In 1921 G.K. Chesterton wrote of "the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal." When I first read these words, I was deeply impressed by their aptness. What a perfect definition of what we now call liberalism!
It used to be said that hard cases make bad law. Nowadays it seems that all laws are based on hard cases — and our legislators look for hard cases they can base new laws on. Our pity is constantly solicited for unusual, or even freakish, cases of what Kenneth Minogue has called "suffering situations," with new categories of officially designated victims allegedly meriting our sympathy and therefore the backing of all the coercive apparatus of the modern state.
Thus a prime candidate for victim status is the unwillingly pregnant woman especially if she is poor, unmarried, and a member of a "minority" (that is, nonwhite) group, and if her pregnancy is the result of a rape by her own father. This may be an unusual constellation of misfortunes, but it suffices for the victim hunters who stand ever-eager to sacrifice the normal to the abnormal, the rule to the exception, the central to the eccentric; for such people, the harder the case is, the more imperative the law.
Today abortion stands on its own as a pseudo-constitutional right which it is no longer necessary to defend by argument. Not that the arguments for legitimizing it were ever very plausible. Nor were they made in good faith: The advocates of legal abortion studiously avoid the simple verb "kill" to describe what it does. The victims, to the liberal mind, are not those who are aborted, but those who are denied abortions. (Did I say "who"? A human "fetus" is not a who, but an it.)
Why is it taboo in the "mainstream" media to discuss what this "procedure" actually is? A human child, conceived, living, growing, developing, even learning, is killed. Very simple. All the evasions, circumlocutions, and euphemisms amount to lies (of which the most egregious is choice). And this is hardly ever remarked on!
It's as if there were a war and nobody dared to speak of blood. Aren't we supposed to be living in an age of explicitness without precedent?
The strain of dodging the obvious shows. Few topics can match abortion in producing utterances marked by incoherence and sheer nonsense. ("Keep government out of the bedroom!") Since when must we eschew such simple and apt terms as baby-killing and murder?
Note the strange progress of the advocates of abortion. A generation ago, just before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that virtually all legal restrictions on abortion violated the U.S. Constitution, these people agreed that killing the unborn was evil; but they held that its evil might be minimized by legalizing and regulating it.
Then they shifted to what might be called an agnostic position: that nobody could say whether abortion is right or wrong — the question was always vague: "individual," or "religious," or something. Finally they arrived at a third position, flatly contradicting the first two: that abortion is a positively good thing, or as some put it, "a fundamental human and constitutional right." Fundamental!
The more abortions, it follows, the better. At each step of the political battle, the reason is different, but the practical conclusion is the same. This is how the controversy has gone for a full generation now. At the same time, the anti-abortion side has never budged an inch. It is still exactly where it stood on Jan. 22, 1973. Neither its premise nor its conclusion has varied.
I remain amazed that abortion could even become a political issue in a country with pretensions to being civilized. It is as if we were to debate the merits of legalizing cannibalism, with the liberal side chanting the slogan "Keep government out of the kitchen!"
There is no danger that the other side will ever be persuaded that it is wrong; there is, however, the very real danger that we will become discouraged, worn down, and inured to an evil that should always horrify and sicken us. The erosion of our consciences is surely part of the destructiveness of this abominable "procedure."
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Joe Sobran is an author and a syndicated columnist. He is the author of "Alias Shakespeare" (the Free Press 1997), "Hustler: The Clinton Legacy" (Griffin Communications, 2000), and "Single Issues: Essays on the Crucial Social Questions" (The Human Life Press, 1983). Visit http://www.sobran.com.
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