November 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - When I read the words of pro-abortion leaders like Colombian psychologist Florence Thomas, who calls unborn babies “tumors” and says that they are only human if their mother wants them, a disturbing question comes to mind: what is, fundamentally, the difference between this type of perspective, so often expressed by abortionists, and the clinical definition of a “psychopath”?
Although the stereotypical image of a psychopath is that of a serial killer, or a dangerous madman locked in an asylum, psychologists tell us that such people only represent a small minority of those who fall under the category of a “psychopath.” In fact, we are told, our society contains a larger number of psychopaths than we may suspect, and psychopaths may even disproportionately occupy positions of importance in business, government, and other important fields.
While psychopaths are theoretically capable of committing murder and other acts of cruelty without remorse, the definition of a psychopath is much broader than the image evoked by popular culture. According to mental health professionals, a psychopath is someone who is fundamentally lacking in human empathy, who sees other human beings as mere objects of manipulation. The relationships of a psychopath are typically superficial and fluid, and are often sexually promiscuous. The psychopath has a fundamentally egoistic, selfish personality, unable to transcend his own personal sense of self to recognize the dignity of others.
Psychologists estimate that up to four percent of the population falls under the definition of a “psychopath,” ranging from the more tame manifestations, which are included in the broad category of sociopathy or anti-social personality disorders, to the more extreme cases of serial killers. They are often able to deceive others with a veneer of sanity and reasonableness that hides their fundamentally predatory nature.
The four percent figure, if accurate, implies that the United States includes a population of more than twelve million psychopaths or sociopaths, and globally the figure would theoretically reach into the hundreds of millions. This startling statistic inevitably raises the question: is it possible for psychopaths to group themselves into movements based on their common inclinations? History suggests that this can, and indeed does happen.
The classic candidate for a “psychopathic movement” is that of the National Socialist or Nazi Party, which came to power in Germany in the 1930s through a series of economic catastrophes and inept decisions by the German political establishment. Adolf Hitler himself has been diagnosed posthumously with psychopathic tendencies, and many Nazis exhibited symptoms of the same. Moreover, although the majority of Nazis and the Germans who cooperated with them were probably not clinically psychopathic, the movement as a whole seemed to be predicated on a fundamentally psychopathic mentality, one that disposed of human beings as mere fodder for the racial aspirations of the German state.
The same tendencies have been found in other mass movements arising in the last century, especially Marxism, which left an unprecedented toll of tens of millions of deaths by execution and induced starvation in order to achieve its political ends. Again, although it is unlikely that most Marxists are clinical psychopaths, their movement has repeatedly spawned regimes that behave precisely the way one would expect of the most extreme sufferers of the disorder.
The troubled mentality of the pro-abortion movement
In light of the clinical definition of a psychopath, and the historic manifestations of “psychopathic” movements, it is difficult to avoid the comparison between psychopathy and the perspective that is openly expressed by many leaders in the global pro-abortion movement.
Florence Thomas is only one example of the troubled thinking that seems to characterize pro-abortion leaders. Her comparison of her own unborn child to a “tumor,” that is, a diseased piece of tissue, is not only unscientific; it suggests a mind that is unwilling, or perhaps unable, to transcend itself and empathize with the humanity of another. Her claim that a fetus is only human if it is desired by its parents is almost a caricature of ego-centrism, implying that one’s personal wishes confer dignity and rights on other people. The conclusion of Thomas flows inevitably from her premises; she believes that women should be free to kill their unborn children for any reason, in order to preserve their “freedom.”
Thomas’ thinking is echoed throughout the anti-life and anti-family movements of our age. Margaret Sanger, the founder of the modern birth control movement, spoke with the chilling rhetoric of eugenics when she dismissed children who are “unwanted” by their parents, referring to them as “human waste” in her 1920 work, “Women and the New Race.”
“Each and every unwanted child is likely to be in some way a social liability. It is only the wanted child who is likely to be a social asset,” wrote Sanger, who also asked, “Can the children of these unfortunate mothers be other than a burden to society—a burden which reflects itself in innumerable phases of cost, crime and general social detriment?” In another chapter she infamously states that “the most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
The famous Princeton “bioethicist” Peter Singer applies the same fundamental principle embraced by Thomas, Sanger, and others, but takes it to a more explicit conclusion. Singer acknowledges that unborn children are human beings, but openly denies that they have a right to life, unless their parents want them. Moreover, Singer extends this reasoning to infants after birth as well, offering a moral endorsement of infanticide.
“The difference between killing disabled and normal infants lies not in any supposed right to life that the latter has and the former lacks, but in other considerations about killing,” writes Singer in the second edition of his book, “Practical Ethics.” “Most obviously there is the difference that often exists in the attitudes of the parents. The birth of a child is usually a happy event for the parents ... So one important reason why it is normally a terrible thing to kill an infant is the effect the killing will have on its parents.”
“It is different when the infant is born with a serious disability,” Singer continues. “Birth abnormalities vary, of course. Some are trivial and have little effect on the child or its parents; but others turn the normally joyful event of birth into a threat to the happiness of the parents, and any other children they may have. Parents may, with good reason, regret that a disabled child was ever born. In that event the effect that the death of the child will have on its parents can be a reason for, rather than against killing it.”
Singer’s explicit endorsement of infanticide should be unsurprising to pro-life activists, who are aware that children who survive abortions are often left to die without medical help. A fundamental indifference to human life and the personhood of others is endemic among pro-abortion thinkers, which should bring pro-lifers to ask ourselves if we are really understanding our opponents in this debate.
In reading Florence Thomas’ recent account of her abortion, a tragically flawed personality comes to the surface. A brilliant woman with much to offer the world, Thomas faced a profound moral dilemma at the age of 22, and was hardly able to recognize it as such. She blithely refers to sexual intercourse with her boyfriend as “love,” as if she has no inkling of the concept beyond a physical act of pleasure, without any commitment or spiritual dimension. She dismisses her unborn child as a “tumor,” and says that she has never felt the slightest remorse for her decision to kill it.
As a human life and family news reporter, I have become all too accustomed to this mentality, and my response has changed over the years from feelings of outrage to a calm, resolute commitment to fight the culture of death and its perverse mentality by systematically exposing it. However, I increasingly find myself experiencing another response when I report such stories: a great sadness in the face of people who seem to be missing something fundamental in the deepest levels of their psyche, something that they may never have known by experience.
Are they suffering in silent desperation or are they utterly oblivious to their loss? Did they freely choose this path, or are they victims of something beyond their control? Ultimately, is there anything that can be done for them, or are they doomed to play their grim role in the global empire of death? I do not know, and cannot know. I can only pray for them, and leave it in the hands of a merciful God.
Women and the New Race, by Margaret Sanger (full text)
Excerpts from Practical Ethics, by Peter Singer, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1993, pp. 175-217