Temper, Temper: Salon’s Abortion Tantrum

Every parent has experienced a child caught in the act, perhaps even with evidence of melted chocolate still on the corner of her lip, who resolutely denied the obvious. “What? Who me? Couldn’t be!”

A good many parents have also encountered the icy indifference of a bolder child, one who does not care if he’s caught. “That’s right. I stole the cookie. It was me. What’s it to you?”

With my own children, I rather hope for the first scenario, for while that child is dishonest, she retains enough moral sense to know she’s done something against the rules—that’s why she lies. The second child, however, worries me, for it is not the facts he denies, but order. The first lives in falsehood; the second in revolt. The first child will (very) likely change her own mind, given enough time, but the second child is throwing a temper tantrum against the truth of being.

Of course, adults throw tantrums, too; and while the feet may not stomp or the face mottle, the revolt is obvious—and chilling.

Writing for Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams boldly admits that abortion ends a human life—“so what?” Pro-lifers have co-opted the word “life,” she claims, forcing pro-abortion advocates to “scramble around with not nearly as big-ticket words like ‘choice’ and ‘reproductive freedom.’” The answer, she suggests, is to acknowledge that of course a fetus is a human life, it just doesn’t matter: “… throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me … that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.”

Denying the humanity of the unborn child is bad strategy, and “play[s] into the sneaky dirty tricks of the anti-choice lobby when we on the pro-choice side squirm so uncomfortably at the ways in which they’ve repeatedly appropriated the concept of ‘life.’” The only real answer is to take the term back. Pro-abortion advocates have been “so intimidated by the wingnuts, we get spooked,” “bullied around,” and consequently contorted into absurd denials of the obvious, all the while ceding rhetorical and imaginative ground to pictures of “tiny fingers and tiny toes.”

No more. Those favoring abortion should admit the truth: life begins at conception, there is no moral difference between first and second trimesters, and no difference between the “bunch of cells” aborted and “the baby” lost to miscarriage, for “it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside … wasn’t the same” because of how mothers “felt about their pregnancies.” You are not “less of a human when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb.”

She tells the truth. But, as she puts it, “Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal.” A “fetus can be a human life” and yet the mother “is the boss,” and “her life and what is right for her … automatically trump the rights of the … entity inside of her. Always.” More flippantly, Williams states that if she found out “today I was pregnant, you bet … I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion.” In fact, she “would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time—even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.”

With these words the culture of death reveals itself as a tantrum, a revolt against order. Brazen, like the second child, it sneers, “so what,” some humans are “not equal,” their lives always worth sacrificing. We do this all the time, Williams claims, judging that the lives of foreigners, prisoners, and the ill and dying are all optional, but in those instances we aren’t “bullied around by the vague idea that if … we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise.” We should grow up and treat the human life of the fetus in just the same manner as we (mis)treat the lives of the ignored, marginalized, and oppressed—as unequal.

Of course, her claim follows if—and only if—we grant legitimacy to the culture of death. If, she states, we cheerily deny the dignity of some, then we are free to merrily deny the dignity of others; but we do deny the dignity of some, and so we should feel empowered to deny the dignity of the unborn. There is a chilling logic here, obviously, for there is no reason to value the unborn life if we discard the lives of the born. Death follows its grim story to the bitter end, so long as one begins with death as the premise.

Is it unfair to ask why we cannot use the same logic to devalue anyone we so wish? All too frequently, the lives of women, of slaves, of minorities, of the poor have been thought worth sacrificing for “the boss,” does this thereby justify the inequitable treatment?

The real question is whether we ought to devalue foreign lives, lives imprisoned, lives suffering and nearing their end. If we ought not devalue these lives, then claiming that some lives are always worth sacrificing reveals itself as nothing more than arbitrariness, caprice, violent willfulness, revolt, spite.

But perhaps those enslaved to the culture of death can no longer ask ought-questions in a meaningful way. Certainly Williams does not.

John Paul II puts it thus in Evangelium Vitae:

[A] new cultural climate is developing and taking hold, which gives crimes against life a new and-if possible-even more sinister character, giving rise to further grave concern: broad sectors of public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom, and on this basis they claim not only exemption from punishment but even authorization by the State, so that these things can be done with total freedom.… The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.

Ms. Williams’ declaration of inequality, and other similar attempts to justify abortion using the “so what?” strategy are honest, at least; but like the second cookie-stealing child, they are revolts against order, tantrums against humanity.

Dangerous ones.

R. J. Snell


R. J. Snell directs the Center on the University and Intellectual Life at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a senior fellow at the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good. He is the author (with Steve Cone) of Authentic Cosmopolitanism: Love, Sin, and Grace in the Christian University. His latest books are Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire and The Perspective of Love.

  • Bob

    Very interesting. At least the pro abortion people are publicly acknowledging the truth that it is human life in the womb. This could be interesting to see how this all plays out. Could Joan Walsh from Salon.com being interviewed on MSNBC finally arrogantly admits “Yes, it is a baby in the womb. But so what? Shouldn’t it be the mother’s choice whether that baby lives or not?” could be where the house of the pro choice argument that is built fallaciousy on sand starts to crumble.

