Sunday, April 21, 2013
Just a bit, from what I thought was a good piece by Ross Douthat, commenting on the argument one is hearing in some quarters that the Gosnell case confirms the merits of the pro-abortion-rights side's arguments:
The only things missing from this clean, airtight, entirely consistent argument are, well, all the dead babies in the Gosnell clinic — or the dead “precipitated fetuses,” to employ the language Gosnell and his associates used to euphemize their practice of delivering and then “snipping” rather than aborting in utero. Their absence is not necessarily a problem if you’re willing to argue that those babies were non-persons before delivery and became persons immediately after (in which case Gosnell is guilty of infanticide but a more competent late-term abortion facility wouldn’t be), or if you’re willing to argue, with Peter Singer and some others, that personhood is something that emerges gradually at some indeterminate time after birth (in which case Gosnell’s “snipping” wasn’t murder at all). The former, I think, is the more common form of pro-choice absolutism, and the latter belongs to the more philosophically-inclined fringe (although the debate over “born-alive” bills has moved the official consensus fringeward). But if you’re already committed to absolute support for abortion rights, either argument will suffice to justify treating Gosnell’s conduct as irrelevant to the broader abortion controversy.
What neither argument seems likely to do, however, is do much to persuade the many, many “pro-choice but …” people who aren’t already so committed, and whose support for abortion rights tends to waver most when they’re confronted with the reality of what abortion actually does to fetal life — in clean, well-funded facilities as well as filthy ones, and in the womb as much as on Gosnell’s operating tables. This is, of course, the central reason why the pro-life side assumes that mainstream reporters didn’t particularly want to cover the trial: Because the mainstream press leans pro-choice, because mainstream journalism is pitched to readers in the mushy middle on abortion, and because the practice of “after-birth abortion” makes fetal humanity manifest in ways that almost inevitably push that middle in a more pro-life direction. . . .