Yes, It Is a Holocaust

Author: Kenneth Whitehead


"Moderate" and "pragmatic" politicians urge the pro-life movement to compromise. But the only logical argument against abortion is an unflinching insistence on principle.

by K. D. Whitehead

Fifty years ago, in the middle of World War II, in January 1944, Arthur Koestler wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled "On Disbelieving Atrocities." In it he took the democracies to task for shutting out the reality of the evils being perpetrated in Nazi-occupied Europe: evils which were later abundantly verified, and in many ways summed up and symbolized by what we have today come to call "the Holocaust"-the extermination of millions for base ideological reasons.

Today museums are erected so that we may never forget the horror of those events, now long past. At the time, however, those like Arthur Koestler who attempted to alert public opinion to the Nazi atrocities encountered a steady, even grim determination never to allow public opinion to be unduly affected by the gigantic evils that were being reported.

A refugee from Hitler's continental New Order, living in England, Koestler described himself as belonging to a group of "escaped victims or eye- witnesses...who, haunted by our memories, go on screaming on the wireless, yelling at you in newspapers and in public meetings, theaters and cinemas. Now and then we succeed in reaching your ear for a moment." Koestler noted:

I know it each time it happens by a certain dumb wonder on your faces...But it only lasts a minute. You shake yourselves like puppies who got their fur wet; then the transparent screen descends again, protected by the dream barrier which stifles all sound.

Precisely because the Holocaust perpetrated during World War II today represents everyone's prototypical example of man's inhumanity to man, it is worth quoting further from Koestler's eloquent 1944 testimony as to just how things were at the time. It wasn't easy to persuade anyone to believe in the horror while it was actually going on:

We, the screamers, have been at it now for about ten years. We started on the night when the epileptic van der Lubbe set fire to the German Parliament; we said that if you don't quench those flames at once, they will spread all over the world; you thought we were maniacs. At present we have the mania of trying to tell you about the killing-by hot steam, masselectrocution, and live burial-of the total Jewish population of Europe. So far three million have died. It is the greatest mass killing in recorded history; and it goes on daily, hourly, as regularly as the ticking of your watch. I have photographs before me on the desk while I am writing this, and that accounts for my emotion and bitterness. People died to smuggle them out of Poland; they thought it was worthwhile. The facts have been published in pamphlets, white books, newspapers, magazines, and what not. But the other day I met one of the best-known American journalists over here. He told me that in the course of some recent public-opinion survey nine out of ten average American citizens, when asked whether they believed that the Nazis commit atrocities, answered that it was all propaganda lies, and that they don't believe a word of it. As to this country, I have been lecturing now for three years to the troops, and their attitude is the same. They don't believe in concentration camps; they don't believe in the starved children of Greece, in the shot hostages in France, in the mass graves in Poland; they have never heard of Lidice, Treblinka, or Belzec; you can convince them for an hour, then they shake themselves, their mental self-defense begins to work and in a week the shrug of incredulity has returned like a reflex temporarily weakened by a shock.

Clearly all this is becoming a mania with me and my like. Clearly we must suffer from some morbid obsession, whereas the others are healthy and normal. But the characteristic symptom of maniacs is that they lose contact with reality and live in a phantasy world. So, perhaps, it is the other way round; perhaps it is we, the screamers, who react in a sound and healthy way to the reality which surrounds us, whereas you are the neurotics who totter about in a screened phantasy world because you lack the faculty to face the facts. Were it not so, this war would have been avoided, and those murdered within sight of your day-dreaming eyes would still be alive.

At least in 1944 some of the Cassandras like Arthur Koestler had access to the major public media in order to report what was going on-in order to be able to "scream" within someone's hearing. Maybe they were not successful in convincing people to believe in the atrocities, but at least they had a few substantial public platforms from which to launch their cries. Koestler spoke, after all, of "screaming...on the newspapers...public meetings, theaters, and cinemas...." His own article "on Disbelieving Atrocities" was published in the New York Times Magazine, no less.

