion pre-Roe, and follows them up with abundant evidence that unrestricted abortion has greatly worsened the social and economic problems it was supposed to "solve." She points out (as do several contributors) that support for abortion "rights" has been seriously eroding in the last decade, and that the yearly number of abortions has been dropping. As the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes writes in Appendix C, a great achievement of the pro-life movement has been to bring back the stigma attached to abortion. "The legal right to an abortion is one that almost no one boasts of exercising," and even its advocates try not to speak its name.
In Appendix D, columnist Mark Steyn agrees Americans are becoming more pro-life, and just in time, because-aside from the immorality of the abortion "choice"-any society that "elevates 'a woman's right to choose' above 'go forth and multiply' is a society with a death wish." And Peggy Noonan, in "A Tough Roe" (Appendix E) wonders if the Democratic party will become "abortion's final victim," because "No party can long endure, or could possibly flourish, with the unfettered killing of young humans as the thing that holds it together." Appendix F is a Wall Street Journal column in which Meghan Cox Gurdon shares a unique personal reaction to Roe's anniversary-she's convinced both she and her husband owe their lives to pre-Roe abortion restrictions. Clarke D. Forsythe, President of Americans United for Life, writes next (Appendix G) that the pro-life movement has succeeded in convincing the majority of Americans that the unborn are human beings, but now we need to counter the notion that, nonetheless, abortion is a "necessary evil." "It is now time for a coherent, sustained and concerted effort to demonstrate that abortion is 'impolitic'-bad for women as well as the unborn."
Our final appendices touch on real-life stories involving "choice" and its consequences. Life-giving alternatives to abortion have been sorely misrepresented in the mainstream, thanks to the efforts of the pro-abortion forces; that's part of Terry Eastland's message in a story he tells about adoption ("The Forgotten Option" Appendix H), in which a family ponders aborting a Down Syndrome baby until they learn that couples would line up for a chance to adopt their child. In "Lily" (Appendix I), Dr. Tom Walsh paints a poignant portrait of a teenage mother and her noble and heart-rending adoption decision. Next, in "Voyage Around my Fatherhood," Australian journalist Alan Close reveals the pain "choice" can inflict on fathers. He mourns his lack of children, though he has fathered several "terminations"; and he remembers with special regret the abortion of one-a baby he'd felt certain was "Jack," who "would have been 13 this month." In our final appendix, "Inside a Crisis Pregnancy Center," Eve Tushnet gives us a valuable look into the realities of the lives of typical clients she counsels at an inner-city center. One significant factor she's found repeatedly is a lack of a father in the life of the unwed mother-"Growing up fatherless affects how women view their own relationships and their pregnancies." (An interesting comment on the importance of grandparents to the lives of unborn children.)
We e-mailed Nick Downes that we needed more cartoons-he sent us a new batch that kept us giggling for hours. As always, we hope they ease the hearts of our readers as well.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Introduction. Contributors: McFadden, Maria - Author. Magazine title: The Human Life Review. Volume: 29. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 2003. Page number: 2. © Not available. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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