This Salon essay by Mary Elizabeth Williams is most interesting for the slightly unhinged force of her rhetoric. She’s so worked up about abortion that she can’t even speak of her opponents without insulting them, constantly. In fact, the name-calling strewn through this piece defending abortion at any cost made me wonder what’s really going on inside her head — I mean, what’s really behind the ghoulish column in which she says so what if the unborn child is a life; if I want to kill it, I’ll kill it. Williams writes:
Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.
When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born.
When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?
I appreciate her logic, but rather than accept the obvious conclusion — that life is life, even if the mom doesn’t want it, and it therefore must be saved, the author she flat out says that nothing — not even life — is more important than the mother’s right to do what she wants to the life growing inside her body. In other words, yes, abortion is the taking of a human life. So what?
By conceding that the unborn child is a human life, it seems to me that Mary Elizabeth Williams endorses infanticide. At least she’s not hypocritical about it. But it sure is ghoulish. If the fetus is fully human, why does the mother have the right to end the life of a human being, for any reason at all (which is Williams’s position). If the law recognized Williams’s view that the fetus is fully human, then it would call abortion a form of murder, almost by definition.
Can you think of another situation in which fully human beings lived under conditions in which their master had the right to kill them with impunity, because there were nothing more than property? Of course you can. Nice historical company Mary Elizabeth Williams keeps.