This article is about gruesome subject matter.
Child sacrifice strains the limits of moral relativity, yet too often abortion gets a pass. There are various arguments why, but at least it’s a debate. In contrast, most Americans are only semi-conscious of the use of aborted babies for medical experiments. Our tax dollars pay for it through the National Institutes of Health, but more often than not, we never hear about it.
In a recent Newsweek editorial, David Daleiden reminded the public that scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have been taking five-month-old aborted infants, cutting out their body parts, then grafting their scalps onto mice, or otherwise harvesting their organs for medical use. Our natural response is revulsion. For the sake of sanity, though, our momentary outrage is usually followed by forgetfulness.
It’s a difficult subject to contemplate, so most people don’t, at least for long. When Daleiden exposed similar abuses by Planned Parenthood back in 2015, very little changed. Most of us who heard about it simply recoiled in disgust and moved on.
Meanwhile, Daleiden faced felony eavesdropping charges for his undercover investigation and is still trying to appeal court orders to pay Planned Parenthood more than $15 million in damages and legal fees. Outside the activist community or his delighted detractors, his story goes largely untold.
Any gruesome practice done in the name of “medicine” is subject to the ethical scrutiny of experts, of course, but the experts are usually the ones conducting them. Most observers have no power over the situation — if they even know about it at all.
Similarly, most people rarely think about the dark acts occurring daily in abortion clinics, or the child sacrifices taking place today in Uganda, South Africa, and elsewhere. Effectively, these horrors exist outside the public’s moral framework.
Meanwhile, the horrors of abortion have become too normalized. A recent Pew poll found 59 percent of Americans support allowing abortion to remain legal while only 39 percent oppose it. That opposition is heavily skewed toward white evangelicals. Even among Catholic respondents, more than half favored legalization. As you’d expect, older generations are more concerned than young people, although the majority in every age bracket was pro-abortion.
I’m unaware of any public opinion polls on child sacrifice, but I think it’s fair to say almost no Americans would favor throwing infants onto temple fires — even for the benefit of the community. For one thing, few modern Americans believe the gods require human blood to make the crops grow or keep the sun on its course. Beyond that logical reasoning, though, we’re morally conditioned from childhood to believe human beings deserve better.
Part of the shift in attitudes toward “pregnancy termination” is due to pop science narratives. For instance, because a newly conceived embryo has not yet developed a nervous system with pain receptors, this living being is easily seen as a mere clump of cells. It takes real effort to imagine what the baby’s experience might be like, so it’s easy to pretend it has no soul.
Then again, science also reveals that by seven weeks a fetus has formed free nerve endings. By this time, the spinal cord and thalamus are sufficiently developed to receive nerve impulses — including discomfort.
Some of the children used in the University of Pittsburgh experiments were at 22 weeks of development when they were killed and mutilated. There’s every reason to believe these tiny people are fully capable of experiencing pain. Nevertheless, those who stand to benefit decide such pain is worth the sacrifice.
The comparison of abortion to child sacrifice is a common polemic, largely because there’s no satisfactory answer for why the two are fundamentally different. In many historical ritual murders across the globe, the purpose wasn’t purely malicious. Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, Canaanites, Polynesians, the ancient Chinese, various African tribes, and probably the Celts were all willing to make a trade-off: kill innocent people for the perceived benefit to the community.
The logic for abortion, at its core, is pretty much the same. Women have various reasons for wanting to terminate a pregnancy, as do men, but it ultimately snuffs out an innocent life so other people’s lives can proceed unencumbered. Even in the most difficult circumstances, such as incest or rape, the infant’s life is being sacrificed for the benefit of other people.
The same principle is at work in this kind of medical research, but with a seductive twist. The purpose of the child’s sacrifice is to benefit other people, but the results are more readily demonstrated. In one of the University of Pittsburgh experiments, tissues were scraped from the livers of infants at 22 weeks of gestation, and injected into liver disease patients. The researchers hope to use similar cell-based treatments to rejuvenate the withered livers of anyone who can afford it.
The rhetoric we’ve heard many times this past year, “if we can save just one life,” is at play here in its most twisted form — ignoring the fact that such medical research costs the lives of countless unborn children.
Another study, published in Nature, shows pictures of infants’ scalps growing on the backs of pitiful rodents. The viewer knows the soft hair should be growing on a child’s head, but isn’t. The conscience revolts. The spell is broken. You begin to wonder whether any potential benefits to those who are alive are worth something like this.
It’s a deeply moral question, arising from an innate sense of fairness. Surely there were Aztecs who witnessed the bloody spectacle and thought it might be better to let the sun go dark. I’ve known a number of women who’ve had abortions, and for most, the emotional price of their newfound freedom was far greater than they’d ever imagined. I also know laboratory techs, all women, who still weep after euthanizing lab mice.
The reality is that many Americans benefit from human cruelty — directly or indirectly — be it from wars of aggression or hellish factory farms. In the case of research on aborted infants and “humanized mice,” it’s possible countless lives could be saved by the resulting information. So the moral concern shifts away from the invisible innocents toward more immediate desires.
Yet when confronted with the brutal truth behind these actions, something in the soul recoils. We should heed that awakened voice. The moment it goes silent, we cease to be fully human.