The Thinking 

The Back-Alley Abortion Argument

January 23, 2013


IN OBSERVANCE of yesterday’s 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Kate Manning writes about the many gruesome things, such as throwing themselves down stairs and ingesting lye, that women did to themselves to kill their unborn children in the days before legal abortion.

One can have sympathy for the women who thought they could not endure giving birth or having a child and suffered for it, and yet also realize that the Back-Alley Argument for legal abortion, employed here by Manning, is extremely weak. It is shocking how prevalent it is.

Manning fails to note that whatever horrors these women inflicted on themselves, they typically had more severe consequences for the fetuses involved. The same holds true of legal abortion. It is a procedure that always ends in one fatality. Also, these women generally were not forced to injure themselves. Before there was legal, clinical abortion, many women resolved their distress over an expected pregnancy the easy way: by giving birth. The Back-Alley Abortion Argument presumes there is no way out. Third, there has always been a fail-safe way to avoid pregnancy itself. It’s called chastity, which has many positive benefits. Finally, Manning fails to note that women have been physically and psychologically harmed by legal abortion. See the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer’s explanation of how abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.  Aside from the depression women often experience after abortion, there are indirect psychological consequences. Abortion has loosened the ties and interdependence between man and woman, exposing both to soul-crushing emptiness.

Pregnancy is never simply a physical event. It is a spiritual event too.

At the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter, Leila also writes about the Roe v. Wade anniversary:

Know that when you raise your children to love and respect marriage by treating their own bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit, you are fighting abortion with all your might. Every watchful, protective moment you spend guarding your children’s purity is a blow against the scourge of abortion.

— Comments —-

Mary writes:

Really, in the year 2013, this entirely limited and myopic piece is what we get from the NYT on the subject of abortion? This from the newspaper known for it’s probing stories? Dredging up arcane techniques for ridding oneself of unwanted children must be their ploy to distract attention from the March For Life on Friday, which is expected to be huge this year because it’s on a Friday and because of the Roe v. Wade 40th anniversary.

“Women’s historical willingness to endure horrible dangers, to submit to extreme and prolonged pain, to risk grave injury and death rather than remain pregnant, tells us something important about female desperation and determination, and the price women were — and still are — willing to pay to control their own bodies.”

The road Manning has chosen to take in her piece is a facile and cheap one. Women had no concept of “control[ling] their own bodies” in the the 19th and even most of the 20th centuries. The writer’s use of that thoroughly modern feminist construct to form her argument reveals her bias and her blindness on the subject of the modern abortion industry and it’s deleterious effects. Calling up those horrible dangers only serves to illuminate the powerful and very helpful stigma which kept out-of-wedlock births in check in the past; remembering the extremes women went to to avoid an illegitimate birth helps to reminds us vividly of a time when society truly understood that children thrived only in the natural family, and of the gravity of a situation in which a child misses out on the benefits thereof.

Contrary to Manning’s intentions, mentioning these horrible dangers also throws into high relief how bad things have gotten: tens of millions of abortions performed – a national disgrace by any standard – out of control promiscuity and it’s natural result – epidemic numbers of STD’s – and a vaccine recommended for children to control sexual disease. If the NYT really wanted to help the citizens of this country they would stop talking about the CDC’s recommendations for the flu vaccine and start talking about it’s recommendations for avoiding sexual disease, which if you read between the lines adds up very simply to chastity.

Laura gets to the heart of the matter: “Abortion has loosened the ties and interdependence between man and woman, exposing both to soul-crushing emptiness.”

The relaxation of sexual mores brought about by abortion (and contraception) has for many people broken the most basic human bonds formed in marriage and parenthood, beautiful bonds that hold together families and societies, bonds which scientists don’t understand and have very little interest in. This breaking of bonds is grave almost beyond words and leads to a quiet suffering, to desperation and to despair. We continue to tinker with these bonds at our peril.

Jill Farris writes:

There are two ridiculous claims in the NYT’s article; one that historically women had to endure abortions sans painkillers (implying that contemporary women don’t) and two, that midwives led the abortion industry until it was taken out of their hands by male doctors.

Today’s abortion clinics charge extra for pain killers. They are often begrudgingly given tylenol only when asked. Modern women endure horrendous care under calloused abortion providers today.

My mom sent me to a Planned Parenthood clinic when I was 16 for a Human Sexuality course (ie. indoctrination into sexual promiscuity course) where we were taught to chant, “Abortion is just like getting a mole removed!!!” So much for helping women make an informed choice about their health care. By the grace of God I did not get pregnant nor have an abortion but if I had, the chances of receiving pain medication was nil. I have counseled many women who have had abortions and they haven’t been given pain medication…so much for safe abortions.

Secondly, midwives were generally involved in aborting women? Seriously? Midwives for hundreds of years have taken great pride in delivering healthy babies while protecting the health of the mother. Midwives are nurturers and always have been. If a midwife was involved in aborting women, I’ll bet that she wasn’t trusted by women seeking good care for their baby.

Mary writes:

Yes, this piece is truly hopeless. Manning implies that abortion was the only form of birth control long ago but fails to mention that, even with myriad other choices available, it is still commonly used as birth control. What does that tell us? Abortion begets more abortion; the very availability of abortion as a failsafe has caused the numbers of abortions performed to grow exponentially; it reinforces it’s own use. This has to give pause even to the “safe, legal and rare” crowd, as clearly they are failing in the rare department.

Of course this article was never meant to be comprehensive so I wouldn’t expect Manning to mention Dr. Bernard Nathanson. He was a founder of NARAL (he claimed to be personally responsible for 60,000 abortions). He became a pro-life activist with the advent of the sonogram and converted to Catholicism in his ’70s. His expose Confessions of an Ex-Abortionist is illuminating:

“…within five years we had convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to issue the decision which legalised abortion throughout America in 1973 and produced virtual abortion on demand up to birth. How did we do this? ….We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal enlightened, sophisticated one. Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie…We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000…The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law. Another myth we fed to the public through the media was that legalising abortion would only mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done legally. In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1500% since legalisation….We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its “socially backward ideas” and picked on the Catholic hierarchy as the villain in opposing abortion…We fed the media such lies as “we all know that opposition to abortion comes from the hierarchy and not from most Catholics” and “Polls prove time and again that most Catholics want abortion law reform”. And the media drum-fired all this into the American people, persuading them that anyone opposing permissive abortion must be under the influence of the Catholic hierarchy and that Catholics in favour of abortion are enlightened and forward-looking. An inference of this tactic was that there were no non-Catholic groups opposing abortion. The fact that other Christian as well as non-Christian religions were {and still are) monolithically opposed to abortion was constantly suppressed, along with pro-life atheists’ opinions…”

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