What follows is a transcript of an informal talk that was originally presented over ten years ago to a small group consisting mostly of local pastors, their wives and husbands, and a few friends who were concerned about peace issues at the height of the arms race in the Cold War. The group was mostly "pro-choice" about abortion and included the former director of the Michigan Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. The speaker (me), a local right to life activist, sought to get abortion on the agenda for several months before this talk was prepared. Attendance at this monthly meeting was a little low (about half a dozen people) but I recorded my presentation and had it transcripted. Some notes have been added to explain some material that may not be clear to those not involved with peace issues or due to the passage of time. A brief outline is also included that is primarily intended to permit links to sections of the talk if it is posted on the World Wide Web. The talk was structured in terms familiar to the listeners and my own thinking has changed somewhat in the intervening ten years.
I want to try to get you to change your viewpoints on this issue. And in order to do that, I think I have to make you uncomfortable . . . I have to produce some discomfort in you, okay? How I'm going to direct that from being expressed as anger toward me into a reexamination of your positions I don't know, so I'm simply asking you to do that.
Among the things I threw out of here was a section on how abortion is really a war on women. Rather than try to state that in my own words, I am going to briefly read a quick little column. It's just here to here. This is the Right to Life newspaper of the organization I belong to, and then we'll get into how it's a war on the unborn.
It's called The Women's War. "People today are beginning to realize that a male dominated society's emphasis on violence and domination has gotten us into a lot of trouble. These two contribute mightily to war and the nuclear buildup, to racism and sexism, and to the pollution of an entire planet. But violence and the desire to dominate also figure largely in the tragedy of abortion. Sometimes feminists state that the abortion issue really mirrors a "sexual struggle over the control of procreation." "Who will control it?" they ask. Men or women? Statements like this reveal, however, the very emphasis on violence and domination that real feminists abhor. Like the thinking of the military aggressor, such a mind-set encourages violence as the solution to every problem. It prefers not to know what a suction abortion does to a delicate preborn and would be right at home speaking of acceptable losses rather than human tragedies. Like the thinking of a terrorist, such a mind-set ignores the innocent victims. It would have us believe that liberation depends on violence no matter who gets hurt. It declares that women must engage in a power struggle with men even if 18 million preborn children die.
American women, through abortion, have killed more human beings than American men ever did through war. But have all these deaths changed anything for women? Does abortion teach men anything about respect for women, anything about responsible sex, anything at all about caring and compassion? In their frustration and anger, women are lashing out against their own children, killing them by the millions in what they have been assured is a war for their own freedom. And nothing changes. The women's war, too, is unwinnable."
We're talking here about the bloodiest war in human history. I also left out of this talk a section to try to show why we should be concerned about this because I know some of you still have difficulty equating the loss of the unborn life that's been aborted in early term with losses through combat. I left that out in the interest of time; it's just too long.
I'm going to assume, for purposes of this discussion, that you accept that human life, in a biological sense, at least, begins at conception. I know that's stretching it for some of you, but I'm going to ask you to accept that as something that I consider as a fact, that I believe I can support through arguments based on science. [1996 note - the listeners may have been aware that the speaker also holds a degree in biological science] I will be talking about another issue here which is the value placed on life. That comes under a concept that has often been confused with the concept of life in the biological sense, I think in this whole controversy. And that's a concept called personhood, or we might call it humanity; the value of life.
Last summer, the Greenham Common (site of American nuclear missiles in Britain where many protests have occurred) women came here and spoke to us, and one of the things they spoke about was the importance of being at peace within; the necessity of being at peace within. And I'm going to suggest here that that's not possible if one is tolerant of abortion. Some of you wrote to them. You got replies back. You said the words of peace and you all felt at home doing it. I wrote to them too, and I talked about the relationship between war and abortion and I didn't get a reply back. And I think I know why I didn't. I think you know why I didn't also. I suggest to you tonight that the pro-life movement which is fighting to stop the war on the unborn, is the real peace movement at work in the world, at least in this country, today.
I'm going to start out talking about roots of war that are applicable in the war on the unborn. There are two major ones and I'm going to talk about three techniques that are used in that war; in justifying it. The first is perceived advantage. Somebody has to have a perceived advantage to go to war. There's got to be something in it for them.
The second is justification for the use of power to achieve that perceived advantage. You've got to be able to justify being impolite as it were, and using force. And then there are three techniques I'm going to talk about that justify that. The first technique in the justification of killing to achieve the goal is by denial of personhood, which I spoke about earlier. Deny the humanity of the victims. The second is the strawman or scapegoat technique. You set up an easy target for the people to vent their hatred against. And the last is a substitution of acceptable causes for what I would call the true, selfish, underlying causes in many cases, which don't come off as being as noble and palatable when they're spoken of openly. Some of the causes I'll be talking about are spoken of openly but we usually find other things that are much more noble spoken of up front.
The perceived advantages that I see in going to war against the unborn, first of all, are population control. It is believed that population control is absolutely necessary to save the world from disaster. Now whether you agree with that or not, and there are people who don't (and I'm not prepared to argue the case one way or the other), it is a given for those who would justify abortion, in many of them, at least. And I know that I have to generalize in this a lot. And I also don't want to water down what I have to say in order to make all the caveats for not stepping on everybody's toes who might be more sensitive about one thing or another. But I think a lot of people who would justify abortion are very concerned about population problems.
The second perceived advantage is that the poor must have fewer children to escape the so-called cycle of poverty and relieve taxpayers of the welfare burden. That's another advantage of going to war against the unborn.
The third, is that it is necessary for women to have control over their reproductive powers in order to achieve power in other areas. This is a feminist approach to the problem. I would suggest that all of these perceived advantages are actually perceived by the privileged, not so much as advantages for the women who have abortions, but as advantages for the privileged who want others to have those abortions for their own reasons.
