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Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2000 / 6 Tishrei, 5761

Paul Greenberg

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Consumer Reports

O Brave New World: Better dying through chemistry -- To heck with that dated old Madison Avenue slogan about Better Living Through Chemistry.

With the arrival of the morning-after pill, we enter the age of better aborting through chemistry. Just pop a pill and no more baby. Avoid all those diapers, the crying through the night, the first traumatic day of kindergarten, those wearing adolescent years ... and no college tuition!

Best of all, no moral responsibility. Just don't think of what is being discarded as a child, or as human at all, but as a growth, an option, a Choice. What's expelled is so small a thing -- no bigger than a grain of rice, according to one commentator. (What, not a mustard seed?)

This human in embryo should be only about a fifth of an inch big after the first seven weeks of pregnancy, when the pill can be used to induce a miscarriage. Think of it as a tummy ache.

And don't pay too much attention to the small print that will be on the package. Serious complications are said to be rare. (That's for the mother, of course, not the fetus.) And serious bleeding is reported in "only'' 1 percent of the mothers who choose not to be.

Any psychological trauma -- we don't use the term guilt in this therapeutic age -- may not be evident for years, if then. And by then we'll probably have be a pill for that, too.

As for abortion's effect on society, it's scarcely noticeable. There's just a certain absence -- of children, of feelings, of love, of life. We're so conditioned by now, we won't miss them.

Our culture grows more lascivious as we become less fertile, our videos sexier even as we empty wombs of life. Ahead lies a perfect world of Stepford Wives without a care. At last we'll be able to concentrate on our careers full time without being distracted by life.

With the pill, society's undesirables can be eliminated not at birth, but before. The poor we no longer need have with us. Even now publicly funded abortion clinics are doing what they can to prevent their birth. With the pill, they can be treated as a preventable disease. Something you take a pill for. They were always such a nuisance, anyway.

The trick is never, never to think of what's being destroyed as a person. That way lie psychological problems. (We don't use the term "madness'' any more.) Better yet, don't think at all. Just repeat the politically correct mantras of the day. String buzz words together till they make a satisfying sound. For example:

"At long last, Science trumps anti-abortion politics and medical McCarthyism.'' That was Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation reacting to the news that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the distribution of the abortion pill.

Ms. Smeal's is the kind of Tinkertoy prose employed by the abortion lobby when it reacts to the news without having to think about it. Treat abortion as only a political procedure, and it's no longer a matter of life and death, but god (aka Science) and the devil (medical McCarthyism).

This much can be said for the abortion pill: It should make it clear, as if anybody could have doubted it before, that abortion is just the newest form of birth control -- especially for those society doesn't want reproducing.

Surely only a Clinton-Gore (that's a two-headed creature with one policy) could still maintain that abortion is intended to protect the "health and safety'' of women. Naturally both heads said just that. The real aim of abortion, of course, is to prevent births. Everything else is incidental. It's as simple as that, and one day it may be as simple as taking a pill.

"Today's decision,'' Al Gore said of the FDA's announcement that the abortion pill was on its way, was "about a woman's fundamental right to choose.'' To choose what? Death, of course, rather than life. But why go into detail? As usual, what Al Gore doesn't say is so much more telling than what he does.

Now another Age of the Pill dawns. Once all the legal and medical kinks are worked out, though they are considerable, abortion will be no more trouble than taking an aspirin. Or at least that's what we'll be told, and, like Shakespeare's Miranda, we'll exclaim: O brave new world!

Lost in all the marketing will be Prospero's quiet response: ('Tis new to thee. ( For the old man had seen it all before.

Now a new Tempest begins, but this one will be as soft-focused as one of those television commercials for some unidentified medical condition, and as diffuse as the flood of doctors' samples even now being prepared for an expectant market. Anybody who thinks Social Darwinism, with its talk of surplus populations, was strictly a 19th-century fad must have missed the 20th.

The way is now open for abortion, which has been an industry for some time now, to become a cottage industry, a do-it-yourself project for the home "under medical supervision.''

This little white pill may prove the perfect symbol for the post-modern and certainly post-Hippocratic age. What was once a crime has become a medical specialty. Sin? It's but another choice of Lifestyle, and life itself becomes not a right, but a cancelable option. Abortion, no longer rare, may soon be as close as the medicine cabinet.

So much for making abortion "safe, legal and rare,'' to quote one of Bill Clinton's more transparent insincerities.

This new abortion pill isn't so much a revolutionary new innovation as the oldest temptation: At last we shall be as gods, just as the serpent promised Eve -- only without the knowledge of good and evil, or at least it's much mattering.

This time we'll dethrone Him for sure, and blot out his fading light with our own blinding wisdom. At last the irrational, random gift of life that some call grace will be replaced by practical, rational, scientific choice. O brave new world! New to those who have not seen the results of man's hubris before.

Welcome to the 21st Century. The bridge has already been built in the 20th, which Walker Percy once summed up with a terrible clarity as "the most scientifically advanced, savage, democratic, inhuman, sentimental, murderous century in human history.'' The great triumph of the coming century may be to make all of that convenient -- so convenient we no longer think about it.

Paul Greenberg Archives


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