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February 15th 2015 print

Augusto Zimmermann


The high-sounding “right to choose”, derived from feminist ideology, hides the elementary fact that not all choices are reasonable, legitimate or morally valid. As we are seeing, the disregard for human life in the womb is the devaluation of human life outside it

Radical Feminism and the Devaluation of Human Life and Dignity

fetusLaws reflect a nation’s priorities, agenda, and values. The moral landscape of a country is strongly influenced by its laws. When we think of Nazi Germany, for example, we often think of the Holocaust and the brutal mass murder of millions of Jews and other “undesirables”.[1] Because Hitler believed that the Jews were sub-human, in the same category as animals, the Nazis changed the law to ensure that Jews could be legally exterminated. To extinguish this “race” would no longer constitute a crime.[2] With the declaration that some people were beneath animals, there would be no trials for killing Jews and other “undesirable” individuals.[3]

In the same way, courts and parliaments in today’s Western societies have decided to arbitrarily exclude an entire class of individuals from legal protection, namely the unborn child. Parents who now opt to abort their offspring do not regard their pre-born infants as members of the human race, deserving of an inalienable right to life. As one weeds out vermin or pests, parents can now do away with their unwanted children in the womb.[4]

One group has consistently supported the elimination of these vulnerable human beings: radical feminists. The comparison between the feminist advocacy of abortion and the Nazi holocaust may sound too harsh for those living in our postmodern, morally relativistic societies. Surely, it is objected, what feminism advocates for is just “choice”. And yet, every movement of oppression and exploitation in Western societies—from slavery, to prostitution, to drug dealing, to abortion—has attempted to label itself “pro-choice”. In contrast, every movement that has fought against such undoubted evils—and that offers true compassion and deliverance—has been accused of being “anti-choice”.[5]

The high-sounding “right to choose” derived from feminist ideology hides the elementary fact that not all choices are reasonable, legitimate or morally valid. For instance, when one opposes a “right” to rape or murder, one is opposing an evil that is objectively wrong and not a right. Likewise, when one claims to be pro-choice by supporting the killing of innocent children in the womb, one is basically overlooking the victim’s right to make a personal choice. Such “pro-choice” people have denied “choice” to those who are the most vulnerable and have most to lose.[6][7] Indeed on the issue of abortion, “after a woman is pregnant all that is left to her to decide is whether she will deliver her baby dead or alive”.[8]

Is there a right to abortion?

On January 22, 1973, a seven-to-two decision by the US Supreme Court struck down abortion laws in all fifty American states, inhibiting the regulation of abortion during the first three months of pregnancy.[9] As for the second and third trimesters, the court held that abortion was still permissible in order to protect a woman’s mental or physical health. As to how aborting her child may contribute to a woman’s health was not explained.

To strip the unborn from his or her right to life Justice Blackmun argued that the court had “no need to resolve the difficult question of when life begins”.[10] Such opinion, writes Francis J. Beckwith, “has all the earmarks of a theory of life that morally segregates the unborn from full-fledged membership in the human community, for it in practice excludes the unborn from constitutional protection”.[11] Although Blackmun appeared to deny taking sides on the issue of when life begins, his opinion effectively suggests that the unborn is not a human person worthy of protection. Thus, the court did take sides on the question of when life begins.

But even if Justice Blackmun was not absolutely sure when life begins, prudence determines that he should at least have opted for the lesser moral risk. Further, the fact that life begins at conception had already been proven even before Roe was decided. Sometime prior to that notorious decision, the American College of Pediatricians had officially stated that “scientific and medical discoveries over the past three decades have only verified and solidified this age-old truth”.[12] According to Dr Renée Mirkes, a medical ethicist:

At the completion of the process of fertilization when the male and female pronuclei of the human progenitors’ sperm and ovum are indistinguishable and lose their nuclear envelopes, the human creature emerges as a whole, genetically distinct, individuated zygotic human organism. This individuated human organism actually has the natural capacity for the person-defining activities of reasoning, willing, desiring, and relating to others … The new zygote, a member of the species homo sapiens, with its particular (that is, genome-specific) bodily “matter” unified and organized, that is, formed or enlivened by means of its life principle—the soul and all of its person-defining natural powers—is a whole, living, human person. The difference between the individual in her adult stage and in her zygotic stage is not one of personhood but of development.[13]

The decision in Roe was not just scientifically unsound. Also, it rested on an erroneous interpretation of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the American Constitution. The “procedure permitted in Roe, abortion, was something that the Supreme Court itself admitted it would not have ruled a constitutional right if it were conclusively proven that the unborn is a human person”.[14] In Roe, the state of Texas contended that “the fetus is a person within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment”. To which Justice Blackmun responded: “If the suggestion of personhood [of the unborn] is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth Amendment].”[15] However, the unborn is undoubtedly a “person” within the language of the law, because the American Constitution does not confer upon the federal government a specifically enumerated power to grant or deny personhood. Indeed, the power to recognise or deny the unborn child as the holder of constitutional rights has been historically exercised by the states.[16]

