It is usually assumed, in the abortion debate, that the fundamental difference between the pro-life and pro-choice positions is the question of when life begins. Pro-life people point to the scientific fact that the life of each organism begins at conception, when the sperm and egg meet to form a new individual with its own DNA different from that of the mother and father. As this new life implants and begins to grow, it has its own circulatory system, heartbeat, and developing body, making it an independent organism and a very young member of the human species
Pro-choice activists, on the other hand, argue that the fetus in the womb is not a person, not a baby – instead, just a “thing” that will eventually become a human being. However, in a disturbing new trend, more and more pro-choice activists are changing their tune and admitting that an unborn baby is a person, and that their pro-choice stand is based not on the belief that the baby is inhuman, but rather on the belief that killing the baby is okay.
This opinion was perhaps first expressed in Naomi Wolfe’s essay “Our Bodies, Our Souls: Rethinking Pro-Choice Rhetoric.” Her essay, which appeared in the October 16, 1995 issue of The New Republic, says:
It was when I was four months pregnant, sick as a dog, and in the middle of an argument, that I realized I could no longer tolerate the fetus-is-nothing paradigm of the pro-choice movement. I was being interrogated by a conservative, and the subject of abortion rights came up. “You’re four months pregnant,” he said. “Are you going to tell me that’s not a baby you’re carrying?”
The accepted pro-choice response at such a moment in the conversation is to evade: to move as swiftly as possible to a discussion of “privacy” and “difficult personal decisions” and “choice.” Had I not been so nauseated and so cranky and so weighed down with the physical gravity of what was going on inside me, I might not have told what is the truth for me. “Of course it’s a baby,” I snapped. And went rashly on: “And if I found myself in circumstances in which I had to make the terrible decision to end this life, then that would be between myself and God.”
While many pro-life readers found this revelation shocking, some pro-choice activists criticized Wolfe. Having a fellow activist suddenly proclaim that yes, a fetus is a baby the whole time, was jarring to them. They saw her rhetoric as a threat to abortion rights. But despite the outcry from some feminists, others have echoed her sentiments. For example, abortion supporter Judith Arcana recently said at a seminar (1):
I performed abortions, I have had an abortion and I am in favor of women having abortions when we choose to do so. But we should never disregard the fact that being pregnant means there is a baby growing inside of a woman, a baby whose life is ended. We ought not to pretend this is not happening.
This feminist, herself an abortionist, readily admits that abortion kills a baby. She clearly feels that abortions are justified, even though they kill human beings. She has no problem with the belief that a woman has the right to murder her own children for personal reasons.
Julia Black echoed these sentiments in an interview in which she discussed My Fetus, a pro-abortion movie that she directed. In an interview with ABC’s Tony Jones she said, bluntly (2):
[The idea of] dismembering a baby and pulling it out in pieces … is obviously horrific. But at the same time, it is easy to get caught up in that emotion.
Julia Black implies that while abortion does indeed kill a baby by dismemberment, this act is nothing to be concerned about. The baby is expendable. What is important is the mother’s desire not to be pregnant. Those of us who are troubled by the thought of a baby being violently torn apart are overreacting and overemotional. We should “get with the program” and accept abortion. As shocking as this concept is, this opinion is being advanced more and more often in the pro-choice movement.
Is this callous attitude limited to only a few pro-choice advocates on the fringe? To answer that question, one need look no farther than the words of Faye Wattleton, the former president of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is the leading provider of abortions in America. Its legal arm is active in fighting pro-life legislation on both the state and federal levels. Planned Parenthood has successfully campaigned against parental notification bills, laws requiring a woman to be shown a sonogram before consenting to an abortion, and even bills requiring abortion clinics to be licensed and regulated. However, the woman who served as president of Planned Parenthood for years has written the following in her book How to Talk to Your Child About Sexuality (3):
There are many sperm cells in the [seminal] fluid. If one of them meets an egg cell inside the mother, new life can begin to grow[.] … [I]f one of your friends is pregnant, ask her to let your child feel the baby move[.] … [A] baby grows in a special place inside the mother, called the uterus — not in her stomach. In nine months, it is born[.]
Wattleton, who presided over the most active pro-abortion organization in the country, freely admits that the being developing in a woman’s womb is a baby – not a mere clump of cells or subhuman organism. Yet despite this knowledge, she fought to keep abortion legal and to advance legislation to keep women uninformed of its true nature. Wattleton campaigned against laws that would have required an abortion provider to offer any information on the fetus to his/her patients. We can only imagine how vehemently she would have fought against a law requiring him to refer to the fetus as a “baby.” Yet in her book, she does just that. This quote from Wattleton, once one of the most prominent pro-choice activists in the country, shows that the pro-choice movement as a whole is well aware of what abortion really does, as well as increasingly unafraid to say it.
