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What The Pro-Abortion Movement Gets Right

The following speech was delivered at the National Students For Life Summit in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 2, 2022

Forty-nine years. It has been forty-nine years since Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Since that time there have been forty-nine marches for life. Now many pro-life advocates are asking themselves if there will be a fiftieth, not because the pro-life movement has lost momentum, not because pro-life fighters have lost courage, but because the national license to abortion may finally be abolished.

I do think there will be another March for Life next year. I think there will be another Students For Life summit. Not because I think the Supreme Court will necessarily shirk its responsibility to abolish this fictional constitutional “right,” but rather because there will be so much more work to be done.

Abortion advocates accuse pro-lifers of having more ambitious goals than we let on. They warn their supporters that the overturning of Roe v. Wade will not mark the end of the pro-life movement but only the beginning. They warn that we will not be satisfied with merely overturning Roe and Casey and returning the issue of abortion to the states. They warn that we will not be satisfied if conservative states, such as Tennessee, decide to protect babies in the womb and more liberal states, such as New York, continue to permit abortion up until the moment of birth. Abortion advocates believe that pro-lifers will view the overturn of Roe and Casey as only the first major victory in a crusade to banish the scourge of abortion from our country forever. And they are absolutely right.

There is no right to abortion. There is no constitutional right, and there is no other sort of right either—at the state level or anywhere else. The disgraced former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, might pretend that there is some sort of right to abortion. He might push such a “right” through the legislature. He might sign the bill. He might even light the World Trade Center up pink to celebrate the occasion. Even then, there is no right to abortion—in New York or anywhere else.

“Human law is law only by virtue of its accordance with right reason; and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. […] In so far as it deviates from right reason, it is called an unjust law; [and] in such a case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.” Those are the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor 

Now if I’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it is that we are supposed to trust the doctors. And as far as I can tell, there is no doctor more deserving of trust than St. Thomas Aquinas. Unjust law is no law at all. It is only a species of violence.

This concept can be difficult to grasp in the abstract. It becomes clearer when we see it applied in the matter of abortion, which is tangible in that it involves the killing of a helpless baby. From this unjust law, which is no more than a form of violence, comes the supposed “right” to abortion. But this supposed “right” violates other rights—most importantly, the right to life of the baby. Abortion advocates cannot really refute this right. They sometimes try, usually by denying either the baby’s life or humanity. But those arguments fail to persuade because we know that babies in the womb are alive, not dead, and human, not marsupial. So rather than trying to argue the inarguable, the more sophisticated abortion advocates will not attempt to refute a baby’s right to life but will instead simply ignore it.

This is why the abortion movement relies so heavily on euphemism. The intentional killing of a baby in the womb becomes “reproductive rights”—ironic, because abortion is neither right nor reproductive. (It’s wrong, and it stops reproduction.) They will refer to “women’s health.” Women’s health. You know, when you call your grandmother, and you say, “How are you, Grandma?” And she says, “Well, the roof’s leaking, and the oven broke, and my hip hurts. But at least I have my “right to abortion.” (Is that what she says? I don’t think so. That’s not what she means by “health.”)

Abortion advocates use euphemisms because the reality of their butchery is repellant to all right-minded people. They can only justify the supposed “right” to abortion by denying the reality of what exercising that “right” entails. And “rights” disconnected from reality are no rights at all.

The denial of reality lies at the heart of the abortion movement. You don’t need to take my word for it. You can read this admission for yourself in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court decision that upheld Roe. The legal arguments in Casey, much like in Roe, were thin. Abortion rights were discovered in emanations and penumbras and invisible ink. 

So the Court took to dime-store philosophizing. In a line so grandiose and shallow that it could only have been written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court declared, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

I am happy to say that I have never consumed enough marijuana to understand what Kennedy was trying to say. Justice Antonin Scalia dubbed Kennedy’s sophomoric babble the “sweet-mystery-of-life passage” that “ate the rule of law.” From what I can read between the smoke clouds that seem to waft off the very page of the opinion, Kennedy and the Court were claiming that people have the right to define reality, and that the government has no right to dispel their delusions and enforce a different concept of reality. 

