“Terribly and Obviously Wrong”

Ross Douthat’s latest post on Knocked Up is just plain bizarre. Responding to Dana Stevens, who raised the completely reasonable point that it’s unlikely that an upwardly mobile 20-something woman knocked up by a total loser would not get an abortion, he says the following:

[I]t’s very clear, in the context of the film’s script, why Katherine decides to keep the baby – because abortion is a really horrible thing to do, and only a buffoon (Ben’s friend) or a hissable villain (Katherine’s Mom, who tells her to wait till she’s ready to have a “real baby”) would tell someone to get one. I have no idea where Judd Apatow stands on the politics of abortion – if I had to guess, I’d say he’s probably a Saletan-style “it’s bad, but it has to be legal” type – but as far as the morality of the procedure goes, Knocked Up is almost naively pro-life: Of course Katherine decided to “keep” the baby, the script suggests, because killing it would be terribly and obviously wrong, and she’s not a bad person.

Ignoring Douthat’s odd attempt to discern public policy prescriptions from a sex comedy, this is just wrong. I seriously doubt Apatow thinks that abortion is “terribly and obviously wrong” or “a really horrible thing to do” because no one to the left of Tom Coburn thinks it is. Douthat certainly doesn’t; he thinks abortion should be legal in cases of rape. One simply can’t believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is morally wrong while believing that it’s acceptable to abort a product of rape; the only reason for banning abortion with that exception is a misogynistic, patriarchal desire to force women to be “responsible” without any similar requirements on men. This position is idiotic and easily refuted, but it has nothing to do with morality. Moreover, if abortion were “terribly and obviously wrong,” we wouldn’t have Roe vs. Wade or the abortion debate in general, all abortions except those to save the mother’s life would be banned, and the women and doctors involved in them would be sent to jail. However, abortion is not “obviously wrong,” or even wrong at all. Hence, we’re not living in Gilead. Which is a very good thing.

5 thoughts on ““Terribly and Obviously Wrong”

  1. This is absurd. There are plenty of politicians well to the left of Tom Coburn who view abortion as “terribly and obviously wrong” who don’t necessarily believe thar life begins at conception and thus view abortion as a personal choice not to be legislated against. This is essentially Hillary Clinton’s position.

  2. Um, no. Note that the title of Ross’s post is “Choosing Life.” Implying that fetuses are alive. Implying that killing them would be murder. And no one to the left of Tom Coburn (or Alan Keyes, or Pat Buchanan) actually thinks that.
    Besides which, isn’t the whole reason people are uncomfortable with abortion that they feel like it’s taking a life? There’s no possible moral objection to it other than that. Which is why it’s hard to view the Clinton/Cuomo line about hating the sin but not prosecuting the sinner as anything but political cover.

  3. What absolute (tedious, even) nonsense. The point about people to the left of Coburn is absurd, but more to the point, I don’t think anyone with any sense denies that many things that all remotely decent people agree are “terribly and obviously wrong” are legal. Some of them even _should_ be legal, as anyone with any depth of understanding of law and morality grasps.
    It is terribly and obviously wrong, for example, to intentionally use subtle cruelty and manipulation to undermine the confidence and happiness of a spouse, a child, or a co-worker. It happens all the time — sometimes with the awareness and self-loathing of the person doing it — but it probably shouldn’t be illegal, for a number of reasons.
    Now, abortion is another case, but Douthat’s view on rape is most likely not a judgment that “well, in that case it isn’t wrong” — it is an acceptance that law does not always follow morality (and the Catholic (or really, just human) knowledge that sins may have factors which mitigate responsibility).

  4. “And no one to the left of Tom Coburn (or Alan Keyes, or Pat Buchanan) actually thinks that.”
    Again, this is simply nonsense. Most of them (these days) aren’t elected politicians, but there are certainly a number of fairly left Catholics, both lay and clerical, who think abortion is murder and should be illegal. They tend not to stress it as their primary point in political discussion, but a good number of very liberal types (on economics, war, social policy) are, in fact, quietly pro-life. Before 1992, when Casey was Orwelled out of the Democratic convention, this was a well-known fact. The silence of (some of) these people is partly cowarding, and (more charitably) partly prudential (wrong, I believe) judgements that the faults of the right (in economics and war-mongering, I would imagine) are even worse than support for a mass-murder industry that nothing is likely to be done about in the short term, anyway.

  5. Before 1992, when Casey was Orwelled out of the Democratic convention, this was a well-known fact.
    First off, since when is “Orwell” a verb, let alone one that’s at all applicable to this situation? Second, Casey wasn’t allowed to speak because he didn’t endorse Clinton-Gore, which you would know if you weren’t an idiot. Given your beautiful demonstration of your wingnuttery here, I don’t feel the rest of your ramblings dignify a response.

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