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John Simkin

Abortion and Nazi Germany

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On Easter Sunday Cormac Murphy O’Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, attempted to draw a parallel between the Nazi extermination of the Jews and Britain’s abortion policies. To reinforce this he argued that there had been the “termination of six million lives in the womb since the Abortion Act was introduced”. He added that the “developments in stem-cell research, euthanasia and IVF are taking us” towards the situation in Nazi Germany.

This seems to be both poor history and incompetent politics. The Catholic Church has lost millions of supporters because of its 19th century views on sex (including my wife and all her sisters).

However, to link those in favour of abortion with Nazi Germany is going to make a lot of non-Catholics very angry. Although Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly support the Catholic Church’s views on abortion, politicians cannot be seen to be seen as associated with such a smear on those women who make such a difficult decision to have their pregnancies terminated.

Interestingly, it was only in 1869 that the Roman Catholic Church decided that all abortion was homicide. This was the work of the reactionary Pius IX. Up until that time (based on the teachings of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas) the Church did not see the foetus in the early stages of pregnancy as a human person. Augustine in fact compared the foetus in the early stages of pregnancy to vegetation.

It is also a myth that Nazi Germany was in favour of abortion. In fact, it was virtually impossible to get an abortion (or birth-control help) in Nazi Germany. Instead, women were encouraged to have very large families.

As Isle McKee, a member of the German Girls' League, recalled in her experiences in her autobiography.

We were told from a very early age to prepare for motherhood, as the mother in the eyes of our beloved leader and the National Socialist Government was the most important person in the nation. We were Germany's hope in the future, and it was our duty to breed and rear the new generation of sons and daughter. These lessons soon bore fruit in the shape of quite a few illegitimate small sons and daughters for the Reich, brought forth by teenage members of the League of German Maidens. The girls felt they had done their duty and seemed remarkably unconcerned about the scandal.

Martha Dodd, My Years in Germany (1939) wrote:

Young girls from the age of ten onward were taken into organizations where they were taught only two things: to take care of their bodies so they could bear as many children as the state needed and to be loyal to National Socialism. Though the Nazis have been forced to recognize, through the lack of men, that not all women can get married. Huge marriage loans are floated every year whereby the contracting parties can borrow substantial sums from the government to be repaid slowly or to be cancelled entirely upon the birth of enough children. Birth control information is frowned on and practically forbidden.

Despite the fact that Hitler and the other Nazis are always ranting about "Volk ohne Raum" (a people without space) they command their men and women to have more children. Women have been deprived for all rights except that of childbirth and hard labour. They are not permitted to participate in political life - in fact Hitler's plans eventually include the deprivation of the vote; they are refused opportunities of education and self-expression; careers and professions are closed to them.

Maybe it was Germany’s policy on birth-control and abortion that was the real reason why the Roman Catholic Church decided not to criticise Hitler's domestic policies.

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Guest Stephen Turner

Conners comments are of a political rather than religious nature. This is an obvious attack on feminism, and womens rights in general. This kind of reactionary thinking must be opposed by progressive's or as history has shown, an attack that is specific, soon becomes general. I belive that this is all of a piece with Government attacks on Human rights legislation,both here and in America (Patriot act 1&2) Democratic freedoms that have taken century's to achive, are being demolished before our eye's. Radical thinkers need to wake up before it's to late

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I HATE when people bring up such insane remarks like that. I'm pro-choice ( and I never want kids ), and I'd appreciate people keeping their laws and their religion off of my body. It's even worse to compare it to something so extreme as Nazi Germany, it'd be like comparing your fish dying to 9/11.

Sometimes, people really just need to shove their foot in their mouth.

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Regardless of one's position on abortion, does any one really dispute that human life begins at conception? That's science, not religion.

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Regardless of one's position on abortion, does any one really dispute that human life begins at conception?  That's science, not religion.

This is a point made by anti-abortionists. They argue that this means that those performing abortions are guilty of murder. More rational members of society argue that life begins when the baby is capable of independent life. Until then, the foetus is part of the mother. This was also the view of the Roman Catholic Church until the middle of the 19th century.

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"... at least one [sperm] will reach the egg, fertilize it, and conception will take place. A new life will begin." (page 15)

"... the egg which, if fertilized, gives rise to a new life." (page 3)

The above quotations are from a 1960 McGraw-Hill Inc. book on Conception, Birth and Contraception. The book had the input of Planned Parenthood and the Sex Information & Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).

"This book provides a solid base for understanding the anatomy of reproduction," wrote Mary S. Calderone, MD, Executive Director of SIECUS, in her Introduction to the 129-page book. "

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John wrote:

More rational members of society argue that life begins when the baby is capable of independent life.

John, this statement does not, in my opinion, make rational or scientic sense.

Assuming the position that life begins with what has been termed "viability" do you then oppose the taking of human life after viabilty, except in cases where the life of the mother would be jeopardized by the continuation of the pregnancy?

Also, when a human being, for medical reasons, is no longer capable of "independent life", is that person no longer alive? I work with a fellow whose mother has had both legs amputated due to diabestes. He and his sister take round-the-clock care of the mother. She could not live "independent" of them. Is she then dead?