Now I have tested this theory, and it turns out that the theory is not correct. You see, I define existence, and meaning, and the universe within a moral order, and I define the mystery of innocent human life as worthy of protection—that is to say, I define a world in which abortion is a crime—and nevertheless, Anthony Kennedy and the Supreme Court have rejected my concept and mandated a different and deadlier definition—namely, their own belief, which they enforce under the compulsion of the state.

That passage from Casey—the sweet-mystery-of-life passage—may be the single funniest line ever to make it into a Supreme Court opinion. I hesitate somewhat to call it “funny” since its effect has been so evil. But as my friend Andrew Klavan points out, if you could take away the suffering, evil would seem pretty funny. It’s funny in that it’s so obviously disconnected from reality.

Contrary to Justice Kennedy’s romantic poetry, none of us has the right to define reality according to our disordered desires and delusions. There is nothing “liberating” about living in fantasy, and even if there were, this supposed “right” to define our own concept of existence would disappear the moment someone else exercised his “right” to define existence in a way that contradicted our own. You’re seeing this play out right now in the debates over transgenderism. Some people say that men cannot become women, and so men shouldn’t be allowed to use the girls’ bathroom and compete against them in sports. Other people say men can in fact become women, and so these men who think they’re women should be allowed to use the ladies room and beat the girls at sports. These concepts of existence are mutually exclusive. Only one of them can win out. And the government inevitably will compel belief in one or the other.

In recent decades, many conservatives have been reluctant to wield the power of the state to enforce their political vision. They’ll talk about “free speech” and “freedom of religion” and “academic freedom” until they’re blue in the face, but rarely do they manage to say anything about what we should do with all those rights and freedoms: what we should say, what we should believe, what we should teach our kids. It reminds me of the people who, every election year, appear on television and tell you that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, only that you vote. Which of course is absurd and which, of course, no one actually believes. The point of voting is not to get the sticker and post a selfie on Instagram. The point of voting is to get good government. If you’re going to vote for the good candidate, go vote; if you’re going to vote for the bad candidate, stay home. The procedure of voting matters somewhat, but the substance of what one votes for matters more.

Until recently, many conservatives have applied this kind of thinking even to abortion. They have said that the worst part about Roe v. Wade is that it took the question of abortion away from the state legislatures, where it belongs, and gave it to the Court. They have said that Roe v. Wade must be overturned so that we can restore self-government. If Tennessee wants to outlaw abortion, great; if California wants to keep abortion legal up until the moment of birth, then that’s their right, that’s fine too. But I don’t think the worst part of Roe v. Wade is the rearrangement of how certain laws are made. I don’t think the worst part of Roe v. Wade is the empowerment of the judiciary at the expense of the legislature. I think the worst part of Roe v. Wade is the killing of all the babies. The procedural aspects of Roe matter; but the substance matters much, much more.

In fairness to these conservatives, I suspect some of them have emphasized the procedural side for tactical reasons—they think it’s an easier sell for overturning the Left’s most sacred Court decision. Fine. We are called to be innocent as doves and wise as serpents. But now we find ourselves looking at the very real possibility of a post-Roe world. And so it no longer suffices to speak in the abstract about returning the question of abortion to the states. We must now focus on what to do once the issue does make it back to the states. We must discuss the total outlawing of abortion.

