Feb. 22, 2011
My colleague Tom McClusky has a pointed post on his Cloakroom website how the Washington Post occasionally slips up and calls the unborn child a babyat least in its Letters to the Editor section. Over the weekend, the Post even published a column by longtime pro-abortion activist Frances Kissling. Kissling acknowledged that the the fetus is more visible than ever before, and the [pro-choice] movement needs to accept its existence and its value. Well, every inchor in this case, quarter-inch—of progress is worth noting.
Clearly, Frances Kissling is disturbed that Americansespecially the youngare able to see the unborn child on ultra-sound. When she calls upon her fellow pro-choicers to accept the existence and…value of the unborn child, she is making a concession.
I can vividly remember what I thought when I first encountered this fetus talk. I was a young, unchurched, single man. I didnt know any fetuses or unborn children. Some of my relatives had babies, but as the abortion debate gathered force, I heard more and more of this clinical talk of the fetus.
Fortunately, I had taken college biology at a secular university. My ideas about science were state-approved and decidedly non-religious. As part of Bio. 101, we had to dissect a fetal pig. For those of us who dont thrill to arcane discussions of English grammar, there was yet something elegant and true about that formulationfetal pig. Note, we were not asked to dissect a porcine fetus. Nope, the adjective clearly modified the noun, pig. Sus domestica was the Latin descriptor for our familiar barnyard porker.
College Biology and not the Holy Bible was to be my guide as I was confronted with the abortion question. Pro- and anti-abortion forces converged on my campaign headquarters in 1972, months before Roe, demanding a clear statement from the candidate for state legislatureme. I would really have preferred talking about taxes and roads, schools, and
crime. I didnt want to face the abortion question, but I had no choice.
Most of my campaign volunteersI was a Democratclearly wanted me to come down on the pro-abortion side. But the more I wrestled with my decision, the more I remembered that fetal pig.
How was it we were in no doubt whatsoever that the pig was a pig, and that a fetal pig was simply the non-controversial way of referring to an unborn pig? Why would it all suddenly change when we began considering the human species?
Realizing that the unborn child could be nothing but a human being, I recognized that all talk of potential human life was false. There is nothing that has the potential of becoming human life that is not already human life.
I would soon hear ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings describe an operation on a child in the womb. He spoke somberly of how a fetus was diagnosed with hydrocephaly, but instead of terminating the pregnancy, the parents decided on pre-natal surgery. The fetus was taken out of the mothers womb, Jennings reported, then the child had a shunt put into its skull to relieve the pressure on the childs brain. The child was then put back in the womb, where the mother then carried the fetus to term.
What? Fetus inside? Child outside? I knew I was a typically forgetful history major.
I did not have Peter Jennings amazingly flawless delivery. I could never keep those terms straight. I knew I would someday forget—and call the fetus a child.
So, what will Frances Kissling do? She will continue to call for legal abortion. She wants it subsidized by the government. She wants federally-funded counseling for women considering abortion. Such counseling must be, of course, non-directive.
Doesnt non-directive counseling assume the decision to let the unborn child live or put it to death is morally neutral? What if such counseling involved showing the young mother considering an abortion an ultra-sound of the unborn child in her womb? Figures show that some 85% of mothers thus confronted with the reality of unborn life choose life.
How does this non-directive counseling take account of the unborn childs existence and value? If it has any value at all, doesnt the decision to kill it become one of terrible weightiness?
I doubt that Frances Kissling would be satisfied with her own policy prescriptions. She seems to want a European system where early abortion is readily available and paid for.
I sense that Frances Kissling, like President Obama, will learn soon how unlike Europe we are. Here, most Americans still acknowledge the existence of God. And most Americans are pro-life, a fact she grudgingly acknowledges. And here, most Americans agree with what Lincoln said of slavery: Nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon. Frances Kisslings prescriptionsat the end of the daycannot help treading upon the unborn child who is, like the slave, stamped in the divine image.