Ross Douthat’s column today on the Williamson affair is very, very powerful, one of his best. Excerpts:

[I]ndeed, people who believe firmly in an absolute or near-absolute right to an abortion are effectively my people in a certain tribal way, given that I’m a Connecticut Yankee raised by Bill Clinton-voting boomers and educated in the modern meritocracy. I like these folks; I think they mean well; I try to listen to their arguments with the respect that the sincere and intelligent deserve.

But I also think that they are deceived by a cruel ideology that has licensed the killing of millions of innocents for almost 50 years. In the language that the respectable use to banish views without rebuttal, I regard them — friends and colleagues and faithful readers — as essentially extremists, for whom the distinctive and sometimes awful burdens that pregnancy imposes on women have become an excuse to build a grotesque legal regime in which the most vulnerable human beings can be vacuumed out or dismembered, killed for reasons of eugenics or convenience or any reason at all.

Douthat goes on to say that even though he himself is a pro-lifer, Kevin Williamson’s view that women who have abortions are guilty of a capital crime is “extremist” (he’s right; most pro-lifers do not believe that — in fact, I think Williamson is the only one I could name who does). Douthat calls the Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s decision to hire Williamson for being a provocative writer and then firing him for having expressed a provocative opinion “stupid and gutless.” More:

[T]his is a case study in exactly the problem establishment editors are trying to address by widening their pool of writers: the inability of contemporary liberalism to see itself from the outside, as it looks to the many people who for some reason, class or religion or historical experience, are not fully indoctrinated into its increasingly incoherent mix of orthodoxies. [Emphasis mine — RD]

By this I mean that my pro-choice friends endorsing Williamson’s sacking can’t see that his extremism is mirrored in their own, in a system of supposedly “moderate” thought that is often blind to the public’s actual opinions on these issues, that lionizes advocates for abortion at any stage of pregnancy, that hands philosophers who favor forms of euthanasia and infanticide prestigious chairs at major universities, that is at best mildly troubled by the quietus of the depressed and disabled in Belgium or the near-eradication of Down syndrome in Iceland or the gendercide that abortion brought to Asia, that increasingly accepts unblinking a world where human beings can be commodified and vivisected so long as they’re in embryonic form.

Read the whole thing.

This is such an important point.

Here is what “intact dilation and extraction” — a late-term form of abortion often called “partial birth abortion” — looks like in its final stage:

Believing that this is not infanticide is extreme, but that’s a matter of opinion. Believing that this should be legal is extreme — and I can document that. According to the most recent Gallup poll (2012), only 14 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in the last three months of pregnancy. I bet if you polled the Atlantic newsroom — or any major US newsroom for that matter — that number would be something like 90 percent, maybe higher. Only 27 percent believe abortion should be legal in the second trimester, by the way.

You may remember the undercover videos of abortionists discussing their work harvesting fetal body parts. Here’s one Planned Parenthood abortionist talking about her work:

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, ‘I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

“I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is calvarium. Calvarium — the head — is basically the biggest part.”

Congress investigated whether or not these clinics were guilty of illegally trafficking in fetal body parts, but recommended no charges — but the Justice Department is now reportedly investigating the same thing. Whether or not you agree that a crime was committed here, the conscience-shocking brutality with which these abortionists talk about the human beings they kill in the womb is, well, extremist. To most people I would think — but not journalists and other liberals.

By the way, check out Atlantic staff writer Conor Friedersdorf’s long, thoughtful take on the Williamson business. He criticizes his magazine for the way it handled the matter, but offers lot of considered thoughts on tolerance.

UPDATE: Reader Annie:

Erin Machell and Jefferson Smith: I was pro-choice (adamantly, including being a PP-donator) until a loved one procured a late-term abortion. Because of Doe v. Bolton she was able to cite “suicidal thoughts,” meeting the requirement for “life of the mother” and so receive the abortion at a special clinic.

The suicidal thoughts actually began immediately afterwards. She’s attempted suicide three times, has been hospitalized, is now a recluse and drug addict, and cannot hold down a job. She calls herself a “murderer,” but she cannot fully process these things. She cannot meet my children because it is too traumatic. Her life is effectively over and she is only in her 30s.

While I was watching this process unfold I confided in my best friend who told me of 3 women she worked with in the service industry who got late-term abortions. All claimed suicide/emotional health. None of the pregnancies had any sort of abnormalities. All of the girls split with their boyfriends/husbands soon after. One could no longer have children. All had wild guilt, self-medication problems through drugs, and other issues, but they were still pro-choice. As was my friend.

I was horrified. I still bear the guilt of having supported such an abomination. I began researching and researching. Women who have had such experiences don’t write those handy propaganda pieces for late-term abortion that are trotted out all the time. The women who had these abortions are still pro-choice. But it looked to me like Stockholm Syndrome: they were all suffering severe mental problems. They had to rationalize the guilt somehow, but like a pernicious weed it was cropping up in every area of their life and crippling them. Of course, Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer post-abortive counseling. And as long as Doe V. Bolton is law of the land, women can cite “emotional health” and procure an abortion which looks exactly like the pictures above. More than one life is destroyed when that happens.

I became pro-life. When I’ve tried to recount this process to pro-choicers on-line I’m told I’m a liar and was never pro-choice. They close their eyes to Doe v. Bolton and point to the sanitized accounts of late-term abortion as “tragically necessary.” Our society has stuck its fingers in its ears. Our utter rejection of consequences is not merciful. The manipulation of language and rejection of limits kills real human beings and maims women for life, and then asks those women to celebrate it. Lord have mercy.