One of the ironies of America’s abortion debate is that I always hear about how pro-life people are moronic science deniers, with naught but religious reasons for their position. And yet, whenever I’ve argued the issue with a pro-abortion secularist, without exception, they not only bring up religion before I do, but they talk about it far more. They tell me what God would and wouldn’t want a young woman to be able to do. They tell me about how God would have designed pregnancy to work if He really thought abortion was a sin. They tell me all about souls and how they can’t be detected and thus cannot be used to validate the worth of an unborn child. Without my ever having mentioned God or souls at all, they happily provide their own religious beliefs on the subjects—reliefs which, being disconnected from anything God has actually revealed to us, amount to nothing more than superstitions.
To be sure, there’s no shame in having and acting on religious reasons when it comes to this and other political issues (though one should certainly hope they’re more thought out than the ad hoc pontifications supplied by the pro-choice.) After all, a religion that doesn’t affect one’s public life can hardly be called a religion at all. Nevertheless, as a matter of rhetoric, I don’t talk religion when arguing with the irreligious on issues like this. There’s no need to appeal to religious principles of which they are already skeptical when one can use the parts of the natural law which they already believe whether they realize it or not.
Any case against abortion always starts with a single principle: it’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. You don’t have to be religious to know this, and most unbelievers will admit it. While Neitzsche might have rejected notions of right & wrong and accepted murder as a legitimate means by which the strong self-actualize at the expense of the weak, today’s atheists and secularists are generally eager to prove how they’re so much more moral than the religious. Accordingly, popular defenses of abortion accept this moral axiom while denying that it applies to the unborn—usually by claiming that the unborn are not actually human beings.
This claim usually leads to a philosophical discussion about when life begins, but such an assertion implicitly raises a far more curious question: where exactly do humans come from? Though children might believe fables about storks, people generally discover the truth about sexual reproduction by the time they reach adulthood. In short, it all goes back to the concept of biogenesis. For around 150 years, science has firmly established that life only comes from other life—specifically, from the same kind of life. Dogs beget dogs, fish beget fish, flies beget flies, and humans beget humans. Biogenesis displaced the very old and (until then venerated) theory of spontaneous generation. Some life, it had been held, simply emerged on its own from non-living matter. Maggots, for example, were believed to be spontaneously generated by rotting meat. Thanks to the work of scientists like Louis Pasteur, we all know better today.
All of us, it would seem, except abortion supporters.
The way they tell the origin of human life has much more in common with spontaneous generation than with biogenesis. Rather than at conception, they claim that human life begins at birth, or at the first quickening, or when sentience is achieved, or at one of a dozen other points in time. But whatever the specifics, there is one thing all these claims have in common: the human reproductive system produces a non-human piece of matter that eventually spontaneously generates a human being just as sand was once thought to spontaneously generate clams and oysters.
But while the pro-choice implicitly rely on beliefs that are as outdated as flat-earth theory, science is solidly on the pro-life side, for conception is the mechanism of human reproduction that first creates a genetically distinct human being. Of course, the moment you mention genetics, Cancer Man shows up. Cancer Man will tell you that carcinogenic tumors also contain human DNA and then point out that we innocently cut them out all the time. He concludes that the unborn are no more genetically human than tumors, and that abortion therefore does not kill a “real” human being. What Cancer Man forgets is what every other adult in the world realizes: tumors are not human beings because cancer is no more a means of human reproduction than the fabled stork is. It’s not as though there are any doctors out there trying to offer cancer as a solution for infertile couples. His argument is simply a red, anti-science herring.
And so, not only do I hear more religious arguments from the pro-choice (and superstitious ones at that) they are also the origin of far more science denial than I’ve ever heard from the pro-life. One hopes that our nation will someday emerge from all of this dark superstition & magical thinking. Perhaps then the light of clear reason will eventually lead us away from our senseless slaughter of the most defenseless among us.
I’ve become a fan of The Federalist recently. I am a mature (turned 62 a few days ago) woman and I read your article on the rape culture. I was somewhat alarmed by your doubtless educated and erudite writing. My alarm comes from the fact that I did not find any comments about the basis of the meaning of “rape culture.” It seems you have either heard of and are repeating or are twisting the concept of consent by parsing it using a “feminist” view, which it appears obvious you take exception to, or some other qualifier.
Women ( and this category is made up of old women like me, little girls, gays and straights and any person with two “x” chromosomes in between) aren’t speaking about romance, foreplay, byplay, or passion and its precursors and culminations. We aren’t talking about living happily ever after with Prince Charming. We aren’t talking about the desire to be associated with “manly” men who are accomplished sexually (or teachable). We are talking about the seemingly ineradicable, except by the tenuous dependence on legal recourse, concept that females are legitimate sexual prey and “really” desire the sexual attentions of any man, regardless of what we do or do not say, wear, or inhabit. Your play on sexually charged words within your article hints at a lack of respect for this very serious subject. Do you actually believe that the 7 year-old victim is capable of any coy flirtations or defensive fight? How about the women of the Congo or Darfur as the victims of multiple assailants ( we still call that gang-rape) – do you think they enjoyed the experience, if they actually survived it? You seem to put emphasis on the plight of males and a burden of modesty on the women – do you think wearing a concrete suit would have made any difference to the victims I elaborated upon? None of them were drunk or in a bar, having a go with their faces in the crotches of their assailants, as you so cunningly phrased it.
A very old saying goes like this “if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Your comments were superficial, supercilious, weighted, and, rather than clever, lascivious. They indicate a massive lack of comprehension about what rape really is- an attitude in the mind of males; this makes you part of the problem. I am disappointed and will look at The Federalist with a more jaundiced eye in future.
Thank you for your comments.
You asked, “do you think wearing a concrete suit would have made any difference to the victims I elaborated upon?” I think that is something of a red herring, as the victims you elaborated upon have nothing to do with the American rape culture addressed by my essay. The women in Congo or Darfur are far removed from our culture altogether, and the heinousness of raping a 7-year-old girl (or boy) is about as uncontroversial an observation as it is possible to make. Trespassing the convoluted feminist conceptions of “consent” that I wrote about are hardly the big problem with such tragedies.
You quoted me an old saying, and I will quote you one in return: “Physician, heal thyself.” It is astounding to me that you suggest that “what rape really is” is a male attitude. The notion that what really harmed your seven-year-old rape victim or your gang-rape victims from Congo was a mere mental state rather than an action is entirely absurd. The compulsion to thought-police that could lead someone to embrace such an absurdity is, to use your own phrasing, “part of the problem”–and precisely why I wrote that essay in the first place.