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Michael T. Hamilton

Opinion

If pro-lifers were as consistent as Planned Parenthood, we might end abortion

Michael T. Hamilton

September 9, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Planned Parenthood’s butchery and sale of unborn children’s body parts has justly earned the indignation of millions of Americans across the political spectrum, commandeering news cycles, new media, social media, church sermons, and state legislative agendas, and even bipartisan congressional efforts to defund the organization.

Planned Parenthood’s horrendous actions are wholly consistent with the organization’s view that unborn children are not, in fact, human. As such, their remains may be contraband—but so are other “commodities” that fetch a good price on the black market.

On the other side, pro-lifers take pride in their zeal for defending the helpless, pointing to scientific evidence that life begins at conception, and deducing that the moral value of a 10-minute-young embryo equals that of a 10-minute-old infant. They claim to uphold the sanctity of human life at the earliest stages--from Atom to Zygote, if you will.

But all told, some of the pro-life community presents a gaping inconsistency with regard to its valuation of born and unborn children—an inconsistency that may help to explain how a republic with popular sovereignty has lived with legal abortion for 42 years, and which may be settling in for 42 more.

Killing the living is worse than selling the dead. Morally speaking, the slaughter of innocents costs far more than the sum of their parts.

So what moral calculus is responsible for the fury ignited by Planned Parenthood’s sale of those parts, when for years its worse, mainstream abortion practices have been well established?

One probable cause is that abortion itself is old news, and old news fatigues even those it offends. Another is that abortion merely ignores or denies the unborn’s value; selling fetal parts perverts it. The difference is comparable (to a point) to that between sins of omission and sins of commission.

These causes explain why, but do not explain away, the pro-life community's own inverted moral scale when discussing Planned Parenthood’s latest form of hire and salary. Selling fetal remains is a faint echo of the organization’s long-standing, and far more damnable, practice of encouraging and providing abortions. Be outraged, but do not be surprised.

The pro-life movement’s shock and fury at abortion’s echo—the sale of fetal parts—highlights our deafness to abortion’s clarion.

Most Americans, including the pro-life community, exhibit a glaring emotional disconnect between the equal moral depravity of killing born and unborn children—notwithstanding our well-meaning rhetoric to the contrary.

For proof of this, consider: if the pro-life half of America truly regarded the murder of 56 million unborn children (since 1973) as the holocaust our logic tells us it is—a holocaust that remains ongoing at a rate of 1.2 million abortions per year—would we really continue to settle for marches, mere state-level regulation, and no national constitutional amendment banning the practice?

What if our nation’s 5-year-olds were being slain at this rate?

Our disconnect between theory and application grows more obvious when comparing our nation’s prevailing response to its termination of 21 percent of its pregnancies—more than 1 out of 5—with America’s history of mobilization against much smaller victim groups, most of whom have suffered abuses tamer than murder:

Victim Group

% of Population

Prevailing National Response

U.S. LGBT Population in 2015

4 percent

Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)

U.S. Black Population in 1960

10.5 percent

Civil Rights Movement

U.S. Slaves in 1860

12 percent

Civil War; 13th Amendment

U.S. Aborted Babies per annum

21 percent

Indignation; in some states, hard-wrought legislation

 

At the initiation of the above prevailing national responses, their inciting issues had split national opinion roughly in half. Against this background, it hardly seems possible that the pro-life half of our population could fail, for 42 years, to quash a practice that—it claims—is tantamount to the murder of every fifth child born in our neighborhoods.

Our failure should cause us to doubt whether we have actually internalized—or merely memorized—the equation of unborn to born human life.

To witness our emotional detachment from the murder of unborn babies, one need look only to a normal couple’s responses to pregnancy and miscarriage.

Conventional wisdom tells pregnant couples to wait a customary 12 weeks before breaking the news to family, friends, colleagues, and Facebook. This is roughly the end of the first trimester, the tipping point in the odds of safely carrying a child to term.

There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to minimize one’s grief, shame, and guilt in the event of a tragedy. But if unborn children are equal to born ones, this isn’t necessarily okay, either.

Forgive a personal anecdote: during the two pregnancies that followed my wife’s miscarriage and subsequent grieving, we could not justify not telling people, almost as soon as we found out, that we were expecting, even though in both cases our unborn were just a few weeks old.

Our thinking was that in the event of losing a born child, we would never dream of shutting out our family, friends, neighbors, or even Facebook world from praying for us and mourning the loss of the youngest human being in our family. So if we excluded people from celebrating or mourning our unborn child—wouldn’t that suggest that we distinguish between the humanity of our born and unborn children?