The reason to outlaw abortion is that it’s wrong. I’m not telling anyone in here anything they don’t already know. Direct abortion is gravely contrary to the moral law. This fact does not depend upon the opinion of voters or state representatives. If every single person in America wanted abortion to be legal, still it should be outlawed. If every single person in America wanted to outlaw abortion, all the better. Either way, the immorality of abortion remains unchanged. As a colleague of mine is fond of saying, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

But because we live in a democracy—or at least something vaguely resembling a democracy—as a practical matter, the opinion of voters matters a great deal. And the great news is that the majority of people are on our side. A Marist poll released just a few days ago by the Knights of Columbus has found that 71% of Americans support legal limits on abortion. This includes 93% of Republicans, as you might expect, but also a whopping 70% of independents and even 49% of Democrats. Democrats, whose party has in recent years transformed their views on abortion from a necessary evil to a positive good. Democrats used to call for abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare”; today, they encourage people to “shout” their abortions, which they insist ought to be available “on demand and without apology.”

During the 2020 Democrat presidential primary debates, you might remember that one candidate—Julian Castro—took his support of abortion so far that he actually demanded abortion rights for men. Mr. Castro said, “Just because a woman—or let’s also not forget someone in the trans community, a trans female—is poor, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to exercise that right to choose.” Now it is difficult for “trans females” to exercise that “right” to abortion because “trans females” don’t have ovaries or a uterus. They have trouble procuring abortions because they cannot conceive because they are men. But Julian’s impassioned defense of the abortion rights of men shows you just how far his party has moved in the direction of abortion.

And still, almost half of Democrats support placing legal limits on abortion. It is one of the clearest issues—along with crime and immigration—for which there exists a massive chasm between what the people want and what the politicians are offering. The people think abortion in America has gone much, much too far. And young Americans know this better than anyone.

Contrary to the consensus view of so many aged elites in both parties, younger Americans support curtailing abortion. A new poll released by this very organization, the Students for Life, has found that a full 80% of Millennials and Zoomers believe that they should have the right to vote on abortion-related policies in their states, up significantly from the already robust 66% who gave that response last year. 

So why are younger Americans turning against abortion? In part, I suspect scientific advancement has played a role. We can see what’s going on as the baby grows in the womb. Within the first four weeks of pregnancy, we know the baby’s face, eyes, mouth, jaw, throat, and heart begin to form. Today, you can kill that baby anywhere in the country. By six to eight weeks, the baby has ears, the beginnings of his brain, spinal cord, nervous system, digestive tract, sensory organs, and bone. He has a heartbeat, and in forty-three states you can kill him. By sixteen weeks, the baby has fingers, toes, eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails, toenails, hair, teeth, bones, a functioning nervous system, and fully developed genitals. He can suck his thumb and yawn, and in more than forty states you can kill him. By nineteen weeks, the mother can feel her baby move, and also, in more than forty states, you can kill him. By twenty-one weeks, a baby can respond with movement to the voice of his father. He can respond to voices outside his mother’s body. He can survive outside the womb, and also in forty states, you can kill him. By twenty-three weeks, a baby’s eyes will open, he will have visible fingerprints and toe prints, and he will very likely survive if born prematurely. Also, in twenty-nine states, you can kill him. 

At this point, the laws begin to get blurry, as twenty-two states then impose certain degrees of legal bans on killing fully formed, viable infants. But remarkably, seven states do not. Oregon, for example, has had no abortion restrictions whatsoever for the past three-and-a-half decades—meaning that a mother can murder her baby as she gives birth with no penalty. Since 2017, Oregon has also funded these killings with taxpayer dollars. But Oregon isn’t alone among the barbaric states. Even states like New York, which purport to restrict abortion in some cases, really leave the door open to abortion at any point up until birth through vague language regarding “threats to the life of the mother.”

But abortion is never medically necessary. By pretending that it is, infanticidal politicians such as Andrew Cuomo can hide the enormity of their laws. Not only did Cuomo’s Reproductive Health Act change the law to permit abortion up until the moment of birth; it went even further to amend the New York penal code. Prior to the law’s passage, a murderer who killed a pregnant woman in New York would be charged with double homicide. Cuomo’s law reduced the crime to single homicide.

Cuomo’s law was welcome news to Anthony Hobson, who in 2019 murdered his pregnant girlfriend by stabbing her in the stomach. Prosecutors initially hoped to charged Hobson with double murder, but thanks to Cuomo’s psychopathic law, Hobson came to face a far lighter sentence.

