Abortion and Magical Thinking

Today, January 22, is a day that will go down in infamy. Some day in the future, at least. At Pearl Harbor, on President Roosevelt’s classic day of infamy, 2,500 died. America, in peacetime, kills more children than that in their mother’s wombs every day. In two and a half days, we kill more babies than American troops have died over the years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kill. Let’s speak bluntly and truthfully. What dies is alive, has human DNA, and is deliberately eliminated. Moral sensibilities have been so coarsened by a combination of lying and legal conspiracy among our elites that maybe only a small percentage of those who cooperate in these killings are morally guilty of outright murder. Little comfort to babies who never see the light of day.

Punch a woman in the stomach, and you may get punished depending on circumstances and what jurisdiction you live in. Punch a woman in the stomach who’s pregnant and cause an unwanted miscarriage, prepare yourself for manslaughter charges and an expensive civil action.

But if a doctor working for Planned Parenthood essentially does the same thing, by some form of magical thinking, the same human entity may be disposed of under the category of “women’s health.” It becomes a “product of conception” or “unwanted pregnancy,” which – as Pope Francis has emphasized – may be discarded at whim in our throwaway culture.

A baby at 4 days
A baby at 4 days

Four million French demonstrated recently when a dozen people were killed over the offensive and adolescent cartoons in Charlie Hebdo and another four died at a Jewish supermarket in Paris. “I am Charlie,” the common slogan, is silly and emblematic of how we express ourselves publicly about moral matters these days. But no shame on that crowd for saying – no matter in how confused a fashion – that we don’t allow some people to kill others, simply because they think they have a right to.

What shall we say, though, about the people who have remained largely passive in a world in which 1.32 billion babies have been aborted since 1980?

Or an America that has killed, without losing much sleep, 57.5 million babies since 1973?

More than Stalin (40 million).

Way more than Hitler (30 million).

Chairman Mao edges us out (60 million), but he had a bigger population to work with. And anyway, we’re catching up.

Out of those 57.5 million, 17.3 million black babies were aborted. It’s hard to get your head around such numbers, so this may help: That would be like eliminating the entire black populations of New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Memphis, Baltimore, Washington DC, Dallas, Columbus, San Diego, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Boston – combined. And more than twice. Put a different way, it amounts to almost half the current African-American population.

A baby at 4 weeks
A baby at 4 weeks

If America’s police departments did that, we’d be seeing a lot more than demonstrations about “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

It takes some real magical thinking to make these large figures invisible. If they were widely known, we wouldn’t hear nonsense about keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare.” Laughable, since abortion reaches seven-figures annually.

What about those hard cases: “rape and incest”? There have been 572 abortions in America attributed to those causes so far this year. Neither excuse makes much of an argument in light of the massive slaughter.

We cannot overestimate the damage this violence has done to us all: to men and women, parents and children. Marriage, law, culture. Our minds, souls and bodies. And even the Church and other religious faiths. When I first became involved in pro-life activities, the thing that most shocked me was when a pro-life counselor, a nurse and very shrewd woman, told me that many good Catholic pro-life mothers talked their daughters into abortions – fear and misplaced love driving them to it as a kind of one-time exemption.

Today, January 22, if the past is any guide, several hundred thousand people will march in support of life in Washington. Smaller events will take place in cities around the country. The world will, at most, briefly note the event and then forget it – even though it’s the largest annual demonstration, year in and year out, in the capital of the most powerful nation in the world.

I’ll be among them, as in almost every year since I arrived thirty years ago. In a media environment that claims to value the underdog, this crowd should be made to order. Forty-plus years of marching, even in periods when the cause seemed utterly hopeless.

A baby at 12 weeks
A baby at 12 weeks

During that time, pro-life support has gradually inched up, to around 50 percent today. How many of those self-declared pro-lifers would stay the course if they faced a real-life test is hard to say. But the journey is still not done, and the cause has survived and spread to other countries – even mirabile dictu, to Rome itself – where previously there had been no pro-life movement to speak of.

And it’s an example for those of us also resisting what seems another unstoppable cause: gay “marriage.” Gay marriage is soon likely to be with us, like abortion via judicial imposition. But even if the Supreme Court nationalizes gay marriage in June, that debate won’t end. Another long struggle will ensue.

Some people view this as a partisan issue. Democrats, especially Catholic Democrats, have largely chosen party over life. But there are plenty of soft Republicans out there too, who want to walk away from the fight by calling it complicated and difficult in a changed society.

They should all take a page out of Ronald Reagan’s book. He said, often, that if you find someone lying in the gutter, you don’t assume he’s dead and shovel dirt on him. You pick him up and try to get him help. That’s not so complicated or hard. Is it?

And if tens of millions of corpses are lying around, unless we’re enthralled with magical thinking, is it too much to notice – and do something?

A baby at 20 weeks
A baby at 20 weeks

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.