In 2003, another prominent pro-choice advocate, Kathleen McDonnell, wrote in her book (4):
Abortion is in some sense an act of violence, and indisputably results in the termination of a life.
McDonnell continues to support legalized abortion despite this admission.
The trend of pro-choice activists admitting in public that abortion kills babies is not unique to America. In Australia, pro-choice author Leslie Cannold stated in her book The Abortion Myth: Feminism, Morality, and the Hard Choices Women Make (5):
Any woman who has felt a baby stir inside her [and] any man who has seen the tiny heart pulsing on an ultrasound screen knows that abortion is about ending a life.
The same book quotes a British author and pro-choice activist, Eileen Fairweather, saying (6):
It is possible for people to support a woman’s right to choose whether they believe that abortion is killing or not.
The message is clear – abortion is permissible even if it’s killing a child. These women believe that it is perfectly acceptable to kill babies in their mothers’ wombs. One needn’t even bother trying to hide the fact that abortion kills a baby. The public should just accept that abortion is fine – even knowing that it is murder.
Creator of “The Abortion Diaries” Penny Lane says, in an article in Salon Magazine (7):
Most of the abortions in America are about convenience. People need to accept abortion for what it is: a valid part of the reproductive spectrum. I want it to be seen as normal; if 1.3 million women in this country have one every year, it’s gotta be normal.
Yet later on, in that same interview, she says (8):
I remember feeling conflicted about the magic of being pregnant. I felt electricity running through my body. Not for a minute did I not think of it as a life. I knew it was a baby.
In one breath, abortion is an acceptable, common occurrence that shouldn’t bother anyone. In the next, it is the murder of a baby.
One of the most prominent pro-choice activists of the current decade is Jennifer Baumgardner. She is the creator of the “I Had An Abortion” T-shirt and the campaign surrounding it. She frequently speaks at pro-choice functions and fundraisers. She describes what happened to one such event in her book Abortion & Life (9):
I had my own moment of truth during my fifth month of pregnancy in May 2004. A small moment, but it changed me. I was speaking to a group from Barnard’s College Students for Choice when I referred to the object in one’s uterus when one Is pregnant as a “baby.”
A nurse practitioner who was speaking after me interrupted “Fetus, you mean. You said baby, but it’s a fetus.”
“Oh, right,” I stammered, blushing. “Oops.” I felt foolish, caught in an ignorant mistake. Later, though, I realized that I had always thought of my pregnancy as carrying a baby- that was the word I wanted to use- and I was forcing myself to say “fetus” out of fear. … I thought of other phrases that I forced myself to use too, like “so-called partial birth abortion” and “antichoice.” These phrases suddenly struck me as legal jargon, words in the service of arguments that weren’t themselves always meaningful. Suppressing language, policing ourselves so we don’t slip up and say “baby” continues the split between our politics and our lives.
Jennifer Baumgardner, one of the most active new faces in the pro-choice movement, is continuing a trend that is becoming more and more blatant in the movement and in our society as a whole. We have gone from engaging in the mental gymnastics of denying the obvious – the humanity of the unborn child – to advocating murder outright, admitting that abortion kills babies and that’s perfectly fine.
As if that wasn’t enough, pro-choice leader Loretta Ross, who is the national coordinator of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, is also quoted in Baumgardner’s book referring to the unborn child as a “baby” (10).
Are pro-choice activists so confident of their victory in making abortion legal that they have abandoned any pretense that abortion isn’t murder? Have they finally come to the point where they are no longer attempting to deceive the public into believing that unborn babies aren’t people? And is our society so far gone that the public will accept the fact that yes, abortion kills babies, but that there’s nothing wrong with that?
1. One.October 1999 Seminar, Found Here: http://www.cwluherstory.org/CWLUFeature/Arcanatalk.html
2. Ed Vitagliano “Murder: So What? Film Reveals Growing Callousness Toward Abortion” AFA Journal Nov/Dec 2004
3. Faye Wattleton, “How to Talk to your child about Sexuality” (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Inc., 1986
4. Kathleen McDonnell “Not An Easy Choice: A Feminist Re-examines Abortion” (Second Story Press) 2003
5. Leslie Cannold “The Abortion Myth: Feminism, Morality and the Hard Choices Women Make” (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1998) p xvii-xviii.
7. Salon.com, “The A-word” November 20, 2004
9. Jennifer Baumgardner “Abortion & Life” (New York, NY: Akashic Books, 2008) p 59-60