Today's Holocaust

Today another Holocaust is being perpetrated, while those who are again desperately trying to rouse the public against it have little or no access to any important media or other public platforms. When these new "screamers" are accorded any public notice, it is usually only to be treated as a new class of what Arthur Koestler styled "maniacs." While they are obsessed with the horror of what is happening, the average person goes on imperturbably living in an unreal dream world.

Yet the facts about the new Holocaust are again quite readily available, and even well known to anyone who has taken the trouble to focus on them. Once again "pamphlets, white books, newspapers, magazines, and what not" have all been published about this contemporary Holocaust-although most have been circulated privately, and largely ignored by mass-market publishers. In spite of this, the indications are that very large numbers of people either do not know about it or, more likely, are determined not to let themselves be affected by the reality-they are determined not to admit, in other words, that what is occurring is, in fact, a Holocaust.

For it is not the case that there is never any public reference to today's Holocaust. On the contrary, it is frequently referred to and even rather extensively covered, both in the media and elsewhere; it is the subject of frequent public debate and discussion. Letters to the editor calling attention to it, usually from two opposite points of view-like similar letters to the members of Congress- are common; so are bumper stickers and similar sloganeering. What is mostly lacking amid all the public attention, however, is almost any real, solid, accurate information about just what it really is-what it really entails, and what its consequences are for our way of life.

It is actually a horror on the level of, and even exceeding, the appalling atrocities which Arthur Koestler was trying to expose back in 1944. Yet it is most commonly presented to the public in the guise of an absolutely necessary modern "benefit" which helps people live autonomous lives guided by their own personal decisions and choices; it is even supposed to stem from the exercise of a woman's "constitutional right.

For the Holocaust of today to which I refer, of course, is the atrocity of legalized abortion. You had probably already guessed that I was leading up to this. And I can even imagine the rising level of exasperation some may feel at attempts to link abortion to the Holocaust. One of the standardized ways in which the reality of abortion is neutralized, obscured, or denied today is by rejecting-usually indignantly-the notion that legalized abortion is in any way comparable with the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, if the World War II Holocaust represented a horrendous institutionalization of man's inhumanity to man, involving the mass extermination of millions, then legalized abortion today-which is nothing else at all but the institutionalized and deliberate killing by medical means, and on a massive scale, of children who have been conceived but not yet born-surely also qualifies as another Holocaust.

In the United States the procedures used to perform abortions were first institutionalized and have since been maintained by decisions of the United States Supreme Court itself. In its latest major abortion decision, the 1992 Casey decision, the high court ruled that its original legalization of abortion, in the Roe v. Wade decision, must stand because-in the words of the Casey majority-"for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail."

This is indeed what the highest court in the land said: abortion must be available "in the event that contraception should fail;" in such cases we must be able to exterminate at will the children who are conceived. No thought at all is given to the question of whether these children themselves might not be the subject of rights, or have justice coming to them, if our constitutional and legal system is still going to be able to claim in any sense that it stands for "equal justice under law." Rather, that proud motto would seem to have already been compromised, and perhaps fatally undermined, with the Roe v Wade decision of 1973.

The New York Times, which had been willing to print Koestler's jeremiad against the original Holocaust, welcome the current one with the editorial comment that the Roe v. Wade decision represented what it called "a noble cry of conscience." Now we really do know what is meant by "the banality of evil!"

The overwhelming facts

On the purely factual level, there would similarily seem to be no longer even any memory of how contraception was originally promoted in public (against the perceived opposition of, most notably, the Catholic Church) as an indispensable way to avoid ever having to resort to abortion. Modern means of contraception had regularly been represented as "alternatives," supposedly preventive of abortion, whereas what has occurred historically is that once contraception came to be considered acceptable and necessary, abortion too came to be considered necessary, as an indispensable "back-up."

