The New York Times, the intellectuals’ equivalent of a drug addict’s first hit of the day, prides itself on being the nation’s “newspaper of record.” That is true only in the sense once guilelessly captured by the late New Yorker film critic, Pauline Kael, who expressed astonishment at Richard Nixon’s 1972 electoral landslide; after all, everyone she knew had voted for George McGovern. Like Kael, the Times didn’t know much about America then. It knows still less now, and much of what it thinks it knows it treats with utter contempt.
This is nowhere more apparent than on issues like homosexuality and abortion. As to the former, the Times is for all practical purposes the house organ of the homosexual rights movement. As to the latter, if there is an abortion anywhere, at any time, for any reason of which the Times disapproves, the fact has yet to be recorded in its pages. The editors are so utterly confident of the rightness of abortion—after all, everyone they know agrees they cannot imagine why any sane person might oppose it. Even so, “reproductive rights” are always threatened by malign forces (that would be women-haters, George W. Bush, the religious right generally, and the Catholic Church particularly) that beguile the unwary through seductive arguments. Roe v. Wade’s holy writ must therefore be reiterated from time to time lest faithful feminists stray from the fold.
So it was in late July that the Times ran three articles in four days to remind readers that the brave new world of abortion rights must not succumb to reactionary morals or cheap sentimentality. On July 18, “Television’s Most Persistent Taboo” worried that TV dramas celebrated childbirth at the expense of the abortion alternative. The Times Magazine on the same day brought us Amy Richards’s thoroughly modern feminist account of being pregnant with triplets (“When One Is Enough”). Her solution was “selective reduction,” the abortion industry’s quaint Victorian term for choosing which tiny humans will be designated to die.
The unmarried Ms. Richards “was tired of being on the pill, because it made me moody.” She and her boyfriend agree to have a child, but the bargain shatters at the prospect of three. For openers, she and her lover live in a fifth-floor walk-up. It gets worse. When informed that she will be on bed rest after 20 weeks, Ms. Richards, who earns her living by writing and lecturing on the college circuit, fears the loss of income. The gruesome wasteland of Staten Island stretches menacingly before her, replete with visions of “shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise.” Need one say more? The decision is a no-brainer. “A part of” Ms. Richards, mind you, could “work around” all that. The real issue—and here we come to her major didactic point—is, “Do I want to?” In the event, she selectively reduces her pregnancy by two- thirds (identical twins, as it happens) and gives birth to the remainder. But the important point, gentle reader, is that she made the choice.
On July 22, another radical feminist, Barbara Ehrenreich, warned her sisters not to go wobbly (“Owning Up to Abortion”). Too many women, it seems, are “in denial about aborting ‘defective’ fetuses,” thinking it to be “on a higher moral plane than a run-of- the-mill abortion.” The distinction, she suggests, betrays a dishonest and dangerous sentimentality that undermines sexual liberation. She hectors: “Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights.” Ehrenreich once wrote of her own two abortions that her “one regret” is that “they cost money that might otherwise have been spent on something more pleasurable, like taking [other] kids to movies and theme parks.” But not, presumably, to Costco.
Thus saith the gospel according to America’s newspaper of record.