    • hombre111

      I don’t know if abortion will ever disappear, but maybe that cold-hearted remark by Joan Walsh is the beginning of a realistic argument about what is happening. “Fetus” was a weasel-word that promoted denial. Admit it’s a baby and a new kind of discussion begins. To speak about mothers and living or dying could bring up the anguish that is experienced on both sides, and why a woman would choose to kill a baby. For instance, call it a baby and suddenly an old question becomes more poignant: Joan, can you think of any instance when it would be morally repugnant to kill a baby? I think that Joan the feminist would think of all the girl babies that are routinely aborted in China and other parts of the world.

    • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

      I would try to avoid the generalization of “pro abortion people”, but yes, this article tell us something interesting: eugenics was always there

  • TheodoreSeeber

    The obvious answer to this new challenge is to be more Catholic than the liberals, more Catholic than those who insist that human life is expedable- and be totally pro-life.

    • Bob

      Agreed. Truth always beats out a lie, and the Catholic Church contains the fullness of the Truth of Christ.

      • hombre111

        The Vatican Council said the true Church “subsists” in the Catholic Church. I think of “subsistent farming,” where the farmer keeps his family alive…barely. Roget’s Thesaurus also uses “survive” and “eke out a living.” Also, exist, live, be, continue. Notice, it did not offer “flourish” as a synonym.

        • rightactions

          An interesting exegesis of that remark from the VII council.

          However, the council was using the word in its technical sense within metaphysics and theology. Reliance on Roget’s is potentially misleading in such a case.

          • hombre111

            I was a seminarian when the word “subsist” appeared and people remarked that it was an unusual choice. It had no theological meaning except the meaning given to it at that time. Google the world and you will find no theological meaning apart from that. It was a remarkable word because it occured in the middle of a passage which recognized other churches. See the Constitution on the Church to see the context.

        • msmischief

          Another non-theological definition of “subsistent” is “providing for one’s own needs through one’s own labor rather than trading for them.”

          Even without the technical definition, you are pushing your luck here.

          • hombre111

            Googling the word will give you access to several dictionaries. See how often that definition comes up. The only “theological” meaning listed is by EWTN, not exactly a theological source.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I was thinking more from the angle of what our Church is named after. The doctorine that salvation is universally offered, merely because ALL human souls have Imago Dei, and ALL human bodies contain the Plan of God in our very DNA. Who are we to be so bigoted as to claim that we should kill any part of that?

  • I could easily have written this completely arrogant view of unborn human life 30 years ago. That to me is more chilling than the article itself. But by the mercy of Christ, God’s grace has transformed my thinking, and will convert the nation in time – we just have to keep the fight, don’t back down on the truth, and most of all…. keep praying.

    • rightactions

      Praise Jesus and may He honor all the souls who interceded for you, Susan Suddjian.

  • It’s a good thing this woman is at least intelligent enough to know that it is a human life in the womb. I know of at least one pro-abortion person who probably couldn’t even pass logic 101. We were discussing when human life begins. She said that it was solely an issue of religion. I said that it was not, and talked to her about a genetically unique being forming when an egg and sperm unite. She persisted in her argument that the question of when life begins is a matter of religion, and that I had not given her a fact, but “an interpretation of a scientific fact.” I have no idea of what she means by that, and she has yet to get back to me. I really don’t know how else I am to interpret a fact (something that’s been proven to be scientifically true), besides to agree that it is in fact true. I may reject or ignore said truth, but that doesn’t make it false. Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is true. Isn’t that an epiphany?

  • MichaelP71

    I think the interesting thing here is that she says “…a life worth sacrificing.” Sacrifice in its meaning has an air of giving up something of distinct value. The author admits, whether she knows it or not, human life has distinct value. She cannot escape that fact.

    • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

      I know Miss Williams doesn’t care about it, but that kind of “sacrifice” is a homicide precisely because you aren’t aware of the will of the “sacrificed”, something like giving what doesn’t belongs to you…

    • John200

      We were supposedly past human sacrifice very early in the history of Christianity. Moloch smiles, and thanks this WilliamsThing for her contribution.

    • rightactions

      “To give up a greater value for a lesser one,” is how Ayn Rand defined the word “sacrifice” in her essays and books. Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing for Salon.com fits the profile.

      P.S. Nothing stops Ms. Williams and her legion of Choose Death advocates from glomming onto the word “life”. They need only prefix it with “anti” as in “anti-life”.

      • msmischief

        That would be a definition of evil, not sacrifice, to a Christian. Not that there can not be evil sacrifices.