When was it ever debated, at what point was it ever decided, that lives could now actually be terminated "in the event that contraception should fail?" Whenever it was, this is now the law of the land.

If ever there was a harmful ideology, today's reigning and almost universally unquestioned ideology-that a modern autonomous person must be "free" to make his own decisions, regardless of how those decisions affect others, who may not have any recourse of their own-surely must qualify as producing utterly boundless evil. As the current principal argument and justification for legalized abortion, this ideology, now enshrined into law, is producing in the United States "daily, hourly, as regularly as the ticking of your watch," as Koestler put it-some 4,400 abortions every day. This adds up to 1.6 million per years, over 30 million since this lethal "medical" procedure was legalized by the Supreme Court over two decades ago. 1992 statistics indicate that the incidence of abortion has dropped somewhat, to around 15 million annually. This still means that well over one-fourth of all the pregnancies in the United States today now terminate in abortion.

But is abortion really killing? I can imagine that exasperation level rising again. The denial that abortion is killing is another one of Arthur Koestler's "dream barriers" designed to enable people to escape having to face the true consequences of the Supreme Court's decision.

The evidence is overwhelming that abortion is nothing else but-killing. Moreover it is the killing of a human being. This is in no way a religious or theological judgment. The scientific facts concerning human conception, gestation, and development are all irrefutably established, and they all support the conclusion that a distinct human being comes into existence at the time of conception; these facts are readily available to anyone honest enough to ascertain them. But once again the facts are almost never examined or discussed; they are simply denied or dismissed out of hand. The question raised by abortion is not the factual one of whether or not we are killing a human being; we are. The question raised is the moral question of whether or not we are entitled to do so.

I could dwell upon some of the more bloody and brutal recent techniques by which abortions are currently performed: the so-called D & E procedure, where the developing baby is literally cut up into little pieces; or the D & X procedure, where the fully formed skull is pierced and the brains sucked out so that the head can be more easily extracted. Yes, these procedures are actually being carried out today by physicians trained in our medical schools. Or I could dwell upon the process whereby the developing baby swimming in the mother's amniotic fluid sharply recoils in pain from the probing needle which will inject the saline solution, which in turn will literally burn him to death. I could dwell on this sort of thing at sickening length, in fact, without ever mentioning the harm that is also regularly done to the women undergoing abortions.

Legal execution

But I do not have to dwell on any of these highly unpleasant things to make my point. For the Supreme Court, in effect, has now admitted that abortion does indeed involve the termination of the life of a developing human being before birth; the court has only admitted this, however, in the very act of deciding that this particular kind of homicide is nevertheless permissible, and must definitely continue to be legal. A "life" is taken, all right, but in the words of Justice Stevens in his concurring opinion in the Casey decision, "an abortion is not the termination of a life entitled to 14th Amendment protection."

That's the point; it is "defined" as a life which is not "entitled" to the constitutional protections that everyone is supposed to enjoy.

In a rare moment of judicial candor, a New Jersey judge attempting to rule under the constraints established by Roe v. Wade once remarked, quite correctly, that this decision actually "legalized the execution of a human being," but that, as a judge, he was bound by the ruling anyway, so long as it remained "the law of the land."

The unborn are thus excluded from the equal protection of the laws supposedly guaranteed by our Constitution, on the basis of a simple declaration that they are not entitled to that protection-just as slaves were excluded by definition from the same equal protection of the laws under the Dred Scott decision over a century ago.

The comparison of legalized abortion with slavery-like our earlier comparison with the Holocaust-is another of those things which is apt to raise the exasperation level among proponents of the current legal regime. It mightily irritates and annoys all the same people who are busy denying reality, unwilling to face up to the facts. But the comparison is neverthe- less quite exact, just as the comparison of Roe v. Wade with the Dred Scott decision is quite exact. In each case, an entire class of human beings has been deprived of all constitutional rights by a simple court ruling.

