Christine Flowers, 6/24/2016 [Archive]

The Things We're Not Allowed to Compare Abortion To

By Christine Flowers

Here are some of the things you are not supposed to compare abortion to:

Slavery. That's because slaves were human, and, even though the law treated them as property, the truth of their separate and sacred identity was obvious to the naked and uncompromised eye.

The Holocaust. That's because Hitler's victims were human, with infinite gifts that elevated civilization, even though the laws - both expressed and implicit - treated them as lesser beings. Their humanity was evident.

Sharia. That's because women in the Islamic world are human, and even though certain Muslim teachings punish them for the power of their - of our - biology, their value is clear to poets, painters, soldiers, children and God.

You are not supposed to compare abortion to any evil act that enslaves and debases people, even when these acts were once sanctioned by law (and are still sanctioned, in the case of sharia). It is too uncomfortable an analogy to say that some laws allow us to ignore the obvious, that humanity exists above and beyond the jurisdiction of men.

Except when it comes to abortion. Then, we delight in the dark magic of the law, which can turn truth into fiction, and clarity into confusion.

Before Roe v. Wade, even those women who desperately sought out places to terminate their pregnancies knew in their hearts that the procedure they were seeking would end with at least one death. It wasn't a "fetus" or "a mass of cells," It was a future president, scientist, baker, lover, priest, Nobel Prize winner, or nondescript taxi driver. It was unwanted, but it had an identity.

Roe v. Wade gave them permission to pretend that they weren't killing anyone. The law told us we could erase the traces of that thing in the same way the waves cancel out our footprints on the sand. "It" was not human. Slaves were not human. Jews, women, not human. The laws are powerful things.

Sometimes, though, they can be turned around and used for actual justice. They can undo what has been done in a misguided attempt to placate a loud and politically favored group, and, for a brief moment, shame us into looking at the truth. That is what 132 Pennsylvania legislators did this week when they passed House Bill 1948, which would ban all abortions after the 20th week, with some exceptions for medical emergencies. Most abortions occur well before the fifth month, and the ones that occur in the last trimester are usually performed because of medical emergencies and anomalies. Since the bill would still permit abortions in many of those circumstances, there should be no significant impact from a logistical perspective.

But there is indeed an impact from a moral perspective. The legislators voted to restore some sanity and clarity to the abortion debate, and were willing to acknowledge that the creature in the womb has its own inherent dignity, something that nine male justices were unable to extinguish in 1973.

Of course, this bill will have a hard time becoming a law. But the House members who voted in favor of a ban that would prevent the dismemberment of 5-month-old developing babies were willing to do what the abolitionists did, what the good, silent Germans didn't, and what we in the West have had a problem with because we don't want to offend Islam: tell the truth about what is happening to human beings. They have listened to the science, drowned out the rhetoric from the abortion-rights activists and focused, narrowly, on a practice that is just one more shameful act of dehumanization.

Baby steps.

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© 2016 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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