Editor’s Note: This article dealt with the polarization of American society. There’s nothing like a quick surf through the Internet to find some of the most-extreme Web sites imaginable. Being firmly pro-choice and anti-fanatical-Christian myself, I find the militantly pro-life sites to be some of the more-disturbing ones out there. If you’d like to take a look at one of the most-disgusting (and frightening) sites in all of Christendom, click here to view the Army of God homepage. This wasn’t one of my favorite pieces — I don’t think it expressed what I meant to say as clearly as I’d hoped it would.

The Pro-Life Consequences of Extremism

Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.

                                                           — Barry Goldwater


From radicals in the National Organization of Women (NOW) to fundamentalist fanatics at the 700 Club, America is rife with extremists of every stripe. And few issues polarize us more than abortion.

The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that children as young as 11 can terminate a pregnancy without parental consent. Meanwhile, Congress has enacted a ban on late-term abortions. Most pro-choice supporters are uncomfortable with partial-birth abortion, as well as court rulings that usurp parents’ rights to make decisions about their pre-teen daughters. And most are outraged by a NOW spokeswoman’s statement that Laci Peterson’s murdered child deserves no legal protections.

NOW’s leadership defends late-term abortions and opposes parental consent laws because they view such issues as slippery slopes. In this regard, they share the extremism of National Rifle Association (NRA) leaders who challenge reasonable initiatives — such as ballistic fingerprinting, which the Bush Administration promised to consider after the Beltway sniper shootings, and NRA ally John Ashcroft has shelved — because they’re convinced that, given an inch, the gun-control advocates will take a mile.

Unfortunately, the NRA and NOW have good reason to fear their opponents. Many zealous gun-control activists would like to outlaw all firearms. At the same time, Kate Michelman, president of Pro-Choice America, is correct in labeling “Laci and Conner’s Law” (a Republican bill granting legal status to fetuses) a “shameless exploitation of a horrific tragedy,” and a wedge ultimately aimed at “taking away a woman’s right to control her reproductive life.” Ulterior motives seldom involve compromise.

The Buddha urged mankind to eschew extremes and seek “The Middle Way,” but Americans seem to prefer the words of St. John, who excoriated the moderate for being “lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold.” These can be unpleasant words to live by.

Catholicism asserts that life begins at conception, making zygotes equivalent to five-year-old children. The syllogism that fertilization equals personhood, so abortion (as well as several common methods of birth control) equals murder may please pro-life extremists; however, taken to its extreme and adopted as the law of the land, such a position runs afoul of The Law of Unintended Consequences.

For example, anti-abortion moderates cite rape and incest as exceptions, but if even the most-recently fertilized eggs are persons, this compromise makes no logical sense. It’s illegal to kill a five-year-old product of rape or incest, so the same should be true of a two-minute-old zygote, which would be no less a person, regardless of the manner of its conception.

A woman who needs an abortion will go to great lengths to get one, so to be effective, anti-choice legislation must carry severe sanctions. During a 1992 presidential debate, Bill Clinton asked George Bush whether mothers will be arrested if abortions are banned. Like a good politician, Mr. Bush wisely dodged the query; however, it’s a relevant question to ask in any society willing to equate abortion with murder. And the answer is self-evident — the mother must be prosecuted as an accomplice to murder.

Of course, the prospective father would also be a co-conspirator, particularly if he paid for any part of the procedure. And a nurse who assists, or the receptionist who makes the appointment, is also an accessory to murder.

And the charges? Manslaughter or second-degree murder would be inappropriate, because the procedure is purposeful and premeditated, never accidental or a crime of passion. Hence, the only appropriate charge against the doctor would be first-degree murder, for which a fine, loss of license or short incarceration would be woefully inadequate.

In many states, lethal injection would be the applicable penalty. Many pro-life advocates also incongruously support capital punishment and won’t mind a population explosion on death row; however, Catholics, for example, who purport to believe in the sanctity of all human life, are urged by the Pope to oppose the death penalty. Thus is reverence for life adulterated.

Despite equating legal abortion with The Holocaust, most pro-life activists decry violence against family planning centers. But who wouldn’t be proud to say he’d blown up a crematorium at Auschwitz or killed an SS executioner to prevent genocide? So, if you knew abortions were being performed by doctors (the moral and legal equivalent of serial killers) at a clinic (which you see as a death camp), wouldn’t it be your duty to use any and all means possible, including explosives and gunfire, to stop them?

Imagine the revisionist history. With abortion defined as murder, snipers and clinic bombers become heroes in retrospect (which is already happening on scores of radical Christian Web sites). And how long will it be before some right-wing, ultra-Catholic filmmaker such as Mel Gibson produces a latter-day “Schindler’s List,” lionizing a clinic murderer such as John Salvi? In an America where the millions who’ve had abortions can be called murderers by those who haven’t, will Southern towns boast high schools named for Olympic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph, a pro-life murderer who’s already sickeningly popular in the Bible Belt?

These may seem to be absurd prognostications, but they’re logical, based on the logical extreme.

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