Janie B. Cheaney: Positive good


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 12th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.  The Bible warns in Isaiah: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.

Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney.

JANIE CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: Several of my Facebook “friends” are flaming liberals whom I seldom engage. One of these acquaintances—I’ll call her X—posted this last month: I love abortion! Plain as a punch to the stomach.

A man who sympathized with X’s cause criticized her method: “That’s not a good way to frame the issue.”

X replied: It’s how I feel. The man replied: Okay, but we’ve got a political fight to win, and inflammatory statements help the opposition.

X: It’s the truth.

Man: Fine, but we have to be practical.

On it went, until X said, “I pity your wife,” and M signed off with, “Whatever.”

A typical Facebook debate. But it echoed a shift in pro-abortion rhetoric that’s been rising with the legislative stakes. “Loud and proud” is the new strategy. Hashtag shoutyourabortion has been trending for months.

A New York Times editorial last May blared this headline: “Abortion Is Morally Good.” The writer contradicted old-school strategists. Quote, “[T]he assertion that nobody wants an abortion, ever, directly affirms the anti-choice narrative.”

Wishy-washy terms like “safe, legal, and rare” won’t answer when legislatures from Ohio to Missouri are passing heartbeat laws and outright bans. It’s time to stop pussy-footing around: abortion is not a sad thing, a bad thing, or a mad thing. It’s good.

Way back in 1837, Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina made an infamous speech. It came in response to the rising abolitionist movement—the “anti-choice” crowd of his day. Thousands of anti-slavery petitions had poured into the Capitol, and for Calhoun, it was time to draw the line.

A generation earlier, some of the most respected minds of his region—Jefferson, for one—regarded slavery as an unhappy necessity. Some hoped it would outlive its usefulness (becoming safe, legal, and rare, perhaps).

Calhoun wasn’t having it. Hangdog expressions like “unhappy necessity” played right into the opposition’s hands. It was time for the slaveholding interests to declare their peculiar institution, quote, “instead of an evil, a good—a positive good.” End quote.

He said unless men of good will, north and south, accepted the benefits of slavery the nation would be torn apart.

Calhoun’s “positive good” speech, in response to the threat from abolitionism threat, came 49 years after the U.S. Constitution grudgingly allowed slavery in the southern states.

The “positive good” abortion rhetoric, in response to a realigned Supreme Court, is coming 45 years after Roe.

In both cases, a regrettable fact of life, due for extinction or severe reduction, did not go away. Instead, the justification for it grew more extreme until the indefensible became, not just defensible, but desirable.

A showdown is coming. It won’t be won with guns, or words. Or anger. My first response to in-your-face memes is anger. Followed by sorrow. These are sheep without a shepherd, who know not what they do. If they only knew what makes for peace.

Then I pray for them.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Abortion-rights supporters take part in a protest Thursday, May 30, 2019, in St. Louis.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Janie B. Cheaney: Positive good

  1. Scott Leonard says:

    Janie, thank you for your commentary! I have been waiting to hear the parallels drawn between the “abortion rights” folks and the “slavery rights” proponents, and you have done it. At least the pro-slavery crowd recognized that a slave was 3/5th of a person, unlike those who have followed in their train of dehumanizing those without a voice in the argument.

    And thank you too for calling us to prayer, not only for the “loud and proud,” but also for our nation and ourselves, for as Solzhenitsyn said, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.”

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