Defending a woman’s license to kill her child has always been a nasty business, and the nastiness is back with a renewed vengeance in the wake of the leaked Dobbs v. Jackson draft opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Obvious in the tone and substance of the reaction from the pro-abortion crowd is the deep-running selfishness that permeates our individualist society.
Any sinful culture — as all are between Eden and glory — might allow or excuse the killing of an innocent child. But the times such an act has been celebrated have historically been tied to religious rituals in which a child was sacrificed to a supposed deity. In our post-religious culture, that sacrifice is laid on the idol of self.
That self-obsession and self-worship help explain why the arguments for abortion have shifted from “safe, legal, and rare” to open fetishizing the deaths of babies.
“I’m killing the babies!” an activist in front of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City screamed while wearing a one-piece swimsuit with dolls stuffed inside.
“Kill those f-cking babies,” one demonstrator screamed at the Supreme Court last week.
“I am pro-abortion. PRO. ABORTION. if I don’t want to be pregnant? vacuum that sh-t out of me like a dental assistant with my saliva,” one particularly crude Twitter user remarked.
A video posted by Libs of TikTok compiled clips of people who responded to the question, “Are aborted babies being burned and used for electricity?” with “I hope so,” cackling, and other deeply disturbing responses. I won’t embed it below — it can’t be described as anything short of demonic.
Back in December, abortion activists gleefully took what appeared to be abortion pills in front of the court.
How We Got Here
Mankind has been committing the sin of selfishness for millennia. Indeed, it was elevating his desires and conceit above the commands of God that separated man from his perfect communion with God in Eden. He has continued to practice selfishness and greed ever since.
It’s why civilizations have gone to war, overthrown governments, raped conquered provinces, abused the vulnerable, robbed, murdered, lied, and cheated. Selfishness is nothing new, and neither is abortion, which was practiced by the ancient Egyptians (and surely even earlier).
But in the Christianized West, although its application was far from perfect, the concept of life’s intrinsic value began to take root. For a time, our society could agree that to kill your own child was an act of deep cruelty, selfishness, and depravity.
The “enlightenment” of the 18th century, with its presumption of man’s perfectability, heralded a social ethic that assumed man was (or at least could be) intrinsically good. The darker effects of this political and moral philosophy became evident in the next century, when aspirations of perfectibility prompted Darwinian ideas of “survival of the fittest” and a disturbing eugenics movement (in which our modern abortion movement has its roots).
By the 20th century, society began to rebel against this modernism, especially after Nazi Germany demonstrated the extreme (but consistent) culmination of such social Darwinism. In its place, jointly fueled by the political individualism of democratic thought, came postmodernism, and its rejection of objective moral reality.
With postmodernism came the idea that each person could define his own truth and therefore his own reality. It’s fed our social revolt against biology, and the craze to “find” one’s own identity — often in external qualities like race or sex, or in imagined “gender identities.” Our culture of victimhood only serves to further the self-preservation ethic.
A Terminally Selfish Culture
Selfishness isn’t unique to our moment, but it does manifest today in a particularly straightforward way. If we believe the highest telos of our existence is self-discovery, our lives cease to serve any higher purpose than ourselves.
It makes sense, then, that our culture would glorify abortion because, by that paradigm, killing an inconvenient baby is a means to self-empowerment. If eugenicist abortionists pushed to kill off babies for the “good” of society a century ago, now they purport to do so for the “good” of the individual woman.
It’s why abortion activists can, in complete seriousness, advocate for the murder of a full-term child. It doesn’t matter to them that the baby is a living being — if he or she conflicts with a woman’s self-love, that baby doesn’t deserve to live. It’s perfectly consistent with our culture’s increasingly popular perception of having children as a fulfillment of their parents’ wants instead of a responsibility to cherish that requires sacrifice and self-denial.
That’s not to say people in previous times have been any less selfish; the fallen status of man is not measured in degrees. But the traits our culture chooses to elevate are linked to our celebration of abortion in especially obvious ways.
If self-gratification is our highest good, then any act (up to and including the murder of a child) becomes good if done in its pursuit. If we are our own arbiters of truth, then moral reality ceases to become an inhibition, and life itself ceases to become an inherent good. If limiting the licentious indulgence of our own desires is “oppression” and therefore the greatest sin, then the anti-abortion crowd becomes the bad guys.
Until we confront the self-idolatry of our culture, many people will truly believe abortion is not just a “necessary evil” but a self-empowering good. Merely convincing them that abortion takes the precious life of a baby does nothing to shatter that paradigm, if they value their own imagined “empowerment” more than that life. The message their mania requires is that something true, good, and infinitely worthy could exist that is greater than themselves.
Elle Reynolds is an assistant editor at The Federalist, and received her B.A. in government from Patrick Henry College with a minor in journalism. You can follow her work on Twitter at @_etreynolds.