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American Abortion

As you know, I’ve been in Australia for the past week, and have not been on the Internet much. The Alabama abortion law came to pass while I was away, and I haven’t been able to follow the discussion much, owing to my schedule here. This comment from a reader on another thread struck me, though:

I’ve been genuinely surprised by [the Left’s] reaction on the issue of legal elective abortion. It’s qualitatively different. Any threat to “we can destroy this child/organism/thing at any stage of development until birth” (and “heartbeat” laws are a very big threat) and the reaction is extraordinary. The entertainment industry takes a break from, well, entertaining or being funny and launches into angry sermonizing. So this is their red line in the cultural landscape, the hill on which they will burn with epithymia. I’ve been stunned by what some public figures are saying on social media. Statements that are way past “here’s a reasonable and rational point of view with which someone might disagree”. I’m seeing some seriously unhinged, out of touch with reality statements. The writer of the film Juno said of pro-life fans “I hate all of you”.

What is going on in the psyche of people such that they go far beyond “I disagree strongly with you” to “you are the enemy whom I hate and you need to be crushed”?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sizable portion of the social-cultural left lose its collective mind like this. I honestly didn’t understand until now that legal elective abortion (up to and sometimes including killing the child immediately after birth) is the center of their moral and ideological universe.

If I can figure out how and why I will understand what drives the social-cultural left.

I would differ slightly on that. I think sexual autonomy is at the center of their moral universe; maintaining legal abortion is part of that.

What are you pro-life readers seeing and hearing? Fill in this out-of-touch American. I’ll be heading back home on Wednesday.

By the way,  I just read Ramesh Ponnuru’s column on the new pro-life legislation. Nobody can doubt Ponnuru’s pro-life bona fides, but I think he makes a strong point about the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that the pro-life movement has miscalculated by rejecting incrementalism at this stage. Not sure that he’s right — again, I’ve been out of the country, and not following the debate, but it sounds spot on. Excerpt:

But incrementalism doesn’t have to be a universally correct strategy, for all political movements at all times, to be the right one for the pro-life movement today. Among the circumstances we confront are these: We have a radically unjust legal regime on abortion which can in principle be made less unjust by degrees; many millions of Americans are ambivalent — for example, favoring legal abortion in the case of rape while opposing it in the second and third trimesters; those on the other side of the debate are, partly as a result, demonstrably more eager to discuss abortions after rape than abortions late in pregnancy; many politicians allied to the pro-life movement are not especially adept at navigating the politics of the issue; and while our sense of where the Supreme Court justices are is imprecise, we have reason to think that one or more of them have misgivings both about Roe and about overruling it. These circumstances all argue in favor of incrementalism.

Finally, many critics suggested, often using forceful rhetoric, that an incrementalist strategy does not fit the moral urgency of the cause. The evil of abortion must be combated insistently, they say — and I agree. But our moral obligation is to combat it as effectively and intelligently as we know how. It is not to pass a law that gets struck down in court rapidly while alienating Americans in the middle of the debate.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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