On Really Not Getting It
August 14, 2013
George Weigel


In the wake of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s homicide convictions this past May, several state legislatures began crafting laws that would protect unborn life at earlier stages of gestation while shutting down horror houses like Gosnell’s Philadelphia “clinic.” Whether these laws will stand constitutional scrutiny remains to be seen; what is worth noting now is the degree to which deeply-entrenched supporters of the unrestricted abortion license created by the Supreme Court in 1973 still don’t get it—and still continue to muddle the public debate with their confusions.

Thus a June 28 editorial in The Washington Post deplored the fact that these proposed state statutes would “require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as surgery centers, like those in hospital wings.” Moreover, “doctors who perform abortions would have to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. . . . The case that such standards are needed to protect the health of abortion patients . . . is weak.”

Say what? In many states, abortuaries are not required to meet health and safety standards required of the local McDonald’s or Wendy’s. After testimony in the Gosnell case depicted a foul, cluttered, ghoulish “clinic” in which basic sanitary standards were massively violated, how can anyone reasonably suggest that the case for protecting women by enforcing proper sanitation and safety standards for surgical procedures is “weak”? How can anyone reasonably suggest that there is a “weak case” for requiring that those who perform those procedures have the minimal professional credentials of other surgeons and doctors? How can anyone plausibly and conscientiously claim to promote “women’s health” by resisting such regulations?

The Post’s obfuscations were of a piece with the deep confusions of one of the paper’s regular op-ed writers, Ruth Marcus, who, in an April column, described state legislative efforts to hollow out Roe v. Wade’s abortion license through state regulation of abortion clinics as “the result of a sincere and intense belief—one I do not share—that abortion is the taking of a human life.”

Well, one wants to ask, what is it, then?

What, precisely, are those creatures whose spinal cords Kermit Gosnell cut with scissors? Why did all of Great Britain ask “Is it a baby girl or a baby boy?” when the Duchess of Cambridge became pregnant? Why did no one ask of the former Kate Middleton and future Queen of England, “Is it a male fetus or a female fetus?” Why does a widely-used embryology textbook state what every first-year biology student can see, absent ideological blinders: that the product of human conception is a human being with a unique genetic identity, capable of self-directed development so long as neither nature (in the form of miscarriage) nor technology (in the form of abortion, chemical or surgical) intrudes?

Ms. Marcus’s confusions do not stop at Embryology 101, however. After correctly noting that the legal battle for unborn human life was largely being won when the Supreme Court preempted the state legislative struggle in 1973, Marcus noted that, irrespective of what was happening in state capitols, a 1973 Gallup Poll “found 64 percent agreeing ‘that the decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her physician.’” And here is another of the canards of Those Who Really Don’t Get It.

The abortion decision is most frequently made, not by a woman and “her physician,” but by a frightened woman talking with a “counselor” in a clinic run by an agency like Planned Parenthood, which has a deep financial interest in abortion. That frightened woman, who has often been abandoned by an irresponsible man, is then remanded to an abortion “provider” who is no more “her physician” than he or she is “her hairdresser.”

And in light of the Gosnell case, which revealed grotesqueries like infant feet and hands kept in jars in refrigerators, do Ruth Marcus and the Post editorial board really think of the Kermit Gosnells of this world as “physicians”? Are the Chinese doctors who remove organs from political prisoners “physicians”?

Is the abortion license worth this shameful abdication of decency and reason?

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. His previous “On the Square” articles can be found here.

8.14.2013 | 12:38am
Don Robert says:
Those who “don’t get it” are blinded by their unacknowledged faith in false gods–the neo-paganism that is the new driving force in our “culture.”

We had a small pro-life teach-in at the cathedral in San Francisco this past weekend. The kids briefly “occupied” a patch of the park in one of the most depraved places in the nation: across from city hall (where a so-called Catholic mayor started the “gay marriage” avalanch a couple years ago) and a stone’s throw from the federal district court (where more recemtly a “homosexual” judge, after failing to recuse himself, ruled in essence that all our ancestors were bigots) and the 9th Circus Court.

One of the above-mentioned morally blind neo-pagans rode by on a bike, screeching, “I don’t regret my choice!” That is, she does not having her own child ripped apart and flushed down the toilet. What WOULD such a person regret?
8.14.2013 | 8:27am
Joe DeVet says:
The muddle which Weigel accurately describes rests, of course, on the irrationality of the law permitting abortion in the first place. If it is illegal for Gosnell to kill a baby which has survived a violent extraction from the womb, because it is murder, then how come it is legal to kill that same baby at the same point of development if that baby has not seen the light of day?

And if logic were to prevail, and it is recognized as murder whether inside or outside the womb, then would it not have been murder to do it last week, on a younger child? Logic prevailing, it would have been murder then too. Well, how about the week before?

What we are seeing is a bright light being shown on the whole illogical set of laws which finds murdering an infant in the womb legally permissible (and in fact worthy of government subsidy.) If the law can condemn murder, as it must, then legalized abortion at any stage makes no logical sense. As long as we have this blatant illogic undergirding the law of the land, public discourse will naturally be muddled.
8.14.2013 | 8:56am
Neal J. Conway says:
Ruth Marcus is indeed behind the times. Back in 1971, her fellow pro-abortionist, Judith Jarvis Thompson, admitted that the fetus is human but likened it to a violinist attached to an appropriated body. Regarding the types of abortion restrictions the pro-life movement chooses to pursue, the movement should recover prudence that, I think, has been diminished by efforts to maintain non-profits and constituent interest. These laws passed outside the permission of Roe v. Wade may not only not withstand Constitutional scrutiny — a number of them have been blocked in lower courts — but may provoke a Supreme Court teetering on a fence to come down on the side of relocating abortion rights from privacy to equal protection. If that happens, all abortion restrictions, even those protecting the health of the mother, will be nullified.
8.14.2013 | 9:37am
Jim Bell says:
A recent episode of the Discovery Channel’s “Through the Wormhole” series, a gaggle of scientists and thinkers tried to answer the question of Consciousness. It was an interesting 44 minutes of exploration of self awareness and how that unique trait makes us human, but one of the scientists made what I consider an alarming assertion.

