Back in July, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a column, "Owning Up to Abortion" for the New York Times. We wrote about her column, with lots of links, here.
Richard John Neuhaus has now addressed Ehrenreich's column in the October 2004 print edition of First Things.
Here are some excerpts from his piece. (It's on page 90, for my readers who are FT subscribers.)
Barbara Ehrenreich is hard as nails and demands that other women be so too. "Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights. The freedoms that we exercise but do not acknowledge are easily taken away."...There are, she writes, "an appalling number of women who are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves." It is the women who regret having an abortion and feel guilty about it who outrage Ms. Ehrenreich. She would deny them their remorse and their resentment of an unlimited abortion license that made it too easy for them to do wrong. They do not want other women to be similarly tempted.
That's part of why many post-abortive women become pro-life. Another reason is that the law is a teacher, and it is taken to teach that abortion is not just legal but because it is legal, also morally permissible. A woman in a crisis pregnancy knows that many actions are legal but not moral, such as adultery. But since abortion, if it is immoral, is so because it involves the taking of a life, it's easy to reason that since it is legal, and since the law otherwise prohibits the destruction of innocent human life, what is lost in an abortion must not be an innocent human life. If it were not so, the law would be different. Or so the law appears to teach.
Ehrenreich will have none of it: "Honesty begins at home, so I should acknowledge that I had two abortions during my all-too-fertile years. You can call me a bad woman, but not a bad mother. I was a dollar-a-word freelancer and my husband a warehouse worker, so it was all we could do to support the existing children at a grubby lower-middle-class level. And when it comes to my children--the actual extrauterine ones, that is--I was, and remain, a lioness." Do not call her a bad mother. She acknowledges all her children and is very protective of the ones she did not have killed.Ouch.
She perhaps feels a bit uneasy about the abortions, since she offers the excuse that the alternative would have been intolerable: sub-middle-class existence with a husband working in a warehouse.Ouch.
Today Ehrenreich is a best-selling author and liberal activist, is divorced from her lower-middle-class husband and remarried to Yale literary critic Peter Brooks, has houses in Charlottesville and the Florida Keys and a column in the Times. No wonder the choice was easy. What are the lives of two children compared to all that? It isn't as though the children died for nothing.Beyond ouch.
As for those for whom abortion was "truly agonizing," Ehrenreich tells them to get over it. "Assuming the fetal position," she writes, "is not an appropriate response." If that does not persuade those millions of women with whose unhappiness she is unhappy,May Richard John Neuhaus publish an article about us in the main section of First Things someday that will address not just the guilt but also our hope in Christ.
Ehrenreich invokes the moral authority of Jean-Paul Sartre who, she says, would accuse them of "bad faith" for wanting to discourage other women from doing what they did. Sartre, it may be remembered, was throughout his life an unrepentant apologist for Communism's mass murderers. He taught generations of leftists the moral wisdom that you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.He's good at this.
Ehrenreich's column, "Owning Up to Abortion," carries the pull-quote, "It's time to get past the guilt." It's time to move on. Money, fame, media stardom, Ivy League connections. Those thumb-sucking women are implying that it is not really terrific to be Barbara Ehrenreich, which is ludicrous.
Not that they will be able to match her success, but they can at least support the abortion license that made it possible. Too bad about those two kids, but, as Sartre understood, nothing comes without paying a price. Sure it's unfair, but, then, life is unfair. The children died in the cause of giving the public Barbara Ehrenreich and giving Barbara Ehrenreich some really neat advantages. Do these women know what it's like to live in a grubby lower-middle-class world with a husband who works in a warehouse? Barbara Ehrenreich should feel guilty about what she did? Get real, ladies.