The “Blessings” of Democracy?; The Rebirth of Manhood

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Thursday, October 11, 2001

The “Blessings” of Democracy?
One of the consequences of the new political openness in former Soviet satellite countries seems to be a new openness to Western views regarding abortion. In Poland, the homeland of Pope John Paul II, the recently elected left-wing alliance has proposed legislation that would liberalize Poland’s abortion laws. Under current law, which took effect in 1997, an abortion may be performed only in cases of rape, “serious danger to the woman’s health” and “irreparable damage to the fetus.” Doctors who perform abortions can face up to two years in prison. The proposed change would greatly expand the conditions under which an abortion would be permitted. Quoting Reuters and other sources, an International Planned Parenthood Federation report quotes Marek Pol, leader of the Labor Union party (UP), one of the two parties in the ruling alliance: “We believe abortions should be allowed when the woman faces hardship.”

It seems likely that, if Polish courts interpret the word, “hardship” as broadly as American courts have interpreted the word “health,” passage of such a law would effectively introduce abortion on demand in Poland. In its Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court said that state abortion laws must allow abortion in cases where the mother’s “health” is at stake. In practice, of course, this has meant that most any excuse will do as long as a woman wants an abortion and can find a willing doctor.

Mr. Pol admitted that passage of the measure would be difficult. The ruling alliance is 10 votes shy of an outright majority, and opposition parties are “generally opposed to abortion on demand.”

The Rebirth of Manhood
It seems that the toy industry was way ahead of the times last year when it created an action figure in the shape of a New York City fireman. Toymaker Fisher-Price began marketing “Rescue Heroes” figures in 1998, and in December of 2000 they created a special edition of the “Billy Blazes” figure-complete with the emblem of the Fire Department of New York on his chest and hat. Toys-R-Us stores are poised to receive some five times their original order of these figures in November of this year-some 100,000.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of marketing such a product, its sudden popularity as the “toy of the season” highlights another phenomenon: The resurgence of the hero in popular culture. In the wake of the horrific events of September 11, Americans watched as firefighters and policemen in New York and ordinary citizens in the World Trade Center and on United Airlines Flight 93, risked-and ultimately sacrificed-their lives to save others. Suddenly, manliness-in the very best sense of the word-became acceptable once again. Likewise the feminist campaign to open up fire fighting and other physically demanding jobs to women became something of a moot point in the face of the physical demands placed on the New York City firefighters.

In an article in the October 3 edition of the Washington Times, writer Cheryl Wetzstein described this sudden trend and noted a shift, particularly in the way men are viewed both by women and by young people. Wetzstein quoted Robert Knight of the Culture and Family Institute, who said that the tragedy of September 11 may have changed for the better young people’s perceptions of what manhood means. “One of the most enduring images from the Oklahoma City bombing was the big masculine fireman holding the wounded body of a tiny child-that photo embodied masculine power put to a right purpose, protecting the weak and protecting a community. The images out of New York are very similar.”

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