The Fifth and Fourteenth amendments guarantee the right to life, liberty and property, comprising what is generally called “due process of law”. Nowhere in the American Bill of Rights can one find a provision declaring that “Congress shall make no law abridging the right of privacy”, let alone a “right for abortion”. However, Blackmun simply felt that an implied right to privacy ought to exist, and that such a right should assume the existence of a further (implied) right authorising a right to abortion.[17] Justice White was not overstating when he argued, in his dissent, that the ruling was an “exercise of raw judicial power”. He said he could

find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgement. The court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers, and with scarcely any reason or authority for its action.[18]

The second dissent in Roe came from Justice Rehnquist. He reminded the majority that even if one finds such “implied” right to privacy, as derived from a due-process clause, a further problem is to explain how an invasive surgery by a medical physician can be “private”. Rehnquist also stated that the trimester regulatory scheme imposed by the court

partakes more of judicial legislation than it does of a determination of the intent of the drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment … To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment.[19]

The late professor of jurisprudence Joseph P. Witherspoon commented:

The failure of the Court in Roe v Wade … was a failure to be faithful to the law or to respect the legislature which framed it. Careful research of the history of these two amendments will demonstrate to any impartial investigator that there is overwhelming evidence supporting the proposition that the principal, actual purpose of their framers was to prevent any court, and especially the Supreme Court of the United States, because of its earlier performance in the Dred Scott case, or any other institution of government, whether legislative or executive, from ever again defining the concept of person so as to exclude any class of human beings from the protection of the Constitution and the safeguards it established for the fundamental rights of human beings, including slaves … and the unborn from the time of their conception.[20]

Some two decades later the court invented a new justification for abortion. In Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992) Justice Kennedy defined liberty as “the right to define one’s own conceptions of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of life”.[21] Accordingly, it would be intolerant for a democratically elected legislature to restrict the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy, the court thereby deciding that the question of whether the child lives or dies now depends entirely on the will of its parents.

Although the founders believed in objective standards, in philosophy and morality, judges like Kennedy embrace moral relativism and “affirm the right of a person to make up his own version of the universe”.[22] One should expect these judges who studied in the country’s leading law schools to know what is unreasonable for anyone to demand, as part of one’s own liberty or “constitutional rights”; things that are not permissible because they might injure others and possibly even the person herself. Above all, they should be aware of the fact that the notion of “unalienable rights” in the American Declaration of Rights conveys a strong message of prevalence of human life and dignity which nobody, not even a judge, is competent to waive or violate.[23]

One of the most remarkable things about Planned Parenthood v Casey was the court’s declaration that its own rulings be cast in stone lest its legitimacy be undermined. One could ask these judges if Dred Scott (the notorious slavery decision) should also have been considered a settled decision on the grounds of preserving “legitimacy”. Of course, when it comes to matters of constitutional interpretation, it is the text itself that is ultimately binding and not the opinion of a judge. Felix Frankfurter (1882–1992) of the Supreme Court took a far more sensible approach when he argued:

stare decisis is a principle of policy and not a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision, however recent and questionable, when such adherence involves collision with a prior doctrine more embracing in its scope, intrinsically sounder, and verified by experience.[24]

He also stated: “The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what we [judges] have said about it.”[25]

But returning to the idea of abortion as a “constitutional right”, from 1995 to 2000 anti-partial-birth-abortion laws were enacted by the elected legislature of thirty American states, often by overwhelming margins. In Stenberg v Carhart (2000), the Supreme Court held that all these laws were constitutionally invalid, because “criminalising” partial-birth abortion would violate the due-process clause as interpreted by Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Case. In his majority vote, Justice Breyer contended that laws banning partial-birth abortion are invalid for two independent reasons: “First, the law lacks any exception for the preservation of the … health of the mother. Second, it imposes undue burden on a woman’s ability to choose.”[26]

For those who are unaware of what these judges regarded as a constitutional right, “partial-birth” abortion is a procedure designed to kill a viable child as old as nine months of gestation by the sucking out of the brain soon before birth is completed. The procedure is described as follows: “The unborn child is turned around in the womb so that it is born feet first. Before being completely extruded, the baby is killed so that it is not “born alive”. The abortionist pierces the baby’s skull and suctions out its brains, an agonising death.”[27] Justice Thomas correctly stated in his dissent:

For reading the majority’s sanitized description, one would think that this case involves state regulation of widely accepted routine medical procedure. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most widely used method of abortion during this stage of pregnancy is so gruesome that its use can be traumatic even for the physicians and medical staff who perform it.[28]

Once the court (on faulty legal premises) decided to elevate partial-birth abortion to the level of a “constitutional right”, concerned citizens mobilised their elected representatives in Congress to enact the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (2003). Although several federal judges struck it down, citing the precedent of Stenberg v Carhart, the statute was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v Carhart (2007). The case in Carhart contains similar questions as those raised in Stenberg, but this time in the context of a federal statute. In his majority vote upholding the legislation, Justice Kennedy acknowledged that the US government has a legitimate interest in preserving human life, including foetal life. His decision was a “finely reasoned effort to make sense of a slight retreat from anything-goes abortion law”. [29] Unfortunately one cannot say the same about Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. Joined by Justices Souter, Stevens and Breyer, she sought to ground the court’s abortion jurisprudence on “personal autonomy” and “equal citizenship”. Her opinion can be described as “the legal equivalent of jumping up and down, screaming and yelling. To Ginsburg, if doctors cannot end life in this particularly barbaric manner, it is The End of Western Civilisation.”[30]

Ginsburg was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. She makes no secret of her close ties with pro-abortion feminist organisations. She even lends her name and presence to a lecture series sponsored by the National Organisation of Women’s “Legal Defense and Education Fund”, a feminist advocacy group that often files amicus briefs in support of anti-life causes such as abortion.[31] Ginsburg authored Constitutional Government in America (1980), a book in which taxpaying money for the funding of abortion is supported as a matter of constitutional right, something that even the Supreme Court has rejected in Harris v McRae, in 1980.[32] In another book, Sex Bias in the US Code (1977), Ginsburg advocates affirmative action for women as well as the changing of 750 federal laws to censor all male nouns and pronouns because they allegedly discriminate.[33]

When comparing the USA with Australia, one notes that here, too, legalisation of abortion did not occur as a result of a democratic process. Contrary to America, Australia does not have a federal bill of rights. Victoria had neither human-rights legislation nor statute guaranteeing a right to choose abortion when, in 1969, despite every legislation to the contrary, Justice Menhennitt of the Victorian Supreme Court felt that abortion should be legalised on grounds of protecting a woman’s physical or mental health.[34] This decision was followed by a 1971 decision by Justice Levine of the New South Wales District Court, who extended the grounds for abortion to economic or social reasons.[35] As a result, abortion on demand became a legal right as the word health was loosely defined to include “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient”.[36] Combined with precedent, such decisions of unelected judges provided the original basis for the legalisation of abortion in Australia.

Roots of Feminist Support to Abortion as a “Right”

Feminist scholars are amongst the strongest supporters of abortion on demand. In the United States, for example, “feminists now try to make all federal court nominees promise they will never overturn Roe v Wade, usually demanding that they proclaim their fidelity to “settled law” and to stare decisis.[37] One of the ways to understand why that might be so is by considering the contribution of such icons of feminism as the British author, academic and eugenicist Marie Stopes. She not only supported birth control but also eugenics and the mandatory sterilisation of people deemed “unfit” by the state. An open admirer of Adolf Hitler, Stopes sent in August 1938 a copy of her Love Songs for Young Lovers to the Nazi dictator with the following request:

Dear Herr Hitler, Love is the greatest thing in the world: so will you accept from me these [poems] that you may allow the young people of your nation to have them? The young must learn love from the particular ’till they are wise enough for the universal. I hope too that you yourself may find something to enjoy in the book.[38]

Sending the Führer a book of her sentimental poems was an appropriate gesture. In 1926, Stopes stipulated that the boy she would adopt as a companion for her son should be “completely healthy, intelligent and uncircumcised”.[39] In 1935, she attended as a keynote speaker the International Congress for Population Science in Berlin, held under the auspices of the Third Reich.[40] The organisation Stopes founded, Marie Stopes International, presently has more than 500 centres spread across more than thirty-eight countries. It is now a major abortion provider. Initially, however, the entity was the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress, and its clinics were located in the poorest areas of London, supposedly to reduce the birth rate of local residents. To be fair, Stopes did not desire to prevent the birth of all children of the working class, the reason being that she also supported child labour. Stopes once stated:

Not many years ago the labourer’s child could be set to work early and could very shortly earn his keep … The trend of legislation has continuously extended the age of irresponsible youth in the lower and lower middle classes.