I almost hesitate to mention this last one, but the fact that there are an enormously disproportionate number of black children destroyed by abortion, I think meets an unspoken objective of certain others who support the cause of abortion. And that is, that abortion is America's Final Solution for the Negro Problem. There are certain ethnic groups that some people want to limit in terms of their population.
The second route that I talked about was the justification for the use of power to achieve the goal. Falling into this category are things like "the people who need abortions can't or won't do it themselves." We're talking about people in the Third World; we're talking about teenagers who might be in restrictive family situations - things like that. And there is also a need to use power to overcome certain obstacles that are seen as standing in the way of ready access to abortion, like restrictive laws and religious convictions.
Now for the techniques. I mentioned that justification for killing to achieve the goal was achieved by denying the humanity of the victims or their personhood, to use another term. It fits better, I think, to use as a substitute. I looked up the word "person" to get a dictionary definition. The definitions they gave, about 6 that were pertinent here, were "a human being." I think an unborn child is a human being. It's a being; there is certainly something there; it's alive. It's certainly human; it's not any other form of life. Now you can argue that to a certain extent. The next couple of definitions deal with the body in one aspect or another and there is definitely a body there. But the two definitions that we are concerned about here are the fifth and sixth definitions in this particular dictionary. Definition 5 - a person was someone entitled to social recognition or respect, and definition 6, under law, was a human being, a group of human beings, a corporation, an estate or other legal entity recognized by law as having rights and duties. I think it's under these two definitions that we've had our problems with personhood for the unborn.
The denial of personhood has a logic of its own in a lot of cases. It usually proceeds from "they are not like us, therefore they are less than us, therefore they are not fully human." It's been the justification for most of the wars, crimes and atrocities of history. It's the essence of racism, and it's the foundation stone of colonialism.
If you can deny personhood, you can do anything to your target. You can turn the residents of the Holy Land into the infidel to possess their land. You can turn the inhabitants of the United States or what was the American plains, who stood in the way of the realization of this nation's Manifest Destiny, into the savages and annihilate them. You can turn the Jews into a threat to the purity of the master race and march them into gas chambers and ovens. You can turn the unborn children of the nation into so much mere protoplasm so you can destroy them at will. And if it ever comes to that, it will be the denial of personhood that will launch the nuclear missiles. The last act before the first missile flies will be a denial of personhood.
How was the personhood of the unborn denied? Personhood itself is a religious or philosophical concept, not a scientific concept. Life is a biological phenomenon. Its presence or absence is determined by objective scientific facts. Those who assert otherwise, that it is a theological concept, have a lot to learn from history. They've probably got Galileo turning over in his grave. No physician has ever used a soul detector to determine if anyone were dead or alive. Biological, scientific criteria have always been the only ones used.
The religious concept of personhood is the means by which we place a value on life, born or unborn, whether it's a single cell or all these cells (indicating self); any of us. My basic premise then, where we could really argue, something that's not objectively provable, is this, and it is a premise based on religious values. I'm conceding an important point here, I suppose. I express this a couple of ways.
First, like this: human rights begin with human life. All else follows from this. If you believe that, if you accept it, that human life begins at conception, then a right to life exists. And it's a fundamental right; it's the first of all rights.
Let me put it differently. Maybe this will show you just how religious this premise is. I'm going to call it something else. I'm going to call it the ethic of sanctity of life. It is one of the foundation stones of western civilization, of Judeo-Christian values. It is public morality, to use a phrase I've seen in some publications. The sanctity of life ethic was officially abandoned by the U.S. Supreme Court with respect to life before birth in 1973 when it established as the state religious viewpoint, that life having value, that is, personhood, or to use Justice Blackmun's chilling phrase, "meaningful life," began at so-called viability. Having reached its religious conclusion, the court then withdrew the protection previously afforded by the states to the meaningless life.
The Supreme Court refused to rule on when life begins; they claimed that no consensus in theology or science existed and therefore they couldn't decide the question. The claims are nonsensical in my opinion. But they didn't stop the Supreme Court, based on the claim that it couldn't decide, from inventing a right to kill based on a right to privacy. Privacy, by the way, is a word not found in the Constitution. The Court found this right in what it called a penumbra of rights granted by the 14th Amendment. Penumbra is a word describing a part of a shadow and I think it's entirely appropriate, incredibly appropriate the Supreme Court found the right to abortion in darkness.
The 14th Amendment was enacted to protect the rights of the powerless, the newly freed blacks, the former slaves. The discovery of this right by the Supreme Court blasphemed this amendment. It was an incredible act of cynicism and lawlessness. I want to read here some of Justice White's dissent from the abortion decisions. Unfortunately, I didn't mark out which parts to read but as it's short enough, I can read most of it.
"Mr. Justice White with whom Mr. Justice Rehnquist joins in dissent: At the heart of the controversy in these cases are those recurrent pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons: convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that for any one of such reasons or for no reason at all, and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to find a medical advisor willing to undertake the procedure.
The Court for the most part, sustains this position: During the period prior to the time the fetus becomes viable, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus; the Constitution, therefore, guarantees the right to an abortion as against any state law or policy seeking to protect the fetus from an abortion not prompted by more compelling reasons of the mother.
With all due respect, I dissent. I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgement. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 states are constitutionally disentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but in my view, its judgement is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court." I could continue with this but I think you've got the idea.
The fabrication of the right to abortion in spite of the inability to decide when life begins; an inability, in my opinion at least, which the Court feigned, violated the most fundamental concept of American law. It violated the principle of the presumption of innocence. Henceforth, the unborn could be treated as though guilty of being nonpersons, a presumption of nonpersonhood.
