Derbyshire on the Right to Life

When I saw that John Derbyshire had written a review of his National Review colleague Ramesh Ponnuru's book The Party of Death entitled "A Frigid and Pitiless Dogma," I assumed he was referring to the abortion-rights side — even though I know Derbyshire is not what orthodox right-to-life people would consider pure. As it turns out, Derbyshire is quite a lot farther out than that. He writes:

…RTL is, really, just another species of Political Correctness, just another manifestation of the intellectual pathology, the hypertrophied and academical egalitarianism, the victimological scab-picking, the gaseous sentimentality. that has afflicted our civilization this past forty years. We have lost our innocence, traded it in for a passel of theorems. The RTL-ers are just another bunch of schoolmarms trying to boss us around and to diminish our liberties. Is it wrong to have concern for fetuses and for the vegetative, incapable, or incurable? Not at all. Do we need to do some hard thinking about the notion of personhood in a society with fast-advancing biological capabilities? We surely do. (And I think Party of Death contributes useful things to that discussion.) Should we let a cult of theologians, monks, scolds, grad-school debaters, logic-choppers, and schoolmarms tell us what to do with our wombs, or when we may give up the ghost, or when we should part with our loved ones? Absolutely not! Give me liberty, and give me death!

Don't let that last line tempt you into mistaking Derbyshire for any kind of libertarian — this was, after all, the fellow whose response when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke was to write, "Good. Kick one for me."

I can't attempt any kind of full response to Derbyshire right now, but the Cliff's Notes would look something like this: abortion is wrong and Derbyshire is partly right. There are some elements of the right-to-life movement that make a mockery out of the very thing they claim to be protecting. (Thomas Fleming has written about some of their excesses, here and in print within Chronicles.) "Pro-lifers" who support unjust wars are the worst offenders, though Derbyshire I'm sure would disagree. (That so many politicized pro-lifers cheer for wars while opposing abortion and euthanasia lends some credence to Derbyshire's claim that RTL is a cult, however — like a cult, those who fall into this category are incapable of seriously considering the contradictions or tensions within their tenets.)

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2 thoughts on “Derbyshire on the Right to Life

  1. Casey Khan June 7, 2006 / 7:08 pm

    For Catholic Conservatives, in justifying wars and capital punishment, they continually fall back on the grossly simplified assertion that since a particular incident (like Iraq war) was not pronounced to be evil ex cathedra, that it is justified. Abortion is always and everywhere pronounced evil, however war can be just in the eyes of the church. They ignore the possibility that their particular war action is unjust. I still can’t find an a satisfactory answer to how Bush’s preemptory invasion of Iraq is justified, yet Hilter’s invasion of Czeckoslovakia is not.

    Catholic Liberal pacifists make the problem even worse by using the Catholic Conservative’s immoral war and death mongering as erroneous justification to defy the Church’s infallible teaching on contraception, abortion, and euthanasia.

    The binary nature of American politics bisected by liberal and conservative ideologies has done an effective job dividing and confusing American Catholics away from orthodoxy.

  2. Gaurav Ahuja June 8, 2006 / 12:22 pm

    Hello Mr. McCarthy. I met you one time in Washington D.C. fairly recently. This goes to show that John Derbyshire fits in well with the rest of his neo-conservative colleagues at National Review. He doesn’t seem to contribute much as a writer. All I can see that he does well his proclaim and elucidate on how Western culture is superior to other cultures. While this is true, I don’t how that and his multiple off beat interests provided the reasons for him being employed by such a notable publication.

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