Imagine you are a young child.
One night, you realize something you’d never realized before. Eventually, everyone you know will be dead. Even your parents will be dead. You experience terror and despair, alone in your bed at night. The death of the family pet wrecks you.
Questions rush at you. If we are just going to die, why are we here? And what exactly is “here” anyway? And where do we go after we die? Anywhere? Nowhere? And what is “nowhere”? What is human life, and what is its value? You ask yourself these questions for a long time.
You don’t yet know what sex is. You have older siblings. They have special classes at school. They bring home slim, stapled pamphlets in pastel shades of pink and blue. You grab one of the pamphlets and plant your body against your bedroom door. OMG!
After that, you learn about something that brings sex and death together: abortion. You seek details. The graphic description you eventually do find is similar to the 2015 Congressional testimony offered by Dr. Anthony Levatino, a doctor who has performed hundreds of abortions.
“The first instrument you reach for is a suction catheter … Picture yourself introducing this catheter through the cervix … turn on the suction machine… [you see] the amniotic fluid that surrounded the baby to protect her. With suction complete, look for your Sopher clamp. This instrument is about thirteen inches long and made of stainless steel. At the business end are jaws … with rows of sharp teeth … Picture yourself reaching in and grasping anything you can … You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long … out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs … The head … is now free-floating inside the uterine cavity … You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains … Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you. Congratulations! … You just affirmed her right to choose.”
You are alone, planted against the door of your bedroom. There is no one there to instruct you on how to react. No one to tell you that this collision of death with sex is a glorious victory for universal womanhood. No one to tell you that, as a girl, you should be celebrating what you just read. No one to insist that the tiny arms and legs that the Sopher clamp, with its backward facing teeth – just like a shark’s – drags from the woman’s womb is not human, not at all. No one to scream at you, “MY BODY MY CHOICE!!!”
You feel some of the most profound horror you have ever felt.
This essay will not argue that abortion should be illegal. In fact, in post Dobbs v. Jackson America, abortion remains legal in many states. Corporations are rushing to announce that they will pay women for abortion travel. In any case, the internet offers multiple methods for women to abort themselves. See for example here, here, here, here, and here.
Rather, this essay will merely point out that Team “Choice” – their word not mine – are not telling the truth about abortion. In fact Team Choice members are actively resisting truth, and aggressively pushing falsehoods. Team Choice’s falsehoods aren’t just about abortion. Team Choice are fomenting hatred of one American for another. Team Choice’s falsehoods will lead to division and violence. Members of Team Choice have advocated, attempted, or committed acts of violence against their imagined enemies. See for example here, here, here, and here.
Team Choice is spreading falsehoods and hate in order to suppress the natural horror that one feels at the prospect of a mother ending the life of her own offspring. “Offspring” is one English translation of the Latin word, “fetus.”
There are, of course, other horrors in this world. Dr. Savita Halappanavar died, in Ireland, in 2012, of an infection after an incomplete miscarriage and her doctors’ refusal to perform a medically-indicated abortion. In 2022, a ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio had to travel to Indiana to obtain an abortion. Abortions in the case of rape, and fetal or maternal health are not the subject of this essay. If you are a woman who has had an abortion, neither I nor this essay judges or condemns you. This essay is not about you. This essay is about how Team Choice talked about abortion on my Facebook page.
The Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade was announced on June 24, 2022. Social media exploded. One might think that a highly anticipated, history-making SCOTUS decision would be followed by profound and complex discussion, soul-searching, self-education through rigorous research, and citizens doing their very best to rise to the moment with their best selves, and to seek consensus with their fellow citizens. One would be wrong.
Team Choice is using social media to exert tectonic pressure on Americans to think and feel about abortion what Team Choice wants Americans to think and feel. Team Choice is working to render true words unspeakable. We must not say “mother.” We must not say “child.” We must not say “kill.” We must say “pregnant person.” We must say “health care.” We must say “choice.”
Religion trumps rational thinking and scientific facts. The religion in question is not America’s traditional faiths, the ones grounded in the Bible and the Judeo-Christian tradition. An emerging religion dominates discussion of abortion on social media. For want of a better word, I will call this religion “Woke.” This new religion is polymorphous but its major trends can be described. Woke religion selectively incorporates bits and pieces of Neo-Paganism. Believers wish each other “good solstice” and salute light itself on June 21 and December 21. Permutations of Neo-Paganism as marketed in bestsellers provide scripture. “The Universe,” note the capitalization, is a deity. The Universe, like the Light, loves believers and wants what is best for them. Mere positive thoughts make things transpire exactly as believers want them to. If you get cancer, you gave it to yourself; if you are poor, it’s your own fault, because you don’t love yourself enough and don’t believe you deserve money. Self-esteem, or, to be more clinical, narcissism, is a cardinal virtue. This new faith’s hymn has one lyric. “Me, me, me, me.” It’s the one pronoun about which no one is confused.
