Witness to Atrocity

Although it is a fact that we only dare to confront in the occasional dark night of our souls, this country has been teetering on the brink of moral illegitimacy for the last 38 years.



Yesterday, I was forcibly reminded of this when someone sent me this excerpt from the forthcoming book Unplanned, in which former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson explains her conversion from pro-choice activist to pro-life activist, as she watched an abortion being performed live on an ultrasound:


At first, the baby didn’t seem aware of the cannula. It gently probed the baby’s side, and for a quick second I felt relief. Of course, I thought. The fetus doesn’t feel pain. I had reassured countless women of this as I’d been taught by Planned Parenthood. The fetal tissue feels nothing as it is removed. Get a grip, Abby. This is a simple, quick medical procedure. My head was working hard to control my responses, but I couldn’t shake an inner disquiet that was quickly mounting to horror as I watched the screen.


The next movement was the sudden jerk of a tiny foot as the baby started kicking, as if it were trying to move away from the probing invader. As the cannula pressed its side, the baby began struggling to turn and twist away. It seemed clear to me that it could feel the cannula, and it did not like what it was feeling. And then the doctor’s voice broke through, startling me.


“Beam me up, Scotty,” he said lightheartedly to the nurse. He was telling her to turn on the suction — in an abortion the suction isn’t turned on until the doctor feels he has the cannula in exactly the right place.


I had a sudden urge to yell, “Stop!” To shake the woman and say, “Look at what is happening to your baby! Wake up! Hurry! Stop them!”



But even as I thought those words, I looked at my own hand holding the probe. I was one of “them” performing this act. My eyes shot back to the screen again. The cannula was already being rotated by the doctor, and now I could see the tiny body violently twisting with it. For the briefest moment the baby looked as if it were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then it crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then it was gone. And the uterus was empty. Totally empty.


If you are able, I encourage you to read the whole thing. I have to confess to you that I almost was not. The horror that Johnson describes is almost unfathomable, accentuated by the cruelty and insensitivity of the conscienceless monsters cracking jokes as they watched the death of a tiny human unfold live before them.


Perversely, the most shocking aspect of this particular story is its mundanity. It occurs every single day in the United States, over three thousand times a day, and has for almost four decades. The only thing that sets this particular abortion apart is that a person possessed of a conscience and some measure of writing skill happened to be present and witness it on ultrasound. Every day, including today, probably several dozen times during the course of the time it takes you to read this article, this horror is repeated in America and no one is present who cares to chronicle it in a book about the way it changed their life. Tens of millions of times since 1973 this has occurred in this country under the color and protection of law.




As pro-lifers who love our country we face a dilemma – one which has been explored at length here at RedState on a number of occasions. Our best defense to a comparative ethics study between America of the last four decades and famous totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century (e.g., those under Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin) is that our government has merely allowed this horror to go unchecked, as opposed to actively participating in it. Is this papered-on justification enough to salve our consciences?


For now, it seems that it is.  No modern-day John Brown has arisen and those who preach violence as a means to solve the abortion dilemma are justly universally condemned. We trust,  because our democratic system provides non-violent avenues for solving so many problems and righting even deeply entrenched wrongs, that sooner or later it will respond to an awakening of our national conscience on this matter as well. But as year after year passes and this question remains in judicially-imposed stasis, out of reach of the democratic process, we are faced with nagging doubts: what if we can never achieve a peaceful end to the legalized mass killing of small human beings in this country? If the day comes that we reach this conclusion, will the rise of a new John Brown be inevitable? If so, how will we as conscientious pro-lifers deal with such individuals? We are fooling ourselves if we dismiss these as easy or morally unserious questions, and we wrong the defenseless innocent if we agree, for the sake of politeness, not to discuss them.



The only way to ensure justice in a society is for the law to recognize that all humans are humans, and therefore entitled to equal protection under the law. Whenever the law takes the position that certain humans (be it slaves or those physically located within a womb) are not in fact humans at all, it is certain that moral outrages will follow, and that other moral outrages will be perpetrated to protect the unjust status quo, and that sooner or later, the conscience of America, however long dormant, will collide with those moral outrages. And although the confronters will and have historically been exceedingly patient, history shows that there is a point at which that patience will run out. Men killed and died to end slavery, and few among us today would condemn them categorically for doing so.


Our consciences will not allow us to bear the horror on a daily basis of contemplating the image of thousands of unborn children kicking and writhing to avoid the instruments of their death – trying in their own primitive way to assert their own will to survive, and their worth as something that is alive and growing. Therefore, in order to carry on with our daily lives (as we must to provide for ourselves and our families), we necessarily push these matters to the backs of our minds until, from time to time, someone like Abby Johnson comes along and reminds us of the ugliness that has been swept underneath the rug of our country.



It is at these times we remember why it is that we participate in this fight even though it wears on us from day to day; why it is that we continue to watch news shows that infuriate us, donate money to candidates that would otherwise be put towards our own retirements, and take time away from our families to pound the pavements, man the phone banks, and get out the word. This is why we “fight,” if it is still permissible to use such terms to describe battles fought with the ballot box. And it is also why we reject the empty calls for “truce” and silence from those who have hardened their heart to the ugliness, for we know that there can be no truce with unrepentant evil – there can only be victory or defeat.  And for the sake of the country we love, we refuse to accept defeat.



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