“What do you mean, so?” You can’t go around wantonly killing people, Frazier,” Butcher complained, dropping to what he assumed was the irreducible minimum of agreement.
“Ancona’s not a person,” the intelligence operative replied coldly.
“Come on, Bat,” Butcher retorted. “He’s a human being!”
“That’s not the same thing,” Masterson intoned even more icily, slowly shaking his head from side to side in disbelief at Butcher’s naivete.
“Who says there’s a difference?” Butcher challenged him.
“The Supreme Court—Harry Blackmun—Roe versus Wade,” Masterson responded with the confidence of a grand master announcing a checkmate.
Just as Masterson had anticipated, invocation of Roe intimidated Butcher into silence. Why not? All of American society genuflected in awe, or cursed in frustration, at the mention of that momentous decision. Nevertheless, any three-hundred-dollar-an-hour Establishment attorney could have explained to the Treasury Secretary how Masterson was extrapolating the sound premise that an unborn child was not a legal “person” to the so-far-unprecedented conclusion that other biologically human beings could also be denied personhood. Not that legal logic was unable to travel from Blackmun’s starting point to Masterson’s terminus. Only that, for practical political reasons, the Establishment was not yet ready to expand Roe’s holding so far.
Nonetheless, being slightly ahead of his time did not make Masterson wrong—and he knew it. “Roe versus Wade stripped mere biological human beings of all rights,” he explained triumphantly to Butcher, “because if an individual can be killed for someone else’s convenience, he can’t assert any rights. To have rights, an individual has to be more than scientifically a human being. His factual human nature isn’t good enough any longer. He has to have a special political status, too. He has to be a person—whatever that means, or can be made to mean. So, in Roe, Harry Blackmun overruled the Declaration of Independence: All human beings aren’t naturally equal; and none have unalienable rights!” Masterson exulted. He had always despised natural law.
“What’s the difference between a human being and a person?” Stillwell asked, a mixture of perplexity and anxiety creeping onto his countenance, as if his subconscious mind had some peculiarly personal and troubling need to know.
“Basically, the faculty of choice and reason,” Masterson responded immediately, having thought through that question beforehand. “If an individual can’t choose or can’t think, he may still be biologically human, but he’s no legal person, and therefore has no rights. At the opposite ends of the spectrum of life are self-evident non-persons: unborn children, brainless geriatric patients. Within the spectrum are individuals in a persistent vegetative state: you, for instance, Reginald,” Masterson laughed cynically. Butcher was not amused.
“An even more sophisticated approach,” Masterson continued, “is to gauge personhood by the mental quality of an individual’s life. A human being proves, or disproves, that he exercises good choices and right reason by the nature of what he chooses and how he thinks. It’s not the mere faculty of choice and ability to think that makes someone a person, but his actually making correct choices and thinking proper thoughts.”
“That’s a long leap from Roe,” Butcher suggested.
“Not at all,” Masterson sneered. “Roe held that all human beings aren’t entitled to a right to life; only persons, as the courts—an enforcement arm of the government—define them. Then society decided that even some persons are better off dead, and have a right to suicide or voluntary euthanasia. Then society decided that some people can choose death for others who can’t decide for themselves. Now, society’s in the process of deciding to prescribe death for individuals who ought to die, but who stubbornly, stupidly, and antisocially cling to lives not worth living. Well, ought to die covers a wide area, doesn’t it? Those who ought to die can be injured or diseased in body—but also in mind, in personality, in patterns of thought, in persistent attitudes. If the government can empower a mother to kill her child, a sick man to kill himself, a doctor to kill a patient who can’t speak for himself—and even one who can—if society can rid itself of some worthless superannuated senile Negress who’s eating up too much in costly medical care, why can’t the body politic eliminate troublemakers like Ancona who are even more expensive to keep in line? Why squander scarce resources refuting his lunatic ideas again and again, when one cartridge can shut his trap permanently? The New World Order has no place for too many of the very young, or for any of the very old, the very sick, the very stupid—and especially the incorrigibly rebellious. Too many lives not worth living are the problem. Death’s the answer. Today we have to finesse the public’s squeamishness with euphemisms such as women’s choice and death with dignity. In a few years …”
“That’s all nonsense,” Butcher interjected, his voice betraying his unease, as he tried to attack Masterson’s premise. “The government isn’t empowering women to kill children through abortion—it’s only protecting their choice and their privacy.”
“Choice?! Privacy?!” Masterson guffawed. “What other homicide does the government treat as noncriminal simply because the killers choose to perpetrate them in private? And why do judges deny the father any choice in the matter of the mother’s killing of his own child? What other jointly created property does the government license one of the creators to destroy over the other’s objection? Sorry, Reginald. No theory of the right to life or the right to property—at least as those rights were misunderstood before Harry Blackmun pulled the blinders off the law—ever conceived that one individual could have a natural, unilateral right to kill another, wholly innocent individual on demand. So abortion must be an outright grant of power from the government. And where does the government obtain its authority to grant such a right? From its power to decide who among its biologically human subjects should be sacrificed for society’s greater good—as embodied most instantly in its power to drive its citizens to their deaths in a war.
“Well, we’re in a war now, a war to preserve the environment and our quality of life. We can’t win that war if too many people of the wrong kinds keep being produced. So, the government allows—promotes—abortion to cut the population. And it delegates the authority to kill to the parties whose self-interest works in favor of that policy: mothers for whom pregnancy’s a personal inconvenience, and abortionists for whom terminating pregnancy’s a lucrative business. But if government can delegate the authority to kill, why can’t it assert that authority directly? Why can’t the government order abortions? And, even more to my point, why can’t there be retrospective abortions?”
“How can an abortion be retrospective?” Butcher demanded, his unease with the whole subject becoming ever more apparent.
“Sometimes I wonder whether you have the grey matter to be a policy maker, Reginald,” Masterson groaned. “It’s so obvious: Imagine someone who—because of the poor way his life’s turned out-would’ve been better off being aborted. And society would’ve been better off, too. Why should society suffer for his mother’s negligence? Shouldn’t we simply rid ourselves of individuals whose lives—as measured by their actions or thoughts—prove they shouldn’t have been allowed to live in the first place? That’s retrospective abortion. And it’s even more sensible than aborting unborn children, because prospective abortion winks at the deaths of the occasional gestating Beethoven or Einstein—whereas, with retrospective abortion you know for sure you’re simply disposing of a piece of garbage, not a potential genius.”
Butcher’s eyes betrayed his fear of the self-taught disciple of Nietzsche haranguing him. He could easily imagine Masterson as a Black Crow—a nazi Einzatzgruppe trooper—gunning down Jews, Gypsies, assorted Slavs. Good God!