"Until birth, you guys. Until BIRTH. Where's the 'science' supporting that??"
That's how one young commentator responded to an NBC news "health" piece highlighting the tweets of an abortion provider at the University of California San Francisco. "Research has shown a fetus does not yet have the capacity to experience pain until at least the third trimester, and unlikely until birth," the doctor and professor had tweeted at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Senate's failure to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation that would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks -- abortions that, as David Brooks recently pointed out in his New York Times column, most people oppose -- should be a line in the sand. In opposing the ban, Democrats -- including many Catholics, who should know better -- are defending the indefensible. Atlantic reporter Emma Green should get an award for her recent piece on the science of abortion. "New technology makes it easier to apprehend the humanity of a growing child and imagine a fetus as a creature with moral status," she explained.
That's a far cry from the clinical "science" of the doctor pestering Mitch McConnell on social media. But to realize that, one must step aside from political rhetoric and really reflect upon life, in all its mystery, confusion and beautiful hope. It means seeing the human soul as more than an illusion created by a bundle of nerves and chemical processes.
New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan strongly condemned the Senate's failure on behalf of the U.S. Catholic bishops: "The ... failure to adopt the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act ... is appalling. Abortions performed in the second half of pregnancy usually involve brutally dismembering a defenseless unborn child, while also posing serious dangers to his or her mother."
In short: You don't have to describe yourself as pro-life or a Catholic bishop to see what's true! We don't have to be stuck in the misery of our abortion politics. We can find common ground and cause in helping women and families instead of strangling ourselves in euphemisms and voluntary ignorance for the sake of ideological loyalties.
A friend who has been writing about abortion and our need for a better way -- and an end to the grave manipulation of language that has dire consequences -- expressed with some exasperation: "When you look at this whole situation, it's just unbelievable. It's surreal that we as a culture are pretending that the unborn child is not a child, that it doesn't feel pain, or that it doesn't matter. And supposedly they're all about science!"
It was all the way back in 2004 when National Review's founder, William F. Buckley Jr., wrote about the sometimes brutally nonsensical partial-birth-abortion debate at the time: "A political event is needed to affirm that a democratic society is free to react against uncivilized practices." It's long past time we seize on such an event.
It doesn't matter what you think of President Donald Trump or any particular politician at this point in human history. We ought to insist on a rising above this abysmal impasse.
Again, it was 2004 when Shannen W. Coffin -- who, as deputy assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Justice Department, coordinated litigation in trials defending a partial-birth-abortion ban that had passed Congress and was signed by President George W. Bush -- explained how "the abortion-rights lobby perverts the law, co-opts the medical profession, and debases the very language we speak. By controlling and distorting the debate in these ways, abortion advocates hope to prevent the American public from learning the stark truth about abortion practices."
See why words like "miserable" and "appalling" should convince us to face the truth, start pushing for more humane legislation and live wiser, more compassionate lives. Only then can we stop the rhetoric and start making sense.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at email@example.com