We thought (and think) so. But this bifurcation is common among pro-lifers. Practice runs sideways of theory—especially among dads.

Most fathers whose wives have endured a miscarriage will admit that overcoming emotional detachment from the unborn takes mental discipline.

In the case of my wife’s miscarriage, the turbulence our marriage weathered was finally redemptive—but our initial loss was compounded by our differing degrees of emotional investment in the life and death of our unborn.

We miscarried early enough that we had scarcely begun to process having another child. But my wife processed our loss as though a human life were at stake. (It was.) I shared her view. In theory.

To me—a staunch pro-lifer—the stakes still appeared circumstantial: our circumstances would not be changing now after all, so our loss seemed minimal. (For those that know Robert Frost’s “Home Burial”—I know it too well.)

It is easy to rationalize my perspective at the time as the most coherent. My brain could deal with facts; my wife’s brain had to parse facts from physiological changes such as hormones, unrequited maternal love, fruitless body weight, and other natural phenomena that bind a mother to her child.

But the truth is that her response actually applied the articulated pro-life view that human life begins at conception, and that an unborn child’s value and dignity are equal to a born child’s.

My own response, by contrast, illustrated the emotional disconnect that infects not just fathers, but the American pro-life movement en masse, toward the unborn, whose value and dignity we allegedly champion.

Reason should govern emotions and appetites, so our nation’s emotional deficit would not be a problem if it did not obscure our rational equation between unborn and born human life.

But our emotional detachment does obscure this equation.

So, here are four steps the pro-life movement must take if it wishes to be persuaded by its own logic—a prerequisite for us if we hope to persuade others:

1. Above all we must retrain ourselves to regard abortions as actual murders rather than theoretical ones. It should go without saying—but I must—that this is not a vote for vigilantism. A democratic people who interprets the annual crime rate to include 1.2 million additional murders should leverage civil mechanisms to curb the murder rate.

2 . In 2016, be wary of pro-life Republican presidential candidates who hold that because Roe has been the law, Roe must be the law. This rationale undermines the very concept of a republic improving itself by the creation of just laws, and if played out, it might have been leveraged to preserve slavery, defend segregation, and deny women suffrage.

3. Reclaim the movement from those who are filling a leadership vacuum they are not equipped to fill. Many if not most pro-lifers remain on the fringe of activism because the playing field is dominated by activists characterized by poor strategy, bush-league tactics, and ferocious messaging.

To their credit, these activists have internalized better than most that a baby aborted equals an adult murdered. But there is no reason bridging this disconnect must make you crazy. There is a better way to preserve one’s credibility than avoiding allied fanatics: providing real leadership.

4. Without denying culpability of mothers who abort their children, we should recognize the similarities between most of those mothers, and prostitutes who are caught in a web of human trafficking. American culture and governments have only recently come to regard prostitutes as victims of their own crime. By extending sympathy to mothers who are driven to seek abortions not because they give a hoot about their “right to choose,” but because of deplorable circumstances (such as poverty, emotional abuse, or physical abuse), the pro-life lobby could whittle down the segment defended by the pro-abortion lobby to a smaller pool of villains. A similar shift in law enforcement’s emphasis from prostitutes to pimps and johns has succeeded in denting that industry and in truly liberating women.

Redoubling our efforts to build inroads with this class of abortion-seeking mothers from the pro-choice lobby would help drive down the “demand side” of the problem. Pro-lifers are sometimes accused of attacking only the supply side (i.e., abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood), while encouraging demand by refusing to distribute contraceptives or teach graphic sex education to young children.

This rebuke is unfounded, since it descends from willful ignorance of the pro-life objective. It substitutes our alleged goal of “preventing death by preventing life” for our actual goal of “protecting life by promoting its human value.” As such it misses pro-lifers’ holistic view of protecting and nurturing life. But the accusation poses one legitimate question: Why would you not do all you could to protect life?

It would be a mistake to think that all that is needed to turn back the clock on abortion and replace it with a culture of life is for the Left to change its beliefs. In states whose legislatures refuse to tighten restrictions on abortion, and across America at large, pro-life action will advance sluggishly at best until the Right internalizes the beliefs it has long articulated.

Michael T. Hamilton is the lead writer for Good Comma Editing, LLC and a contributor to the The Philos Project (“promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East”). He writes regularly for PJ Media Parenting and Lifestyle and has written for The Federalist, the Washington Free Beacon, and Canon & Culture.

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