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Moral madness abounds

Relativism and postmodernism have triumphed over objective truth

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Associated Press/Photo by Charles Krupa

Moral madness abounds

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade nearly a month ago, the rationale of many abortion supporters has been laid bare—and it’s disturbing, to put it mildly. In response to some states protecting the unborn, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wants to go after pregnancy resource centers, saying they “fool people looking for pregnancy termination help” and “outnumber abortion clinics by 3-1.” She declares, “We need to shut them down all around the country.”

One of the main critiques hurled at pro-lifers is that they don’t support women who face financial challenges and other difficulties after carrying children to term. The truth is quite different. In 2019 alone, pregnancy resource centers served 1.85 million families and provided $266 million worth of goods such as diapers, baby formula, clothes, and car seats. And unlike Planned Parenthood, these centers are overwhelmingly supported by churches and private donations, not billions in federal funding.

Now it’s one thing to argue for legal abortion, but for one of the country’s most influential lawmakers to argue we must shut down anyone working to provide an alternative to abortion—well, that’s a special kind of evil.

The day after Sen. Warren called for shutting down pregnancy resource centers, Democrats called a witness to testify before a House committee who said, “My abortion was the best decision I ever made. It was an act of self-love.” There was a time not that long ago when Democrats widely agreed that abortion was an unfortunate choice even though they disagreed with pro-life Republicans on the need for it to be legal. “Safe, legal, and rare“ was the party’s formulation through the 1990s.

Instead of honest argument, so much of what we see as political disagreement is a performative denial of the truth.

What changed? The answer, I think, is the wholesale triumph of relativism and postmodernism in influential sectors of the left. When you reject conventional notions of objective truth, the ability to define your own reality means that you never have to pretend your opponents are acting in good faith by relying on a shared set of facts.

Instead of honest argument, so much of what we see as political disagreement is a performative denial of the truth. During related Senate committee testimony on abortion, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Berkeley law professor Khiara Bridges whether “a baby that is not yet born has value.” Bridges proceeded to ramble and dodge the question. When Cornyn asked her why she wasn’t answering, she retorted, “I’m answering a more interesting question to me.” Setting aside the absolute arrogance of the reply, note that Bridges is a law professor. Imagine what our justice system would look like if we rejected objective truth and accepted “I’m answering a more interesting question to me” as a valid retort on the witness stand.

Then, moments later, Bridges would accuse Sen. Josh Hawley of being transphobic because he asked whether her repeated use of the phrase “people with a capacity for pregnancy” was referring to women. Bridges went on to say Hawley’s unwillingness to acknowledge that men get pregnant “opens trans people to violence by not recognizing them.”

Again, it was not that long ago that reflexively accusing someone of violence for refusing to accept the tenets of faculty lounge gender ideology would have been seen as insanity. And yet, media outlets such as CNN and The Washington Post reported on this exchange in such a way to emphasize Hawley’s “transphobia” rather than acknowledge that Bridges has a tenuous grasp on where babies come from, to say nothing of the fact that her rhetoric is divisive and insulting.

Increasingly, such a double standard is undeniable. Hawley was “transphobic” for refusing to say men can get pregnant, but even when the president of the National Women’s Law Center cannot define the word “woman” during the same congressional hearings, we’re supposed to pretend this isn’t insulting to those of us who live in the real world.

This denial of reality has consequences for governance that Democrats should care about because Republicans are not immune to believing what they want to believe. In addition to hearings on abortion, Democrats are currently holding an inquiry into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots and what they have dubbed the “big lie” that President Donald Trump really won the 2020 election. But when Democrats so routinely and obviously value ideological orthodoxy over something as basic as an empirical biological reality, they shouldn’t be surprised that they lack the authority and credibility to effectively police Republican disinformation and conspiracy theories.

There are many things we don’t have to agree on in this country, but the moment we no longer have any strong shared notions of moral truth, it’s lights out for America.

Mark Hemingway

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations and the books editor at The Federalist. He was formerly a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, and a staff writer at National Review. He is the recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism fellowship and was a two-time Global Prosperity Initiative Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He was a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of The Claremont Institute and a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College in 2016. He is married to journalist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, and they have two daughters.

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