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For Dear Life

GUEST COLUMN

By Robert Greer Cohn | November 2000
Robert Greer Cohn is Professor Emeritus of French at Stanford University. He is Jewish by birth, and considers himself a Judeo-Christian.

Proponents of the rights granted by Roe v. Wade speak of abortion as a “choice”; they are “pro-choice.” But to many of us, the word sounds inappropriate in this context: It tends to put on the same level two very different entities, as if it were a matter of mere whim or mood, as in the trivial case of two flavors of ice cream put before us for our selection.

But, in actuality, what is before the “chooser” is the alternative between two totally unequal, imminent conditions of a budding human being: death or life.

Recently, an American surgeon opened a mother’s womb to operate on a prenatal malformation in her fetal child. He reported that the unborn infant, three months or so in development, stretched out its little hand and clutched his finger.

Who has not been moved by that gesture in a newborn, reaching out for something to hold onto — as if our finger were a pole tendered to a drowning person, a lifeline to cling to?

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