The Corner

The one and only.

Turning Back the Clock, Or an Awakening?


One of the many infuriating aspects of the president’s speech at Planned Parenthood on Friday – beyond his refusal to acknowledge the Gosnell trial or the pain the last 40 years of abortion has inflicted one women who felt they had only one choice, making it little to no choice at all – is the insistence that anyone who wants any kind of restriction – or protections for women and children who survive abortion – is trying to turn back the clock.

Elise Italiano, a high-school teacher and contributor to Breaking Through: Women Speak for Themselves writes:

Beyond Obama’s characterization of quality health care, one should also question his suggestion that to support any type of restriction on abortion access is a sign of moral ignorance. If there has been an evolution or awakening of people’s consciences about abortion, as he indicated in his reference to “checking the calendar,” it is in the opposite direction.

Abortion-rights activists assumed in 1973 that their victory in the courts was the final, irreversible, and infallible judgment on the issue. Yet they have repeatedly been flummoxed by the forty-year culture war that has ensued.

The results of a 2009 Gallup poll demonstrated that for the first time in decades, the majority of American people identify as “pro-life.” Statistics show that more people believe abortion should be illegal than believe there should be no legal restrictions on it. Presumably there are people who would consider restrictions based on fetal development, the health of the woman, and other factors—like genetic conditions or gender preference—to be reasonable as well.

Genetic science, better studies of fetal development, and more advanced sonogram technology and neonatal care have contributed to the cultural shift in the abortion debate. The scientific community has demonstrated with certainty that the embryo is an individual member of the human species with self-directed epigenetic development.

There is no ignoring the fact that Americans are uncomfortable with a woman’s unrestricted autonomy since her choice involves another member of the human family. Sweeping statements about how restricting a woman’s access to abortion will send us back to the dark ages fail to account for the moral awakening of the majority of the nation’s citizens.

I am reminded here of Carl Anderson’s insistence we’re at a great reawakening point.

The turning-back-the-clock nonsense of course is an important theme for the White House in setting a narrative as we approach August 1 and the expiration of the “safe haven” for some religious organizations (like Catholic dioceses, with their schools and social services) on the Department of Health and Human Services abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate. If the past (and Friday morning) is any indication, as court cases become ripe, making these loud assertions will be the administration’s approach to scaring people – particularly single women – to its side, obscuring the view of the religious-liberty rollback it entails.

Speaking of turning back the clock: Our gift of religious liberty is protected only as long as we care to be good stewards of it. 


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review