In an opinion piece for Salon, radical feminist Camille Paglia tore into her own side over the issue of abortion, which she says has become “an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited by my own party” and about which, she admits, conservatives have the “high moral ground.”
Lamenting that politics in America have been “entangled and strangled for far too long by the rote histrionics of the abortion wars,” Paglia writes that while she remains adamantly pro-“unrestricted” abortion, she has been “disturbed and repelled for decades by the way reproductive rights have become an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited by my own party, the Democrats, to inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting.”
This mercenary process began with the Senate confirmation hearings for three Supreme Court candidates nominated by Republican presidents: Robert Bork in 1987, David Souter in 1990, and Clarence Thomas in 1991. (Bork was rejected, while Souter and Thomas were approved.) Those hearings became freak shows of feminist fanaticism, culminating in the elevation to martyr status of Anita Hill, whose charges of sexual harassment against Thomas still seem to me flimsy and overblown (and effectively neutralized by Hill’s following Thomas to another job). Abortion was the not-so-hidden motivation of the Democratic operatives who pushed a reluctant Hill forward and fanned the flames in the then monochromatically liberal mainstream media. It was that flagrant abuse of the Senate confirmation process that sparked the meteoric rise of conservative talk radio, led by Rush Limbaugh, who provided an alternative voice in what was then (pre-Web) a homogenized media universe.
Echoing Rush Limbaugh, Paglia argues that abortion has become a feminist “sacrament, promoted with the same religiosity that [feminist Gloria Steinem] and her colleagues condemn in their devoutly Christian opponents.”
Paglia then describes the rise of Planned Parenthood, which she notes was founded by Margaret Sanger, who had a “troubling association with eugenics, a program (also adopted by the Nazis) of now discredited techniques like sterilization to purify and strengthen the human gene pool” (she doesn’t mention Sanger’s outright anti-black racism).
“It was partly because of Sanger’s pioneering precedent that I joined Planned Parenthood and contributed to it for many years — until I realized, to my disillusion, how it had become a covert arm of the Democratic party,” writes Paglia.
Surprisingly, Paglia goes out of her way to praise pro-lifers, whose perspective she says she “profoundly respect[s]” and which she admits “has the moral high ground.”
Despite my pro-abortion stance (I call the term pro-choice “a cowardly euphemism”), I profoundly respect the pro-life viewpoint, which I think has the moral high ground. I wrote in “No Law in the Arena”: “We career women are arguing from expedience: it is personally and professionally inconvenient or onerous to bear an unwanted child. The pro-life movement, in contrast, is arguing that every conception is sacred and that society has a responsibility to protect the defenseless.” The silence from second-wave feminists about the ethical ambiguities in their pro-choice belief system has been deafening.
As for her pro-abortion stance, Paglia explains that she remains a passionate supporter because “our real oppressor is not men or society but nature—the biological imperative that second-wave feminism and campus gender studies still refuse to acknowledge.” Abortion and homosexuality, she argues, are essentially “history” or “natural law” stepping in to stop mankind from overpopulating.