The denial of the reality that legalized abortion is not only sanctioned legalized killing but also stands in direct and stark contradiction to the basic principles of the American constitutional system-which can hardly avoid being undermined generally by such an open contradiction of all that it supposedly stands for-this is a denial which provides abundant confirmation of the fact that millions of Americans today have fallen into Arthur Koestler's category of "neurotics who totter about in a screened phantasy world because [they] lack the faculty to face the facts.

Koestler's contemporary, George Orwell, similarly wrote that "at any given moment, there is a sort of all-pervasive orthodoxy-a general, tacit agreement not to discuss some large and uncomfortable fact." The reality of abortion in America today would surely seem to be such a "large and uncomfortable fact."

When the "dream barrier" lifts

Occasionally Arthur Koestler's "dream barrier" is lifted, and some truth temporarily escapes. One such occasion was the meeting before the television cameras between President Clinton and Pope John Paul II, when the latter arrived in Denver in August 1993; it was repeated again when the President visited the Pope in the summer of 1994. The media were obliged to report the Pontiff's pointed remarks about the tragedy of abortion in America, but the events were so unusual that President Clinton knew all along that he really did not have very much to worry about; he scarcely exhibited any discomfort on either occasion.

A similar occasion arose at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC in February 1994, when Mother Teresa of Calcutta told an audience which both President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President and Mrs. Gore:

...the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can even kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill another?...Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to what they want.

At that point in her address Mother Teresa received a standing ovation from the audience. President Clinton, however (as journalist Cal Thomas reported) "at that moment...reached for his water glass, and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President and Mrs. Gore stared without expression at Mother Teresa. They did not applaud. It was clearly an uncomfortable moment on the dais." It was the dropping, again, of Koestler's 'dream barrier which stifles all sound."

Even though the barrier is sometimes lifted, and the truth does sometimes escape, Mother Teresa herself nevertheless most accurately characterized America today when she said that "people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers."

Moreover, on those few occasions when the barrier is lifted, the practical results generally fall tragically short of what is needed. To take yet another example: the terrible truth about abortion has never been more factually or eloquently told than by Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during the debate on the "Hyde amendment"-which for the past 18 years has generally prohibited federal funding of abortion. Against all expectations, the Hyde amendment was re-enacted in 1993 (although the pro-life forces had to agree this time that pregnancies caused by rape or incest could be terminated at taxpayer expense, as well as pregnancies that threaten the mother's life).

During the debate on his amendment, Hyde himself exhaustively presented, as never before, all the terrible facts about legal abortion. He capably reiterated all the arguments against the practice. (See the Congressional Record for June 30, 1993.) There is no public record concerning whether the members of the House of Representatives were embarrassed or chagrined or ashamed, as they should have been. What the public record does show is that neither Hyde's facts nor his arguments ever appeared in any media coverage of the debate.

What appeared instead in the media coverage were "politically correct" stories of how the new contingent of female House members were simply outfoxed procedurally by the old-boy network that included Congressman Hyde. (It is taken for granted by the media that any woman in public life must necessarily favor keeping abortion legal.) Wait until next year, until these women finally come into their own: that was the media message. And indeed this year abortion is again being debated in Washington, this time as another medical "benefit" of the health-care reform package proposed by President Clinton.

The melancholy truth concerning public policy on abortion, as any serious inquirer will quickly learn, is that our "dominant culture" is quite simply not interested in the truth about abortion; it is simply resolved to have abortions. For the moment, no facts or arguments will avail. With abortion, we are dealing with something totally different from the usual debate about public policy.


It is widely accepted, for example, apparently without argument, that abortion represents an ineluctable and overpowering modern imperative. Certainly the sexual revolution is inconceivable without it, ant the sexual revolution itself is also nearly universally acknowledged as an overwhelming and irreversible fact of modern life. This is surely one of the strong reasons-though not the only one-for the unreality which pervades nearly every public discussion of abortion. It is also one of the reasons for the strong disapproval so often expressed against demonstrations by pro-lifers- the "screamers," the "maniacs," even when they are doing nothing but what other demonstrators for other causes are regularly cheered and praised for doing.

