The Auschwitz Conflation

When I argued that the use of images of aborted people to protest abortion indicates our unintentional relation to these people as things, I received in response an inevitable comparison to the images of Jews who were killed at Auschwitz. I suppose this is worth addressing, given that its the only argument I ever hear in favor of the dead-become-signs, and that on the surface, it seems like a reasonable comparison. Both abortion and concentration camps are moral atrocities that make corpses of millions of people. In the case of Auschwitz, we publicized pictures of those corpses in America to show people of the reality of the Holocaust. Why then, would we not do the same for the victims of abortion?

I can think of a few basic problems. First, it does not follow with any sort of necessity that because a method worked in the case of Auschwitz, it ought to be used in the case of abortion. This assumes that morality is equivocal with effectiveness. Morality is not equivocal with effectiveness. Murdering my father and collecting his Knights of Columbus insurance policy would be an effective means of obtaining capital for the revitalization of downtown Steubenville. This doesn’t mean it would be a good thing to do.

For an appeal to Auschwitz to be anything but an offense to reason, it would have to be able to stand as follows: Using images of murdered Jews did not convince anyone of the reality of the Holocaust, and yet it was a morally sound thing to do. Therefore, the pro-life movement should have no qualms using images of murdered fetuses.

Now the argument has been ripped from the realm of consequentialism, which determines the worth of an action based on its effect, to exist in the realm of ethics, in which the worth of an action is based on whether it ought or ought not be done. Now we must examine, not the effectiveness of the publicity of Auschwitz, but whether it was right.

But this presses us against the second point. There is a distinction between Auschwitz and abortion being blurred here. The issue at stake was not the rightness or wrongness of the holocaust, but whether the holocaust happened. The issue of abortion, on the other hand, is not whether abortion happens, but whether abortion ought to happen, and on a deeper level, whether the fetus is a person. So the comparison is a false one. We are saying, in essence, that because pictures of Auschwitz showed a public that an event happened, pictures of abortion should be used to a convince a public that abortion ought not happen. We are conflating an is and an ought.

This fundamental difference of intent helps explain why the pictures of our brothers and sisters murdered at Auschwitz inspire relatively little controversy, while pictures of our brothers and sisters murdered by abortionists inspire a lot. The intent of the pictures of Auschwitz, we assume, was to show the reality of the holocaust. The holocaust was displayed for the purpose of displaying the holocaust. The slain were being shown, not used. The pictures re-presented a reality. They were not efforts to achieve a result. This cannot be said of our current use of images of those murdered by abortion, which proclaim to achieve the results of political and ideological conversion.

Admittedly, this a generous assumption. Perhaps the newspapers and the news-reels that showed the bodies at Auschwitz were made with desire to use these images to achieve an effect, to shock, to horrify, to sell more papers, make a political point, convince a complacent public, etc. I’m sure at least some people were excited by the possibility of publishing the atrocity of the century, morbidly willing to use the dead as a means to an end. But if this was the case, than the use of pictures of the murdered at Auschwitz was just as wrong as the use of pictures of the murdered unborn.

I do not believe that pictures of those murdered by abortion should not exist. They should, as evidence, that is, as a showing of the injustice of abortion, just as pictures of the holocaust showed the holocaust. They should be available, shown personally to those who do not believe abortion exists, who believe it some benign and magical termination of pregnancy, for this showing treats the person pictured as he or she is, as a person who was murdered. It shows something that is, it does not use a person as a graphic horrifying enough to convince.

These pictures should not be used to cajol, convince, offend, to shock people out of their complacency, to convert, to win a political victory, or to win any victory at all. The murdered unborn are not symbols to be held in front of an unknown public to convince a face in the crowd of “the atrocity of abortion.” They are pictures of people.

Depersonalization is more than taking a picture. Depersonalization comes when we treat the fetus as something he or she is not. What was done to them is real, and should be shown, but not by the reduction of the dead to a tool and an effective means of argument, but by letting the pictures speak for themselves, in a time, place, and manner that upholds the dignity of the person shown.

