Thursday, May 7, 2009

In One Woman's Case, Pro-Lifers Win the Battle, Lose the War

Ayelet Waldman's most recent book is entitled Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace. Terry Gross of National Public Radio recently interviewed Waldman on the program "Fresh Air" (audio available at the linked page).

The interview was very disturbing to me. Waldman characterized the 1970s debates about abortion as occurring between two polar depictions of abortion. The pro-abortion feminists of her mother's generation (including her mother) adamantly refused to employ the word "baby" in any discussion of abortion and argued that there was no moral problem with the removal of a "cluster of cells." The pro-life advocates adamantly insisted upon referring to unborn babies as, well, unborn babies. They argued that abortion is infanticide and is immoral.

Waldman sanely acknowledges that her generation of feminists can no longer maintain her mother's position. The onward march of technology has opened the womb to the world, allowing us all to look at these very babylike babies. In Waldman's case, pro-lifers have won the terminology battle. "There's a baby there…" Waldman concedes as unavoidable fact.

Does this fact change Waldman's position on the morality of abortion? Not at all. Rather, Waldman represents a bewildering and scandalizing hybrid—the woman who admits that abortion is the killing of a human baby just like any other human baby, but who is OK with that. "Bad Mother" indeed.

Waldman gets a tad weepy while describing the Dilation & Extraction procedure that she chose for the destruction of her third child, which the family named "Rocketship." She acknowledged the gruesome brutality of the procedure. Rocketship would be torn limb from limb and extracted through her cervix piece-by-piece. It was very important to her that the doctor make sure that Rocketship was good and dead before the dismemberment began—his assurances in this regard gave her great comfort.

Waldman was depressed for several months after the drawing-and-quartering of her offspring. Her mother was concerned that Waldman was making too much of the whole thing. She kept trying to convince Waldman that it wasn't a baby and wasn't a big deal. Waldman explains in the interview that it was important to her that she acknowledge and work through the real tragedy and brutality of the abortion in all of its horror. Disinterested in the farcical fantasies of her mother's generation of feminism, she chose validation through regret. Inhumanity is OK, so long as it includes a healthy dose of contrition. Waldman introduces us to the ultimate asking-for-forgiveness-rather-than-asking-for-permission.

Driving down the road, listening to the interview, I was mesmerized. There's much more in the NPR piece. You may not enjoy listening to it, but you need to take the time anyway.


Alan Cross said...

Thanks, Bart. This is fascinating. Basically, she is saying that pro-lifers have been right, but it doesn't matter. Truth is subjected to our warped desires. Romans 1 plays out before our eyes. I'll try and listen to the whole interview. It really shows you that we are in a spiritual battle.

Anonymous said...

I read an article about her in the Washington Post online version in the last week or so. Apparently the article was constructed much like this interview. I was nodding as I was reading until the part about Rocketship.

In that article she mentions that when she received the news of the baby's condition she sought advice from medical experts. She found an expert who had actually given birth to a child with the same diagnosis. This expert said that while she loved her child, if she knew then what she learned in the ensuing time, he would not have been born.

That took my breath away.


Anonymous said...

What incredible lessons to teach your children.
#1 Anything less than perfection is disposable to Mom.
#2 Mom happy is the lesser of two evils to Dad.
I wonder if in their discussions of Rocketship's fate there were any assurances offered to the other children that the standard changes once a child is born.(I bet the children are hoping its a double standard.)

How ironic it is that she was agonizingly careful not to betray her children in course of writing her book. I wonder which of their "live" children will explain to her the depth of this betrayal.

I feel the need to greive for all of them. For all of us civilized people.