Few movements in American history have been more truly non-violent than the pro-life movement. Yet-marking still another casualty for truth-the movement is regularly accused of violence anyway. And the verifiably few violent acts by isolated individuals are shrilly and selfrighteously laid to the charge of the whole pro-life movement, to the point that Congress has now actually enacted a Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, openly abridging the First Amendment rights of pro-life demonstrators only (and, not incidentally, possibly encouraging greater violence, because now pro-life activists can be found guilty of felonies whether they are violent or not).

It is almost as if the failed attempt of Count von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators to assassinate Adolph Hitler had been taken to be the "problem" in Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1940s, instead of what the Nazis themselves had done!

Whatever your case, then, it cannot be pro-life; it is not in fashion. Today's bien-pensants irritably repeat, like a mantra, that the volatile and "controversial" abortion issue must be settled once and for all; pro-lifers must reconcile themselves and come to terms since it is plain that abortion advocates will never come to terms. "Practical" people can see no other way out; Americans, we are constantly told, are tired of this debate.

It is easy to understand why Americans might be uneasy about abortion. After all, it represents a really monstrous situation in which Americans have nevertheless decided to acquiesce, at least for the moment. Still there is no way not to be uneasy. The idea that legalized abortion just might require opposition on principle-that it just might happen to be one of those fundamental and unavoidable issues that, if not faced and remedied, can undermine our entire legal and constitutional system, indeed is already doing so-the further idea that America cannot be left in the hands of a public opinion apparently prepared to sacrifice a significant percentage of the next generation to the insatiable demands of a sordid ideology-these are all ideas that huge numbers of Americans are apparently not yet ready to confront.

There can be no doubt at all that the leadership of the country's present majority in the Democratic Party is firmly and frankly pro-abortion. The well-heeled abortion lobby has for quite a while been among the most powerful of the ideological special interests to which that party is in thrall. At the party's 1992 convention, Pennsylvania's pro-life Governor William Casey discovered that the subject of abortion could no longer even be discussed. Democratic candidates generally see abortion, if not always as an automatic winning issue, at least as a clear imperative for their campaigns, often vying with one another in Democratic primaries to see who is more militantly "pro-choice."

Presidential aspirants have understood for some time that they stand no chance whatsoever of going anywhere in the Democratic Party nationally unless they espouse a completely wide-open position on abortion. They fear and respect the pro-abortion forces, in a way that none of the Republican aspirants ever fear or respect the pro-life forces. Thus such formerly "pro- life" Democrats as Jimmy Carter (he once said he was pro-life), Ted Kennedy (he did, too), Jesse Jackson, and Bill Clinton all found it necessary to renounce whatever pro-life sentiments they may ever have harbored in order to launch their respective presidential bids. This renunciation seems to have caused these men not even the slightest twinge of anguish or afterthought-a fact which itself is a symptom of how definitively the abortion issue is considered to have been settled.

Indeed it is hard to think of any other issue which is considered so sacrosanct today. Our Constitution itself does not seem to be sacrosanct. Nevertheless, even many who profess to be "pro-life" share the same general assumptions about the permanence of legal abortion; they apparently do believe that this ghastly procedure, unheard-of as a legal practice until Lenin's Soviet Union first legalized it in 1920, can henceforth only be opposed in the most tepid and minimalist ways. When William Butler Yeats wrote his oft-quoted line-"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity"-he certainly could have been talking about the abortion issue today.

