There are two abortions every minute in the United States. Maybe slightly more, maybe slightly less: The gathering of medical statistics has been corrupted by the politics of abortion, in the same way that everything abortion touches gets clouded by falsity. But call it two abortions a minute. Two abortions a minute. Two abortions a minute . . .
An unborn child has been killed, probably, while you were reading this. Another will die, almost certainly, before you’re done. We are slaughtering by the seconds, and the relentless motion of that murderous clock—tick, tock, tick, tock—can drive you mad, if you start listening to it.
Will drive you mad, once you start really hearing it. Tick, tock. It’s like the buzz of a fluorescent light: lost in the background noise until you notice it, until you focus on it—and then it just . . . won’t . . . go . . . away. It snarls in your ear, on and on, until you want to climb on a desk and smash the vile, buzzing thing with your shoe, over and over again, until it stops. Until it just . . . stops.
A man I used to see in New York, call him Jimmy, slipped into the madness while I knew him. He would look at his watch, again and again, whenever we met—and sometimes he would say out loud but always he was thinking: Another one. Another one. Every thirty seconds, another one. Abortion dominated his life, which is a measure of his moral commitment. Abortion dominated his mind, as well—the evil of it, the stain he could feel laid over this nation—and that, too is a measure of moral commitment. And a measure of madness. His Catholicism was centered on opposition to abortion. His faith was shaped by his pain at the death of the little ones. His prayers were cries for vengeance. For God to come, now, and burn this wicked world to the ground rather than allow another child to die—another one and another one, with the tick of every minute on his watch.
Jimmy is a hero of the pro-life fight, though few know him. He’s put himself in harm’s way, he’s been in jail, he’s counseled, and he’s saved. He is an inspiration, and he stands with the handful at the moral center of these times. But what does it say of these times, of us, that the moral center can so easily join with madness, as it has in Jimmy?
Perhaps moral commitment always ends this way. Perhaps this is what moral commitment to anything will always require—what those words moral commitment truly mean, what their innermost definition always demands. There’s always a question of whether any particular cause is actually worthy of that sacrifice. Was the protest against the Vietnam War worth it?—for there were those whom it drove insane. A madness lived at the center of the Occupy Wall Street movement, too, although the question remains of whether it was a madness that drew in the insane, or a genuine moral outrage that drove mad those who most deeply felt it.
Abortion is worth it. But consider this: The first tragedy of our current regime of legalized abortion is the first unborn child killed after Roe v. Wade. And the second, and the third—tick, tock—all the way down to the latest of the fifty million children killed since then. The children killed today. The children killed since you began reading about Jimmy.
But after all those dead, there are other tragedies that Roe v. Wade induced. A corrupted legal system. A damage to the ability to speak truth in public discourse. Perhaps most of all, the madness abortion has caused at the center of morality. The madness of Jimmy, for that matter. Abortion has eaten him alive, like the monster it is, and I do not think he will recover.
I don’t know. Maybe I have this whole analysis wrong. Jimmy is a strong man, in many ways, of unswerving commitment to the pro-life cause, but he is also weak, in many ways: fragile and easily broken. He went to Washington for the March for Life this year, as he does every year, but it did not inspire him. He wrote me to say that it had crushed him—caused him to realize, as it always does, that another year has gone by and still this scourge rakes the nation. Still the innocent are slaughtered. Still we are knee-deep in blood.
So perhaps it’s just Jimmy, not the moral cause, that gives way to madness. But he doesn’t think so. He believes that in an insane world, only the insane see clearly. And clear sight of what abortion has done to the weakest among us would drive even the strongest among us mad.