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Peter Kreeft, a man of seemingly interminable wit and wisdom, wrote back in 2002 that abortion is the sacrament of the sexual revolution.
It was a great one-liner, from a man whos written a great many of them; one that captured, in an economy of words, the fanaticism typical of many abortion advocates. From the pro-life perspective, it was a direct score; but from the pro-abortion angle, it must have seemed way off the mark. One could easily imagine the bemused reactions of the lusty ladies of the sexual revolution who, with narrowed glares and hands a-hip, might retort, What need have we of sacraments or religion?
But there was, even before Kreeft wrote this, a fringe group of feminists for whom his metaphor was more than mere fancy, a group for whom legalized abortion signaled something greater than a political victory or social progress. Exactly ten years earlier, a book had been published bearing the very title The Sacrament of Abortion. Precisely ten years before that, a book had been published bearing the title Abortion Is a Blessing.
Closer to Kreeft in chronology was Patricia Baird-Windle who, upon retiring in 1999 after having performed over 65,000 abortions, channeled both books when she told the Florida Today newspaper, I now consider abortion to be a major blessing, and to be a sacrament in the hands of women (Aug. 29, 1999). Also contemporaneous to Kreeft was Daniel Maguire, a former Catholic priest and a professor of moral theology at Marquette, who authored Sacred Choices (2001), a book in which he argues that abortion can be a holy choice, a sacred choice, and that its prohibition amounts to religious persecution.
But these are rare voices echoing down through the decades. Few are those in the mainstream abortion movement who would countenance the conflation of abortion with the sacred rites of religion. Most view abortion as a tragic but necessary option to which pregnant women are owed recourse. The quasi-religious fanaticism remained at the fringes of the movement until recently.
Of late, our society has undergone a shift in its attitude toward abortion, resulting in various attendant new trends and laws. Consider the following:
- 83 percent of Americans favor restricting abortion (Marist poll, Dec. 2012).These polls and laws come in the wake of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnells trial and sentencing, in which the gruesome details of his house of horrors abortion clinic became known to the public. Gosnell was found guilty of murdering newborn children (and trafficking in illegal drugs) and is now serving three consecutive life sentences.
- 70 abortion restriction measures were enacted in 22 states in 2013.
- 87 abortion clinics closed in 2013, a record number.
- Four states now have only one abortion clinic within their borders.
- 64 percent of Americans said they would support a law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, compared to 30 percent opposed (Polling Company survey, June 2013).
- In June 2013 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide (it is unlikely, however, to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate).
- 12 states have passed similar laws (Arizonas was struck down when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider a challenge to the Ninth Circuit Courts decision that the law is unconstitutional).
- Americans oppose the public funding of abortion by a margin of 61 percent to 35 percent (CNN poll, April 2013).
- In January 2014 the House once again passed a bill that would outlaw taxpayer funding of abortions (it too is unlikely to pass in the Senate).
Although Roe v. Wade remains very much enshrined in the law and uncontested, the good news is that progress is being made toward limiting abortions in the U.S. The weird news is that, finding themselves at this odd crossroads, abortion proponents seem uncertain about how to respond. They have scrambled to conjure up a coherent strategy in the face of this subtle yet significant shift in public opinion. And so, in their desperation, they have at times resorted to the rhetoric favored by the fringe mystics in their movement.
First to do so was surprise, surprise House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. At a news conference last June, John McCormack, a writer for the neoconservative Weekly Standard, asked Pelosi, What is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before birth? Pelosi attempted to skirt the question, but when McCormack persisted, she blurted out this factual blunder: The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, she said, would make it a federal law that there would be no abortion in our country an obvious falsehood. Finally, Pelosi cut off all further questioning with an appeal to loftier things: I want to tell you something, as the mother of five children, as a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me.
In other words, mere mortals who measure words at magazines wouldnt appreciate the profundity of her passion for this issue, a passion that she evidently believes excuses hyperbolic errors in logic.
That same month, Texas state representative Wendy Davis carved out her own niche in abortion lore with an eleven-hour filibuster in which she attempted but ultimately failed to prevent the passage of a 20-week abortion ban in her state. Praising herself for her bravado in an October press conference, Davis echoed Pelosis invocation of things holy when she said, Sometimes you have to take a stand on sacred ground. Then Davis, who has announced a run for Texas governor, had the chutzpah to declare herself pro-life!
As unsettling as it is to hear abortion advocacy alluded to as a form of spiritual warfare, the whole scene took a turn for the surreal last August when Tyler Olson and Jack Hatch, presumptive contenders in the Iowa gubernatorial race, joined 50 abortion advocates at the state capitol in bowing their heads reverentially as Midge Slater of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans rambled through a five-minute prayer in which she beseeched the Lord for increased funding for abortions in the U.S. and around the world. We give thanks, O Lord, Slater intoned, for the doctors, both current and future, who provide quality abortion care. We pray for the 45 million American women who have had safe, legal abortions. May they stand tall and refuse shame . We pray for the families who have chosen. May they know the blessing of choice.
Even President Obama got in on the act last April when, as the Gosnell trial was in full swing, he ended an address to the nations largest abortion provider by saying, without any sense of irony, As long as weve got to fight to protect a womans right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that youve also got a president whos going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way. Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you!
What kind of God would bless Planned Parenthood? Those who have taken to speaking of abortion in an elevated manner would do well to explore the sources that have inspired such talk. In her 1992 book The Sacrament of Abortion, author Ginette Paris wrote that women sometimes resort to abortion when it is necessary to sacrifice the fetus to a higher cause. What is the higher cause that requires such a sacrifice? Paris describes abortion as a sacrifice to Artemis, the temperamental Greek goddess of child-birth (and hunting). But biblical accounts of ritual child sacrifice center around a Semitic god known as Moloch (or Baal), to whom some wayward Israelites offered worship by murdering their children. The Lord God, through the Prophet Jeremiah, thundered against this horrific practice: They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Moloch, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination (Jer. 32:35).
The Hebrew rendering of Valley of Hinnom is ge-hinnom, whence is derived the Greek word Gehenna, which is commonly understood to refer to Hell. As a self-described practicing and respectful Catholic, does Nancy Pelosi realize that the ground she defends as sacred is that which Dante called the floor of Hell, which he describes in The Inferno (Canto XII) as the shale and slate of that ruined rock, which often slid and shifted under me at the touch of living weight?
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, in a radio interview last year, observed that it now seems de rigueur not to speak common sense about abortion. He was right in more ways than even he probably realized.
It is unclear what Molochs modern priestesses, who can be found roaming the American halls of power, hope to achieve by recasting abortion as sacrosanct and therefore inviolable, a sacred right protected and made possible by the benevolence of an ambiguous deity. Though they arent the first to use religion to advance a political agenda, one wonders how this tack will be received by their constituents. To religious believers, they will reveal themselves to be transparently disingenuous, profane babblers. To the nonreligious, they will most likely come across as banging gongs or clanging cymbals, an incongruous choir from an unidentifiable denomination.
Surely Pelosi, Davis, Slater, et al. know that religion is being steadily pushed to the outer boundaries of public discourse. The risk theyre taking is that abortion advocacy will end up there too.
Then we could begin talking in earnest about what Operation Rescue has called the death throes of the death industry.