Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Abortion and the American Seriousness Deficit

Pro-lifers need to make abortion something people take seriously before they can even begin the argument.

Anti-Abortion Activists Hold National March For Life In Nation's Capital

However one feels about it, abortion is a serious issue. Unfortunately, many Americans are not serious people.

Rather than ponder concepts such as that life begins at conception, that abortion is murder, and that modern society is entering a demographic winter, most people would rather not think about it. These days, those on the left would prefer to complain about WNBA salaries, and those on the right would prefer to dunk on NPR’s CEO Katherine Maher. At least, this seems to be what’s trending this month; it could be even dumber next month.


Through a combination of factors—increased time online, less time at church, and powerful governmental and commercial entities controlling all the information that people consume—many of today’s adults have lost the capacity to differentiate between what’s important and what’s trivial. Rather, most people will lavish their deepest thoughts on the most superficial topics and indulge childlike fancy in grave matters. You can find a plethora of popular think pieces on the actress Sydney Sweeney’s chest, but see only a few principled stands against assisted suicide’s expansion across the globe.

No event in recent memory better illustrated this problem of non-seriousness than Covid-19. Four short years ago, the country was on its fourth week of a national lockdown to slow the spread of a new coronavirus that purportedly came from a Chinese wet market. When they weren’t heroically staying home, people wore face masks and stayed at least 6 feet apart at all times. For some reason, a special health exception was made for people who took to the streets for racial justice. And when the MRNA vaccines were rolled out, every respectable person immediately took the jab and shamed others into doing the same.

It’s now well known that none of these measures were helpful. Lockdowns had no impact on slowing the spread of the virus. Covid-19 almost certainly came from a Wuhan lab doing gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses, not from some peasant treating himself to bat soup. Masks did virtually nothing except make people dizzy from breathing in their own CO2. Social distancing at 6 feet was also pointless, having been an arbitrary recommendation from some public health bureaucrat. BLM rioters didn’t have special protection from Covid, but from any public accountability. Finally, the vaccines -- which were largely untested and rushed through production -- underperformed

The prospect of a deadly pandemic threatening to decimate the population was simply too much for people to handle, so they outsourced all their brainpower to corrupt officials like Anthony Fauci who promised to make it all better. Even though dissident voices were censored and stigmatized, it’s doubtful they would have changed anyone’s mind otherwise.

All this is important to remember if pro-lifers hope to understand the current political and cultural landscape. The way most people think about abortion today is very similar to the way they thought about Covid yesterday. Just as most people didn’t think about what Covid was, how to deal with it, or why it mattered where it came from, most people now don’t think about when life begins, what abortions are, or why women want to have them. Instead they defer to experts and authorities, nearly all of whom materially benefit from prolonging and perpetuating the crisis at hand. 


Thus, what is seen with the pro-life movement is merely a sequel to the Covid hysteria. Pro-lifers are ridiculed and derided by the mainstream media and occasionally persecuted by the federal government. The pro-life message, when it isn’t censored or ignored, is treated as anti-woman and unrealistic. Meanwhile, the pro-abortion voices are boosted and given additional resources to look more credible, respectable, and popular. 

Once again, Americans should be able to see through the propaganda, but all the authorities and experts continue to assure them that this is good for women and for society at large. We’ve seen how this goes.

For this reason, it’s misguided to believe that a little more pluck and commitment will carry the day, as pro-life activist Shawn Carney recently argued in The American Conservative. He compares abortion to gay marriage, asserting that the pro-life movement should learn from advocates for same-sex marriage who “went for broke” after experiencing so many political setbacks. But if the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges had ruled the other way, it’s almost certain that then-President Obama and the legislature would have demonized them and expanded same-sex marriage anyway. 

So it is with abortion. For the pro-lifer, the arguments for legalizing abortion are still as morally feeble as ever, but many Americans have often decided that this doesn’t matter to them.

None of this is to dismiss the pro-life cause, which can prevail in the long run. It’s simply important to evaluate the current moment and act accordingly. Before Americans can be convinced that abortion is murder, they need to become serious again.

This will require improving education, strengthening religious and civic communities, and creating a true pro-life culture.

Success is only possible when the ground has been prepared. In order to help an unserious people care about abortion, pro-lifers need to help them become serious first. This does not mean making their case more attractive or popular, but about getting their fellow Americans to transcend the metric of modish popularity altogether and reason like responsible adults.