If the Supreme Court had been able to decide definitively that life began at conception, as all the pertinent scientific evidence indicated, personhood would have been difficult to deny. Yet, nonpersonhood was presumed and established as the national religious doctrine, in spite of far more than reasonable doubt about the existence of life. This approach was totally devoid of morality of any kind, public or private. [1996 note - literature of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights makes much of the distinction between public and private morality]
The decision further violated a companion principle of American law which is best expressed in a precept that goes something like this: It is better to allow a hundred guilty men to go free than to unjustly punish one innocent man. The modern day Herods behind this abortion business have reversed this. Just as Herod slew the children of Bethlehem to assure killing the infant Jesus, the precept today has been changed. It now goes: it is better to slay a hundred normal, healthy, innocent unborn children than to allow even one deformed, burdensome and also innocent unborn child to live. That is, to guarantee the right to abortion for the so-called difficult cases, the right to abortion must be allowed for virtually any reason. The Supreme Court exceeded its authority in the abortion cases and legislated. And there's no check or balance on it when it does something like this. It's done it once or twice before in history with disastrous results as well. The power elite of the judiciary have been responsible for all of the victories of the pro-abortion forces, even though state legislatures that liberalized abortion laws have since been chastened by the will of the people and would now restrict abortion if the courts would permit it. But the denial of personhood persists despite the expressed will of the people. That's technique number one.
We'll move on to technique number two which is setting up a strawman. I want to compare the way this was done against the unborn to the way the Reagan administration is operating in the eyes of many of you. The Reagan administration sets up a strawman to attack in Central America and elsewhere. It targets the Communists from Cuba, Russia, wherever - outsiders are fomenting unrest in Nicaragua. The purity of the revolution is tainted. It's under foreign control. The validity of the revolution is therefore denied. There's no real just cause. It's being agitated from outside. This technique avoids acknowledging the true will of the people in that nation and other nations. Likewise, the abortion warriors - I'm talking about organizations like NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League and NOW, National Organization for Women - particularly NARAL (and I'm going to show the documentation for this in a minute) set up a strawman to attack on abortion. They selected the Catholic clergy as their target. I'm going to read you a section from Dr. Bernard Nathanson's book from when he was a member of the National Abortion Rights Action League, one of the founding members, I believe. He's talking about a meeting between himself and one Larry Lader many years ago, back in the late '60s. Larry's talking. ""Historically," he said, after the usual throat-clearing ceremony, "every revolution has to have its villain. It doesn't really matter whether it's a king, a dictator or a tsar, but it has to be someone, a person to rebel against. It's easier for the people we want to persuade to perceive it this way." I conceded that. It was good tactical strategy. "Now,"" Larry's continuing, ""in our case it makes little sense to lead a campaign only against unjust laws, even though that's what we are really doing. We have to narrow the focus, identify those unjust laws with a person or group of people. A single person isn't quite what we want, since that might excite sympathy for him. Rather, a small group of shadowy, powerful people. Too large a group would diffuse the focus, don't you see?" I nodded. Where was he going?" Continuing, ""There's always been one group of people in this country associated with reactionary politics, behind-the-scenes manipulations, socially backward ideas. You know who I mean, Bernie?" Not the Catholics again? "Well, yes and no." Throat clearing again. A heavy thought coming. And I wasn't wrong. It was his devil theory. "Not just all Catholics. First of all, that's too large a group, and for us to vilify them all would diffuse our focus. Secondly, we have to convince liberal Catholics to join us, a popular front, as it were, and if we tar them all with the same brush, we'll just antagonize a few who might otherwise have joined us and be valuable showcases for us. No, it's got to be the Catholic hierarchy. That's a small enough group to come down on, and anonymous enough so that no names ever have to be mentioned, but everybody will have a fairly good idea of whom we are talking about." His syntax was as careful and as surgical as his daily shave. It was irrefutable. The only thing that was a little jarring, even to my untutored mind, was that the original 19th century laws, New York and elsewhere, had been placed on the books mostly by doctors when there were few Catholics around. I raised that question, hesitantly. "Bernie, we're talking politics now. Watch and see how respectful of facts the opposition will be once our campaign gets going. Just listen to the opposition."" And I'm going to skip a paragraph.
"For their part, of course, the Catholic bishops were to play right into our hands, by their heavy-handed politicking, making abortion appear to be a purely "Catholic issue" rather than an interreligious one. They also weakened the credibility of the anti-abortion forces because of their unflinching opposition to the major alternatives to abortion: artificial birth control and voluntary sterilization."
This was a man (Nathanson) who operated the largest abortion clinic in the western world for about 18 months. He later said that he came to the realization that he had presided over the deaths of 60 thousand human beings. The man is an atheist, he's an obstetrician; he was one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League. He is also the narrator of the film you may have heard about - Silent Scream. [1996 note - it's my understanding that Nathanson has since become a Catholic! I believe his book describing his conversion is called "The Hand of God".]
So NARAL set up the Catholic clergy. The approach that they wanted was to have people see. . . What they wanted to have people believe was clear. And as the controversy heated up, it became clearer and clearer. The participation of the Catholic clergy in the controversy in the first place was a violation of separation of church and state. These people were masquerading as American citizens when in fact, they owed their true allegiance to a foreign prince in Rome. Opposition to abortion was not a legitimate American viewpoint but an expression of a foreign doctrine, or, to use a favorite phrase, a particular religious viewpoint. And I'm comparing this, of course, with the Reagan administration's pointing to communism in other parts of the world.
