Friday, May 26, 2006

Revisiting Hentoff

I went looking for Nat Hentoff columns this morning, for the first time in several months. He can be found online at Jewish World Review and at the Village Voice (talk about disparate!) The self-described "stiff-necked Jewish atheist" (I feel compelled to pray for him every time I read one of his columns) is an excellent writer and is always worth the read even when I don't agree with him. Lately most of his columns have been on civil liberties in the War on Terror, but on his Feb. 7, 2006, column Hentoff digresses to look in on an abortionist's day:

Unlike most people I know in journalism, I am a pro-lifer. When accused of this unpardonable heresy after years of being categorized as a nonreligious liberal, I quote a letter in the Feb. 18, 1990, Journal of the American Medical Association by a North Carolina physician, Dr. Joel Hylton:
"Who can deny that the fetus is alive and is a separate entity? Its humanity also cannot be questioned scientifically. It is certainly of no other species. That it is dependent on another makes it qualitatively no different from countless other humans outside the womb. It strikes me that to argue one may take an innocent life to preserve the quality of life of another is cold ..."
As a reporter, I usually am able to understand why people with whom I disagree, think and act the way they do; but I am at a loss to understand how an abortionist finds his daily vocation in deliberately, brutally ending a human life.


Most of the rest of the column cites a news story ("Offering Abortion, Rebirth," by staff writer Stephanie Simon, LA Times Nov. 29, 2005) on an abortionist's office. We learn that even this abortionist has his sensibilities (won't do third-trimesters for any reason--that he considers infanticide. How he draws the line, God only knows.) and acknowledges that he is taking life. He rationalizes this as a trade-off between two lives:

But he is convinced that he is simultaneously giving life — calling his patients "born again." He explains: "When you end what the woman considers a disastrous pregnancy, she has been literally given her life back."

Of course, one of his clients on the day of the interview was "getting her life back" for the fourth time in twelve years and couldn't seem, at 32, to grasp the finer points of taking her birth-control pills or keeping her britches on (and this was a college student--ignorance should not have been an excuse.) It's all a lot easier to rationalize when you can convince yourself that the woman was an innocent victim--decieved, used, abused, abandoned, or just hopelessly ignorant of how her body worked. I wonder what percent of his lifetime career of 20,000 served actually were?

That which claims the mantle of "Feminism" demands that women have "choice." Well, with choice comes responsibility. Female liberation rings hollow when used by the liberated to exploit others. Ladies, if you like your freedom, learn to use it wisely. And have the judgement not to indebt yourself to a butcher with a medical license and questionable ethics who will cheerfully do your dirty work for you and then patronize you while claiming "White Knight" status for himself.

*****
Recommended reading for teens: The Day They Came to Arrest the Book by Nat Hentoff. An oldie but goodie on the subject of school censorship. Debate erupts when Huckleberry Finn is banned from the school library. Hentoff writes better for adults than he does for kids; still, he's no slouch at the youth novel genre. The book is a challenging read but the lessons it teaches are worth the work.

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