Marching for Life

March for Life participants walk in front of the Supreme Court building in 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Smoke weed, snort cocaine, watch porn, but don’t kill a living human organism, for any reason, ever.

Anyone who describes himself as a libertarian has been subjected to at least one game of “Would You Legalize . . . ?”

For me, the answer is mostly “Yes.”

Weed? Yes. Cocaine? Yes. Heroin? Yes. I’d legalize all the drugs. Not because I am indifferent to drug use — I have seen addiction up close and personal, closer and more personally than I ever wanted to, and I know what it does to people. I’m in favor of drug legalization for reasons deontological (I believe that people have the right to do what they will with their own bodies) and consequentialist (I believe heroin users would be better off if heroin were still made by Bayer, with modern pharmaceutical quality controls).

You mustn’t kill your children.

What about prostitution? Yes, I’d legalize that, too, mostly for the same reasons I’d legalize drugs. I don’t think prostitution is good for women or men, but I think the criminalization of prostitution makes it worse, creating more problems than it ameliorates. Again, one need not be indifferent to the issue to believe that the police power of the state is the wrong instrument to use in many cases. The state is big, stupid, and violent — violence is what government does — and adding violence to the equation is not very likely to make life better for people working as prostitutes. They endure too much violence as it is.

You mustn’t kill your children.

Many Christians believe that in separating sex from its procreative function contraception has deformed the family, fatherhood and motherhood, and sex itself. There is something to that, I think. A condom is a barrier, and perhaps not only a physical one. But as a political question, its use falls well within the realm of personal autonomy. If a man wants to control whether his sperm cells enter someone else’s body — and if a woman wants to control whether a man’s sperm cells enter her body — there’s no reason to get the state involved. Preach abstinence or natural family planning all you want, but enforcing it at the point of a federal bayonet is another issue entirely.

You mustn’t kill your children.

Some of my pro-abortion friends are very fond of the Monty Python school of reproductive theology. You know the song: “Every sperm is sacred / every sperm is great / when a sperm is wasted / God gets quite irate.” They ask: “How can you be against abortion while considering masturbation an act of mass murder? Huh? Huh?” (Abortion politics makes people stupid.) One hears a lot from them about “potential” lives.

But on the matter of abortion, we aren’t talking about “potential” anything. A sperm cell or an egg cell has your DNA. It’s part of your body. I may not think everything you do with your own body is good or wise (not every tattoo is advisable), but I’m not going to throw you in prison over it, either.

You mustn’t kill your children.

I have heard endless stupid metaphysical disputes about abortion, from legalistic disputes about “personhood” (a cowardly intellectual dodge if ever there were one) to medieval-style claims about what used to be called “ensoulment.” None of that is of any interest. What happens in abortion happens to a 1) living 2) human 3) organism. The tissue in question is living tissue, not dead tissue; it is human tissue, not rutabaga or aardvark tissue; it is arranged in an organism, not as a tumor or a fingernail clipping. It has its own DNA and it will continue on a life course — maybe majestic, maybe tragic — as it grows, because it is a living human individual at the earliest stages of its development. A “clump of cells”? Yes, which is what living human organism is at that stage in its life.

You mustn’t kill your children.

Not at any age. Not at any stage of development. Not for any reason. Debate, disagree, dissent, fight, cajole, persuade, argue all you want about war and peace, taxes, the welfare state, global warming, the Palestinian question, immigration, Donald Trump, animal rights, the Second Amendment, libel laws, school choice, the literary merits of Ayn Rand. I’ll have all those fights with you and more. Smoke all the weed you like and watch all the porn you want. Keep up with the Kardashians and live like them, too, if that seems best to you. I won’t pretend it’s a good idea, but it’s a free country.

You mustn’t kill your children.

Everybody with eyes to see knows what an abortion is and what it does.

Friday will see the annual March for Life in Washington, where pro-life activists from around the country will gather together to march, chant, pray, wave placards, and make their cases against abortion to the wider public. Sometimes, that case gets more complicated than it needs to be. Yes, I think America needs to get right with the Creator who figures so prominently in the Declaration of Independence, that we have a troubled relationship with sex that leaves men and women unhappy, that we should be concerned about capital punishment and do a better job looking after vulnerable mothers. I wish more people would read John Paul II on the “theology of the body” and understand that the Monty Python version of the story isn’t quite the whole of it. But I don’t think that on the narrow and specific question of abortion we really need all that. Everybody with eyes to see knows what an abortion is and what it does. And, yes, I’d pass a law against it in a second if I had the power. But it would be infinitely better if no law were needed, if we could finally leave the ape behind and enter the fullness of being, at last, human.

You mustn’t kill your children. For God’s sake, stop it.


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— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.


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