Last Thursday, British American author and journalist Christoper Hitchens died. Many will have known him for his high profile debates, books, essays and a career as journalist that lasted more than four decades.
What is less well known was his stance on abortion. While it is difficult to exactly explain his position, he was not pro-abortion, in small or large part due to his history, as he explained in his Vanity Fair column in 2003:
I was in my early teens when my mother told me that a predecessor fetus and a successor fetus had been surgically removed, thus making me an older brother rather than a forgotten whoosh….
And I’ve since become the father of several fetuses, three of which, or perhaps I had better say three of whom, became reasonably delightful children. There was a time, it seemed, when I couldn’t sneeze on a woman without becoming a potential father….[A]t least once I found myself in a clinic while “products of conception” were efficiently vacuumed away. I can distinctly remember thinking, on the last such occasion, that under no persuasion of any kind would I ever allow myself to be present at such a moment again.
The lucky abortion survivor must at times have asked, “Why me?” and other times, “Why not me?” And Hitchens clearly felt bad about taking the lives of two of his own children.
These experiences gave him pause to reconsider the gravity of abortion, writing:
In the brisk paragraphs above, you will note that I have semiconsciously employed the terms “birthplace,” “grave,” and “conceivable.” This idiom of this argument is basic and elemental. It’s about the essentials. Thus, the justification proposed by the “right” for its intrusiveness is that the fetus is also an autonomous individual, and that society cannot decently permit one body (or soul) to be owned or disposed of by another….
There was a time when the feminist movement replied to this with militant indignation. What “individual”? What “person”? The most famous title of the period – Our Bodies, Ourselves – captures the tone to perfection. If we need to remove an appendix or a tumor from our own personal spaces, then it’s nobody else’s g**d*** business. I used to cringe when I heard this, not so much because in the moral sense fetuses aren’t to be compared to appendixes, let alone tumors, but because it is obvious nonsense from the biological and embryological points of view. Babies come from where they come from.
The diagram of a vacuum-suction abortion in Our Bodies, Ourselves gave the female anatomy in some detail but showed only a void inside the uterus. This perhaps unintended concession to queasiness has since become more noticeable as a consequence of advances in embryology, and by the simple experience of the enhanced sonogram. Women who have gazed at the early heartbeat inside themselves now have some difficulty, shall we say, in ranking the experience with the planned excision of a polyp….
That the most partially formed human embryo is both human and alive has now been confirmed, in an especially vivid sense, by the new debate over stem-cell research and the bioethics of cloning. If an ailing or elderly person can be granted a new lease on life by a transfusion of this cellular material, then it is obviously not random organic matter. The original embryonic “blastocyst” may be a clump of 64 to 200 cells that is only five days old. But all of us began our important careers in that form, and every needful encoding for life is already present in the apparently inchoate. We are the first generation to have to confront this as a certain knowledge.
Cross posted from LifeNews with additional comments from ProLife NZ.