Let them be evidence when evidence is required, not arguments when argument is required, for a picture of a dead person is a proper response to the question of whether there is a dead person — not to the question of whether there ought to be a dead person, and more importantly, whether the fetus is a person at all. For, in an objective view of things, nothing could convince me more that a thing is not a person than its dead body plastered on a sign with some sarcastic caption about “choice” by the very ones demanding the recognition of its personhood. Where is the quietness? Where is the terrible silence? Where is the dirge, the pale, the seriousness, the funeral moan and the gut-wrench? Where is the solemnity? Where, for the love of all things, is the liturgy? Our brothers and sisters have been slaughtered, we’ve made them into signs, and we expect the stony-hearted world to relate to these signs as their brothers and sisters? Why not relate to them as signs held up among other signs, that is, precisely as we appear to be holding them?

The final truth is that I do not know whether the publication of those slain in the holocaust was right or wrong. I do not know the intentions, I do not know whether there was an effort to personalize the slain — I do not know, in short, the extent to which those pictures served to show the thing itself, the stark reality of the holocaust, or the extent to which they failed and used the people photographed as tools in a fight against evil. I hope I have shown, however, that the easy comparison is a bad one.

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  • Dolce

    This is great, and I agree especially with your second last paragraph, but I think you forget that there were people in Germany and in the rest of the world who not only denied the holocaust, but also believed that the Jews were not people deserving of rights.

    In the end, exploiting the images of the dead to simply make a political point is wrong. But hiding those images from the public eye is also wrong, for it serves nothing but to be complacent to a culture who simply does not care what happens to these people one way or the other. I don’t know how to strike the right balance, but we need to be careful to both not exploit the dead, and to especially not hide them away. I know that I am much more guilty of the second offense than the first, and I find that the second is much more horrible, because it is exactly what every abortion supporter does – hiding the unborn away until you can convince yourself that they were never really there.

    • Dolce

      One thing to note, though, is that just because something LOOKS horrible, that doesn’t mean it is. So those pro-lifers who simply put up graphic images to say “look! abortion looks disgusting!!!” are definitely not advancing their cause. Any surgery looks disgusting, but blood and guts and even severed limbs are not necessarily bad things (or at least, not the worst bad thing in any given situation). What makes abortion bad is that it kills people – human beings who deserve, just like everyone else, to live their own lives. Even if abortion looked beautiful or peaceful, it would still be wrong.

      “Where is the quietness? Where is the terrible silence? Where is the
      dirge, the pale, the seriousness, the funeral moan and the gut-wrench?
      Where is the solemnity?”

      This. Exactly this.

  • muzzish

    Then there is the difference in the audience. The Auschwitz audience were possibly more open to the shock of the pictures and reality of the killing and the cruelty… and may have been naturally more profoundly affected by the picture??….in North America, for every abortion there are at least 10, (possibly a great deal more), people who were complicate in that abortion, friends, family, doctors, nurses, counselors, politicians….etc.etc.etc……so multiply that by the number of abortions and you have an audience that doesn’t want to hear it…..never mind see it….

  • Jonenred

    what a bunch of baloney.

  • christie

    I appreciate your thoughtful presentation of this. It caused me to think of this from a different angle. After I considered your perspective, I put the following scenario forward to think about for myself: What if my own child was murdered by some rogue regime that went around neighborhoods and killed people’s children for whatever reasons suited them? The rest of the neighborhood was complicit in allowing this atrocity to happen to my child because the murderers have convinced them that my child wasn’t a person like they are. I think that as the mother who loves my child more than anyone, I would sit on the street holding the body of my dead child up for all to see or a picture if that’s all I had left. Out of sight, out of mind I believe is the reason we have abortion. If everyone could actually see the bodies of the children murdered in the abortion mills, at least they would never be able to deny that these are actually people. I understand the depersonalization argument, but I think that showing their bodies is honoring them rather than depersonalizing them. If it were my child, the fact that people would be saying that he was not really a person or not really killed would be the worst kind of dishonor against the life of my child possible.

