January 13, 2016


'Defenders of the Unborn,' by Daniel K. Williams (KRISTIN DOMBEK, JAN. 8, 2016, NY Times Book Review)

From the perspective of our historical moment, it's hard to imagine a country where the most prominent voices against abortion were Catholic physicians, and evangelical Protestants were either in favor of lifting restrictions on abortion, or didn't really care. A country where Democrats and the Black Panthers opposed abortion, and Ronald Reagan, like most conservatives, supported it. Where more men than women supported legalizing abortion, and Hugh Hefner was one of those men, leading one activist to call legalized abortion the "final victory of the Playboy philosophy." Where opposition to abortion found common cause with opposition to the exploitation of women, to the abandonment of the poor, to big business and to the Vietnam War.

While the language of genocide seems disingenuous to progressives now, Williams's characters remind us that in the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, the Nuremberg trials were fresh in the minds of Americans, as was the forced sterilization of poor women and women of color. Many liberals were understandably suspicious of any policy or law that seemed to promote population control funded by a government they suspected of systemic racism. As the Louisiana Right to Life Association put it in 1972: "Abortion is advocated as a way of reducing the number of illegitimate children and reducing the welfare rolls. Who do you think abortionists have in mind?" During the 1960s, the group that polled highest in the objection to abortion was African-Americans.

This progressive movement was winning before Roe v. Wade, Williams persuasively argues, because it shared language and values with the decade's social justice causes. Even if you don't buy that language now, it's hard to read this history without believing that its adherents genuinely meant it. Legal in some form in 16 states, abortion had become much more visible in the late 1960s. An ecumenical, liberal coalition of anti-abortion allies began to share fetal photographs, abortion videos and the tales of horrified nurses with legislators, and even some who had supported liberalization changed their minds. In 1971, in every single one of 25 legislative battles, attempts to broaden abortion's legality were thwarted by activists fighting for "life."

As Justice Ginsburg has confessed, the impetus for abortion was genocidal.
Posted by at January 13, 2016 12:18 PM