New York has long been a key city for the abortion industry. And New York shows us the particularly devastating effects of abortion on racial minorities. Nationally, 36% of all abortions are performed on black women, despite black people making up just 13% of the population. In New York City, 41% of pregnancies end in abortion—which is a horrifying figure in itself. But among black women, the number jumps to 60%. More black babies in New York are aborted than born. In 2011, the pro-life group Life Always put a billboard in the city that pointed out that the most dangerous place in New York City for a black child is in his mother’s womb. The black city councilwoman Letitia James—now the state’s Attorney General—called the billboard “highly offensive.“ Life Always board member Stephen Broden, also black, responded that the billboard is far less offensive than the genocide of black babies currently taking place in New York and around the country.

I suspect this fact might also have something to do with younger America’s pronounced and growing opposition to abortion. There are supposed to be more of us. The commonly cited number is that there should be about 60 million more of us. That’s the number of abortions that have taken place since Roe v. Wade. That’s the population of Italy. That’s ten times the number of Jews killed by Hitler during the Holocaust. That’s thirty-five times the number of people killed by Stalin in the Gulag. That’s seven-hundred-and-fifty times the number of people slaughtered by the Aztecs to appease their gods at Tenochtitlan.

The Aztecs are a good point of reference. We fancy ourselves so much more advanced than those ancient and medieval pagans who sacrificed their children to appease their gods. At least those pagans knew their false gods. We do exactly the same thing. We do worse. We sacrifice our children to the gods of career, of wealth, of perverted liberty, and of self, and we don’t even have the guts to admit it. We pretend not even to know our false gods. At least pagan tribes respected their victims enough to consecrate their deaths. We send our human sacrifices in trash bags to landfills—that is unless the high priests of abortion at Planned Parenthood can make a buck selling their bodies to the highest bidder.

Sixty. Million. The number is astounding. And yet the reality is even worse because that number fails to take into account time. It has been almost half a century since that decision. Not only are we missing the sixty million people killed in that time through abortion; we’re missing their children and potentially grandchildren too. In 1972, the U.S. fertility rate was 2.03 children per family, right around replacement level. Today the fertility rate has declined—largely because of Roe—to 1.78. So let’s call it 2 children per family for a nice round number. When you consider the number of children who were never conceived because their parents were killed before they were born, the number of missing people doubles from sixty million to one-hundred-and-twenty million.

But that isn’t the end of the story either. Because Roe was decided so long ago that some of those babies snuffed out in the ‘70s and even the early ‘80s would have been not just parents but even grandparents by now. Let’s say just those who would have been born in the ‘70s could be grandparents by now. And let’s be even more conservative in our estimates and say only half of them would become grandparents by now. That’s one-half of one-fifth of sixty million. That’s six million people. Let’s be even more conservative. Even one-quarter of one-fifth of sixty million people—that’s three million people, in addition to the sixty million killed and their sixty million children who were never born who should be with us today and are missing. Even if Roe were overturned tomorrow and abortion outlawed throughout the entire country, those sixty million people, with their sixty million expected children, with their sixty million expected grandchildren—one-hundred-and-eighty million people total—would still be missing within just three generations. Well over half the current population of the United States—gone.

When one considers the enormity of those numbers, one sees the downstream effects of abortion on so many other areas of public policy. Take immigration, one of the most hotly contested political issues. The reason no politician of either party has made real progress on the issue of immigration is because, beyond questions of preference lies one of necessity: Americans are simply not having enough of our own babies. Live births have fallen to three-decade lows, just under 3.8 million babies born per year. The birthrate fell to 1.7 births per couple, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. We need an additional one million new Americans each year to stave off the social and economic collapse caused by a dying population. One million, almost precisely the same number of American babies aborted last year. One million, almost exactly the same number of legal immigrants we imported last year to make up for the American babies we killed. End abortion and immigration becomes a non-issue.

