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None Dare Call It Killing

January 25, 2001

Our new president has angered feminists, liberal editorialists, “civil libertarians,” and other abortion advocates by cutting off federal aid to groups that promote abortion abroad. The Washington Post says his act was not “bipartisan,” but “divisive,” with “ugly” consequences.

As I read the denunciations, I noticed, for the hundredth time, a curious aversion shared by all advocates of abortion: they shun the word kill. As in, “An abortion kills a human fetus.” That’s what we’re talking about, right? Killing a fetus? It’s alive, growing, moving by its own impulses (not its mother’s will), until an abortionist — I mean “abortion provider” — cuts it apart or vacuums it out or applies a lethal chemical, and it dies.

Why be squeamish? We use the word kill freely in other contexts. We kill crabgrass, germs, moths, cockroaches, hornets, mice, and rats. We have to kill mammals, birds, and fish before we eat them. You got a problem with that?

George W. Bush is often criticized, by the same progressive-minded folks who favor abortion, for killing murderers who have actually been convicted and sentenced to die by others, merely for refusing to intervene to prevent their scheduled deaths. He has never killed a murderer with his own hands, but his critics don’t mind extending the word to apply it to his acquiescence.

But in keeping with the general code of ideologically prescribed etiquette often ridiculed under the heading of “political correctness,” there is a strong taboo in the media against describing abortion as what it unquestionably is: killing. If a woman pays for an abortion and the fetus isn’t killed, she hasn’t gotten her money’s worth. She wants that thing dead.

[Breaker quote: What is 
abortion, anyway?]The taboo goes beyond words. The media show lots of grisly pictures, from Rwanda, Serbia, and the Middle East, often with prior warnings that you may not want to watch or let your children see. But they never show dead fetuses. Only a “pro-lifer” would make you look at such a thing. When you see a picture of the result of an abortion, you know instantly that some “pro-lifer” has violated the liberal code of decency.

Abortion advocates hate those pictures. They complain a lot more about the people who show them than about the people who make them possible. As the poet says: “Their best conscience is not to leave it undone, but keep it unknown.”

The abortion advocates don’t want us to know, see, or think about what abortion is. They are now complaining that Bush has imposed a “gag rule” on pro-abortion groups. But this is nothing compared with their own self-imposed gag rule that forbids frank public discussion of fetal killing.

Notice that I’m not calling it murder. That’s a moral and legal term. Killing is a simple, undeniable physical description. But if you call abortion killing, you are already perilously close to admitting that it’s a form of murder.

Everyone knows that that’s what it amounts to. Why else would they shrink from simple candor about the physical facts? If a fetus were a mere piece of tissue, with no more moral significance than an inflamed appendix, why would anyone feel discomfort about destroying it?

And why, if the fetus were really felt to be worthless, would abortion advocates insist on being called pro-choice rather than pro-abortion? The people who were (so to speak) pro-choice about slavery were called pro-slavery, though they didn’t want to force anyone to own slaves. They merely wanted the state to protect the right of some people to own others.

The abortion advocates like the smart slogan “Against abortion? Don’t have one.” Imagine the pro-slavery equivalent: “Against slavery? Don’t own one.”

Sometimes we are hypocrites in what we say. But we can also be hypocrites in our silence, including evasions of the terribly obvious. Millions of human beings are being killed in their mother’s wombs, where, of all places, they should be safest.

And this is all right by millions of other people, who, however, refuse to say so in plain English. They claim to protect women’s rights, freedom, the Constitution, even the children who are being killed — who, if allowed to live, they triumphantly point out, would have to be fed.

Why, there’s not a single advocate of killing among them!

Joseph Sobran

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Copyright © 2001 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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