My sister was just back from Europe and just hearing for the first time about a Southern California obstetrician named William Waddill. I told her that after an unsuccessful abortion, Dr. Waddill had allegedly strangled the baby.
"What? Oh, how awful?."
''The amazing thing," I told my sister, "was that Newsweek asked, 'Was it abortion or murder?' As if there were any difference.
"Well, that's a matter of opinion.''
"No, it's not," I said, a bit stunned at the way the media can persuade.
In the practical everyday sense, of course, abortion surely is a matter of opinion. And the powers that be surely know how to sidestep and manipulate that opinion. With public opinion at its most sensitive, during the era of the Nuremburg trails, members of the United Nations' World Health Organization vowed in their Geneva Declaration, "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception; even under threat I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity." And in 1959, in their declaration of human rights, the U.N. gave us this assuring message: "The child, by reason of its physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth."
Yet despite these avowals, in 1948 Julian Huxley, the first Director General of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) had already taken a different kind of oath in UNESCO: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy:
. . . even though it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake, so that much that is now unthinkable may at last become thinkable.
Later, in the essay "Too Many People!" (Our Crowded Planet, Essays on the Pressures of Population), Huxley asserted,
[It is] the duty of the United Nations, supported by the technologically developed nations, to carry out research on human reproduction and its control….
Already a few countries have an official policy of population control . . . but they need world encouragement and their policies should be integrated into a general and official world policy.
Public opinion is ready for this.
Ah, but we're not quite ready yet to see this survival-of-the-fittest policy in the hands of Dr. Waddill. So Newsweek had to ask, "Was it abortion or murder?" (to keep us thinking there just might be some kind of difference).
Time and Newspeak
Nonetheless, public opinion is fast getting "ready." Remember than in May of 1973, four months after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Time raised a few eyebrows when it quoted Nobel Prize winner James D. Watson as saying, "If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth, then . . . the doctor could allow the child to die if the parents so choose and save a lot of misery and suffering. I believe this view is the only rational, compassionate attitude to have."
One university's chief of pediatrics had the nerve to suggest a system whereby "well-born or minorly defective children can be exterminated before the twelfth month of post-gestational life without causing concern to the society as a whole." Scarcely anyone complained.
Back in September of 1970, in their not-really-for-public-consumption journal, the California Medical Association leaked the game plan:
The traditional Western ethic has always placed great emphasis on the intrinsic worth and value of every human life. This ethic has had the blessing of the Judeo-Christian heritage and has been the basis for most of our laws and much of our social policy and has also been a keystone of Western medicine. This traditional ethic is still clearly dominant, but there is much to suggest that it is being eroded at its core and may eventually be abandoned.
Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced, it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary, because while a new ethic is being accepted, the old one has not yet been rejected.
Medicine's role with respect to changing attitudes toward abortion may well be a prototype of what is to occur. One may anticipate further development of these roles as the problems of birth control and birth selection are extended inevitably' to death selection and death control whether by the individual or by society. It is not too early for our profession to examine the new ethic, and prepare to apply it in a rational development for the fulfillment and betterment of mankind in what is almost certain to be a biologically oriented world society.
So here's what the people in high places are accomplishing with all those "very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life." They're making. us "biologically oriented'' (as opposed to spiritually oriented). They're making us see a living human being and a dead body as practically the same thing-just two different phases of one biochemical process. They'll have a tough time bringing it off, though, because anyone who can think a little logically can see that there's no way you can reverse the process-no chemical you can add to change a dead body back into a living human being. Something's missing, and that is the spiritual element, the soul. What's more, the soul who is now giving life to an "intrauterine" body is the same soul who will some day give life to a big "extra-uterine" body. So whether we destroy his extra-uterine body or his tiny intrauterine body, it's not just some biochemical phenomenon. It's murder. We're ripping another person's body away from him. But once we forget the inner soul and become "biologically oriented," we can murder people we find inconsequential or inconvenient and call it the "new ethic."
In fact, once we submerge our spirituality and become ''biologically oriented," we'll see that killing babies is our "new ethic" at its summit the only compassionate attitude to have." As American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Herman Schwartz pointed out inThe Humanist, ". . . abortion proponents seek only to permit those who feel it necessary to destroy unborn organisms . . . with no discernible personality at all, in order to reduce human suffering." Biologically, what's wrong with that? Babies, of course, are not as biologically "viable" or "capable of meaningful life" as we are. So their suffering isn't really as "meaningful" or as "human."
Biologically, this is surely "the only attitude to have," but let us suggest that our scientists and doctors and public policy-makers stop calling it "compassionate." Why not just say that once you've become "biologically oriented," you won't have to feel guilty about being selfish? Why lead a double life? Come out and shout it: "I'm a selfish animal."
No one expects an animal to be compassionate anyway, so at least be honest about it. All you scientific and sociopolitical movers and shakers who've so often told us how much we need to get in touch with our essential animality, why not unabashedly show us the way? Why go through all the strain and drain of wearing suits and ties and holding huge conferences on compassion and concern? Compassion is a human quality. If you have no compassion for human babies, then why persist in calling yourselves "humanists"? If you can't live with the name "animalists," perhaps it's because your God-given human intelligence is trying to tell you something. Something about your own essential spirituality, and that of the babies you've chalked off to your "biologically oriented world society."