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Easy for pro-abortionists to “win” debate when they caricature pro-life arguments and misleadingly represent their own

by | Dec 11, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Adam Gopnik

Adam Gopnik

I had not seen Adam Gopnik’s “Arguing Abortion,” which ran in the New Yorker, until National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru posted on it (“How not to argue about abortion.”

Since you can read Ramesh’s very thoughtful rebuttal and Gopnik’s nasty here-there-and-everywhere diatribe against pro-lifers, let me offer a few comments.

Ironically, the first time I ever mentioned Mr. Gopnik (as far as I can tell) was way back in 1999. I was commenting about “An American Bed-time Story” (about baseball), which was about what he telling his son while the family lived in Paris.

But Gopnik begins to wonder what words and idioms such as “all the way to the backstop” or “Polo Grounds” or “He had all day” can mean to a child living in Paris, who has never picked up a glove, or watched a game on television, let alone actually played baseball? “What did he think, what did he see when he heard these [clichés]?”

But, in fact, his made-up story about baseball does evince a powerful reaction in his son, Luke. Happy that he can share this quintessentially America lore with his boy, Gopnik observes, “Sometimes the words fly right over the fence and all the way out to the feelings.”

As I wrote at the time, “The power of words wrapped in love and shared with someone we care about is hard to overstate.”

Why do I mention this? Two reasons. First, because Gopnik can write so much better than the drivel he dished n the recent New Yorker—as evidenced by his 1999 piece for the New Yorker.

And second, unlike the lovely lore he used to build a bond with his son, the imaginary pro-lifers Gopnik conjures up are merely strawmen into whose mouths (and heads) he pours the most utter nonsense.

So, what to say about “Arguing Abortion”? First, “arguing” should be understood the way “criticism” used to be understood. It is not to erect bogeymen so as to make it easy to dismiss their claims. Arguing/criticizing should first acknowledge a point of view’s legitimate strengths before showing where it is (if it is) flawed.

Instead Gopnik trolls in the same intellectual marshes pro-abortionists have for decades, all of which combine sophistry with misdirection and contempt for pro-lifers. Ponnuru points out many of them. Here’s one that addresses several of Gopnik’s sleight of hand musings:

It is either dishonest or ignorant to claim that the pro-life argument is “that an embryo is a person because it contains the DNA of a potential person,” and then to refute this straw man by noting that every human cell contains DNA. Every pro-lifer who has ever given any thought to the matter or expressed a view on it acknowledges, indeed proclaims, the difference between a human organism and a human cell that is not a human organism. And the fact that what Gopnik calls “fertilized eggs” often die naturally does not have any logical bearing on whether it is morally permissible to act with the intention of bringing about their deaths, any more than the fact that many 90-year-olds die naturally implies that it is all right to kill them.

Here is one other consideration, which again, to his credit, Ponnuru points the spotlight on.

Pro-abortionists, such as Gopnik, like to think they have painted pro-lifers into a corner because we don’t come to the same conclusions he says must follow from a (fill-in-the-blank) premise.

So, our argument, according to Gopnik, is that if we allow abortion, infanticide inevitably follows. Let’s think about that for a moment.

Click here to read the December issue of
National Right to Life News,
the “pro-life newspaper of record.”

As Ponnuru observes, “Note that with all this verbiage we still have not actually come across a distinction between abortion and infanticide, other than that we want to allow the former and forbid the latter.”

(Gopnik does not condemn infanticide in so many words; as a matter of charity, Ponnuru assumes Gopnik does. So much for intellectual rigor on Gopnik’s part.)

But the pro-life perspective has always been clear-cut and open to critique but also to experience.

We maintain that the logic of privacy and autonomy and the use of a sliding scale which makes for gradations in human value are inherently expansionary. If the value the unborn child’s life is only what is imputed to him or her by their mother, there can be no limit on abortion through the end of pregnancy.

Once the child has left the womb, she or he is still not safe. What’s the big difference, especially if (as we heard with “after-birth abortions”) the child comes not with a bow of perfection wrapped around her head but with disabilities?

Had the parent known that, she could have legally aborted the baby in the womb—in utero. Why not “terminate” her life legally outside the womb—ex utero? She still can’t fend for herself and (as Peter Singer has so often argued) everyone will be “better” off it the family “starts over.”

You get the point. The onus is on the Gopniks of this world to demonstrate the principle by which born babies are safe from the grasp of the logic that brought us abortion on demand and over 56 million dead babies.

Guess what? He can’t.

Categories: Media Bias