Perhaps for such reasons the British government should not have honoured Stopes by featuring her on a fifty-pence stamp as part of a commemorative series celebrating women’s achievements in that country.[41] Should, for that matter, any democratic government ever honour a person “interested in creating a society in which only the best and the beautiful should survive”?[42] We are talking about a woman who admired Hitler and desired to see her love poems distributed throughout birth-control clinics in Nazi Germany. Upon her death, Stopes bequeathed her birth-control clinic as well as a considerable amount of her personal fortune to the Eugenics Society in a final effort to have the poor, the sick and people of mixed races sterilised.

At first sight it appears incredible that Stopes should have earned the honour of having her image on a stamp. The honour came at the request of her numerous feminist admirers; those who thought it a well-deserved honour to a eugenicist who, in the words of one such feminist admirer, “helped liberate women and transform society with her campaigning in favour of family planning”.[43] To such feminists, “even racist peccadilloes can be ignored to honour a pioneer who helped promote the anti-life culture and relieve women of the intolerable trauma of giving birth to a child with a cleft palate”. Thanks to Stopes’s contributions, “eugenic abortion” accounts for an increasing proportion of the seven million abortions in Britain since 1967.[44]

Stopes had a soul-mate in United States called Margaret Sanger. Sometime near the start of her divorce proceedings, she met Sanger at a meeting of the Fabian Society in London. The Fabian Society had invited Sanger to deliver an address on birth control in July 1915. On the occasion Stopes sought Sanger’s advice on a chapter on contraception for her best-seller Married Love, which was published in 1918.[45] An active member of the Women’s Committee of the New York Socialist Party, Sanger had just moved to England in order to escape judicial arrest for handing out condoms on the streets and for violating other terms of the obscenity law in 1917. According to Jonah Goldberg, her basic strategy was to use the banner of “reproductive freedom” as an ideological tool to advance socialism and eugenics. Goldberg explains:

Sanger believed—prophetically enough—that if women conceived of sex as first and foremost a pleasure experience rather than a procreative act, they would embrace birth control as a necessary tool for their own personal gratification. She brilliantly used the language of liberation to convince women they weren’t going along with a collectivist scheme but were in fact “speaking truth to power”, as it were. This was the identical trick the Nazis pulled off. They took a radical Nietzschean doctrine of individual will and made it into a trendy dogma of middle-class conformity. This trick remains the core of much faddish “individualism” among rebellious conformists on the American cultural left today. Nonetheless, Sanger’s analysis was surely correct, and led directly to the widespread feminist association of sex with political rebellion. Sanger in effect “bought off” women (and grateful men) by offering tolerance for promiscuity in return for compliance with her eugenic schemes.[46]

Once in England, Sanger married the notorious sex theorist Havelock Ellis, the leading British advocate of forced sterilisation of the “unfit”. Their marriage soon fell apart when Ellis discovered that Sanger was having an affair with H.G. Wells, the self-avowed champion of eugenics and euthanasia. Sanger’s children with Ellis were so dreadfully neglected that her daughter died of pneumonia at the age of four. At least she was honest enough to confess that she was far too egoistic and self-centred to be a mother and a wife. “I am not a fit person for love or home or children or anything which needs attention or consideration,” she admitted.[47]

Under the banner of “reproductive freedom” Sanger promoted eugenic ideas that sought to ban the reproduction of the “unfit”, including blacks in the United States. She went on to create the “Negro Project” in 1939, which aimed to convince black Americans to adopt birth control. In a November 1939 memorandum, “Suggestions for the Negro Project”, Sanger’s New York regional director[48] reminded her that black leaders would probably regard such a project as an “extermination plot”.[49] The solution then was to place black leaders in positions that gave the appearance that they were in charge. Recognising that in those days American blacks were deeply religious, Sanger correctly reasoned that it would be useful to recruit black ministers to the sinister project. She stated:

The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.[50]

Apart from initiating the “Negro Project”, Sanger established Planned Parenthood, which is today the world’s largest and most profitable abortion provider. The organisation has constantly denied its eugenic origins as well as that Sanger was an overt racist and eugenicist. Planned Parenthood argues that since Sanger stopped editing the Birth Control Review in 1929, it is possible to dissociate her from the eugenics movement.[51] Of course to do so one will have to ignore a 1932 address she delivered to the Eugenics Society, and published in that same year’s issue of the Birth Control Review, which basically reveals her continuing bent towards eugenics. As Goldberg points out:

 A fair-minded person cannot read Sanger’s books, articles and pamphlets today without finding similarities not only to Nazi eugenics but to the dark dystopias of the feminist imagination … Sanger regularly published the sort of hard racism we normally associated with Goebbels and Himmler. Indeed, after she resigned as editor, the Birth Control Review ran articles by people who worked for Goebbels and Himmler. For example, when the Nazis’ eugenics program was first getting world attention, the Birth Control Review was quick to cast the Nazis in a positive light, giving over its pages for an article titled: “Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need”, by Ernst Rüdin, Hitler’s director of sterilization and a founder of the Nazi Society for Racial Hygiene. In 1926 Sanger proudly gave a speech to a KKK rally in Silver Lake, New Jersey.[52]


