Eugene Robinson: Believing Life Starts at Conception is 'Frankly Insane'

There he goes again, unleashing that finely honed empathy.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson set off alarm bells last month when he denigrated Rick Santorum as "very weird" for the manner in which Santorum and his wife mourned the loss of their newborn son Gabriel, who died within hours of his birth in 1996. The Santorums brought their deceased baby home and grieved with their other children in a private vigil before a funeral was held. (video after page break)

Robinson responded to widespread denunciation of his breezy callousness by issuing one of the more weasley non-apologies in memory. He also unintentionally succeeded in rendering how the Santorums handled their loss a non-issue, at least for now.

On the Rachel Maddow show Tuesday, Robinson spoke with Maddow about a proposed personhood law in Virginia that would define life as starting at conception. Similar proposals have been defeated by voters in Colorado in 2008 and 2010 and last year in Mississippi.

MADDOW: What about this issue seems to be a winning argument to Republicans? Why, why do they like it if the polls aren't with them?

ROBINSON: Well, the polls are not with them, the voters are not with them, so, so clearly it's not a winning issue. I mean, they can't believe this is, this is a good idea politically. So, I mean, the only thing I can figure out, Rachel, is that's based on a wrong and frankly insane belief that a fertilized egg is a fully formed person and has personhood and that, you know, preventing the implantation of that egg is some-, is murder. I don't, you know, it baffles me as to what other explanation there could be. They can be sincerely mad on this, on this subject, I think, and maybe they are.

"Fully formed person," which is to say, fully human. Which begs the question -- what is meant, either way?

Robinson doesn't limit himself to his belief that a fertilized egg is not fully human. He also believes this of babies born prematurely who die shortly after birth -- as shown by his dismissive criticism of the Santorums' response to the death of their son. Why all the fuss, Robinson wondered aloud. It's not as if this child had been a fully formed person.

Consider, for example, how the Kennedys responded after the death of Ted Kennedy in Hyannisport three years ago. Kennedy's body remained at the compound and a vigil for family and close friends was held there, followed by a public wake and invitation-only funeral, and Kennedy's burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

In other words, the Kennedys reacted much the same as the Santorums to the death of a loved one -- with a private vigil at their home followed by a funeral. Difference being, Ted Kennedy had been a fully formed human being -- all too human, you might say -- while Gabriel Santorum clearly wasn't, not at conception and not even after he was born, at least to Eugene Robinson.

From Robinson's perspective, my wife and I must have been certifiable when we reacted with joy each time she became pregnant. What possible reason could we have for doing so, other than shared delusions, seeing how the alleged human entities in her womb were not fully formed people deserving of rights that liberals like Robinson otherwise demand for the least among us.

Believing that life begins at conception isn't just "insane," Robinson proclaims, but "wrong." How curious that Robinson doesn't set the record straight. After all, if one person's claim that life starts "here" is indisputably false, it should be an exercise in stating the obvious that human life actually begins "there."

Robinson doesn't share this strongly held knowledge with the rest of us. Then again, liberals never do. They'd rather malign those who hold the bizarre belief that human life starts when it begins.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts