Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Addressing the myths


Recycling the Myths of Abortion History is (as one would expect from First Thing) one for the eggheads. Joseph W. Dellapenna deconstructs a standard litany of abortion-advocacy revisionism that had been put forth, as if afresh, by an abortion enthusiast attacking his book, Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History.

Anybody who has dealt with abortion-advocacy rhetoric in other areas is familiar with the tactics Carla Spivack uses to try to undo the damage Dellapenna's work would do to her pet cause should it capture the attention of anybody open-minded enough to question what they'd been told by the abortion lobby all these years.

From Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History:

In Roe v. Wade, Justice Harry Blackmun structured the argument of the majority as around the history of abortion laws. That history built on the work of law professor Cyril Means, jr., and historian James Mohr. Means and Mohr proclaim four theses as summarizing the "true" history of abortion in England and America:

(1) Abortion was not a crime "at common law" (before the enactment of abortion statutes in the nineteenth century. (2) Abortion was common and relatively safe during this time. (3) Abortion statutes were enacted in the nineteenth century in order to protect the life of the mother rather than the life of the embryo or fetus. (4) The moving force behind the nineteenth century statutes was the efforts of the male medical profession to suppress competition from competing, largely female practitioners of alternative forms of medicine.

Each of these theses is wrong, but together they form the new orthodoxy of abortion history—an orthodoxy that is used to sustain a claim of a constitutional right to abort. Only by placing strictly legal materials in social, political, and technological contexts can one properly understand what happened in the past and how the law specific to abortion changed through time.

This book dispels these myths and sets forth the true history of abortion and abortion law in English and American society. Anglo-American law always treated abortion as a serious crime, generally including early in pregnancy. Prosecutions and even executions go back 800 years ago in England establishing law that carried over to colonial America. The reasons offered for these prosecutions and penalties consistently focused on protecting the life of the unborn child. This unbroken tradition refutes the claims that unborn children have not been treated as persons in our law or as persons under the Constitution of the United States.

I'll note, as Dellapenna does, that claims 2 and 3 are contradictory. Why, after all, would legislators go to the trouble to draft laws purely to protect women from a common and safe practice that nobody has any moral qualms about? But we see contradictory claims in abortion advocacy all the time. They oppose informed consent laws on the grounds that women are perfectly capable of gathering the necessary information themselves (implying, by the way, that women are uniformly capable of accessing and plowing through a medical library), but they also insist that government funding is necessary to refer for abortions because these same women don't know how to read a phone book in order to find an abortion practitioner.

We can go into more detail in the discussion if anybody's interested.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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Anonymous said...

its interesting, make sure you take a break, you seem to be doing loads

Anonymous said...

Unborn children should have the right to keep and bear arms - and legs and ears and eyes etc.! Mack

Anonymous said...

I'm interested!

I've heard this from pro-abort people -- that abortion was legal... but it always stuck in the back of my mind (as someone interested in birth) that midwives of old were sometimes prosecuted for giving women abortions -- which is obviously contradictory if there were no laws against abortion! Yet I had no proof, just a memory of reading it somewhere.

Christina Dunigan said...

Kathy, you'll find them contradicting themselves all the time.

They'll tell you that abortion facilities give full "options counseling" and don't just "sell abortions", but then they'll tell you that if you walk into an abortion facility expecting to explore your options and not just get an abortion, it's your own fault if they're less than forthcoming with you.

They'll tell you abortions aren't available late in pregnancy, then they'll explain why it's necessary to keep them available.