Answering common objections: GAP polarizes debate and abortion is not genocide

Debate goes on at University of Wisconsin

Civil debate at the University of Wisconsin.

This op-ed piece in the Wisconsin Daily Cardinal was one of the most striking endorsements of our Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) that I have ever seen.  In one of the ensuing comments, Milgo Robbins repeated many of the common objections to GAP:  GAP stimulates emotion, not reason; GAP polarizes the debate; abortion is tragic; women face dire consequences; and, of course, abortion is not genocide.

Here’s my response:

Dear Mr./Ms. Robbins (sorry, I don’t know if it’s Mr. or Ms.),

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

Yes, you are correct that it’s important to build consensus, but it’s impossible to build a meaningful consensus when so many people are confused about basic facts.  Most people have no idea who the unborn child is nor what abortion is and does.  It’s our job to prove that the unborn child is a baby and abortion is an act of violence, because nobody else will.

Once we have built a consensus about the facts of abortion, then and only then is it possible to have an intelligent discussion about the morality of abortion.  People who deny basic facts about the humanity of preborn children and the brutality of abortion cannot come to a rational consensus about the morality of abortion.  To have a rational discussion of abortion with people who deny the facts is like discussing our solar system with members of the Flat Earth Society; it can’t be done.

Some may object to images of abortion because they believe the pictures somehow substitute emotion for reason, but that really misses the point.  The question is not whether the pictures are emotional – they are – but whether the pictures are true.  If the pictures are true, then they must be admitted as evidence.  Naomi Wolf is a pro-choice author who agrees with us on that point.  She wrote, “How can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real?  To insist that the truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy.  Besides, if theses images are often the facts of the matter, and if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted by them, then we are making the judgment that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision.  This view of women is unworthy of feminism.”  (Source: Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” The New Republic, October 14, 1995, p. 32)

Yes, people who wish to ignore or trivialize injustice don’t want reformers to show pictures, because pictures make people uncomfortable with the status quo.  About 100 years ago, Lewis Hine displayed pictures of children working in coal mines and textile mills.  He wrote in his memoirs that people would look at his pictures and get more angry at him for showing the pictures than at the industrial bosses for abusing the children.  About 50 years ago, people looked at pictures of Black men and women getting attacked with dogs and water cannons and got angry at Martin Luther King, Jr. for leading the marches.  Dr. King knew, however, that people had to be made uncomfortable with the status quo; otherwise, there would be no pressure for change.  He said he didn’t care what people thought about him; he cared what they thought about injustice.  We stand with him.

As regards the “tragedy” of abortion, people who advocate the status quo are quick to say that abortion is tragic.  But what could possibly be tragic about it?  If each abortion is tragic because it kills a human person, then how does it make sense to commit this tragic act more than 1 million times a year.  If someone thinks the status quo is OK, then how tragic does he really think it is?  On the other hand, if each abortion does not kill a human person, then how can we say that it is tragic?

With regard to the mother considering abortion, what does it say about our society that so many people are lying to her and withholding critical information from her, information she needs to make an informed decision?  Of course, the abortion industry is hiding the truth of abortion.  But so is the government, the national media, the entertainment industry, and even the “pro-life” church.  This woman often faces enormous pressure to abort, and sometimes even faces threats of abandonment (or worse) by irresponsible or predatory males who should be supporting her.  Some “choice.”  Maybe if more people understood the reality of abortion, they would be more likely to help her in her crisis pregnancy, instead of just pushing her to abort.

As regards the dire circumstances that women face when considering abortion, how can circumstances (other than an imminent threat to the life of the mother) justify killing another human person?  I can tell you that a plantation owner in the deep South would face dire circumstances if he were to free all of his slaves and have to pay workers’ wages to pick his cotton.  But did his circumstances justify slavery?

We never condemn anyone who disagrees with us or has participated in abortions in the past.  In fact, many people who work in the pro-life movement, including our Virginia Director, have had abortions they now regret.  We don’t condemn people who have participated in abortion, any more than we condemn slave-owners George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  These were great men who made a grave error about a serious issue.  We do, however, condemn slavery and abortion, because these practices unjustly steal the lives of innocent human beings.

