By now anyone reading this knows about the Planned Parenthood videos, and the controversy surrounding their selling fetal body parts for Lamborghinis. I stipulate that a reader of this blog would know about the story, because you are more likely to be a reader of other faith based sites that, along with conservative news outlets, seem to be the only ones covering it. The MSM has generally loosed the crickets on this particular item, which sadly, should surprise no one.
The story that has gotten a lot of coverage is the illegal killing of a lion in a game preserve in Zimbabwe. He even has a name: Cecil. The killer was an American dentist on safari. Western culture has progressed to the point that killing animals for purely sporting reasons is looked down upon, to say the least. The killing of Cecil the lion is especially egregious when when we take into account the fact that the poor animal was in a place specifically designated as a safe haven from poachers and thrill seeker.
Many of my friends in the Pro-Life movement, of which I am a member, have seized upon this disparity of news coverage to ask why so much attention is being given to one lion half a world away when thousands of pre-born babies are being slaughtered and sold for parts right here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Isn't one human life, be it in utero, walking the streets or in a nursing home, worth more than any number of lions or tigers or bears? Where is the outrage at the ghoulishness of these Planned Parenthood doctors caught on camera?
The simple answer is that of course there is nothing more precious in the created world than a human life, and we should be outraged by the callousness and inhumanity on display in these videos. But as Mary Jo Anderson points out in Catholic World Report, many of our nominally pro choice friends who have great sympathy for the fate of Cecil will be put off by our critical comparisons instead of drawn in to see the disparity in the reactions to these two situations. I say "nominally pro-choice," because most people are less heated about the issue than the true believers on either side. They accept that abortion is legal (in the popular mind legal equals moral), and while they may have personal misgivings about it, they've bought the line that we shouldn't impose our personal values on others. They've also made the mental break between seeing the life inside the womb as something less then fully human, while the "inviable tissue mass" who happens to make that brief journey down the birth canal is a baby. We can only hope that things like sonograms and talk of fetal livers and hearts for sale can change hearts and minds. What won't work is heaping scorn and condescension on animal lovers who are scratching their head, wondering why we're picking on them. .
There is a bigger point at work as well. In his latest encyclical, Laudato Si', Pope Francis has tried to emphasize that everything in the created order is connected. The disrespect for the human life in the womb is a sign of a wider disregard for the created order. As he puts it:
Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”. (120)
The babies being torn apart and sold for scrap are an example of a culture that views human life, and by extension the natural order, as a commodity to be exploited. Rather than nature being a force to be harmonized with, it is a competitor to be conquered and controlled. Once subdued, it is to be exploited for its financial benefits. Nature has no intrinsic value to the consumerist, utilitarian mind, only a market value. Rather than human beings having an intrinsic value, it is a value predicated on productivity and commercial viability.
We are told that abortion is a matter of individual rights, specifically a women's right to personal autonomy. But the roots of the movement, and of Planned Parenthood (PP) in particular, are tied up in the eugenics movement of the early 20th century. The patron saint of the PP, Margaret Sanger was open about her desire purify the society of "undesirables." She certainly used the rhetoric of women's rights, but more so the desire to eliminate African Americans, Jews and Mediterraneans from the population. She also included "morons, mental defectives and epileptics" among those whose populations needed to be curbed through forced sterilization and segregation. I'll link here to some fascinating quotes from Sanger, and it will supply links to the original sources, just in case you think these things are being made up by Pro-Life "fanatics." My personal favorite is about the need to recruit Black ministers to get the community in line, lest the word gets out, "that we want to exterminate the Negro population," and their more "rebellious members" start to act up.
These quotes from the 1920's and '30's, you say. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made more veiled, but just as chilling comments about the topic of the poor and abortion in the last ten years.
So, for Margaret Sanger abortion was more than about personal autonomy, but about the control, "purifying" and submission of society in general. In her vision, human life is to be perfected through birth control and abortion, eliminating undesirables to ensure racial purity. Today it may be spun as a way of controlling poverty, not a matter of race, (which isn't any better in my book) but it's still curious that Blacks make up around 12% of the population and account for between 30 to 34% of all the abortions in the US, and Hispanics make up roughly 16% of the population but account for between 20 and 25% of abortions. Whites, who make up 63% of the population are responsible for between 36 to 38% of the abortions performed. Is this all by chance, or is it strategic planning?
That PP and other abortion providers are trying to make a little coin off the carnage should also come as no surprise. Once nature is subdued and conquered, it has to be exploited and commodified, and if it can be done in the name of science, better yet.
Going back to Cecil the lion, we are horrified at this senseless thrill kill masquerading as sport. We understand the intrinsic nobility of the great cats, and the animal kingdom generally. We are rightly disgusted at the thought of endangered whales being hunted to make high priced sushi for the rich, or elephant populations decimated to make ivory trinkets. We have a better understanding that nature has a worth beyond a dollar value. The created order is to be cherished, nurtured and harmonized with, not used, abused, and then discarded.
The key to changing minds and hearts is not to ridicule those who morn Cecil, but help them to see the inter-connectedness of reality. The life growing in the womb is special, unique, and dignified. It has a value beyond price. While a lion isn't of the same dignity as a human being, they both come from the same creator God who imbued them with life. All creation points to the Creator, and the wonders of God. We can never hope to restore balance to nature or society if we fail to see the intrinsic, unique and irreducible value of every human life, from the moment of conception to natural death, and that life's interconnectedness with the whole of creation.