Is abortion genocide?
The Genocide Awareness Project, which draws parallels between abortion, slavery and the Holocaust, is what the pundits call “divisive.” Using images of aborted children, lynched slaves and murdered Jews, the powerful visual displays of the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) attempt to show the similarity between abortion and these other dark chapters of human history. However, critics of GAP – of which there are many – observe that abortion does not fit any accepted definition of genocide and claim that their provocative displays actually hinder the pro-life cause. Are these critics correct? And is this kind of pro-life tactic counterproductive?
In her much-debated address, given last year at the University of Western Ontario and reprinted in the National Post, Barbara Kay offered well-meaning advice to the pro-life movement: drop the problematic comparisons of the GAP and focus on women’s health as a more effective (and less “divisive”) strategy for public pro-life arguments. Kay is particularly uncomfortable with the claim that abortion is genocide and rejects all comparisons between abortion and the Nazi Holocaust out of hand. “Genocides,” she says, “aren’t about numbers,” but rather, “They are about ideology-based hatred – unchecked hatred for an identifiable minority group that serves to unite the persecuting majority group and paves the way for its horrible consequences.”
But Kay’s claims – that hatred is the sine qua non of genocide and that it is not present in the phenomenon of abortion – are groundless. Indeed, to claim that hatred and genocide always go together is all but impossible in light of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, who was instrumental in the Nazi Holocaust despite his own admission that he had “no hatred for the Jews.” Moreover, even if hatred is an essential element in genocide, it seems that the unborn child is exposed to the very kind of “ideology-based hatred” which Kay describes. Indeed, Kay herself admits that talking about “the rights of the fetus … arouses defensiveness and hostility.” For, although she is undoubtedly correct that no woman “hates” her unborn child, but instead hates her “situation,” even this displaced detestation points towards the hatred implicit in the ideology of abortion. There is always something to be hated about the child to be born: it is the overpopulate, the extra mouth, the unwanted offspring or the future criminal. In fact, animus towards the unborn – as an “identifiable minority group” – unites population-control radicals, anti-family activists and feminist ideologues in precisely the way Kay observes in other examples of genocide. Abortion is merely the “horrible consequence” of this ideology-based hatred. Indeed, the very fact that “unborn children are not a minority identity group” only exposes the arbitrary nature of every genocidal purge.
If abortion does not seem to fit inside our modern definition of genocide, this simply reveals our own poor, parochial understanding of the term. For the genocide of children is one of the most pernicious and perennial phenomenon in human cultures: the Aztecs would slaughter tens of thousands of children at their demonic festivals; Leviticus exhorts the Israelites: “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Moloch” (18:21). A slaughter of infants is also recorded in the Gospels, after the birth of Christ. And even the otherwise enlightened Athenians exposed their children to the elements. It is significant that none of these examples of mass infanticide was motivated by hatred. Instead, they occurred because of a perceived necessity – in each case, a hateful “situation” demanded it.
Of course, pointing out these connections will not win us any friends; in making these parallels, we run the risk that, as Kay puts it, “thoughtful, educated people (will) not take you seriously.” Besides the fact that she is implicitly flattering herself, while at the same time, wielding a rather large brush, let us take Kay at her word: indeed, the GAP displays are not carefully calculated to appeal to “thoughtful, educated people.” However, thoughtful, educated people have presided over the very disaster in which we find ourselves; thoughtful, educated people are the architects of the very predicament we are trying to rectify.
Pro-lifers are always told to tone down their message to make it more popular. But our message will never be popular. So, instead of uttering urbane platitudes, participants of the Genocide Awareness Project continue to expose themselves to the opprobrium of the elite on campus, and we proudly join with them in their cause. With them, we dare to raise our voices against the horror of abortion and call it the awful names it deserves: murder and genocide. In so doing, we thus oppose the comfortable silence and the polite euphemisms, the obfuscations and occlusions that keep the terrible reality of abortion behind a veil of language, behind the closed doors of so-called clinics and behind the eyes of wounded would-be mothers.
The efforts to censor the GAP only confirm the power of its message. Although we thank Kay for her counsel, we must politely decline to follow it. For we in the pro-life movement have chosen the better part and it will not be taken from us: to call the evil of prenatal infanticide by its proper name. Thus, we must refuse to recognize what Kay, in a frightening phrase, calls a “hierarchy in the sanctity of human life.” If this refusal relegates us to the margins of the “national discussion,” so be it. We choose to stand with those condemned to the lowest rung of this dubious hierarchy, insisting that the sanctity of their lives is not relative, but absolute. Censored by our society, we stand in silent solidarity with the children in the womb who can utter no cry in their own defence.