Margaret O’Brien Steinfels comments on the partial-birth abortion decision of the US Supreme Court and reveals the moment when she learned what it really was and how she reacted.
Lo, those many years ago when I was editor of Commonweal, I remember getting pr releases about partial-birth abortion. I didn’t even read the first ones, but finally I did read one and looked at the pictures, and read the description. My dismissive attitude was replaced by curiosity and then repugnance. I couldn’t see how pro-choice people could defend a procedure that delivered a live baby and then stuck a pair of scissors (or other medical tool) into its skull to kill it. Why isn’t this infanticide? And why shouldn’t it be prohibited?
Apart from the obvious text of her comment, I’m struck by the subtext. She was the editor of a major Catholic magazine, yet when she would receive press releases about pro-life efforts to ban abortion she didn’t even read them and had, by her own admission, a “dismissive attitude.” Why should she have a dismissive attitude? Didn’t all abortion, not just this particularly graphic form of infanticide, repulse her?
Maybe I should give her the benefit of doubt and assume that she’s making a contrast for rhetorical effect. But I can’t help but draw the conclusion that apart from the partial-birth procedure, she wasn’t much bothered by abortion. The headline of her post says: “Abortion or infanticide?” Really, should it matter? Both kill a child.