St. Teresa of Calcutta pointed out the far-reaching social effects of abortion in a speech to the United Nations in 1994. She said,

“The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. […] And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. […] Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

Abortion is the extreme conclusion of a society that exalts individual autonomy above all else—solidarity, duty, morality, and love. The feminist writer Naomi Wolf, to her credit, admitted as much in an essay for the New Republic the year after Mother Teresa gave her speech. “Abortion should be legal,” Wolf wrote, “it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die.”

Wolf’s argument was ghastly, but at least it was honest about the humanity of the baby. She acknowledged that the baby is alive and that the baby is human. But babies limit the individual autonomy of women in a way that they do not for men. And so Wolf believed that if women were to become truly equal with and indistinguishable from men, then they needed the right to kill their children—in all of their humanity.

I suspect this too may help to explain why young Americans are becoming more and more pro-life. Because radical autonomy is miserable, and midcentury feminism has been a disaster for our nation. It has been a disaster especially for women, who according to social scientists—so take it for what it’s worth—have become consistently less happy since the supposed “achievements” of Second Wave feminism, both in absolute terms and relative to men. The politics of radical autonomy has not inaugurated a new Age of Aquarius, in which everyone is equal and free and content. On the contrary, it has led to the breakdown of all forms of community from the nation on down to the family. It has led to social isolation. It has led to a slow but steady national death, in which we live shorter lives, kill ourselves more frequently, and fail to reproduce.

I think younger Americans are less persuaded by the radical feminists that brought us legal abortion in no small part because radical feminists are extremely unpleasant people who shriek all the time. The juxtaposition that we all saw last month outside of the Supreme Court as the justices heard oral arguments in the Dobbs case told the whole story: well behaved, smiling pro-lifers of all ages, races, and sexes praying for an end to abortion on the one side, and hordes of obscene and hysterical harpies and satyrs shrieking profanities on the other. Which of those two kinds of people do you want to be like when you grow up?

The fact that most if not all pro-life demonstrations involve prayer is important too. Some pro-lifers have suggested that we make our arguments without reference to religion. Religion is too divisive, they say, so it’s better to stick with secular arguments using the vague language of “human rights” or appealing to the social goods of not killing upwards of a million babies each year. Those are all fine arguments to make. But they are not sufficient. The secular arguments can only go so far. If we only speak in secular terms, we give a major advantage to the abortion industry because those arguments inevitably fail to articulate why innocent human life must be protected—that is, because man is made in the image of God.

Modern sonograms are extremely impressive. But they cannot show you the soul. A blood test will not tell you what a person is worth. The most powerful electron microscope in the world will not show you why it is wrong to commit murder. “Science” is all well and good. We are told to “follow it” these days. But science is merely the handmaid of philosophy; and philosophy is the handmaid of theology. Physics can show us that babies in the womb are babies; but it takes metaphysics to teach us why it is wrong to kill them.

I suspect that younger Americans are moving in the direction of life because they are swimming in a culture of lies and want to grab hold of the truth. In recent decades, our culture has insisted that basic truths are cruel and oppressive, and that lies will set us free. Truth about sex, truth about biology, truth about the moral and the civil law—all must be denied, we are told, to set us free. But the reality is exactly the opposite. It is lies that are cruel and destructive; and it is the truth that will set you free.

Americans, and especially younger Americans, are waking up from this half-century of error. We have tested the theory. We have exalted licentiousness over liberty and lies over truth for half a century. The results have been unmitigated disaster. At the very heart of this half-century of decline is Roe v. Wade, the worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court, and legal abortion, the single worst crime in the history of our country.

We are now on the brink of correcting the first error. When Roe is overturned, it will not constitute the beginning of the end of the pro-life movement but only the end of the beginning. Then, we will march forward toward our ultimate goal: the abolition of abortion in every state and every county and every town in America and the protection of all innocent human life from sea to shining sea.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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