A review of When Choice Becomes God. By F. LaGard Smith.

Harvest House Press, 1990.

“In our time,” wrote George Orwell, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuation of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face … Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” Indeed, the goal, wrote Orwell, “is to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”.

A number of groups neatly fit this description, perhaps none more so than the pro-abortion movement. By describing themselves as “pro-choice” or simply concerned about “women’s rights”, the pro-abortionists have sought to soften and conceal the real issue under appeal to abstract principle. Indeed, it is amazing to what great lengths they will go to conceal their real objective. A recent three page statement by the National Abortion Rights Action League in the US used terms like “choice” and “the right to choose” some 30 times. Not once was the word “abortion” used, however. To talk of rights and choice is neat and painless. But the reality of abortion is not so neat and painless. Abortion, as one writer put it, “is a violent act that reduces a living human entity with a beating heart and a functioning brain to a puree of blood and bone”.

In When Choice Becomes God, Smith, a Professor of Law at Pepperdine University in California, tackles head on the myths and veils raised by the pro-abortion movement. The emptiness of shrouding oneself in the flag of “personal choice” is deftly exposed by Smith. To attempt to rationalise abortion under the rubric of “choice” quickly crumbles when the analogy of slavery is introduced. Advocates of legal abortion claim they are merely pro-choice, not pro-abortion. One should simply have the freedom to choose.

This all sounds too much like America a century ago. In 1857 the US Supreme Court ruled that blacks were “non-persons” and therefore could be legitimately owned, bought and sold as slaves. In effect the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling said that a fetus was a non-person, which could be kept or disposed of at the whim of the mother. In either case the choice belonged to the “owner”. But as Joseph Sobran has observed, “those who favor the option of abortion, or slavery, refuse to take into account the human nature of the option’s victim. Extending choice to the slave himself would amount to abolishing slavery, and the same holds true for abortion.”

Smith quotes a pro-feminist journalist who expressed these concerns: “For me, the problem is not feminists’ pro-choice stance, but that the stance has no moral context. All the emphasis is on rights. None is on the morality of using those rights. It is as if we were back in the 1850s: No one is talking about whether slavery is wrong; instead, the whole discussion revolves around the question of whether each slaveholder has a basic right to decide the issue for himself.”

One can also compare the situation to rape. Says Smith: “Feminists who rightly decry the abuse of power in forcible rape of women’s bodies seem unable to understand the similarity of their quest for power to be used in the forcible rape of the fruit of their own wombs.”

But I can already hear the objections; many do not consider abortion to be rape, much less murder. It’s simply the “termination of pregnancy” or some such pleasant-sounding event. But this of course is the real heart of the matter. If the “fetus” which is “terminated” is not really human, but is just a blob of protoplasm, or at best, “a potential life”, then abortion is not much different than removing a tonsil or a false eyelash. But if the fetus is indeed a living human being, then the whole story changes.

The question of when a human life begins is of the utmost importance. That we have not reached unanimity in answering the question does not lessen its significance. Says Smith, “When it comes to human life, we dare not play games with either doubts or definitions. If, in fact, we cannot decide when human life begins, then we cannot safely assume that it hasn’t begun. At a minimum, the almost universal agreement that an unborn fetus is both human and living must raise a presumption in favor of human life. Are we prepared to find out that we’ve been wrong all along in denying the obvious?”

The stakes are indeed too high. How would a hunter fare before a court of law if, while hunting, he had shot at a movement in the bush and killed, not a bird, but a fellow hunter? Surely the judge would ask, “if you were not sure, why did you shoot?” The burden of proof must lie with those who contend that human life is being eliminated.

It seems that the pro-abortionists are all too aware that human life is indeed present in the unborn, thus the remarkable lengths to which they go to hide this fact. Take but two examples. Contrast a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) with a chosen abortion. There is grief for the baby lost in the miscarriage. But in an abortion there is “merely” the loss of an unwanted fetus. “Have you ever noticed that the only time those of us who are not in the medical profession refer to a fetus is when we talk about abortion? In every other case, we refer to a baby. We don’t ask, ‘What are you going to name the fetus?’ Nor do we console a woman who has just miscarried by saying, ‘I’m sorry you lost your fetus.’ In referring to a pregnancy, we invariably understand that we are dealing with a little person developing in the womb. Only when it is subject to an abortion must a baby go incognito.”

It’s a baby if you want it, a clump of tissue if you don’t!

Another significant factor which seems to belie the claim that the fetus is simply a collection of cells is post-abortion trauma and guilt. If a fetus is indeed just a blob of protoplasm, why all the trauma, why all the guilt? When an appendix is removed, no one experiences guilt – a little pain perhaps, but no psychological and emotional upheavals. “Guilt about abortions was not invented by the pope”, says Smith. Indeed, it seems to be a universal condition. As one feminist writer has conceded, “Findings such as these do not constitute an argument against abortion. But they certainly tell us we are not in the realm of tonsillectomies.”

The ironies of the pro-choicers are indeed incredible. We can choose to have a baby, or dispose of it, but it is no longer “politically correct” to choose to wear a fur coat. In America teenagers need parental permission to get their ears pierced, but not to get an abortion. Outside the womb, child abuse is clearly not an option; inside the womb it’s “a woman’s right to choose.” “What irony that a society confronted with plastic bags filled with the remains of aborted babies should be more concerned about the problem of recycling the plastic.”

Choice is indeed the false god of this age. Hiding behind such facades as “I’m personally against abortion but I won’t impose my values on others – it’s their choice” just won’t wash. One might just as well say, “I’m personally against rape and genocide, but others must make up their own minds.” There are some areas that are just out of bounds, just beyond choice.

Abortion in most circumstances is one of those areas. With over 80,000 unborn babies being killed in Australia each year it is time to choose to act rightly. And to act rightly means to first think rightly. This book is an important aid in thinking rightly about the abortion debate.

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