This new religion makes extensive use of hate. An enemy must be created; an enemy must be blamed; an enemy must be ritually sacrificed for the Woke to achieve climax and satisfaction. The church of Woke has fixated on Christians, specifically Catholics, as the hated enemy. This fixation is economically expressed in a meme by Michael de Adder that depicts a woman standing in front of the Supreme Court building. The SCOTUS building is merely a shallow façade. Behind it is a three dimensional Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, the meme suggests, is the hidden, evil power that women must hate and conquer.
The foundational myth of Woke religion, like all myths, is repeatedly acted out in ritual. These rituals are carried out on social media. The left valorizes victimhood. Because victimhood is a valued commodity, access to victimhood must be limited to those deemed victims by the Woke priesthood. To cite one recent example, George Floyd, a repeat criminal killed by a white police officer, is granted the status of victim. Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an innocent white woman killed by a black, Muslim, immigrant police officer, is not allowed victim status; neither is David Dorn, a heroic black police officer killed by a black looter during a Facebook livestream. Though those allowed victim status vary from one social hysteria to the next, ritual roles remain the same. The main characters of the Woke myth are victims, victimizers, and defiant champions of victims. Identified victims are celebrated. Identified victimizers are hated and demonized. Defiant champions of victims engage in virtue signaling. Virtue signaling largely consists in posting memes that announce one’s virtue, that is, one compliments victims, and condemns victimizers.
In the abortion variant of this myth, the actual victims of abortion, the fetuses that end up in landfills, dumpsters, or incinerated with medical waste, are not victims at all. The fetus is so insignificant that its death is not only not worthy of justification, it is not worthy of any mention whatsoever. If the fetus is mentioned, it is mentioned only in a way that denies every known scientific fact about the fetus. No less a personage than a Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, can, falsely, analogize a fetus to a corpse. The scientifically false phrase “clump of cells” is still used. If a member of Team Choice acknowledged that the fetus is human, this acknowledgment was made with contempt, hatred, and a homicidal ethics summed up in a widely shared a meme from a poster who called herself “Science Nerd.” Science Nerd wrote “It doesn’t matter whether the fetus is a human being or not.” Women have the right to kill that human being. Why? Because the mother is the designated victim, and, in this religion, status as victim trumps all other considerations, and permits otherwise inexcusable behavior, including murder. Remember, narcissism is a cardinal virtue.
Woke has designated all Christians, but especially Catholics, as the enemy whose symbolic destruction, through vicious Facebook memes, or whose actual destruction, through righteous violence, will satisfy their ritual sacrifice. The defiant hero or heroine is the person who posts a meme denigrating and fomenting hatred against Christians. The heroine identifies herself as “defiant” because she imagines herself “fighting the power.” The “power” in this case, the fire-breathing dragon that the heroine imagines herself as defeating, is the Catholic Church. The Occupy Democrats Facebook page is a cornucopia of anti-Catholic hatred and bigotry. Facebook, which depicts itself as being opposed to hate speech, allows this anti-Catholic bigotry to flourish.
The Catholic Church is losing adherents at a rapid pace, and Catholicism is now and has always been a minority faith in the United States. In a recent poll, almost 70% of Catholics said that they believe that Roe should not have been overturned. This is comparable to Americans as a whole. According to a Pew Poll conducted in March, 2022, almost half of all U.S. adults, of a variety of beliefs and identities – that is not just Catholics – consider abortion to be “morally wrong” in all or most cases. In the poll, more white evangelicals than Catholics identify abortion as “morally wrong” in all or most cases. In short, Woke’s singling out Catholics for demonization is not supported by pertinent facts.
Why, then, did Woke select Catholics as their prey? America harbors a significant history of anti-Catholic bigotry, discrimination, and violence; Woke hate may be a bastard vestigial child of this ancient hate. The KKK was just one expression of American anti-Catholicism, as in the phrase “K—s, Katholics, and Koloreds.” Catholics wear costumes and make use of distinctive paraphernalia, like rosaries. Rosaries and nuns’ habits made up a good portion of Team Choice’s Facebook memes. The red and white “Handmaid” costume is copied from a Christophobic Margaret Atwood novel that was turned into a television series. It is based on a nun’s habit. This costume is found repeatedly in Team Choice memes, like this one. “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” is repeated endlessly.
