Abortion Doubters at the Washington Post?

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
27 October 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 42
Reproduced with Permission

This month, the Washington Post has published no less than three bylined opinion pieces casting grave doubt on America's policy of abortion-on-demand. None were by the Post's conservative columnists, who are allowed to provide ghettoized heresy regularly within certain bounds. Incredibly, this probably temporary spate of balance concerning the abortion issue has come as a new Supreme Court justice, who could reduce the majority for the feminists' sacrosanct Roe v. Wade, is about to join the court. Now that the sometimes pro-life, other times pro-choice, sometimes anti-judicial activist, other times pro-judicial activist Harriet Miers has been forced to withdraw from the Supreme Court nomination process, President Bush might make a decent choice for the court, one who will be unable to detect a right to abortion written in invisible ink on the Constitution's 18th Century parchment.

Not only is both the fact and timing of the Post's eruption of diversity in thought surprising, the authorship of the articles surprises as well. A white regular columnist, a black regular columnist, and a former Post bureau chief wrote the pieces  all pillars of the Post establishment of various backgrounds. None of the pieces called for outlawing any abortions, of course  diversity of thought can't be taken that far  but all seriously questioned the morality of abortion. Prominent pro-choice Post columnist Richard Cohen even derided the Roe decision and suggested that it should be overturned.

Columnist Courtland Milloy inaugurated the Post's series of doubt on October 5 in the wake of William Bennett's radio comment, "You could abort every black baby in this country, and the crime rate would go down." Bennett explicitly opposes this method of crime-fighting, but a brouhaha brewed up nonetheless. Milloy pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of Bennett's critics, while citing the appalling statistics about black Americans' self-depopulation through abortion.

"African American women, who make up only 13% of the U.S. female population, accounted for 32% of the 1,293,000 abortions performed in the United States in 2002," Milloy wrote. "That's 413,760 abortions performed on black women in one year -- or 1,133 a day. (In the District [of Columbia], half of all pregnancies ended in abortion, a higher percentage than in any state.) No outcry over that because those were just disposable fetuses, right? That is, until Bennett spoke of aborting black babies,' and suddenly those fetuses become precious pre-born black people who must be saved from the evil Dr. Bill."

Milloy denounced black Americans' tendency to blame whites for their problems and noted the massacre of black children being perpetrated by their own mothers. "If the Ku Klux Klan were killing blacks the way blacks kill blacks, we'd be up in arms," he said. He did not mention that Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood for the purpose of reducing the population of the racially "inferior" in the United States.

In an October 18 article, Patricia E. Bauer wrote, in a spirit of doubt, of the natural progression toward death once the principle behind the invented right to an abortion is adopted. "If it's unacceptable for William Bennett to link abortion even conversationally with a whole class of people (and, of course, it is), why then do we as a society view abortion as justified and unremarkable in the case of another class of people: children with disabilities?" she asked. Bauer has a daughter with Down syndrome, a now-rare occurrence since 80-90% of unborn children with Down syndrome are killed in the womb.

Bauer notes that most women capable of having children have so lost their good instincts that they would have aborted her daughter. "As Margaret bounces through life, especially out here in the land of the perfect body, I see the way people look at her: curious, surprised, sometimes wary, occasionally disapproving or alarmed," she wrote. "I know that most women of childbearing age that we may encounter have judged her and her cohort, and have found their lives to be not worth living."

Advances in the past two decades have greatly improved the quality of life for Down syndrome sufferers, yet they continue to be eliminated. Margaret has graduated from high school and now attends Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts. Those who have made up their mindsespecially the most closed-minded of all, academicsaren't interested. "At a dinner party not long ago, I was seated next to the director of an Ivy League ethics program," Bauer said. "In answer to another guest's question, he said he believes that prospective parents have a moral obligation to undergo prenatal testing and to terminate their pregnancy to avoid bringing forth a child with a disability, because it was immoral to subject a child to the kind of suffering he or she would have to endure. (When I started to pipe up about our family's experience, he smiled politely and turned to the lady on his left.)"

In an op-ed titled "Support Choice, Not Roe," Cohen tells the story of how he unthinkingly arranged an abortion for the girlfriend of an irresponsible friend. "I would do things a bit differently now," Cohen mused. "I would give the matter much more thought. I no longer see abortion as directly related to sexual freedom or feminism, and I no longer see it strictly as a matter of personal privacy, either. It entails questions about life -- maybe more so at the end of the process than at the beginning, but life nonetheless."

Cohen goes on to criticize Roe, a preposterous and tyrannical act of judicial supremacy over republican self-government if there ever was one. "The very basis of the Roe v. Wade decision -- the one that grounds abortion rights in the Constitution -- strikes many people now as faintly ridiculous. Whatever abortion may be, it cannot simply be a matter of privacy...," he said.

He added: "Conservatives -- and some liberals -- have long argued that the right to an abortion ought to be regulated by states. They have a point. My guess is that the more populous states would legalize it, the smaller ones would not, and most women would be protected. The prospect of some women traveling long distances to secure an abortion does not cheer me -- I'm pro-choice, I repeat -- but it would relieve us all from having to defend a Supreme Court decision whose reasoning has not held up. It seems more fiat than argument."

Are editors at the Post beginning to have doubts about abortion? Or are they readying their fashionably pro-death readers for the trimming or overturning of Roe, assuring them that a few restrictions on abortion might be good and plenty of states will keep it legal anyway?

Most Americans don't agree with Roe. A poll, also published this month, by Virginia Commonwealth University found that 12% of Americans want abortion banned in all circumstances (last year, it was 17%, raising yet another question about the accuracy of polls). Another 44% want it banned except in "certain circumstances," and only 39% favor abortion on demand.

The Post has allowed three halting examples reflecting the culture of life to seep into its pages, normally a bastion of the opposite. "The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have," Bauer asserts in her piece about aborting disabled children.

Will that be the dominant way of being in the future, or will there be a constructive answer to this question, as posed by Milloy: "Who is responsible for the protection and care of this amazing uterine environment, where the most wonderful fetal programming can occur just by having a loving husband kiss his pregnant wife?"