No "national dialogue" on abortion

Both William Clinton and Barack Obama have called for a national dialogue on race. Because this issue divided the country before and after independence, entailing slavery and then segregation; and because it continues to divide the country with the current reverse discrimination, the call struck few people as unreasonable. Unfortunately, those making the call are less interested in dialogue than they are in stigmatizing anyone who disagrees with them as bigots and racists. President Obama has acknowledged that the issue of abortion also divides the country and has made similar dialogue gestures. But, given his thoroughly pro-abortion position, it is unlikely that any national dialogue that he supported on that issue would be any more productive than one on race.

My own experience confirms this. Abortion generates more outrage whenever I write a column about it than any other except homosexuality/gay marriage. Last week’s column drew five responses off site (three opposed, two supporting). In spite of my pessimism about a national dialogue led by a Democratic administration, I favor a dialogue on abortion.

Surely no such dialogue would serve any purpose if it were merely an academic exercise. No political debate occurs in a vacuum: while people are talking, babies are being killed. Pro-lifers favor a debate because they want abortion on demand to end. Pro-aborts oppose it because it they want no restrictions on abortion. It’s that simple.

I am grateful to those who commented on last week’s column, even if they find my arguments wanting. A person who emailed me from Kansas, the state in which the recently murdered George Tillman performed late-term abortions, said that I "glorified" women who refused to abort their babies, even in the face of dangers to themselves or their babies. This error is explained by the fact that I hold abortion to be "wrong period."

Regular readers here know that I do not oppose abortion "period" but give principled reasons based on the political philosophy of the Declaration of Independence. Few critics of abortion are blind to the fact that there are hard cases, such as rape and incest (which make up a tiny percentage of them). But as Oliver Wendell Homes famously said, "Hard cases make bad law." In order to accommodate those rare cases, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the exception to swallow the rule. Abortion on demand is the law.

More to the point, children being diagnosed in their mother’s wombs as defective are not being given the benefit of any doubt. Whereas the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath enjoins doctors to err on the side of life, the abortion "ethic" mandates just the opposite. Is this not appalling?

One opposing reader makes the point that abortions are very hard for women and that none would consent to a late-term abortion unless the need was compelling. But that is hard to square with the massive number of abortions performed since 1973 (45 million and counting), not to mention the attraction of Dr. Tillman for those "rare" cases.

Most doctors want nothing to do with abortion, and most abortionists don’t perform them late term. Is this reluctance explained by some mild anxiety, or is it genuine moral revulsion at crossing what used to be regarded as a very bright line, whether early or late in pregnancy?

Another critic reminds me abortion has been the law for 36 years and urges me to "get over" my opposition to it. Thirty six years is a long time from one point of view, but for those who waited 100 years for racial segregation to end it is not so long, and for those who waited much longer for slavery to end, it is a trifle. Prolifers have patience.

The bedrock pro-abortion position is that every woman has a right to control her own body. Yet the baby growing inside her is not her body but someone else’s. Slave holders argued over a century ago that every black they held by force was their "property," and demanded protection for it. Is there any difference in principle between these positions? I await a response.

And the similarities do not end there. Slave masters denounced opponents of slavery as insurrectionists, just as proaborts routinely call their critics "terrorists." Both became "tired" of criticism and favored ending it. Nothing would satisfy slaveholders then, or proaborts today, until everyone calls them right.

Let the dialogue continue.