You can bet that some time around 290 AD, there was a stolid, old-style Roman writing that imagining that you could roll back the clock to the days of Augustus' public morality laws was as impossible as pouring wine back into the wineskin. And what the heck was it with these middle-eastern religions and their backwards beliefs infiltrating the empire? Don't they realize that a cosmopolitan attitude toward morality is the inevitable result of a sophisticated urban culture?
But, of course, the difficulty is knowing whether you are looking at a cat that really can't be put in the bag, or just the outside end of one swing of the pendulum of history. That question seems especially to come to mind today in conjunction with the March For Life, as some people ask whether it's possible for Roe to be rolled back after 33 years of abortion virtually available upon demand.
One thing that struck me in reading Derbyshire's article is that it's essentially based on the fact that most people don't like to think very much. Sadly, there may be something to this, though I disagree with Derbyshire's conclusion that Roe is toothpaste out of the tube. Part of his argument seems to be: "Most people aren't interested in the 'abstract' argument over when human life begins, so protecting life from conception will never win out." (One is saddened to see "abstract" used as a pejorative term.) Well, that's true. Most people don't think or if they do think they do it badly. I wish one could say it were otherwise, but sadly that's how humanity is.
That is why, in order for us to attain a culture of life, we will need not merely the intellectual understanding that once you reach a unique string of DNA at the moment of conception there's really no other good place to draw a dividing line of "personhood", but rather the widespread feeling held deep within the heart that abortion is fundamentally wrong -- that there really is a small person in there waiting for his or her chance to enter the world, and a person's a person no matter how small.
It's nice to know this, but it's probably more important to feel it. I think many of us do feel it quite strongly, and many of us who do are raising up the next generation (and lots of them) to feel it just as strongly.
And yet, there's a lot going against us in modern society. Because modern technology has made contraception so available (and in many circles so unquestioningly accepted) and because it also allows us to detect pregnancy early, when it's possible for the rationalizing part of the mind to overcome the rational with the insistence that "it's just a lump of cells", we have an uphill battle. Those who don't bother to teach their children clearly on such issues are much in danger of losing them to the prevailing tide of our times -- a tide that still very much flows in the direction of the culture of death.
People on the extreme pro-choice end of the spectrum aren't having children. They can't create the next generation of pro-choicers. However, they can influence the children of those who provide their children with no clear guidance.
To create a culture of life we must do two things "go forth a multiply" and remember that parents have the first and most important duty to educate their children.
Fortnightly Book, February 7
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