Published October 19, 2021
Sometimes even New York Times columnists tell the truth. For instance, a recent article by Jennifer Finney Boylan was headlined “Abortion Rights and Trans Rights Are Two Sides of the Same Coin.” Yes, and the coin is currency from Hell.
Although there are abortion supporters who oppose transgenderism and vice versa, Boylan is correct that the justifications for abortion and transgenderism share most of their ideological DNA. Both are rooted in hatred for the givenness of human embodiment and its limitations. Both should be rejected in favor of something better.
Boylan, who identifies as transgender, objects to giving “the state the right to limit what you can or cannot do with your own body” and insists that decisions about abortion and gender transition should be left to an individual, “who alone knows the truth of their heart, who alone can understand what the consequences of their choices will be in the years to come.”
But the abortion debate is not about what a woman is allowed to do with her body, but what she can have done to the body of the new human being developing in utero. The point of abortion is to destroy someone else’s body.
Likewise, the most intense debates over transgenderism are about children, who have very limited abilities to understand the long-term consequences of their choices. Boylan takes it for granted that there are trans children who can be reliably identified and transitioned, but this belief is incompatible with the explosion of trans identification among minors, up to as many as 9 in every 100 students in 2021. This increase is driven by social contagion and is alarming even some trans-identified doctors, who are starting to warn against rushing kids into dangerous, irreversible medical procedures.
Furthermore, trans activists will not leave the rest of us alone. They are determined to force us to affirm, celebrate, and pay for what they do with their bodies. They are trying to impose a grotesque newspeak on us, replacing mothers with “birthing persons” and women with “persons with vaginas.” They are committed to indoctrinating our children into their ideology. They will do anything in service to their agenda, from taking children away from their parents to covering up a rape allegedly committed by a cross-dressing young man in a school bathroom.
The suggestion that trans activists just want to be left alone in peace is laughable. They don’t hate government power; they just hate government power that they don’t control. But their ultimate fight is not against government or other people, but with the nature of human existence itself.
Loathing Our Physical Being
This struggle against human nature is seen in Boylan’s assertion that we should not “force a trans child to go through a puberty that will scar them for the rest of their life” or “force a woman to bear a child against her will.” This rhetorical transmogrification of natural and healthy bodily process — the normal maturation of puberty and the ordinary progression of pregnancy to childbirth — into hostile external forces reveals a hatred toward the reality of embodiment itself.
This loathing of our physical being is readily apparent in transgender ideology, which treats our bodies as meat avatars to be radically reshaped according to the desires and compulsions of an indeterminate “true self.“ At the same time, advocates seek to deconstruct all biological categories, deploying contradictions such as “female penis.” They deny that there is any meaning or purpose in the sexual dimorphism of the human species, even though that dimorphism is the source of our own existence.
Transgenderism affirms the reality of biological sex (else there would be nothing to transition to or from), even as it rejects it. It is self-defeating, for it yearns for that which it denies, and strains for that which it cannot have. No matter how often the mantra is repeated that “trans women are women” those claiming to be trans women know better than any of us that it is not true.
The feminist case for abortion is also a self-defeating revolt against the reality of biological sex, especially motherhood. This ideology argues that women cannot be free and equal members of the human race unless they are able to control their reproduction, including through the use of abortion. Pro-abortion feminism insists abortion is necessary for women to be certain of independence from men.
After all, the physical burdens of reproduction are not evenly distributed between men and women. Nature, or nature’s God, left women more vulnerable and dependent, especially during pregnancy, and it is easier for irresponsible and wicked men to abandon their duties to their children. Abortion supporters try to level the playing field by permitting women to kill developing humans in utero.
But abortion does not solve the problem. The expectation of abortion in case of unplanned pregnancy encourages men to be less responsible and committed, and the market to be less accommodating to women’s natural fertility. High-status women may feel this pressure the most. Even though women worried about making the rent are more likely to get abortions, it is women such as those worried about making law firm partner who support abortion the most fervently.
Talented young women have been told to focus on launching careers and securing independence, only for many to realize too late that their chance to have a family is slipping away. The problem is so pervasive that one of “Cambridge University’s last all-female colleges is set to introduce fertility seminars to teach women to start planning to have children by their mid-thirties or risk ‘forgetting to have a baby.’” The long-repressed biological reality of womanhood may take revenge by refusing to return on command.
It is true, as Christianity long recognized, that some women have a nobler and higher earthly vocation than family life. In place of this life of service to God, our post-Christian culture has substituted devotion to the god of self, replacing consecrated virgins in the service of God with careerist crones in the service of ambition. As one Twitter feminist put it, girls should be taught “that they do not have to ever have children, or get married, and that their lives can just be for them.”
Real Human Flourishing
But real human flourishing requires more than living just for ourselves. Ambition and self-indulgence leave us dissatisfied, for we need loving relationships to be fulfilled. But instead of this fulfillment, abortion culture promotes competitive careerism. Also, for many women it does not even deliver on its promise of autonomy, for it replaces female dependence on family and community with dependence on government.
We cannot escape the constraints of human embodiment, but we need not view the limits of our being as a curse. Rather, the givenness and dependence of our existence points us toward the fulfillment of a life of mutual support and self-giving. This way of life demands sacrifices of both men and women, but it is also what enables people to flourish in both work and family life.
This inherent need to trust and rely on others can baffle abortion advocates. For example, Maureen Dowd, the withered poison pen of The New York Times, recently labeled Justice Amy Barrett “Lady Handmaid’s Tale,” but it is telling that Dowd, despite her obvious malevolence, could concoct nothing more venomous than a ridiculous, stale Twitter meme — how is Dowd to mock someone more successful than she is on all fronts?
Barrett is, of course, exceptional, but her success still provides a template for other women. Justice Barrett reached the pinnacle of the legal world not through independence, but through dependence, relying on the aid of family, church, and community as she raised a family and built a legal career. She succeeded through cooperation, not liberation.
This is why it is essential to nurture and protect marriage, in which a man and a woman promise before God, government, community, and family to love and support each other for life, and to raise for their children together. None of us can truly have it all in this life, but we will have more flourishing if we live within relationships of mutual support and dependence, accepting the realities of our physical being as male and female.
Abortion and transgender ideology are indeed connected, for they are two fronts in our culture’s war of liberation against our bodies. But human happiness and well-being are not increased by denying our embodied and dependent nature.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Photo Miguel Discart / Flickr