A strange controversy in Texas
Lexie Cooper, right, and other members of the National Organization for Women, protest the Texas Alliance for Life annual benefit dinner in Austin. (Laura Thompson/Texas Observer)
Texas has passed a regulation requiring that human corpses be disposed of in accordance with the state’s regulation for the disposal of human corpses. That this exercise in tautology was necessary — and that it is controversial — is a reminder that we live in the golden age of mass delusion.
The underlying question here, which properly understood isn’t a question at all, has to do with abortion, and what it is that an abortion does. The biological answer to that question is straightforward: An abortion is a procedure in which a physician or another party kills a living human organism, either prior to birth or in the course of inducing a birth. About the three relevant criteria — 1) living, 2) human, 3) organism — there is no serious question: The tissue is living tissue, not dead tissue; it is human tissue, not rutabaga or koala bear tissue; it is arranged into an individual organism rather than an organ or a tumor or an extension of the maternal body.
Because the biology is straightforward, maintaining the fiction that abortion is something other than the premeditated killing of a living human being requires a retreat into poorly wrought metaphysics. The same people who will lecture you about science eight days a week inexplicably embrace pre-modern superstitious notions of “ensoulment” and work up some fine angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin material about “personhood,” the legal construction one uses when one is trying one’s best not to notice that what happens in an abortion is killing and that what is killed is a distinct and individual human being.
The abortion ethic is based on a lie: that the procedure involves nothing more than the elimination of a meaningless clump of cells. That lie is bound up in a nest of lies of which it is one particularly poisonous constituent, all of which are aimed at denying the relationship between sex and procreation or at denying the deep and wide-ranging consequences of attempting to disrupt that relationship. And that larger tangle of lies is itself only a constituent of an even more sprawling mess of confusion and deceit holding that men and women are interchangeable social units, that motherhood and fatherhood are social fictions that were dreamt up rather than evolved, and that you, Sunshine, and your desires are the very center of this universe.
The dead baby in the surgical tray makes all that nonsense rather hard to sustain.
Texas governor Greg Abbott approved a proposal yesterday that would forbid treating the bodies of the dead like used bandages or other medical waste, instead requiring that they be cremated or buried. The burials, if they come to pass, will be surreal affairs. What would one say? Would the mother attend?
The rule does not apply to miscarriages or to “abortions that take place at home,” presumably a reference to pharmaceutically induced abortions.
The abortion lobby is apoplectic, which is what it always is, which must get exhausting. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas protests that the move is a “transparent” attempt to burden abortionists. “The rules target physicians that provide abortions and the hospitals that care for patients,” says Blake Rocap, the lawyer for the group. “Transparent” is a funny choice of word: NARAL is an organization that refuses even to say its own name — it is formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League — or to acknowledge what sort of “choice” it is advocating.
Yes, the Texas rule is transparent: It is a transparent attempt to force Texans to face reality.
It probably will not prevent (at least not directly) a single abortion from taking place, and, though the particulars of their condition is unknowable, it seems unlikely that a grave or a dignified cremation will make the victims feel any better about having had their lives snuffed out before they had had a chance to take a breath, much less to take a step or fall in love. The dead, Private Joker informs us, know only one thing: that it is better to be alive — though Christians, who in one month will celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, take a different view. Whichever story is closer to the truth, death is death is death.
But our children are not garbage. Not the living ones, and not the dead, as resolute as their parents may be in treating them as though they were. Reality will not be denied. Not for very long. Not in Texas. Not anywhere.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.