Abortion is now one of America’s most common surgical procedures performed on adults. As many as one out of three women will have at least one abortion. In some American neighborhoods, the number of abortions far exceeds the number of live births.
Most Americans will pay little attention to the 39th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to arrange the killing of the unborn life within her. Since that decision was handed down, more than 50 million babies have been aborted, at a rate of over 3,000 each day.
One of the most chilling aspects of all this is the sense of normalcy in American life. Abortion statistics pile up from year to year, and each report gets filed. Moral sentiment on the issue of abortion has shifted discernibly in recent years, as ultrasound images and other technologies deliver unquestionable proof that the unborn child is just that — a child. Nevertheless, the larger picture of abortion in America is basically unchanged.
With predictable regularity, cultural authorities call for the emergence of a moderating position between the pro-life and pro-abortion positions. But efforts to achieve a stable compromise on the abortion issue are doomed to failure. The two positions hold irreconcilable views of reality. The pro-life movement holds that the central issue is the unborn child’s right to live. Abortion activists have staked their entire case on the claim that the only determinative issue is the woman’s unrestricted right to choose.
A middle position would require pro-lifers to accept that the deaths of some unborn children are acceptable, and abortion rights activists to accept that some decisions for abortion are wrong. Given the logic of their positions, there is no means of compromise.
In recent years, some on the pro-choice side of the controversy have called for abortion proponents to use language indicating that abortion is a painful and wrenching, but sometimes necessary procedure, and to accept that some reasons for abortion are just not sufficient. Nevertheless, this is received as a call for treason within the abortion rights movement, and these voices are regularly sidelined.
At the same time, there has been an effort to protect abortion with euphemism and evasion. Abortion rights activists speak of being pro-choice, not pro-abortion. The unborn child is reduced to a fetus, or a bundle of cells. Abortion clinics are described as women’s health centers.
There are some abortion activists who will not join that bandwagon. With chilling candor, they defend abortion as abortion, they defend the decision to abort as a morally superior decision, and they lament the evasiveness of their colleagues in the abortion rights movement.
Just recently, Merle Hoffman, a major voice in the abortion rights movement and founder of Choices, a major center for abortions in New York City, has written a memoir, Intimate Wars. In telling her story, Hoffman calls for her colleagues in the abortion industrial complex to defend abortion as a moral choice.
Abortion is the ultimate act of empowering women, she argues. “The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that is why it is so strongly opposed by many in society,” she asserts.