Sunday, January 26, 2003

Two articles on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Conversions to prolife

Ethics & Religion

Nothing to Celebrate on This 30th Anniversary

by Michael J. McManus

There is nothing to celebrate on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. It has transformed America for the worse.

In 1973, Larry Lader, the founder of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) predicted: "The abortion revolution should usher in an era when every child will be wanted, loved and properly cared for, when the incidence of infanticides and battered children should be sharply reduced."

Certainly, those were my sentiments at the time. It was a reasonable hypothesis. If women were not forced to bear unwanted children, a higher percentage of children born would be loved.

But what is the reality? There has been a 20-fold increase in battered children! It has soared from 2 cases per 1,000 children in 1972 to more than 40 per 1,000 children according to the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services.

And the infant death rate has doubled from 4.3 to 9.1 per 100,000 residents.

"Abortion was supposed to lead to fewer teen pregnancies. However, it only made pre- marital sex more common by making it seem safer, and changing the options when pregnancy occurred," writes Kristen Panico of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL).

"In 1962, babies born to single mothers accounted for only 5 percent of all births. That rate has risen to 33 percent of all births...By making motherhood a `choice' for women, abortion made fatherhood a
`choice' for men. Men could say, `You chose to have the child. I didn't want it. If you didn't want the responsibility, you should have had an abortion.'"

In the past, if a woman became pregnant with a man she loved, the honorable man would marry her. And the marriages were happy and lasted. Since 1970 the marriage rate has plummeted 39 percent. Even
so, the divorce rate has doubled.

The flood of 40 million abortions has made Americans more callous and more devaluing of life in other respects. Oregon has legalized assisted suicide and some frail, elderly people are being prodded by their own children and HMOs to kill themselves to "save money."

Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that even the horrific partial-birth procedure, in which fully developed babies are murdered as they are being born - is legal.

However, there is good news.

First, the number of abortions has fallen from a peak of 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.3 million in 2001. More importantly, "the abortion rate has dropped to 21.3 per 1,000 women of child- bearing age, the lowest rate
since 1974," says Wanda Franz, President of National Right to Life.

Second, public attitudes toward abortion have shifted. In 1995 Gallup reported that 56 percent of Americans identified themselves as "pro-choice" while only 33 percent were "pro-life." That 23 point margin has disappeared as 46 percent are now pro-choice and 46 percent, pro-life.

Third, this shift has registered politically. In nine closely contested Senate races in which a pro-life Republican faced a pro-choice Democrat, 41 percent said the abortion issue affected their
vote. Of those, the pro-life candidate got a 7 point margin, which gave the race narrowly to Republicans in Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri.

Although Republicans now control the Senate, it still has a 53-47 margin supporting Roe v. Wade. Even so, several bills that passed the House last year and died in the Senate, are likely to become law.
Gruesome partial birth abortions will probably become illegal. But that will save only 5,000 babies a year.

The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act should pass that protects Catholic hospitals from being forced to perform abortions.

Half of the states now require that a parent be informed that a daughter under age 18 wants an abortion. However, thousands of men who impregnated a minor in such a state as Pennsylvania, now transport them
across a state line for an abortion in New Jersey. Why? They are protecting themselves from being prosecuted for statutory rape.

Congress should pass a Child Custody Protection Act to make that illegal.

Each of these proposed bills, if passed, will do little to reduce the number of women who kill the life within them. However, they will restore a measure of increased respect for life.

Hopefully, they will accelerate a trend toward chastity, which can be seen in America's teenagers. The percentage of sexually active high-school students has fallen 10 percent in the last decade.

Can teens inspire more women in their twenties and thirties to refrain from sex outside of marriage?



Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2003 00:28:16 EST
From: David Virtue
Subject: The Lessons of Roe by Frederica Mathewes-Green

The Lessons of Roe
By Frederica Mathewes-Green

I was what the sociologists call an "early adopter" of feminism. Soon after arriving at college, in 1970, I knew that it was the religion for me. I had discarded the religion I grew up with, Christianity, as an
insultingly simpleminded thing, but feminism filled the gap. Like a religion it offered a complete philosophical worldview, one that displayed me as victim in the center, a feature with immeasurable
appeal to a female teenager. Feminism had its own gnostic analysis of reality, by which everything in existence was decoded to be about the oppression of women; it had sacred books, a secret vocabulary, and congregational gatherings for the purpose of consciousness-raising. It even had a habit and tonsure, in a sense; we didn't don wimples, but we cast off oppressive undergarments and shunned the razor.

I was the first in my dorm to become a feminist, which caused my friends some worry. I printed up posters, yelled chants at marches, and arranged to bring Ti-Grace Atkinson to campus as a speaker, one of the more interesting disasters of my life. But the real cause, of course, was abortion. Laws varied across the land; in my home state it was illegal, but friends could travel to New York or California to end a
pregnancy. Unfair! We wanted all abortion laws everywhere repealed, because otherwise women were slaves. The bumpersticker on my car read, "Don't labor under a misconception. Legalize abortion."

When the Roe v. Wade decision came down, in January 1973, I was doing an independent semester in film studies and working in Washington, DC. I volunteered at the flagship underground feminist newspaper, "off our backs," and was proud when the first issue I worked on included my
review of a French movie. That same issue carried a long editorial about Roe. Mostly, we felt it was OK. However, the Roe decision says that a woman must have a medical reason to have an abortion at the end
of pregnancy. That struck us as meddling. What do nine men in black robes know? Why can't a woman decide for herself whether to end a pregnancy, even in the ninth month?

Thirty years later, there are many things I regret about those years - don't get me started! - but chief among them is how short-sighted I was about the impact of Roe. What can I say, except that I just didn't
know. I thought that women would only have abortions in the most dire circumstances.

I thought that the numbers of abortions would be small. I thought every child would be a wanted child. I thought the unborn was nothing but a glob of tissue. I thought abortion would liberate women. I was wrong.

Roe has taught us many lessons which now govern our lives in ways we can barely perceive. Instead of being one small tool for women's advancement, abortion opened a chasm, and a lot of unexpected things
fell in. It turned out to be an irresistible force., because abortion makes things so much easier for everyone around the pregnant woman. Before Roe, unplanned pregnancy created many problems for many people-
the woman's lover, her parents, her siblings, her boss, her landlord, her dean. Abortion changes the picture instantly: just go get it taken care of, dear, and it will be as if it never happened. Women were
expected to do the sensible thing and save everyone else a lot of fuss and bother. Overnight, unplanned pregnancy became her private problem, a burden for her to bear alone. Abortion rights rhetoric compounded this effect with terms emphasizing her isolation: My body, my rights, my life, my choice. The flip side of all that first-person assertiveness is abandonment. Th! e network of support that once existed had been shattered.

To continue a pregnancy came to look like an insane choice, one which placed an unfair burden on others. Having a baby in less-than-perfect circumstances came to look like a crazy and even selfish whim. A woman in an unplanned pregnancy was not just permitted to have an abortion - she was expected to. And that has made all the difference.

There were a number of beliefs I held back then, things that I thought Roe would prove true. One by one I have seen them fall over these thirty years.

1. "Abortion liberates women." The initial argument about the time of Roe was that exercising self-determination was in itself empowering. This thesis did not stand the test of time. Before long it was obvious that women were choosing abortion in sorrow and distress rather than as daring self-expression. They usually didn't feel liberated afterwards, but a complex of numbness, sorrow, and relief.

2. "It's a woman's choice." The next argument was that, even if abortion isn't a fresh blast of emancipation, at least it's her own idea. But too often women themselves disproved this, saying, "I didn't have any choice, I had to have an abortion." Roe didn't add more options to a woman's plate; it made one option nearly inevitable, because it would be overwhelmingly attractive to those with an interest in keeping her life to be unchanged.

