Hillary Clinton recently reprimanded the Canadian government for their lack of attentiveness to the fact that “maternal health requires reproductive choice.” Ironically, particularly in light of the recently passed health-care law, she insists that “government should [not] be involved in these decisions” – demonstrating once again that abortion is not simply a medical procedure for those who think like Hillary, but an act that undergirds a whole ideology of untrammeled self-determination without ends or limits.

Hillary in Canada

Kate Michelman’s recent essay, when placed alongside Hillary’s speech, demonstrates some of the fundamental incoherence of the movement: we want government out of abortion, except to pay for it.

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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.


  1. Several months ago I caught a completely new horror in the attitudes toward this issue. It was an interview on “Fresh Air” (NPR, Terry Gross hosting) with a woman talking about her abortion. That in itself is a horror, but nothing new or unusual. But she was also talking about her generation’s superiority to her mother’s generation. After all, their had to convince themselves that the child was just a mass of “tissue” in order to justify killing it. But this new generation (the author said) was fully aware that the baby was fully human. Nevertheless, the felt entitled to kill it. Horrible, to be sure, but not nearly the worst of what she would say. Her last pregnancy (the subject of her book) occasioned a test which indicated that the child had a slight chance of a certain disease which would affect its mental capabilities. The author then went into a long and self-indulgent tirade about how she and her husband discussed the issue, with the usual quota of liberal soul-searching, the major issue for their “souls” in this case (as in every case) being how it would impact their “life-style.” Finally, her husband declared that their marriage might not survive a mentally impaired child (so much for professions of love) and so they “reluctantly” got an abortion.

    It is horrible to contemplate the attitude that makes the being of a person dependent upon the convenience of somebody else. But we are use to that; that is not the horror I speak of. Here it is: in the course of the interview, the author suddenly remembered that this was not her first abortion. She had one as a freshman in college. But, she said, that since that one was at six weeks gestation, she had no emotional attachment to the child, so it really wasn’t important.

    I do not think the woman was smart enough to know what she had said. Certainly, she was so self-absorbed that any other person could only be a utility for some end. But her “reasonable” discussion of her mental states, the only issue that counted, was beyond bizarre. Her assertion of superiority to her own mother, because the one had to lie to herself to commit a homicide, while the “new feminist” was comfortable with homicide as a convenience. Further, the whole thing was given a surrealistic air by the fact that he interviewer has such a lilting and pleasant voice. It was as if the holocaust was set to pleasant music, as if the slaughterhouse were landscaped with tulips and painted in pastels. In 40 years of listening to debate on this issue, this was the most horrible things I have heard. Hillary on her best day would never be able to match this. And thank God for that.

    Whoops! I kind of got off track here for a combox discussion and went into a rant. But I guess this one has been bothering me ever since I heard it.

  2. John, an horrific story indeed. And, to think that our tax dollars are helping fund PBS.
    As we “progress,” it seems we become less and less human. May God have mercy on us all.

  3. John you should just be thankful you don’t live in Britain or Australia like I have done. To be pro-life here is to be in an extreme minority and be looked at as very strange, if not evil.

  4. Responding to John M.’s comment:

    That’s got to be the most chilling–and honest–explanation given by a woman who chose to abort her baby. I’ve read some of the stories on the Planned Parenthood website detailing the reasons why this or that woman chose to have an abortion, and most of them give the same, “This required lots of soul-searching…” and “I really believed this was the best thing for our family (whether or not the unborn baby was included in that family)…” This is the first story I’ve read of a mother who honestly said she killed her baby (whose humanness she never disputed–though she never actually called him a person, did she?) because his continued existence would be an inconvenience to her and to her husband–who as much as threatened to leave her if she carried the baby to term and he happened to have some form of mental retardation. Any mother worthy of the name would have kept the baby and let the putz of a husband leave if he wasn’t man enough to handle it. But this woman obviously doesn’t have a clue what it really means to be a mother.

    It’s both laughable and scary that this woman actually considers herself–by virtue of her callous selfishness–to be superior to her mother and other mothers of the preceding generation, simply because “those” women (“less-evolved feminists,” I guess) couldn’t bring themselves to have an abortion until they could convince themselves that the child in their wombs was just a “blob of tissue.” The new feminist has no problem with killing her young, if she considers them inconvenient–someone who might get in the way of what she wants for herself (and what her husband wants). I wonder how many women think along the same lines and how many of them are as open about it as this woman?

    How did we get to the point where people can argue with a straight face that “women’s health” depends on their protected right to kill their own children–and the government funding to help her to do it?

    And it’s actually worse in Australia and Britain?

  5. There certainly are incoherent people among the advocates (and beneficiaries) of any cause or policy.

    But the more simple, direct, and coherent case for a constitutional pro-choice position is easy enough to present.

    The federal constitution is primarily a jurisdictional document. It does not say, policy on X subject shall be Y or Z. It says, congress shall have jurisdiction over… or congress shall pass no law regarding… or no state shall pass… Thus, court decisions, state or federal, declaring a law null and void, generally start with the foundation, congress has no authority over… or states are barred by X clause from legislating about…

    Roe v. Wade was a sound, conservative application of well-established law to a set of facts not previously submitted to the court. It concerned a set of legislative enactments that were not on the law books at the time of ratification, but had been experimented with at the state level decades later. Justice Blackmun did not write that abortion was a beneficial act, a wise choice, nor an evil. He wrote that jurisdiction belonged to the woman concerned, not to the police powers of the state. Rightly so.

    Now John is sincerely convinced that a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus at any stage of development, is a person, and to arrest development, removing it from the pregnant woman, is homicide. He has found a lengthy exercise in narcissism by that rare woman who agrees with him that it is a person, and feels entitled to “kill” it anyway. Out of a population of 300 million, its not hard to cherry-pick such a statement from some damn fool somewhere.

    I am not in the least convinced that one cell, or eight cells, or a hollow tube with a rudimentary circulatory system, is a person. I further consider it of great moment that whatever it is, it is growing within, and totally dependent upon, a female who is unquestionably a person. Therefore, I am unimpressed by the fervent condemnations of those who are not carrying this pregnancy within their own abdomen.

    Many, including my mother, who gave birth to four children, believe that whatever the moral arguments, as long as the fetus is inside the mother, its her call, period. I believe a more nuanced approach is necessary. So did Justice Blackmun.

    If a fetus can be safely removed from the mother, without threatening the mother’s life or physical health, and survive outside the womb on its own, then the removal is a delivery, not an abortion, and should be treated as such by medical ethics and the law. In fact, Justice Blackmun recognized that a fully developed baby ready to be born is a very different proposition that a single cell groping through the uterine fluids seeking a place to come to rest. Justice Blackmun relied on the concept of “quickening,” the best medical knowledge could offer in 1973. In light of more recent research, I would apply two tests: ability to survive outside the womb, without heart-lung machines or similar equipment, and, the presence of a central nervous system capable of cognition. Erring on the safe side, after the 20th week, there is no reason states should not prohibit abortion, unless the mother’s life is in danger. No police power should ever compel a woman to carry to term a pregnancy that does in fact endanger her life.

    While this will offend the well-formed emotions of almost everyone who commented above, it is certainly coherent, however much you might wish to quibble about my premises and criteria. Sic semper Michelman.

    Note: This may, eventually, appear twice. I posted yesterday, and it doth not appear. I reposted today, and the software says I seem to have posted it already. But it doth not appear. So I changed a word. Is there some delay factor when the website listed with my name and email is changed? What is the procedure? Where do I find it, to read at leisure without disrupting the flow of discussion?

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