  • Sounds very much like Hilliary Clinton in her testimony b4 Congressional House Commte. yesterday yelling “what does it matter?’ re those 4 Americans killed in Benghazi. Murdering appears not an issue, even when it could have been avoided by implementing proper safeguards against aggression/terrorism. It is obvious BL John Paul II was guided by the Holy Spirit in his comments in EV. We have ‘progressed’ to indifference re all manner of life – unborn is just the beginning trajectory to hell on earth for all and any who are considered expendable. And, tragically we have re-elected the most anti-life POTUS ever;laying his hands on not 1 or even 2 bibles but 3 as he was sworn in to uphold our Constitution. Does anyone besides me see the irony his doing so the same weekend of 40 yrs of Roe v Wade.
    Things do not bode well for this nation unless we repent beginning w/people of faith.

    • Rosemary

      I agree it is very ironic.

  • A rule I’ve been considering, for prophesying where we are headed: Think of the most unnatural and preposterous thing you can, which might sneak into somebody’s head. Shake well, and wait two years. I believe the last few days provide evidence for the validity of this test. I am starting to understand how Dante felt, when he wrote that since God’s judgment must fall upon Florence sooner or later, let it be sooner.

  • musicacre

    Intelligence without wisdom; seems to be the order of the day. We see it all the time now. Twenty years ago my husband’s friend brought over his fiancee (Who just got her PhD in chemistry) and somehow (in our home it always happens) we got into the subject of abortion. At some point the friend was arguing that the contents of the uterus were not a baby and she sharply said to him “…stupid, of course it’s a baby, that’s not the issue.” She was so cold about it and calmly said it was a right for women to kill. I remember thinking, good luck with that marriage!

    • Reminds me of a conversation in college, many years ago now (!). The young woman said — to a friend of mine, another woman — that if she got pregnant, she would have to have an abortion, because she drank a lot, and drinking causes birth defects, and she wouldn’t want to bring a child into the world with a birth defect. When my friend asked her why she didn’t then do the obvious — refrain from either one of her notorious habits — she replied that she didn’t want to, because she liked to party, and that was that.
      I wanna! I wanna! That’s what it amounts to, I’m afraid.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The Veil Law of 1975 that legalised abortion in France took exactly the same position.

    Article 1 reads, “The law guarantees the respect of every human being from the commencement of life. There shall be no derogation from this principle except in cases of necessity and under the conditions laid down by this Law.”

    It nonetheless allows an abortion to be performed before the end of the tenth week of pregnancy by a physician in an approved hospital when a woman who is “in a situation of distress” because of her pregnancy requests the abortion.

    In 1979, an amendment was added that ” education towards responsibility, the acceptance of the child in society, and family-oriented policy, are national obligations…”

  • I think the biggest problem for pro-abortionists(murderers) is science. In 1972 they might argue that the baby was not really a baby, but now, with all the various pre-natal technology and DNA testing available, the evidence is in, the baby in the womb is human and alive.They know they have to change their argument and I guess this one is their latest test, to see if it flies. “Women’s Rights”,(the right to kill female babies), isn’t quite working out for them.

    • rightactions

      Even in 1972 the science was settled that the baby is “really a baby” and “the baby in the womb is human and alive”.

  • Keith Parkinson

    Yeah, that article really was the lamest thing ever, wasn’t it? Very reminiscent of a young child, indeed.

    Her argument is essentially that fetuses have no human worth, not because they’re not people, but because they have no power, being dependent on the host. The “anti-choice” movement, on the other hand, wants to take the right of abortion away from women – which is a very precious form of power, isn’t it, power over one’s own body. And so she quite consistently sees this as an attack upon her human worth.

    Now, anybody with any spiritual energy is perfectly willing to sacrifice anything and everything for their highest good – and she has settled on hers. Therefore, yes, the life of a fetus is “a life worth sacrificing.”

    This is the only pro-choice position that exists. Everything else is rhetoric.

    Mr. Snell, thank you. This piece and the original article have been a very rewarding read. God and the Devil, good and evil are not meaningful allegiances to most people any more. The choice we all face is between love and power: Which do we worship, and which do we use. If you choose power, that’s what evil is. If anything, it’s good to know who the bad guys are. They’re usually not the ones smoking pot and doing seances in someone’s basement.

    • rightactions

      [I]t’s good to know who the bad guys are.
      –Keith Parkinson

      True. But in this case your truism is an insult to men.

      Mary Elizabeth Williams, the Salon writer, is not one of the “guys” – she’s a gal.

  • Martin

    The concept of “Lebensunwertes Leben” (life unworthy of life) did not end with the defeat of the National Socialists in 1945. It is alive and well in America.

  • Pingback: National Catholic Reporter Undermines Church Teaching | Big Pulpit()

  • She arrogantly says the unborn child is life “So what?” That makes her an accomplice to murder. That is what. The arrogance of the left is behind reason.

  • Ken Hildebrandt

    In dealing with anybody, I’d rather they both speak the truth and question authority. Look at the potential harm of blind obedience to authority as revealed by The Milgram Experiments (see number 3 at,http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/03/how-society-works-8-revealing-psychological-insights-into-our-social-behaviour.php). And we all know the problem of lying as per ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ most of us learned when young. If someone’s a known liar you never know if they’re telling you the truth. We would arguably live in a far more reasonable world if more people both spoke the truth and questioned authority.