Trying to decipher the dialogue of the deaf
Each year about this time we are treated to another dialogue among the deaf. It is between those who support abortion-on-demand and those who oppose it. For each side to hold such diametrically opposed views suggests each side must have dramatically different interpretations of the values of western civilization.
Historically, Judeo-Christians have held human life to be so precious that, with the exception of self-defense, the taking of a human life by another human being cannot be justified. Moreover, seeking their own preservation, nation-states adopted the self-defense exception as the justification for participation in warfare. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas rationalized killing in combat with the Doctrine of the Just War. Soldiers of conscience have blessed their names ever since.
Historically, Judeo-Christian nation-states considered murder so abhorrent that they have used capital punishment as a means of deterring further murders and to punish those who, without justification, take the life of another human being. Thus, the state has reserved unto itself the power to execute its citizens for murder.
Therefore, ordinary citizens cannot kill except in self-defense and self-defense is justified only under certain specific circumstances when it becomes the only alternative to the loss of one’s own life. As a general rule, defense of property has not been granted the self-defense exception.
But, in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court created another exception through its five-to-four ruling in the case of Roe. v. Wade. We will leave it to the legal scholars to quarrel over whether or not a “right of privacy” can be found in the U.S. Constitution that takes precedence over the age-old prohibitions against the taking of human life. However, the impact of Roe v. Wade is clear. It gives any pregnant woman, be she a high school drop out or a Ph.D. astronaut, a power hitherto reserved to the state and the state alone – the power to decide whether her unborn child lives or dies. Just like the fictional 007, Roe v. Wade gave her a license to kill.
Yet, the pro-abortion movement argues the unborn fetus is not actually a human life. It is, somehow, sub-human and, therefore, not deserving of the protections which have historically been accorded to human life.
But if you examine the euphemisms used by the advocates of abortion-on-demand in defense of their position, their language suggests they know they are doing something that compels them to find linguistic fig-leafs for their actions.
Soldiers in battle face a similar dilemma and they, like the abortion advocates, deal with it in linguistically similar ways. Soldiers strive to de-humanize and even demonize those they may be called upon to kill.
In Vietnam, our GIs called the soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army: “gooks,” “slopes,” “dinks,” and some other names that should not be repeated here. In another semantic evasion, we never killed these other human beings. They were: “zapped,” “wasted,” “hosed,” “whacked” or, more elegantly: “send to an early reunion with their honorable ancestors.” Linguistically, we demoted them from human beings to something less than human and then tried to fool ourselves into thinking we hadn’t really “killed” them.
In a recent newspaper column, the pro-abortion, Anna Quindlen, referred to abortion as: “terminating a pregnancy.” To her, nothing is killed. A pregnancy is terminated. This is reminiscent of the Kennedy years when the CIA was authorized to kill our enemies. Back then, the CIA never killed anyone. Instead, our foes were “terminated with extreme prejudice.”
Support it or oppose it, both sides would have to agree Roe v. Wade stood thousands of years of human history on its head. And, by so doing, the abortion-on-demand movement has replaced one of the major value systems of Judeo Christian philosophy with something else -- with a new value system. If anyone discovers the rationale for this new system of values, I hope they write it down so others can try to understand it.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about a terrorist attack on Colorado’s high country.
©2003. William Hamilton