It’s a fact of life that pro-lifers are forced to answer all sorts of media “gotcha” questions about slippery-slope abortion hypotheticals, while pro-choicers don’t face even mildly difficult questions about the actual facts of abortion.
That skew helps explain why Donald Trump went through the media wringer for his subsequently retracted statement that if abortion were made illegal, women would be punished for undergoing the banned procedure.
Maybe some in the establishment media finally did feel a twinge of guilt over how this game is played, because Sunday on Meet the Press, Clinton was asked if she thought unborn children had any constitutional rights.
“Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists. The unborn person doesn’t have Constitutional rights,” Clinton replied, before offering the usual pro-choice argie-bargie about how of course they hope babies that don’t fall victim to the sacred Women’s Right to Choose are born healthy.
This brief moment of frankness is getting Clinton in a bit of trouble with abortion extremists, who severely disapprove of describing the unborn as “persons.”
Unborn Americans are supposed to be treated as lumps of tissue, not much different from a tumor, until some point after they emerge from the womb. Talking about “unborn persons” makes abortion zealots uncomfortable, even when it’s done as part of a legalistic argument that absurdly claims the Founders didn’t regard babies as human.
Right on cue, the Washington Times found a Planned Parenthood manager squealing that Clinton’s comment “further stigmatizes abortion” because “she calls a fetus an ‘unborn child’ and calls for later term restrictions.” The Times notes that Planned Parenthood actually distributes literature that warns pro-choice activists not to use terms like “person,” “child,” or “baby” to discuss the target of the abortion procedure.
A number of pro-lifers also thought Clinton had made a potent concession with her choice of words, including John Podhoretz of Commentary explicitly linking her to the Trump incident by calling it “Trump-level gaffery.” Podhoretz argued that “if you acknowledge personhood, then the unborn has every Constitutional right.”
Jazz Shaw at Hot Air zeroed in on the legal argument Clinton was making, which relies on the precise wording of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Amendment begins by stating that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are citizens with Constitutional rights, which would seem to preclude those who are not yet born, although Shaw also notes the very same Fourteenth Amendment states the government cannot “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
It’s curious how liberals, who normally believe the Constitution gives off all sorts of penumbras and emanations, and is stuffed full of fanciful “rights” just waiting to be discovered by enterprising Supreme Court justices, argue that the first few words of this one particular amendment are graven in stone, with no meaning beyond the most literal possible interpretation of those few syllables.
Also, the Left is very energetic about inventing myriad rights for people who weren’t born in the United States or naturalized as citizens. How can the absolute denial of rights for unborn persons, whose parents are indisputably U.S. citizens, be logically squared with the Left’s zeal for handing out rights to foreign persons who just happen to be standing on U.S. soil?
There’s only one way, and it’s always been at the heart of the abortion debate: the definition of what constitutes a person. If the unborn child is regarded as a non-human thing, people will go along with treatment they would never sanction against a living human being. That’s one of the reasons public attitudes have been shifting in a pro-life direction since the advent of ultrasounds, which make it very difficult to deny that people are growing in the wombs of their mothers.
It’s very easy to convince someone who doesn’t believe unborn children are human persons that the mother should have sole discretion over continuing the pregnancy. The less an individual believes in the humanity of the fetus, the easier it becomes to abandon moral responsibility and dismiss abortion as a privacy issue: no one’s business but the woman’s, no matter her decision. For those who believe a second human life is involved, the question of whose “rights” should take precedence is far more complicated.
Brute-force power calculations dismiss the “rights” of the child because she can’t vote, speak for herself, or sue for redress of grievances; she’s dead and gone before she even has a name. The Left is very fond of such brute-force power calculations, no matter how much they prattle about “speaking for those who have no voice.” Abortion extremism is the ultimate refutation of that liberal talking point. They’re far more eager to speak for the voiceless Earth than for voiceless unborn children.
In truth, the Left defines “personhood” as a political attribute in all respects. Lately they’ve been insisting that grown adult human beings should lose their First Amendment rights according to political calculations. Unborn babies have zero political power, and therefore no chance of winning any “right to life” from liberals.
The most curious liberal argument against personhood is that unborn babies are wholly dependent on their mothers, and cannot survive without the mother’s active assistance. Funny, liberals don’t think personhood is eroded by dependency on other people in any other context. They usually insist that denying assistance to those in need is brutal, even when the very life of the dependent is not at stake.
Trump got in trouble because he thought swinging to the pro-life position would be easy. He should have consulted some experienced pro-life activists to learn of the pitfalls that would await him, especially the media’s favorite game of jumping 20 moves ahead and challenging pro-lifers to argue the details of a hypothetical future where abortion has been completely outlawed.
Pro-lifers are accustomed to giving a warm welcome to converts, in part due to the religious belief in repentance and redemption many of them hold, but also because so many people – especially so many men – begin leaning pro-life after the first time they see an ultrasound, or the first time they hold a baby. Nothing turns a moderately pro-choice man into a pro-lifer faster than holding a newborn with his family’s blood coursing through her veins.
Until then, it’s easy to take the default pro-choice position by backing away from abortion and declaring it none of a man’s business, especially when he’s not the father of a particular child. Until then, the personhood of the unborn child seems abstract, while the mother and her “abortion rights” are concrete and immediate.
Pro-choice extremists believe there is only one person involved in the abortion decision, but in truth, there are at least three: the mother, the father, and the child. The father’s responsibility doesn’t evaporate because far too many of them run away from it.
Our society has paid an appalling price for accepting the extremist view that only one person is involved in the decision to terminate a pregnancy – a price measured in the dehumanization of both unborn children and grown men. Excusing men of responsibility for their children dehumanizes them… and as the wreckage of the sexual revolution shows, it ultimately dehumanizes women, too.
For most Americans, the pendulum of personhood has swung well to the pro-life side of where Hillary Clinton and her top donors stand, and that scares them to death. Clinton stumbled by acknowledging that growing consensus, and describing the unborn as persons… but then denying their right to life anyway. Abortion extremists recoil from that level of brutal honesty.