Tuesday, November 19, 2002

The Weak in (National) Review - Speaking of National Review (see my previous Lagniappe post), I'd like to comment briefly on the creeping hopes of the pro-life movement as expressed in Georgia lawyer Adam G. Mersereau's Guest Comment for the online version of the magazine. The point of his whole article is typical of conservative misreading of the abortion issue in American society. He thinks that the real issue dogging the hopes of conservative pro-lifers, even in the current favorable political environment, is this silly notion that people will be skittish about outlawing abortion because doing so would go against the core conservative advocacy of less government regulation of an individual's private life. Let me set Mersereau straight. The skittishness that he detects among the general American public regarding outlawing abortion is not the issue of government intrustion into private life. Rather, it is the issue of criminalizing something that many people, even pro-lifers, have a hard time criminalizing. This fact is oh-so-clear if one just pays quiet attention to this aspect of the debate. For example, in Louisiana's current Senate runoff race, Suzie Terrell is painting herself as a strong anti-abortion candidate, in part to counter the fact that her name appeared on a Planned Parenthood Conference program as one of its leaders/organizers/sponsors. But, in spite of Terrell's wish to pass herself off as a strong anti-abortion candidate in a relatively conservative state - even advocating a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion - she refused to follow through logically on her position when asked how women who might have "illegal" abortions in violation of the constitution should be treated/punished. Why? Here's why ... Note: I'm the father of two lovely little girls, ages 4 and 2 months. I cannot even fathom terminating a pregnancy knowing the joy that my children bring me. That's me. But sometimes I look in the mirror and ask myself this very simple question: "If either of my daughters were ever to come to me, with tears flowing and seemingly inconsolable, and tell me that she had an abortion, would I look at her as a murderer and a criminal? Would I look at her as if what she had done were no different than if she had walked up to an unsuspecting child on the playground and slit his throat? Would I feel the legal obligation to turn her in to the law for prosecution on a murder charge?" My answer: "Absolutely not!!!" And I think that my reaction is probably typical even for most pro-lifers. So, what does this honest reflection tell me? Well, for one, it tells me that I don't equate abortion with murder. Two, it tells me that no matter what my moral position is on the issue, I cannot accept criminalizing it. Three, it tells me that I can be anti-abortion morally, but pro-choice legally - and that there is no inconsistency with this position. This is the rub for conservatives on the issue. This is why there is general skittishness in the American public about outlawing abortion. It's not because of some silly "government-off-my-back" attitude. It's not even, to demythologize the more radical pro-choice stance on abortion, really about protecting a woman's right to control her own body to the exclusion of consideration of the fetus/unborn child. Nor is it about the moral question of whether abortion is right or wrong. It's just simply about not making the woman who has an abortion a criminal under the law. Simple as that. Any pro-lifer who says his/her own daughter should be held as a criminal (much less a murderer) for having had an abortion will at least be consistent in his/her position, though (in my opinion) one terrible, horrible, insensitive heel of a parent, unworthy of even being called a loving parent.

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