I realize I’ve been covering a great deal of abortion-related stories recently and some, including myself, might be somewhat beleaguered by the topic. But today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the media are running many stories about abortion with a religion angle. The feature I want to bring to light was written by an unabashedly pro-choice man in today’s New York Times Magazine. Author Eyal Press is the son of an abortion doctor in Buffalo who was a colleague and friend of murdered abortion doctor Bernard Slepian.
He takes the reader through a light history of the pro-life movement, providing extra detail about the 1990s, when things became somewhat more politicized, especially in Buffalo.
There are many things I disagree with in the piece, both from professional and personal standpoints, but the essay is really well written and worth reading for its thoughtful commentary. Structurally, it does a fantastic job of weaving personal anecdotes with legal history and reasoning and cultural criticism.
He doesn’t do that great of a job understanding the multifaceted convictions of religious pro-lifers, but he actually tries. I fear that my examples are the worst the piece has to offer, but they are the ones dealing with the angle we love here: religion. Press says that the convictions of the pro-life activists who protested in front of clinics in New York were rooted
not in the cold logic of abstract reasoning but in something altogether more powerful and, in America, pervasive: spiritual faith.
Because, of course, convictions can’t be rooted in a combination of the two.
However, he takes the time to sit down with one pro-life veteran of the 1990s battles and finds her to be quiet and genuine. She shows pictures of children who were born after she counseled women against having abortions:
In her quiet, understated way, Mickey Van de Ven is living proof of the dedication and perseverance that religion can inspire. No one who speaks to her can come away doubting that her opposition to abortion is rooted in a desire not to curtail the rights of women but to save what she views as innocent life. The movement she joined was not the first in recent decades to be propelled by faith. Meeting her reminded me in some ways of the civil rights demonstrators I had read about . . . who often came into the movement straight out of churches and who made no secret of the fact that God inspired them.
Unfortunately he then goes on to compare many in the pro-life movement to Islamic fundamentalists. Of course, considering this piece is about the murder of an abortion doctor by an anti-abortion sniper, I like to note that he took the time to report that not all pro-lifers are of the violent variety.
Press infers, but never substantiates, that there is a link between the religious motivation of the pro-life movement and the six murders of abortion clinic personnel that occurred in the 1990s. It would have been nice if he would have either provided that link or said he looked for it and found nothing concrete. But it’s still a really well written essay that I commend. Especially when he considers the costs and benefits — from a pro-choice perspective — of overturning Roe.