The campaign to identify abortion as a Catholic issue saw the eager cooperation of the mass media which hate the Catholic Church. Many of you may not remember it, but I remember the gratuitous identification of Catholics on this issue at every opportunity. For example, Joe Califano, Carter's HEW Secretary. If he said anything about abortion it read: "Joe Califano, HEW Secretary, said so and so - Califano, comma, a Catholic, comma, continued etc. etc." This went on for years. No other minority in this country could be similarly abused. And the people who were abusing them would never have gotten away with it. If you'll imagine for just a minute what would happen if Dan Rather got on the evening news and every time Carl Levin said something about arms sales to Israel, he identified him as a Jew. Rather would be walking the streets looking for a job the next day, I guarantee you. The church fell into the trap as Nathanson has told us, but it did one thing its opponents didn't count on. It persevered in spite of the most vicious, disgraceful abuse every aired in public debate and it finally succeeded in awakening the nation's conscience and bringing new allies into the battle.
With the Big Lie exposed, NARAL countered with a switch of strawmen, accomplished with Orwellian mastery. Suddenly, the enemy was the New Right. Just to show you what I mean, I'm gonna read you a little bit of Orwell. 1984 -
"There was, of course, no admission" (portion skipped) "at just this moment it had been announced that Oceana (that's the country that the protagonist here is living in) was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally." (Eurasia was the country they had been fighting just a minute before). "There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia, was the enemy. Winston was taking part in a demonstration in one of the central London squares at the moment when it happened. It was night, and the white faces and scarlet banners were luridly floodlit. The square was packed with several thousand people, including a block of about a thousand school children in the uniform of the Spies. On a scarlet-draped platform an orator of the Inner Party, a small lean man with disproportionately long arms and a large bald skull, over which a few lank locks straggled was haranguing the crowd. A little Rumpelstiltskin figure, contorted with hatred, he gripped the neck of the microphone with one hand while the other, enormous at the end of a bony arm, clawed the air menacingly above his head. His voice, made metallic by the amplifiers, boomed forth in an endless catalogue of atrocities, massacres, deportations, lootings, rapings, torture of prisoners, bombing of civilians, lying propaganda, unjust aggressions, broken treaties. It was almost impossible to listen to him without being first convinced and then maddened. At every few moments the fury of the crowd boiled over and the voice of the speaker was drowned by a wild beastlike roaring that rose uncontrollably from thousands of throats. The most savage yells of all came from the schoolchildren. The speech had been proceeding for perhaps 20 minutes when a messenger hurried onto the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker's hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceana was at war with Eastasia! The next moment there was a tremendous commotion. The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong! Quite half of them had the wrong faces on them. It was sabotage! The agents of Goldstein has been at work! There was a riotous interlude while the posters were ripped from the walls, banners torn to shreds and trampled underfoot. The Spies performed prodigies of activity in clambering over the rooftops and cutting the streamers that fluttered from the chimneys. But within 2 or 3 minutes it was all over. The orator, still gripping the neck of the microphone, his shoulders hunched forward, his free hand clawing at the air, had gone straight on with his speech. One minute more, and the feral roars of rage were again bursting from the crowd. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed."
This technique of strawman, of scapegoat, has been used many times. The Nazis used it against the Jews, the right wing uses it today, you might say against the freedom movements in the third world. And I have this to say, and please listen carefully to this comment. To the extent that the American people bought the lie that opposition to abortion was a matter of Catholic theology being imposed on the nation, and to the extent that they embraced abortion as a bigoted reaction to save America from popery, I am reminded of a comment of an American military officer speaking of a Vietnamese city devastated by battle: "We had to destroy it in order to save it." [1996 note - talk about cutting one's nose to spite one's face! My only other experience reminiscent of the scene read from *1984* was the media tripping over themselves to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of history when the Sino-Soviet split occurred and Communism was suddenly no longer monolithic.]
Let's make no mistake about it; we are destroying America. We have permitted a giant crack in the foundation stone, the ethic of sanctity of life, and that crack is spreading. We are witnessing the acceptance of a new ethic that is replacing the ethic of the sanctity of life. And it is being applied well beyond the scope of life before birth. It is being promoted in countless ways all around us. How often have you heard the phrase, "quality of life"? It's going around like crazy these days. But its implied meaning is that there is life lacking quality, that there is life not of value, that there is life not worthy to be lived. You may have seen the commercial with the old man who says to his wife, "I don't want to be a burden to you." Do you see that? It's incredible. It's a terrible thing to be a burden to someone else. It's irresponsible of someone to let themselves be a burden to someone else. These examples are subtle but the message is getting through. It's not allowed to be inconvenient. This new ethic is not really new at all. It is known as the utility of life ethic. The last time the sanctity of life ethic was abandoned in favor of the utility of life ethic it also started gradually. The nation that made the substitution also believed that it could limit the application of the new ethic to situations where it seemed rational and even compassionate to do so. They had good reason to believe this. They were the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation in the world. They were even a Christian nation like us. But a curious thing happened. They found that they could not tell where the crack in the foundation stone ended and solid stone began. They only found that they could not stop the crack from spreading. And so finally, the whole edifice of their civilization came crashing down and destroyed them.
We are not immune to what happened in Germany. We are entering into a new era, an era in which it will be possible to do incredible things with life. And we are entering it with our sanctity of life ethic seriously damaged. We are in very deep, deep trouble and we don't even know it. We have already lost 18 million of our children and we long ago reached the point where we routinely permit the deliberate starvation of newborns with correctable defects. I suggest to you that the moral and spiritual quality of life in America have been devastated by tolerating abortion, the crack in the foundation stone. That was the end of technique number two which was the substitute strawman. I carried it a little further than that.
Now, I want to talk about substituting of acceptable causes for true underlying causes. The true cause, as I indicated at the outset early on, for the war on the unborn, is the perceived advantages for the privileged by making war on the unborn. The acceptable causes by which this war is promoted are individual rights, reproductive freedom (an incredible euphemism), religious freedom, freedom to control one's own body, freedom to determine one's own destiny and so on.
