November 25, 2004


It's the pro-lifers' moment: Bush's re-election, the Peterson case and other factors show that the right has gathered steam (James P. Pinkerton, November 25, 2004, Newsday)

[F]or years now, the right has been winning the fight. In the '90s, conservatives won the moral-intellectual battle over "partial-birth abortion"; most Americans deem it to be an abhorrent practice. In fact, the more time people spend pondering the mechanics of abortion, the less likely they are to support it. In the meantime, pro-life sentiment builds further as ultrasound technology improves, to the point where in utero imaging becomes three-dimensional and all the more vivid.

The coverage of the 2002 killing of eight-months-pregnant Laci Peterson in California illustrated a further shift. Reporters routinely referred to "the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn son Conner." That a fetus was thus deemed to be a full person, with a name, was a spectacular success for the right. Scholars call it "semantic infiltration." Indeed, this infiltration was enshrined in a new federal law making it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. Bush himself refers to the bill as "Laci and Conner's Law."

The continuing, growing power of the right-to-life movement has many sources, but the most profound source is basic biology: The human species, like any species, is programmed for its own perpetuation. And yet across the industrial nations, the birth rate has fallen. Births are now at or below the numerical replacement level. The once-feared "population bomb," in other words, has proven to be a "population bust." Three major books have been published of late on this topic, the most recent of which is "Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future," by Ben Wattenberg, a scholar who hardly rates as a traditional pro-life conservative.

One solution to the birth-dearth, of course, is immigration. Yet that brings controversy. A more natural solution, which people yearn for in their bones, is an increase in the birth rate - more patter of more little feet. Hence the surging popularity of "pro-family" policies put forth by "family values"-oriented candidates. And yes, as part of the same swell of feeling comes the impulse to restrict abortion.

Such a Darwinian explanation is especially asinine in the one Western nation that faces no such dearth. Were biology a force of any moment in human affairs it would be Europe that was becoming anti-abortion.

President Bush's Potential Supreme Court Picks are Pro-Life on Abortion (Steven Ertelt, November 24, 2004,

With the potential to nominate as many as three or four Supreme Court justices, there is little doubt that one legacy President Bush will have is how he shaped the views of the nation's top judicial panel.

When Bush begins nominating new justices to replace the aging members of the court, one of the key battles will revolve around abortion.

A recent CBS-New York Times poll found that 64 percent of those polled said they thought Bush would appoint pro-life judges who favor making abortion illegal.

They may be right.

A survey of the most often discussed possibilities for Supreme Court appointments indicates many are either pro-life or have issued decisions on legislation favorable to the pro-life community.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2004 1:10 PM

I like to tell people who argue about abortion and overpopulation that, no matter how many people live on this earth, we are only ever one generation away from extinction.

Fortunately, my other slogan has proven quite true: "Things will never get as good as they could be, and never as bad as they should be."

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 26, 2004 8:17 AM

Oh, Europe will become anti-abortion. The only question is whether it will become muslim first.

Posted by: mike earl at November 26, 2004 9:48 AM

"That a fetus was thus deemed to be a full person, with a name, was a spectacular success for the right. Scholars call it "semantic infiltration.""

That a fetus was deemed to be a full person is the default assumption of people everywhere. It is the idea that he/she isn't a full person is the result of the failed semantic infiltration of the pro-abortion lobby.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 26, 2004 12:08 PM

Get a grip! Darwinian evolution does not occur within a couple of generations. What we are seeing play out is Spencerian evolution: ideas and folkways in competition, not species or organisms.

The humans of old Europe are going under because their ideas have failed, not their genes, which are doing quite well in the True West.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 26, 2004 7:11 PM


Ah, yes, the "we've magically freed ourselves from Darwinism" argument....

Posted by: oj at November 26, 2004 7:44 PM

One of the greatest criticisms of biological Spencerianism ("Darwinism," as it is commonly known) is that there is simply not enough time to account for adaptive evolution absent something like intelligent design.

There is no such problem with cultural evolution, which is far more than a theory, being a tautologous description of how human choices are made. Guns are a better idea than primitive bows and arrows. The idea of the gun comes to your continent and you adopt it as soon as possible. It is the idea of the stone-tipped arrow which becomes extinct--your personal extinction is necessary only if you will not adapt.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 26, 2004 9:43 PM