The encroaching silence

That a modern democratic government could actually be committed to promoting an abortion Holocaust, which takes more American lives every year (1.5 million) than were lost in all the wars of American history (1.2 million)- meanwhile considering the whole matter as respectable, politically correct, somehow even a plus for freedom-all this is bad enough. What is worse is that there is apparently no alternative political leadership in sight, prepared to face up to the full horror of the situation. The situation is exactly analogous to the one described by Arthur Koestler in 1944: neither public opinion nor political leadership is prepared to admit the atrocity of the Holocaust.

In July 1993, for example, President Clinton's first nominee for the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in spite of her assertion that "a woman's right to choose abortion is central to a woman's life, to her dignity." The supposedly pro-life Senators on the Judiciary Committee, who have solicited and accepted pro-life support in their election campaigns, still joined in the unanimous vote-even in spite of the disgracefully hostile treatment which "pro-choice" forces in the Senate hat meted out to Republican nominees to the Court. Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who once introduced his own constitutional amendment to bar abortion, was actually quoted as saying that a "pro-choice" President was entitled to a "pro-choice" justice on the court!

While the Republican Party platform currently does contain a pro-life plank, calling for a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn, there is currently an internal debate on whether the Party can afford to maintain that position. Influential Republicans are arguing that a constitutional amendment is not in the cards-that no possible majority could be constructed to support it. Therefore, many Republicans urge that the present pro-life plank be eliminated in the name of political realism.

No doubt many Republicans would be enormously relieved to "put the abortion issue behind us"-never mind how it is done. (And never mind that the Party would have to sell its soul, forsaking the commitments it has made to win the large-and still growing-pro-life and pro-family vote.) The truth is, however, that those who think the Republican Party-or the country in general- can "put the abortion issue behind us" are charter subscribers to George Orwell's "all-pervading orthodoxy" which has tacitly agreed "not to discuss a large and uncomfortable fact..."

Most observers recognize that no national Republican or conservative victories are even possible in today's climate unless the pro-life and pro- family constituency remains in the Republican ranks. Yet even in the face of this hard fact, many Republican leaders go on insisting that a minimalistic position is the only one that makes sense. Of course they do not want to lose pro-life votes. But, calculating that pro-lifers have nowhere else to go anyway, they are determined not to go any further than they must in advocating real pro-life solutions.

Usually the argument is made that the battle to restore equal protection to the unborn is irretrievably lost. Yet such protection was afforded by the laws of all 5O states up until 1966-less than a generation ago-and scarcely anyone protested. And little attention is paid to the question of whether freedom and democracy can survive if "those days" are not brought back. No; such ideas are ruled out in advance. In spite of the fact that they are right on the principle, the pro-lifers are regularly told that they must be content to work only for what is attainable today-for half-measures that constitute pinpricks on the skin of the dominant abortion culture.

Concessions on principle

The fact is that the mini malist approaches to legalized abortion are framed so as to concede in principle that at least some elective killing is permissible. This admission, like the institution of slavery at the beginning of the American republic, fatally divides the house, so that it cannot indefinitely stand-and that means that, sooner or later, it will fall.

For those minimizers who protest that nobody will ever convince the average American that a day-old embryo enjoys the same value as a nine-month fetus ready to be delivered, the reply must be: "You were once a day-old embryo; did you have a right to life, or not?" We cannot put a comparative price on human life at various stages; that is already a concession on principle.

One of the main troubles with the partial or minimalistic solutions to the abortion issue, then, is the illusion that this question is susceptible to a compromise or "moderate" solution. In reality no such compromise is possible, because the pro-abortion forces have from the very beginning staked out the absolutist position that abortion is a woman's constitutional right. What constitutional right can be compromised? On the contrary, a very important step toward any political solution on abortion must be to establish the truth that there cannot possibly be, under our Constitution, any "right" to take the life of another human being.

Nevertheless, the idea that there ought to be some middle ground on the abortion issue provides a convenient excuse for those who are unwilling to take a principled stand. From this perspective pro-lifers are regularly told, even by their "friends," that their movement can no longer expect satisfactory political solutions-that they must instead concentrate on incremental approaches such as helping women through problem pregnancies.

