'Abortion on demand and without apology'? This debate isn't that simple

·5 min read

There’s a reason Roe v. Wade is the most contentious U.S. Supreme Court decision in history.

There are important real-world questions it poses that must be engaged. And there are no pat answers, no matter how many times you chant, “My body, my choice!”

This creed of abortion-rights activists was expressed in another way this past week on one of the most mass-produced placards of the movement: “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology”.

The slogan reflects an absolutist mindset that has taken over the American left and says that any abortion that can happen will happen, including partial-birth abortions. This thinking led to efforts in New York and Virginia in 2019 to radically relax restrictions on abortion.

In New York that year, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, even tried to eliminate the opposition to abortion altogether: “I think there’s some issues that have such moral clarity that we have, as a society, decided that the other side is not acceptable,” she told the Des Moines Register.

Such bliss – to never again be confronted with abortion’s profound moral questions.

For or against abortion? No. I'm conflicted

Mine is not an argument for outlawing abortion. The argument that government should not dictate when and if a woman has a baby is powerful. I don’t like big government sticking its nose in the decisions of women and families. I’ve read how emergency room doctors had to treat ghastly lacerations, puncture wounds and infections from the pre-Roe abortion underground.

Mine is an argument that the modern left has become radically indifferent to life in utero, and it shouldn’t get a pass from the hard issues at stake. Every one of us should be conflicted about the terrible consequences of both legal and criminalized abortion.

As Roe v. Wade was taking center stage this summer, liberal activists with apparently no sense of irony were arguing that an elephant at the Bronx Zoo named “Happy” should enjoy human rights and be released from captivity.

“The dispute hinged on whether the cornerstone legal principle of habeas corpus – which people assert to protect their bodily liberty and to contest illegal confinement – should be extended to autonomous, cognitively complex animals like elephants,” The New York Times reported.

Zoo workers denied that Happy was, in fact, unhappy, and in a written statement said, “(She is) well cared for by professionals with decades of experience and with whom she is strongly bonded,” The Times reported.

The New York Court of Appeals ultimately rejected the argument and denied human rights to an elephant by a 5-to-2 vote.

“The ruling ended what appears to be the first case of its kind in the English-speaking world to reach so high a court,” The Times reported.

It won’t be the last.

Consider the toll of legalized abortion during Roe

Meanwhile, the American left is unlikely to give much thought to the millions of developing humans who were aborted during the 50 years Roe undergirded legal abortion.

Abortion-rights activists and liberal big media have no interest in adding up the toll of Roe v. Wade, so it is left to anti-abortion activists to estimate using figures from the abortion-rights-leaning Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The activists calculate that roughly 60 million abortions have occurred since the Blackmun court ruled on Roe in 1973.

I don’t trust activists on either side, so let’s go with a more conservative 50 million and consider the counterfactual:

What if all those developing fetuses were brought to term and became fully formed human beings? What if we could see them today and meet just a few of them? I believe we would all be in agony at what our society has done.

The abortion-rights left has long enjoyed the convenience of never having to see what legalized abortion has wrought. The evidenced is vacuumed up and discarded.

African Americans are most likely to have an abortion

After the Uvalde shootings, some on the left argued we should publish the death photos of children murdered at Robb Elementary School to show what an AR-15 does to a child’s body. It was a philosophical argument. No one seriously wants to see those photos.

But abortion has its own Mỹ Lai massacre – its own images – of tiny bodies torn limb by limb by doctor’s forceps. How many young women on the street with their “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” placards have considered any of that?

Or how many contemplate the toll abortion has taken on Black America? The largest cohort of children aborted today in this country are African American. Though African Americans are only 12% of the population, they have more abortions than the majority white population, reports the Guttmacher Institute.

In fact, African American women have abortions at five times the rate of the majority population. “(In) New York City, a Black woman is more likely to have an abortion than to give birth,” wrote National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson in 2017.

That cannot be healthy for our society.

Some of you on the left would respond with a social-justice argument that there are historic reasons for this. I would agree. History matters. But when have you ever heard this issue discussed?


That's a dangerous dissent on Happy the elephant

In this Oct. 2, 2018 file photo, Bronx Zoo elephant "Happy" strolls inside the zoo's Asia Habitat in New York.
In this Oct. 2, 2018 file photo, Bronx Zoo elephant "Happy" strolls inside the zoo's Asia Habitat in New York.

In the case of Happy the elephant, there were two justices on the New York Court of Appeals who dissented. One was Rowan D. Wilson, appointed in 2017 by then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. At the time of Wilson’s appointment, The New York Times reported that if confirmed, “(he) would give the seven-member court two African-American judges for the first time in history.”

In his long dissent, according to The Times, Wilson argued the court had a duty “to recognize Happy’s right to petition for her liberty not just because she is a wild animal who is not meant to be caged and displayed, but because the rights we confer on others define who we are as a society.”

Those are dangerous words for the progressive left.

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic. Email him at phil.boas@arizonarepublic.com.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 'Abortion on demand and without apology'? It's not that simple