This was, I believe, my last column for the East Tennessee Catholic, published right around this time in 2010. Since this is the time of year for participating in Martin Luther King parades and Marches for Life, it seems like a good day to share it with you.
Our small delegation from Immaculate Conception’s Social Justice Committee slogged down Kingston Pike, through ankle deep puddles and muddy grass, wet to the skin. Although our participation in the annual March for Life in the face of such weather proved our dedication to the pro-life cause, it wasn’t much fun.
Less than a week earlier, we had marched in the Martin Luther King parade. Unlike the snow we had braved the prior year, we were blessed with sunny weather that made the 2.5 mile walk a pleasure, especially with all the smiling people shouting greetings and encouragement from the sidelines.
As the chair of our Social Justice Committee, I had the task of promoting both these marches. In advance of the MLK event, we shared with the congregation the words of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers … At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace.”
The following week we drew a parallel between the two marches. We reminded everyone that the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement were fueled by Dr. King’s commitment to organized non-violent protest, a philosophy he adopted from Mohandas Gandhi. Dr. King said: “The method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” It is good to be reminded that we are not just marching to make ourselves feel good, but to effect change.
The proximity of these events made me wonder about Dr. King—were he alive today, would he march for the pro-life cause? Would he recognize abortion for the civil rights issue it is? I wanted to think so, but finding concrete information is difficult.
Pro-life websites claim him for our side, but can offer only indirect evidence. Pro-choice websites paint him as a certain supporter. Their argument centers around the Margaret Sanger Award, which Dr. King accepted from Planned Parenthood in 1966. But in 1966, Planned Parenthood was promoting birth control, not abortion. One of their pamphlets, published in August 1963 and titled Is Birth Control Abortion? said: “An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it.”
While Dr. King is on record as supporting birth control, he cannot have known the truth about Margaret Sanger and her racist, eugenicist agenda, just as many people do not know it today. Had he done so, he surely would have refused an award which honors the woman who said of her strategy: “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” (Margaret Sanger’s December 19, 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, 255 Adams Street, Milton, Massachusetts).
Advocates of King as pro-lifer point to his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he espoused natural law theory, saying : “[T]here are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all. . . . A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
They also point to the pro-life commitment of some of his closest associates, Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Jesse Jackson (yes, until the early 1980s!) both of whom are on record as deploring abortion. In truth, many black leaders of King’s time called it genocide.
Finally, Dr. King’s niece, Alveda King, has said: “What would Martin Luther King say if he saw the skulls of babies at the bottom of abortion pits? If Martin Luther King’s dream is to live, our babies must live. ” (Martin Luther King’s Niece Supports Right To Life, Boston University Daily Free Press, 18 January 2000, p.1)
At the dedication of memorials at the Birmingham church at which her father served as pastor, she added: “The great irony,” she said, “is that abortion has done what the Klan only dreamed of.” She told a meeting of Priests for Life that the killing of a quarter of the black population of the US has not been from the lynch mobs of her childhood days, but from abortionists, “who plant their killing centers in minority neighborhoods and prey upon women who think they have no hope.”
And on that note, staying true to their founder’s ideals, Planned Parenthood has purchased a medical building at 710 Cherry Street in East Knoxville, a predominantly black neighborhood. Non-violent protest deterred them from locating in mostly-white Bearden. While not offering surgical abortions, this center prescribes the abortion pill, RU-486. Pro-life advocates from both inside and outside the neighborhood are already organizing, fostering tensions just like Dr. King in the cause of justice for the unborn.
I’m linking up this post today at the #WorthRevisit linkup. Visit there and also here to read more thought-provoking posts.
Time for another reprint from the ETC–yes, and I know, time for some NEW life issues writing; I have ideas, and I promise a new one is germinating. This column appeared, I believe, in 2007.
Anyone who has been really involved in the abortion debate for a long time has got to have realized that the arguments have changed. Back in the day, pro-lifers said, “It’s a baby!” Pro-choicers responded, “It’s a clump of cells.” It was as simple as that.
Enter ultrasound, fetal surgery, survival of micro-premies. It’s hard to argue that those human-looking although tiny little creatures sucking their thumbs aren’t babies. Or what about the widely-disseminated photo of the tiny hand slipping out of the womb and touching the surgeon operating on him? And how about those miracle babies born just barely halfway through the length of a normal pregnancy who with the help of technology manage to make it?
“It’s a baby, stupid!” At one time I, and I suspect most other pro-lifers, thought it was going to be just that easy: once the pro-abortion forces saw it really was a baby, of course they weren’t going to say it was okay to kill it anymore. Finally pro-choice women could relax, and admit the tension involved in saying “fetus” when you want to abort it, but “my baby,” when you’ve planned to keep it.
But it hasn’t been that easy. They call it spin: changing the rules of engagement when the facts go against your original position. Yes, there are still people out there on both sides waging the “is it life or isn’t it” argument” but anyone seriously involved in this debate knows that’s a moot point. We’ve moved into a new world, less brave than twisted.
In this new world we have abortion clinics (sponsored by a group called “The November Gang,”) with pink hearts all over the walls, where parents there to abort their babies write apologies and explanations, justifying their choice by saying it’s for the good of the child, promising that they’ll meet again in heaven one day.