The current feminist position

The majority feminist position is undoubtedly supportive of a woman’s right to abortion on demand. Although science clearly testifies that the foetus (“young one” in Latin) is indeed a human being, NARAL’s former president Kate Michelman dismissively declared: “We have to remind people that abortion is the guarantor of a woman’s right to participate fully in the social and political life of society.”[53]

Feminists like Michelman either despise or ignore the fact that, among other things, legalisation of abortion not only destroys innocent lives but it has made women extremely vulnerable to the pressure of unsupportive men and relatives. In Australia, for example, a survey by the Elliot Institute found that 60 per cent of all abortions in the country are done under male coercion. Such pressure comes from boyfriends, doctors, parents and even boyfriends’ parents.[54] Indeed, the male partner plays a central role in such decision in just about 95 per cent of cases, even though 70 per cent of all women who had an abortion believe that having an abortion is morally wrong.[55] This is strong evidence to suggest that the feminist casual attitude towards sex and support for a right to abortion has not truly liberated women.

In this sense, feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum provides a list of “capabilities” that, in her opinion, should define a person as fully human: the use of imagination and thought; emotions; practical reason; affiliation (“having the social bases of self-respect”); play; and control over one’s environment.[56] Since the foetus appears to have none of these capabilities, Nussbaum concludes that they should be treated little more than animals or mere objects. Feminists such as Nussbaum reject the Christian view that everyone, whether inside or outside the womb, is made in the image of God and is endowed by God with inalienable rights to life, liberty and dignity.

But the pro-life values of Christianity are contested by feminists who believe that the highest value a woman must have is her selfish pursuit of personal autonomy. The existence of a being like God becomes the ultimate barrier to the pursuit of individual happiness and pleasure. In many cases, it is fair to conclude that such feminism constitutes a significant source of bitterness and social injustice, instead of true equality and partnership between the two genders. Rather than truly liberating, the feminist rhetoric of personal liberation is profoundly egoistical and, ultimately, self-destructive.

This is particularly true when one considers the prevailing feminist position on abortion. Although the sanctity of human life is proclaimed and defended in Christianity, it has now been obliterated by an anti-Christian feminist ideology that approaches abortion during all stages of pregnancy merely as a woman’s personal choice. By promoting the destruction of human life on a large scale this feminist ideology amounts to an attack on the sanctity of human life and dignity. As Kirsten Birkett explains, “feminism promotes a distorted morality that sacrifices the weak in the interests of the strong, and propagates falsehoods to shore up its irrational position”. Birkett abandoned feminism once she realised that it does not really bring freedom and fulfilment for women:

Feminism is a selfish movement, with no sustainable philosophy, a fabricated history, and an incoherent morality. It does not bring freedom and fulfilment for women, and it will not right injustices. Many of us in this world rightly feel anger and sorrow at the terrible lives women all over the world can face; poverty and starvation in some places, violence and abuse almost everywhere. The answer is not to become more selfish. That can only make injustice worse.[57]

Feminist attacks on Christianity (and its pro-life values)

Amidst ongoing denunciations that Christianity is patriarchal and sexist, radical feminists often forgot that the early Church was especially attractive to women. The first Christian communities were predominately female, not male.[58] In elevating the status of women, the early Christians were simply emulating the example of Jesus Christ, who had several women as friends, followers and supporters. Christ even saved a woman from being stoned to death.[59] And it was to women that He first appeared after the Resurrection.[60]

According to the Christian statement of faith, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Such statements had an enormously positive effect in the development of gender relations, liberal democracy and the rule of law in the West. Arguably in an ideal Christian community, all barriers of prejudice must be broken, including xenophobic nationalism (Greek or Jew), religious intolerance (circumcised or uncircumcised), racism (barbarian or civilised), social discrimination (slave or free), and last but not least, gender discrimination (male or female).

