Abortion advocates are getting nervous. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Georgia have approved banning abortion from the moment fetal heartbeat is detected. In Alabama, Governor Kay Ellen Ivey has signed into law America’s most restrictive anti-abortion legislation. Senators in that state, by a vote of 25 to 6, approved a bill that would ban nearly all abortions.
The Media, as one would expect, is fighting back. The Toronto Star, Canada’s most widely read newspaper, for example, printed two articles in its May 15 issue in an effort to help regain the alleged right to abortion and to secure a woman’s presumed right to control of her own body. Of course, there is no “right” to abortion in a moral sense, and in Canada there is no legal right to abortion. “A woman’s control of her own body,” is pure fiction. Abortion itself presupposes that by having an unwanted pregnancy a woman did not have control of her own body in the first place.
On what convincing basis, then, can abortion advocates mount a logical argument? A standard tactic, and one used by Rosie DiManno in her Starpiece, is to poison the well so that any pro-life argument is discredited before any logical argument can begin. The newspaper medium can be a most effective way of pulling the wool over its readers’ eyes. T. S. Eliot’s observation comes to mind: “The readers of the Boston Evening Transcriptsway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.”
The fallacy called “poisoning the well” has a long history and goes back to the ancient wartime practice of pouring poison into fresh water in order to diminish the strength of the attacking army. It is not a logical argument but a smear tactic intended to advance one’s point by destroying the credibility of one’s opponent.
DiManno begins by identifying pro-life advocates as “anti-abortionists” and “absolutists.” The fundamental reason that pro-life people are against abortion, however, is that they want to defend life. They are against abortion because they are for life. It is grossly misleading to say that two people get married because they do not hate each other. They get married because they love each other. Furthermore, pro-life advocates have a right to self-identification.
Nor are the pro-life promoters “absolutists.” The new Alabama law allows for abortion when the risk to a mother’s life is serious. DiManno gives added invective to her notion of absolutism by describing it as “the tyranny of fanaticism.” Yet, how can it be tyrannical for a mother to give birth to her child and for society to support this generous act? A fanatic, as Winston Churchill once remarked, “is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” In her closing sentence, and without any justifying basis, DiManno tells us, “I am pro-choice.” The real subject of the abortion debate is not choice, but the humanity of the unborn child. This is the subject pro-abortionists are most reluctant to recognize. And this is why the reality of fetal heartbeat makes them so nervous. Science is restoring the subject to its proper focus.
The second article in the Staris written by Emma Teitel. She is appalled, in particular, about the state of Georgia’s “heartbeat bill,” which she characterizes as “a cruel piece of legislation.” She tells her readers that “this law should outrage” all woman who believe that they are “masters (sic) of their own bodies.” To her credit, however, she does not go along with Alyssa Milano’s proposed “sex strike” “until we get bodily autonomy back.” This could be a long wait and it is less than likely that advocating something that is highly improbable could bring about something that is decidedly impossible. This is desperation in a nutshell. There are no real arguments to support abortion. Consequently, its advocates must resort to fallacious reasoning or proposals so unrealistic that they can only embarrass their champions (if there are any save Alyssa Milano).
Teitel is not averse to poisoning the well. Supporters of the right-to-life are “conservative” and march to the beat of the “anti-choice” movement. By contrast, abortion advocates should not be identified with the grisly practice of abortion but should be recognized by the sanitized term, “pro-choice,” even though abortion is what they want to choose. Nonetheless, despite her diatribe against Milano, Teitel’s mindset is not much different than hers. She urges people to elect politicians “who believe in bodily autonomy.” In addition, she states that “Industry leaders in film and elsewhere should continue to refuse to take their business to Georgia until Georgia refuses to deny its citizens the right to choose.”
Radical, secular feminism and the mass media are in collusion with each other. Neither has much enthusiasm for logical argumentation when it comes to moral concerns, such as abortion, euthanasia, and gender issues. The voices of saner, more logical women are seldom heard, and rarely in the daily press. Pulitzer Prize winner and celebrated novelist, Pearl S. Buck, has given us an eloquent rebuttal against the raving nonsense of setting autonomy as a personal goal: “The person who tries to live alone as a human will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Narcissus was in love with no one other than himself. It was a sterile love that brought about his untimely demise. Echo, according to the myth, was the unhappy victim of her unrequited love. Narcissus is fair warning to anyone who believes in personal autonomy.
Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ont., and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut. He is a regular columnist for the St. Austin Review. He is the author of numerous books including, most recently,How to Navigate through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life.