Venom, Abortion, and Bristol Palin

A reader takes me to task for the "venom and sarcasm" laced into my response to Jacob Weisberg's piece on how social conservatives have supposedly sold out family values for the sake of pro-life absolutism. It's true - I was a bit venomous. Hopefully it won't become a habit. I generally try to steer clear of overheated rhetoric where abortion is concerned, since I know my own views on the subject are somewhat outside the American mainstream, and I suspect that many (if not most) of my readers don't share them; given these consideration, I don't think there's to be gained for anybody if I write about the topic in a constant state of moralistic dudgeon.

But sometimes a touch of venom is appropriate. Many defenders of the current abortion laws want to make a distinction between being pro-choice - a position that treats abortion as a tragic practice that can't be regulated without violating a woman's fundamental right to privacy - and being actively pro-abortion. That's fair enough. But Weisberg wasn't making a pro-choice argument; he was making the case for abortion as a positive social good, a necessary building block of a healthy society, a practice that makes stable families possible. Worse, he didn't have the cojones to come right out and say it; instead, he wanted to pass the pro-abortion buck to the pro-family Right, casting his argument as something conservatives ought to believe if they were really serious about the importance of the nuclear family. Worse still, he was using an actual, ongoing and very public pregnancy, as opposed to hypothetical one, as the context for his pro-abortion argument - which means that stripped to its essence, this was a piece about why Bristol Palin should have aborted her unborn child/fetus/whatever you want to call it, and why conservatives and liberals alike should have cheered her for doing so. I'm sure that child will be just delighted to learn, when he grows up enough to understand the circumstances of his birth, that the editor-in-chief of a major national magazine publicly argued that he should have been vacuumed out of his mother's womb during his first trimester of existence - all for the sake of family values, of course.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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