    • FW Ken

      Indeed. Pro-choice people deny that the unborn child is human. A picture demonstrates that he is.

      • Jade

        So are waxworks people, because they look like people? What a silly argument that foetuses are people just because of their looks. Nowhere in the Bible condemns abortion outright and actually endorses abortion several times in the Old Testament – see here St Áed mac Bricc, an Irish saint who was a contemporary of St Patrick and St Brigid, performed a miraculous abortion and it was held up as proof of his sainthood. Abortion is not nice but it is a necessary medical procedure for ending a pregnancy, and part of women having authority over their own reproductive systems. If men could have abortions, the right to an abortion would be set in stone. But then, when did anti-choicers ever listen to reason and their own Bible?

        • FW Ken

          You missed the part about how pro-life people only care about children until they are born. Try to keep up! Trafficking in mindless cliches is hard work.

          • Jade

            Really, St Áed mac Bricc is a cliche? I use a thing called logic and reason, apparently anti-choicers are allergic to this.

          • John L

            Your argument is one of the dumbest I have read. You anti-lifers are completely opposed to logic and reason, so stop saying you employ them. If you had any knowledge of the subject you would know that scientists agree that human life begins at conception. Here is quote from one of the most famous embryologists in the world, Keith L. Moore. His textbooks are used in medical schools all over the world:
            “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception). “Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being.”

            You will find similar passages in any textbook of embryology. You anti-lifers are completely opposed to what embryology has made obvious. Embryology has declared when life begins. The Didache, from the first
            century, makes clear the Church has always been opposed to the murder that is abortion. The Church’s position has been clear from the beginning. You end the life that begins at conception. FW Ken’s point was clear, the photo displays a human life. Viewers of the photo will recognize them as human. It has nothing to do with your ridiculous wax statue analogy. It was important that people see these murdered human beings because of lies liberals like you spread: that the fetus was not a human being but just some tissue or just part of the mother’s body. It is clear to anyone viewing the photo that this is not the case. And now thanks to the advances of embryology it is beyond all doubt that life begins at conception, far BEFORE the new human being begins to look like what most people would recognize as a human being.

  • Rosemary

    Very thoughtfully written.

    Speaking from an entirely subjective standpoint, I don’t personally know anyone who was converted to the pro-life cause by a graphic picture of a murdered fetus. (I’m sure there are people who have been, but I’ve never met them nor heard any such stories.) However, I can vividly remember a conversation with a pro-choice woman about how she was shown these images as a high school student by a nun in a Catholic school, and the incredibly negative and traumatizing effect they had on her. They did nothing to make her pro-life; they did quite a bit to make her bitter and close her heart years later as an adult.

    These images must exist and have their place, but should only be used prayerfully, with respect for the dead and for the person(s) who they are being shown to.

  • BradyR

    The pictures of the Holocaust are very different from what pro-lifers are doing with picture of aborted fetuses. The pictures of the Holocaust showed people that the Nazis were racists who blindly murdered Jews, handicapped people, and others because they hated them. They thought they could have a perfect society if only they could kill certain groups of people. Women do not have abortions because they hate babies and want to create a world without babies. It is not the same thing. Women have abortions because they feel like they don’t have any other choice. Most of these women live in poverty and can’t afford a pregnancy. Many already have children that they can’t feed, and they think they are doing what they have to do to protect themselves and their family. I won’t even get started on women in abusive relationships, or those who have been abandoned by the baby’s father, or those other reasons like rape or the mother’s life that many on the pro-life side like to pretend don’t actually exist. I won’t even mention how the adoption process in this country is a joke, and if you don’t believe me look at the Baby Veronica case. Waving pictures of aborted fetuses around and comparing them to Holocaust victims is like saying women who have abortions are like Nazis who are aborting babies just because they hate them, while completely ignoring the reasons why women have abortions and trying to solve those problems.

