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
– 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:
"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.
A fetus has the right to terminate the life of the mother.
"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
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,
"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
"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
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
emotional and legal harassment inflicted by its merely human
mother. We must therefore conclude the fetal right to terminate
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
It became very clear the Pro-Life community was winning
the propaganda war when banners appeared overnight on
But how, I wondered, could this be
combat? After all, where is the combat in sheer
NO COMBAT IN WOMEN
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.