Where do we see a parallel to this? Back to the Reagan administration in Central America. In Nicaragua and elsewhere we see the American right expressing an overwhelming concern for the rights of individuals in Nicaragua and third world countries all over the world. And it ignores, in doing this, the practical effect that it is advantageous to the privileged and works against the weak and landless. Their poverty is not an issue for the right. NARAL and NOW show us an overriding concern for the rights of women to the total exclusion of the rights of the weak and powerless unborn child. Their humanity and rights are not an issue. We see the Reagan administration ignoring the will of the people for a collective system of shared scarcity but in which all may live. And we see NARAL and NOW ignoring the will of the people for shared suffering to protect life. That is, permitting more children to be born but to be less materially well off rather than allowing abortion.
We need political solutions for international differences and social solutions for unwanted pregnancies. Instead, we see the Reagan administration use military posture to achieve preferred political solutions - violence and threats of violence. We see NARAL and NOW use the violence of abortion as a social solution directly. They go a step beyond the Reagan administration. And the real effect of this approach is to avoid the necessary social solutions altogether.
The object of most abortions as practiced today (I'm getting into some of the most significant parallels between war and abortion at this point, so I hope this isn't lost on you) is to prevent the appearance of the child at birth. That is, to prevent its entitlement to the rights of citizenship which are conferred by birth. It's a matter of acting before it has a legal defense. Abortion is hardly ever, as Justice White showed us, a matter of stopping pregnancy because of medical difficulties. The reason most women want to stop a pregnancy has nothing to do with the pregnancy being difficult. It has to do with the expected birth of a child; an undesirable event for one reason or another. Or with concealing the evidence of prior events . . . the child being the evidence.
Nathanson defined abortion as separating the child from its mother with no implied right to kill it. But the reasons we commit abortion in this country make killing of the first importance. That's the primary objective. In this, abortion is the most reprehensible of acts of war. It is a first strike. Naked aggression. It is killing before the enemy can hurt you, before they have a defense. For nations, this means militarily, before the enemy can marshall its forces. For the unborn, it means killing before they have the legal defense of citizenship. [1996 note - Nowhere is this clearer than in partial-birth abortion where the child is constrained to remain within the birth canal in order to deny its legal status as a person]
Killing, whether by war (defined as mutual killing) or abortion to prevent war is still an act of war. I've heard abortion described as a means of relieving overpopulation, starvation and so forth, and therefore as a means of preventing war. But that's only if you think of war as an act of mutual killing. Killing is still an act of war. And abortion is a first strike act of war. Or,to borrow another metaphor from the military, it is a (quite literally) surgical first strike act of war - a pre-emptive strike. And it's both counterforce and countervalue. Counterforce in the sense I've just indicated because it's to deny the defense of the enemy (counterforce first strikes being directed against the opponent's nuclear deterrent missile forces) - and also going beyond countervalue in that it trades the value of one life for values that are usually less than life (countervalue is the military strategist's term for population exchanges in nuclear warfare -lives for lives). Perhaps we should call abortion a sub-value first strike.
You have heard of NATO's flexible response doctrine which includes the first use of nuclear weapons if conventional forces fail to stop a Warsaw Pact attack. The way we practice abortion in our country is also "first use" because it is an immediate resort to killing innocents with a weapon that cannot avoid killing innocents and, unlike nuclear weapons, is actually intended to do so. Abortion, therefore, goes beyond the first use of nuclear weapons envisioned by military strategists.
I have also heard objections to the military's concept of collateral damage. That is, the unintended destruction of civilian populations that happen to be near military installations that might be targeted by nuclear weapons. These are considered unfortunate but unavoidable losses under this concept. When we justify unrestricted abortion in order to assure permitting abortion for the so-called hard cases, that is, in order to assure wiping out the presumably legitimate targets, we turn those unborn children who are aborted for less than compelling reasons into so much collateral damage. [1996 note - Abortion is the only situation where the collateral damage is nearly total given the number of "hard cases". Imagine the outcry if the military attempted to justify targeting that had such results!]
Now before someone misinterprets what I'm saying here, I am not suggesting that contraceptives should be outlawed. I'm just making what I think is an interesting analogy in this also.
Contraception is the Star Wars of the abortion warriors. [1996 note - Star Wars (or High Frontier) was the proposed anti-missile defense which was quite unpopular with those listening to this talk] It is a technological panacea. It is trust in technology to protect us and allow us to have our own way rather than bearing, in the case of the nation, the political discomfort of reaching an accommodation with a distasteful political and economic system or, in the case of all of us as individuals, bearing the personal discomfort of controlling sexual behavior.
Contraception for minors is like giving nuclear weapons to Third World nations so they can play the deterrence game. It is a matter of playing with fire while hoping to prevent the consequences. And if it fails, we go to war . . . we commit abortion.
I'm going to stretch this one step further. Even the mature, responsible, big powers, (I'm talking about married people as the analogy here) shouldn't put complete faith in this sort of protection. Because if there's one thing I found out in reading about this, there is no 100% effective method and it's bound to fail. So the only recourse is to violence if one will not accept unwanted children. Enough about contraception.
