Novelist John Irving (The Cider House Rules and others) heaved up “The Anti-Abortion Crusade’s Cruel History” onto the op-ed page of Monday’s New York Times. The text box provided this melodramatic slander: “Abortion opponents don’t care about an unwanted child or the mother.” That smear is repeated in Irving’s text.
Besides being beneath the author, that tired bit of abuse skips a rather obvious point: That keeping the child from being killed is certainly an excellent start toward “caring” for it, as opposed to aborting it. As for "caring" for families, while it’s not a perfect corollary between pro-life and pro-choice, studies indicate that “red state” residents are more generous givers than those of “blue states.”
Irving began: “Amid the anti-abortion measures being pushed through state legislatures, consider the mazy history of abortion in the United States. Women, capable of determining and managing their reproductive rights, have been undermined by men in power before.”
The novelist’s cockeyed take on history blamed doctors for keeping women from abortions:
In the 1830s, women having babies at lying-in hospitals ran a far greater risk of dying from puerperal sepsis than women having babies at home. With the help of midwives, women had been having babies and abortions at home -- since colonial times. Had midwives been as busy performing abortions as delivering babies? Beginning in the 1840s, doctors sought to gain control of the reproduction business. Doctors were establishing their new profession; midwives and homeopaths were their competition. But why did doctors lobby for abortion to be illegal? What was their logic? Did doctors underestimate how great the need for abortion was? We know what the doctors wanted, and they achieved it; they became the arbiters of women’s reproductive health care. We don’t know the doctors’ reasons for making abortion illegal....
Irving had an interesting discussion of the hoops he put his abortionist main character through in his 1985 pro-abortion novel The Cider House Rules. Unfortunately, it culminated with this nauseating brag (emphasis theirs):
It took 14 years to make the film of The Cider House Rules. I won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Over time, it’s more meaningful to me that the movie also won a Maggie Award -- named after Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, in recognition of “exceptional achievement in support of reproductive rights.”
I respect your personal reasons not to have an abortion -- no one is forcing you to have one. I respect your choice. I’m pro-choice -- often called pro-abortion by the anti-abortion crusaders, although no one is pro-abortion.
The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue pointed out: “He needs to read today’s New York Times. It has a story titled, ‘Mentally Disabled Woman Must Have an Abortion, a British Court Rules.’”
Donohue also advised Irving on his confident claim that “no one is pro-abortion”: "He needs to read the book Abortion Is A Blessing by atheist Anne Nicol Gaylor (it was endorsed by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem). In 2009, an Episcopalian priest, Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, also proclaimed that 'abortion is a blessing.' In 2018, Michelle Wolf dressed up in red, white, and blue and marched across a stage in honor of her 'Salute to Abortion!'"
Irving tried to shield his extreme position from criticism by pompously cloaking himself in the Constitution.
....I must remind the Roman Catholic Church of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, we are free to practice the religion of our choice, and we are protected from having someone else’s religion practiced on us. Freedom of religion in the United States also means freedom from religion.
The First Amendment also protects freedom of speech, including the Catholic Church and other religious denominations that speak out against abortion:
....Men and women have to keep making the case for women’s reproductive rights; women have been making the case for years, but more men need to speak up.
That’s yet another factual failure by the fiction writer. Depending on the poll, more women are pro-life than men. Early feminists like Susan B. Anthony were also opposed to abortion.
The last paragraph provided the offensive text box:
Of an unmarried woman or girl who got pregnant, people of my grandparents’ generation used to say: “She is paying the piper.” Meaning, she deserves what she gets -- namely, to give birth to a child. That cruelty is the abiding impetus behind the dishonestly named right-to-life movement. Pro-life always was (and remains) a marketing term. Whatever the anti-abortion crusaders call themselves, they don’t care what happens to an unwanted child -- not after the child is born -- and they’ve never cared about the mother.