How do you define "life"?

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"Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)... The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual."

[Carlson, Bruce M. Patten's Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression 'fertilized ovum' refers to the zygote."

[Moore, Keith L. and Persaud, T.V.N. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993, p. 1]

"Embryo: The developing individual between the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism.... At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun.... The term embryo covers the several stages of early development from conception to the ninth or tenth week of life."

[Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943]

Scientifically, life begins at conception. This is really indisputable.

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A United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee invited experts to testify on the question of when life begins. All of the quotes from the following experts come directly from the official government record of their testimony.

Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, stated:

"I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.... I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life....

I am no more prepared to say that these early stages [of development in the womb] represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty...is not a human being. This is human life at every stage."

Dr. Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, was the discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down syndrome. Dr. LeJeune testified to the Judiciary Subcommittee, "after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being." He stated that this "is no longer a matter of taste or opinion," and "not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence." He added, "Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception."

Professor Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic: "By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception."

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School: "It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive.... It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.... Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data."

Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School: "The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter—the beginning is conception. This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political, or economic goals."

Source: Randy Alcorn.

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Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the discoverer of the cause of Down Syndrome, has stated: “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … it is plain experimental evidence.”

Dr. Hymie Gordon, chairman of the department of genetics at the Mayo Clinic, has said: “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Sir William Liley, a key pioneer of fetal therapy, writing in 1972 in his famous article, “The Foetus as a Personality,” demonstrates that we have moved away from the view of the fetus as an inert, unformed passenger awaiting arrival at the destination of life, and have seen the fetus as a splendidly functioning human, full of vigor and very much in command of the pregnancy.

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Conceding that I MIGHT be wrong that life begins at conception, I offer the position of Juan A. Williams expressed at his speech at the 2005 Haverford College Commencement ceremony:

As a dad let me say to parents here today, you’re on the path to answering that ancient question, “When does life begin?” As you know some say that life begins at conception, others believe that life begins at birth, but I truly believe that life begins once the kids get out of college.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Is this your way of saying you are against abortion? I’m not keen either and would much prefer people to use birth-control. However, I do believe that women have the right to decide if they want an abortion or not. I think it is especially unpleasant for a male-dominated church to tell women what they should be doing in these difficult circumstances. As Nic pointed out, she wants “people keeping their laws and their religion off of my body.”

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I see these anti-choice protestors outside clinics, screaming, "Killer," and "Whore." I look at those people, shouting judgements, and they have no clue in hell what the girl's story is. I would like to see ANY of these pro-life morons put themselves in the shoes of a rape victim whose body isn't strong enough to handle giving birth, or even carrying to term. Walk a mile in that, then tell her that you have a right to choose what she does with her body, and then tell her that your holier-than-thou attitude is rightfully deserved because YOU'VE never had to make a choice like that.

If she wasn't at the clinic, she'd be at home in her bathroom trying to do a vintage abortion with a coat-hanger, and she'd probably die because of it. But this is what all these pro-life people think should happen? Women are going to have abortions whether it's legal or not, but when they're legal - they have a better chance at surviving.

In a perfect world, abortion wouldn't be needed. But in a perfect world, I could find a doctor to sterilize me at 18 instead of telling me, "This is a life changing decision, and you'll change your mind!" However, someone my age could go to the doctor and say, "I want to have a baby, give me IVF!" and the doctor would say, "Cash or charge?" This society is so intent on pleasing those that breed, and those who don't have kids are royally screwed.

If you don't believe in abortion, fine - don't have one! Nobody's forcing you to, but these pro-lifers keep insisting that because they believe something, because their god-of-choice says so, it should become LAW. Seperation of church & state, MAYBE you've heard of it - or have you ignored my governmental rights recently?

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I see these anti-choice protestors outside clinics, screaming, "Killer," and "Whore." I look at those people, shouting judgements, and they have no clue in hell what the girl's story is. I would like to see ANY of these pro-life morons put themselves in the shoes of a rape victim whose body isn't strong enough to handle giving birth, or even carrying to term. Walk a mile in that, then tell her that you have a right to choose what she does with her body, and then tell her that your holier-than-thou attitude is rightfully deserved because YOU'VE never had to make a choice like that.

If she wasn't at the clinic, she'd be at home in her bathroom trying to do a vintage abortion with a coat-hanger, and she'd probably die because of it. But this is what all these pro-life people think should happen? Women are going to have abortions whether it's legal or not, but when they're legal - they have a better chance at surviving.

In a perfect world, abortion wouldn't be needed. But in a perfect world, I could find a doctor to sterilize me at 18 instead of telling me, "This is a life changing decision, and you'll change your mind!" However, someone my age could go to the doctor and say, "I want to have a baby, give me IVF!" and the doctor would say, "Cash or charge?" This society is so intent on pleasing those that breed, and those who don't have kids are royally screwed.

If you don't believe in abortion, fine - don't have one! Nobody's forcing you to, but these pro-lifers keep insisting that because they believe something,  because their god-of-choice says so,  it should become LAW. Seperation of church & state, MAYBE you've heard of it - or have you ignored my governmental rights recently?

Great posting Nic. What would you say in reply Tim?

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