Abortion & Authoritarianism
Many years ago, a friend shocked me by saying, "If my wife got pregnant now,
I'd make her get an abortion." His wife, who was present, shocked me by not
The "right to choose" is nominally a woman's. But in real life, the decision
is usually made by the man, whether by dominating her directly or by
threatening to leave her, withholding support from the child.
And yet I have never heard of any other man being as candid about this as my
old friend (who has since changed his mind, I'm happy to say). Men who favor
abortion talk in the rhetoric of altruism: They have nothing to gain from it,
you understand, they merely want women to be free. The fact that a timely
abortion could spare them the burdens of fatherhood in no way affects their
position. Of course they for some reason prefer the word "choice" to
Yet there are tens of millions of men in America whom abortion has saved from
unwanted responsibility. Among these, not more than a handful are willing to
admit their role in pressuring women to get abortions.
The legalization of abortion has removed risk and responsibility from being
male, thereby diminishing masculinity itself. The man who is only too willing
to trifle with maidens' affections, once known as a "cad," is now virtually
the norm, as far as the law is concerned. He has nothing to lose by seducing a
girl and getting her pregnant. He can't even be forced to bear the expense of
having his child killed.
Freedom should mean an arrangement where everyone bears responsibility for his
own acts. But it has come to mean the rejection of responsibility.
This has come about not because our government is democratic, but because it
is autocratic. There was no popular clamor for legal abortion; the U.S.
Supreme Court imposed it arbitrarily. Just as other countries have been ruled
by military coups, the United States has suffered from a series of judicial
coups. Military coups occur when top army officers decide that the existing
government has failed; judicial coups occur when Supreme Court justices decide
that the people have failed.
The people "fail" when they don't voluntarily adopt, or demand that their
state legislatures adopt, the liberal agenda. By 1973 abortion was high on the
liberal agenda, but the people weren't moving fast enough: All 50 states
retained restrictions on abortion. Obviously, it was time for the court to act
to correct this intolerable situation.
The court exercises what might be described as a line-item veto over the
Constitution. It arbitrarily decides which clauses really count and which ones
may be ignored; which ones may be "expanded," endowed with "penumbras" and
"emanations," and which ones may be construed so narrowly as to have no
The late Justice Harry Blackmun said that capital punishment was
unconstitutional, even though the text of the Constitution mentions it
repeatedly and most states have always had it. It didn't trouble the
self-centered Blackmun that he was trying to impose his own peculiar position
on a whole nation. The disposition he displayed wasn't democratic; it was
authoritarian in the purest and worst sense: He made his own will superior to
the law he was supposedly interpreting (just as he and his colleagues on the
court had done with abortion). I myself think capital punishment is wrong; but
that wouldn't justify me, if I were a justice, in declaring it contrary to the
Constitution that explicitly provides for it.
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