The Corner

For Clarity’s Sake

Joe Knippenberg on the Party of Death:

When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors told me that he learned a few small things from a paper I wrote, which was high praise, coming from him. I sustained myself for months on those words.

Perhaps Ramesh Ponnuru can sustain himself for a few seconds on the following. I learned a few big things from his The Party of Death an outstanding exposition of the ways in which abortion and its progeny (if it makes any sense to use those two words together) have corrupted our language, culture, and politics.

I say this as someone who considered himself reasonably well-informed on the abortion debate, having thought and taught about it for years. But I can’t hold a candle to the intelligence, information, and insight Ponnuru displays. In the book, he shows how hard you have to work to genuinely free yourself from the conventional wisdom, even if you think that you’re at odds with it….

For those who feel the need for a clear-sighted guide to the abortion debate, who want a dictionary to define the weasel words and circumlocutions and a searchlight to penetrate the fog of mis- and disinformation, Ponnuru provides all that. He shows how the press often misleads readers or fails to clarify the issues, with some reporters (like the New York Times’s Linda Greenhouse) revealing their partisanship explicitly (in deed) as well as implicitly (in what they write).

The tide, Ponnuru says, is turning. A majority of the American public, not to mention a majority of state legislatures, is likely favor an abortion regime more restrictive—excuse me, less permissive—than that imposed upon us by the Roe and Doe Court, and ratified—with some impatience—by the Justices Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. By patiently and clearly laying out the arguments on his side as well as refuting those on the other, Ponnuru helps things along quite nicely. In the future, it ought to be more difficult for politicians to pontificate as if overturning Roe meant an immediate end to all legal abortions and a return to the bad old days when thousands (actually, probably closer to tens, as Ponnuru shows) of women died from illegal abortions.

Clarity in the public debate is good. Perhaps it will even be followed by clarity in the courts. If so, we’ll owe Ponnuru a great debt.

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