I understand the rage that some people feel about the abolition of the federal abortion right. It must be a lot like the rage that many of those in the South felt about the abolition of slavery. Both events spelled the end of a way of life. In the one case, it was a life of aristocratic leisure; in the other, a life of sex without consequences.
To describe the latter life in this way is no slander, for the other side makes the same point. As the plurality wrote in a 1992 case which upheld the federal abortion right, people have “organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”
In both ways of life, some paid for the decisions of others. The idleness of the aristocrats depended on the toil of those born in bondage. The irresponsibility of the libertines depended, and still depends, on the death of those never to be born. In one case the price was blood and sweat. In the other, blood and more blood.
Curiously, the arguments for the slavery right and the abortion right are similar. Then, many in the pro-slavery party said that they were not for slavery per se, but only for a state’s democratic choice to put some people in chains. Even today, many in the pro-abortion party say that they are not for abortion per se, but only for a woman’s autonomous choice to have her baby murdered.
Then, grief and rage over the lost way of life spawned terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camelia. Now, it has spawned terrorists like Ruth Sent Us and Jane’s Revenge. To revenge the protection of infant blood, they propose the taking of grown-up blood.
In both cases, one suspects that a large part of the rage results from the terrifying implication of abolition – whether of the federal abortion right or the right to own slaves – that those one has treated as inhuman just may be human after all. For when one has done dreadful wrong, there are only two apparent ways out: One can listen to conscience, or suppress it; one can repent of one’s evil, or deny it. The most convenient way to deny the guilt of doing wrong is to project it onto others.
We aren’t the oppressors – abolitionists are. We aren’t the cruel ones – pro-lifers are. They deserve whatever we can do to them. Burn down their churches. Firebomb their crisis pregnancy centers. It’s their fault. They have been warned!
There is another parallel. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t end slavery everywhere in the country. That didn’t happen until the Thirteenth Amendment. Similarly, Dobbs v. Jackson hasn’t ended abortion. Dobbs has only returned the issue to the states – which is where slavery was before the Civil War. In some states abortion will be allowed. In those that prohibit it, many who want to kill their children will use pills or travel to other states to do so.
And there is yet another. The end of slavery didn’t instantly produce racial harmony. The end of abortion – even when it comes — won’t instantly generate protectiveness toward tiny innocents, much less reverence for chastity.
So this is not yet the end of a way of life, but we may hope that it is the first twinkling of the beginning of the end. The end, of course, will require further changes in the law. Even more, it will require repentance, conversion, renewal of minds, and a great deal of mercy.
This article is republished with permission from The Underground Thomist