    • ThisIsTheEnd

      And such graphic signs, abortion/holocaust imagery not only ignores the reasons why women have abortions but also depersonalize the mother, who (by inference) must be viewed as a murderer, Nazi or enabler of “genocide”

      • Benjamin2.0

        Wait… What?…
        I suppose there are lots of evil things which, once called evil, cause perpetrators of that evil to feel bad. What I don’t suppose is that this is terribly relevant to the question of whether evil acts ought to be called evil.
        Abortion is murder. Whether one wants to make wild assumptions regarding the culpability of the murderer is another matter. Equating the first statement with the latter wild assumption is simply irrational. It’s pretty clear to me from the fact that these sort of debate tactics are the entire pro-choice repertoire that discussion in this matter is one-sided by design.

        • ThisIsTheEnd

          So should women who have abortions be jailed for murder?

          • Benjamin2.0

            If and when the law catches up to reality, there should be trials for those suspected of breaking the law. I’d expect most culpability would lie with the providers of the “health” “care”, though.
            Why is there always a deflection from means to ends? When one says X is good, the opponent says effect Y might be unpleasant. Poverty sucks, but we don’t turn a blind eye to armed bank robberies. That’s the sane position.

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            I understood the first paragraph but you’ve lost me in the second. But thanks for the reply.

          • Pofarmer

            The reality is that the Catholic church wants to take the abortion debate clear back to contraceptives, and they are going to lose the whole argument because of that bull headedness.

          • Benjamin2.0

            Perhaps we’d rather lose a fight for what’s true by means which are right than succeed in half-truth by illicit means. We could only “lose the whole argument” if victory is judged by popular appeal to glandular impulse rather than whether our premises are true and lead necessarily to their conclusion (which they do, hence the frequent distraction by our opponents invoking argumentum ad populum).
            “Too principled to survive in a world of unprincipled, murderous, worldly tyrants” is the very approach we took ~2000 years ago at our inception. It’s the defining characteristic of our most honored saints and martyrs. The argument from utility just doesn’t sound convincing to the Catholic. We already know that our victory won’t be won by human effort or within our lifetimes, which might very well be cut short by worldly utilitarians. In fact, vilification for not subjecting ourselves to your arbitrary position is the highest compliment you can give us, short of conversion.

          • Pofarmer

            You are confusing something being true with something being Catholic doctrine. They are not the same thing.

          • Steve O

            he’s not confusing he’s equating, catholic doctrine with truth.
            In catholic teaching not all true things are taught by the church but rather all things that are taught Via the Churches teaching “organs” are consider to be true by the virtue of the fact that God does not allow otherwise.

            If you disagree with his points though it would be smart to try and refute the idea rather than just give a confused version of what he thinks by reason of being catholic.

          • Pofarmer

            The problem is that he doesn’t really give points to rebut. It’s mainly just “The Catholic way is right.” I stand by my original post, the Catholic church will lose, is losing this argument by taking it all the way back to birth control. There are currently approaching 7 BILLION of us on this planet. We have gone forth and populated the earth. We don’t need 10 kids to get 5 healthy ones to adulthood any more. By teaching that Sex is only about procreation(yeah, I know, but that’s what it amounts to) the Church manages to alienate just about every one, and it’s wrong on the facts. Sex serves varied functions in a marriage, or, outside of one. The Catholic Church has been wrong on the facts on many things over the years, we are just far enough from when the real blood letting was, that it gets glossed over. It’s no longer quite so obvious that the Church has been very clearly wrong about a vast amount of it’s beliefs since it’s inception. The fact that it is wrong about this too, should be no huge surprise. By making a moral argument, they attempt to take the steam away from opponents, and it isn’t working any more. Science and psychology are overshadowing the Church. Now, with that said, I think that Abortion past a certain stage is probably ethically suspect. But, I have no problem with contraception and things like the morning after pill, none at all. And the vast majority of people don’t. Catholic teaching is simply out to lunch, whether the Catholic heirarchy thinks so or not.

