Abortion and Evasion

     In any normal week, with no spectacular crime 
usurping the headlines, the big news would have been the 
U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that Congress has the 
constitutional power to outlaw late-term abortions, the 
grisly "procedures" that everyone knows are really 

     Shocking as the Virginia Tech story was, I could 
dimly understand it; but I still find it hard to believe 
that anyone, particularly a doctor trained in the healing 
arts, could be inhuman enough to perform these barbaric 
crimes. Yet Bill Clinton, among others, still defends 
them. Take a bow, Satan. You've done wonders with the 
American conscience.

     The Court's 5-to-4 ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart 
should have been an important political victory for 
opponents of feticide. Yet I wonder. The pro-abortion 
Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion, in which he was 
joined by the "Catholic bloc" for the first time I can 
recall, stopped far short of reversing Roe v. Wade, and 
stressed that it did not do so. In a concurrent opinion, 
Clarence Thomas, joined by Antonin Scalia, called for 
such a reversal, but the prospects are bleak.

     The Democrats, the fanatical party of abortion, 
control Congress. The next president, probably a Democrat 
or (even worse) Rudy Giuliani, will very likely be 
pro-abortion and may name as many as three new justices to 
the Court. Given these basic facts, what are the odds 
that any new justice will be not only (a) anti-Roe, but 
also (b) confirmed by the Senate?

     This is George W. Bush's legacy. He vaguely dislikes 
abortion, but it doesn't seem to horrify him, and he has 
subordinated whatever misgivings he has about it to the 
war he wanted to be -- and assuredly will be -- 
remembered for. If Roe should ever be overturned, he 
won't get much credit for it, even if he miraculously 
wins his war. How sad.

     Not that Bush is the only conservative to lose his 
head over such distractions. Rare is the man whose 
conscience has not become more or less callous about so 
many horrors in our popular and political culture: 
abortion, pornography, sodomy, nuclear weapons, war 

     Consider contraception. A friend of mine once 
startled me by telling me he considered it even worse 
than abortion; it took me awhile, and some meditation, to 
see his point.

     Within the lifetimes of many now alive, virtually 
all Christians regarded contraception as sinful. But the 
1931 Lambeth Conference of the Church of England, while 
not denying the essential evil, made a fatal exception 
for couples (married and faithful, it went without 
saying) for whom an additional child would be a severe 
hardship. Even those who practiced contraception were 
expected to do so chastely, as it were.

     But it didn't take long for what was meant to be the 
rare "exception" to become the norm. By the time the 
birth control pill came along in the 1960s, we were 
speaking with a fatal casualness, and a kind of eloquent 
confusion, of "the sexual revolution" and "the new 

     This "new" morality was supposed to be a limited 
thing, applying to sexual pleasure but not, of course, to 
burglary, say, or gluttony, or calumny, or revenge, or 
murder; that would have seemed too obviously absurd, like 
a "new" morality of picking pockets or vandalizing 
churches. But as contraception became a norm (all the 
experts assured us that we faced a "crisis of 
overpopulation" in those days), it became a duty (when my 
fourth child was born, a well-meaning nurse urged me to 
consider vasectomy, sensing nothing presumptuous in the 
suggestion; I felt like urging her to consider having her 
tongue cut out), and somehow even murder had to be 
redefined. And sure enough, it soon was.

     This, in turn, necessitated speaking of abortion in 
the hypocritical circumlocutions to which we have now 
become inured. The monkey pounding the typewriter will 
sooner or later, by blind chance, spell the word that 
will never appear in a NEW YORK TIMES editorial about 
feticide: "kill." Babies aren't killed in the womb; 
pregnancies are "terminated." (Pregnancies used to be 
terminated by birth.)

     And now, babies don't have their skulls crushed and 
their brains sucked out; the editorialists have learned 
to refer delicately to "a certain procedure" (or 
"method") which its "opponents," for some reason, 
distastefully call "partial-birth abortion."

     Can you not read the signs of the times? Barack 
Obama, the sensitive young (he's only 45) presidential 
hopeful, deploring the Virginia Tech slaughter, compares 
it to the "verbal violence" of Don Imus's jokes and to 
the outsourcing of American jobs. Can you think of 
anything else, senator? A more literal and everyday form 
of violence? Think hard! But if you want your party's 
nomination next year, watch your step.

     In the party of Hillary, Harry, and Nancy, Obama 
can't even afford to lie as brazenly as Rudy ("I hate 
abortion") Giuliani, who at least has to try to placate 
an anti-abortion faction in =his= party. He merely has to 
dodge the whole subject until it's forced on him, and 
then he can drone the "personally opposed" but 
"pro-choice" platitudes we are so familiar with.

     Making allowances for his good marital behavior, I 
am reminded by Obama of nobody so much as Slick Willie 
Clinton back in 1992, another ingratiating young man 
whose tongue could deftly slither around specifics that 
might snap the spell of his charm. Clinton too oozed a 
deceitful "moderation," to the delight of the liberal 
media that are now swooning over Obama, the very 
personification of pro-abortion "diversity."

     (As Bill used to say -- daily -- "Diversity is our 
greatest strength." Why must diversity be so monotonous?)


     Amid all this prevarication and equivocation, leave 
it to David Brooks, the neoconservative columnist of THE 
NEW YORK TIMES, to write about the real subject with an 
admirable candor unprecedented in the Paper of Record. I 
could hardly believe my eyes. Brooks demolished the 
notion that a fetus is a mere clump of cells; he 
described the development of a personality in the womb, 
reacting to light and to its mother's voice and moods, 
even beginning to control its own movements and learn 
language, as it displays definite individual traits and 
tendencies that will perdure "later in life."

     And he spoke of "revulsion" at "killing late-term 
fetuses," of doctors who "poison and dismember" the 
victim, and of "howling protests" at the Court's new 
ruling by "people who can't face the central concern."

     Bravo! What a happy shock to anyone accustomed, and 
resigned, to the moral amnesia of our liberal culture. 
And some TIMES readers reacted with "howling protests," 
all right; but none could accuse Brooks of getting his 
facts wrong.

     Even so, I've often noticed that the bitterest 
quarrels break out not when people disagree, but when 
they are forced, against their will, to agree.

                 +          +          +                  

     "When you habitually violate your principles, you 
don't just harden your conscience; you may even wind up 
forgetting what your principles used to be." REGIME 
CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME -- a new selection of my 
Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian -- will provoke 
thoughts and smiles. If you have 
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                                        --- Joseph Sobran


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