combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 04 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2006

War Without Combat

          I wasn't looking forward to this. But it wasn't as if I had any choice in the matter – about this assignment or any other. I would have liked to believe I had some sort of control over my actions, but I had to admit that if I did, I certainly wouldn't be getting up before two hundred and eighty nine new-humans. I really and truly despise presiding over debates – not to mention the accompanying spirited discussions, emotion and controversy. nu-hoos actually believe these events are healthy.

          Good health must have been general because there were a hundred heated conversations in progress in the hall when I walked on stage. But, as soon as someone saw me, there was a smattering of applause followed by complete silence.

          "Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am the moderator of this debate and am therefore, by tradition, a female artificial – in my case, a Sony biolectric. But I would like to extend a very genuine welcome to Heritage Hall. The Jacobi Foundation has been sponsoring debates here since 2051, and we are grateful for its continued support.

          "Tonight ... this debate will resolve the contention:

A fetus has the right to terminate the life of the mother.
"On my left is Ann Lawrence, Yale professor of law, whose book, The Right to Choose, has – intentionally or not – mobilized the evangelical Christian right. Ms Lawrence argues that fetal right of choice is absolute – even before the third trimester.

          "On my right is Saul Davidson, editor-in-chief of Scientific American, who has recently come out with a book of his own – The Right to Life. Mister Davidson is a radical and unapologetic activist, and it is his belief that the life of the mother is absolute, and should forever remain beyond fetal power – even the life of a maternal addict. In short, the common ground here is very small."

          There was sprinkled laughter in the hall.

          "At the conclusion of tonight's debate, you may vote in the affirmative by exiting the door to the right of Ms Lawrence –"

          "Nothing's to the right of Ms Lawrence," muttered editor-in-chief Saul Davidson.

          There was general laughter now. Ann Lawrence, a severe, flat-chested woman, managed a weak smile. Laugh it up, nu-hoo.

          "And you may vote against the resolution by exiting the door to Mister Davidson's left –"

          "Which would be quite a trick, since everything on earth is to Mister Davidson's right."

          I continued imperturbably, even though I was inwardly cringing at these nu-hoo antics. But this time hardly anyone laughed. No academic audience in the world would ever take Ms Lawrence's side.

          "Ladies and gentlemen, you have certainly noticed by now that everyone in attendance tonight is twenty five years of age or younger. Consequently, everyone in this hall has received in utero hippocampus irrigation and gentech enrichment – mandated by Federal Law since 2066 in the National Water Act. Moreover, there is an odd number of new-humans in this hall – 289 – so a tie vote is impossible, since I, as an artificial, have no dog in this fight.

          "Ann Lawrence won the toss and has elected to begin. Ms Lawrence ...."

          "Good evening. And thank you, moderator. The whole of tonight's audience including my opponent, Mister Davidson, is young enough to have been raised by a mother of half his intellectual depth – less than half. The molecular distance between the new-human genome and the human can now be precisely calculated. It has been determined to be wider than that between a human being and an ape. And, as best as we can measure, a fetal new-human is – in every way but life-experience – vastly superior intellectually to its human mother. This is not speculation. A new-human fetus can now clearly communicate with us sonically. This is a fact. It therefore, as a being that not only thinks but communicates its thoughts, has a right to choose, a right to determine its own destiny. This right of choice includes its natural claim to a new-woman volunteer to carry it to term – just as a human being has a right to be raised by other humans and not by Orangutans. Furthermore, a new-human fetus has a natural right to grow up free from the emotional and legal harassment inflicted by its merely human mother. We must therefore conclude the fetal right to terminate is absolute."

          Despite its, by in large, liberal world view, it was very clear to me that the entire audience in Heritage Hall was deeply moved by Ms Lawrence's description of nu-hoo childhood, since everyone present had had to endure the rough mishandling of a human mother.

          So I let a moment pass before I spoke again.

          "Mister Saul Davidson will now give his opening statement."

          Saul smiled broadly. I have to admit that Saul was, and is, an immensely attractive figure – in stark contrast to his opponent. The New York Times had once described him perfectly: Michael Angelo's Davidson. Women, new-human or no – I knew from personal experience – literally rolled over for the man.

          "Thank you, moderator, and good evening, everybody. Let me first begin by conceding Professor Lawrence's point – that we new-humans can think rings around our human parents. This I freely admit – and this I must – such are the facts. But does it follow that we have the right to kill them at our convenience? And if we are indeed superior intellectually, how can we legitimately claim our birthright unless we are morally superior as well? And whatever morality means, it clearly doesn't mean slaughtering defenseless mothers – of making war on the born as Ms Lawrence would have us do –"

          Ms Lawrence – before I could stop her – interrupted here with some animosity.

          "They didn't choose to be born, but they did choose to become mothers –"

          "Did they really choose, Ann? Anymore than you chose two months ago –"

          "That's not fair."

          "All's fair in –"


          Professor Lawrence suddenly cried out in such a strangled and tortured voice that not another sound could be heard in the entire hall. I didn't know what to think. She fell to her knees and reached toward her opponent.

          "Saul ... Saul, it's killing me. Help me to your door. I want to change my vote."

          The editor-in-chief of Scientific American ran to his opponent's side.

          "It's killing you. Even if there is an it, it's only eight weeks old."

          "There is an it, Saul. I knew it at the time. I knew it that night! It can hear us now, Saul, hear every word. I want to change my vote. Help me to your door!"

