Hipocrisy on abortion

NEW JERSEY - Abortion has now explicitly been positioned at the center of the American presidential contest. A firestorm erupted after Todd Akin, a Republican congressman from Missouri who is running for the Senate there, responded to a question about whether abortion should be legal for women who have been impregnated during a rape by saying that ""if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." In other words, Congressman Akin, along with some other members of the Republican establishment, believes that a woman's body will, like certain cars that automatically turn off their power in a collision, not allow itself to be impregnated by a rapist.


26 de agosto de 2012 | 01h00

Liberals went nuts, of course, painting Akin as a deranged lunatic. And some of the most prominent Republican politicians - including Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan - immediately denounced Akin themselves.

Both sides were being disingenuous. There was nothing deranged about Akin's medically unfounded yet rather fascinating contention. He and other "pro-life" people simply do not want women who seek an abortion to fabricate a pretext of being raped to do so. And Akin is hardly outside the mainstream of Republican thinking about the subject - both Romney and Ryan are passionately opposed to abortion, Ryan being opposed to it even in cases of rape. The outraged Republicans who are denouncing Akin do not want to lose the women's vote in the November elections.

Whatever one's position with regard to abortion - and every open society has its own, usually hotly debated approach - the idea that abortion is appearing at the center of American discourse for the first time this election season is naïve. Since 1973, when the Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, abortion has been the fundamental issue in American politics, period. While pro-life people know and understand the fiery emotions that galvanize their "pro-choice" opponents, most pro-choice liberals cannot grasp the depth of feeling behind the pro-life position. They do not understand that if you believe life begins at conception, then the idea that millions of human beings are murdered every year is unbearable. Admirable as many aspects of liberalism are, it is a feature of the liberal mind that it cannot understand what it disagrees with.

Abortion has a symbolic level, too. The wild bitterness that surrounds the issue in America has a lot to do with radically different ideas about pleasure. The debate about reproduction is also a debate about sex. It is a debate about how far people should go to gratify themselves. The life-and-death and the sexual dimensions to the abortion question make it impossible to ever arrive at a social consensus about it.

This is why Roe v. Wade will eventually be overturned. Sooner or later the Supreme Court will become a mostly conservative court, and the justices will reverse the Court's decision on abortion. The question of whether a woman has the right to abort will then be turned over to the states, each of which will decide the question in its own way.

America has had one civil war and no coups. When Roe v. Wade is overturned, it may well have both a coup and a civil war. It is hardly a coincidence that the current furor over abortion started in Missouri. The so-called "Missouri Compromise" of 1820 allowed slavery in Missouri but - to simplify a complicated arrangement - prohibited it in surrounding areas, the result being that the country was divided into slave states and free states. That doomed solution to a tragic problem was one of the factors that precipitated the Civil War. In a post-Roe v. Wade world, America will also be divided into two regions: pro-life states and pro-choice states.

You can almost see the resulting dystopia unfold in your imagination. The pro-life states will have massive state-controlled orphanages for the women who have been made pregnant by rape or incest, or are simply too poor to safely raise a child. Perhaps the most gifted children will be given as gifts to the most pious members of the community. The mothers who gave them up will be made to work in the region's embattled frontiers, ministering to the soldiers who are permanently stationed there.

In the pro-choice region, women's reproductive privileges will be determined by the mother and father's genetic quality. Since American liberals are discreetly smitten with eugenics - under the "respectable" guise of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology - they will feel no guilt about allowing "high-quality" mothers two children, while "mid-level" mothers will be permitted to have one. Mothers who score poorly on the standardized tests that enforce the social order will be sent to the pro-choice borders, where they will also serve the troops and sneak nocturnal glimpses at their counterparts, the pro-life mothers who surrendered their children to the state.

Both sides will be ruled by a monstrously inhuman illogic. But in a society that cannot bring itself to outlaw even semi-automatic assault rifles, or decide on a healthcare arrangement that protects its citizens, the post Roe v. Wade nightmare will seem perfectly rational.

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