Friday, May 17, 2013

Wall Street Journal: Abortion is "America's Second Civil War"

Daniel Henninger writes:
No other public policy has divided the people of the United States for so long and so deeply. Abortion is America's second civil war. 
. . . Across the 40 post-Roe years, the idea of a deeply personal decision, or choice, has taken a back seat to the hard face of public politics. The partisans in the abortion battles will deny they have demoted personal concerns, and that may be true. But when every nominee to the Supreme Court must run the abortion gauntlet, when every presidential convention must include strict nightly commitments to "choice" or "life," when bishops battle politicians, and "litmus test" means only one thing, then abortion's public politics have overwhelmed its human tragedies. After 40 years, we still have too much of both. 
Can the Gosnell case change that? If it doesn't, we're in trouble. 
What do you think? Is the abortion conflict on par with the Civil War? It has certainly pitted "brother against brother."

He also offers some speculation on how this civil war will end:
Where this column is heading is not to a cri de coeur that the Gosnell case proves abortion should be banned in America. It should be. But that's not going to happen. About a quarter of the country wants a ban, a quarter wants no limits, and half want something in between. The chance of a total ban is zero. Abortion in some degree will be legal in the U.S. But to what degree?
Here I part ways with the author. The road to ending abortion will be a long one, undoubtedly. But public opinion today is not necessarily the public opinion of tomorrow. The American public once accepted any number of ideologies that are utterly rejected today. I am confident that America's "abortion era" will be condemned in the history books of the future.


Kimberly Schimmel said...

Perhaps Gosnell is the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" that will wake the majority of apathetic Americans to the barbarians in our midst. A nation that devalues human life--through slavery or infanticide--cannot stand long.

Jameson Graber said...

Can't read the whole thing due to the paygate, but I'll comment on what you've reproduced.

I always get a little troubled and perhaps depressed when I consider the comparisons between abortion and the civil war or slavery. Indeed, slavery as a moral issue was ultimately settled with the help of a war that claimed more American lives than any other. And not just that: after the Civil War, the North made sure to shame the South into realizing the error of their ways. This was not the sort of progress through public moral discourse that we might hope for in the pro-life movement.

Of course, it's not the same situation. There isn't one particular region of the US whose traditional livelihood depends on abortion as the South depended on slavery. There is no nationalistic loyalty connected to abortion rights, only political loyalty. And the truth is, abortion was not always such a partisan issue as it is today.

I think it would be a miracle if the pro-life movement one day found a way to make abortion truly unthinkable in the way the slavery is now. That would be more of a Wilberforce kind of accomplishment than a Lincoln kind. It may be possible, but only if the movement takes serious steps to change strategy. Partisanship kills the pro-life cause. Political maneuvering, on the other hand, will probably be necessary in the long run--but that means on both sides of the aisle. A lot of the good changes that are happening are connected to this very blog, so I'm happy about that. Still, we could use some more serious writers who are pro-life. We can't win in the long run when so much of the pro-life news that exists is connected to web sites with decidedly conservative and/or Catholic bents, whose point of view on the issue seems pretty disconnected from mainstream experience. It honestly kind of amazes me sometimes that we're doing as well as we are.

Dolce said...

totally agree with this.

KB said...

Although I would love a total ban on abortion, first we have to fight to have abortion with limits (i.e, no abortions after 12 weeks). I have thought this ever since attending a speech by the widow of the ex prime minister of France at Santa Clara Law School. She talked about how the French banned Capitol punishment, and that it started off banning certain things everyone could agree on, like banning the death penalty for minors, then expanding the ban to people with mental disabilities, etc., nd then eventually, a total ban. This approach makes sense. I have settled enough cases to know, as a lawyer, you start off where there is common ground. I think we have to start like that-- banning late term, then banning after the first trimester, etc.