A decade ago, Elizabeth Taylor was going from one celebrity AIDS rally to another, urging us to make sure we “use a condom every time you have sex, every time.” Every time, Liz? Apparently so, until one day mankind is extinct and giant condoms roam the earth, bouncing across the ruins of our civilization like playful prophylactics in animated Scandinavian health ministry announcements.
The spirit of Liz lurked just below the surface at Washington’s Million Abortionist March, or whatever it was called. For people who talked endlessly about “reproductive rights,” they seemed remarkably indifferent, if not downright hostile, to exercising them.
I concede that I’m anti-abortion. If I were pro-abortion, I’d probably sound like Teresa Heinz Kerry, who told Newsweek that the act involves “stopping the process of life” but that “I ask myself, ‘If I had a 13-year-old daughter who got drunk one night and got pregnant, what would I do?'” If I had to go a bit further, I might even sign on to her husband’s line (“safe, legal, rare,” blah, blah, nuanced boilerplate, zzzzzzz).
But, if I can just about conceive (if you’ll forgive the expression) the leap from my position to Teresa’s and from Teresa’s to Senator Flippy’s, I can’t imagine how you’d get from Senator Flippy’s to the bulk of the sentiments on display at the big march itself. Whoopi Goldberg brandishing a coat hanger. Surly women stomping about with “Keep Your Bush Off My Bush” placards. The decay of a fluffy soft-focus euphemism into just another crude insult: “If Only Barbara Bush Had Choice.” The freaky, barely grasped meaning of all those speakers’ regrets that their own mothers never enjoyed the freedoms they have – as Maxine Waters put it, “I have to march because my mother could not have an abortion.” The casual dismissal of half the human race: “The Opinions of Those with Nothing At Stake Are Worth Little;” “If Men Got Pregnant, They’d Make Abortion a Sacrament.”
Actually, it’s the sisterhood who’ve made abortion the sacrament for a brave new religion of the self. Had Teresa Heinz Kerry stood up and read out her Newsweek quotes, she’d have been booed; no one on the Mall wanted to hear about the agonized parents of distraught adolescents helping them to the soi-disant “difficult personal decision.” Abortion isn’t difficult or agonizing, but something to be celebrated, the central freedom of a modern woman’s identity.
Before the century is out, the left will come to regret the conflation of feminism and abortion.
When a young lady demands that our Bush be kept off her bush, she’s referring to political interference in a “woman’s right to choose.” In fact, it’s the abortion absolutists who insist on political intervention. Abortion has to be legislated uniformly, coast to coast – and beyond. Half the complaints about Bush’s “war on women” revolve around his disinclination to spend taxpayers’ dollars promoting abortion overseas. Which raises the question: leaving aside the moral questions, what is the state’s interest in abortion?
The answer to that is obvious: the most urgent problem facing the Western world right now is the big lack of babies. On the Continent, abortion is part of the settled political consensus and its persistence as an issue over here is seen as further evidence – along with guns, capital punishment, and functioning militaries – of American backwardness. The result is collapsed birthrates in Mediterranean countries of around 1.1, 1.2 children per couple – that’s to say, about half of what’s called “replacement rate.” Why be surprised that Spanish voters don’t have the stomach for war? To fight for king and country is to fight for the future, for your nation, for its children. But Spain has no children, and thus no future. What’s to fight for?
Even if you subscribe to the premise of Roe vs. Wade – that abortion is a privacy issue – society as a whole has no interest in elevating a “woman’s right to choose” to state policy. The government’s interest lies in increasing birthrates, to avoid the death spiral of post-Catholic Italy. If any Democrat understands that, she or he is in no hurry to speak up.
Which leads to the next question: who will be the first victims of the West’s collapsed birthrates?
In Europe, the only country still exercising its “reproductive rights” at replacement rate is Muslim Albania. The rest of the continent is dependent on immigration mainly from North Africa and the Middle East. In other words, by exercising a “woman’s right to choose” to the present, unprecedented degree, Western women are delivering their societies into the hands of fellows far more patriarchal than a 1950s sitcom dad. If any of those women at that Washington march still have babies, they might like to ponder demographic realities: a little girl born today will be unlikely, at the age of 40, to be free to prance around demonstrations in Eurabian Paris or Rome chanting, “Hands off my bush!”By then, Gloria Steinem will be 110, and no doubt still looking incredibly hot, but even she will be sadder and wiser. The hyper-rationalism of radical individualism isn’t, in the end, rational at all. You’ll recall that during the Iraq war, we heard a lot of talk about ancient Mesopotamia – the land of the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Hittites – being “the cradle of civilization.” That’s the point. Without a cradle, it’s hard to sustain a civilization. Mark Steyn is the senior North American columnist of the Telegraph Group and a columnist for the National Review, where this article originally appeared May 17.