This article contains some graphic descriptions.
The boy ran his fingers across the dusty old photograph and studied it intently, tracing the lines of his grandfather’s uniform and imagining himself in the scene. When he closed his eyes, he could see himself mounted atop a dark stallion, his lips curled tightly around the trumpet’s mouthpiece, summoning the troops to order.
He escaped to this place often in his mind. It brought him comfort in the midst of a chaos he was still too young to name. Someday he, too, would wear a uniform and represent a cause and carry purpose on the shoulders that presently bore only the weight of poverty and motherlessness.
The boy grew. His father, a radical (and often penniless) nationalist, taught safety in discipline, in order, in country. The boy joined a local youth organization and worked hard to achieve every merit badge and mark of honor that promised to bring him one step closer to the comfort and significance of that uniform.
At 19, with the country on the brink of war, his chance arrived. He found it at a local hotel when military recruiters encouraged him to join their ranks. He signed on as a bookkeeper. He was well-trained in the art of war. It was ugly, but he was ready for that. The enemy must be defeated at any cost.
So when he witnessed a fellow officer herding a large group of naked Jews into a nearby farmhouse, he thought nothing of it. Neither did he flinch when the officer locked the door, donned a gas mask, opened a can, and poured its contents down the hatch.
Oskar Groening lived an entire lifetime before confessing his crimes at the age of 93, when his conscience compelled him to come clean and apologize. He recalled the farmhouse incident with sobering detail: “The screams became louder and more desperate, but after a short time they became quieter again.”
He felt nothing. “If you are convinced that the destruction of Judaism is necessary, then it no longer matters how the killing takes place,” he said. “At some point you are there, and the only thing left is the feeling: I am part of this necessary thing. A horrible thing, but necessary.”
We Would Never Do That, Right?
The atrocities of the Holocaust are beyond most of our comprehension. We recoil from images of emaciated bodies stacked one atop the other in shallow graves as passersby go about their business. We fixate on a singularly bewildering question, “How in the world is this kind of inhumanity possible?” We convince ourselves that we would never do such a thing. We would be different. We would say something. We would fight back.
So egregious and breathtaking was the harm inflicted in Nazi Germany that, as argued in Godwin’s law, it’s essentially become the standard by which we seem to judge all other evil in the world. Very little can match it. The comparison falls short most of the time, cheapening our collective concept of just how much suffering occurred on a worldwide stage with a largely silent audience of millions.
But sometimes the comparison is actually relevant, and sometimes it needs to be drawn: Since the 1973 court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in America, more than 60 million American children have lost their lives to it. That’s more than six times the number of people killed during the Holocaust. Also like the Holocaust, the visible carnage is easily accessible and often ignored.
In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a series of devastating undercover videos that expose heinous acts of violence, greed, and exploitation that run rampant in the abortion industry. The graphic videos bring people face to face with a brutality that has legally thrived in our nation for nearly 50 years now.
In one of the videos secretly recorded inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, the camera zooms in on a pie dish full of tiny hands and feet, butchered, sorted, and prepped for sale to the highest bidder. Fingers and toes, livers, and brains. “If you are convinced that the destruction of (babies) is necessary, then it no longer matters how the killing takes place,” apparently.
‘A Horrible Thing, But Necessary’
As heartbreaking as these videos are, they also represent hope for pro-lifers, that hard evidence will convict our society to reckon with the truth. The good news is, for many people, the videos have done just that. The bad (and somewhat surprising) news is that for way too many others, the means still justify the ends. Their battle cry is the same soundbite Groening employed so many years ago: “I am a part of this necessary thing. A horrible thing, but necessary.”
Of course, this begs the question: What kind of desperation might need to exist in order to convince people that piles of aborted fetuses are acceptable, let alone necessary? While a popular knee-jerk response among conservatives might be to blame the sexual revolution, shake our heads, and say, “Darn hippies,” that’s ultimately lazy thinking.
A better response would be to honestly ask ourselves what kind of desperation, what crisis of identity, inspired the sexual revolution in the first place? There is much to be said on this point; one need look no further than the overtly chauvinistic advertising popularized in the days of “Leave It to Beaver” to get a glimpse of what life may have been like for women who grew up knowing their lot in life was housewifery and breeding. Nothing happens in a vacuum.
Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?
But there’s a much more diabolical and intentional kind of mind trickery in play when, instead of encouraging females to challenge odious sex stereotypes, we are, instead, encouraged to believe that, in order to acquire power in a man’s world, we have to essentially kill the only superpower we have that men do not.
Beginning in childhood, society preys upon young girls’ vulnerability, carving out a Groening-like roadmap to a promise of happiness that relies almost entirely on the presupposition that our unborn children are nothing more than faceless blobs of tissue, hindrances to our success that can and should be discarded at will.
Today’s girls are born into a world that convinces them that love is free, sex is casual, and hearts are Teflon, a world that labels marriage as unnecessary and motherhood as martyrdom, a world that insists on viewing children as burdens instead of blessings—barriers to the life we really want, a trap to keep us oppressed, a world that promises a “reset” button for every misstep.
But there is no reset button for abortion, and the unspoken costs have been devastating; abortion either breaks a woman’s heart, or it hardens it. While pro-choice advocates aggressively deny the existence of abortion regret, truth is a resilient critter, and even Planned Parenthood now offers post-abortion counseling. Why would the exercise of a “basic human right” require therapy sessions?
For Every Baby, There’s a Mother
Let’s be honest: a large number of the pro-choice camp are post-abortive women. Like Groening, the culture exploited their emotional need and fed them a diet of propaganda and deceit. Their defense of abortion rights is so much more than we know; it’s a defense of an alternate reality carefully constructed around deeply buried grief and shame.
As psychologist Dr. Dan Allender says, “Shame is a phenomenon of the eyes.” People living under its weight would rather claw out your eyes than allow you to see their nakedness. And rage is shame’s bodyguard. It’s no wonder we see so many viral videos of abortion advocates violently destroying pro-life displays.
Each January, hundreds of churches around the nation observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday to honor the lives lost to abortion and to recommit to the mission of ending legalized abortion once and for all. And every year, worldwide, the sobering body count climbs by the thousands, sparking outrage and further condemnation of “baby killing” and “infanticide.”
But few people seem to remember that attached to every single one of those 60 million lives is a mother who, more likely than not, has carried the weight of that decision in ways that have never been properly grieved or expressed. Says Tracey Olsen, the assistant director of an abortion recovery program at Care Net of Puget Sound, “I didn’t know I was allowed to mourn the loss of my baby. I didn’t think I deserved the dignity of grief.”
Yes, There Is Forgiveness for Abortion
For many women like Tracey, the choice to bury their pain and to remain silent about their experience has kept them in bondage for years. The liberation they originally sought through abortion has only come through the intentional and open grieving of the past decision to abort. As it did for Groening, the burden eventually becomes too heavy to hold.
Abortion recovery programs like Care Net of Puget Sound’s Healing Tide are a critically important and oft-neglected piece of the pro-life puzzle. When we talk about the sanctity of human life, we must do so in a way that communicates to women that we believe their lives are sacred, too.
How many armies of Traceys are sitting silently in our own congregations desperately needing the healing that would free them to launch their own ministries of restoration and hope? What would the conversation about abortion look like if the women who’ve grieved it were the ones doing the talking? What would it look like for the moms of the 60 million aborted babies to be healed and set free?
Those of us who are active in any capacity of the pro-life movement have an obligation to find out. True women’s liberation depends on it. We, and our children, deserve so much better than abortion.