Don’t Brag About Your Abortion

Ilyse Hogue, President of the National Abortion Rights Action League

Proudly told those gathered at the Democratic National Convention that she had an abortion, because it was “the wrong time”—and was met with a chorus of cheers. Gone are the days of “safe, legal, and rare”—now we must celebrate a decision to take a life.

Such a defiant proclamation would be considered abhorrent in most any other context—even in the case of justified killing. You won’t find most soldiers bragging about the number of terrorists they killed overseas. Even though their act was justified, it would be considered fundamentally inhumane to brag about the taking of life. Instead, most soldiers recoil at what they have done and, like many women who have abortions, struggle with their actions for the rest of their lives.

Now, there are those who claim that it is not babies who are aborted, but merely discarded tissue. This is an essentially moral claim—not a scientific one—and should be defended or discarded as such. And there are few moral defenses of abortion that don’t seem essentially utilitarian by nature, where the baby’s humanity is judged by a certain stage of functionality or by his or her usefulness to the prospective mother.

Unless there is a clear moral justification for the taking of an unborn child’s life, shouldn’t we default on the side of life? Should we not plead the case of the most vulnerable—who cannot make the plea themselves? Instead of trying to end the stigmatization of abortion, perhaps we should ask whether it is worthy of stigmatization. Perhaps the practice is the problem, not the perception.

Let’s concede that the practice can be morally justified for a moment, does that mean we should offer full-throated celebrations of it? About 20% of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases, another 50% believe that legal only under certain circumstances, and the remaining 30% believe that it should be legal in all cases. That means that 20% of our country likely considers abortion to be tantamount to murder and another 50% are squeamish enough about the moral implications to want to restrict it. Why else would they want to restrict it? Should we publically cheer an act that 70% potentially consider to be the taking of a human life—and a defenseless baby at that?

I wonder if Ms. Hogue and others like her realize that the pro-life cause is not about contesting women’s rights, but about trying to save the lives of children. It is not a movement of men looking to consign women to back-alley healthcare. This is not a competition over rights, but a mutual trust in safeguarding our most precious birthright—the right to live.

The right to life precedes and gives rise to all other rights. Before we can talk about whether Ms. Hogue is properly accorded the rights due her, we must assume that she has an inherent dignity that calls out for those rights. Her liberty is then an expression of her life and her rights an expression of her dignity. One of the great early feminists, Mary Wollstonecraft, fought passionately for recognition of women’s inherent dignity. Yet she did not need to subjugate another disempowered group—the unborn—to make her case. This, in a day and age when many women, including Wollstonecraft, died in childbirth.

Sadly, abortion has become the most sacrosanct right of feminism. In order to achieve full dignity, a woman must deny the dignity of the life placed within her womb. The bond of mother and baby gives way before the perceived contest between men and women. Our fight should not be against one another, but collectively in favor of life. We must rededicate ourselves to upholding the dignity of all people, regardless of sex, race, age, or stage in the womb.

Ms. Hogue, please do not brag about your abortion while so many of us grieve the loss of your child. Please know, however, that you will be unconditionally loved by many who you perceive as your enemies and, if you ever reach a point of grief regarding your choice, there will be thousands of open hearts and arms ready to embrace you.

Photo credit: Rena Schild /