by Roger Resler
In sincere compassion, pro-choice proponents declare that the decision to “terminate a pregnancy” is an intensely personal one that should be made by the pregnant woman in consultation with her medical professional. Like all pro-choice logic, it sounds reasonable – so long as one doesn’t make the mistake of thinking too much.
In his book Surprised By Joy, C.S. Lewis writes: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” The same principle applies to sincere pro-choice proponents who wish to remain so. They should stay engaged passively; frequently voicing the tried-and-true slogans and buzzwords championed by the movement but, at all costs, restrain from actually giving the notion of “abortion” much thought on a deeper, pragmatic level. Giving heed to the popular wisdom of Hollywood starlets is always productive for sincere pro-choice proponents; mainly because actors are adept at memorizing and passionately delivering feel-good lines. These days, however, remaining sincerely pro-choice in the face of increasingly visible and annoying biological facts is becoming pitiably difficult.
The conflict between jargon and inconvenient truth is dramatically and eloquently illustrated in Naomi Wolf’s now classic article, originally appearing in an October, 1996 edition of the New Republic Magazine entitled: “Our Bodies, Our Souls” wherein Wolf attempts to sincerely champion the cause of “the fight to defend abortion rights” yet ends up running headlong into the stark human reality her peers prefer to think of as “tissue.” To her credit, Wolf is too sincerely feminist to blindly follow useful pro-choice mantras without considering the practical implications. The result is the most morbidly candid pro-choice assessment of abortion reality I’ve ever seen in print.
“Of course it’s a baby!” Wolf admits, impatiently replying to an overly inquisitive pro-life conservative in reference to her own four-month-old fetus. Freely admitting to her readers that such blatant glasnost is well outside the typical, evasive PC response (as no doubt set forth in the standard pro-choice playbook®), Wolf consequently experiences “the great relief that is the grace of long-delayed honesty.” Expressing such honesty, however, while certainly a noble undertaking, leaves Wolf vulnerable to the paradox of how to remain loyal to the pro-choice cause in light of this new, liberating admission. Evasive answers would no longer work.
Wolf could simply have chosen not to write the article at all, however. While internal evasion was no longer possible, external evasion would have been. Pro-choice life as Wolf understood it, could have continued. Given her prolificity, Wolf could simply have chosen to write about a different facet of the abortion debate such as how bad things were before Roe v. Wade or how abortion is an intensely personal decision, etc. etc. When in doubt, stay on safe ground. Instead, Wolf chose to face the brutal truth head-on and expose the result to the world. Her candor, while attempting to remain sincerely devoted to the pro-choice cause, is therefore quite extraordinary.
The conclusion she draws is equally jaw-dropping:
War is legal: it is sometimes even necessary. Letting the dying die in peace is often legal and sometimes even necessary. Abortion should be legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die. But it is never right or necessary to minimize the value of the lives involved or the sacrifice incurred in letting them go.
Proving that brutality can be masked in eloquence, Wolf equates abortion with war and suggests that both are sometimes legal necessities. Had Wolf been referring to abortions performed to save the life of the mother, her logic would have had the force of rational but nonetheless tragic justification supporting it. As it is, she refers to abortion on demand. The resulting cognitive dissonance is difficult to reconcile with anything resembling rationality. With a few keyboard strokes, Wolf transforms the mindless mantras of pro-choice rhetoric into either full-scale schizophrenia or barely masked barbarity. The irrationality of such logic is adequately demonstrated by a postnatal application. Should mothers be endowed with state-sanctioned legal authority to determine whether their toddlers, in all their “full humanity, must die”? Even in a sincere attempt at brutal honesty, Wolf cannot help but appeal to euphemism to soften the blow. Intentional destruction of living humans – not unlike the “baby” she recognized in her own womb – is deemed: “letting them go.”
Wolf is to be commended for her unusually straightforward assessment of human life in the womb. But her very candor when relating that truth to abortion leads to a problematic end. Not surprisingly, open proclamation of unorthodox truths from a prominent, pro-choice feminist tends to earn scathing criticism from less candid pro-abortion peers. The harmonious coexistence of biological fact with “abortions rights” advocacy is not achieved when pro-choice proponents openly consider the brutal impact of the procedure they advocate on “the fetus, in its full humanity.”
If hard biological reality does not sit well with what is being advocated then perhaps its time for advocates like Wolf to switch sides. The point of her article was that continually denying the value of human lives ended by abortion would eventually rob the pro-choice movement of its very soul. Yet continuing to cling to irrational pro-choice ideology despite the resulting moral quagmire is as ignoble as intentionally evading difficult questions altogether – if not more so. Better to remain in mindless lock-step than to openly wander too close to the truth and refuse to be affected by it. As Mormon elder, Boyd Packer once infamously declared: “Some things that are true are not very useful.”
Roger Resler is an author, researcher & media producer for Truth In Depth Productions.