What if pro-choicers wrote a column filled with well-articulated pro-life arguments . . . and never mustered a substantive response? Would it suggest they have effectively conceded defeat on one of the great moral issues of the day?
That "what if" becomes reality in Abortion's battle of messages in today's LA Times. As noteworthy as the column's substance is the identity of one of the co-authors: none other than leading pro-choice light Kate Michelman, past president of NARAL [and current John Edwards advisor].
Consider these excerpts, which with minor editing could just as easily have come from a Bill Buckley column.
- Twenty years ago, being pro-life was déclassé. Now it is a respectable point of view.
- Science facilitated the swing of the pendulum. Three-dimensional ultrasound images of babies in utero began to grace the family fridge. Fetuses underwent surgery. More premature babies survived and were healthier. They commanded our attention, and the question of what we owe them, if anything, could not be dismissed.
- These trends gave antiabortionists an advantage, and they made the best of it. Now, we rarely hear them talk about murdering babies. Instead, they present a sophisticated philosophical and political challenge. Caring societies, they say, seek to expand inclusion into "the human community." Those once excluded, such as women and minorities, are now equal. Why not welcome the fetus (who, after all, is us) into our community?
- Advocates of choice have had a hard time dealing with the increased visibility of the fetus. The preferred strategy is still to ignore it and try to shift the conversation back to women. At times, this makes us appear insensitive, a bit too pragmatic in a world where the desire to live more communitarian and "life-affirming" lives is palpable. To some people, pro-choice values seem to have been unaffected by the desire to save the whales and the trees, to respect animal life and to end violence at all levels. Pope John Paul II got that, and coined the term "culture of life." President Bush adopted it, and the slogan, as much as it pains us to admit it, moved some hearts and minds. Supporting abortion is tough to fit into this package.
- In recent years, the antiabortion movement successfully put the nitty-gritty details of abortion procedures on public display, increasing the belief that abortion is serious business and that some societal involvement is appropriate. Those who are pro-choice have not convinced America that we support a public discussion of the moral dimensions of abortion.
How do the authors go about refuting the litany of weighty pro-life arguments they present? Cue the cricket chirps. Rather than presenting a single substantive argument in defense of their position, they make a hand-wringing call for process:
If pro-choice values are to regain the moral high ground, genuine discussion about these challenges needs to take place within the movement. It is inadequate to try to message our way out of this problem. Our vigorous defense of the right to choose needs to be accompanied by greater openness regarding the real conflict between life and choice, between rights and responsibility. It is time for a serious reassessment of how to think about abortion in a world that is radically changed from 1973.
Not a substantive word about how the pro-choice movement could regain that moral high ground ceded to the pro-life movement.
What's the sound of a white flag waving? Will the MSM cover what might be a tectonic shift in the moral landscape? And how about a probing question on abortion from CNN at the Dem debate on January 31st?