ENEMIES OF CHOICE: The Right-to-Life Movement and Its Threat to Abortion by Andrew H. Merton

ENEMIES OF CHOICE: The Right-to-Life Movement and Its Threat to Abortion

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A hostile, intemperate account of ""the movement to stop all abortions"" (i.e., ""the supporters of a human life amendment"")--choppy and somewhat unfocused as well. Advocates of choice can, it's true, learn more about the movement here than from the far superior Abortion Politics (1981), by Frederick Jaffe and others--which does not, however, follow through to the late-1970s alliance between the Catholic Church and the Protestant fundamentalist New Right. But insofar as Merton's purposes include exposing to movement-activists their own, ""hidden"" motives, he is not likely to gain so much as a hearing by likening their crusade, on the next paged to ""witch hunts [from] the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazis' persecution of Jews and other Untermenschen."" Part of Merton's direct counter-attack is similarly based: calling the holocaust metaphor ""the heaviest piece of artillery in the movement's well-stocked propaganda arsenal,"" he notes that the Third Reich adopted an equivalent anti-abortion, pro-family agenda. Much of the text, however, is devoted to demonstrating--in a high key, but in detail--how the movement used emotionally-loaded color photographs of dead fetuses to gain converts and then skillfully manipulated elections into single-issue abortion battles (thereby ending the careers of several ""uncooperative"" politicians). And his assessment of the antiabortion movement as motivated by anti-feminist and, secondarily, anti-intellectual and anti-democratic impulses is certainly worth consideration--which he discourages, again, by calling ""all the right-to-lifers' talk of murder. . . a device to keep their opponents on the defensive, and a screen for the true concern of the movement--the preservation of puritanical sexual mores."" The potentially useful material on right-to-life personalities and activities is weakened both by the book's organizational shortcomings (time jumps, for one, are common) and by Merton's rhetorical excesses.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Beacon