Of course, not only Catholics were targeted by Team Choice. All Christians were. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, ad nauseum. One meme conflated the cross with a serpent. Woke must identify Christians as the enemy because Woke and Christianity have diametrically opposed conceptions of the individual. Woke desires to conquer the Christian concept of the individual and replace it with its own concept. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, all humans are created in the image and likeness of God, and are equally worthy. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, everyone’s pain matters. In Woke, a person’s pain matters only if that person is one of the privileged individuals whom Woke has designated as a victim.
In the Woke church, the individual – that is the designated victim – deserves everything, and yet is required to do absolutely nothing except demand and take various handouts and benefits. The Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the individual’s ability to exercise agency. That ability implies consequences and responsibility. Woke utterly rejects the personal responsibility of its designated victims. A woman seeking an abortion did not make any choice that resulted, inevitably, in her terminating the life of her own offspring. To honor and recognize personal agency and responsibility is central to the Judeo-Christian ethic. Merely to mention personal agency and responsibility is anathema to the church of Woke.
The victim status of women, and Woke’s defiance in the face of her victimization, is epitomized in a Marge Piercy statement circulating as a meme. Piercy is an 86-year-old Communist writer. In this melodramatically masochistic meme, Piercy protests pregnancy as a form of capitalistic abuse. “I am not your cornfield, not your uranium mine, not your calf for fattening … Priests and legislators do not hold shares in my womb.” In fact Piercy has benefitted from American citizenship, capitalism, and the Judeo-Christian tradition against which she protests. She does not live in Afghanistan where, indeed, girls are forced to marry older men and forced to produce children. The large percentage of Americans who think that abortion should be legal but recognize it as immoral would probably recoil at any invitation to “enter” – her word – Piercy’s body. Rather, we invite Piercy to consider the bodies created inside women’s bodies, created by women’s own choices. Unless women take responsibility for the consequences of their own choices, women are not full adults, and the feminism Piercy claims to represent is a sham.
The church of Woke advertises itself as representing “kindness” and “compassion.” Their chosen victims must be defended with “kindness” and “compassion” against their chosen enemies, who are all victimizers and lack kindness and compassion. Woke’s kindness and compassion often involve lying. When a psychologically confused and fatherless adolescent who was fixated on internet pornography decided to submit to a double mastectomy and testosterone treatment, I was deemed “unkind” by referring to that girl as “she.” Rather, the Woke determined that it was “kind” to “affirm” this child’s “transition.” Again, Woke exercises its powers, in this case kindness and compassion, on designated victims whose narrative can be exploited to undermine tradition. A girl declaring that she is a boy, and citing internet porn as her inspiration, undermines tradition; therefore, Woke bestows upon her the Woke gifts of kindness and compassion. When comparable girls go public with regret for undergoing mastectomies and testosterone treatment that permanently altered their voices and rendered them sterile, Woke denounces these transgender regret stories as “transphobic.” Similarly, women who say that they regret having had an abortion are dismissed as “paternalistic” and an attack on women’s autonomy. Abortion Regret: The New Attack on Reproductive Freedom, a 2019 book, utterly dehumanizes women who express regret over their abortions, reducing them to mere political pawns who exist only to make life harder for Team Choice.
That women who experience abortion regret are not mere pawns of the patriarchy is demonstrated by Angela Forker’s “After the Abortion” photography series. One of her participants said, “I must take you back to that dark, dark place that only I knew, only I could go, only I knew about. A very deep, sad, broken, lost and lonely dark place. It was there that I would cry in silent tears to my babies, for ending their lives, to mourn who they may have become and to beg for their forgiveness.” Woke must dehumanize and lie about that woman in order to render its own religion coherent.
Woke’s demonization of Christians, and its attacks on those who regret transition and those who regret abortion, is telling. Woke accuses Christianity of being censorious. In fact, though, as two atheist, bestselling authors and public intellectuals, Douglas Murray and Tom Holland, have both pointed out, one of the most important gifts to Western Civilization from the Judeo-Christian tradition is the gift of forgiveness. Biblical sinners, from King David to Saul, who literally killed Christians before he became Paul, history’s most high-impact Christian, repent and receive full forgiveness. Pope John Paul II was able to forgive, in person, Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot him in an assassination attempt. Woke could not forgive Kevin Hart, a comic who made ugly comments about homosexuals, comments for which he later apologized. The concept of forgiveness lubricates social functioning. Woke has ripped away the gift of forgiveness.
