In a classic and prophetic 1970 editorial, California Medicine declared that “the very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices.” Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer Paul Greenberg puts it more succinctly: “The trick is never, never to recognize those being killed, uh, terminated as human. ... Verbicide always precedes homicide.”
Greenberg, who writes for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a gem of the right-to-life movement. Like reformed abortionist Bernard Nathanson or columnist Nat Hentoff, he breaks the usual stereotypes of a pro-lifer. Like the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, Greenberg advocates — often with an irony worthy of Jonathan Swift — the protection of the unborn as contemporary America’s real civil-rights movement. “In another age, when the Rev. Jonathan Swift made a modest proposal to combat famine in Ireland — why not consume the next generation? — his essay was called a masterful satire. Now [in the light of embryonic stem-cell research] it reads like today’s news.”
This book reprints 41 of Greenberg’s pro-life essays that have appeared over the past 18 years in the pro-life quarterly Human Life Review.
His take on a story is often unique. Consider “Taney’s Retirement Revisited,” where he considers how, in the light of how Roe v. Wade author Harry Blackmun was lionized on his retirement, America might have lauded a retiring Chief Justice Roger Taney if Dred Scott survived. “Perfect Babies Through Abortion,” written in 1996, presciently foretold the outcome that a Danish newspaper recently reported: The country has practically eliminated Down syndrome … by killing off babies with Down syndrome.
Abortion, eugenics, cloning, RU-486, partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem-cell experimentation, the flight of the Democratic Party from the civil rights of the unborn, semantic gymnastics, death panels — all of these are brilliantly covered in these short (two- to three-page) essays that Greenberg wrote over the past two decades.
Why read this book? Lots of Catholics know they are pro-life, but far fewer know just how far the culture of death has come. Second, our opponents are masters at torturing language. They will make killing palatable, while painting even the most reasonable and minimal opposition to that slaughter as prima facie evidence of rabid extremism. Consider the recent Senate debate over the defeated Blunt Amendment, which would have protected Americans against being forced to subsidize abortions through health insurance. Anti-life forces changed the public media debate from We are protecting the conscience rights of Americans to refuse to traffic in abortion to American women will be deprived of contraception if these ‘fanatics’ prevail.
If we are to prevail in the court of public opinion, pro-lifers need not only the truth, but also the sound bite. To that end, Greenberg is an excellent tutor.
John M. Grondelski writes from Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
ANOTHER LINE CROSSED
By Paul Greenberg
Human Life Foundation, 2012
96 pages, $7.95
To order: humanlifereview.com