          • CatholicChemist

            While it is true that the church has not had a perfect history in regards to predicting scientific theories (most of which will come and go as new and deeper theories are developed based on greater mounds of data), She has done a remarkable job in revealing what much of the academic world has worked so hard to obfuscate: that just as the law of gravity states that what goes up must come down (if it is a body of smaller mass in reference to a larger one), what violates human dignity must lead to suffering. This is the premise of natural moral law in reference to the law of gravity–neither of these statements describes what ought to happen or what ideally happens, but instead each simply makes the bold but eventually self-evident statement that once one thing happens, the other *does* happen. This is the much maligned view of e laws of physics or the natural moral law, or any other law in a science: unlike laws of governance, a law in science describes the result based on the initial conditions. It makes no statement whatsoever on how or why these things happen, only that they do. Any statement on why or how is properly called a theory, just as the theory of evolution fits the observed phenotypic variance into a model of statistical variation with the selection of best fit made through survival and reproduction. In many cases, such as those of bacterial, viral, or fungal cultures, with their rapid rate of reproduction, we make observations consistent with these results, but the idea that these extend necessarily in the same way to higher order organisms is at best assumed with limited evidence at this juncture. The Church uses her two-thousand years of experience, discussion, and observation to inform her statements on the world, to say nothing of the great lessons of divine revelation given Her to convey. As a scientist, I tend to think that more data is better so long as it is appropriately compared, and I have looked deeply for inconsistency in Her treatment, first as an agnostic, then as a lukewarm Catholic, and finally as a loving son of the Church. What inconsistency I have found is presented as such simply from the nature of our limited faculties (see Her Mysteries, from grace to the Incarnation to the ultimate nature of the Divine Trinity), and the other teachings hang together in Wholeness, both completely self-consistent and consistent we human experience as I have been granted it. More importantly, the teachings you object to are based on this understanding that (a) just as the world is constructed to function with gravity, it is constructed to function wit human dignity, and (b) that the desire to dispense with the consequences of that dignity, even in such an inconvenient area as contraception, can be only construed as noble in a superficial sense. Like it or not, the contraception issue affects each of us, and the statement of those who espouse contraception denies human dignity fundamentally, based on it’s inconsistency with the natural moral law, no matter how one might cajole or criticize it. Your efforts would be as effectively spent criticizing the fact that an apple when detached from a tree branch falls to ground as they are in criticizing the Catholic Church’s proclamation that contraception leads to a denial of human dignity. I realize this is a provocative statement, and I do apologize if it seems a pastoral failure to say it, but I hope you recognize my efforts, and those of the threads above me, as attempts to charitably engage your argument.

            Also, one other crucial point- the Malthusian Trap you seem to be so concerned we is in fact based on bad data. In fact, the birth rates in many developed countries have decreased to such a degree that if we will have trouble feeding ourselves, it will certainly not be due to a lack of food (for which we have a worldwide abundance, would that everyone would share nicely) from a lack of fruitful land, but rather that, in falling below the rate of replacement of population, we will not have enough young people to work the land to care for the old people. Japan’s current crisis is a cogent example of this phenomenon, and I would recommend examining it to allay your concerns about overpopulation.

          • Pofarmer

            Without getting into a population debate, which isn’t really the point. I don’t see where having as many children as possible equals “dignity.” Is a woman in the slums of bangladesh having more children than they cans support, then those kids go into basically slave labor at 12, the girls get pregnant and repeat the cycle. Is that dignity? It’s been pretty much shown that if you want to increase the affluence of a society, you give the women control over their birth rate, plus access to capital to add to the economy. Continually having more and more poor children will never break the cycle of poverty, if that is what you are truly concerned about. But, it isn’t, is it?

          • G

            What is the higher standard of dignity for said woman? To inform and educate her about the ability her own body has to regulate the amount of children she conceives? An ability based on her natural cycles, leading to a more clear picture of her overall heath. (NFP) Or to have a government “provide” her with a pill based on her level of income that manipulates her hormonal and menstrual cycles in order to prevent/end life?

