Magazine article The Human Life Review

My Controversial Choice to Become Pro-Life

Magazine article The Human Life Review

My Controversial Choice to Become Pro-Life

Article excerpt

It took me a long time, when I was much younger, to understand a conversation like the one a nine-year-old boy was having recently at the dinner table with his mother, a physician who performs abortions. I heard the story from her husband when he found out I'm a pro-lifer. "What is abortion?" the nine-year-old asked. His mother, the physician, tried to explain the procedure simply. "But that's killing the baby!" the boy exclaimed. She went on to tell him of the different time periods in the fetus's evolution when there were limits on abortion. "What difference," her son asked, "is how many months you can do it? That's still killing the baby!"

I didn't see that an actual baby, a human being, was being killed by abortion for years because just about everyone I knew - my wife, members of the family, the reporters I worked with at the Village Voice and other places were pro-choice. But then - covering cases of failed late-term abortions with a live baby bursting into the room to be hidden away until it died - I began to start examining abortion seriously.

I came across medical textbooks for doctors who cared for pregnant women, and one of them - The Unborn Patient: Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatmentby Drs. Harrison, Golbus, and Filly - turned me all the way around: "The concept that the fetus is a patient, an individual (with a DNA distinct from everyone else's), whose maladies are a proper subject for medical treatment ... is alarmingly modern. . . . Only now are we beginning to consider the fetus seriously - medically, legally, and ethically."

I also began to be moved by a nationally known pro-life black preacher who said: "There are those who argue that the [woman's] right to privacy is of a higher order than the right of life. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence of slaves on the plantation because that was private [property] and therefore outside of your right to be concerned." (His name was Jesse Jackson, but that was before he decided to run for president, and changed his position.)

So, in the 1980s, in my weekly column in the Village Voice, I openly and clearly declared myself to be pro-life. That was - and still is - the most controversial position I've taken. I was already well known around the country as a syndicated columnist (appearing then in the Washington Post) reporting on assaults on free speech and civil liberties as well as focusing on education, police abuse, and human-rights violations around the world.

Much of that writing was controversial, but nothing as incendiary as being a pro-lifer. Some of the women editors at the Voice stopped speaking to me; and while I had been a frequent lecturer on free speech at colleges and universities, those engagements stopped. The students electing speakers were predominantly liberals and pro-choicers. They didn't want this pro-life infidel on their campuses.

I was still winning some journalism awards, the most prestigious of which was one from the National Press Foundation in Washington "for lifetime distinguished contributions to journalism." I'd been told by the head of the foundation that the selection committee's decision had been unanimous. But as I came into the building to accept the award, a committee member told me there had been a serious and sometimes angry debate about my being chosen.

"Some on the committee didn't think that my reporting was that good?" I asked. She hesitated. "No, it wasn't that." "Oh." I got the message. "They didn't think apro-lifer should be honored." "Yes," she nodded, "that was it."

A very pro-choice law professor I knew did invite me to debate him at his college, Harvard. When I started, the authence was largely hostile, but soon I sensed that I was making some headway, and my debating partner became irritated. "If you're so pro-life," he shouted, "why don't you go out and kill abortionists ?"I looked at him, and said gently, "Because I'm pro-life. …

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