The first principle of the Just War Theory and the basis of the Catholic bishops' opposition to nuclear weapons was the principle of immunity of noncombatants - innocent civilians. They cannot be harmed. They condemned use of nuclear weapons because you can't avoid that with nuclear weapons; civilian deaths. This principle is always violated in the war on the unborn. [1996 note - This principle is also known as discrimination. It prohibits directly intended attacks on non-combatants and non-military targets] [1996 note - I did not include in this talk most of the other Just War criteria and am not sure if I was aware of all of them at the time. Some others are also clearly violated by abortion in all or most cases. These include the requirements for Just Cause and Last Resort since killing of the unborn is typically done for less than compelling reasons. Much the same could be said for the requirements for Comparative Justice and Right Intention. Comparative Justice states that wars should only be fought when the rights and values involved are so great that they justify killing. This is typically not the case with abortion. Right Intention states that wars must only be fought for legitimate intentions and that pursuit of peace and reconciliation must continue during the conflict while avoiding unnecessarily destructive acts or imposing unreasonable conditions. Again, these principles are routinely violated in the war on the unborn. The requirement for Competent Authority states that war must be declared by those with responsibility for public order, not by private groups or individuals. We have trivialized this in abortion by permitting minors and other individuals who are frequently under great stress and often largely or totally ignorant of the nature of the act to make life and death decisions. There is no other situation where such decisions are treated so casually by society (consider military actions, capital punishment, police use of deadly force, etc., all of which are subject to review or appeal). Even the Just War requirement for Probability of Success could be violated by abortion given what we now know about the negative after effects of abortion on women.]
Does abortion violate even the laws of war such as they are? I'd like to read to you from the U.S. Army's field manual on the law of land warfare . You'll never guess where I got this. (The speaker is a civilian engineer with the U.S. Army). Just some selected portions here. [1996 note - I was able to look up the references in the field manual in the Detroit Arsenal library. The Geneva Conventions and Protocols were cited and apparently incorporate some of the Just War principles such as Proportionality as noted below.]
"Persons taking no active part in the hostilities: to this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above mentioned persons. Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture." Consider methods of abortion. I think this is also violated. This law of war. "Refusal of quarter. It is especially forbidden to declare that no quarter will be given." Consider that in light of the fact that we have abortion on demand in this country full term. "What weapons cause unnecessary injury can only be determined in light of the practice of States in refraining from the use of a given weapon because it is believed to have that effect." They're talking about dum dum bullets and that kind of stuff. "Weapons employing fire. Poison. It is especially forbidden to employ poison or poisoned weapons." Consider that in light of the fact of saline abortion, which poisons the unborn child. [1996 note - One could say the same about RU486 and other means of chemical abortion]
"Unnecessary killing and devastation. Particularly in the circumstances referred to in the preceding paragraph, loss of life and damage to property must not be out of proportion to the military advantage to be gained." Here we're talking about killing the viable unborn child, the late-term child. As I spoke of earlier, the objective of abortion as practiced today is to stop that child from living, not from simply separating it from its mother as Nathanson defined abortion. [1996 note - Proportionality is actually violated in nearly every abortion as it is almost never necessary to kill the child to accomplish the desired purpose - unless the abortion is done as a cover-up. Adoption is one of the alternatives.]
"Treatment of inhabitants of invested area." They're talking about sieges here. This is sort of interesting, get this: "The commander of the investing force has the right to forbid all communication and access between the besieged place and the outside. However, Article (such and such) requires that belligerents endeavor to conclude local agreements for the removal from the besieged or encircled areas of wounded, sick, infirm and aged persons, children and maternity cases, and for the passage of ministers of all religions, medical personnel, and medical equipment on their way to such areas. Provision is also made for the passage of consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for the religious worship of civilians and of essential food stuffs, clothing and tonics, intended for children under 15, expectant mothers and maternity cases.
Subject to the foregoing exceptions, there is no rule of law which compels the commander of an investing force to permit noncombatants to leave a beseiged locality." Note that these exceptions did not include all women. I believe, and this is my own interpretation, that this is a provision for the protection of innocent, unborn children as well as children under 15 as mentioned here. The law of war cares for them.
Abortion goes beyond, then, the law of war. It can only be described as an atrocity. Abortion is a savage, cruel, all-out war on the unborn. It's no holds barred. This is a quotation from the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child: "The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth." So it is the consensus of the nations of the world that unborn children deserve legal protection. At least that's what they put in writing.
I tried to find a parallel between the situation of rape and the usual circumstances we think of as war. And it first struck me that there were many possible but inadequate parallels to war as I thought about this. The moral seemed to be that there are many circumstances in life that force us to make unhappy compromises and difficult choices to seek the higher good. But as I thought about it, I came to what I think is a very good parallel. Consider a woman forced to carry a child; forced by a rapist. She faces a choice. She can destroy the child by the additional violence of abortion or endure the emotional and physical hardship of carrying it to term for the higher good of preserving the life of her innocent child. And it is *her* innocent child. Likewise, a nation invaded by an aggressor, rapist nation, faces a choice. It can resist under Just War criteria by the violence of war, or, in order to avoid killing, endure the hardship of bearing the unwanted child of the rapist nation: Its occupation army. This group welcomed the concept of civilian based defense as an alternative to the violence of war, even against a culpable aggressor, yet seems willing to tolerate, at least it seems from what I gather, the violence of abortion committed against the totally innocent, who may have been conceived through rape. [1996 note - Civilian Based Defense is a pacifistic approach which calls for active but non-violent resistance to an aggressor through non-cooperation, even in the face of considerable cost in lives]
To summarize: Abortion is strikingly similar to many of the political and tactical principles of war. In fact it goes beyond many of them in terms of its brutality and inhumanity. This is where I hope you don't throw me out the door for saying this. But what do you think it seems like to me when the same people who scornfully criticize the military strategists for planning and theorizing about concepts and principles of warfare, condone the practice in the here and now of the very same concepts and principles, or worse, against the totally helpless and totally innocent? Now, what do you think this does to the credibility of the peace movement?
