Shock: Salon Writer Pushes Abortion as Mercy Killing

Opinion   |   Calvin Freiburger   |   Sep 11, 2012   |   3:36PM   |   Washington, DC

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that there are people who know that abortion takes a human life yet concoct justifications for it anyway; human nature being what it is, there’s nothing interest and ideology can’t rationalize. But personally, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the flippancy and arrogance with which this subset of pro-choicers approach the issue.

One can understand how those merely misled about what the unborn are would treat abortion casually and look down on opposition. But shouldn’t those who know it kills someone treat the subject with some recognition that not just any reason is good enough to kill an innocent, and with some respect for the intentions of pro-lifers?

These are some of the questions sparked by Ellen Hawley Roddick’s latest Salon post, about an exchange with a pro-lifer illustrating why she considers herself pro-life and pro-choice:

He said abortion is murder. I agreed that it may be.

I did not explain why I conceded this point. But when I had become pregnant, I had known immediately and beyond any doubt that I was no longer alone in my body. Not having heard of anyone else having this startling experience, I asked other women. A surprising number said yes, they, too, had known they were pregnant as soon as the baby was conceived.

That’s quite an admission. Once made, a reasonable person would expect it to render at least a few abortions unacceptable to Roddick. But she soon makes it clear that the baby’s status means nothing:

Given this anecdotal evidence that in some sense personhood may begin at conception, I still believe that a newly pregnant woman has a right to end her pregnancy. Surely it is no gift to force a baby into a world where its own mother does not want it. Life can be tough enough for people whose mothers do want them.

She goes on to cite various statistics about the poverty, neglect, and abuse pro-lifers are “thrusting on unwanted children” by refusing to let someone kill them, sneering of her sparring partner that “evidently his God isn’t concerned with” child health and welfare. (Passing references to “No-Choicers who murder physicians” and are “afraid of women who are not obedient to” men shed more light on how fair-minded her analysis really is.)

Though tailor-made to tug the heartstrings and make pro-aborts feel better about themselves, the logic of Roddick’s argument simply doesn’t hold up.

First, a child isn’t necessarily “unwanted” just because his or her biological parents and the abortion crowd don’t want him or her around. Couples across the country stand ready and willing to adopt. In 2008, 135,813 children were adopted and can be expected to lead happy, healthy lives because somebody extended to them the compassion Roddick and her fellow travelers didn’t think they were worth. Granted, that’s only about a third of the 400,540 foster children currently in the system, and adoption policy faces various challenges that need to be addressed, but it’s simply not true that abortion is saving these children from some inevitable doom.

Besides, shouldn’t the lion’s share of the blame for “unwanted children” rest with those who create children they don’t want? Do pro-choicers have any proposals to discourage promiscuous Americans from increasing the number of children in need? It’s not exactly rocket science to not impregnate someone or get impregnated.

Second, we aren’t the ones bringing these children into the world; the aforementioned men and women who choose to have sex without regard for the potential consequences are. Once pregnancy begins, that child is already “in the world” as a living, flesh-and-blood entity with value, rights, interests, potential, the capacity to be harmed, and a future.

Third, that’s why rather than sparing children a life of harm, abortion inflicts on them the greatest harm of all. Trying though the circumstances one is born into may be, every human being has the potential to overcome them. Abortion takes that possibility away, denying children all of their future hopes, joys, and fulfillment as well as hardship and despair. How can any of us presume to know how anyone’s life will turn out? How dare we take it upon ourselves to decide who isn’t worth the trouble, to place our own judgment over what the wishes of the child would have been?

Indeed, if sparing the victim hardship is an acceptable motive for what Roddick herself concedes “may be” the murder of a person, then surely it’s equally acceptable to murder older people out of mercy as well – the six-year-old living in the slums, the HIV-positive teen, the severely depressed homeless man, the grandmother suffering from dementia.

Would Ellen Roddick condone such mercy killings? If not, then it must be some completely different variable that really justifies abortion, making this entire detour into child suffering a red herring meant exploit emotion rather than illuminate justice. Note:  Calvin Freiburger is a Live Action contributing writer. This column appeared at the Live Action blog and is reprinted with permission.