Thoughts from an ex-fetus
George Jonas, National Post
Published: Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Reprinted in full
George Tiller, the 67-year-old physician shot last week in Wichita, Kan., was an abortionist. His suspected killer, identified by the press as Scott Roeder, 51, also felt entitled to decide whose life to terminate and when. To this extent at least, killers of abortionists resemble their victims.
Some people might object that there is a fundamental difference. Abortion is legal, while killing abortionists isn't. This is true -- at least, it's true today, although not long ago a medically unnecessary abortion was every bit as illegal as a medically unnecessary assassination. Killers of fetuses stayed behind bars for shorter periods than killers of physicians, but the law viewed both as felons.
The law continues viewing the killing of abortionists as a felony, and rightly so, but has come to regard the abortion of fetuses as a private matter between unborn children and their mothers. Will our grandchildren say we were enlightened or barbaric? Societies are entitled to determine their laws and institutions, but have no say in what their descendants will think of their choices.
We consider the ancient Spartan model barbaric, for instance, although in some ways it was much like ours. Spartans, too, regarded letting children live or die a private choice, although they did involve father in the decision, not only mother, and extended it to born children, not just fetuses. Another difference was that Spartans, instead of relying on vacuum suction, threw unwanted children off a mountain called Taigetos.
For Spartans, "unwanted" meant "substandard." For us, it means "inconvenient." We don't want standard or even super-standard children if they cramp our style.
Living in an epoch that is selfish as well as matriarchal, our lifeboats are no longer marked "women and children first," only "women first." We invent euphemisms, such as "choice" for killing, and sophomoric dilemmas, such as pretending not to know when life begins, to ensure that nothing hinders Virginia's quest for Santa Claus. No obstacle must interfere with her goal of self-fulfillment -- least of all an issue (as it were) of her healthy sexual appetite.
As I've written before, I'm not necessarily opposed to abortion, but then I'm not necessarily opposed to killing. I could even be persuaded that we should let mother be the arbiter of when to kill a child. King Solomon thought so, no doubt because he laboured under the illusion that an authentic mother would rather give up her child than kill it. As we now know, the good king might have been a trifle too optimistic.
In any case, giving parents life-and-death discretion rests on venerable historic precedents. Though tossing babies off a cliff is good sport, it's likely that many parents would have preferred prenatal vacuum suction even in Sparta, had the technology been available to them.
"Substandard" probably meant physically deformed to Spartans, but it's not a huge leap to extend it to a fetus that's simply inconvenient. After all, a deformed child is a great inconvenience, so an inconvenient child might as well be deemed deformed.
The Spartan model has had a mixed press. Some people have used the word "brutal" to describe it. I'm not pushing it myself, but then I push nothing except an abstinence from fuzzy thinking. I don't particularly mind abortion on demand; I mind only the arguments used to support it.
My quarrel is with those who would oppose abortion if they thought it amounted to killing. I've no problem with abortion, but they do. They've a whacking big problem. First (as I repeated ad nauseam over the years) they must pretend not to know when life begins. They must pretend not to realize that life is an autonomous process, a continuum from zygote to old-age pension, a self-elaborating force that begins when it begins and keeps growing unless it's vacuumed out first. They must pretend not to recognize something that a cat recognizes: the difference between things alive or dead, animate or inanimate. They must pretend not to see that if a fetus were not alive, it wouldn't have to be killed.
They must cling to the illusion that a court can actually choose for life to "begin" at some arbitrary point: first trimester, second trimester, whatever. I think legal fiction should adopt the notion that life begins at 40 for the comfort of those who cherish their convenience but have no stomach for killing.
Some put the question in terms of a woman's right to control her own body. That would be valid enough in the realm of smoking, diet, liposuction or sex -- but abortion? Abortion means controlling someone else's body. Incidentally, I realize that as a man I have no authority to speak on the matter, but I'm not speaking as a man. I wouldn't dare. I'm speaking strictly as an ex-fetus.
And in my capacity as an ex-fetus, I say controlling someone else's body is where abortionists and their assassins meet. Please note that I say "meet." I don't say justify. Nothing justifies the assassin. Does anything justify the abortionist? Gee, Mom, I don't know. You tell me.
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