This sort of advice often may be well meant. But is bespeaks more than a little ignorance, willful or not, of the real situation. Compassionate alternatives to abortion have been offered for years, always with the strong and steady support of the pro-life movement. No doubt there is always a greater need. But the repeated accusations that pro-lifers only care about babies before they are born is just another one of the lies regularly propagated by the media.

Mother Teresa, in her address at the National Prayer Breakfast, pleaded with pregnant women not wanting their babies to give them to her. "I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child," she announced. Many others stand similarly ready to help women-if "helping women" were really the core problem created by legalized abortion.

There is no lack of compassion or of concrete "positive" solutions in the pro-life ranks. But this kind of positive approach does not even begin to compensate for the catastrophic damages and the deep moral corruption which legalized abortion has now spread throughout our society. The fact is that by now, millions of Americans have actually been involved in providing and procuring abortion, and millions more have friends, associates, or family members who have been involved. It is understandable that such people do not want to be reminded about the evil of abortion. Naturally they will view pro-lifers lifers as "screamers" and "maniacs." But the prospect of offending sensibilities cannot be the basis on which America has to decide this fundamental moral question.

No more patronizing

According to a study performed by the (pro-abortion) Alan Guttmacher Institute, 83 percent of all abortions performed in the United States are performed on unmarried women, 26 percent of whom are teenagers. And what reasons do they offer? Some 75 percent said that "having a baby would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities." Interfere! The next most common reasons cited were lack of money and what were called "relationship problems." Less than 7 percent cited any "health" consideration whatsoever (for what is supposedly a "medical" question). Well over 90 percent of the abortions performed in America today, in other words, are performed for reasons or under conditions which polls indicate a large majority of Americans oppose.

When we consider the casual, callous, and massive incidence of purely convenience abortions, we may perhaps wonder whether the time has come for fewer patronizing lectures addressed to pro-lifers lamenting their lack of political realism and calling them to accept compromise solutions. Some real questions have been waiting for an answer ever since abortion was first legalized. Where is the compassion for the babies? When are those who insist that our Constitution must mandate evil going to be summoned to accept a compromise? How can we accept any legal killing and still expect to maintain the integrity of our system?

Facing realities

What, finally, are we to think of today's abortion Holocaust, combined with the apparent grim determination of the public and its leaders to avoid it? What are we to think of the "pro-life" leaders so breathlessly eager to urge pro-lifers-and pro-lifers only-to compromise?

First, nothing prevents pro-lifers from working for partial goals: waiting periods; limitations on access to abortion; parental, spousal, and informed consent; and other such measures-even while maintaining their ultimate goal of a constitutional amendment. Let us get whatever we can. These measures can also be part of the necessary public education process regarding abortion. It is one of the more fatuous aspects of the position held by "pro-life" compromisers that they should be summoning pro-lifers to work for measures on which the pro-lifers are already precisely the ones doing the work.

Yet no sensible pro-lifer imagines that these thing can serve as ultimate goals; they merely represent what can be extracted from "the system" at the moment. And as things stand, the political efforts that have to be exerted today, even to achieve these limited goals, are nearly as great as promoting the integral pro-life viewpoint anyway. So it is the latter that must remain as the ultimate goal.

Pro-lifers cannot abandon a principled reaffirmation of what our Constitution already supposedly guarantees: namely, the equal protection of law for all. This is in no way some "absolutist" position inspired by theology; it is the actual position set forth in the plain words of the Constitution.

To abandon a principled position, on whatever grounds of expediency, is really to abandon not only the unborn but also the Constitution. If legalized killing in whatever form cannot be abolished under the Constitution, then the Constitution has already been abrogated. We are faced today with powerful public movements working for such things as euthanasia and assisted suicide, and soon it will be other forms of legalized killing-which, if current trends continue, may also even become compulsory. None of this is any longer the oretical; in various ways, it is already happening. We need only think of the black comedy of the inept efforts by the State of Michigan attempting to bring Jack Kevorkian to justice. All of this became possible only after abortion was legalized, and the possibility of sanctioned killing became established in principle.

