By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This appeared a year ago in NRL News Today and was well received. I hope you like it.
“Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.” — Historian Daniel Boorstin
“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.”
If you weren’t “of age” back in the late 60s and early 70s it’s almost impossible to appreciate how cleverly abortion proponents took advantage of emerging “isms,” how they utilized the 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? It could not be less right, in every sense. But this had the effect of turning abortion from a “moral question into a pocketbook issue.”
From the early 60s until today, pro-abortionists have never wanted for ways of trying to have the government pay for elective abortions, largely 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 instincts and strategically located their clinics as close as possible.
But there was much more background that set the stage for Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. 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 just happened to conveniently dovetailed in unlimited access to abortion.
You could say, as I have on more than once occasion, that 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 once keenly 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.
However, 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, limited 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 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 shrewdly observed 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 the kind of people they are) speak of “rights and wrongs.” That was very, very perceptive on Toner’s part.
Many pro-lifers have had first-hand experience with abortion or crisis pregnancies that were nearly aborted. They would never, ever say facing an unplanned pregnancy is easy or would minimize the character it often requires to give that baby life.
What we do say is that it is flat-out wrong to take that unborn child’s life and that we will help you find the resources to carry your baby to term.
Think of this way. There must be a buffer zone around that child that no one can trespass. That is essential not only for the child’s safety, but for all of us.
We’ve spent 47 years arguing not only the reality of the slippery slope but its inevitability. 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.
Pro-life Rabbi Marc Gellman once wrote in the journal “First Things” 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 2020 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 that I happened to have also read 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 had done.
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.
Pro-lifers do what we do because we must; because it’s right; and because we know someday we will be called to give an account for what you and I did on behalf of “the least of these.”
And you will do so courageously and continually, I am absolutely convinced, until the day the “all-clear” sign flashes for all the littlest Americans.
Bravo! to you all.