3. "Women have abortions only in extreme circumstances." I believed this in those pre-Roe days, even though my friends were traveling across seven states to have abortions simply because they were in
college and not married. That seemed extreme enough at the time. Pro-choice leader Kate Michelman has been credited with saying that Americans believe in abortion under only three circumstances: rape,
incest, and "my situation." Under those generous criteria, the numbers of abortions has risen to over 40 million. About 3500 each day. No one expected this.

4. "Men don't have to lose their careers when they're going to have a baby." Abortion seemed the perfect solution, allowing women to compete with men in the workplace by discarding pregnancies to keep in
fighting trim. But we had accepted a false premise. Men don't have to lose their children in order to keep their careers.

5. "Men don't have any right to a say in her decision." Of course they do; a father has as much right as a mother to care for his biological child. But the majority of unwed dads, of course, greet this proposition with relief. Another way of phrasing it is, "Men don't have any obligation to be involved in her problem."

6. "Anti-abortion activists want to turn back the clock." Not true; whatever America will be post-Roe, it will not be what it was before. Rather, it's abortion that pretends to turn back the clock, by offering a woman the illusion that she can push the rewind button on her life and go back to the time before she was pregnant. It can't be done. Once you're pregnant, a new life has begun. That may have been a topic of
debate thirty years ago, but not any more.

7. "It's just a glob of tissue." This was probably the biggest shock I sustained in my changing views of abortion. I really thought that the unborn was an unformed mass and not technically alive till some point
late in pregnancy. A physician's pamphlet showed me a being that looked remarkably like a baby at 6 weeks gestation, before most abortions are done. Even prior to that, when it looked more like a crawfish, it still was a human being. From the time the sperm dissolves in the egg it's alive and has a unique genetic code never before seen on earth, with 100% human DNA. It's a different shape, that's all. I'm a different shape now than I was at 8 or will be at 80. When did we start discriminating against people based on their shape?

8. "It's so small." When I first began to lean toward pro-life convictions, I had a hard time getting over how tiny the unborn is. How could something so little deserve human rights? I came to realize that that is an irrelevant, and even pernicious, consideration. Do children deserve less protection than adults, because they're smaller? Why would feminists advocate such a view? Most women are smaller than most men.
Should a tall guy get to vote twice?

9. "Every child should be a wanted child." Now that Roe is 30 years old, every person in America under the age of 30 could have been aborted. Every child *is* a wanted child-the unwanted ones were all
aborted, to the tune of one abortion for approximately every three live births. So how come the rate of reported child abuse is so high? In the early years after Roe there were 60,000 cases of child abuse reported annually. Today there are 3 million cases reported annually, a fifty-fold increase. The reasons for this increase are debatable, but one thing's for sure, abortion didn't prevent it. Aborting "unwanted" children hasn't helped. Instead, it's taught us that an unwanted person has no right to live. A child might be wanted very much during pregnancy, and not so wanted a few months later when she's crying in
the middle of the night. But abortion has taught us that a child deserves to live only if her parent wants her. It's a bizarre principle for feminists to endorse, who were vigorously fighting on another front against the idea, "I'm nothing unless a man wants me."

10. "My right to control my body." When a woman realizes she is pregnant and doesn't want to be, she may feel understandably panicked. It can feel like her body has been taken over against her will, and she
can block out any thought except the desire to get rid of it. As one post-abortion woman told me, "It's like looking down and seeing a tarantula on your arm; you don't stop to think that some people keep them as pets." However, it's not truly the woman's body that's at risk here. The unborn child has a right to control her body, too, and that must at a minimum mean the right to keep her arms and legs attached to
her body.

11. "Women are full-fledged adults and deserve more rights than fetuses." Yes, this is true; adults have the right to vote and drive, and I don't think anyone is proposing giving such privileges to the unborn. However it's a long way from regulating rights that come with increasing maturity to denying the right to be alive. This is an abiding fallacy in abortion discussions, and both pro-life and pro-choice advocates fell for it. We both assumed that abortion concerned a conflict between the rights of a woman and a fetus. But in no sane culture are women and their own unborn children presumed to be mortal enemies. If continuing a pregnancy has become that unbearable, the problem is not inside the woman's body, but in a culture that is placing overwhelming burdens on her. The love between mother and baby is the icon of human connectedness, and when we complacently assume that one may want to kill the other, something has gone seriously wrong.

