April 10, 2007
Caitlin Flanagan is one of those talented writers for whom I imagine it is hard to find an ideological home. Feminists and liberals despise her for suggesting that feminism might not have worked out for the benefit of women. Likewise, she doesn’t quite fit the conservative mold – she is, for example, regrettably on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate.
However one chooses to label Flanagan, she is nevertheless refreshingly honest at times. Writing in the latest issue of The Atlantic, she argues that while, “a thousand arguments about the beginning of human life will never appeal to me as powerfully as a terrified pregnant girl desperate for a bit of compassion,” there is one effort by pro-lifers that gives her pause:
But my sympathy for the beliefs of people who oppose abortion is enormous, and it grows almost by the day. An ultrasound image taken surprisingly early in pregnancy can stop me in my tracks. In it is much more than I want to know about the tiny creature whose destruction we have legalized: a beating heart, a human face, functioning kidneys, two waving hands that seem not too far away from being able to grasp and shake a rattle. One of the newest types of prenatal imaging, the three-dimensional sonogramwhich is so fully realized that happily pregnant women spend a hundred dollars to have their babies first photograph takenis frankly terrifying when examined in the context of the abortion debate. The demands pro-life advocates make of pregnant women are modest: All they want is a little bit of time. All they are asking, in a societal climate in which out-of-wedlock pregnancy is without stigma, is that pregnant women give the tiny bodies growing inside of them a few months, until the little creatures are large enough to be on their way, to loving homes.
These sonogram images lay claim to the most powerful emotion I have ever known: maternal instinct. Mothers are charged with protecting the vulnerable and the weak among us, and most of all, taking care of babiesthe tiniest and neediestfirst. My very nature as a woman, then, pulls me in two directions.
The secret of the sonogram in preventing abortions is out, and both sides of the debate know it. The South Carolina House of Representatives has even passed a bill to require women seeking an abortion to have ultrasounds before proceeding with an abortion. Not surprisingly, many pro-abortion advocates want what amounts to censorship, and therefore seek to keep distressed pregnant women as far away from ultrasound machines as possible.
Indeed, in this debate there is much to lose. For the abortion industry, business is in jeopardy. For humanity, there is much more.