After 44 years of abortion on demand since Roe v. Wade, and tens of millions of human lives never lived and children never known or given a chance to be held, known or loved by their parents or at least one of them, or any family member, or couples eager to adopt, the cost of this violence and the cumulative ravages and drastic loss it left has been realized and mourned.
Of all the articles, columns, commentaries, posts and testimonies that have given voice to the plaintive cry of this awareness, this one sums up as well as any the story of how the ‘pro-choice’ movement came about and grew, and how it started falling apart as revelations came to light of what abortion really is and does. What it takes, and what it leaves behind.
It’s a grim experience, going through an abortion, and we assumed a woman would choose one only as a last resort. We were fighting for that “last resort.” We had no idea how common the procedure would become; today, one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion. Nor could we have imagined how high abortion numbers would climb. In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade, there have been 59 million abortions. It’s hard even to grasp a number that big…
We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced…
Abortion can’t really turn back the clock. It can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so that she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself may struggle. When she first sees the positive pregnancy test she may feel, in a panicky way, that she has to get rid of it as fast as possible. But life stretches on after abortion, for months and years — for many long nights — and all her life long she may ponder the irreversible choice she made.
Frederica Matthewes-Green captures the gamut of abortion emotions, lies and truths, activism and realism in a keenly exquisite expression of the impact of abortion.
This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child…
Read the article. She asks the intellectually honest question of how we would react to seeing this sort of behavior in nature, in animals, with a mother turning on her own babies.
You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.”
So how did this early pro-choice feminist come to this?
I changed my opinion on abortion after I read an article in Esquire magazine, way back in 1976. I was home from grad school, flipping through my dad’s copy, and came across an article titled “What I Saw at the Abortion.” The author, Richard Selzer, was a surgeon, and he was in favor of abortion, but he’d never seen one. So he asked a colleague whether, next time, he could go along.
Selzer described seeing the patient, 19 weeks pregnant, lying on her back on the table. (That is unusually late; most abortions are done by the tenth or twelfth week.) The doctor performing the procedure inserted a syringe into the woman’s abdomen and injected her womb with a prostaglandin solution, which would bring on contractions and cause a miscarriage. (This method isn’t used anymore, because too often the baby survived the procedure — chemically burned and disfigured, but clinging to life. Newer methods, including those called “partial birth abortion” and “dismemberment abortion,” more reliably ensure death.)
After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright on her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, “I see something other than what I expected here. . . . It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.” He realized he was seeing the fetus’s desperate fight for life. And as he watched, he saw the movement of the syringe slow down and then stop. The child was dead. Whatever else an unborn child does not have, he has one thing: a will to live. He will fight to defend his life.
The last words in Selzer’s essay are, “Whatever else is said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense [i.e., of the child defending its life] will not vanish from my eyes. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?”
The truth of what he saw disturbed me deeply. There I was, anti-war, anti–capital punishment, even vegetarian, and a firm believer that social justice cannot be won at the cost of violence. Well, this sure looked like violence. How had I agreed to make this hideous act the centerpiece of my feminism? How could I think it was wrong to execute homicidal criminals, wrong to shoot enemies in wartime, but all right to kill our own sons and daughters?
After so much more deeply probing, painful, confessional thought, she concludes…
In time, it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era. Future generations can accurately say, “It’s not like they didn’t know.” They can say, “After all, they had sonograms.” They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters. One day, the tide is going to turn. With that Supreme Court decision 43 years ago, one of the sides in the abortion debate won the day. But sooner or later, that day will end.
It’s happening now, and this 44th annual March for Life last weekend adds another element of closure on the lies of more than four decades of abortion activism. These students at the University of Notre Dame expressed in a brief letter to the editor of a student newspaper the core reasons for their pro-life activism, in a message that is whole-life as much as anything.
We march because we believe that abortion is the deliberate and systematic dehumanization of an entire class of people based on their age, wantedness and state of dependency.
We march because we stand against the elimination of human life based on sex, race or disability.
We march because the world that we want for those who are refugees, immigrants, poor, elderly, homeless, disabled, sick or lonely is impossible if we allow the dehumanization of any group of persons, especially vulnerable or defenseless persons.
We march against any human person being considered disposable for the “greater good,” against any deliberate death being justified as a “necessary evil,” against any human life being classified as “negligible.”
We march because we believe what we’ve said before: Dependency is not a measure of worth. No poverty, no vulnerability, no age, no disability, no sickness and no condition has the capability of demeaning the worth of any human person.
We march for a world in which all life is defended and valued, in which all life is considered with the dignity it deserves.
The president of the Notre Dame Right to Life organization and one of the letter writers was on my radio program talking about the more than 710 Notre Dame members attending the DC March for Life as one of many activities the group carries out throughout the year to advocate for the dignity and defense of vulnerable human life.
One new plan they have is to hold roundtables or panel discussions on campus between people who hold pro-life beliefs, and those who believe abortion should remain legal and provided as an option for women in an unwanted pregnancy. The ground rules would be that each would listen to the other, engage with civility, and agree to work together for the common good.
This needs to happen. The Women’s March on Washington a week before the March for Life in DC couldn’t have been more opposite in goals and demonstration of mission. There has got to be some ground on which human rights activists can walk together.