Every attempt to normalize abortion fails. Here’s why
Despite decades of activism and a near-complete takeover of the institutions of academia, the media, and the educational system, abortion activists have spectacularly failed to accomplish their goal of “normalizing” abortion and persuading people that feticide is like an appendectomy, but safer. The “ShoutYourAbortion” campaign flopped when it turned out that most people don’t feel like shouting about their abortions. The relentless focus on “reproductive healthcare” has not managed to cover up the fact that abortion is a gruesome procedure that physically takes apart a developing human being. Despite the best efforts of the abortion lobby, most people still find abortion tragic, regardless of what their political position on it happens to be.
But some abortion activists will never stop trying. One prime example of this is Rachel Klein’s sad column in Slate earlier this month, where she asks when parents are going to start talking openly about taking their kids for abortions. She was inspired to write the column by an experience she had at a wedding recently:
“Your daughter’s 14, huh?” asked the guy at the wedding reception. “I guess you’re heading for the Grandma Danger Zone.” I wasn’t offended exactly (it was a party, after all, and most of us were drunk and speaking freely), but I was a bit surprised by the casualness with which a relative stranger commented on my child’s theoretical sexual activity. Trying to move the conversation along, I chuckled politely and replied, “Well, if she did get pregnant now, I would help her get an abortion, so that won’t be an issue.”
There was a long silence as this man and the other people in the conversation looked at me in shock. He’d made a lighthearted comment about my daughter’s potential teen pregnancy, and I’d responded in kind with a lighthearted comment about my daughter’s legal right to exercise her reproductive agency. Why did his comment garner laughs and knowing glances while mine elicited a full-on record scratch? Mercifully, someone changed the subject, and I was left with knowing that I, and not this man, had said something terribly wrong.
And what, Klein wrote, could be so offensive about what she had said? Weren’t most of her friends pro-choice? They might be, but it soon turned out that even mentioning that you might get your daughter an abortion triggered a similar reaction in others, as well:
These were liberals who would likely describe themselves as pro-choice. Yet somehow, my taking the concept of abortion from the theoretical to the concrete had shocked their sensibilities. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. I soon realized that being the parent of teenage girls meant many such conversations about the potential for their “bad decisions” ending in an unwanted pregnancy. Friends with girls the same age joked about warning their daughters to “keep their legs together” or not to get “knocked up.” Every time I pointed out that becoming pregnant needn’t result in having a baby, the universal reaction was mouths agape.
What Klein does not seem to realize is that everybody instinctively knows that the baby in the womb is already a baby. When someone is pregnant, there is another human being – their son or daughter – developing inside their womb. And so saying that being pregnant “needn’t result in having a baby” is bluntly stating that there are things that can be done about that baby. An abortionist can be paid to take care of it. Even if they support abortion rights, people still viscerally recoil at the idea. And to respond to a crude joke about becoming a grandparent with an easy rejoinder about having that grandchild aborted – that comes off as pretty cold to a lot of people, even if they identify as pro-choice.
Interestingly, Klein notes that these experiences have reminded her that America seems to be “fundamentally conservative on abortion.” While the population seems evenly split between pro-abortion and anti-abortion – about 48 percent to 48 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll – she points out that the number of Americans who support abortion plummets to 29 percent when asked if they support abortion on demand under any circumstances. In other words, the vast majority of Americans do not support abortion itself wholeheartedly, although many see it as a necessary evil in certain circumstances.
Forty-five years after Roe v. Wade, abortion still has the power to shape electoral politics, set the nation ablaze during judicial confirmation hearings, and change the course of American history. Abortion activists will never win this fight, and feticide will never be normal, because people realize, somewhere deep down inside, that abortion is the most intimate of killings – it is a child, a grandchild, a family member who is being sacrificed. That is something that many people may be willing to do, but it is not something that most are willing to shout about, or joke about.
Instead, abortion is usually discussed in hushed whispers and cloaked words. It is not the celebration of a right freely exercised, but the solemnity of a funeral for someone who has died suddenly and too soon.