There’s been an awful lot of talk about miscarriage in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that had nothing to do with it.
As the pro-abortion left clings to its movement in a post-Roe world, two law professors have taken to the New York Times opinion section to ask, “Why Do We Talk About Miscarriage Differently From Abortion?”
It’s an absurd question on its face, with the obvious rejoinder being that we talk differently about miscarriage and abortion for the same reason we talk differently about aneurysms and first-degree murder, consensual sex and rape, or salaried employment and slavery.
But false equivalencies aside, the writers’ answer to the question is worth exploring because it illuminates how abortion proponents think about women, the tragedy of miscarriage, the realities of abortion, and the value — or not — of human life.
No Blurry Lines Here
They begin with a false premise, which they never support except with tired and debunked talking points about mifepristone, that abortion and miscarriage are commensurate. “The line between abortion and pregnancy loss has always been blurry,” write Greer Donley and Jill Wieber Lens, later adding: “Pregnancy loss and abortion have more in common than many people realize. The physical experiences are often virtually identical.”
According to these writers, the pro-life movement is to blame for our culture perceiving miscarriage and abortion so differently by drawing “a cultural bright line” between the two terms and pushing “dueling narratives of ‘bad’ mothers who voluntarily cause fetal death versus ‘good’ mothers who grieve unpreventable pregnancy loss.” The right learned to “weaponize” the grief of miscarriage, Donley and Wieber Lens claim, painting unborn children as people, portraying abortion as heartless, and leading people to draw a distinction between it and miscarriage.
They lament, however, that the pro-abortion crowd has only broadened this chasm between miscarriage and abortion by dehumanizing children in utero, which they frame as “minimizing focus on the fetus.” The pro-abortion crowd was afraid of “a slippery slope that would undermine abortion rights,” Donley and Wieber Lens say, adding that “this same fear led the movement to avoid the topic of pregnancy loss or to refer to a fetus or embryo as ‘a clump of cells.’ Any concession of fetal value could be used to chip away at abortion rights, the thinking went.”
“This minimization [of the fetus] can be jarring to women who believe they lost their child in utero,” the law professors warn — a massive understatement for mothers who have miscarried. An expectant mom learning that the child once seen sucking her thumb on a sonogram is now lifeless while hearing the left refer to the unborn at the same gestational age as a “clump of cells” is more than “jarring,” it’s cruel and heartwrenching.
‘Attached’ to a Lie
But Donley and Wieber Lens are here to make things right. After all, there are alliances to be forged. If the pro-abortion left is to succeed in convincing Americans that post-Roe abortion bans are a threat to women who miscarry, they must — with the help of the media — persuade those Americans that intentionally taking the life of a child and tragically losing the life of a child are one and the same.
So it’s here that they get to their main argument, and their operative word is “attachment.” By the logic of these two law professors, the left can acknowledge “the loss in pregnancy loss” (emphasis theirs) without loosening their grip on their abortion obsession. It’s OK to concede that some mothers get “attached to their children in utero and that attachment has value,” they say, and it’s important to validate this attachment because challenging it makes abortion apologists appear heartless.
Ignore for a moment the authors’ Freudian slip of calling wanted human lives in utero “children” — and their very wrong assumption that their perceived heartlessness is a result of their ignoring miscarrying mothers’ fetal attachment rather than their support for dismembering innocent life in the womb — because it’s here that they get to the punchline:
“But attachment is entirely subjective — it develops for different people at different rates, depending on their circumstances. And crucially, it may never develop. … If we ground fetal value in the pregnant woman’s attachment, and commit to defending her conception of the pregnancy, we can recognize loss without threatening abortion rights.” (emphasis added)
In other words, a woman’s attachment to the separate human life inside her is what confers value upon that second life. Unborn babies have no value of their own accord. Their worth is entirely determined by whether anyone is attached to them.
The Obvious Answer
There are a few huge problems with this. First and most obviously, this does nothing to actually solve the pro-abortion left’s optics problem. Communicating to women that their babies are worthless — unless a mother feels otherwise — does little to assuage perceptions of heartlessness.
Second, “attachment” isn’t how we assign value to any other human life. Most U.S. citizens probably aren’t particularly attached to aspiring migrants south of our border, or to the suffering civilians of Ukraine, or to a drug-addicted homeless person they’ve never met. We care about their fate not because of some attachment to them — either our own or someone else’s — but because they’re human beings, and vulnerable ones at that, much like the unborn.
Which leads to the third and most important condemnation of the authors’ phony attachment conception: All human beings — of every age, demographic, and location — possess inherent value. I believe, as Scripture teaches, that each person is made imago Dei, or in the “image of God.” That’s one of the reasons for the intrinsic heaviness of death; as image-bearers, we were created as eternal beings, with death being a bitter result of our sin-stained world. But even if you aren’t a person of faith, the innate value of human beings is obvious in natural law, including both nature and reason. It’s evident in even flawed concepts of justice, in our propensity to celebrate birthdays or existence and to honor the dead, in our desire to see wrongdoers punished for hurting even people we’ve never met, and in our efforts to find cures for cancer, among untold other proofs.
Abortion’s fiercest advocates are grasping at straws — and unrelated tragedies such as miscarriage — to cling to a barbaric practice. It shouldn’t need to be said, but the reason “we talk about miscarriage differently from abortion” has nothing to do with “attachment.” It’s because it’s perfectly normal to talk about things that are completely different completely differently.