Feminist critics have dismissed these biblical statements, arguing that they would have no impact whatsoever on the advancement of human rights and freedoms. In reality, however, these statements had an undeniable impact on the development of human rights and the rule of law in Western societies. The late jurist Harold Berman of Harvard Law School credits these Christian beliefs as having “an ameliorating effect on the position of women and slaves and the protection of the poor and helpless” between the sixth and eleventh centuries.[61] According to Sanford Lakoff, who is Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of California, San Diego:

The Christian teaching with the greatest implications for democracy is the belief that because humanity is created in the image of God, all human beings are of equal worth in the sight of God. Along with the Greek Stoic belief in equality as a reflection of the universal capacity for reason, this belief shaped an emerging democratic consciousness, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted when he observed in the introduction to his study of democracy in America that Christianity, which has declared all men equal in the sight of God, cannot hesitate to acknowledge all citizens equal before the law.[62]

Some feminist scholars have gone so far as to say that rampant sexism continued to be the rule in the early Christian communities. In fact, in the early Christian communities women enjoyed a much greater status then did other women elsewhere in the ancient world. In the words of Rodney Stark, a leading American sociologist and authority on the sociology of religion, “Objective evidence leaves no doubt that early Christian women did enjoy far greater equality with men than did their pagan and Jewish counterparts.”[63] Also according to Professor Stark, “there is virtual consensus among historians of the early church as well as biblical scholars that women held positions of honor and authority within early Christianity”.[64]

From its early days, Christian women were involved in numerous church-leadership activities. Women deacons assisted in liturgical functions and administered the charitable activities of the Church. This is in line with Paul’s commendation of “our sister Phoebe” to the Roman congregation, stating that she was a “deaconess of the church of Cenchrea”.[65] In 1 Timothy 3:11, Paul again refers to women in the role of deacons. In Corinthians 11:11–12, the apostle talks about the right of women to prophesy and asserts that they are as essential as men in Christian fellowship. “For it is through women that man comes to be, and God is the source of all,” Paul declares.[66] That women no longer served as deacons in the late church only reflects the sexist norms of a particular tradition, not biblical truth and the reality of the early Christian communities.

Abortion was openly accepted in the ancient world for a variety of reasons. Abortion was broadly practised, for instance, to conceal illicit sexual activity by women. Because of the targeting and elimination of unwanted girls through abortion and infanticide, females were significantly outnumbered by males in every ancient city of the Greco-Roman world.[67] Exposure of unwanted female infants was deemed morally acceptable and was regularly practised by all social classes.[68] Such exposure was a common practice and fully acceptable according to the law.[69] Written in about 450 BC, the Twelve Tables (the early Roman Code) permitted a father to freely dispose of female infants and deformed or weak male infants.[70] According to Stark:

The very high rates of abortion in the Greco-Roman world can only be fully understood if we recognize that in perhaps the majority of instances it was men, rather than women, who made the decision to abort. Roman law accorded the male head of family the literal power of life and death over his household, including the right to order a female in the household to abort.[71]

In this sense, Christian attitudes towards women amounted to a remarkable improvement of their status in the classical period. The superior status of Christian women vis-à-vis their pagan sisters began at birth, since the exposure of unwanted girls was strongly condemned in Christianity. Because it prohibits abortion and infanticide, classifying both as murder,[72] Christianity led to the criminalisation of all forms of infanticide and abortion, thus removing the primary cause of the gender imbalance that existed in pagan societies.[73] According to the American sociologist Dr Alvin Schmidt, “the early church’s opposition to abortion, along with its condemnation of infanticide and child abandonment, was a major factor in institutionalizing the sanctity of human life”.[74]

With the decline of Christianity, abortion has again become widely accepted. Our courts and parliaments, most of them influenced by feminist ideology, are now rejecting the long-standing adherence of Christianity to the sanctity of life. Like the first Christians who were persecuted for protecting innocent life and upholding human dignity, Christians who now stand for human life and dignity will face increasing persecution. The early Christians were persecuted not just because of their refusal to honour the pagan gods. Rather, persecution occurred because they lived noticeably more elevated moral lives than their pagan neighbours. Their moral rectitude caused them to be hated, despised, and often imprisoned, tortured and killed.[75] As Schmidt puts it, when people live more elevated moral lives “it often angers those who do not; such behaviour casts them in a negative light”.[76]

Unfortunately the decline of Christianity has been characterised by the widespread acceptance of abortion. In Australia, “abortion is being used as a form of contraception as well as a way of protecting rights of women”.[77] One in every three Australian women will have an abortion. The present rate is one abortion for every 2.8 births in Australia.[78] About one-third of all abortions (32.2 per cent) were performed on women who were married or living in de facto relationships. They chose to have an abortion due to “having completed their families” or merely for “economic reasons”.[79]

In addition, a survey carried out by Southern Cross Bioethics a couple of years ago discovered an overwhelming support for abortion on grounds of foetal disability.[80] This is consistent with a report that a baby girl two weeks away from natural birth was killed in a hospital in Melbourne because the doctor thought she might have dwarfism.[81] It emerged that the hospital routinely performs late abortions (that is, after twenty weeks of gestation).[82] Of course it was not Australia but Nazi Germany that was the precursor of abortion for “improving” the human race. As one might say, the treatment currently visited upon pre-born babies brings to mind the treatment visited upon the Jews by the Nazis.[83]

