Ghost of Truth Haunts Abortion Debate

by Frank Harris III

The ghost of truth is riding through the streets of thorns and petals, laughing at the warm, cool line between life, death and choice.

In upstate New York, a doctor is killed by a sniper's bullet, presumably because he provided abortions to those who wanted them. Anti-abortion supporters say he killed babies. Abortion supporters say he was killed for carrying out the choice of women who chose to abort their babies. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a 20-year-old woman was sentenced to 15 years for the death of her newborn. Dubbed the "prom mom" by some clever headline writers, she chose to deliver a son in a bathroom during her high school prom, strangle him, then return to the dance floor to dance the night away.

As horrendous as her crime was, in the tailwind of the ghost of truth, she was guilty of bad timing and procrastination and ignorance of a law that says the process of killing a baby can only legally be carried out while the baby lives within the womb.

That's abortion.

To initiate the killing outside the womb, well, that's murder.

The ghost of truth is floating along the wall of moral and legal, sighing at the words and rhyme of distinction.

To whom does the baby cry? For whom does the baby die?

The battle of life, death and choice has flared again.

I say "life." But I'm not an absolutist. I can understand circumstances where an abortion would be in order, say, pregancy through rape. But I cannot understand or accept the notion that a person has a right to kill a baby because that baby is within her body and it is her choice to do so. Nor do I accept or understand that it is OK for a doctor to take a baby's life because the person whose body contains that life grants permission to reach in and take it.

One cannot kill a baby when that baby is outside the womb - how is it different when that baby is within?

The value of life: Is it timing? Or perhaps image?

In Massachusetts, a newspaper ad campaign by an abortion rights group will feature the pictures and stories of women who have had abortions.

It is a personal touch with the idea of lessening, if not removing, the stigma of abortion. To show who is doing it. That lots of women do it, including the girl next door and the woman across the hallway. The teacher, the nurse, the married woman. "Respectable" people. Perhaps someone you know and love.

I suppose that could prove effective. Except, well, do we really want abortions to be a respectable, no big deal, casual type of thing? Like removing a wart? Or cosmetic surgery?

Do we really want to remove the reflection? The introspection? The conscience? The guilt?

We're still talking life. Not a mere choice. Life.

It is a funny thing about life - how we live it, how we do it, how we are done by it and remembered by those who remain in it when we are gone from it.

We exhale and inhale, and sometimes, we hold it for the moment as we weigh our choices. We walk this earth. We leave. We are remembered for our choices. We are remembered for our deeds.

The ghost of truth is sifting through the clay of burial and disposal, wailing before the souls of the unclaimed and unknown.

To whom does the baby cry? For whom does the baby die?

The ghost of truth is lighting candles on tasteless cakes for all the sons and all the daughters that would have been, that will never be but dust.

To whom does the baby cry? For whom does the baby die?

It cries and dies - in us.

Source: Professor Frank Harris III's column "In My Own Words" in The New Haven Register, Sunday, November 8, 1998.
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