Public Arguments: Another January 22

Another cold and miserable January has come around, another March on Washington is scheduled, to stir the conscience of our fellow citizens about the terrible deeds done daily in our midst. Legally, with the full blessing of the American State, private acts of violence are reaching every day into the haven of new life in the wombs of mothers. Culture of violence, indeed! It is bad enough that citizens are not safe upon the streets of our major cities. But hundreds of thousands of them, three million of them every two years, are not even safe in the warm wombs of their own mothers. The long-bladed knives and scalpels seek them out, press their resistant flesh, and slice their helpless limbs. And this is done in the name of “choice.” Choice, indeed. Abortion is an evil choice, even when it is not illegal, perhaps especially when it is not illegal. For then a democratic people must be evil twice: once in the affirmation of the law that makes the killing legal, and second in the actual bloody killing.

How can it be that citizens can bear to exercise this “choice,” this choice in which the human most affected can utter at most a silent scream? How can a nation be proud of it? How can those who carry banners proclaiming it feel morally superior? They know not what they do.

This nation is missing now some 31 million young ones, the oldest of whom (after abortion was made legal in 1973) would have become 21 years old in 1994. Their college graduation pictures will never appear. The blank spaces in high school year books that would have borne their photos represent a vast lost cohort. They are lost, those unborn 31 millions, who would have been friends of other friends, loved ones, youngsters who laughed and cried. All the energy they might have infused in this Republic, were it still what it once was, a nation in which “abortionist” was the worst epithet a human could receive, has disappeared into a void.

There is no greater blot upon the feminist movement of our time than that it is not the great protector of the fruit in the womb of women. Instead, it chose to be the most relentless enemy of the unborn human individuals living in their wombs that only women can nourish into life. What is more distinctive of women than solicitude for the helpless ones living in their wombs? What is treated with more cruelty by modern feminism? A movement born in the slaughter and bloodshed of those who must cower in their mothers’ wombs is not a blessed movement.

Jefferson feared for the future of this nation when he thought that God is just. And so may we also. For abortion is even worse than slavery. It is a scarlet blot upon this nation’s future. And if it must be that blood is paid with blood, we shall have much to suffer before the next century is out.

Indeed, we are already suffering for it. Does anyone not think that the violence that in our time enters the once-safe harbor of the womb has no connection to the general atmosphere of violence upon the streets, especially among the young? What a dreadful ruse has been perpetrated upon the young people of America (and other pro-abortion “advanced” countries). In a city like Washington, D.C., every child born must run the gauntlet of abortion, which winnows their ranks by more than one-third—a carnage greater than that suffered at nearby Antietam and Gettysburg. Then some seventy-plus percent are born outside of wedlock, condemned to all the liabilities that statistically follow therefrom, especially the anger and rage that spring from being abandoned by one’s own father. What has one done to deserve that? Who will explain it? Who will justify it?

When both mothers and fathers are so heartless to their own helpless and totally dependent ones, why should we expect the children to be sociable, kind, dutiful, and civic-minded? It is not poverty that condemns children to poor chances; the vast majority of Americans my age were born and brought up poor, and the entire nation once was poor, when citizens were full of hope. It is not poverty; it is the violence directed by adults toward their own children, moral violence, and the butchery of abortion, that most impresses the most impressionable. If at eighteen they are still alive and whole, they can look back upon the bloody gauntlet they have run ever since they were conceived. Why should they not do likewise to a world that welcomes them so?

And why should we strike our breasts and proclaim that we do not understand what is going on around us? Why should we think that gun-control will stop the slaughter, when self-control can’t do it?

The legal practice of abortion is a self-condemnation. It is a public declaration that violence by private persons practiced upon the helpless is hereby sanctioned in this once-blessed land. It is a public declaration of contempt for the truths that the people of this nation, through Thomas Jefferson, once declared to be self-evident: that all children are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which is the right to life. We no longer believe that, publicly. That truth no longer holds us in its grip.

The nation has slipped its moorings. No wonder our children have slipped theirs. No wonder mayhem reigns. Order has been shattered.

Talk about conversion. The judgment this nation faces should make us tremble.

Michael Novak

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Michael Novak held for many years the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute and is now a trustee and visiting professor at Ave Maria University. He is a philosopher, theologian, and author, as well as the 1994 recipient of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He has been an emissary to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He has written over twenty-seven books on the philosophy and theology of culture, especially the essential elements of a free society. He also founded Crisis Magazine with Ralph McInerny in 1982.

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