            I’m not much of a blogger, but I simply can’t see how a woman being told, suggested, or even asked to utilize contraception, based not on who she is or what she believes, but solely on her economic status, is dignifying.

            I truly thank you for your input and desire to work for what is best for humanity. Sadly, I’m awfully aware of the total lack of compassion this world seems to possess. Dominated by a relativistic view of life, too many prefer to “live and let ….well, whatever”. I appreciate your commitment to not only understanding, but acting. God bless!

          • Pofarmer

            I think it matters if the woman WANTS to use contraception or not. NFP is stressful and exacting, and it often doesn’t work. Got friends with 5 kids to prove it. He’s having a vasectomy in a couple weeks. But with that said, you are dealing with poor people with poor education, often living in cardboard boxes or huts, it’s not the best place for NFP to work. We have the cognitive abilities to decide if we want, need, more children, we hear the churches opinion, but these are, after all, our bodies and lives,

          • UWIR

            “I’m not much of a blogger, but I simply can’t see how a woman being told, suggested, or even asked to utilize contraception, based not on who she is or what she believes, but solely on her economic status, is dignifying.”

            I haven’t seen anyone here say that, so you’re just being dishonest.

          • UWIR

            So, the church has a horrible record with actual truth, but you’ve come up with a vacuous position on which to claim the church is right? How does raping children, running slave labor camps, denigrating people who don’t have the same sexual orientation as the majority, and trying to deny women reproductive rights defend dignity?

    • Rivka

      I would like to add that I recently met a woman who gave her baby to a couple in open adoption. This woman, the birth mother, was filled with joy at the knowledge that her daughter was given a good family. She said other biological mothers she had met felt the same way. This woman, the birth mother worked to promote adoption for those who need it.

  • Faithkuz

    An image can stick with us like nothing else. Consider this pro-life image you were not allowed to see

  • Mary

    I totally understand your concern, but you can’t make an argument like this without offering a solution. The risk of depersonalization does not equate taking down the signs. In what ways, would you then get the message that “abortion ought not happen” accross to people? We still nedd deep and tactful ways to get accross this vital message.

  • Ina

    Hi Marc, please consider writing a post on faith and the meaning of suffering for your followers in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan. Thank you!

  • echarles1

    I write to butress the argument that Holocaust photos were intended to show that it really happened. I remember seeing old newsreel footage of Eisenhower touring a concentration camp. It was said and shown that Ike made the citizens of the neighboring town visit the camp and see the bodies so they could never deny that it happened. (Which is all the more sad and damnable that there are Holocaust deniers to this day.)

  • BigBlueWave

    ” For, in an objective view of things, nothing could convince me more that a thing is not a
    person than its dead body plastered on a sign with some sarcastic
    caption about “choice” by the very ones demanding the recognition of its

    Okay, so you don’t already recognize the unborn as persons, but graphic photos with the word “choice” on them would make you think “hey that’s not a person”.

    Sorry, I fail to see the connection.

  • James Toups

    I appreciate your point of view and opinion. I also agree that much of the time aborted baby pictures are not effective. The reality is though, there is both a time and a place for pictures. The old adage “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” Applies.
    This is why ultra sound works. It shows the mother a live picture of her child.
    I personally have used pictures of aborted children with uninformed Prochoice “light” people to refute the “it is not even human” argument and it’s “none of my business.” In some it spurred them to act toward in the ProLife movement.
    Kirsten Powers is another example of after seeing the horror of Kermit Gosnell in picture and testimony that has been moving toward the ProLife movement.
    The only thing that will change the mind of most of the militant Prochoice people who are bent on the culture of death is divine intervention.
    There are many different approaches. Each person is different in how they act or respond. None of us should be so full of pride that we think our way is the only way. We must continue to work on the hearts and minds of the youth. Teaching the value of every life.
    They key with any approach is Truth, love and know your audience.

