Opinion

Gloria Steinem accidentally undermines common pro-abortion arguments

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Whether she’s sharing blatantly sexist quotes such as: “if men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament” or she’s excusing Bill Clinton’s treatment of women simply because he is pro-abortion, Gloria Steinem has always been in a league of her own in the pantheon of radicals who elevate abortion beyond all else.

Now Steinem has written a new book, and a couple of details from both it and its press tour have inadvertently undermined the logic of her cause.

First, Steinem’s book is dedicated to John Sharpe, the doctor who referred her for an illegal abortion in London in 1957. It reads:

Knowing that she had broken an engagement at home to seek an unknown fate, he said, “You must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life.”

Dear Dr. Sharpe, I believe you, who knew the law was unjust, would not mind if I say this so long after your death: I’ve done the best I could with my life.

Hard as it is to overlook the sickness of casting someone who helped murder a child as a hero, that’s not the most revealing takeaway here. Steinem tells us that despite abortion being a crime, a professional physician was able to direct her to someone who, in his medical judgment, was able to perform her abortion safely (well, relatively safely for her anyway).

Haven’t Steinem and her pro-abortion crowd been telling us that one of the reasons we need to keep abortion legal is because when it’s not, the only alternative women have are seedy figures with coat hangars in back alleys?

This has always been a particularly malicious lie. Former Planned Parenthood director Mary Calderon admitted in the 1960 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, that 90% of illegal, pre-Roe abortions in the United States were performed by licensed physicians in good standing, not by back-alley “doctors” wielding coat-hangers.

Moreover, while it is true that a lot more women used to die from abortions than do today, we know it had nothing to do with legalization because the decline in deaths preceded legalization. Calderon attributed it to advances in “chemotherapy and antibiotics,” and attested that by 1957, “there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind.”

None of this is news to pro-lifers, but it’s always nice to have the opposition confirm it.

Second, Steinem gave NPR the following rationale for why letting an “unwanted pregnancy” live would have been the wrong decision:

It seems to me that every child has the right to be born loved and wanted, and every person has the right to control — male and female — to control their own bodies from the skin in.

This is interesting—children have “the right to be born loved and wanted.” Therefore, based on this statement, to not want or love your child is itself a violation of that child’s rights.

Most pro-aborts aren’t honest enough to admit that the “wanted child” formulation really means a child’s worth is defined by whether their mother wants them, but Steinem’s version comes close to conceding that abortion is a contest of two competing sets of rights, not a matter of one person seeking to do away with a moral nothingness.

This way of evaluating ethics is without question morally bankrupt. Most pro-aborts would never reason that the fact that no one cares about a particular homeless man means he deserves no regard; to the contrary, they would say that’s all the more reason for government to step in on his behalf. But abortionism is propped up in no small measure by a particularly narcissistic form of moral relativism that says every person’s personal desires get to define not just morality, but to an extent even reality, for themselves. My truth. It’s not a baby to me. When life begins isn’t the same for you as it is for me.

CS Lewis once wrote something that may not be his most famous insight by any means, but it has always stood out in my mind for the striking contrast it marks from modern conventional wisdom:

I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself—just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or color blind. And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason[.]

The idea that our subjective preferences can be objectively wrong is utterly anathema to a society that hails being “true to yourself” as the highest virtue. But the first step to finding real wisdom is the humility it takes to admit that our wants are not gods and our perspective is not the center of the universe. Looking past what I want to answer what is true is the only responsible way to approach any moral question such as abortion.

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