Monday, April 30, 2007

Abortion Is Still Genocide

Today I ran across an article in the journal, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, published by Oxford University Press. Titled, “Perspectives: Abortion and Genocide: the Unbridgeable Gap”, it is written by Jessica Woolford and Andrew Woolford, and appears in the Spring 2007 issue that came out first on March 23.

From the article: “Jessica Woolford recently completed her M.A. in English at the University of Manitoba. Andrew Woolford is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Manitoba.”

The abstract follows:
“This article examines The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform's claim that abortion is genocide, assessing it against legal, trait-based and "dynamic process" definitions of genocide. The purpose of this exercise is not to give credence to what many consider an outrageous claim, nor is it to merely refute this claim based upon a close reading of existing definitions of genocide; instead, by subjecting The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform's claim to an ethical and performative evaluation, our goal is to illustrate how the term genocide can be "misused." In the end, we argue that The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform uses the term genocide for its own totalizing and essentializing purposes, and in doing so engages in practices that share an affinity with the exclusionary discourses that help make genocide thinkable.”
The entire article can be found at the following web address. Access to the article requires registration and a $23.00 payment.

I will be writing a response to the article when time allows, but for now I will say that its arguments are fairly easy to answer. In discourse with professors and students on university campuses throughout the United States [and in Canada] we have encountered them in many varied forms, expressed at various levels of sophistication.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The lady waving is, I was told, a professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Her sign is in honor of our appearance with the Genocide Awareness Project on the UAB campus on April 16 & 17, 2007. She seems to be unaware that she is making an invalid ad hominum argument. But since she values this, I will answer that because Seven Men (and Zero Women) voted in favor of Roe v. Wade, it must be 100% bad and out of touch. Also, approximately 52% of aborted children are female-more in places like India and the PRC. My favorite response to her argument, however, is to tell its proponents that I, a man, bore three children before my sex change. And while we are being absurd, I will suggest for the anti-abortion side that men as men, who can not become pregnant and are not as personally involved, will thereby actually be more reasonable and objective on this subject.

Abortion Is Genocide

In August 1941, Winston Churchill called the German’s "methodical, merciless butchery" of Jewish people in occupied Soviet Russia “a crime without a name.” Polish born advisor to the U.S. military, Raphael Lemkin, gave that kind of crime—the destruction of groups of people—a name when he coined the word “genocide.” The word appeared in print for the first time in his 1944 book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. In chapter IX of this book, Lemkin began by saying, “New conceptions require new terms.” [See ]

Another significant milestone in Genocide awareness was reached when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the final text of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. Since then, 137 nations have ratified the Convention. Genocide is viewed as the worst of the class of the worst imaginable crimes called, “Crimes Against Humanity.” The Convention [and the International Criminal Court] define genocide as:

"any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” [See ]
In addition to ratifying the language above, many world states have their own statutes that define genocide in terms differing from the international standard. Some laws are more narrow (and weaker) and some broader. Amnesty International [at ] lists a dozen states whose laws against genocide either increase the number of protected groups or increase the scope of offenses that qualify as being genocide. Amnesty International sees the development of broader definitions of genocide to be positive. For example, in Ecuador, groups are expanded to include those defined on the basis of political condition, gender, sexual orientation, age, health, or conscience. The official French definition of genocide begins with the recognized target groups of “national, ethnical, racial and religious” but adds, “or of a group determined by any other arbitrary criterion.” [See ]

The group of human beings intended for destruction “in whole or in part” in the case of abortion is determined by size, age, degree of dependency, location, level of function and a vague, imposed condition of unwantedness; abortion therefore qualifies as genocide under the French definition, and that of a few other nations, because those criterion are all arbitrary as excluders from the human family.

There also are definitions of genocide other than legal. Words are defined according to how they are used, and commonly genocide is used to describe human caused mass deaths.