I forget his name, but he asserted that we don’t become human until we become self aware, which, he says, doesn’t happen until around 18 to 24 months of age. Until then, none of us are really “human.” Did he really say that?

Am I the only one who fears where this kind of thinking is leading us? If newborn infants and one year old toddlers can be viewed as “not yet human” with no self awareness, killing them will become acceptable and legal. The Gosnell case, and the alarming number of people who regard him as a persecuted hero, proves we are getting closer to that world every day.
8.14.2013 | 11:18am

8.14.2013 | 12:19pm
Mike Melendez says:
Three of my children were delivered by midwives from two different practices on opposite coasts. On the west, the practice had a physician on staff with admitting privileges should that be needed. He went on call when a delivery began. On the east, the practice was required to deliver in a hospital. All three were in Blue cities, one of them, Santa Monica, the Bluest. Can anybody really be claiming that these laws were unconstitutional?
8.14.2013 | 12:55pm
Thomas Murray says:
It would be somewhat humorous, if not so deadly, to compare the almost slavish devotion to “science” that those on the left profess when it comes to so-called man made global warming and various other environmental fallacies, with the logic twisting lengths the abortion crowd get into.
8.14.2013 | 1:34pm
Wesley Vincent says:
“Whether these laws will stand constitutional scrutiny remains to be seen…” It is a really sad fact that at least five so-called “justices” are so ideological that they are not ruling on the constitutionality of these laws but are expressing their personal, private opinions only.
8.14.2013 | 2:19pm
Thomas Murray says:
Aside from the facts that abortions kill babies, this is another example that shows that these are medical procedures.

A woman took her daughter to the Washington D.C. Planned Parenthood on September 7, 2006 to abort a child conceived in rape. During the procedure, the young girl sustained severe abdominal bleeding, severe vaginal injury, severe injury to the cervix, significant uterine perforation, and a small bowel tear. In addition, parts of the child were found inside young girl’s abdomen on September 8, 2006. Because of these injuries, the young girl will be infertile for the rest of her life.

This same clinic will be receiving $375,000 as part of the Obamacare exchanges.
8.14.2013 | 5:19pm
Kent Wendler says:
Back in the day before Roe v Wade the hue and cry of the pro-abortionists was to make women safe *from* the “back-alley butchers”. Now they want to make things safe *for* the back-alley butchers.
8.14.2013 | 6:52pm
Christopher C. says:
Jim Bell – Yes, I think we are approaching a soulless world more closely. I seem to remember Peter Singer, Harvard University’s “ethicist”, claiming some time ago something along the lines of self-awareness being the test for humanity. I thought at the time, however, that perhaps he had not thought that point of view through, completely: if I came upon Mr Singer having a nap on his front porch, for example, and I shot him, this may not be counted as a murder because the splendidly post-modern Mr Singer was not self-aware as he slumbered.

Then there was a person – an acolyte of Richard Dawkins by the sound of her – in the UK who speculated that there was actually no such thing as consciousness. Humans, instead, were bioforms that were infested with memes. There is no thought in us, in other words, just imprints. Once again, as with those who claim that the test for humanity is self-awareness, this “we are only memes with the ability to locomote” concept would permit monstrosity. Murder? No such thing. There would only be physical re-arrangement or something. And Budzichevski’s (sp?) idea that there are “things that we cannot not know”, would be finally rejected. What a world our children are entering.

8.15.2013 | 5:01am
Bret Lythgoe says:
One wonders what other beliefs Ruth Marcus “does not share?” Perhaps she doesn’t share the “sincere and intense belief” that the earth travels around the sun? What about intense, and sincere beliefs, that electrons, protons and neutrons constitute atoms, or that hearts pump blood, or that kidneys filter the blood? I think it was Ronald Reagan who stated that, one is entitled to one’s own opionions, but not one’s own facts. If Ms. Marcus wishes to make her case that abortion is morally acceptable, by all means, she should do so. (I think that the arguments show that it’s not morally acceptable, but she can make her case). But some things cannot be attributed to mere beliefs that one can choose to either accept or reject. These things would be called facts.
8.15.2013 | 6:29am
Rick says:
The “virtue” of Gosnell was that his back-alley manners made it clear to everyone what he was really doing, thus providing some spiritual advantage to the girl who had Gosnell abort her child; there was no deflecting the idea out of her conscience that she was participating in a loathsome activity, and was in need of repentance.

8.15.2013 | 10:40am
Richard A says:
Mr. Weigel, thanks for making the point about the woman and “her physician.” I have long thought that this was another in the long list of lies abortion supporters use to dull their consciences on the issue. “Her physician” doesn’t perform abortions; that’s why she has to visit an abortionist for a one-time hit for hire.

Nobody.really, Weigel’s point (among several) is that abortion is NOT a standard surgical procedure, at least in the minds of its promoters. If it were, there wouldn’t even be special legislation in the states about parental notification, access to emergency services, minimal sanitation requirements, minimal licensing requirements, etc. It would be treated like any other standard surgical procedure, and all these routine regulations would be expected, even welcomed as validating their point.

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I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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