A recent news story got me wondering how much longer sane people will tolerate the devolution of the sexual revolution into farce. The CDC, apparently, is now using its website to instruct transgender men (women) whose breasts have been cut off on how to “chestfeed” their infants and transgender women (men) on medication that will induce lactation “so they can pretend to be women by feeding from their nipples.” (No, this is not the Babylon Bee—it’s the Washington Examiner.)
Mary Eberstadt, writes William Murchison in our lead article (“The Moral Clarity of Mary Eberstadt”) has trained “an industrial-quality flashlight” on our disheveled culture for decades. Which makes her, he says, perfectly positioned to assess the ongoing effect the sexual revolution has had on “society, politics, and Christianity itself.” This isn’t a review so much as our senior editor’s appreciative take on Eberstadt‘s latest book, Adam and Eve After the Pill Revisited, coupled with his own “supplementary way of looking at human prospects, unencouraging as they seem to be.” The sexual revolution, “properly understood,” is “the latest instance of uprooting ways and modes displeasing to people who want something more, as they see it, pleasurable and fulfilling.” (“Call it the Golden Calf Thing,” he quips.) As to why this one took longer to manifest than “other upheavals,” perhaps, Murchison posits, because “ancient religious structures and teachings about male-female relationships made intuitive as well as religious sense.”
Pace our mad transgenderist moment, could an intuitive if not religious sense be having a cultural resurgence? “Within the past decade,” observes Alexandra DeSanctis in our following article (“Feminists and Contraception”), “it seems as if a new generation might be waking up to the harms of both the sexual revolution and the pill that enabled it.” They are even questioning “whether the Pill’s promise of sexual liberation has actually improved the lives of women.” There is, she goes on, a burgeoning market for “do-it-yourself” books like Jolene Brighten’s Beyond the Pill and Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility that teach women to embrace their biology, not pervert it with hormonal contraceptives. And this isn’t just a conservative phenomenon: “Critiques of the sexual revolution,” says DeSanctis, “are starting to come from inside the [progressive] house.” Because no matter what their politics, women “seem not to be thriving in the world that the sexual revolution prepared for them.”
Dobbs shook the progressive “house” to the rafters. “When the leak that Roe would be overturned emerged from the Court in May 2022,” write Anne Hendershott and Lucia Hunt, “abortion providers and their political minions mobilized to confront what they saw as an existential threat to their industry.” In “The Return of Abortion Tourism,” Hendershott and Hunt look at an under-covered aspect of the decision’s impact: Blue-state politicians, they report, are rewarding abortion providers—among their biggest donors—by “allocating taxpayer money to help underwrite out-of-state women’s access to abortion.” Yes, progressive bastions like New York, California, and Connecticut are tapping state coffers to fund promotional campaigns online and out-of-doors, with “bold invitations to end unwanted pregnancies, strategically placed on billboards on busy highways in states where abortion is restricted.” Billboards—still another front in the progressive war to abortionize the nation.
Of course, the first grenade lobbed at Dobbs came from the dissenting justices themselves, whose “superficially attractive arguments,” as Thomas Clark describes them in Part II of “The Myth of Dobbs Losing the Midterms,” were deployed “to make the ultimate attack on the most vulnerable members of the human family seem ‘progressive’ and the defense of those lives seem ‘reactionary.’” In Part I of his article (Spring 2023), Clark argued that pro-life initiatives took a beating in the 2022 midterms because Republicans failed “to authentically articulate the evils of abortion” while Democrats spent billions on wildly deceptive messaging that scared the “mushy middle” into voting for extreme measures. Here Clark casts a lawyerly eye on the dissent: “An effective refutation” of its “mischaracterization” of abortion as a progressive good, he says, “will be key to winning the broader cultural struggle for life that is to come.” And an effective refutation, fellow “reactionaries,” is what he provides us.
