Secular baby-killing rhetoric
The large majority of those Americans who oppose abortion choice are conservative Catholics and evangelical-fundamentalist Protestants. Yet in the United States where the separation of church and state is still a powerful political and legal force, God-beliefs for opposing abortion have been replaced in the public square with secular ones.
“When we have become so calloused as to ignore the killing of millions of babies each year, then we’re doomed as a society. This is another holocaust, just like the one during World War II in Nazi Germany.”
—Randall Terry – Operation Rescue
“It is a wrenching nightmare to see in the mind’s eye the delicate little hand of an unborn infant reaching out playfully to touch the very curette that is poised to rip him apart.”
—Senator Orrin Hatch, U.S. Senate
But do anti-choice supporters REALLY believe that aborting embryos and young fetuses is even in the same ball-park as murdering infants—that this REALLY is “America’s Holocaust”? Consider:
1. No jail time for women who aborted: Polls indicate that very few anti-choice Americans actually want to tear away from their families the millions of American women who “purposely and callously hired professional baby butchers for their convenience abortions” and throw them into the tens of thousands of new prisons we’d have to build. This was true before Roe v. Wade and would most likely remain true if Roe were ever overthrown. But there are only two logical choices: either hold women accountable for being “accomplices to murder” by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. One can’t have it both ways.
Anti-choice activists attempt to justify their “no jail time” position by claiming that “Those women who aborted were not at fault. They were victims of exploitation, coercion and misinformation. They were confused, frightened and manipulated by the greedy doctors of death, by the atheistic, secular humanist media and by a culture that doesn’t want to be bothered.” So in effect, anti-choice activists and their literature have characterized the over 45 million American women who’ve aborted since 1973 as helpless, naive, ignorant, morally weak pawns unable to think independently. It seems impossible for these activists to believe that morally good, intelligent, mature, informed, women would ever freely choose to abort.
2. Consent vs. non-consent: Most of us share the intuition that an innocent bystander’s body should not be used for the sake of another without his consent. Thus, Americans strongly support laws that protect us from being forced to use our bodies against our will to donate a kidney, or bone marrow, or just a pint of blood, even if it meant that an innocent child would die. Yet in apparent stark contrast, anti-choice supporters turn around and support laws that would force innocent women with unwanted pregnancies to use their bodies to keep tiny, unwanted, mindless embryos alive and growing.
Anti-choice leaders justify their position by responding that pregnant women are not innocent bystanders — that by consenting to have sex women have already implicitly consented to a possible pregnancy, so the ‘hands-off-my-body’ laws no longer apply. This is why the large majority of anti-choice Americans make an exception for rape and incest, even though the result is still “an innocent pre-born baby torn apart limb by limb.”
Thus, and this is my key point, it’s the “consent vs. non-consent” aspect of sex that determines whether or not women with unwanted pregnancies should be forced to be unwilling embryo incubators, not some fundamental right-to-life of the “innocent pre-born baby”. Continued pregnancy is simply the price women must pay for choosing to have sex. It makes no difference if they used birth control that failed. It makes no difference if they were ignorant or confused or stupid teenagers. (For the Roman Catholic Church consent is irrelevant, since the Church oppose all abortions.)
3. Embryos in cold storage: If on September 11, 2001, instead of destroying the Twin Towers which killed some 3000 people, Afghan terrorists had “murdered” 3000 human embryos kept in cold storage in New York City, the U.S. would not have invaded Afghanistan in retaliation and the news coverage would likely have been relatively brief. Or if dozens of embryos in cold storage had been purposely flushed down the drain by protesters, very few Americans would have demanded that these protesters be tried for mass murder.
4. Opposing contraception: If anti-choice supporters really believed their own baby-killing rhetoric, one would think they’d want to dramatically reduce the abortion rate by supporting sex education, birth control ads on television, excellent contraception, financial assistance for the poor, and emergency contraceptive pills. And if all that fails, they would be pushing for the increased availability of the “abortion pill” which medically induces very early abortions long before human-looking fetuses have developed and long before “pain and anguish” are possible. Yet, the majority of anti-choice activists have opposed all these measures. One would also think that those who are trying to force women with unwanted pregnancies to reproduce against their will would feel some obligation to care for the resultant children. But that has rarely been the goal of the anti-choice activists.
So what’s really at stake?
So if the large majority of anti-choice Americans, by their own behavior, don’t REALLY believe their “baby killing” rhetoric, why do they REALLY want to force women with unwanted pregnancies to stay pregnant against their will—to be essentially unwilling embryo incubators? What REALLY is going on? After all, the right to affordable, effective birth control and safe, early abortions is about the right of all women to decide for themselves their own reproductive futures, a right that is fundamental to female equality and human liberty.
Well, consider: Anti-abortion efforts have been almost entirely driven by men — men in Congress and state legislatures and conservative churches with awesome political and religious power. It’s about those male televangelists and bishops and cardinals and fundamentalist ministers who are trying to prevent any further weakening of antiquated religious dogmas devastated by hundreds of years of scientific and ethical advances. It’s about those men who want to keep women “in their place”, to punish “loose” women, and to force those women who are trying to “avoid their natural roles in life” to fulfill their responsibilities.
Millions of anti-choice religious followers have been brainwashed from the pulpit by these men to believe embryological falsehoods and medieval religious nonsense. They have been told that God will rain down punishment on the United Stated for having turned its back on Him by legalizing abortions.
That is what I believe has been primarily driving the Roe vs. Wade backlash for the past 35+ years.
Charles L. Rulon is an emeritus of Long Beach City College where he taught courses in Biology and Society for 34 years. He can be reached at
 By similar logic, women who wear “suggestive” clothing or who go outside alone have implicitly consented to be raped. People in cars have implicitly consented to be killed in an accident.
Most Americans who are anti-choice are also opposed to their taxes going to support research into better birth control technologies, or even the mention of responsible contraceptive use on TV. The Roman Catholic Church opposes all modern birth control methods, including sterilization. U.S. bishops have been vocal opponents of both domestic and international family planning programs and of legislation that would require health insurance plans to cover prescription contraceptives. Also, for the last three decades the “born again” Republican Party in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures across our country has consistently opposed family planning research, scientific sexuality education and contraception distribution.