Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Abortion and the Culture of Death

I watched last year with alarm a pro-abortion demonstration in Washington, D.C., which was addressed by, among others, Hillary Clinton. Though she is now attempting to modify her position, in an effort, I suppose, to move closer to the political center as she prepares her candidacy for president (an unmistakable gesture of hypocrisy, I might add), at that time she appeared to be endorsing the unfettered right to abortion-on-demand. And while, as I have mentioned, there was a time in my life when I might have agreed with her, I now regard such advocacy with dismay.

We are, in this nation, it seems to me, moving more and more toward the acceptance of a culture of death. In cases where matters of life and death are uncertain, I note that we tend more and more often to opt for death, whereas, when I was a boy, such an attitude would have been unthinkable. I refer, for another example, to the Terri Schiavo case, when so many were clamoring so publicly for an end to the poor woman's life. 'How can they be so ardent in their advocacy of death?' I wondered at the time. 'Surely, if there is any doubt at all, decent people would support her right to life.'

I see many of my fellow citizens coming down on the side of death in such uncertain matters, and the fact disturbs me. This is especially so in view of the menace of terrorism, whose adherents are in love with death - others' as well as their own. Surely this is the ultimate degradation of humanity. Yet, just as the terrorists militate for death in the name of jihad or salvation, the advocates of abortion militate for death in the name of gender rights or reproductive freedom. But death is a human experience unlike any other; as the philosopher, Martin Heidegger, pointed out: Death is unique among human possibilities in that it alone cancels out all other possibilities.

I think that to the extent that we choose death over life, we cut our moral moorings as a society, and begin a drift toward a spiritual chaos from which it may not be possible to return. Our society is anchored by certain principles, which the Founding Fathers cherished, and among these is the belief in a sacred right to life. Yet with each passing decade I see these fastening principles being gnawed away by narrow interest groups seeking to advance selfish agendas, in defiance of the fact that no society can endure which is not grounded in a belief in immutable Truth, and the stabilizing strength that flows from that belief.

I wonder how long our society can sustain its moral center, and a confidence in its own goodness, in the face of the deliberate deaths of millions of unborn children. It is a carnage which continues day after day, and is rationalized, even sanctified, by the agendas of feminism and the far left, whose spokesmen argue that abortion rights are essential to the status of women and the safety of civil liberties. (One wonders what kind of status and safety must be sustained by the deaths of innocents.) In doing so, they assure us that we ought to feel no shame in exercising this inviolable right to terminate pregnancy, and in that I see the beginning of the end of their argument. For every wrongdoer, as a first order of business, seeks to dissociate shame from behavior, in order that others may follow his or her example without fear of guilt.

I recall a woman I once knew who, by the age of thirty-three, had had six abortions for the sake of her career. She was a successful woman, much admired in some quarters. Leaving aside the almost criminal irresponsibility of her sexual conduct, I asked her simply, 'Where are your children?' She sighed, a look of profound sadness came over her face, and she replied, 'They are all dead.' Not, 'They never existed;' not 'They were non-viable tissue mass;' simply, 'They are all dead.'

She had accepted the assurances of the advocates of abortion to rationalize her behavior; indeed, she had relied on them. Yet when she was asked in plain human terms about what she had done, her soul could not deny the guilt and sorrow that she felt. There was an emptiness in her being, an underpinning of remorse, which no polemic could assuage. Six times she had chosen death, for the sake of a life the happiness and dignity of which had been undermined by her choice. My conversation with her (and with others) has forced powerfully on me the suspicion that even the most 'enlightened' and progressive-thinking woman who aborts her children will come to realize eventually that she has done wrong, and will suffer for it, and no rationale on earth can heal that hurt.

We may allow ourselves to be blinded to the truth of our behavior by the public spokesmen of political points of view, but so were the Germans and the Russians, even as they watched their societies descend into chaos. It is we, and not the activists, who must live with the consequences of our choices, and, perhaps, answer for them after our deaths. In matters of moral crisis, each of us must ask himself or herself, not what the advocates of this or that position say, but, what does my heart say, what does my conscience say, what does my soul say? And if we do so honestly and earnestly, I believe that our humanity will answer in a voice that none of us can mistake or deny.