At Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, while listening to readings that celebrate Mary’s great “Yes” to a proposition that would certainly upset life as she knew it, I found myself wondering about the millions of women who, since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, have said “No.” Maybe one or two (or three or four) were there at Mass with me, meditating on the unexpected angelic encounter that put human history on a course to salvation. Did any of them regret the answer she had given? Or were they, like so many Catholics who voted for Barack Obama, still unmoved by the Church’s teaching–untouched by the news that the fruit of their womb, too, was blessed?
The advent of the Obama administration brings a familiar darkness back to Washington. As it was with Bill Clinton, it seems that abortion will be the only ground over which our new leader will not negotiate. He promised as much at a Planned Parenthood function last year, and there’s no reason not to take him at his word. Abortion is, in fact, the only issue Obama has a record on. And while the press hasn’t trumpeted it, attention was paid after his careless “above my pay grade” dismissal of Rick Warren’s question about when “a baby gets human rights”–enough so that no responsible voter could claim ignorance of Obama’s history of abortion extremism.
Why is there such need to extinguish all significance from the abortion act? A need so compelling that Obama would acquiesce in outright infanticide rather than support legislation–proposed in 2003 in the Illinois State Senate, of which he was then a member–to protect the lives of babies who survived bungled abortions? Obama, who gathered a winning coalition under the banner of “change we can believe in,” said “No” to this proposition a year after the U.S. Senate unanimously passed virtually identical legislation. Rescinding the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (along with all other state and federal abortion regulations) is the kind of change Obama believes in.
He signaled as much by naming Ellen Moran, executive director of Emily’s List–a political action committee that raises money only for pro-abortion female candidates–as his communications director. This is more than a sop to women’s organizations whose support Democrats take for granted. This is a statement about who Obama is: an abortion stalwart. And what his administration will be: abortocratic. As of this writing, no pro-lifers have been named to his cabinet. (Choosing Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation doesn’t count for much. It’s simply part of Obama’s “I’m going to make you love me” strategy to get even more so-called pro-lifers to vote for him next time around.)
We shouldn’t be surprised. At current rates, one in three American women will have had an abortion by age 45. We can assume that while many may regret the decision–not just among the women themselves, but among fathers, grandparents, and others who were party to it–many more do not. Eight years of George W. Bush’s unabashed pro-life advocacy–once upon a time, he was even called the nation’s second Catholic president–has been an ordeal for those who believe abortion is a right to be celebrated, not a wrong to be scorned. They expect a massive correction in abortion policy, and rhetoric, now that Democrats are in control.
For all we know, however, Barack Obama’s unabashed pro-abortion advocacy may be motivated by more than political expedience. Perhaps he has been personally touched by the experience. He has, after all, said he wouldn’t want his daughters to be “punished” with an unwanted baby. Is that how he, or his wife, or his best friend, or someone else close to him now or in the past felt about some pregnancy or other–punished? Can abortion really make that feeling go away? Or does it, in the end, exacerbate it?
Some of the most powerful testimony about the personal anguish abortion can cause has come from people who support abortion rights. One especially memorable account appears in the late Magda Denes’s In Necessity and Sorrow: Life and Death in an Abortion Hospital. Denes, a clinical psychoanalyst (and one of the originators of Gestalt therapy), arranged to spend time observing procedures at the same hospital where she had had an abortion several years before. Her book came out in 1976.
In one chapter, after recording the discomfort she had felt while watching an abortion, Denes describes visiting the room where the remains of aborted fetuses are stored. At first, she recalls the unexpected pleasure of putting on surgical gloves and discovering that her “hands feel completely protected without any noticeable loss of agility.” But pleasure quickly fades as she proceeds to inspect a “garbage-can-filled graveyard,” using forceps to lift dead little human beings out of “paper buckets–the type in which one buys fried chicken from take-out stores.”
Here she is at journey’s end: “Finally, I lift a very large fetus whose position is such that, rather than its stiff face, I first see its swollen testicles and abnormally large stiff penis. I look at the label. Mother’s name: Catherine Atkins; doctor’s name: Saul Marcus; sex of item: male; time of gestation: twenty-four weeks. I remember Catherine. She is seventeen, a very pretty blond girl. Not very bright. This is Master Atkins–to be burned tomorrow–who died like a hero to save his mother’s life. Might he have become someday the only one to truly love her? The only one to mourn her death? ‘Nurse, nurse,’ I shout, taking off my fancy gloves. ‘Cover them up.’ ”
Magda Denes had the intellectual decency to call abortion “murder–of a very special and necessary sort.” We don’t hear talk of murder these days; even most pro-lifers eschew that hard word. Now the word “killing” also is being excised from the abortion lexicon, as proponents, including Barack Obama, propagandize the public with arguments that we cannot know for sure when life begins. Covering up the babies isn’t enough. Language has to be covered up, too. And common sense. But the price of this covering up is delusion. And as we have begun to see, a nation that can delude itself about killing, about murder, can delude itself about anything–the threat of terrorism, the stability of financial markets, the suitability of its new president.
– Anne Conlon is managing editor of The Human Life Review.