“So long as the victims are a faceless abstraction, anything can be done to them”

By Dave Andrusko

Paul Greenberg

Our church, like many, sponsors missionaries. We have one in particular whom I have gotten to know extremely well and (according to my own children) consider a kind of adopted son.

We talked at length last night and the conversation reminded me of how we had once exchange emails about an update via Facebook he was going to send to his supporters. As we did last night, we’ve discussed many times about how he chosen his path (or how it was chosen for him). 

However, while we had briefly touched on the events of many, many years ago which culminated with me throwing my lot in with the greatest movement for social justice of our times, we’d never done so in any depth. Our recent conversations prompted me to think about the confluence of events which resulted in what has become my life’s work. 

The following is a synopsis of my entry point into the Movement. I do not offer it because it is unique. It’s anything but.  In fact, in some ways my experience was typical, in other ways not so much, but in all ways (as is the case with many of you reading this post), it was a turning point in my life.

I was already an adult by the time of Roe v. Wade. But, I suspect like most Americans, in my innocence I had missed the decade-long battle over “abortion reform” that preceded the 1973 decision which took a wrecking ball to the abortion statutes of all 50 states, even the most permissive.

My portal, in a manner of speaking, was a combination of a predisposition to protecting the unborn (I was the oldest of seven kids) and the soul-shocking impact of the video presentation and book, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? the classic work of former Surgeon General C. Everett Kopp and theologian Francis Schaeffer which awakened millions of Evangelical Christians.

This is another way of saying that unbeknownst to me, in the mid-seventies, I was being primed. Like tens of millions of others, I needed to be activated. Sitting in that Presbyterian Church in South Minneapolis, images from Whatever Happened to the Human Race? were seared into my memory. I knew I had to do something.

But if my progression from sympathetic bystander to activist seems in retrospect almost inevitable, it is just as true that many of the most articulate, thoughtful pro-life champions started out just as “naturally” on the other side. By that I mean when I’ve listened to their accounts, I began to understand that in the intellectual and cultural environments in which they were raised, talk of “sanctity of life” or “equal rights for unborn children” would be virtually unintelligible.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson

Who do I have in mind? To take two examples—the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, author of “Aborting America” and producer of “The Silent Scream” video; and Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Greenberg, the former editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Greenberg wrote a typically eloquent op-ed when Dr. Nathanson died in 2011.

Mr. Greenberg, who has spoken at the National Right to Life convention,  keenly explained how Dr. Nathanson, by his own count, was “responsible” for over 75,000 abortions. (“His ideals were those of the enlightened, modern urban America of his time, which was the mid- to late 20th century.”) 

Nathanson emerged from the darkness, thanks to the light of medical technology, initially the newest EKG and ultrasound imagery. His one pro-life step-at-a-time approach went public in a famous 1974 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine titled, “Deeper into Abortion”.

Mr. Greenberg wrote how he could “identify” with Nathanson, who was a co-founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America. Greenberg himself had bought into the soothing reassurances that Roe “was not blanket permission for abortion, but a carefully crafted, limited decision applicable only in some exceptional cases. Which was all a lot of hooey, but I swallowed it, and regurgitated it in editorials.”

I want you to read Mr. Greenberg’s column, so I will offer just this one quote:

With a little verbal manipulation, any crime can be rationalized, even promoted. Verbicide precedes homicide. The trick is to speak of fetuses, not unborn children. So long as the victims are a faceless abstraction, anything can be done to them. Just don’t look too closely at those sonograms. 

Again you can read the column at Jewish World Review. The headline is very telling:

The Doctor Who Saw What He Did”