  • James Toups

    If I could add one additional point. I do not think the pictures depersonalizes or objectifies the children killed in abortion. I believe the opposite is true. They demonstrate the true humanity of the child being destroyed. It is the proabortion movement that has and continues to try to dehumanized the unborn child. I have spent time talking to hundreds of proabortion people over the last three years. Once humanity is established the right to abortion falls away and hearts soften in all but the militant proabortion activists. The abortionists I have spoken to admit the humanity and quite frankly do not care. For these we must pray, pray, pray for conversion.
    I have seen the use of the word fetus by proabortion activitists to dehumanize the child. IHO we should use the word child in its place. After all, the fetus is the child of its mother.

  • Nathaniel

    You will find many people who say that abortion and the Holocaust are comparable. These people who do so never are Jews.

    If anyone commenting has a sense of decency still, they should reflect on why.

    • Rivka

      Excuse me. I think abortion and the Holocaust are comparable, and I am ethnically Jewish.

      • Nathaniel

        I can also find the statements of black people who think black people should be grateful for their past as slaves because it brought their ancestors to Christ.

        Would you say this is a representative viewpoint?

        • Rivka

          You said “the people who do so are never Jews.” I proved your statement to be at least exaggerated by showing one person who couldn’t exist, according to your statement. Then you said that some members of a different group of people says something different about a different issue.

          Did you ever see this Dilbert cartoon?

          • Nathaniel

            Fine. I will amend my statement,

            This statement is never said by Jews, except those too pig ignorant or cynical to know or care how utterly offensive such a conflation is.


          • Nathaniel

            Pardon me, but I made an error in my previous comment. Saying such a statement is merely offensive would imply that this is a wholly subjective argument. But that is not the case. The argument is not only offensive, it is also simply wrong. Factually incorrect. Inaccurate. Pick your synonym.

          • Benjamin2.0

            Your argument *is* wholly subjective. As it turns out, labeling vast numbers of humans as less-than-human and murdering them in grand scale is *exactly* equivalent to labeling vast numbers of humans as less-than-human and murdering them in grand scale. Unless you want to argue that minor distinctions like only one group wearing swastikas on their uniforms is reason to ignore the particular identicality of substance mentioned above, you’re probably just upset with the mere fact of being compared with history’s bad guys. Accuracy in argument is far more important than pathology.

            But we’re only half there. The charge was that there were comparisons between the Holocaust (a particular action of the Nazis) and abortion. Nobody had suggested that the pro-choice-icans were actually Nazis by the time you made the denial. This is also a crucial detail. Denying an argument which was never made is no means of disproving one which was.

          • Nathaniel

            No, it isn’t.

            Tell me, have there been prominent public officials that have compared fetus’s to cancer or insects, things that must be eradicated for the security and purity of the Homeland?

            If not, then abortion is not like the Holocaust.

            Have the authorities pinned identifying markers on fetuses for the sake of subjecting them to public harassment, humiliation, social marginalization and eventually deportation?

            If not, then abortion is not like the Holocaust.

            Have there been a decades long propaganda campaign to make people hate and despise fetus’s, with board games, books and even public education programs all devoted to making the point that fetuses are dirty, greedy, untrustworthy and a threat to you and your loved ones?

            If not, then abortion is not like the Holocaust.

            Have there been organized efforts to come up with a “Final Solution” to the “Fetus Problem?” A solution that involves efforts to kill every single fetus on the planet Earth to make sure there is never another single fetus born?

            If not, then abortion is not like the Holocaust.

          • Benjamin2.0

            So, the Holocaust and abortion are alike in at least one way (labeling vast numbers of humans as less-than-human and murdering them in grand scale), and different in several cosmetic ways (e.g. nobody pins stars on fetuses). Didn’t I address this argument before you even used it? Isn’t it false to say two things are not alike (full stop) based on matters unrelated to the original comparison? This is like saying a late-model Ford is not like a Model T. Look at those spokes!

          • Nathaniel

            Let’s try this again.

            If Hitler had his wish, I would not exist. I would not exist because I am Jewish, and Hitler and the Nazi’s wanted every single Jew killed. Forever. No more Jews.

