Paul Greenberg

Only the less advanced, the less expert, who still think in terms of just ethics, might have trouble understanding this new concept. But it's only the next room of the nightmare.

What's the difference, do you suppose, between "after-birth abortion" and what used to be called infanticide? Is it just another word game, like pro-choice in place of pro-abortion? Since we've become conditioned to accepting abortion, as in "abortion rights," is "post-birth abortion" just a more acceptable way to sell infanticide? Maybe we're not talking philosophy here at all, but just public relations.

When this theory was met with a wave of revulsion from those without their sophistication, its authors explained: "We are really sorry that many people, who do not share the background of the intended audience for this article, felt offended, outraged, or even threatened. ... The article was supposed to be read by other fellow bioethicists who were already familiar with this topic and our arguments."

Oh, I understand well enough: When reason fails our experts, they fall back on condescension.

Here's the really shocking, still really revolutionary idea: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among those is the right to life. That concept is not only a political principle but an ethical imperative. But it is no more a "self-evident" truth than it was in 1776, when it was declared.

That idea is certainly not self-evident to our contemporary ethicists. Note this article in a journal of medical "ethics." To borrow a phrase from George Orwell, it would take an intellectual to believe such stuff; no ordinary man would.

A few days after it appeared on the website of the Journal of Medical Ethics, this revealing, all too revealing, article had vanished. Or at least outsiders were no longer allowed access to it. When I tried to call it up again, it was gone. Right down the old Orwellian memory hole. It was now an un-article, closed off to us mere laymen. We might not understand. Its thesis might shock, and so it needed to be discreetly hidden away, to be shared only with select professional colleagues.

But just give the rest of us time. As each old ethical line is crossed, as each Thou Shalt Not becomes another Thou Mayest, each such advance becomes easier to understand, then accept. There was a time when abortion on demand was considered unacceptable, too, even a crime. We've just crossed another ethical line, that's all. What's the big deal?

There was a time when we looked down this slippery slope and shuddered. Now we find ourselves looking up. And fewer and fewer of us may shudder.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.