"How Could They?" PDF Print E-mail

By Mark Toone

My family recently returned from a sabbatical in Europe. Our first stop was Berlin where we visited one of the last standing portions of the Berlin Wall. Poignantly, it stands next to the site of the former Gestapo headquarters. Not only did we touch and photograph a concrete relic of the Cold War, we also meandered in pain through a historical display of the brutalities of Hitler's Nazism, particularly his attempted eradication of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and religious sectarians in the death camps.

I suspect that there is a universal cry that springs unbidden to the lips of every person that visits these sites: "How could they?" How could they do such things? How could they allow such things to be done? And the "they" to which the question refers is not the Hitlers and Görings and Goebbels of the world. Every nation and generation has had its share of brutal madmen. No, what really troubles us is how the people, the ordinary German people, could abide such behavior. How is it possible to turn a nation's collective back on millions of brutal executions? How could they?

The answer is, incrementalism. Baby steps. Despots don't start with death camps. They start with colored badges and ghettoes and security forces and "work camps." Death camps are only a final, incremental step that falls rather easily at the end of a systematic process of dehumanization. Obscene behavior that would never be tolerated by a humane society were it thrust upon that society can "sneak up" on that society if it takes enough baby steps.

It struck me, upon my return to the United States, that some day visitors to the history of our country will say the same thing of us. "How could they?" And the object of their dismay will be the procedure known as partial-birth abortion. Though numbered in the hundreds rather than the millions, this barbaric act is America's twenty-first century version of death camp incrementalism. Every legislator, judge and president who has voted down, overturned or vetoed efforts to eradicate this breathtakingly evil procedure ought to be forced to stand in an operating room and watch it take place. An otherwise perfectly healthy baby, ready to be born, has everything but its head delivered and the contents of its skull evacuated before extracting the now lifeless body.

Medical professionals to whom I have spoken say there is no legitimate medical reason for such a procedure. Its purpose is simple: as long as the baby remains partially within the mother, it is not an individual and, therefore, not protected by the constitutional rights all of us enjoy. Any of us who have observed birth know that once the head and shoulders are delivered, one has to work hard to keep that little guy from squirting his way into this new world. By turning the body and unnaturally blocking his exit from his mother's womb, the abortionist is capitalizing on the most vicious legal loophole ever created in this country. An act that fifteen inches and five seconds later would be considered murder is a protected medical procedure.

Let us for the moment concede the controversial question of when life actually begins within the womb. This is not that issue. Partial-birth abortion is infanticide. And one day, a more humane society will look upon us with incredulity and ask, "How could they?" Good question.

Dr. Mark Toone is pastor of Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Washington.



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