the prolife movement contemplates four decades of legalized abortion in the
United States and asks itself what really needs doing to halt this hideous
scandal, prolifers should consider adding a new word to their vocabulary:
to the dictionary, ambivalence is the state of having mutually conflicting
emotions or thoughts about something. And where abortion is concerned, that
obviously is how things stand with a substantial number of Americans. They
don't like abortion, but they want it to be legally available.
annual March for Life in the nation's capital will be January 25 this year
instead of January 22, the actual date of the Supreme Court's 1973 abortion
decision. Ironically, the switch was necessary to avoid conflict with President
Obama's inauguration. As usual, the marchers will be signaling their
determination to keep up the fight.
which fight is that? In fact, there are two fights that need to be fought, and
the less obvious is also the more important of the two.
is the ongoing battle in the arena of law and public policy. For the next four
years, the reelection of the most overtly pro-abortion president America has
ever had reduces the prolife agenda at the federal level to trying to prevent
bad things from happening--no easy task, given Mr. Obama's views on the issue.
Meantime, if there are to be any new initiatives restricting abortion, they
will have to come from the states.
underlying this struggle is--or anyway should be--a more deep-seated: the
battle for minds and hearts. Here, the biggest enemy is the ambivalence of a
dismaying segment of the public in regard to abortion.
the evidence of the polls. A majority of Americans describe themselves as
prolife--that is, opposed to abortion. But last November 6 the exit polls told
a different story. Fifty-nine per cent of voters said abortion should be legal
in most cases or all, against 36% who said it should be illegal.
little simple math makes it clear that a goodly number of those putatively
prolife abortion opponents also support keeping abortion legal--if not for
themselves, then for those who may want it. Ambivalent, you might say.
a way, of course, this intellectual confusion merely reflects our less than
perfect human nature. Abortion is scarcely the only issue where it's operative.
Americans routinely say, for example, that they want lower taxes, less intrusive
government, and more government-provided benefits and services. Crazy? Sure.
That's how people are.
this ambivalence about abortion extends beyond confusion to the point of
perversity. Once you say that abortion is wrong, after all, you can hardly
avoid asking why. But the answer is self-evident: abortion's wrongness resides
in its violation of a fundamental human good, the good of human life.
that case, though, it makes no sense to say, as some in effect do, that
abortion is wrong for me but right for you (or vice versa). If it's wrong for
one of us, then it's wrong for both of us, and wrong also for everybody else.
For the obligation to respect and nurture a fundamental human good like life is
a universal duty arising from our common humanity.
our present era of toxic non-judgmentalism, that message goes unheard and
unheeded by many Americans. Since the election, there's been much talk about
reassessment. Here's hoping that the good people out there marching on January
25 will give thought, among other things, to how to get the message