Volume > Issue > Abortion as “Growth Experience”

Abortion as “Growth Experience”

The Law Giveth: Legal Aspects of the Abortion Controversy

By Barbara Milbauer in collaboration with Bert N. Obrentz

Publisher: Atheneum

Pages: 328

Price: $21.95

Review Author: Dave Andrusko

Dave Andrusko is Editor of the National Right to Life News in Washington, D.C.

Although the Right to Life movement has nibbled away around the edges, the virtually unfet­tered right to abortion allegedly found lurking in the “penumbra” of various amendments to the Constitution is still completely intact. All attempts even partially to hedge that liberty have been dash­ed.

The single meaningful exception to an other­wise unbroken string of pro-abortion Supreme Court victories is a series of decisions in 1977 and 1980 that affirmed the constitutionality of laws denying Medicaid funding for most abortions. Even in this instance the difference was more symbolic than substantive: estimates are that 90 to 95 per­cent of the women who would have used federal Medicaid dollars had they been available simply switched to state money or found private sources.

Yet to Barbara Milbauer, the relatively minor setback in the Beal, Maher, Poelker, and McRae cases is nothing short of catastrophic. Indeed, we’re informed that the Court’s decisions on Med­icaid funding “signaled the end of the great dream of reproductive freedom.”

The casual reader, not familiar with the pro-abortion penchant for apocalyptic language, might wonder, “What is going on?” What is it about a de­cision that affects a minuscule fraction of the wom­en seeking abortions that drives Milbauer to por­tray those who oppose abortion — or even feder­al funding of abortion — as closet storm troopers, spiritual descendants of Anthony Comstock, and, all in all, thoroughly reprehensible people bent on harrying poor women into early graves?

How can such a minor obstacle as the inabil­ity of every single low-income woman to have her abortion paid for by Medicaid possibly be blown up to “signal the end of the great dream of repro­ductive freedom”?

The answer is most revealing. To the Milbauers of this world, women’s right to abort is not merely important, not even just vital. No, the right to abortion has taken on ontological overtones. Quoting the late Judge John F. Dooling, Milbauer tells us that for women abortion is “nearly allied to their right to be.”

Nearly allied to their right to be! The assump­tions about women contained in that remarkable sentence reveal something about abortion propo­nents that is even more important than the legal analysis which makes up the bulk of this book.

As is the case with almost all abortion ideo­logues, Milbauer refuses to address the core ques­tion: Is the unborn child a fellow member of the human family, one to whom we, as responsible adults, owe love, life, and justice? Instead, Milbau­er is determined to portray abortion as a growth experience for women whose development has been stymied by male oppression. This is no small order; it requires her to play skillfully the pro-abor­tion people’s favorite parlor game: divorcing words from their meaning.

Take the idea of sacrifice. Not so long ago, almost everyone would have admired a woman who, faced with an unplanned pregnancy, nonetheless spared the life of her child. If asked, people would have praised her willingness to sacrifice an impor­tant but lesser value — her own immediate advan­tage — for a greater value — the child’s life.

Milbauer turns this on its head. Relying on the work of Carol Gilligan, Milbauer argues that women’s emotional and intellectual growth has been stunted because, traditionally, they have not been allowed to take control of their lives. Thus, our hypothetical example of sacrifice is, in reality, an example of a contemptible self-denial. Lo and behold, the decision not to kill a defenseless un­born child is really “the avoidance of taking real re­sponsibility for making a choice.” Pulverize a 20 gram unborn baby and be a new woman! Needless to say, giving the child up for adoption is unacceptably traumatic to the woman, never mind that the child would live.

To anyone who takes the time to think through what feminists like Milbauer are saying, the irony is obvious: their opinion of women is de­cidedly unflattering. As Feminist for Life Rose­mary Bottcher has noted, many women who claim to be feminists depict women as stupid, gullible, vulnerable, and incompetent.

Such “feminists” believe, Bottcher writes, that

women have the right to be frivolous and self-indulgent. They cannot be asked to endure any hardship or even inconven­ience for the sake of [providing] joy for a childless couple or life for a blameless child. Women cannot be expected to conform to a standard of minimal decen­cy, much less one of selflessness.

The Law Giveth will be welcomed by those ill at ease with complexity. The book is replete with buzz words which George Orwell once said had the advantage of both doing people’s thinking for them and “partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.” It is tailor-made for those unwilling or unable to grasp the difference between sacrifice and selfishness, “potential life” and life with po­tential, and life and death.

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