Abortion and the Banality of Evil

There is a chilling article in this week’s New York Times Magazine, titled, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy.” The article discusses the growing trend of parents, especially those who have gotten pregnant using artificial insemination, aborting one of a set of twins, and the carrying the other to term.

Some thoughts:

1. At numerous points the author notes the real disquiet that many who administer or consider undergoing this procedure feel about it — it strikes them as bordering on eugenics. Nonetheless, the author quotes equally many who stress the logic of abortion rests fundamentally on a woman’s undifferentiated, unregulated power over the life of children in her womb.

2. The article draws a strong connection between our attempt to master reproduction via artificial insemination, and the further need to control the complications that arise from that attempt — e.g., if IVF predisposes the 45 year-old women employing it to become pregnant with health-endangering triplets, abortion is going to seem like a necessary mechanism of control.

3. The article provides a brilliant demonstration of the way in which the evil of abortion veils itself in banal euphemism: replacing each instance of “termination,” “a woman’s choice,” or “pregnancy reduction” with more direct locutions — e.g., “killing the unborn child” — would be too horrifying to speak, much less to enact.

4. Finally, the article links the uncontrolled voluntarism at the heart of abortion to the uncontrolled voluntarism at the heart of America’s most popular self-accounting.

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This entry was posted in Abortion, America, Banality of Evil, Choice, Freedom, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Abortion and the Banality of Evil

  1. Amyclae says:

    I disagree with the overall point, I think the very hiding of these terms reflects a deep-seated and undeniable… Feeling? Atmosphere? Constructed forum for discussion? Where those words ‘true’ or ‘hidden’ meaning is in some sense heightened, rather than minimized. Put another way, and I know this isn’t a very linear thought so please bear with me, we kill cans of soda pop, insects and karaoke nights. We terminate pregnancies.

    But there is a certain banality in the process, in the bureaucracy, of termination that I think Arendt was focused on. Words were important, yes, but I think her main thrust–or, at least, most provocative–was that the atomizing (if that’s a fair description) effects of modern life created a situation where people did things they didn’t want to do and would probably object to on moral grounds but didn’t because their day-to-day life was incredibly “banal.” Notarize this. File in triplicate this. Such as it were, even the Jews became complicit in their own demise and leading her to conclude that without the Jews the Holocaust as we know it would look very different. Perhaps/probably just as bad, but certainly much different.

    Anyhow, I’m just rambling.

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