The tail end of the car ahead of me was a patchwork quilt of political correctness. "Save the whales!" shrieked one bumper sticker. "Save the rainforests!" exhorted another. "End vivisection!" "Stop eating animals!" "Don't wear fur!" And so on, down to one that said "Keep abortion safe and legal."
I was tempted to pull alongside the other car and get a good look at the driver. What kind of person, I wondered, could seriously maintain that "meat is murder" but abortion isn't? Or that wearing fur is a "crime", and killing an unborn child is a "choice"?
Was it cruelty that the driver of the car ahead of me was protesting? If it was, how could the driver possibly defend scalding a child to death in a saline solution, or tearing it to pieces with a vacuum pump, or cutting it up alive? Because that's what happens in an abortion -- even in a modern, antiseptic clinic where the procedure is "safe and legal."
Or was the driver objecting to waste? It is a favorite argument of environmentalists that the destruction of the rainforests is going to mean the extinction of a wide variety of plant and animal life that could one day be of inestimable value to humankind. But if that argument is valid for trees, or for endangered species, it is even more true of human beings. Who knows but that a child who was aborted today might have found the cure for cancer, commanded the first expedition to Mars, or solved the deficit problem? It is not for nothing that the Jewish Talmud teaches that whoever saves a single life saves the whole world.
Or was the driver of the other car taking a stand for choice? Did the driver believe that a woman has an absolute right to choose whether to carry a child to term or not, and society had no right to interfere with that choice? Well, if society has no right to condemn a woman's choice to extinguish the life of her unborn child, then what right could society possibly have to condemn that woman -- or anyone else for that matter -- for eating meat or wearing fur? Aren't these "choices" as well? And isn't human life of greater value than animal life? Aren't people worth more than trees?
Try as I might, I could find no logic that would reconcile a tender concern for flora and fauna with a callous disregard for the fate of unborn children. Maybe the driver had never looked abortion squarely in the eye. And may be that was the whole problem.
Environmentalists and animal-rights activists know the power of images in today's society. That is why their public awareness campaigns are heavily laced with pictures of hunters brutally clubbing baby seals to death, or of vast acres of tropical rainforests in flames.
But how is it that some of these same people object when pro-lifers show pictures of what goes on in an abortion clinic? As Naomi Wolf, an influential feminist and pro- choicer was honest enough to concede: "How can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real?"
Exactly so. Confronted head on with unvarnished reality, it is impossible for all but the most insensitive people to dodge a sense of moral obligation. If you want a sealskin coat after seeing the gory pictures of what it takes to produce one, you have to wrestle with your conscience. The same should be true if you want to defend abortion.
G. K. Chesterton once said that when people stop believing in God, the danger is not that they will believe in nothing, but that they will believe in anything. The jumble of vague, contradictory, feel-good slogans plastered on the car ahead was proof that Chesterton was right.
Once everyone believed that a benevolent Creator gave human beings dominion over the earth and over all lesser forms of life. And then that same Creator laid down strict moral laws governing how human beings should treat each other -- "Thou shalt not kill" being one of the original Ten Commandments.
When we cut loose from those moorings, it is easy for us to drift into the kind of moral confusion that says "Save the Whales" and "Kill the Babies." And this confusion can lead to even greater evils. As I thought about the Chesterton's warning, I decided that I would not pull alongside the car ahead to get a look at the driver. Suddenly, I was a little afraid of what might stare back at me.