The campaign of entrepreneur and entertainer Donald Trump for the American presidency has had a most salubrious effect on public discourse in that topics which the liberal left has long attempted to exclude from the discussion, at least as far as opinions dissenting from the progressive consensus are concerned, have been placed back on the table. Similarly, we are now seeing attention being given to some interesting but seldom discussed facets of ongoing debates.
The abortion issue is a debate which the left considers to be closed and the right considers to be ongoing. Easy, affordable, safe and legal access to abortion had been one of the demands of the feminist movement when it was revived by Betty Friedan and others of her ilk in the 1960s, and activist judges on the Supreme Courts of the United States and Canada accommodated these demands by striking down all the laws against abortion in their respective countries in 1973 and 1988. The liberal left believes that this has settled the issue, that abortion is legal and should remain legal, and that discussion of the topic should be considered closed. The right believes, or at least professes to believe, to varying degrees, that the present status quo is unacceptable and that anti-abortion legislation ought to be reintroduced. Some seek criminalization only for late term, partial-birth, and/or sex selective abortions. Others, of whom this writer is one, would like to see a total ban on abortion reintroduced. Since abortion involves the deliberate termination of human lives, in circumstances and for reasons which do not meet the traditional criteria whereby the taking of human life can be justified or at least excused, it is by definition murder. In this, as in so many other ways, King Solomon’s words “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand: but a fool’s heart at his left” (1) prove true albeit in a different sense from that which their author intended.
Donald Trump, at one time a liberal on this issue, has declared himself to be on the pro-life side, and when asked by CNN’s Chris Matthews, last month, what exactly this entailed, he, said at first that if abortion were made to be illegal again, a woman who had an abortion would have to be punished. He later retracted this remark and said that it was the abortionists, the doctors who perform the procedure, who would have to be punished.
Trump’s initial declaration resembled that of the boy in the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale about the “Emperor’s New Clothes” in that it was a blunt statement of something which was obvious but which the more politically savvy carefully avoided saying. Many spokesmen for the pro-life position were quick to denounce his remarks, to say that he had put little to no thought into the matter, and to declare that women were the victims of abortion too. With regards to Trump’s having put little to no thought into the abortion issue, that may very well be the case, but the implications of this are not necessarily those his detractors have in mind. They meant, of course, that because he had put little thought into the issue he therefore had little understanding of it. Another way of looking at it would be that because he had not thought the matter through, he lacked the blinders that inhibit most pro-lifers from seeing or asserting the plain and clear implication of the fact that abortion is murder, namely, that a woman who seeks an abortion is as much a murderess as the doctor who supplies the abortion is a murderer.
That a woman who seeks an abortion is a murderess is the real issue here beneath the surface question, interesting enough in itself, of whether she ought to be punished for it under law. Many, if not most, pro-lifers shy away from acknowledging this implication of their position. Perhaps they consider it to be unchivalrous, although I know of no part of the code of chivalry that forbids us from pointing out the murders committed by Queen Jezebel, Lucrezia Borgia, and Lizzie Borden and requires us to treat Medea as if she were the Virgin Mary. More likely it is due to the fact that they have been using the language of liberalism – universal human dignity and rights, etc. – to frame their arguments for so long, that they have lost the ability to think outside of the liberal paradigm of which feminism, in which women are the universal victims and men the universal oppressors, is an integral element. While they might argue that framing their arguments this way is a practical necessity in a political environment that is heavily steeped in liberalism this might very well prove to be fatal to the pro-life movement for it places them in the difficult position of having to try to argue that the ideals of liberalism support their side rather than that of their opponents.
Attempting to prove the pro-life position to be truer to liberalism than the pro-choice position is hard enough, but judging from some of the responses to Mr. Trump’s gaffe some are trying to go further and argue that the pro-life position is truer to feminism than the pro-choice position. If, however, the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy that she does not want flows naturally from the starting point of liberalism, the sovereignty of self over self, it is absolutely required by feminism which starts from the premise that women ought to have the same degree of sovereignty over self as men but that this has historically been denied them because society has been arranged to the benefit of men at the expense of women. It is true enough, as quasi-feminist pro-lifers argue, that women are not always the instigators of abortion but are often pressured into it by their boyfriends and family. The pressure to legalize abortion, however, came from basically two sources, the sexual liberation movement that sought to free sexual intercourse from both societal restriction and regulations on the one hand and personal consequences on the other and the feminist movement. Of these two, legal and accessible abortion was always more important to the latter than the former, because cheap and effective contraception and treatments for many STDs were already available when the sexual revolution began and indeed helped bring about the revolution by allowing liberals to argue that the practical reasons for the old rules were no longer valid. The true nature of abortion-on-demand has always been that of a weapon – a gun, held to the head of the next generation by a movement purporting to speak on behalf of one of the sexes, and holding that generation ransom to obtain its demands as it unilaterally renegotiates what Edmund Burke called “the great primaeval contract of eternal society.”
While it would be a gross mistake to blame women as an entire sex for the actions of feminism, neither is it reasonable to excuse our modern day Medeas (2) and to make them out to be as much victims as the children they have had killed. (3) Until the majority of women have repudiated feminism and the power of this movement has been broken forever, it is foolish in the extreme to do so.
(1) Ecclesiastes 10:2. The quotation is from the Authorized Bible. The English Standard Version renders the verse this way: “A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left”
(2) Ironically, the original Medea of myth actually was a victim of cruel treatment by her husband Jason.
(3) I subjected this claim to the ridicule it so richly deserves in my story “Justice for Minnie?”: http://www.thronealtarliberty.blogspot.com/2016/04/justice-for-minnie.html
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