No more cliches about abortion

Posted10/14/2016 1:00 AM

By Kathryn Jean Lopez

In 1974, not long after the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal in all three trimesters of pregnancy, William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review, wrote a column called "How to Argue about Abortion." He cautioned against the use of "blood-curdling clichés" on both sides of the abortion issue. He said it would be a tragedy if Americans tuned out the debate because of them.


I thought of this during the recent vice-presidential debate. We've seen blood-curdling clichés of the kind that do indeed exhaust people on the campaign trail this year, on both sides of the aisle.

Blood-curdling clichés abound in the Democratic platform, which promises not just to maintain the status quo, but to expand abortion. It promises to oppose and overturn state and federal laws that put restrictions on abortion, including the long-standing prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion. This is all euphemistically couched, of course, in terms of women's health care and equal rights, and during Tuesday's debate, Tim Kaine faithfully kept to the script.

But the problem with the script is that it's a lie that covers up what is really going on.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II wrote in "The Gospel of Life": "There are situations of acute poverty, anxiety or frustration in which the struggle to make ends meet, the presence of unbearable pain, or instances of violence, especially against women, make the choice to defend and promote life so demanding as sometimes to reach the point of heroism."

John Paul praised the "daily heroism" of the silent but effective and eloquent witness of all those "brave mothers who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves." He noted that these heroines "do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood."

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Add to those models vice presidential candidate Kaine, a Catholic Democrat who, though he says he's personally opposed to abortion, mouths platitudes about "trusting women" to make their own choices.

John Paul's letter continued: "We thank you, heroic mothers, for your invincible love! We thank you for your intrepid trust in God and in his love. We thank you for the sacrifice of your life."

That Buckley column I mentioned was based on a pamphlet by the same title by a philosophy professor named John Noonan, who wrote: "Perception of fetuses is possible with not substantially greater effort than that required to pierce the physical or psychological barriers to recognizing other human beings. The main difficulty is everyone's reluctance to accept the extra burdens of care imposed by an expansion of the numbers in whom humanity is recognized. It is generally more convenient to have to consider only one's kin, one's peers, one's country, one's race. Seeing requires personal attention and personal response. The emotion generated by identification with a human form is necessary to overcome the inertia which is protected by a vision restricted to a convenient group."

It's long past time for bad arguments seeking to prop up and increasingly expand abortion. If you want a better politics and culture, work to protect and celebrate the most natural love there is.

Email Kathryn Jean Lopez at

© 2016, Universal

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