Lives Unworthy of Life

Posted on February 28, 2011


Bernard Nathanson

‘I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age’, said Bernard Nathanson, the former abortionist who died this week.  Nathanson co-founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws in the U.S.A., and was director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health in Manhattan, then the largest abortion clinic in the world.  During his career, he performed thousands of abortions before giving up the practice in 1979, and thereafter becoming as fierce an opponent of abortion as he had once been its advocate.

It was the invention of ultrasound that changed Nathanson’s mind. ‘My switch to pro-life had nothing to do with religion,’ he said. ‘Once we had ultrasound in place, we could study the fetus and see it was a member of our community… The data piled up swiftly and opened a window into the womb.’ He now ranks among the growing numbers of those once involved in abortion who, having witnessed its reality, have become its fiercest opponents, such as Abby Johnson, a former director of Planned Parenthood and author of the recently published book on the abortion industry, Unplanned.

The age of barbarism described by Nathanson did not, however, begin with the sexual revolutions of the 1960s.  The U.K. premiere of the acclaimed documentary Maafa 21: Black Genocide in 21st Century America will soon be held.  It carefully documents the relationship of racist and eugenicist ideas stretching back to the era of slavery with the modern birth control and abortion movement.  It has been described by one reviewer as ‘must viewing for every adult in the world whatever their race’.

Racist ‘heroes’ of the abortion rights movement include Marie Stopes, who sent Hitler a book of her poems and bequeathed most of her estate to the Eugenics Society.  And then there is Margaret Sanger, who spent much of her life railing against the ‘dead weight of human waste’, the ‘constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents’ who were ‘breeding like weeds’.  For Sanger, the answer to poverty, squalor, ignorance, and disease, was not charitable assistance, education, and improved medical care, since she saw organised charity as ‘the symptom of a malignant social disease’.  Rather, the answer was to contracept, sterilise, and abort in order ‘to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world’.

Margaret Sanger

The historical link between abortion and racist eugenics is no longer denied, even by apologists for the former, who contend that such views should be seen in their ‘historical context’.  Yet we are not speaking of people brainwashed by 1930s German education.  Marie Stopes spent her entire life living in the U.K., and was writing sentimental notes to Hitler a month before Britain went to war with Nazi Germany.  Such feeble rebuttals fail to address the inherent link between abortion and the eugenicist mentality.  One cannot claim that for Stopes and Sanger, support for racist and eugenicist ideas was some sort of personal hobby they indulged in their spare time, a way to unwind after a hard day promoting birth control and abortion, but unrelated to the day job – a bit like knitting or playing bridge.  They supported abortion because they were eugenicists, for both involve the arbitrary decision that some lives are worth more than others, and that some lives are not even worth living at all.  The Nazis called them Lebensunwertes Leben, ‘life unworthy of life’.  To those for whom the value of human life is only instrumental, abortion, birth control, sterilisation, and other eugenic devices are simply different means to the same end.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg candidly admitted as much when she let slip during an interview with the New York Times two years ago that she ‘had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about… growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of’, echoing the words of one of her predecessors, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who, upholding the legitimacy of forced sterilisation programs in Buck v. Bell (1927), famously said that ‘three generations of imbeciles are enough’.  The ‘we’ in Ginsburg’s Freudian slip refers to the self-appointed elite in the West who get to decide who lives and who dies.  Not content with purging their own populations of those who do not belong to the übermensch, the poison is exported to the third world through the linking of vital economic aid to aggressive population control programs.

The solutions to abortion, eugenics, and racism, are one and the same: a recognition that humans have an inherent dignity which must never be obscured by poverty, disease, disability, lack of education or culture, or the fact of belonging to a particular race.  If such lives are not worth living, it is only because they have been made intolerable by the prejudice and cruelty of others, by the dogged refusal to recognise and honour their human dignity.  The recognition of this dignity means the recognition of human rights which cannot be violated by any individual or government, amongst which the right to life stands as the centre around which all other rights and freedoms revolve, and without which they lose all meaning.

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(Photo of Bernard Nathanson: © Jorosmtz)