By Fr. George Welzbacher
May 6, 2007
In a recent ruling (April 17) the U. S. Supreme Court found (5 to 4) that the federal law that was passed in 2003 with bipartisan support to criminalize partial-birth abortion is in no way at odds with the Constitution. The ruling has evoked a storm of rage and derision from the media's grand high panjandrums and from politicians waxing wroth at even the slightest limitation of a woman's right to kill. Senator Barack Obama lost no time at all in voicing his disapproval: "I strongly disagree with today's Supreme Court ruling, which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of pregnant women." Safeguarding the health of the child, however, seems to be of precious little concern. Following much the same script, Hillary Rodham Clinton scored the ruling as "a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman's right to choose and recognized the importance of women's health." Same pronouncement, same comment.
Pro-abortion cartoonists had a field day. To cite a local example, on the editorial page of the Star Tribune a cartoon from the hand of syndicated satirist Tony Auth mocked the Catholic faith of the five distinguished jurists who formed the majority for this ruling. The cartoon's appearance in the Star Tribune prompted me to send the Star Tribune a letter of my own, which, to its credit, the paper printed the following day. May I reprint the letter here as germane to the issue at hand.
* * * * *Partial-Birth Abortion -A Hideous Procedure
April 25, 2007
Anyone who gives even a moment's thought to what takes place during the "procedure" described quite accurately as partial-birth abortion-namely the extraction of almost the entire body of the infant from the birth canal, leaving only the baby's head still inside, at which point the baby's head is stabbed with a sharp instrument to allow the insertion of a tube through which the baby's brain can then be sucked out-and can applaud it as a victory for human rights is as monstrous as the procedure itself.
In Tony Auth's viciously anti-Catholic editorial page cartoon (Star Tribune, April 21), the five U.S. Supreme Court justices who declared the federal ban on this procedure to be consonant with the Constitution are depicted as stupidly grinning, mitre- capped minions of the Roman Catholic faith.
In fact it is those five justices who are the authentic humanists-the defenders of a helpless baby's human rights.
The Rev. George Welzbacher
* * * * *Clear thinking is the enemy of abortion. But passion and prejudice and a thirst for approval, not to mention simple greed, obstruct clear thinking. A recent essay on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times illustrates both of these generalizations, though that was not perhaps quite what the author had intended. The onlyTimes columnist who could remotely be described as at least on some issues a conservative is David Brooks. In the article in question (in the April 22nd edition of the Times) Mr. Brooks presents a well reasoned defense of the "fetus" as a human child, all the while offering as "a sensible solution," in utter defiance of logic, the legalization of abortion "during the first four or five months." I reprint the article here, slightly abridged, as a remarkable example of contradictions embraced.
* * * * *Postures in Public, Facts in the Womb.
By David Brooks
.... In the beginning there is the womb and the creature inside. It is creating 2.5 million nerve cells in the brain every minute, and will have well over 100 billion by the time it is born. By the end of the third month, thef etus will have begun making steplike movements. Shortly thereafter its taste buds begin to work, and it can tell whether the amniotic fluid is sweet or garlicky, depending on what its mother had for lunch.
By 17 weeks, the fetus can feel its own body and will begin making facial expressions. At about six months, it can open its eyes, and if you hold a bright light to its mother's abdomen it will startle and move away.
By the third trimester, the fetus seems to begin dreaming, or at least making the same eye movements that adults make when they dream.
It is hearing and making sense of what it hears. Through a series of ingenious experiments, scientists have determined that fetuses attune to the pitch and tone of their parents' voices. They can distinguish their own language from other languages. If their mothers read "The Cat in the Hat" to them over a period of weeks, they can remember the tonal patterns of that story and distinguish them from the patterns of some other story.
By this stage, the fetus has a personality. If it is unusually active, it will probably be unusually active after birth. If it has trouble sleeping now, it will have the same trouble after birth.
It is not only the product of uniform chemical processes; it is responding to its own distinct environment. If its mother is stressed, it will feel stress.
It has those traits all human beings share--a talentfor orienting itself in space and for learning language. And it has traits distinct to itself. It already has a tendency to be introverted or extroverted, neurotic or calm, temperamentally happy or temperamentally morose. Nothing that happens later in life will fundamentally reverse these prenatal qualities.
In short, when you focus on the fetus, you see a process of emerging life that begins with small biological clumps and culminates by the third trimester with a creature who is not significantly differentfrom a living baby. And the obvious mystery is: When in this continuous process does human life begin? [No mystery at all; the DNA is there from the START]
And yet when you look at the abortion debate that grows from this mystery, you find that over the years, adults have built these vast layers of argument and counterargument, and the core issue is buried far down below.
The Carhart case, which the Supreme Court decided last week, is prompted by revulsion over the practice of killing late-term fetuses. Yet for reasons having to do with political tactics, the law that was upheld wouldn't even prevent a single late-term abortion. It would forbid doctors from crushing the skull of thefetus, but would permit them to poison and dismember it....
Meanwhile, when you look at the statements of the abortion rights forces, you find they can't even look this matter in the face. Read the statements by the Democratic presidential candidates. Read the protests from Planned Parenthood and Naral. They can't even bring themselves to mention the word "fetus." They are terrified of having an honest discussion about human life, so they have built this lofty etiquette of evasion that treats abortion as the moral equivalent of a tonsillectomy.
If we could get this issue away from the abortion professionals and their orthodoxies, we could reach a sensible [sic!!!] solution: abortion would be legal, with parental consent for minors, during the first four or five months, and illegal except in extremely rare circumstances afterward. Instead we get what we saw last week. A law that doesn't address the core issue, a court decision so tangled in jurisprudence as to be impermeable to the outside world, and howling protests by people who can't face the central concern.
* * * * *
And after that there was silence in heaven.