A post-Dobbs primer for the pro-life movement
Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing
By Ryan T. Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis
Regnery Publishing | 2022 | 256 pages
Tearing Us Apart is a formidable book co-authored by Ryan T. Anderson, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in Washington DC, and Alexandra DeSanctis, a journalist at the National Review. It does not make for light reading, although no one is likely to expect that from a book on abortion. It exhibits compassion, empathy, and kindness I have come to expect from its authors.
Anderson’s 2018 book, When Harry Became Sally, was notoriously banned from Amazon’s platform because it allegedly constituted “hate speech”. There was nothing further from the truth. I have always admired his capacity for speaking the truth fearlessly and frankly, while remaining profoundly sympathetic with all people involved – particularly the victims of the untruths disseminated by today’s culture.
This is a deeply Christian attitude, but one which is not easily achieved. The temptation to demonize one’s opponents is strong, particularly when the issues at stake are high.
And high they are. As they write in the introduction, “Abortion harms every single one of us by perpetuating deeply rooted falsehoods about what it means to be human.” Throughout the book, Anderson and DeSanctis articulate the case for the pro-life attitude from different viewpoints, covering practically all the angles.
The protagonists of their book are the unborn children, who are the innocent, harmless, and first victims of a pro-abortion culture. The authors’ defence of the unborn child leads them occasionally to include descriptions of graphic details of the (surgical and chemical) abortion procedures. Yet these gruesome narratives are never an end in themselves, nor are they indulged in to scare people out of their pro-choice convictions. Such passages are few, limited to what is strictly necessary for the argument to be articulated. In any case, if you cannot stand a few lines describing what happens in a woman’s womb when she gets an abortion, then you cannot claim to be fully informed.
The unborn child is not the only focus of the book, though all revolves around this pivot. Abortion, as the authors correctly claim, harms not only the child who is denied the most basic of all rights, the right to life. It also harms a plethora of other agents, both individual and collective.
It harms women, on the physical and on the psychological plane. Here, the authors bring medical evidence demonstrating the short and long-term effects of abortions on the woman’s well-being, including an increased risk for later miscarriages or the possibility of developing breast cancer.
Families are also harmed by abortion, inasmuch as the relationship of trust and mutual support on which all families should be grounded is fatally flawed when women are forced to dispose of their babies or when fathers are excluded from decisions about the child they have helped to procreate.
The authors also put forward a novel argument: that abortion harms “equality and choice”, the two powerful slogans of the pro-choice lobby. Contrary to popular belief, most women who “choose” abortion are not free to choose; their choices are limited by the very possibility of having an abortion, which frequently becomes a duty to abort, in the face of economic, social, familial, and psychological pressures. If you can abort an unwanted baby, and you choose not to, the idea seems to be that you are not entitled to anybody’s compassion or help.
Abortion also corrupts the first principles of medicine. Significantly, the promise not to perform abortions has been excised from contemporary versions of the Hippocratic Oath, one of the foundational documents of medicine, and one which has stood firm for millennia. Yet when the medical profession admits the possibility of intentionally killing, and especially of intentionally killing a human being who has no way to defend himself or herself, it has lost its compass entirely, and no other principle may claim to stand firm.
The final chapters demonstrate how abortion harms jurisprudence, politics, and the media. These may seem relatively minor concerns compared to the lives and well-being of the child and the mother, but they are by no means negligible. Law, politics, journalism, and culture are all made by people and for people; they are instruments serving a just and flourishing society. A society whose laws permit abortion, a society whose political class admits, or even promotes, abortion, and a society whose media outlets champion abortion is clearly a society whose fundamental values have been deeply twisted.
In spite of the many harms described in the seven chapters of this book, Anderson and DeSanctis remain fundamentally positive. Whilst their book was written prior to the June 24th overturning of Roe v. Wade, its concluding remarks offer food for thought to all who now wonder what comes next in promoting a culture of life.
Tearing Us Apart discusses legal cases, personalities, and situations with which its American readers will be more familiar than those from overseas. Nonetheless it is a must-read for pro-lifers internationally: the authors’ ability to include so much information and arguments within a relatively short space makes Tearing Us Apart an excellent primer for the pro-life cause after Dobbs.
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