One of the most visible signs of moral decadence in Ancient Rome was that unwanted or handicapped babies were killed or left abandoned to die. The rise of Christianity was a leading factor in institutionalising the sanctity of human life in Western societies. With the decline of Christianity such practices were reintroduced in the form of abortion and eugenics. Even after the Nazi Holocaust discredited eugenics and the eugenicists, these ideas did not disappear but went to operate in fields such as “family planning” and “birth control”, which are strongly supported by the vast majority of feminist scholars. Given the step following the disregard of human life in the womb is the devaluation of human life outside the womb, the acceptance of abortion as a “right to choose” betrays the fact that, in our postmodern societies, we have all become the ultimate arbiters of human life.

Augusto Zimmermann is Senior Lecturer in Law at Murdoch University, a Fellow of the International Academy for the Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family, and a Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia. This article is an extract from a paper he presented at the 7th Symposium of the International Academy for the Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family, University of La Coruña (Spain), in June.

* LLB, LLM, PhD (Monash); Chair of Legal Theory and Constitutional Law, Murdoch University School of Law; President, Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA); Commissioner, Law Reform Commission of Western Australia. Paper presented at the 7th Symposium of the International Academy for the Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family, University of La Coruña (Spain), June 9-10, 2014.

[1] Erwin W. Lutzer, When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany (Chicago/IL: Moody Publishers, 2010), p.10.

[2] Ib., p.57.

[3] Ib, p.57-8.

[4] Ib., p.69.

[5] Randy Alcorn, Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers (Peabody/MA: Hendrickson, 2004), p 64.

[6] Lutzer, above n.1, p 69.

[7] Alcorn, above n.5, p 63.

[8] Mary O’Brian Drum, ‘Meeting in the Radical Middle’, Sojourners, November 1980, p 23.

[9] Roe v Wade, 410 US 113 (1973)

[10] Roe v Wade, 410 US 113 (1973), at 160.

[11] Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (New York/NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p 30.

[12] ‘When Human Life Begins’, The American College of Pediatricians, 17 March 2004, at: http://www.acpeds.org/index.cgi?cat=10007&art=53&BISKIT=5721916&CONTEXT=art

[13] Renée Mirkes, ‘NBAC and Embryo Ethics’ (2001) 1(2) The National Catholic Bioethics Quartely 163, at 187.

[14] Beckwith, above n.11, p 30.

[15] Roe v Wade 410 U.S. 160, 157-158.

[16] Gregory J. Roden, ‘Unborn Children as Constitutional Persons’ (2010) 25 (3) Issues on Law and Medicine 185, pp 185-6.

[17] See: Mark R. Levin, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America (Washington/DC: Regnery, 2005), p 61.

[18] Roe v Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), at 221-22

[19] Roe v Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), at 174

[20] Joseph P. Witherspoon, Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 6, 1974-1975. Quoted from Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (Wheaton/IL: Crossway, 1983), pp. 220-21

[21] Planned Parenthood v Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992)

[22] Hadley Arkes, Natural Rights & the Right to Choose (New York/NY: Cambridge University Press, 2002), at 43.

[23] Ib., p 44.

[24] Helvering v Hallock, 309 U.S. 106, 119 (1940)

[25] Graves v O’Keefe, 306 U.S. 466 (1938), at 491-92 (concurring opinion).

[26] Stenberg v Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000), at 930.

[27] Charles Francis, ‘US Supreme Court Bans Partial-Birth Abortion’, Newsweekly, May 26, 2007, at http://www.newsweekly.com.au/articles/2007may26_a.html

[28] Stenberg v Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000) (Thomas J, dissenting).

[29] Francis, above n. 27.

[30] Ib.

[31] Phyllis Schlafly, The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges and How to Stop It (Dallas/TX: Spence Publishing, 2004), p.91

[32] Ib., p.89.

[33] Ib.

[34] R v Davidson [1969] VR 667

[35] R v Wald (1971) 3 DCR 25

[36] Doe v Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973)

[37] Schlafly, above n.31, p.86.

[38] Letter from Marie Stopes to Hitler (August 1939). Quoted in June Rose, Marie Stopes and the Sexual Revolution (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), pp. 219–220.

[39] Gerald Warner, ‘Marie Stopes is Forgiven Racism and Eugenics Because She was Anti-life’, The Daily Telegraph (UK), August 28, 2008, at: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/gerald_warner/blog/2008/08/28/marie_stopes_is_forgiven_racism_and_eugenics_because_she_was_antilife

[40] Ib.

