Editor’s note. This editorial appeared in the January 2003 edition of National Right to Life News on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I believe it was useful then and useful now.
“A nineteenth-century German historian wrote that every moment of history is equally present to God. Every moment is also equally present to great evil. But there are moments in which great evil bestirs itself with intentions that are discernible to those who have eyes to see. Ours is such a moment. Evil, as is its wont, employs the language of the good to disguise its purposes. In this case it is the great good of choice that hides the greater wrong of what is chosen. It is a tempting shrewdly contrived for a free society that has forgotten that freedom depends upon devotion to more than freedom.” — Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, from his book, “American Against Itself.”
“Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.” — Historian Daniel Boorstin
Roe and Doe were carried in on a tsunami-like wave of lies, distortions, hypocrisies, and non-sequiturs. Switching metaphors, the core of what these horrid decisions held continues to stay aloft today because of NARAL hyperbole, Planned Parenthood’s well-heeled connections, and a superabundance of media hot air.
If you weren’t “of age” back in the late 60s and early 70s it’s virtually impossible to appreciate how cleverly abortion proponents took advantage of emerging “isms” and prevailing conventional wisdoms as powerful battering rams against state abortion laws. They also exploited a genuine desire to help the poor to win an unfettered, unrestricted, and unlimited right to take the lives of unborn children.
Abortion was the Swiss Army knife of the 60s and 70s, a “tool” with so many features it could be appropriate in any setting. Child abuse? “Every child a wanted child,” and, presto, battered children would be a thing of the past. In fact, child abuse numbers have gone through the roof – – exactly as pro-lifers knew (and predicted) they would.
And if the poor had the same “right” to take the lives of their children as the “rich,” well, that not only represents democracy in action but establishes the route out of poverty, right? As we read in a provocative essay in the January 2003, issue of “First Things,” this also turned abortion from a “moral question into a pocketbook issue.”
From the early 60s until today, pro-abortionists have never tired of working to find ways to have the government pay for the abortions of the poor. The poor, attitudinally, have always been among the segments of society most against abortion, which is why the Planned Parenthoods of this world have to work overtime to persuade them to go against their best instincts.
Set this against a backdrop of a powerful Women’s Liberation Movement – – dyed-in-the-wool pro-abortionists – – and the near-hysteria over the “Population Bomb” – – which said worldwide starvation was imminent. What was the message? That the solution to very serious individual and global dilemmas conveniently dovetailed in unlimited access to abortion.
Roe represented the triumph of packaging and managed hysteria over reasoned discourse and a hundred-year-long history of largely protective state abortion laws. Prof. George McKenna has observed that Roe can be seen as a kind of reverse 13th Amendment. Where one abolished slavery, the other turned the unborn child into a helpless “non-person” whose life could be taken at will.
But spurred by the inhumanity of abortion and its grotesque violation of core civil and religious principles, a great grassroots Movement began to arise. From very humble beginnings, the Pro-Life Movement grows stronger every year, in spite of very humble resources, very few staff, and the intense hostility of most power brokers.
But if that Movement had not stuck it out through those very lean early years – – the decade of the 1970s in particular – – who would have been there to fight infanticide and euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and fetal tissue harvesting and stem cell research that would require scavenging human embryos and cloning and UN Commission-sponsored attempts to make abortion an internationally recognized “right”–and a host of other ugly assaults on the unborn and the medically dependent?
“Two Different Americas”
[The late] Robin Toner was a veteran New York Times reporter. After covering many pro-life and “pro-choice” rallies, she once wrote that they bring together “two different Americas, two different cultures.”
A dramatic illustration of this is the vocabulary each uses. “Pro-choice” rallies, Toner observes, are dominated by the language of “rights and laws,” while pro-lifers (being who they are) speak of “rights and wrongs.” That is very, very perceptive on Toner’s part.
Pro-lifers never say facing a crisis pregnancy is easy, or minimize the character it often requires to give that baby life under very adverse conditions. What we do say is that it is flat-out wrong to take the life of that blameless child and that we will help you find the resources to carry the pregnancy to term.
There must be a buffer zone around that child through which no one can trespass. That is essential not only for the child’s safety, but for all of us.
We’ve spent 30 years plus arguing the slippery slope. We would love to have been proven wrong, but, unhappily, we’ve been proven right over and over and over again.
And it’s not only that the logic unleashed in Roe has ensnared a wider and wider circle of victims – – from the unborn to the injured newborn to the medically dependent elderly. Impossible as it might seem, the unborn are the victims of a second round of vicious dehumanization.
The unborn child, worth nothing alive in the womb, is suddenly worth a gold mine dead. Harvest her brain tissue and cure Parkinson’s. Well, that never worked, as we explained patiently for 15 years in NRL News.
Well, then, scavenge her body for embryonic stem cells. Never mind that this hasn’t worked. Never mind that non-embryonic sources are already panning out.
In fact, take the horror one step further: clone embryos whom you will kill for even “better” stem cells. This is the mentality you fight day in and day out.
I would like to end this special 30th anniversary of Roe commemorative edition editorial with a quote from pro-life Rabbi Marc Gellman. In the May 1996 edition of “First Things” Rabbi Gellman wrote about the “righteous gentiles” – – those men and women who put their lives on the line to hide Jews from the Nazis.
I understand, of course, that America in 2003 is not Nazi Germany; we are a great and noble nation with the human capacity to take a horrendously wrong turn, as we have on abortion. And I fully appreciate that while circumstances can be unpleasant for pro-lifers, we don’t risk life and limb to stand up for the unborn.
Nonetheless, what Rabbi Gellman wrote in reviewing a fascinating book captures the essence of why pro-lifers do what they do.
In “The Altruistic Personality,” their book about Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust, Samuel and Pearl Oliner asked what distinguished the rescuers from the majority who did nothing, or were complicit. Their conclusion was that they were not distinguished by educational level or by political views or even by attitudes towards Jews.
They were, however, different in two critical respects. They were strongly connected to communities that had straightforward and unsophisticated understandings of right and wrong; and they had a powerful sense of moral agency and shame.
They said over and over again in interviews that they could not have lived with themselves–and many said they could not have answered before God– if they had not done what they did.
The righteous gentiles of the Holocaust came from communities and families that had prepared the way for their courage by teaching them how to feel shame and therefore virtue and courage.
You do what you do because you must. Because it’s right and because you know someday you will be called to give an account for what you did on behalf of “the least of these.”
And you will do so courageously, I am absolutely convinced, until the day the “all-clear” sign flashes for all the littlest Americans.
Bravo! to you all.