Twenty years ago last month, self-described "radical feminist" author Naomi Wolf wrote about the "pro-choice" movement, of which she was and is a part of, "…[W]e stand in jeopardy of losing what can only be called our souls." In her prescient 1995 essay "Our Bodies, Our Souls," she lamented:
"Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life."
Of chief concern to Ms. Wolf, who would go on to advise the 1996 Clinton and 2000 Gore presidential campaigns, was that abortion advocates in the 1990s were treating the termination of unborn lives as having no moral consequence. She found this to be dehumanizing, saying it was "cultivating a hardness of heart."
The abortion lobby of today would do well to consider taking Wolf's advice.
Prominent in today's abortion movement is Planned Parenthood president and CEO Cecile Richards. In recent testimony before the House Oversight Committee, she brought to life Ms. Wolf's warning that arguments devoid of "an ethical core" lead to "self-delusions, fibs and evasions."
During her Capitol Hill appearance this month, Ms. Richards was asked by Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan about the apology she issued two days after the release of the first of the recent undercover videos on Planned Parenthood. Ms. Richards had apologized for the "tone and statements" of her medical director, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, who in the video nonchalantly discussed over wine and salad how she tried not to crush any saleable baby organs when doing abortions.
At the hearing, Jordan asked Ms. Richards why she apologized for the "tone and statements" of her employee. The Planned Parenthood leader launched into a non-answer. He asked again and received the same result. The congressman then noted that one doesn't apologize for statements that are untrue, one corrects them. So, he asked, for which truthful statements made by Dr. Nucatola was she apologizing.
At least 10 attempts later, Jordan still had not obtained an answer to his question.
Why? Because in the undercover video, Dr. Nucatola betrayed the inhumanity of the abortion industry — the "callous, selfish and casually destructive" mindset of which Wolf warned. Cecile Richards simply could not acknowledge Dr. Nucatola's hardness of heart. In fact, at the end of Congressman Jordan's questioning, Ms. Richards said she was "proud" of her employee.
Some at Yale Law School may have also been proud of Priscilla Smith when she testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Following her testimony, Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Va,, described to the director of Yale's Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice how a D&E/dismemberment abortion is done. After noting that the abortionist pulls the arms and legs off of a living unborn baby during the procedure, the congressman asked Ms. Smith if she believed dismemberment abortions were a humane way for anyone to die.
After some back and forth, Ms. Smith opined that for non-viable fetuses, D&E abortions are "a very humane procedure."
Later, in another Judiciary Committee hearing, we heard Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society. Ms. Fredrickson was asked by Congressman Randy Forbes, Va., if crushing a baby during an abortion was "too brutal for you?" She responded that she was not a doctor, and that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.
That was as close to an answer as she could muster.
To fail to be able to simply say that dismemberment of a living child is brutal and inhumane is to disconnect from one's own humanity, from one's own soul. And that is exactly what Wolf warned against. It disconnects the "abortion rights" movement from most of America, including most of those who call themselves pro-choice.
After decades of counseling former abortion workers, I have seen this same dynamic play itself out in the lives of countless doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners. It also is seen in the lives of politicians, who, like the Democrats on the committees that have had Planned Parenthood hearings in recent weeks, expressed moral outrage at the behavior of Republicans and "anti-choice extremists," but could not seem to muster the slightest moral outrage at the dismemberment of babies or the sale of their body parts.
What is on display before America right now, therefore, is not only the usually hidden activity of Planned Parenthood, but also the fruit of decades of rationalization that takes what our basic humanity identifies as brutal and dresses it up — with the help of courts and corporations — as a perfectly legal act that should evoke no outrage at all. What is on display is the blunting of our very humanity, or as Wolf says, our souls.
Fr. Frank Pavone is national director for Priests for Life. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.