I'm going to move on now to a few perceptions (I'm coming close to the end here). I want to talk about Ronald Reagan's popularity. The media seems to be pretty much baffled by it. They've been groping for an explanation. They've described him as the Great Communicator, trying to make him out to be a slick image manipulator. The truth is, I think that the people see him as principled and consistent. And the people recognize this as the media cannot. When Ronald Reagan talks about the Evil Empire, it's from the heart. For to him, a system in which the people serve the state is evil and his pro-life posture is consistent with that in that the state serves the people in protecting the right to life. That's consistent. The assertion that laws restricting abortion constitute government interference in people's private lives, to people like myself, is ludicrous. Because to us, government exists to protect life. If it fails in that, it needs to be changed. What are we to do when government itself breaks the law as the Supreme Court broke the law? The Founders of this nation provided an answer in that passage from the Declaration of Independence containing what Martin Luther King called this nation's creed. I could quote it to you from memory, but basically it says that if a government doesn't protect the fundamental rights (and he names three: life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, life was first), people have the right to alter or abolish it. We're trying to alter it. To restore that right to life. To restore that ethic of sanctity of life.
I'm going to talk briefly about capital punishment, because I hear people criticize conservatives (and I tend to identify more with them than most of you) - people criticize them as being inconsistent in taking an anti-abortion stand and pro-capital punishment stand. The conservative view of capital punishment can view it in a number of ways. As punishment in and of itself. And I suppose it's that. As a deterrent, which I really don't believe it is, but some people think it has that function. And as a way of protecting society from those who have proven unfit for it. It's a way, in a sense, of withdrawing personhood from those people who have proven themselves that way. Their personhood is withdrawn in terms of respect. It's consistent in that sense.
The best argument I've heard against capital punishment is simply that it's not necessary because life imprisonment does all of those things. Protects society, punishes, deters, probably about as much as capital punishment. And it does not, like capital punishment, rule out all hope for positive change, for rehabilitation, for growth, repentance, that kind of thing. Abortion, a form of capital punishment for the totally innocent, likewise rules out all hope for positive change. It prejudges an entire lifetime based on anticipation of difficult circumstances at birth. I have heard the position that I hold in opposing abortion being described as hubris by some people who feel that we don't have the right to decide for other people whether or not they can destroy a life in the womb. To me, it's an act of hubris to prejudge an entire life in that manner, based on anticipation of difficult circumstances at birth.
Even where we permit capital punishment in our society, we require that it be done in a humane fashion. I'd like you to consider that requirement in light of the resistance that we have seen to attempts to require anesthesia for the child to be aborted even in the second trimester when it definitely feels pain. Why would anyone oppose something so humane? The answer, I think, is pretty clear. To acknowledge the capacity to feel pain is to acknowledge the personhood and humanity of the unborn child. It would expose the operating pro-abortion lie. The conservative (and I'm using, of course, the stereotypical models here) says why should we go to the expense of keeping the worst criminals alive for life, for a life imprisonment.
The liberal replies, it's inhumane to kill when not absolutely necessary . . . except for the unborn. It's acceptable to kill them for economic reasons.
And so, I again pose a rhetorical question. Why do we hate our unborn children with such intensity? Why are we willing to withhold or suspend every principle of humane, compassionate, lawful and civilized behavior when it comes to them? Principles routinely applied in dealing with the worst of criminals and enemies that would destroy us. Why do we not give the benefit of the doubt? Why do we not presume personhood? Why do we allow the most excruciatingly painful methods of execution? Why do we permit the execution for any reason or no reason? And the conclusion that I come to in answer to those questions is that the unborn, if unwanted, confront us with an insoluble problem except by the use of violence. They cannot be negotiated with, they cannot be deterred, they cannot be appeased, they cannot be threatened, embargoed, held hostage, imprisoned or in any way stayed from being born except by the violence of abortion. For life cannot be stopped except by death and so we justify this violence to preserve our power.
At the heart of the matter is the issue of control, of power. The feminists maybe are right after all . . . I tried to look at this as a conservative/liberal type of issue and I think that both conservatives and liberals seek control in their own way. I've also heard it described, this preoccupation with power, as a male thought and action pattern. This compelling need to conquer, subjugate, control others. One thing I'm pretty sure it isn't, this need for power, is it is not a Christian preoccupation.
How is our arrogance of power perceived in the Third World? Abortion is a war by proxy, especially in the Third World. Women are pressured into abortion to meet the objectives of the population controllers and business interests (they're needed in the work force) and to some extent the interests of the feminists, those feminists who think of this as necessary for asserting the power of women. In third world liberation movements, the brush fire wars that we hear about all over the world, we have smaller nations at war to meet the objectives of the big powers and multi-national corporations. It's the same principle. It's no accident that America is hated around the world for foisting the disgusting values of a society bent on self-destruction on innocent cultures which still value their children and their own traditions. A lot of these freedom movements call themselves Marxist. Talk about Marxist freedom fighters . . a contradiction in terms for the right. The reason for that is that they are using a different definition of freedom from our own. They're not talking about the personal freedom that we talk about. The personal freedom *to* do things. They think of freedom as a collective freedom *from* exploitation by the few. The liberal population policies being exported by the US and other nations, I believe, are being viewed in the Third World as exploitation by the few. We are teaching abortion. We are teaching human sacrifice. We are causing to sin. And let's not forget the scriptural injunction about that. Jesus said about the man who causes to sin, it would be better for him that he have a millstone hung around his neck and were cast into the sea. He didn't say exactly what would happen to him but it would be better than that. Let's make no mistake about it, abortion is human sacrifice to the idols this society worships: materialism, image, sexual licentiousness and convenience. Now, I'm gonna really get carried away here when I say this . . . what does the Lord say about human sacrifice? Probably you already know, but as I read this passage from Jeremiah (and I recognize that it's Old Testament) consider that the worldwide annual death toll from abortion is estimated at 55 million . . . roughly equivalent to the worldwide death toll from all 6 years of World War II, and ask yourselves, in a world where virtually all nations are practicing this abomination, would not a nuclear holocaust and a nuclear winter affecting all nations be richly deserved?
He's talking to the prophet Jeremiah, Chapter 19.