Woke’s insistence on its own kindness and compassion has proven very attractive to a certain demographic. Though I have a mix of male and female, rich and poor, and ethnically diverse Facebook friends, the overwhelming number of Woke abortion posts came from bourgeois, white, American women of a certain age. These are women who usually share, on social media, photos of their grandchildren, their gardens, their occasional forays into pottery or beef Wellington or home renovation. They like to advertise what great moms and grandmoms they are, and how their lives are built around “kindness” and “compassion.”
These women go for months apparently completely unaware of any current events. In fact many of them reprimand others, including me, for posting too much about “depressing” “news.” “I’m on a news fast,” they announce. “News upsets my tranquility,” they say. “News bores me,” they say. “Who is president?” they ask, and, no, they really don’t know.
I like and value these women. I do not mention their posts to denigrate them. I mention these data points because it is worthy of note that women who normally depict themselves on social media to be “domestic goddesses” dedicated to the traditional feminine values of nurturing, creativity, and hospitality would jump so eagerly to embracing the ultimate act of inhospitality and lack of maternal femininity, i.e., abortion.
Their change from strictly personal posts to participation in waves of posts about politics seems almost orchestrated. It is possible that these women are being manipulated for political ends. One indication of this: when posting about abortion or BLM, rather than sharing personal posts that they have written themselves, they share pre-packaged memes from pages like Occupy Democrats.
Another possible indication of political manipulation: Democrats are openly hoping to weaponize abortion. Given inflation, high gas prices, and an unpopular president, Democrats may lose the House in November, 2022’s, midterm elections. Democrats are openly exploiting abortion as a lure to win November votes, and a continued hold on power. In this power grab, they are overtly lying. They are insisting that Dobbs v. Jackson was an overreach, and that it bans abortion. In fact, the court surrendered, rather than accumulated, power. Power over abortion now returns to voters like my Facebook friends, rather than resting exclusively with nine unelected judges. And abortion remains legal in many states.
Woke’s kindness and compassion are selective and they are political tools. They may serve to help get Democrats elected; they may serve attempts to weaken or at least critique Western Civilization. Woke kindness and compassion are never wasted on victims whose suffering cannot be exploited politically.
For example, in 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placed a pressure cooker bomb three feet away from Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy with large, wide-set, liquid brown eyes, a button nose, and outsize, grown-up teeth flashing in an innocent smile. The Tsarnaev brothers’ bomb and its shrapnel, including nails, shattered Martin’s body. The “kind,” “compassionate” ladies? The moms and grandmoms? Not a single one of these ladies on my page voiced a peep of protest. One possible reason: political Facebook pages were not pumping out memes insisting on outrage over the jihad murder of Martin Richard.
Team Choice on Facebook insists that they are defiantly exercising kindness and compassion in defense of women’s rights. In 2015, Farkhunda Malikzada was tortured to death on the streets of Kabul by a mob of misogynist men who so enjoyed their lynching that they posted video documentation on the internet. On May 12, 2022, Deborah Emmanuel, a Christian Nigerian woman, was stoned and then set on fire; this lynching was also videorecorded; one can see the videorecording on the web, and hear the eager lynchers shouting, “Allahu akbar.” Police did not stop the attack, and the chief imam of Nigeria’s national mosque defended it, as did at least one other imam. In 2009, a hungry and impoverished, 75-year-old widow in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to receive forty lashes because she accepted donated food from men. In 2017, village elders in Pakistan ordered the rape of an innocent 16-year-old girl. In 2020, Texas police arrested Yaser Abdel Said, a father accused of “honor killing” his two daughters.
On my page, none of the women who would later create a Facebook frenzy over Dobbs v. Jackson revealed any awareness of, or compassion for, female victims of gender apartheid. I posted about these cases. Some Woke women vehemently denounced me as a “racist” and unfriended me.
Social media displays of compassion and kindness are coins of the realm. Coins are not to be wasted on the unworthy, on Justine Ruszczyk Damond, on Deborah Emmanuel, on David Dorn. Coins must be invested wisely, in any identified victim whose alleged victimization can be used to denigrate or critique Western Civilization. Nothing is more foundational to Western Civilization than the idea of mothers as loving nurturers of their own offspring. Fetuses cannot vote, or donate to political parties. Fetuses, thus, have no value, cannot be granted identified victim status, and cannot receive kindness and compassion.
In response to the SCOTUS overturning Roe, a fresh look at the ethics of abortion is called for. This fresh look at abortion’s ethics is required for several reasons. For example, Roe included a viability standard. The state, Roe declared, had an interest in protecting the life of a fetus that could survive outside the mother’s womb. Contrary to Roe’s viability standard, Team Choice members have voiced support for abortion up to and including the imminent delivery of a healthy, nine-month fetus. See the 2019 exchange, quoted below, between Kathy Tran and Todd Gilbert, both of the Virginia House of delegates.
