They Say It Can't Happen Here

Our Page 1 story seems too horrible to be true: reports of late-term babies being killed in their mothers’ wombs in ways that allow their body parts to be removed unscathed; babies born alive and then drowned, dissected and sold. These stories are not the invention of fanatics or lobbyists. They are being told by abortion industry workers who are coming forward to reveal a situation that leaves even many “prochoicers” uneasy.

In the Oct. 10 Register, a nurse from Christ Hospital near Chicago told about live babies being given “comfort care” as they were suffocated or starved to death in the hospital. In this week's issue, “Kelly” recounts a similar story from another shop of horrors.

In a sense, the newest atrocities are only the logical fallout of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Any abortion is the taking of a human life, regardless of the age of the fetus, and regardless of whether the death is witnessed or not. When pro-lifers speak about the destructive effect of abortion on society's standards, it isn't just alarmist rhetoric. Most Americans have literally relinquished their ability to be moved appropriately by the death of their youngest neighbors.

In 1993 came President Clinton's executive order legalizing fetal tissue research. One of his first actions as president, it was hailed as a great liberation for science: Media reports seemed to suggest that the sad reality of abortion could have some salutary use.

What was underreported (or ignored) at the time was that first-trimester fetuses are of limited use for fetal experimentation. Older, more developed babies were much more useful. The “problem” for pharmaceutical firms and medical research industries is that such babies were in short supply. Not surprisingly, a new class of entrepreneurs who found ways to supply the demand.

In 1996, growing “industry” must have seemed in jeopardy when the U.S. House and Senate overwhelmingly supported a ban on partial-birth abortions. The bill banned the abortion procedure in which a baby is removed feet first from the mother's womb, its skull broken by a doctor's scissors and its contents removed, killing it.

In fact, one pro-choice congressional staffer was quoted in the Washington Post at the time saying that pro-lifers had finally found a strategy that could win the abortion policy war. By addressing the legality of particular procedures, she said, pro-lifers would force the public to make a choice about how far their support of abortion would go.

But Clinton vetoed the ban in April 1996. He vetoed similar legislation a year later, and has promised to do it again.

In one sense, it has seemed strange that anyone would risk political capital to defend such a gruesome procedure as partial-birth abortion. But the new information about the trade in body parts sheds light on why this procedure is defended: money. The barbaric procedure keeps a baby's body intact, which then fetches a higher price — $500 for an “intact trunk (with/without limbs),” according to one report.

How can such a horrific situation be tolerated in America? One reason may be denial. After Maine voters rejected a ban on partial-birth abortions (see Page 16), one pro-lifer lamented, “We told people about what's going on, and they would say, ‘As if this actually happens in Maine!’”

It does happen in Maine, and across America. And it won't stop until more of us join the battle to stop it.

Our first recommendation is to take heart. Public opinion is changing. A May poll by CNN/USA Today/Gallup found that 58% of those surveyed wanted to ban abortion in all circumstances; 70% of the women surveyed favored “more restrictions.”

This can become a wide shift in public opinion if pro-lifers take full advantage of every new revelation and maximize its impact. The U.S. House investigation of the body parts trade is a good start. Pro-lifers should take its results and forward legislation on the state and federal level to ban the sale of children's organs.

But we needn't wait for the investigation to conclude. Activists should redoubled their efforts to develop bans of abortions, procedure by procedure if necessary, starting with partial-birth abortion. Nor should another fundamentally pro-life act be neglected: evangelization. Without a living faith in God, our culture will never embrace life.

The feast of Christ the King, this year on Nov. 21, is a reminder of our greatest cause for hope. Human beings are not in charge of the world. Christ is. With our prayers and work, and his grace, the battle can be won for our smallest brothers and sisters.