“If liberal individualists had campaigned against abortion, it would,” observes John Waters in the Irish Times ,  “have become unacceptable years ago.” (Thanks to my friend Mark Barrett for the tip.) Writing after joining in the annual March for Life during a trip to Washington, he explains:

My hunch is that, rather than opposing abortion per se, they would have concentrated on changing the meaning of pregnancy and birth. And I suspect they might have adapted for this purpose a particular aspect of the technology of modern reproductive care: the ultrasound image . . . .

Had liberals chosen to oppose abortion, they would have started somewhere like this – agitating for the recognition, perhaps legal registration, of unborn children long before autonomous “viability”.

In such a parallel world of possibility, we might now regard the moment of birth itself as relatively unimportant, a distracting and arbitrary instant in the growth of a human being.


Waters (who is not the famous American maker of perverse movies, just in case you were wondering) is the author of the very good book  Lapsed Agnostic and other books well worth reading, and one of the few writers in the major Irish press saying things like this. Here’s another example:
One striking feature of the march was the high visibility of faith and religious groupings. This may seem a superfluous observation the way present-day culture is set up, the presence of crosses and rosaries provoking the tautological idea that objection to abortion is simply an expression of religiosity. This short circuit offers the culture a shallow explanation for the “pro-life” position.

In my experience, people do not oppose abortion because they are religious – they see the killing of unborn children as self-evidently barbarous for the same reasons that they recognise the religious dimension, which essentially relates to an acceptance of dependence and a certain view of human dignity.

Articles by David Mills

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