[41] John Bingham ‘Royal Mail Criticised for Stamp Honouring ‘Racist’ Marie Stopes, The Daily Telegraph (UK), October 14, 2008, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3194345/Royal-Mail-criticised-for-stamp-honouring-racist-Marie-Stopes.html#source=refresh

[42] Rose, above n.38, p 219.

[43] Bingham, above n.41.

[44] Warner, above n.39.

[45] Germaine Greer, Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (Melbourne/Vic: Secker and Warburg, 1984), p 306.

[46] Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (London: Penguin, 2009), p 273.

[47] Ib.

[48] Such director was Dr Clarence J. Gamble of the soap-manufacturing company Procter and Gamble.

[49] ‘Black Genocide’, at http://www.blackgenocide.org/archived_articles/negro03.html

[50] Goldberg, above n.46, p 259.

[51] Of course, in a certain sense Sanger’s Planned Parenthood is even more eugenic than it was in the past. In today’s America, 512 out every 1,000 black pregnancies end in an abortion Although they constitute little more than 12 percent of the population, African-Americans have more than a third (37 percent) of abortions. ‘Revealingly enough, roughly 80 percent are in or near minority communities’.—Goldberg, above n.46, p 277.

[52] Ib., p 272.

[53] Kate Michelman, quoted in The New York Times, May 10, 1988. See: Alcorn, above n.5, p 40.

[54] ‘Changing Hearts & Finding New Alternatives’, , Respect Life Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne 2005, p 2.

[55] Ib.

[56] Martha C. Nussbaum, Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (Cambridge University Press, 2000), Ch 1.

[57] Kirsten Birkett, The Essence of Feminism (Sydney/NSW: Matthias Media, 2000), p.121

[58] Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (New York/NY: HarperCollins, 1997), p.98.

[59] John 8:1-11.

[60] Matthew 28:10; John 20:11-18.

[61] Harold Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge/MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), p 65.

[62] Sandorf Lakoff, Democracy: History, Theory and Practice (Boulder/CO: Westview Press) 1996, p 90.

[63] Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity (New York/NY: HarperOne, 2011), p 124.

[64] Stark, above n.58, p 109.

[65] Romans 16:1-2

[66] 1 Corinthians 11:12

[67] Stark, above n.58, p 97.

[68] Ib.

[69] For example, in his Republic Plato makes abortions mandatory for all pregnant women after age forty, on the grounds of limiting the population. (Plato, Republic, 5.9., 1941 ed.) Aristotle held a similar position in his Politics: “There must be a limit fixed to the procreation of offspring, and if people have a child as a result of intercourse in contravention to these regulations, abortion must be practiced”. (Aristole, Politics, 7.14.10, 1986 ed.)

[70] Stark, about n.58, p 118.

[71] Ib., p 120.

[72] Ib., p 126.

[73] Ib., p 99.

[74] Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World (Grand Rapids/MI: Zondervan, 2004), p.60.

[75] Ib., p.27.

[76] Schmidt, above n.74, p.27.

[77] Australia Bureau of Statistics, 2001 Yearbook, No.83, p.176, ABS Canberra, ABS Catalogue N. 1301.0.

[78] ‘Abortion in Australia into the 21st Century: Facts, Current Trends and A Way Ahead’, NSW Right to Life, 2006, p.9.

[79] ‘Pregnancy Outcome in South Australia 2002’, Department of Human Sciences, Tables 39 & 40. Quoted from: ‘Abortion in Australia into the 21st Century: Facts, Current Trends and A Way Ahead’, NSW Right to Life, 2006, p.9.

[80] According to the survey, 85% of Australians support abortion in the case of server foetal disability and 60% support it in the case of mild foetal disability.—J. I. Fleming and S Ewing, ‘Give Women Choice: Australia Speaks on Abortion’, Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, April 26, 2005, p.10.

[81] Andrew Bolt, ‘Yes it’s an Abortion’, Herald Sun, Melbourne/Vic, August 8, 2004.

[82] “Despite the worse efforts of doctors, a number of babies have survived abortions. Possibly some 500 to 1,000 abortions are born alive each year in the USA … On 14 July, 1998 in Darwin, Australia, a baby was supposed to be 19 weeks’ old, and the mother had been given drugs to induce an abortion During the night of 13-14 July she gave birth to a daughter who exhibited encouraging vital life signs. A registered mid-wife was shocked when she heard the little girl cry, and felt herself in the midst of what she called a ‘very big moral dilemma’–having come to work expecting to preside over a stillbirth, she was faced with a life infant. The doctor experienced no such dilemma, and denied any doctor-patient relationship with the infant’.” Peter Barnes, Abortion: Open Your Month for the Dumb (East Peoria/IL: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2010), p.11.

[83] Ib., p.7.