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From the January/February, 2004 issue of Touchstone


The Very Idea of Abortion by David Mills

The Very Idea of Abortion

In an interview in early November with National Public Radio, Wesley Clark declared that he opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion because he did not believe in “legislation for ideology.” The word ideology, when used by people like Clark and pro-abortionists in general, seems to mean “an idea I really dislike.” They have ideas, especially new, fresh, innovative ideas; their opponents have ideology. They have dreams and visions; their opponents, ideology. They have compassion and concern; their opponents, ideology. They have principles; their opponents, ideology.

The idea appears in other forms that do not use the word but make the same sort of irrational but very convenient distinction. The pro-abortionists will demand that a man nominated to be a federal judge respect “a woman’s right to choose” before they will support him, but will denounce those who demand that he accept the unborn child’s right to live as applying an illegitimate “litmus test.”

When they talk about justice for one of their favored groups, they speak about justice, but when their opponents talk about justice for the unborn, they (their opponents) speak ideologically. “A woman’s right to control her own body” is for them a self-evident truth upon which public policy must be based, but “an unborn child’s right to live” is an ideological statement that should never be advanced in public debate.

There is something particularly smarmy about this. An intelligent man knows what an idea is. He can recognize two competing ideas and judge between them. He can see that the pro-choice people hold one set of ideas and the pro-life people another. He can see, if he looks, that the pro-life position has an ancient and substantial intellectual tradition behind it. This is not, as the expression goes, rocket science. We expect this of any educated man.

Being able to do this and yet trying to win the argument by slapping an insulting label on the ideas one does not like, and trying to rule them out of the debate entirely by pretending they are not ideas, is disgusting. It is cheating. It is lying. It is also the natural rhetoric of several people who want to be president and of many who already hold public office.

This abuse of the word ideology represents a choice to misunderstand, not an innocent mental error. It is evidence, and good evidence, of a mind at least partly crippled and corrupted, and working to corrupt others. The abusers have chosen the darkness and are now trying to put out the light so that other people will not be able to see. Those of us who can see must keep the light of reason lit, so that others, now neutral or confused, can see what sits before them in plain sight: the humanity of unborn children who should not be killed in their mothers’ wombs.

David Mills, for the editors

David Mills is executive editor of First Things. He was editor of Touchstone from 2003-2008. His most recent book is Discovering Mary: Answers to Questions About the Mother of God (Servant Books). He is living with his wife and two of their four children in Manhattan, where they attend Immaculate Conception church.

“The Very Idea of Abortion” first appeared in the January/February 2004 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.

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