The Corner


‘Contempt’? Hardly

In the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg criticizes David French:

“Under the bill’s actual text, virtually any claim of impairment would suffice to meet the act’s requirements,” wrote National Review’s David French. “Anxiety? Depression? The conventional physical challenges of postpartum recovery? Any of those things could justify taking the life of a fully formed, completely viable, living infant.”

French appears to be worried that women will seek, and doctors will perform, late-term abortions for trivial reasons. But there’s contempt for women embedded in the idea that, absent legal prohibition, someone on the verge of giving birth might instead terminate her pregnancy to avoid the brutalities of labor.

Let’s leave aside for a moment that the strongly pro-choice, Planned Parenthood-founded Guttmacher Institute confirms that “most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment,” and focus instead on Goldberg’s peculiar claim that “there’s contempt for women embedded in the idea that, absent legal prohibition, someone on the verge of giving birth might instead terminate her pregnancy to avoid the brutalities of labor.”

Contempt? If that’s true, then every single law we have on the books in the United States is dripping with “contempt” for some group or other. We pass laws because we know that some people — usually, only a few — do, indeed, do bad, dangerous, or damaging things, and because we want to disincentivize them from doing so, and to punish them if we fail. Speed limits, understood within Goldberg’s rubric, are built atop “contempt for the drivers of cars, embedded in the idea that, absent legal prohibition, they might speed.” Tax penalties, by their nature, are the product of “contempt for Americans who, absent legal prohibition, might cheat and lie and refuse to pay for public services.” One can do it with anything. Child-support rules exhibit contempt for men. Desertion regulations are an attack on our brave soldiers. In loco parentis provisions within our age-of-consent laws reflect a devastating lack of trust in teachers. Etc., etc. That some women make bad decisions — in this case, at the cost of the life of another — is categorically true. To acknowledge as much, in the law or otherwise, is not to attack all women. It’s to recognize that in this area, as in others, not every single person who treads our common soil is a saint.

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