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Published 11 August 1997 in the North County Times (Escondido/San Diego County, CA). This page was adapted from a similar page from the Essays portion of the author's Writing Page. Copyright 1997, 2000 by Jim Trageser. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author.

A reality check on abortion

By Jim Trageser

So what's the big deal? A couple of people stand outside North County schools with photos of aborted fetuses, and now we're being told that not only have our children been irreparably harmed but that the very future of our republic is at stake.

Frankly, I don't get it. If having an abortion is, as its proponents claim, no different than any other elective surgery, is in fact the moral equivalent of an appendectomy or gall bladderectomy, simply the removal of an unwanted part of a woman's body, then why the outrage? The anger? The vituperative attacks against those who merely carry color photographs of the "product of pregnancy"?

I mean, if people were standing outside schoolgrounds with blown-up photos of bloody wisdom teeth or ruptured spleens we might all agree that they were a bit odd, but I doubt we'd see the orchestrated attempts to portray them as the greatest threat to democracy this side of Communist billionaire Fidel Castro.

If our democracy can't handle someone as mild-mannered as Connie Youngkin, whose widely touted jail time was for civil disobedience, then we're all in trouble. If we survived students storming the dean's office 30 years ago, I think we can handle protestors waving signs and handing out leaflets.

Ah, well. As columnist and jazz critic Nat Hentoff has pointed out, Americans have little tolerance for reality. We want our executions held in sterile rooms behind prison walls, we want our ghettos safely out of sight behind freeway sound walls, we want our abortions to be silent and neat behind clinic walls.

And by God, what we don't want is to have the reality of poverty, of the death penalty, of abortion shoved in our faces -- or those of our children, who might then think for themselves.

A few years back in Pennsylvania, the media reported that a local pro-choice group asked a school district to order a biology teacher to remove several preserved fetuses from his high school lab (which he used to illustrate early human development). The reason for the request? The fetuses' presence might "confuse the students on the issue of choice."

Ignoring the patently ludicrous nature of the whole situation (can you imagine the outrage if fundamentalists demanded the removal of dinosaur bones because it might "confuse the students on the issue of creation"?), one can still ask why the fetuses might confuse the kids. Could it be because the fetuses look, well, human?

That's what fuels the outrage against the picketers, this truth those photos represent -- the fear pro-choicers don't wish to confront, that maybe, just maybe, those "fetuses" really are human beings. And that if given a photographic reality check on the issue -- a reality check the supposedly neutral mainstream media refuses to accept in anti-abortion advertisements -- our kids might reject the establishment line on abortion.

Which is already happening. For the past few years, opinion polls have shown that college students are not only more likely than in years past to oppose the violence of abortion, but they're even more likely than their parents to favor abolition. These same students also increasingly oppose the death penalty and favor gay rights -- a series of positions that could only be seen as contradictory in a society whose values have been shaped by Madison Avenue materialists.

And that's the irony in all this. Thirty years of high-spirited talk of social justice, of speaking out for the underdog, of extending human rights to all members of society have taken hold in our kids. And unlike us, they're not willing to draw an artificial line at birth -- and instead have taken up the challenge we laid down: Defend the weak.

Even if it upsets the stodgy old-timers who currently run things.


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