The Washington Post, Abortion, & the Left

By Eric Cohen

National Review Online
February 12, 2001

The Washington Post had a very clever editorial last Friday on abortion - with the very clever title, "Not aCrushing Burden." The "burden" referred to is Virginia's new law requiring that women receive information about "abortion and its alternatives" and wait 24 hours before getting an abortion. "There is indeed something offensive in a legislature's determining what women should be told, and when, as well as what constitutes proper pre-abortion counseling," the editors write.

But, says the Post, since women can get the counseling over the phone and since the waiting period might even help guarantee that women who get abortions have no regrets, the law is tolerable. In other words: It is not a law we would want or propose ourselves, but it is one we can accept. Hence the title: "Not a Crushing Burden."

By contemporary Democratic standards, the Post's "not a crushing burden" position is very moderate indeed. Pro-abortion advocates have called the new law the "Women Are Stupid Act" - just the latest example of their contempt for those who believe abortion is wrong, and their strange enthusiasm for abortion as a source of power, dignity, and independence.

Still, the Post's piece clearly falls under the category of to praise with faint criticism. Examine the Post's logic: The legislature has no right to regulate personal behavior, i.e., to tell women what to do and when. But the Post - and the Democratic Left in general - is ever willing to regulate personal behavior with "codes," "laws" and "waiting periods." The Left regulates property owners to protect the environment. It regulates tobacco companies to protect children from smoking. It regulates gun-owners with waiting periods to, as the Post put it in a recent editorial, "prevent hotheads from one-stop shopping." Why is the Post - and the Left - not "offended" by "legislatures" telling these groups what to do and how to live? The answer is simple: It sees these things and these groups - guns and gun owners, land developers and oil companies, smoking and tobacco companies - as evil. And so it has the moral confidence and political will to use the power of the state to regulate and restrict them - since it believes society as a whole has a stake in telling these people what to do and how to live.

This inconsistency is hard for conservatives to swallow: Is the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve a beautiful part of the created world that deserves protection by law but an unborn child not? Is smoking really more evil than performing abortions? Should gun-buyers have to wait three to seven days to buy a gun but women not have any social duties or restrictions when they get an abortion? What is at issue for the Left is more than just choice. It is the desire for the state - and for society at large - to recognize abortion as a right and even a good.

Perhaps the two sides can strike a deal - tie environmental protection to protection of the unborn, regulation of tobacco companies with regulation of abortion clinics, waiting periods for guns with waiting periods for abortions. I, for one, would take any such deal in a minute. Would my friends on the Left?

Copyright: 2001 National Review Online

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