Edited by Brad Stetson, Praeger Publishers.
The Silent Subject is a collection of fourteen essays looking at abortion from five perspectives: ethical, cultural, personal, religious and legal. All of these are interesting and informative, while some are so profoundly moving as to almost overshadow the rest of the book. The silent subject is both abortion and the unborn child itself.
Brad Stetson sets the stage with a devastating analysis of contemporary society’s malaise regarding its duty toward the unborn. This takes the form of intentional denial, supported by “codes of public debate which sustain silence, codes whose force holds at by understandings that might shatter the dominant plausibility structures of the reasonableness of choice.”
Part 1, Ethical Perspectives, opens with a philosophical definition of personhood, concluding that “…to possess an essential human nature is to be a human person.” This is followed by a critique of the basic argument of choice, that any disagreement about when life becomes fully human demands that abortion remain legal by default. This argument assumes many forms, such as abortion being a religious issue, and tolerance demanding a respect of different choices. The religious canard is predicated on the belief that religion is no more than sentimentality. The wickedness of murder or the reality of the physical world do not became open questions simply because they are addressed by religion.
Chapter Four places the life of the mother in jeopardy argument in its correct context with case histories, revealing how this very rare concern is grossly misrepresented by the medical community. This is not only ideological, it is also driven by fear of legal liability should any problems in birth occur. Recommending abortion “…carries no such legal liability. There does not appear to be a legal precedent for a physician’s liability in case where abortion was recommended on supposed medical grounds that were subsequently found to be baseless or misrepresented.” This legal antipathy toward the unborn underscores the fact that, in spite of the rhetoric of neutrality, the courts actively pursue a policy favourable to abortion and therefore hostile toward the unborn.
Part II, Cultural Perspectives, reveals some very disturbing developments. In Chapter 5 we read how the women’s movement has made any nobility in motherhood contingent upon choice. Vilifying mothers of the past as slaves to patriarchy and biology has resulted in hostility to any study of the unborn in the womb. Yet the images of the fetal child have had their effect. In a cruel twist, many feminists now recognize the humanity of the unborn, yet maintain that their death is a necessary sacrifice. Naomi Ruth Lowinsky has proposed that women see in themselves the dark archetype of the goddess Kali. “Every woman has a Kali side; every mother has a secret devourer, a baby killer in her soul.” Abortion is a necessary step in ”…confronting Kali consciously.” This allows women to kill their children guilt free due to the natural necessity of satisfying this death dealing side in women. What irony!—to flee from the biological determinism of motherhood, only to embrace the psychological determinism of murderess.