"You shall say, hear the word of the Lord, O Kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, behold I am bringing such an evil upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by burning incense in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known. And because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fires as burnt offerings to Baal which I did not command nor decree nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, days are coming says the Lord when this place shall no more be called Topheth or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter. And in this place, I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the seige and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them."
I have this suggestion to make. If you would prevent nuclear war, help bring to an end the abominations that may be making it inevitable.
I could stop at this point. It's past 8:30.
This talk was originally delivered March 7, 1986 to the Dearborn Peace-Faith Community, a group of people concerned about peace issues but mostly "pro-choice" on the issue of abortion.
I would like to conclude the talk with material that was left out of the March 7 talk due to time and to some extent, audience reaction. (One person was quite obviously severely distressed.)
At the last meeting of the group, we talked about Matthew 25, the passage that included "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me." The central error of the damned was that they did not or would not recognize the personhood of the Lord in the least of His brethren. . . . those that were condemned, neglected, the least of these. How much more harshly will those who actively persecute the least of these be judged? For what group is more appropriately described as the least of these than the unborn, who have no rights at all, this abused mutilated and tortured minority? The least of His brethren were characterized by being different, unwanted, unattractive, burdensome. Not entitled to social recognition or respect. They were nonpersons. What are we doing to the Lord Jesus in the least of His brethren? We are tearing his arms off in a way the Romans failed to do when they hung Him on the cross. We are disemboweling him. We are crushing his bones, the bones of the Paschal lamb that were not to be broken. We are poisoning him by burning his skin with the caustic solution used in the slow, agonizing death of saline abortion. We defile and mutilate the Lord Jesus over 4000 time every day in America and all the while the Pontius Pilates of pro-choice look on, washing their hands, for these are private executions.
And like Pilate, after absolving themselves of responsibility, they feel obliged to assist, for inwardly they feel it is to their own advantage.
Many of you are involved in other causes, and it is fine to oppose injustice in South Africa, Nicaragua and elsewhere. But to oppose injustice elsewhere while condoning abortion here at home is to see the speck in your brother's eye while ignoring the beam in your own. Abortion is right here, right now, not in some far distant land, not some potential event like nuclear war. These other causes evidence a deep psychological need to evade the issue of the war on the unborn.
Let me tell you what it feels like to really oppose abortion while having to tolerate it. Imagine yourself outside the fence at Auschwitz. On the other side of the fence is a long low building, a gas chamber. On the roof of the building are the guards, getting ready to open the gas valves located on the roof. You plead with them, you ask them to spare the lives of those within, you say 'How can you be doing this? Please have mercy,' and so forth. And they say, 'these are not people like us. These are only Slavs, Jews and other undesirables. They are not persons and the law permits us to destroy them'. And they look you straight in the eye and open the gas valves, smiling slightly as they do so, enjoying the power that they have.
What does it feel like to oppose abortion while having to tolerate it? It feels horrible, but I am asking you here tonight to take up that cross and carry it for the sake of the least of His brethren. You know what abortion is. Many of you even personally attest to being opposed to it. Consider this passage from the word of God: Proverbs 24:11-12 "Rescue those who are being dragged to death, and from those tottering to execution, withdraw not. If you say 'I know not this man,' does not He who tests hearts perceive it? He who guards your life knows it and He will repay each one according to his deeds." How will you be repaid according to your deeds?
I would like to tell you a little story now about a woman who lives in this city. Years ago, she found herself pregnant with her fifth child and in the midst of a divorce. Her friends, family and the significant others in her life all agreed . . . this child simply could not be. So they talked her into an abortion and made arrangements for a trip to New York where it was legal at the time. She set out for Metro Airport on the appointed day but she never made it there. She turned back. I met here daughter when she was seven years old. I used to play Bucking Bronco with her, sitting her on my shoulders and bouncing her up and down before I hurt my back. She was so full of life, just an incredible child, unlike any other I ever met, in fact. She's about 14 now and she grows more beautiful with every passing day. But in spite of her beauty, I can't look at Sara without everything inside of me screaming in agony at the thought of the millions just like her who might have been, and in fact, who were, but were destroyed because they simply could not be, because they would have spoiled somebody's plans. Her name is Sara, that's her real name. The name of the woman who bore the child of the promise, the child who could not be - but for the faith of one person who trusted God completely. Sara, the mother of a nation from whom salvation came. How much promise have we lost by sacrificing our children on the altars of Baal?
The death toll stands at 18 million. We are overwhelmed to think of the loss of 22 million Soviet citizens in World War II. We will soon exceed this in America but the difference will be that it will be at our own hands. Given time, deaths from abortion will exceed the total population, a result worse than the greatest calamity we can imagine, nuclear war. And like nuclear war, there are no winners in the War on the Unborn. The unborn children are losing their lives. The medical personnel are experiencing burnout, maybe losing their souls. The women involved are losing their mental and physical health and well-being, and all of us, our nation, are losing. Our national conscience is numbed, our national soul torn apart. Where is the victory? If there is any, is it worth the cost?
The story is told of a Nazi judge, convicted at Nuremberg, who turned to the American judge and protested "But we never knew it would go that far." The American judge looked at him and said "It went that far the very first time you condemned an innocent man". And in America it went that far when the Supreme Court invented a right to kill even though it admitted not knowing if life was present in spite of all the evidence. It goes that far 4000 times every day. In three weeks time, the equivalent of the population of this city is destroyed by abortion. In one month, between now and the next time we meet, another 125,000 American children will be destroyed by abortion. If you can pass that much time and not commit yourselves to stopping this war on innocents, I fear that you too, will have gone that far.
For the sake of those unborn children who still have a chance, for the sake of the women who would be their mothers. For the sake of your own souls, for the sake of our nation, for the sake of peace, for God's sake, help us stop this war.