Culture Wars/Current Controversies

America Without Abortion

By Matthew Walther, The American Conservative

Of all the forms of divination condemned by the Church and rejected by our natural faculties of reason, logomancy is the most obviously absurd. Hobbes, the wittiest of English philosophers, tells us that words “are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the money of fools.”

This is more or less my attitude toward listening to oral argument before the Supreme Court. Of course I would like to convince myself, on the basis of a seemingly trenchant line of questioning, a rhetorical flourish, or even a stray word from one of the justices, that the kritarchy is about to obviate Roe v. Wade. I also like to imagine, in my more whimsical moments, that one day the Nine will throw aside Griswold and discover in the inchoate intentions of our Founders a common law right to tobacco production and consumption. A man can dream.

All of which is to say that rather than sift through the entrails of today’s arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, much less issue a prediction about the ultimate fate of Roe, I would like to make a few observations about the pro-life movement. There are certain facts that it seems unwilling to face.

The most significant of these is the reality of what we are up against. A world in which abortion is outlawed is not one that is very much like our own minus the (as many respectable anti-abortion activists would have it) invisible heap of baby corpses somewhere over the horizon. This is one of the many reasons I take issue with arguments like this one, which, among other things, attempts to justify anti-abortion legislation on the grounds that it would not meaningfully reduce the incidence of women in the workplace. Is that true? Can one say so reliably? Suppose it did reduce the number of women thus employed by 10 or 50 or 90 percent. Is there, for any sincere opponent of abortion, some hypothetical female unemployment threshold beyond which it would be unacceptable to find ourselves, even if it meant the proscription of child murder? If not, why make the case? The mind reels.

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