The task of responsible political leadership today is not to acquiesce in the current situation on the grounds that it is no longer easy effectively to fight against it, but rather to find ways to alert the public to our real situation and to its implications, and then to find ways to reverse direction and restore the integrity of our legal and constitutional system.

It is also the task of responsible, serious political leadership to attempt to lead the country on a better basis than merely consulting the latest polls. In 1944 Arthur Koestler discovered that the polls demonstrated that a clear majority of Americans disbelieved in Nazi atrocities. American public opinion was wrong; the atrocities were real. And just as it was the task of political leadership then to convince the people that the Nazis' evil deeds should be opposed, so today it is the task of responsible political leadership to convince the people that the evils of abortion should be opposed.

The moral burden of leadership

Public opinion on the abortion issue is notoriously ill informed as well as misinformed. It is also volatile. In other words, it can be changed. It is one of the tasks of political leadership to change it, so as to restore the integrity of our system. Polls have indicated that a majority of Americans still do not understand that what we have today is a massive regime of abortion, performed almost entirely for reasons of convenience. But once a serious effort has been made to educate the public, it is quite possible that a new and properly informed public opinion would recognize the necessity of upholding our constitutional system. This is the way we have to go.

To base a position on the current preferences of Americans, as ascertained by highly dubious opinion polls, is to abdicate any claim to principled leadership. This is especially true for Republicans and conservatives who claim to care about the Constitution, and to oppose the excesses of liberal judicial review. In particular, the idea that the Republican Party should abandon its current pro-life plank would be a catastrophic mistake. Even if no constitutional amendment is attainable in the near future, the symbolism of dropping it as a goal would be universally perceived as an abject capitulation before the sorry reality of our current moral corruption.

The abortion issue is not susceptible of any simple or immediate solution. It is much too serious and fundamental an issue to allow any solution arising rom the usual compromises and splitting of differences that characterize everyday political life. The abortion issue really is like the issue of slavery, however unpalatable that recognition may be.

As Arthur Koestler pointed out 50 years ago, the first Holocaust was allowed to take place because the world preferred to live with its own illusions, unwilling to abandon politics-as-usual to confront a gigantic evil. It has often been asked where all the "good Germans" were when the concentration camp gas chambers went into operation, and the crematoria chimneys began to smoke. But we Americans today have considerably less excuse than the Germans under Hitler, since we do enjoy (at least for now) a political system that remains comparatively free and responsive to appropriate political action.

It is not clear precisely how much longer that freedom will obtain, now that we have begun to acquiesce in the legal curtailment of freedom. Already the freedom of pro-lifers is increasingly abridged by such laws as FACE. It is no accident that these constitutional outrages have also grown out of the current abortion imperative; it always and inevitably corrupts everything that it touches.

Nevertheless, it remains true for the moment that most Americans would not be placing themselves in any particular jeopardy by opposing legalized abortion, using normal political means. There are not even any penalties for being a stalwart pro-life politician; many are in office and continue to do quite well.

Of course it may be, tragically, true that the critical mass of leadership simply does not exist among the Republicans conservatives capable of understanding that the abortion question must be treated on the basis of principle. If that is the case, pro-lifers must persist anyway. They must persist because they are right about the basic issue. "Truth is mighty and shall prevail!" Does a woman under our Constitution really have a "right" to take a life? The answer is No. Abortion must be opposed on principle, not only because it entails the killing of a human being, but also because it is a lie.

KD. Whitehead, an assistant secretary of education in the Reagan Administration, now works in Virginia as a writer, editor, and translator.

Taken from "The Catholic World Report," August/September 1994.