Thomas Brejcha, who we will honor in October with our Great Defender of Life Award, is the founder, president, and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based network of lawyers celebrating 25 years of protecting “life, family, and religious liberty.” But Brejcha’s experience as a pro-life litigator, as he relates in our next article, goes back to 1986, when he signed on to help defend the legendary activist Joe Scheidler in what turned out to be a 27-year court case, morphing from a “single count” into “a massive federal racketeering (RICO) and extortion class action claim” that “traced an erratic path of ups and downs through all levels of the federal judiciary” and “triggered three successive appearances before the Supreme Court.” The Review covered its progress and regress and final success—we are proud to add to our archive “A Reminiscence of NOW v. Scheidler,” in which Brejcha chronicles as only a true insider could one of the most important episodes in the history of the pro-life movement.
Speaking of our archive, it also holds a trove of important work by George McKenna, professor emeritus of political science at New York’s City College and this year’s other Great Defender of Life. McKenna’s association with the Review dates to 1995, when we reprinted his seminal Atlantic magazine essay “On Abortion: A Lincolnian Position.” Over the years, he has become not only a steady contributor but a cherished friend. His latest article “Getting There”—a thoughtful and thought provoking argument for how to make the case against abortion to fellow citizens in political campaigns and in state legislatures and courts—was the focus of a symposium (“Where Do We Go from Dobbs?”) in our last issue. Now McKenna has the floor again: In “Continuing the Conversation,” he engages each participant’s response: “I’ve learned a lot from their remarks,” he tells us, and “hope to be able to incorporate some of what I’ve learned into my thinking as this new turn in the abortion debate proceeds.”
Now for another conversation: “In the days leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson,” writes Jennie Bradley Lichter in introducing our next offering, “leaders at The Catholic University of America asked ourselves: What can Catholic University do to meet this historic moment?” The answer was The Guadalupe Project: Building a Culture of Radical Welcome for Moms, Dads, and Babies at Catholic University, a blueprint for how CU could discourage abortion by being a place where mothers and fathers “are fully supported—and family life is celebrated.” It’s an unusual reprint for us, but one we consider important to have in the Review, as it provides invaluable guidance that can be adapted by other academic institutions, or even corporations, on how to become a community that will “lead with love in [its] response to this watershed decision.”
Canada’s Supreme Court made a very different watershed decision in 2015 when it declared laws prohibiting assisted suicide unconstitutional, unleashing evil, not love, as Mark Davis Pickup shows in our final article (“Evil Advances in Increments”). The liberal government quickly stepped up, and in 2016, “legalized medically assisted suicide for incurably ill and disabled citizens who were in an advanced state of decline and whose deaths were ‘reasonably foreseeable.’” In the short time since then, however, “medical assistance in dying” or MAiD has metastasized. No longer is “reasonably foreseeable” part of the law. In 2021 eligibility was extended to the mentally ill and would have been introduced last March but for unexpected “blow-back” that caused officials to postpone implementation until 2024. Meanwhile, Pickup reports, “earlier this year, a parliamentary committee recommended MAiD for mature minors (children).” Woven throughout this heartfelt—and surprising—article is Pickup’s own story as a long-time sufferer of a disabling disease who has “come to understand that assisted suicide and euthanasia have no place in a genuine human family.”
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What happens to a “gravely dysfunctional family” when an 11-year-old hears from her mother that she tried to abort her? In Booknotes, Kiki Latimer reviews Cynthia Toolin-Wilson’s Survivor: A Memoir of Forgiveness—“a physical and spiritual rags to riches journey” affirming the “preciousness of the human person.” Not so Madam Restell: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Old New York’s Most Fabulous, Fearless and Infamous Abortionist. Reviewer Maria McFadden Maffucci concludes that it affirms the appalling cynicism of its author Jennifer Wright, who says she undertook this project “to refine my vague idea that ‘someone should write a book about how abortion has always been common.’” It wasn’t common before Roe (see Thomas Clark’s article), but fact-checking doesn’t apply to abortion. We finish up this issue with appendices by two of our Great Defenders of Life, Clarke Forsythe (2014) and Gerard Bradley (2022), as we continue to add important work published elsewhere to the Review’s unparalleled record of the sanctity-of-life debate.