Rightly or wrongly, on April 4, Cuban leader Fidel Castro called the Bush administration’s promotion of food crop conversion to biofuels the “internationalization of genocide.” [See ]

Words are defined in different ways, by different people for differing purposes. University of Hawaii Professor Emeritus of Political Science, R.J. Rummel illustrates how there are three broad categories of definitions: legal, common, and general. Moving from the legal definitions to general, the tendency is to lose specificity, so that in general genocide is any mass killing by governments of innocent people. In this regard, “genocide” becomes watered down, and yet there is no word in common use that relates to governmental killings of this nature. Rummel states: “The problem with the generalized meaning of genocide is that to fill one void it creates another. For if genocide refers to all government murder, there is then no name for the murder of people because of their group membership, or the intent to destroy a group in whole or in part?” [See ]

Our use of the word “genocide” to describe the massive world-wide killing of pre-born children certainly does not create a void by undermining the strength of the term; rather it points to an evil occurring presently in our own nation and communities to which all of us to one degree or another are complicit.

In any case, words are defined how they are used. In dictionaries a particular word is often defined in different ways and in numerical order of that definition’s popularity.

Some critics claim that abortion is not “systematic.” That term is not specifically used in the United Nation’s definition of genocide, but if a
person insists on this qualifier, in abortion, governments issue killing permits (a medical license) to specialists who employ various physical and chemical methods. Such governments often fund the killing, and anyone who attempts to interfere with the killing, including the father of the child, (other than simply speaking) will be forcibly stopped and punished—in other words where abortion is “legal” it is state sponsored and protected. The world-wide organization Planned Parenthood makes its agenda clear with the motto: “Every child a wanted child,” which means that it wishes for every unwanted child to be dead before he or she is born.

There are many points of comparison between genocide and abortion. The president of Genocide Watch, Gregory Stanton, has developed a list of eight stages of genocide: classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, denial. All of these stages occur to some extent with abortion. In referring to abortion as genocide and using graphic images, we in the Genocide Awareness Project [a creation of the Center for Bio-ethical Reform - ] emphasize certain similarities: violence committed against the victims and depersonalization of the victims. One factor we deal with a lot on university campuses is denial. [See ] The use of euphemisms in abortion, as in other atrocities, is common. The National Abortion Federation, a “professional association of abortion practitioners” refers to destroying one’s preborn child as “health care.” [See ] Often killing pre-born children is referred to as “reproductive choice.” These are samples of denial in language, but denial is also exhibited in many ways by most women who have aborted. Even “pro-life” people engage in denial by not responding appropriately. Theologies are developed to justify inaction, or worse, collaboration….

The 1985 PBS Frontline documentary, Memory of the Camps, is made of post-war commentary and footage taken by allied forces as they liberated Nazi death camps at the end of WWII. The film shows shocking images of death and starvation. You can watch it at . Everyone should see this documentary. It ends with these words:

“The dead have been buried; it remains for us to care for these, the living. It remains for us to hope that Germans may help to mend what they have broken, and cleanse what they have befouled. Thousands of German people were made to see for themselves, to bury the dead, to file past the victims. This was the end of the journey they had so confidently begun in 1933. Twelve years? No, in terms of barbarity and brutality they had traveled backwards for 12 thousand years. Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall, but by God’s grace, we who live, will learn.”

The pictures of aborted children and other victims of atrocities in the Genocide Awareness Project teach the same lesson as do the images in Memory of the Camps.

There are many similarities between Shoah, the Jewish name for the Holocaust, and abortion—the essential one is that all the victims were and are human beings who were and are depersonalized. One example: Jewish people were called parasites; the National Geographic film, In the Womb refers to pre-born children as parasites. When you see horrible images of the emaciated bodies of dear people being dragged and slung into pits, and when you see the images of 10 week aborted children in GAP… you can imagine. There are heads, arms, legs, torsos, eyes…

Considering everything, including the magnitude (55 million dead per year around the world, and women are the secondary uncounted victims) while not perfect, “genocide” describes abortion better than any other word we have. The generic “abortion” does not do it justice. Maybe someday another more specific and descriptive expression will be invented, but until then, human abortion remains a crime without a name.

[Note: This article is a work in progress. All comments and suggestions will be given serious consideration. I am engaged in a lifelong study of Shoah. Books I am currently reading are Surviving Treblinka, by Samuel Willenberg, and Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. One book that I highly recommend is Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust by Yaffa Eliach.]

[Some background on the International Criminal Court can be found at]