What does the future hold? The predictions I would have made thirty years ago turned out to be so wildly inaccurate that I offer the following with fistfuls of salt. But first I'd note that legal restriction of abortion is not on the horizon. The pro-life movement has not made efforts to pass legislation that would prevent abortion since the early 90's, when the Casey decision dealt a massive and discouraging blow. Legislation proposed since then has been like planting hedges, focused on clinic regulations, parental consent, and
the like. These are not laws that protect unborn life. Pro-choicers view laws like these as dangerously "incremental," but that pays pro-lifers a compliment we don't deserve. Our powers of persuasion are not so great that we can lead a citizen who supports a parental consent law
to outlaw abortion. In fact, there's a danger that these "incremental" laws will be all we get. The average citizen may conclude that the pro-lifers got a little, the pro-cho! icers got a little, and now
everything is square. The situation may be analogous to the nation's liquor laws after the repeal of Prohibition. States passed laws regulating when and where liquor could be sold, but any adult who can
read the store's sign can still buy as much booze as he wants.

Let's stay with that analogy for a moment. After Prohibition was repealed there was a vigorous backlash in which drinking was celebrated as fun and sophisticated. If you look at movies from the ’30s and ’40s
you'll see a lot of stylish drunkenness, with the leading man stumbling and mumbling, and the leading lady clapping an icebag to her hangover. It took several decades before people were able to admit that excess drinking causes a lot of pain. By the ’80s it had become acceptable to decline a drink at a party; by the ’90s cocktail parties had gone out of style. In 1981 the comedy "Arthur" was criticized for treating
alcoholism as fodder for jokes - a complaint that didn't occur to audiences in 1950, as they laughed at drunken Jimmy Stewart and his invisible 6-foot rabbit in "Harvey."

The cultural rethinking on drunkenness didn't come about because the Women's Christian Temperance Union had finally devised the right slogan to "win hearts and minds" to their cause. It came about because
drunkenness hurts, and eventually that truth couldn't be ignored.

Abortion hurts, too. It is a classic example of acting in haste and repenting at leisure; before the fact it looks like abortion is the only choice ("I had to have an abortion") and the woman may want to get
it over with as fast as possible, like slapping off that tarantula. There are a lot of long nights afterwards, though, when she goes through the day the baby would have been born, the anniversary of the
abortion, the first "wanted" pregnancy when she feels her baby move, and all the years to ahead.

But how can she speak of this grief? It's supposed to be "private" and "personal." She expects people would say, "Look, it was your decision, stop whining about it." She may fear that voicing regrets will give
fodder to the pro-life movement, whom she has been told is an enemy trying to oppress her. All the insistent language of privacy makes her feel that her grief has no place; it should not intrude on others and
disturb them, it should be kept inside. Everyone else has forgotten that she was ever pregnant. It's time to get over it. So why does she still feel so sad?

My hunch is that as the abortion debate cools off, as the status quo settles further into place, the instant association of "abortion" with "hot, ugly argument" will ease. This will make it easier for people to
think about without being thrown immediately into taking sides (presented usually as the cool, thoughtful people against the stupid, screaming people.) And that will be a good thing, conducive to honest
reflection. When women are no longer afraid of being stigmatized for voicing their grief, the grief can begin to come forth. We will find that there is a great deal there-not just among aborted women, but
among the fathers and grandparents of these lost children. Over 40 million abortions means a lot of grief. It may be something just barely held back, like a tidal wave. I don't know what will result when that
grief begins to be expressed, and we admit that abortion hasn't done all the wonderful things we thought it would, thirty years ago. But, speaking as a pro-lifer! , I believe there is reason for hope.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

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