Cheap. Tawdry. Craven. Insulting. It’s difficult to settle upon a single word or phrase that sums up the faceslap that Ross Dothat just posted in the NYT’s op-ed section. Trying to take down Planned Parenthood for daring to participate in biomedical research, Ross penned a moral scolding so lacking in mature thoughts or feelings that it’s hard to describe.
To begin with, he calls it “Looking Away From Abortion.” And, no, Ross isn’t referring to the post-Roe v. Wade practice of terminating unwanted pregnancies, he means the actual act. Strike that, he means the scary surgical procedure. Actually, he means all those little bloody babies under your shoes.
Looking down, Selzer first thinks he sees oversize baby birds, then rubber baby dolls, until the realization comes that the street is littered with the tiny, naked, all-too-human bodies of aborted fetuses.
Later, the local hospital director speaks to Selzer, trying to impose order on the grisly scene. It was an accident, of course: The tiny corpses were accidentally “mixed up with the other debris” instead of being incinerated or interred. “It is not an everyday occurrence. Once in a lifetime, he says.”
And Selzer tries to nod along: “Now you see. It is orderly. It is sensible. The world is not mad. This is still a civilized society…
“But just this once, you know it isn’t. You saw, and you know.”
Having established that squished fetuses look disgusting, he goes in for the editorial kill. Other gory medical stuff whatever, but anyone can see that this is bad.
But in the end, Planned Parenthood’s defenders insist, listening to an abortionist discuss manipulating the “calvarium” (that is, the dying fetus’s skull) so that it emerges research-ready from the womb is fundamentally no different than listening to a doctor discuss heart surgery or organ transplants. It’s unsettling, yes, but just because it’s gross doesn’t prove it’s wrong.
Which is true, but in this case not really true enough. Because real knowledge isn’t purely theoretical; it’s the fruit of experience, recognition, imagination, life itself.
A surgeon cutting out and then throwing away a cervical tumor fully demonstrates experience, recognition, and human imagination. Hallowed this be, the fruit of life. But the same surgeon going out of his way to save a discarded fetus and then send it to a university laboratory wages mortal sin. Obviously Planned Parenthood and their science buddies are all going to hell. Roast in a pit of fire, jerks. And if at anytime during this sermon any of you want to start throwing up Ross will hold your hair.
It’s a very specific disgust, informed by reason and experience — the reasoning that notes that it’s precisely a fetus’s humanity that makes its organs valuable, and the experience of recognizing one’s own children, on the ultrasound monitor and after, as something more than just “products of conception” or tissue for the knife.
Get that? The aborted fetus inspires “a very specific disgust, informed by reason and experience.” Which is precisely why Douthat would never go and crush a whole bunch of them under your feet for, say, the first five paragraphs. He’s not a hack, okay?