Because, folks, it’s all about the mother. Everything. Always. Oh, and one’s feelings. So insists Mary Elizabeth Williams:
Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.
When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born.
When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?
We’re so intimidated by the wingnuts, we get spooked out of having these conversations. We let the archconservatives browbeat us with the concept of “life,” using their scare tactics on women and pushing for indefensible violations like forced ultrasounds.
She later writes:
My belief that life begins at conception is mine to cling to. And if you believe that it begins at birth, or somewhere around the second trimester, or when the kid finally goes to college, that’s a conversation we can have, one that I hope would be respectful and empathetic and fearless.
But, hey, pro-lifers are the “wingnuts” and irrational zealots! Good grief. Rod Dreher writes, on the American Conservative site:
By conceding that the unborn child is a human life, it seems to me that Mary Elizabeth Williams endorses infanticide. At least she’s not hypocritical about it. But it sure is ghoulish. If the fetus is fully human, why does the mother have the right to end the life of a human being, for any reason at all (which is Williams’s position). If the law recognized Williams’s view that the fetus is fully human, then it would call abortion a form of murder, almost by definition.
Can you think of another situation in which fully human beings lived under conditions in which their master had the right to kill them with impunity, because there were nothing more than property? Of course you can. Nice historical company Mary Elizabeth Williams keeps.
Sure, Rod, resort to logic and historical precedent. Don’t you know these sort of complicated questions should be settled with angry rhetoric and infantile namecalling? [Sarcasm, stop.] The positive here, of course, is that the complete absurdity of Williams’ stance should be obvious to anyone with half a brain and a quarter of a soul. But perhaps I’m naive on that point…
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!