Meanwhile, Schwenkler’s larger point is especially worth keeping in mind when confronted – as pro-lifers often are – with arguments like this one, from P.J. O’Rourke:
Take just one example of our unconserved tendency to poke our noses into other people’s business: abortion. Democracy–be it howsoever conservative–is a manifestation of the will of the people. We may argue with the people as a man may argue with his wife, but in the end we must submit to the fact of being married. Get a pro-life friend drunk to the truth-telling stage and ask him what happens if his 14-year-old gets knocked up. What if it’s rape? Some people truly have the courage of their convictions. I don’t know if I’m one of them. I might kill the baby. I will kill the boy.
If we take O’Rourke’s hypothetical on its own terms, it reads as an argument for, say, a legal regime that makes abortion available to women/girls below the age of consent – and I think I speak for many pro-lifers when I say that I would gladly entertain that sort of compromise, as part of a broader package of restrictions, if we were drawing up abortion law from scratch.
No you don’t. You don’t speak for many pro-lifers. You don’t speak for anyone who’s currently causing the stalemate in our debate on this issue by standing on a clinic doorstep screaming at women that they’re murdering whores. The hardcore, one-issue-voter, all-or-nothing pro-lifers state (whatever you may think of their motivations, let’s take them at their word for the sake of argument) that abortion is murder of an innocent child.
So you can’t make it okay to murder because the pregnant girl is 15 and not 18, you can’t make it okay to murder in the case of rape, you can’t make it okay to murder in the case of irreparable damage to the mother’s health or even her life. If it’s murder of an innocent to them, this isn’t going to fix it all up nicely. And the continued attempt to find some way around having to declare that you don’t, in fact, believe that women should be forced by the state to bear chlidren against their will is in fact more repulsive to me than outright opposition to abortion, because you’re trying to find a way out of having to state your convictions and that’s just weaselly bullshit.
You may speak for the mushy middle here, for the people who are uncomfortable with women’s autonomy and with sex and with theidea of abortion, but this mealy-mouthed crap doesn’t speak for anybody holding the line on the tightrope we’re presently walking.