The New Abolitionism
Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
It had been a long day.
I was driving home to Chesapeake from Richmond, Virginia, “dog tired” as they say. My day had begun in Washington D.C., completing my week’s coursework at Catholic University. The morning class was followed by an important luncheon meeting. That was followed by travel to Richmond for a Latin class. That was followed by the privilege of serving as the Deacon and homilist at Mass at St. Benedict’s, my favorite parish in the Diocese of Richmond.
I had at least two hours left to drive before I would arrive home.
When I began my academic work, my oldest daughter, knowing how long the drives would be, bought me an “XM” radio. It has helped in moments of fatigue such as the one I found myself in. So, I turned on Fox News thinking it would help to fill the time and keep me awake for the long drive. It did much more - it filled me-with indignation! The “all star” panel was having a discussion moderated by Brit Hume. The topic was the action of the South Dakota legislature in passing State legislation banning most abortions and the courageous action of Governor Mike Rounds in signing it. During the panel discussion, the language of the “abortion debate” was flying. However, it was one phrase that prompted the writing of this article and my decision to begin using a new term.
The Rhetoric of Ruin
It was Juan Williams, one of the panelists, who sent my blood pressure upward. He repeatedly referred to the Legislators, and the people who overwhelmingly support their action, as “anti-abortion rights” activists. I have written for years concerning the verbal engineering that usually precedes legislative, judicial and cultural engineering. C.S. Lewis, in his marvelous “Essay on Words” aptly referred to such a misuse of rhetoric as “verbicide” –the intentional murder of a word. That is what this horrid expression truly is!
We have witnessed this use of words as weapons of destruction in other recent times, when darkness has momentarily squeezed the light of truth from public discourse.
It was not too long ago when the insidious rise of National Socialism in Germany was prepared by verbal engineering. It was the use of loaded language such as the evil phraseology of death contained in the book entitled “Life Unworthy of Life”, written by that centuries lawyer/doctor duo of death, Hoche and Binding. We had our own in Kervorkian and Feiger. In that book this pair, Hoche and Binding, coined the phrase “useless eaters” in referring to the disabled and those whom the emerging Nazi movement wanted to eliminate. In so doing, they laid the predicate in language for the construction of gas ovens in which the unthinkable, the killing of human persons, later occurred. This act of pure evil was then referred to as a “final solution” in one of the most insidious examples of verbicide. This evil was then protected by civil law in Nazi Germany! We look with horror on that chapter in history. We ask ourselves how such evil could occur. Yet, we fail to recognize what are we doing to another class of persons in our own age?
We witnessed another example of the powerful abuse of loaded language in a sad chapter in our own American history - when slavery was “legal”, even called a “right” and protected by the United States Supreme Court. The lingering effects of this social evil still cry out for remedy! Human Persons whose skin pigmentation was darker than those who then held the reigns of power were treated as property and allowed to be “legally owned” and used by others - all with the approval of a Supreme Court which had sacrificed natural law and justice. A very similar jurisprudence is found in Roe v Wade and its progeny; an entire class of persons, children in the womb, was relegated to the status of “chattel”, personal property, who could thus be disposed of by those more powerful.
They have no voice that can be heard except our own. These human children, our first neighbors in the first home of the whole human race, their mothers’ womb, are being killed by chemicals and surgical strikes - all of which is currently protected by the power of a State. They have no power to resist this new form of slavery without our help. They are subject to use, abuse and destruction by those with more power. Medical science has confirmed what our conscience already knows; the child in the womb is our neighbor.
Several months ago, news accounts were filled with horrible stories out of India confirming the practice of prenatal selection and selective abortions being performed on girl children. This practice involves the use of ultrasounds to locate these girls in the first home of the womb and then their selective killing through various abortion procedures. These same procedures are being used in the United States. Universally, this practice has been decried. It is routinely referred to as "Feticide" in the news reports. I have decided to use that same term from now on when discussing all procured abortion.
In 1973 the current U.S. Supreme Court struck down abortion bans across the country. In so doing, they “legalized” the killing of the unborn in all 50 states throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Forty seven million lives have been taken since then in procured abortions. The Court “created” a new “right”, somehow discovering it in a “penumbra” around the “right to privacy”. Even many of the legal scholars who actually support legal abortion now acknowledge that the opinion is a disaster. It was poorly reasoned and is on a collision course with itself.
Each time Juan Williams used the phrase “anti-abortion rights”, I cringed in my car seat. I asked him aloud in my car “Juan, if you had been alive during the last round of slavery, would you have referred to those who rightly opposed it, even though it was called a “right” and protected by the then Supreme Court, “anti-slavery rights activists”? Perhaps he will read this article. An articulate man with so much to offer, he has sadly succumbed to the verbal engineers of our age.
This rhetoric of ruin must be exposed, opposed and replaced!
The New Language
It is time for those who are on the side of truth and justice - that is those who recognize what medical science and natural justice both tell us that children in the womb are human persons with an inalienable right to life - to begin using a new language in our human rights struggle. Without the right to life there are no other rights. Without the freedom to be born, there are no other freedoms.
Along with the important understanding that every “use” of persons as property, in or outside of the womb, promotes a culture of death and is therefore unjust, we must apply a hierarchy of values in our struggle for all human rights. The killings of innocent human persons in the womb - and its protection by the power of the State - calls for a primacy in our social justice efforts - forty seven million lives have been taken since Roe. I am pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-poor and pro-peace. I am committed to a consistent ethic of life from the womb to the tomb. However, the killing of innocent children in the womb is the pre-eminent moral evil of our age and the time is ripe for a new abolitionism.
Procured abortions are Feticide. Not only have I decided to call every procured abortion “Feticide” (which it is, simply look up the definition of feticide) I have begun to use other language that I hope will help in the most important moral and human rights issue of our age, protecting our first neighbors. That is who children in the womb truly are, our first neighbors! The womb is the first home of the whole human race.
Every single person alive today once lived in a womb! For Christians, this inescapable fact is made even more profound when we remember that our Redeemer lived in a womb! Thus, His stirring words, recorded in the twenty fifth chapter of Matthews’ Gospel, have an exceedingly poignant application in relationship to our sisters and brothers in the womb: “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.” Our call is to replace the current culture of death, nihilism, and instrumentalism with a new culture of life and civilization of love.
Our “strategy” must be to end the killing.
South Dakota is only the first State to pass legislation. The legislation was well drafted and supported by a record of legislative findings of fact that includes unassailable medical science which unequivocally affirms that children in the womb are, in fact, human beings and therefore persons. The legislation has overwhelming popular support, so it will survive any effort by pro-abortion extremists to defeat it through a referendum. Several other States are ready to follow this example.
Some within the pro-life community have speculated that such a courageous act by a legislature is ill conceived. I have heard all the arguments that the instrumentalist approach stands a “better chance” and that somehow the South Dakota approach will harm the inevitable incremental curtailing of abortion. I say nonsense! Human Rights activism always requires an asymmetrical approach. The choice is not “either/or”, it is always “both/and”. I have always supported incremental efforts geared toward the limitations and curtailment of abortion. I was a practicing pro-life lawyer for a very long time. For seven years I led the American Center for Law and Justice which used such incrementalism in securing the protection of pro-life speech. Now, under the leadership of pro-life champion Jay Sekulow, it is leading the efforts that will secure the coming end of the barbarism of so-called “partial birth” abortion.
However, pitting these complimentary strategies against one another is wrong. It also fails to comprehend the gravity of the moral evil of abortion.
That is why I have now chosen to use a new term to characterize my own opposition to legal abortion. It is time for a new abolitionism.
Conclusion: The New Abolitionism
Listening to Juan Williams has prompted me to verbal action. I will not be called an “anti- abortion rights” activist. You simply cannot have a right to do what is wrong! South Dakota has secured a place in American history as the first “Free State” for little persons. At another critical time in our Nations history another evil was once “sanctioned” by the Supreme Court, the “owning” of human beings as property. The Court was wrong then it is wrong now. For a while, some States were “Free States” and some were “Slave States.”
After Roe is overturned, that will occur once again. There will be States where the littlest persons are free and those where they are still treated as property. Our work will not be over with the demise of Roe v. Wade, it only begins. Our goal is not simply to expose and oppose the current culture of death; it is to build a new culture of life, and a civilization of love to replace it. This requires the abolition of the “new slavery” which has secured in law the treatment of little persons in the womb as property.
We need a new abolitionism.
I call on my fellow new abolitionists to take courage. History is on the side of freedom! Roe will go, and with it the struggle for freedom will continue, State by State. Our children and grandchildren will look back on the horror of abortion as we now look at the horror of the first slavery.
We have only begun.