[Seth Barron is the managing editor of The American Mind, an online publication of the Claremont Institute, and author of, most recently, The Last Days of New York. The following editorial was published on April 4, 2022 (https://americanmind.org) and is reprinted with the magazine’s permission.]
As the Left abandons the meaningful existence of gender, abortion remains a sacrament reserved for women in the woke cathedral.
As we all have learned by now, women do not get pregnant and have babies— “birthing people” do. Women do not exclusively menstruate—both men and women have periods. And women do not nurse babies—“chestfeeders” do. But, so far at least, abortion is still exclusively a question of women’s health.
In May of 2021, Representative Cori Bush testified in a congressional hearing about maternal death among black women and babies. “Every day,” she tweeted, “Black birthing people and our babies die because our doctors don’t believe our pain. My children almost became a statistic. I almost became a statistic.” But Bush, a radical socialist legislator who is sticking with “Defund the Police” as a mantra, was not using some arcane terminology in substituting “birthing person” for the usual “mother.” This substitution apparently reflects official U.S. government policy under the Biden administration, which used it in 2022 fiscal documents.
Tampon companies have also embraced the idea that their products are, potentially, for everyone. “Fact: Not all women have periods,” Tampax tweeted. “Also a fact: Not all people with periods are women. Let’s celebrate the diversity of all people who bleed!” The ACLU has embraced “menstrual equity” as a matter of civil rights, asking, “How can we recognize that barriers to menstrual access are a form of sex discrimination without erasing the lived experiences of trans men and non-binary people who menstruate, as well as women who don’t?” Numerous colleges have installed tampon machines in men’s bathrooms, too.
Breastfeeding has also emerged as a problematic concept, even though both men and women as they are traditionally defined have breast tissue, so the term “chestfeeding” has become a preferred term in some circles. A 2016 article from The Atlantic describes how a new birthing person from Manitoba called Trevor MacDonald “was born with the mammary glands and milk ducts required for lactation, but he’d had his breasts removed. Once he had his baby, his care providers supported his desire to nurse, but it was up to him figure out how.”
Sad story—to think that even Canada, with its up-to-date gender policies and universal healthcare, just leaves it up to people who have voluntary double mastectomies to figure out how to chestfeed their babies all by themselves.
In any event, there doesn’t yet seem to be much talk about how abortion is for “all people who no longer wish to be birthing persons.” It isn’t cast as a men’s health question or a matter of universal consideration. When it comes to abortion, the debate is still framed—as it has been for 50 years—as a fundamental right for women. NARAL, the nation’s biggest pro-abortion activist organization, came out solidly in favor of Cori Bush’s use of the term “birthing person,” but still uses the old binary terminology when it comes to ending that status. “When the right to abortion is endangered, the fundamental equality of women is threatened,” NARAL quaintly insists. “A woman can never be equal if she is denied the basic right to make decisions for herself and her family.”
Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. senate and president, is now looking to become governor of Texas. Commenting on the new Texas abortion ban, O’Rourke tweeted, “The Texas GOP’s attack on women is deadly. It is complicating life or death medical decisions by forcing women to carry out unviable, dangerous pregnancies.”
Obviously, abortion is an important partisan wedge issue which Democrats use to appeal to their base, which is largely female. So the narrative of a Handmaid’s Talestyle war of systematic Christofascist oppression of women by men is too valuable to obscure in favor of a less-resonant topic which only matters to a tiny subset of radicals and professional ideologues. So traditional biology retains its meaning when it’s necessary for political expediency.
But abortion is also so central to the American Left’s vision of human freedom that it’s virtually a sacrament. Any restriction on abortion, even up to the moment of parturition, is intolerable. Bill Clinton’s pronouncement that abortion should be “legal, safe, and rare” would, if said today, probably disqualify a Democrat from running for major office. Calling for fewer abortions is, for the Left, tantamount to calling for no abortions.
Abortion is such a profound disruption of nature and the essence of the divine feminine that it must be elevated to a position of high cultural esteem. To promote universally available abortion is to construct a new religion out of the rubble of the old, in its inverted image. As such, advocates for abortion must retain the biological determinism of woman as creatrix, but to cast her as the destroyer of life, not its bringer-forth, though equally holy.
As with any cult, abortionism demands new acolytes. So abortion must be advertised in cheerful, anodyne terms, like getting a pedicure or haircut, in order to attract initiates. Once the procedure is over, the novices confront the horror of ritual infanticide by entering the coven of their sisters and fellows and accepting the embrace of their dark knowledge, which must be shared and imparted to a new generation of recruits in order to expand the circle.
So don’t expect “aborting people” to enter the discourse anytime soon. The Left needs the deep currents of biological essentialism even while it denies them.