          "Forget the vote, Ann. You need immediate medical attention."

          "I can't breathe. There is no time."

          Saul Davidson, editor-in-chief, tried his best to help his opponent-and-lover to his door – I didn't feel, as a noncombatant, that it was my place to assist – but, no matter, Ms Lawrence was terminated before she could take another step. In the stunned silence that followed it was plain to all present that Davidson, the carefree and reckless rake, had fallen very hard for Professor Lawrence and was devastated by her death. Nevertheless, as a new-human he could still function rationally. They all take such pride in that.

          "After only eight weeks, just eight short weeks, and it can commit murder – simply by rerouting the body's oxygen. It's new-humanity ... this night ... is conclusively proven."

          I reacted involuntarily.

          "How does murder make it new-human?"

          One day, one clear day of my life, I swear I shall choose to do something voluntarily – or even just not to do something involuntarily.

          "You use the word yourself, moderator, and you should. Because we are holding it accountable, we have affirmed its new-humanity. Animals are not accountable."

          Saul Davidson knelt beside his lifeless opponent and whispered softly: "You were right, my darling. Our little one, our very little one, has the right to choose, even the right to choose wrongly."

          God in heaven! ... with a whole world of women from which to choose, he chose her. New-men are incomprehensible. Saul Davidson rose in a pitiful daze to stagger through Ann Lawrence's door. And, in so doing, he took whatever feelings I once had for him with him. The debate was ended as well – although the audience still wanted to vote.

          But there was some confusion over the count since paramedics arrived just as the hall was emptying. The vote was eventually totaled accurately – soon after the Lawrence-Davidson fetus could be relocated to an artificial womb.

          It was a tie.

          Critics from the left objected to Professor Lawrence's vote not being counted, but in the end, conceded that ballots had not been cast by the dead since the early twentieth century in Chicago.

          But critics from the right urged that the Lawrence-Davidson fetus was very much alive and, by its action, had voted – and thus its decision should also be included in the final tally. But I ruled – and rightly, I think – that by prearrangement, the votes were to be counted by passing through a door – not by being passed through one. But I confess that I took some pleasure by invoking this technicality. The constitution guarantees the fetal right to vote, yes, but not the fetal right to sabotage a vote.

          When interviewed three days later, the Lawrence-Davidson fetus indicated that voting for or against the resolution was never its intention. Nor did it wish to claim some new-fetal right to terminate a new-human mother. It simply wished to be nursed by a caregiver with more attractive breasts. And did anyone have a problem with that?

          Nu-hoos, by a huge majority, found the rationale of the fetus morally reprehensible while at the same time conceding that it had – by way of the high court's ruling only the day before – a perfect legal right to end the life of the mother. The local district attorney announced that no charges would be brought, even though the termination preceded this ruling – and that, in any case, the state should not interfere. But, predictably enough, no maternal volunteers – nu-hoo or artificial – applied to carry the Lawrence-Davidson fetus to term.

          The very next day, any expectant nu-hoo who had so much as sighed while beholding her image in a mirror sought immediate cosmetic surgery – with demand pushing the price far beyond human reach. But every pregnant woman in the Western Republic, attractive or plain, was anxiously watched over. And indeed there were a few score terminations – however, each one was performed only to save the life of the unborn. But just as everyone was more or less convinced the Lawrence-Davidson fetus was anomalous, judgment came like a flaming sword. Women, nu and hu alike, were suffocated without quarter on the most frivolous pretexts. Even The Right to Choose crowd was taken aback when a nurse was aborted while assisting in a womb transfer.

          During all this, the Right to Lifers were hardly idle. From a distance of the requisite hundred yards, they screamed appeals to the unborn, describing the horrors of termination. But this strategy proved provocative, for women died in even greater numbers than before. Desperate now, some Pro-Life women actually attacked the physicians performing the transfers – claiming these sent the wrong message.

          The psychological toll from all this was immense, as a cherished enemy grew more audacious – killing just for convenience alone. But enough was enough. Public opinion was at last mobilized when the Pope herself – unaware of her own pregnancy – was terminated while celebrating Easter mass.

          It became very clear the Pro-Life community was winning the propaganda war when banners appeared overnight on every rooftop:

But how, I wondered, could this be combat? After all, where is the combat in sheer slaughter?

          The Pro-Choice community quickly rallied however when it was revealed that some extremists in the opposition were actually drinking bootleg bottled water. Saul, the convert, made the most of this outrage, and public opinion for a time swung back his way.

          It was during this interval that Saul, several times, sought me out. I did my best to help him mend his broken heart, even though he had broken mine. So I let it be his idea to take our association to the next level. Our plans were well underway when he – without saying a word – indicated how pleased he would be if I would consent to carry little Ann.

          Well, sure. Yeah. After you, nu-hoo.


The author thanks Meg Upchurch, Henry Heatherly, and M.J. Doma for their invaluable suggestions.

by David Choate
... who is a professor of mathematics with no combat experience outside of the classroom or beyond the halls of academe. His poetry ("Easter Island", "Ode to an Academic", "Song of Sums") has been published in Amelia and Defenestration; his science fiction ("The Kid Catcher", "There Came Forth She Bears") in Starwind and Space & Time; and his "Christianity and Cannibalism", a philosophical essay, in Sophia. Some of his other fine works have previously appeared in this literary magazine.

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