In this new world we have an uproar at a hospital in England, where the fact that aborted babies are disposed of in the hospital incinerator with other “medical waste” recently came to light. Said one woman in an online article in the Daily Mail: “I am furious . . . imagine my horror when I discovered my baby was incinerated in the same furnace as the hospital rubbish.” To add to the insanity, the hospital that performs abortions (and ought to, therefore, believe there is nothing wrong in so doing) burns the fetal remains alone, with a white sheet in front of the incinerator, and two witnesses from bereavement care staff.
In this new world, a woman can publish an article in Salon proclaiming, “I had a second-trimester abortion . . . This was . . . not a “clump of cells” . . . He was my baby, and I chose to end his life.” She goes on to say, “Everyone knows now how early a fetus becomes a baby . . . there is a terrible truth to those horrific pictures the anti-choice fanatics hold up in front of abortion clinics . . . my doctor told me that he would make sure my baby felt no pain . . . contemporary women know the truth about abortion.”
They know the truth. They know the truth. And yet they choose to kill.
Once upon a time we thought that knowing the truth–that an unborn baby is a life–would be enough. It turns out it’s not. The problem, you see, is our new world, our fear-filled new world that values perfection (“I wanted a genetically perfect baby, and because that was something I could control, I chose to end his life,” says the author in Salon.), that champions the illusions of choice and control, that craves instant gratification and repudiates the possibility of transformation through suffering, that equates success in life with the acquisition of material things.
We thought there was an easy answer, but it turns out that to end abortion we have to transform the world. “Perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). Only when the hearts of those who would seek abortions or coerce others into seeking them are changed by love will abortion end. How do we do this? You won’t get an easy answer from me. But we have to keep trying.
Twenty-eight years ago today–and I remember well my horror at the time, the parents of a child known forever as Baby Doe apparently decided that he was not a human being deserving of love and care when they allowed him to starve rather than correct a minor defect. Baby Doe was the victim of the abortion mentality even though his death occurred after he was born. When it’s acceptable to kill unborn babies for not being perfect, we are only one step away from euthanizing imperfect newborns. Reading this story reminded me of a column I wrote about five years ago, which I reprint today in his memory.
Teenagers aren’t the only ones who love to hang out and chat with online friends. I’ve been a member of various virtual communities since I went online in 1995. My family and many of my “real life” friends don’t get this. “Why would you want to talk to people you’ve never even
met?” they ask.
For me there are two great aspects of virtual communities. Online you can quickly find a lot of people who share your interest, no matter how obscure. It might have been difficult for me to find hundreds of people who were obsessed with The X-Files and writing fanfiction about it here in Knoxville, for example. (For a long time my husband was sorry he had encouraged me to get online!) On the other hand, these people who share one interest with you are probably more different from you in other ways than the people you hang out with at home, giving you a chance to incorporate a little diversity into your life.
Most people I know well in Knoxville are pro-life, and if they aren’t, they know me well enough to avoid unpleasant discussions about life issues. My current online homes are newsgroups devoted to pregnancy and breast feeding. United by a shared interest in these topics are women who are married, divorced, and never married; doctors, retail workers, and stay-at-home-moms; straight and lesbian; Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, pagan, and atheist; American, British, Danish, and more; pro-life and pro-choice. Being among them gives me an opportunity to hear from people who make choices I would never make, could never imagine making.
I read discussions of whether to have prenatal tests, of what anomalous ultrasound results might mean, of what disorders are severe enough to warrant abortion. I know people who have received ominous prenatal diagnoses and have followed them through their pregnancies to the births of children whose problems have rendered them no less precious; I know others who chose to abort and shared those experiences with us.
Modern society now almost universally accepts that there are some pre-natal diagnoses so severe that abortion is justified. Although statistics for “eugenic abortion” are hard to come by, medical researchers indicate that 80% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted; in some areas of the country as many as 95% of all babies prenatally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis are never born. According to the American Association of People with Disabilities, many disabilities–Tay-Sachs Disease, for example–have virtually disappeared from the United States, and many others–spina bifida, for one–are on the decline, not because of advances in treatment and prevention, but because of the acceptance of death as the ultimate solution.
And what happens when abortion for truly horrific conditions, those incompatible with life, becomes accepted? It’s that good old slippery slope again. A recent online report from the Daily Mail (a United Kingdom publication) asserted that people in Great Britain are now aborting for club foot and extra digits. Far from being incompatible with life, these conditions can be corrected surgically. Fertility specialists are taking this one step further: with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, they’ll test your embryo and once they’ve made sure it’s free of whatever disease you were worried about–including now in some instances only a chance of developing cancer or Alzheimer’s later in life–they’ll let you choose the sex for good measure. Finally, and even more bizarrely, some disabled people are using PGD technology to ensure their babies are born with their parents’ disability (deafness, for example).
Here’s what’s scary. I can’t demonize the people who kill their babies for not being perfect as I’d like to do because I know these people. I can’t say, “Oh, I can’t imagine what kind of people would do these things,” because I don’t have to imagine them. In the main they are good people, people who think the right things, do the right things, and love their other children. They are frighteningly normal. And if aborting babies for not being perfect is normal, then what is the world coming to?