Vexillology, Horsefeathers, and “Pro-Choice” Dishonesty

Published June 12, 2024

Syndicated Column

Just when you thought American public life couldn’t get more deranged, the Great Pine Tree Flag Indictment was handed down.

I refer, of course, to the ravings of those who found themselves shocked, shocked that the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, a cherished relic of the American Revolution (well-known to those who watched HBO’s John Adams), was flown at Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s New Jersey beach house. That flag, featuring a green pine tree on a white field, has sometimes been expropriated by fevered MAGA types and conspiracy theorists with whom no sane or honest person could imagine Justice Alito identifying. Yet right on Pavlovian cue, the geniuses at the New York Times and in the Senate Democratic caucus connected imaginary dots, smeared Alito as sympathetic to “insurrectionists,” and demanded that he recuse himself from Supreme Court cases involving the madness that was January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

All of which reminded me of a scene in Ron Howard’s film Apollo 13.

There are just a few days before launch and the flight surgeon is fretting that Ken Mattingly, command module pilot on the Apollo 13 prime crew, might have been exposed to measles. So, a NASA administrator and Deke Slayton, chief of the astronaut office, decide to scrub Mattingly from the mission—expected to be the third to land men on the moon—and replace him with the command module pilot from the backup crew, Jack Swigert. Mission commander Jim Lovell, at that point America’s most experienced astronaut, hits the roof. After expostulating at length about the stupidity of breaking up his crew at the last minute, Lovell shouts at Slayton, “And this, Deke . . . this is flight surgeon horse***t!” 

So (absent the flight surgeon) is the attack on Justice Alito.

It is, however, of a piece with the rank dishonesty that has characterized the “pro-choice” movement and its political acolytes for the last half-century or so.

For while Justice Alito’s assailants were putatively in a froth over Supreme Court cases involving the riot at the Capitol in January 2021, anyone who understands the passions of modern American politics will recognize that this bucket of horsefeathers—I’ll be polite—has been dumped on Justice Alito because he was the author of the brilliantly-argued Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. There, the Court corrected the fifty-year-old mistake of its predecessors in Roe v. Wade, wherein a “right to abortion” was concocted out of thin air—as even liberal legal scholars conceded in 1973. And in Dobbs, a campaign of mendacity underway since the late 1960s met its constitutional Waterloo.

Lying about abortion has been a hallmark of “pro-choice” politics for decades. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, activists determined to overturn state laws protective of unborn life blatantly lied about the incidence of “back alley” and “coat hanger” abortions, exaggerating those numbers by orders of magnitude (as a repentant perpetrator of those lies, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, later confessed). When the Supreme Court invented a constitutional abortion right in Roe v. Wade, the movement lied about the allegedly “limited” scope of that decision, which, with its companion case Doe v. Bolton, in fact legalized abortion across the country at any time in a pregnancy.

As the “pro-choice” movement morphed into a lucrative, multibillion-dollar industry, the lying intensified. An unborn child was “tissue,” and the grisly details of what happens in a “procedure” called “dilation and curettage” were hidden as far from public view as possible. Even the act involved in the “procedure” was euphemized, as frightened young women were asked by abortuary counselors, “Would you like us to restore your period?” And the whole swindle was packaged and defended—as it continues to be today—under the Orwellian label of “reproductive health care,” which would doubtless come as news to the tens of millions who died because of such “care.”

Justice Alito’s majority decision in Dobbs demonstrated clearly and, to my mind, irrefutably that Roe v. Wade was a results-driven exercise in shambolic constitutional interpretation. I suspect the “pro-choice” world, in its lucid moments, understands that full well. In crafting Dobbs, Justice Alito was doing his sworn duty as a jurist and no more than that. Yet one ancillary effect of Dobbs was to falsify the claim that the “pro-choice” movement is the moral heir of the classic civil rights movement, which is one of the biggest lies of all.

That is something the movement can’t handle. So its lies, and those of the politicians beholden to it, become ever more egregious, and their tactics ever more disgraceful.

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and one of America’s leading public intellectuals. He holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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