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Hearts of stone

Millions of Americans accept that life begins at conception and still support legalized abortion

Issue: "Democrats are all smiles," Aug. 7, 2004

John Kerry says that life begins at conception. He says that while he would not dream of imposing his beliefs on anyone else, he remains at heart a good Roman Catholic and agrees with his church's teachings about when life begins. But he still supports all abortions, even partial-birth abortions.

If he believed that a fetus is just a clump of cells, then support for abortion makes sense. That belief is wrong, based on a perhaps willful ignorance of medical science and common sense, but at least it has a certain logic. If the fetus is not a human being, then abortion is no different than-as I heard someone describe it-removing a wart.

Pro-lifers cast much of their argument against abortion on showing that the fetus is, indeed, a human being, just as much a baby as an infant in arms.

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When people realize the humanity of the child in the womb-such as when a pregnant woman feels her baby move, or when a couple sees an ultrasound image of their baby-they often change from being pro-abortion to pro-life. In Britain, a BBC documentary showing ultrasound images of babies in the womb sucking their thumbs, moving around, making faces, and otherwise acting like babies, has created something of a sensation. Parliament will soon consider revising the country's abortion laws-not prohibiting abortions, but allowing them only in the first few weeks after conception, before such uncomfortably human pictures would be possible.

But in a major paradox of the abortion controversy, pro-lifers may be winning the debate on when life begins, but for an increasing number of people it doesn't matter. Polls show that nearly half of all Americans agree that life begins at conception. And yet, as many as two-thirds of Americans believe abortion should be legal through the first three months. A large percentage of the public, like Sen. Kerry, believes that a fetus is a living human being, and yet can be aborted anyway. Forty-eight percent go so far as to say they believe that abortion is murder. And yet, many of the same people believe that such murder should be legal!

It is bad enough to believe in abortion under the assumption that a fetus is not a human life. But to believe that a fetus is a human being and still to believe in abortion is monstrous.

Sin hardens the heart. The author of the book of Hebrews urges "that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13). The deceit of sin, persisted in and rationalized, makes a person less sensitive, less feeling, less compassionate. Their "consciences are seared" (1 Timothy 4:2).

Amy Richards writes in The New York Times about learning that she was pregnant with triplets. With no outward remorse, she blithely tells how she made the decision to abort two of them. She realized that with three babies, she would have to give up her New York City lifestyle: "I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise."

She had wanted to have one baby, but having three would just be too lower class. Never considering adoption, she finds a doctor who can do a procedure called "selective reduction."

They do a sonogram-so she sees her three children as on British TV-and she chooses which one to keep and which ones, in her words, to "get rid of." She sees the three beating hearts. She knows exactly what is going to happen to two of them: "The procedure involves a shot of potassium chloride to the heart of the fetus."

She does it. She feels a lot better. She worries that this might come back and haunt her-might it cause her to miscarry?-but everything is fine. She has the one baby. She says she would do it again, though if she ever has twins she might keep both of them (giving her three babies again). But she doesn't know.

Perhaps Ms. Richards is not as callous as she seems. Maybe her non-repenting confession was an attempt to come to terms with what she did, under the façade of the currently hip coolness and cynicism, and with the support system of her city's liberal self-righteousness.

But her only hope-and that of Sen. Kerry and the millions of people whose hearts have become so hard-is in the action of God: "I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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