The struggle against infanticide was lost when the language battle was lost. What we call things determines how we think about them. How we think controls what we do … and what we tolerate.
“Infanticide” called it what it was: a homicide, a killing of a child who was no less possessed of human dignity for not yet having been born.
“Abortion” was a gentler term — still pejorative because the culture back then remained repulsed by infanticide; yet pregnant, as it were, with ambiguity about exactly what was being aborted — the child’s life, or the mother’s pregnancy? And with the abortionist generally being a doctor, “abortion” connoted that “pregnancy” was not about a life to be nourished but a medical condition to be treated.
A “medical condition” is suggestive of illness, not life. And if we were now just talking about how to treat a medical condition, not killing a child, then abortion became just one option on the menu of “choice.” And whose choice? Not the child whose life is ended. The object of these language games is to vanish the child from our consciousness.
No, the choice would belong to the mother, whose designation was adjusted first to “woman” — to crop the mother-child bond out of our imagery, to tap into a hedonism masquerading as a politics of liberation.
Then, finally, the “woman” became the “patient.”
Once infanticide has been devalued into a routine medical “choice” for the “patient” on the order of whether to have the doctor remove that wart on your chin, then the child has been dehumanized into a collection of tissue. That is the logical reductio ad pravitam.
As Planned Parenthood’s Deborah Nucatola — Doctor Nucatola — will tell you between sips of cabernet, a collection of tissue can be a valuable commodity, especially if the “calvarium” is still “intact.”
Naturally, we are shocked by the video, secretly recorded by the Center for Medical Progress, that depicts Nucatola so casually illustrating that the grisly business of infanticide has a sordid commercial side. The video illustrates that Planned Parenthood is harvesting organs and other body parts from the unborn children the media takes pains to call “fetal tissue.” It is not merely (merely?) discarding the inconveniently unavoidable remains of these “surgical procedures”; it is planning, with malice aforethought, how to execute the killing while maximizing the commercial value — oh, I’m sorry, the “medical research” value — of the corpse.
As the good doctor put it:
You’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax so that, you know — we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we now that — so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.
Harvesting body parts, technically, is a federal crime. So is homicide by partial birth abortion. The video suggests that Planned Parenthood may be performing this “surgical procedure,” perhaps routinely. Doctor Nucatola again:
With the calvarium [ACM: the child’s head], in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex. [ACM: i.e., move the delivery position of the baby so that it is not head-first but feet first — the “breech” position.] Because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have a real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last step, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end.
If the baby were still alive while being partially delivered and then killed, that would be a violation of the “partial birth abortion” law. Has that been happening? It would be a question that cries out for investigation … if this were the sort of thing we were inclined to investigate.
But it’s not. If you read the partial birth abortion statute (Section 1531 of the federal penal code), you’ll see why. Notice the penalty: two years’ imprisonment.
That is not how our law usually treats the killing of human beings, or even the non-lethal infliction of pain, or the mere causing of anxiety. Murder is often punished by life imprisonment, or even the death penalty. Maiming will get you 30 years, an assault 20. An armed bank robbery is punishable by 25 years in the slammer even if no one is actually harmed.
But partial birth abortion is punishable by two years in jail — and that’s the maximum. Why is that?
Because, as I’ve argued before, in a society that permits the killing of children as if they were not human beings, the killing is only to be done, never spoken of and never noticed.
Killing unborn infants is monstrous, but we’ve become inured to it after allowing it 60 million times. The problem with the partial-birth method was not the killing; it was that the sheer depravity of the method pierced our numbing euphemisms. Even the Supreme Court, the tribunal that licensed infanticide in 1973, was forced to notice. As the justices related in Gonzales v. Carhart:
The right-handed surgeon slides the fingers of the left [hand] along the back of the fetus and “hooks” the shoulders of the fetus with the index and ring fingers (palm down). While maintaining this tension, lifting the cervix and applying traction to the shoulders with the fingers of the left hand, the surgeon takes a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. He carefully advances the tip, curved down, along the spine and under his middle finger until he feels it contact the base of the skull under the tip of his middle finger. The surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull. … He spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening. … The surgeon [then] removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents. With the catheter still in place, he applies traction to the fetus, removing it completely from the patient.
See? The “doctor” who “treats” the “patient” does not get up to two years for killing the infant. He gets up to two years because he made us notice that we kill another million infants every year.
We do not wish to notice.
If we noticed, we might be forced to think about what happens to the “tissue” that, of necessity, must be disposed of in every “case” where a “patient” undergoes the generally legal “procedure.”
Doctor Nucatola’s real offense is not harvesting body parts. It is showing us, so insouciantly, what we’ve become.