Feminist Camille Paglia rakes her Democratic Party over the coals for using abortion as an “ideological tool” to raise campaign cash and drive votes.
At Salon, Paglia offers a brief history of “the abortion wars,” inspired, in part, by what she calls “the abortion tar pit” fallen into by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton this past week:
Trump blundered his way through a manic inquisition about abortion by MSNBC’s resident woodpecker, Chris Matthews, while Hillary committed an unforced error on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where she referred to the fetus as an “unborn person,” scandalizing the vast pro-choice lobby, who treat all attempts to “humanize” the fetus as a diabolical threat to reproductive rights.
Paglia is a known critic of Clinton’s candidacy. In 2013, she told Salon:
It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.
In January, Paglia wrote that Clinton’s brand of establishment feminism “defines women as perpetual victims requiring government protections,” and treats men with an “impatient or patronizing tone.”
She asserts that U.S. politics has been tortured for too long by the “rote histrionics of the abortion wars” that have gone on since the Supreme court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
“While I am firmly pro-choice and support unrestricted access to abortion, I have been disturbed and repelled for decades by the way reproductive rights have become an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited by my own party, the Democrats, to inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting,” Paglia explains.
The beginnings of abortion’s use as a Democrat campaign fundraiser, she says, are rooted in the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court candidates Robert Bork (1987), David Souter (1990), and Clarence Thomas (1991) – all nominated by Republican presidents.
Those hearings became freak shows of feminist fanaticism, culminating in the elevation to martyr status of Anita Hill, whose charges of sexual harassment against Thomas still seem to me flimsy and overblown (and effectively neutralized by Hill’s following Thomas to another job). Abortion was the not-so-hidden motivation of the Democratic operatives who pushed a reluctant Hill forward and fanned the flames in the then monochromatically liberal mainstream media. It was that flagrant abuse of the Senate confirmation process that sparked the meteoric rise of conservative talk radio, led by Rush Limbaugh, who provided an alternative voice in what was then (pre-Web) a homogenized media universe.
She traces the leftwing abortion “histrionics” to the “second-wave,” or “blame-men-first” brand of feminism – propagated by Gloria Steinem – and ultimately adopted by Clinton and her supporters.
“Steinem herself can be credited or blamed for having turned abortion into a sacrament, promoted with the same religiosity that she and her colleagues condemn in their devoutly Christian opponents,” she writes.
Abortion became part of the feminist picture, she adds, with eugenicist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s birth control campaign.
“Sanger remains a heroine to many feminists, including me, despite her troubling association with eugenics, a program (also adopted by the Nazis) of now discredited techniques like sterilization to purify and strengthen the human gene pool,” she admits.
While she herself is “pro-abortion” – and prefers that term to the “cowardly euphemistic” term “pro-choice” – Paglia says nevertheless:
I profoundly respect the pro-life viewpoint, which I think has the moral high ground. I wrote in “No Law in the Arena”: “We career women are arguing from expedience: it is personally and professionally inconvenient or onerous to bear an unwanted child. The pro-life movement, in contrast, is arguing that every conception is sacred and that society has a responsibility to protect the defenseless.”
“The silence from second-wave feminists about the ethical ambiguities in their pro-choice belief system has been deafening,” Paglia asserts. “There is a moral hollowness at the core of Western careerist feminism, a bourgeois secular code that sees children as an obstruction to self-realization or as a management problem to be farmed out to working-class nannies.”
Paglia blasts Clinton and other liberals who aim “war on women” rhetoric toward pro-life supporters:
Hillary deals in those smears as her stock in trade: for example, while campaigning last week, she said in the context of Trump’s comments on abortion, “Women’s health is under assault in America”—as if difficulty in obtaining an abortion is more of an assault than the grisly intervention required for surgical termination of a pregnancy. Who is the real victim here?
She views as “vulgar” the regular practice of those feminists who “project sex phobia onto all pro-lifers”:
Although I am an atheist who worships only great nature, I recognize the superior moral beauty of religious doctrine that defends the sanctity of life. The quality of idea and language in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, exceeds anything in grimly utilitarian feminism. In regard to the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” the Catechism says: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God….God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (#2258). Or this: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (#2270).
“Progressives need to do some soul-searching about their reflex rhetoric in demeaning the pro-life cause,” Paglia asserts. “A liberal credo that is variously anti-war, anti-fur, vegan, and committed to environmental protection of endangered species like the sage grouse or spotted owl should not be so stridently withholding its imagination and compassion from the unborn.”