Introduction

By McFadden, Maria | The Human Life Review, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Introduction


McFadden, Maria, The Human Life Review


How fitting that we open this issue with an article that concludes: "The intellectual high ground is now ours"-though we would say it always has been. My late father, J. P. McFadden, founded this Review with the conviction that there could be no equivalent on the "other side"-how could one muster philosophical, legal, religious and moral arguments in support of killing the unborn?

And yet, the point our lead author, Ramesh Ponnuru, is making in "The Afterparty of Death" concerns a shift in the arguments from the early days of abortion "reform." "In 1970 and for many years thereafter, advocates of legal abortion portrayed themselves as the party of cool, dispassionate reason. Their opponents were the prisoners of superstition and emotion." Things have changed: because of medical and scientific advances, there is no longer any plausible way to deny the "aliveness" of a fetus. And the pro-life ranks have grown, especially among the young. Faced with these facts, Ponnuru writes, abortion advocates tend to either "refuse to engage the argument at all or to retreat behind their feelings and other non-rational defenses."

Ponnuru, a senior editor of National Review, reaches his conclusion after taking on several critics of his 2006 book, The Party of Death. When you read the succinct summary of the arguments there, and his motivation for writing the book-he wanted to show that, since the 1990's, early trends have been reversing and there is "evidentiary basis for hope" that the tide is turning-you will understand why his critics were numerous and ... exercised. Ponnuru is a deft, logical thinker and masterful writer. One critic, unable to mount a logical argument, resorted to accusing him of clandestinely basing his positions on his Catholicism, as if there could be no alignment between religious convictions and clear reasoning. Ponnuru writes, "For the record: When I was an agnostic I opposed abortion for the same reasons I give in the book."

One issue Ponnuru thinks "in retrospect" he should have addressed more fully is the matter of punishment for women who abort. There is much misunderstanding on this subject: "Many people of good will misguidedly believe that prolife premises lead logically to draconian punishments for abortionists and their clients."

There are also deliberate attempts to mislead on this subject, as Kathryn Jean Lopez, a colleague of Ponnuru's at National Review and a nationally-syndicated columnist, writes next. Newsweek's Anna Quindlen (a celebrated Catholic abortion advocate) challenged pro-lifers in a recent column to answer the question: "How much jail time?" She contended there are "only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place."

Um ... no, Ms. Quindlen-as Lopez argues, this is an example of promoting "pro-choice fright propaganda" (another sign we are gaining ground). Jail time for women has never been a focus or goal of the mainstream pro-life movement. Lopez answers Quindlen: "We're not looking to further victimize women. They are already victimized-by abortion." But she also stresses that even to spend time doing so plays "into the pro-abortion spin machine" (pay attention, pro-life presidential candidates).

There is one practical, non-debatable consequence of the abortion culture here and in many other countries: a shortage of babies. In Boomers Go Bust, senior editor William Murchison warns there is a crisis brewing for baby-boomers who may look around in their golden years and find that the "Social Security well has run dry from lack of sufficient contributions." The deeper issue is: how did childbearing lose its standing? It used to be not just another lifestyle "choice" but what people did, because birth and children are good, and also part of the essential "natural cycle of decline and replenishment." Now, children are sometimes seen as less important than material goods, travel, or privacy-and the "modern mind" is in denial about what consequences this attitude has and will have. …

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