A Brief History of Abortion Extremism

March 16, 2020 Updated: March 17, 2020


Events of late suggest that the pro-life movement is getting under progressives’ skins.

I don’t mean, merely, that the merchants of unrestricted abortion have become more than normally deracinated from reason. That’s true, of course, but they now seem genuinely spooked (rather than in the usual, performance-art sort of way).

The most recent evidence of the progressive crack-up dripped from the angry lips of Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), who, in front of an already vengeful pro-choice mob on the steps of the Supreme Court—while, inside, the justices were taking up a case about abortion—admonished menacingly:

“From Louisiana to Missouri to Texas, Republican legislatures are waging a war on women, all women, and they’re taking away fundamental rights. I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released [sic] the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Incitement to violence? A blatant attempt to intimidate a constitutionally independent judiciary? Of course not. Only the “fascist” Trump would stoop to such demagogic malice (of which Schumer—in another demonstration of the immutable psychological law of projection—has repeatedly accused him).

It’s worth recalling that less than a couple of decades ago, there were upwards of 40 pro-life Democrats sitting in Congress; today, but four survive, yet to be purged as enemies of the Revolution.

In the debates, and on the campaign trail, all of the candidates (including the soi-disant “moderates”) strove with each other for the high honor of being reputed the most fanatical cultist of unfettered abortion in the field, a distinction that’s now apparently an indispensable qualification for the Democratic leadership.

We all know that the Democrats are the party of hope and change, but the celerity of their “progress” has been breathtaking. How have they come so far, so fast?

The first harbingers of the party’s official conversion to abortion absolutism appeared in January and February 2019, when legislation was enacted by a number of Democrat-controlled state houses (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Mexico, and Virginia) making abortion permissible through the last trimester of pregnancy—indeed, right up to the moment of birth.

Such initiatives, it should be noted, anteceded by several months the measures of Republican states to impose modest restrictions on abortion, i.e., the laws passed by Democratic legislatures were entirely spontaneous, and hardly reactive, as the media has consistently portrayed them.

In any case, they were at least morally clarifying. They have belatedly exposed to scrutiny the pharisaical argument according to which it is unethical and illegal to kill a baby once it has emerged from the birth canal, but perfectly licit to do so a millisecond before.

The Fine Line Between Protoplasm and Personhood

Now, we are all tempted to seek refuge in legalisms from time to time. But the millisecond-before-birth dividing line between fetal tissue and human being, between “reproductive health” and barbarism, is too metaphysically thin to obscure the moral enormity that hides behind it, and too easily recalls those other scholastic distinctions once invoked by slave-owners and Nazis to justify their own crimes against similar “non-persons.”

One of the states that passed legislation permitting abortion up to the moment of birth was Virginia, whose Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam nonetheless got into temporary hot water for stumbling onto the wrong side of the ontological divide.

In a Jan. 31, 2019, radio interview, Northam was asked if his new bill would allow an abortion to be performed when a mother was already in mid-delivery, and what would happen if such a procedure eventuated in a live birth (as it so often has; cf. Gosnell)? The baby, he assured his interlocutor, would be “kept comfortable,” “resuscitated if that’s what the mother desired,” and “then a discussion would ensue” between the mother and her “physician” to decide what ought to be done.

In the absence of the possibility of repatriating the baby to the womb, there can be little doubt that what the mother—in consultation with her “physician”—would be deciding presses hard on the edge of infanticide.

Gov. Northam’s insouciant admission that infanticide is a remedy should a procedure conducive to a woman’s “reproductive health” (forgive the pun) miscarry, was an edifying moment in the protracted abortion debate. It put the lie to all those pro-choice prettifications according to which it is permissible to kill the baby in the womb, because therein it remains an amorphous mass of protoplasm, “part of the mother’s body” that hasn’t yet achieved “autonomy,” “viability,” or “personhood.”

Well, apparently, emerging ex utero, alive and healthy, doesn’t confer the indemnification of personhood on the infant either. And now we see that these distinctions were, all along, post-hoc excuses for getting rid of the intolerable burden of offspring, whether developing normally in the womb, kicking and gasping for breath on the abortionist’s slab, or sleeping peacefully in the cradle.

Northam’s extemporaneous musings about infanticide were briefly embarrassing to progressives, until a few days later when that story was completely supplanted—I’m tempted to say aborted—in the liberal media by the revelation that the governor had appeared in black-face in a photograph on his school yearbook page.

It’s instructive in itself that, in the progressive hierarchy of sins, infanticide ranks so far below racism (even as it is now so promiscuously defined) as to be generally uncontroversial, if it’s on the scale at all. (Since then, both affronts have been bleach-bitted from liberal memory as immaculately as Hilary’s 30,000 emails.)

But even if Northam’s out-Heroding of Herod hadn’t been so completely eclipsed by his Al Jolson impersonation, the liberal media would still have yawned.

One notes that “extreme” is a word that’s never used to describe the position that abortion should be permissible even in extremis: that is, for any conceivable reason and at any time up to and beyond the threshold of birth. That adjective is reserved exclusively for any attempt to place restrictions, however minor, upon abortion, even though such restrictions are supported by a significant majority of the population.

Conversely, no other constitutional “right”—though abortion is no such thing—is ever treated by progressives in quite this way. For them—with the sole exception of abortion—there are no unqualified rights in a constitutional democracy, and the completely untrammeled exercise of any right (e.g., the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, or religious conscience) is the very definition of “extreme.”