Gilbert: “So where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth, she has physical signs that she’s about give birth, would that still be a point at which she could still request an abortion if she was so certified? She’s dilating?” …
Tran: “My bill would allow that, yes.”
When Democratic superstars like Stacey Abrams and Pete Buttigieg have been asked about abortion-up-to-birth, they have deflected rather than answered forthrightly, but their comments can be taken as support for such abortions (see here and here). Atheist ethicist Peter Singer has justified support for infanticide (see here), but not only rarefied Ivy League professors like Singer have moved comfortably from support for abortion to support for infanticide. In discussing abortion on Facebook, I have encountered Facebook friends, people I know, “normal” people with normal jobs, who recommend infanticide for infants that are unwanted. Facebook does not remove these posts though they are overtly an “incitement to violence” against a vulnerable population.
In any case, advances in medical science have changed the date of fetal viability, as National Public Radio reports. “When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, viability was considered to be 28 weeks. Now, it’s about 22 weeks. ‘In 1973, my first year of residency, we didn’t put breathing tubes into 28-week babies to try to save them because it was futile,’ Dr. Edward Bell says. ‘And now we don’t do it because it’s not necessary. The same babies.'”
Technology has advanced since the 1973 Roe decision. Ultrasound has placed the irrefutable, full humanity of the fetus before our eyes. Kirstie Piper, a professional camerawoman, recently participated in the filming of an ultrasound. At first the fetus would not cooperate. She was tucked into an unphotogenic ball. To get a clearer picture, “The sonographer began tapping lightly and rapidly on the mother’s belly.” The fetus stirred. Someone was knocking on her door. Piper writes, “the baby rolled her head towards the sonographer’s hands, and her eyes fluttered open. I stood, shocked, as I made eye-contact … when my boss asked what I thought of the experience, all I could say was, ‘Their eyes – I didn’t know you could see their eyes!'” “A baby’s eyes can ‘see’ light starting around week 16 … The eyes first open between weeks 26 and 28.”
Some argue, from genetics, that personhood begins at conception. In presenting this position, Scott F. Gilbert, the Howard A. Schneiderman Professor of Biology, emeritus, at Swarthmore College, said, “Personhood begins at fertilization. Here’s where the geneticists say life begins. A unique genome is made and the conditions exist to generate a new person. When asked in Human Life Review in the spring of 2002, ‘At what point does individuation take place?’ Doctor Jerome Lejeune, very well known geneticist … said, ‘Oh. That takes place at fecundation, at fertilization, at conception. Because it just tells us that the constitution of this person is unique to this person.'” In his talk, Dr. Gilbert did present alternative points of view, including the view that life begins at gastrulation, that is fourteen days after conception. Another view: personhood begins at 28 weeks, when “the human-specific electroencephalogram pattern” develops. Gilbert concludes, “there is no consensus among scientists as to when personhood begins.”
Another reason for the fresh examination of the ethics of abortion: the ubiquity of birth control. A wide variety of birth control options are available and they no longer carry the stigma that they once did.
No such reexamination of the ethics of abortion occurred on my Facebook page after the Dobbs decision was announced. The fetus, the actual victim of abortion, was rarely mentioned. If mentioned, Team Choice was entirely happy to declare that the fetus is not human. Their evidence? Unsupported Facebook memes. Team Choice passed right by all those questions that, for thousands of years, have kept generations of philosophers and scientists awake at night. “What is human life? When does it begin? Why are we here?” Team Choice settled all that with unsupported Facebook memes like this one and this one and this one and this one.
What didn’t flood my Facebook page after Dobbs v. Jackson? Abortion. Actual abortion. Verbal descriptions of abortion, such as that provided by Dr. Levatino. Photographs of abortion. Videos of abortion. Photographs of the tools used to perform an abortion. Photographs of aborted fetuses. The sound and fury unleashed by Team Choice, tellingly, avoided abortion “as if it were the plague,” to use an old metaphor.
During Gay Pride month, my page is awash in images of attractive gay people. During Black History month, my page receives meme after meme celebrating heroic black personages. Holidays bring out Christmas trees and hamantaschen. Abortion? If you want to talk about abortion, and you are on Team Choice, you assiduously do not talk about abortion. You do not illustrate abortion. You do not even tell the truth about abortion. You talk about how subhuman Catholics are. That “choice” alone tells us much about abortion.
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery.