When Words Can Kill
Jane Hodgson, who died about a decade ago, was celebrated in liberal circles as a pioneer of abortion rights. She was a master at justifying the killing of human life in the womb. Writing about her for the National Right to life News Today (reproduced in lifenews.com, 8/3/17), Dave Andrusko quoted some of her rationalizations:
- "[T]here is a medical indication to abort a pregnancy where it is not wanted."
- "I am concerned with the quality of life, not physical existence."
- "A medically necessary abortion is any abortion a woman asks for."
- "Is adolescent pregnancy a disease?" Implied is that the answer is "Yes." Pregnancy---a "disease"?
This gets me to thinking about how the widespread acceptance of a culture of death has jaded the thinking of so many people. The acceptance of abortion has helped lead the way.
Is the baby inside the womb just…
- "a product of conception"?
- "a clump of cells"?
- a non-"person"? The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (1973), said, "… the word 'person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn."
Or are we "fearfully and wonderfully made," as the Bible says? David the psalmist praises God: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well….all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
David's son, Solomon the Wise, would go on to say that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Think about how words can build up or tear down, affirm life, or dehumanize it.
I remember when Barack Obama said that if his daughter had an unwanted pregnancy, he would not want her to be "punished with a baby." Wait until he has a grandchild, I'm confident he'll be saying, "What was I thinking?" Words matter.
The word "fetus," which some use to depersonalize the baby, is actually just the Latin word for unborn child. Think about even the term "pro-choice." Someone once asked, "What do you choose when you're pro-choice?" Pro-choice means being pro-abortion. I'm for choices, but not for abortion.
Humanists love Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. I don't. Maybe he saw too much blood and guts during the Civil War. He helped ruin America by applying evolutionary principles to the law. As a result, in his view, court precedents outweigh the founders' intent. As a Supreme Court justice, he famously wrote in favor of mandatory sterilization of a woman who did not want to be sterilized: "Three generations of imbeciles is enough." (Buck v. Bell, 1927).
What the Nazis did was evil. No one referenced in this column is being compared to them. But they were masters at dehumanizing the victims they killed.
Many years ago I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. William Brennan, a now-retired professor from St. Louis University. Brennan did a lot of research on the use of words and especially how euphemisms could be invoked to mask killing, including in Nazi Germany.
Dr. Brennan wrote Dehumanizing the Vulnerable. Note the subtitle of this 1995 book: "When Word Games Take Lives." He provides numerous examples of how dehumanizing takes place before mass killings:
- In 1913, Lenin (who authorized a wholesale attack against Christians and others) said: "Every religious idea [is]…'contagion' [disease] of the most abominable kind."
- Adolf Hitler said in a 1923 speech, "the Jews are undoubtedly a race, but not human."
- A 1944 Nazi propaganda book, "The Jew is a parasite."
Brennan points out how, in 1920, long before the Nazis, two German authors (a doctor and a lawyer) wrote Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life. These authors spoke about how some human beings, such as the severely handicapped, should not be allowed to continue to live.
Brennan points out the dehumanizing phrases the authors used to dehumanize people: "mentally dead," "incurably insane," "complete idiots," "empty human shells," "dead weight existences," "defective people," "wholly worthless," "valueless lives," which were "lives not worth living."
Brennan once told me: "The Nazis never used the word 'kill' when they talked about what they did. They covered it up with an array of code words and euphemisms."
And he added, "Projecting fifty years into the future, when abortion is illegal, and they look back to this point in time, they will probably look back in astonishment, just as we now look back to the Nazi Holocaust and wonder what happened there?"
The Bible says that God created us in His own image. This miraculous gift of life is something to be cherished by the words used and the actions taken. It's the difference between a culture of life and a culture of death.