Regarding our use of the term genocide, we agree that abortion is not genocide  . . .  IF.  If preborn children are not living human beings, then abortion does not kill humans and there is no relevant similarity between abortion and genocide.  But if preborn children are living human beings—science tells us they are alive and human—then abortion kills 1.2 million humans every year in the U.S.  If not genocide, what else would we call it?

UN Resolution 96, adopted in 1946, defined genocide as “a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings . . . ”  Resolution 96 goes on to say genocide is a crime “whether committed on religious, racial, political or any other grounds  . . . ” (emphasis added).  With abortion, the “entire human group” being denied the right of existence is unwanted, preborn children.

But more important than the UN definition of genocide are the conceptual similarities between abortion and other forms of mass killing.  For example, in every case of genocide we present, personhood was redefined by those in power in terms that excluded the intended victim class.  The Dred Scott decision of 1857 denied personhood to African American slaves. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 denied personhood to Jews. The Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 denied personhood to unborn children.

Common to almost all forms of genocide is the depiction of the victim class as subhuman.  Nazis referred to their victims as rats, pigs, vermin, and “untermensch” (German for “subhuman”).  We all know the language used to dehumanize the Black slave.  What of the preborn child?  If it’s a wanted preborn child, we call it a “baby.”  But if it’s an unwanted preborn child, it’s never a baby; it’s a parasite, blob of tissue, mass of cells, potential life, etc.

As with abortion, genocide is often framed in the language of “choice.” When Stephen Douglas debated Abraham Lincoln over the issue of slavery in 1858, he said that although he was personally opposed to slavery, the southern states should have the right to choose whether to be slave states or free states.  That sounds reasonable, unless you are a slave.

By the way, we did not invent the comparison of abortion to genocide.  Martin Luther King compared racial injustice to the Holocaust.  Later, using the same rationale that we use, Rev. Jesse Jackson extended the comparison to abortion:  “That is why  . . .  whites further dehumanized us by calling us ‘n*****s.’  It was part of the dehumanizing process.  The first step was to distort the image of us as human beings in order to justify that which they wanted to do and not even feel like they had done anything wrong.  Those advocates of taking life prior to birth do not call it killing or murder, they call it abortion.  They further never talk about aborting a baby because that would imply something human.  Rather they talk about aborting the fetus.  Fetus sounds less than human and therefore abortion can be justified.”

Others who compare abortion to the Holocaust include Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Yehuda Levin of Brooklyn: “Each form of genocide, whether Holocaust, lynching, abortion, etc., differs from all the others in the motives and methods of its perpetrators.  But each form of genocide is identical to all the others in that it involves the systematic slaughter, as state-sanctioned ‘choice,’ of innocent, defenseless victims – while denying their ‘personhood.’”

In your rebuttal to our assertion that abortion is genocide, you mentioned the fact that the mother was of the same ethnicity as the child.  True, but consider the Cambodian genocide.  In that case, Cambodians were killing other Cambodians.  UN Resolution 96 says genocide is killing any group of people, whether the group is chosen based on “religious, racial, political or any other grounds  . . . ” (emphasis added).  Ethnicity is often a factor in genocide, but not always.

Our purpose is never to condemn anyone who has had an abortion.  Our purpose is to clarify the confusion so that people can make better decisions in the future, both individually and collectively.  If any reader needs healing from an abortion in his/her past or help with an unplanned pregnancy, check out the resources listed here: www.prolifeoncampus.com/crisis-pregnancy-help.

Peace to you as well,

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2 Responses to “Answering common objections: GAP polarizes debate and abortion is not genocide”

  1. October 13th, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Maureen Sullivan says:

    Very well stated Fletcher–am bookmarking for future reference. God bless you!!!

  2. October 13th, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Fletcher says:

    Thanks, Maureen. One purpose of this blog is to advance good pro-life arguments and promote more effective advocacy.

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