In the restraint of these rights, it’s only “responsible,” in the view of progressives, to impose certain reasonable limits upon them (gun control; the criminalization of “hate speech”; the “accommodation” of LGBT persons or other vulnerable minorities by Christian business owners). But the merest velleity to contemplate equivalent limits on abortion is prima facie evidence of the “extremism” of pro-lifers.

Pro-Choice ‘Moderation’

Several months after the Democratic legislation in New York and Virginia, on May 15, 2019, Alabama Republicans passed the Human Life Protection Act, recognizing the personhood of a baby in the womb.

Within the week, the pro-abortion players mobilized for a protest rally on the steps of the Supreme Court—no doubt picking up a few stragglers still camping out there from the anti-Kavanaugh melodrama.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand gravely warned that “this is the beginning of President Trump’s war on women” (cf. Schumer, above). (One is used to Democrats crediting Trump with being the inventor of every human evil, but “started a war”? I thought there had always been a Republican war on women. What with incessantly waging war on women, one wonders how Republicans have had time to prosecute all their other wars on Muslims, immigrants, blacks, the disabled, the elderly, and the poor.)

But Gillibrand was only one of a chorus of fellow Democrat senators, all of whom ritually repeated the Republican-War-on-Women battle-cry (oughtn’t it to have its own acronym by now: R-WOW?), noting that “Latinas, minorities, and women of color” were being particularly targeted, while also dilating on the threat to women’s “health” and “autonomy over their own bodies,” not to mention America’s hard-won “civil and constitutional rights,” and throwing in the GOP’s intersectional depredations against homosexuals and transgender people for good measure.

After Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) pronounced the Republican heartbeat laws “so extreme [sic]” (but not the laws passed in New York or Virginia), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) declared that “any restriction on women’s reproductive rights is too much, unconstitutional, morally repugnant, unnecessary, and immoral,” thereby demonstrating the pro-choice movement’s contrasting moderation.

Liberals have heard these vacuous nostrums so often, I suppose, that they don’t even pause to think about them. Calling restrictions on abortion “morally repugnant” suggests that abortion itself must now be counted a moral good. And “unconstitutional”? Has anyone ever challenged Blumenthal et al. to show precisely where in the U.S. Constitution abortion has been enshrined as a fundamental human right, let alone where the word is even mentioned?

Whether as 18th-century Christians, Deists, or secular adherents of natural law, it’s unimaginable that any of the Framers could have regarded abortion as anything other than a moral evil, and restrictions on it as anything other than merely civilized. And even if the U.S. Constitution were a “living document,” it ought to strike one as odd that it should always and immutably choose to pursue the alternative lifestyles championed by 21st century progressive Democrats. (Shouldn’t a living document just occasionally, once in a while, speak in the voice of a traditional Christian or Alabama Republican?)

For the advocates of abortion, in any case, this “living document” is apparently credited with rather more volitional freedom and personal autonomy than a baby in the womb.

Abortion Pride

Seizing the bull-horn, Hawaii’s Sen. Mazie Hirono then bragged about indoctrinating middle school children:

“I just left 60 eighth-graders from a public school in Hawaii, and I told them, I was coming to a rally in front of the Supreme Court, and they said, ‘Why?’ And I said it is because we have to fight for abortion rights, and they knew all about it. And I asked the girls of that group of eighth graders, ‘How many of you girls think that government should be telling us, women, when and if we want to have babies?’ Not a single one of them raised their hands. And then the boys who were there among the 60, I said, ‘You know, it’s kind of hard for a woman to get pregnant without you guys.’ They got it. ‘How many of you boys think that government should be telling girls and women when and if we’re going to have babies?’ And not a single one of them raised their hand.”

Not a single eighth-grader disagreed with her! Stand back and wonder at the Ciceronian powers of persuasion this must have required.

How would Hirono have reacted had an evangelical minister or Catholic priest addressed the same class of eighth-graders on the evils of abortion? (I know that these days no pro-life advocate would ever be allowed within a mile of a public school, but let’s continue with the thought experiment.) Any doubt that she would have decried it as “brainwashing,” “exploiting intellectually defenseless children for political purposes”?

But such contemptible means are always justified by the noble end of evangelizing abortion—even if Hirono’s visit must have taken valuable time away from the eighth-graders’ cross-dressing and gender-questioning tuition. (Come to think of it, in addressing her queries separately to the “boys” and “girls” in the classroom, wasn’t Hirono making certain dubious assumptions about gender on the accidental grounds of anatomy?)

Notably, a number of speakers at both this and the most recent Supreme Court rally announced proudly that they had personally had at least one abortion, to the boisterous cheers of the crowd. Not that long ago, even pro-choice activists described abortion as an unfortunate and emotionally painful decision compelled by “desperate circumstances.”

One of their favorite analogies over the years, as I recall, was to a shipwrecked sailor set adrift in a life-raft at sea, and compelled to eat the flesh of a dead mate to stay alive. Leave the hyperbole of the comparison aside for the moment. Even if true, no such survivor would later boast about his act of cannibalism and expect to be lauded for it.

Evidently for progressives, having an abortion has now been exalted from a cruel necessity to a positive achievement, worthy of public celebration. Has any civilization ever set the bar of glory so abysmally low?

Harley Price has taught courses in religion, philosophy, literature, and history at the University of Toronto, U of T’s School of Continuing Studies, and Tyndale University College. He blogs at Priceton.org.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.