            So I wouldn’t exist. Nor my siblings. Nor my father. Nor his siblings. Nor most of my cousins. And my grandparents, great aunts and uncles and older cousins would all have been brutally murdered.

            Can you say the same for fetuses? Do people who support abortion desire an end to all fetus’s for the rest of time?

            As for your other point, I disagree that pro-choicers are dehumanizing fetus’s. But even accepting that for the sake of argument, simply labeling a group of people as non-human doesn’t make it equivalent to the Holocaust.

            Otherwise, slavery would be equivalent to the Holocaust. After all, slavers in this country justified their practices by asserting that Africans were lesser beings who deserved to be property. Property that I might add owners were free to deal with as they liked, including killings them.

            So would wartime propaganda. Go back to World War 1, and practically every side of the conflict engaged in propaganda campaigns to deliberately dehumanize the enemy, making it easier to stomach purposeful efforts to kill them in large numbers.

            Is this a Holocaust as well?

            As for your repeated assertions that I am imagining allusions to Nazi’s, riddle me this. If abortion is truly analogous to the Holocaust, then who in the equation is analogous to the Nazis? After all, the Holocaust didn’t just mysteriously happen, like some plague or natural disaster. It was the result of a collective organized effort by a group of people dedicated to the eradication of an entire people.

            So if I’m not the fetus hating Nazi, then pray tell, who is?

          • Benjamin2.0

            You haven’t really addressed my criticisms of your approach, namely your repeated assertions that the existence of any dissimilarities necessarily prevent comparison on any level. You just keep pressing the same button. Look at the spokes and that dull black finish! You can’t make comparisons based on the principle of internal combustion!
            Your attempt to refute an analogy by extending it beyond its original boundaries has you convinced, still, that somebody called you a Nazi. So far as I can tell, that hasn’t happened. All analogies break down at some point because no two things are exactly alike. Perhaps you’d argue that this is the turn of the 21st century rather than the 20th and expect this to be relevant to the point as well.

          • UWIR

            I see nothing “cosmetic” about the fact that in one case, sentient beings were being killed, and in another case, they are not. Humans are sentient beings, so abortion is not killing humans. The Catholic Church does not oppose abortion based on humans being killed, it bases it on abstract theological arguments, which is exactly what led to the Holocaust. AndI would expect that most Jews find it offensive to say that the Holocaust was wrong not because actual, thinking, human beings were killed, but simply because entities that fell under some abstract theological category were killed.

          • Nathaniel

            As a quick addendum, your final paragraph is disingenuous. My entire point is that the people making equivocations between abortion and the Holocaust are too cowardly to openly make the connection. They hope that their audience will connect the dots for them, so they can maintain plausible denialbility can people like me call them out for their outrageous smears.

          • Benjamin2.0

            “Given that the point of comments conflating the Holocaust and abortion is to call people like me Nazi’s while not actually having the courage to say it straight, I only have this to say:

            Your concern is duly noted.”
            It’s still up there, hovering over your head. I think you’re the one being disingenuous. You originally didn’t like being called a Nazi. I told you nobody actually called you a Nazi. Just say “Oh, okay” and be done with it.
            No dots need to be connected. Large scale systematic murders can be compared in spite of their differences.

          • Mackman

            “How dare you point out a glaring flaw in my unwarranted, hyperbolic comment? You’re just ignorant and cynical!”

          • Nathaniel

            Given that the point of comments conflating the Holocaust and abortion is to call people like me Nazi’s while not actually having the courage to say it straight, I only have this to say:

            Your concern is duly noted.

          • Steve O

            how ’bout you just start with a naked insult of everyone who you disagree with. Save some time. Or better yet make an argument for what you believe or think or feel. not based on a presumption you can’t prove.

          • James

            You’vre proven nothing other than the fact that you are not clear on what it means to be Jewish. It is the Nazis who viewed Judaism as a race in the first place; not the Jews. The Jews always have considered themselves to be a people united in their devotion to the law and the worship of one specific deity (i.e. Jesus doesn’t count as God). Unless you’re a practicing observant Jew, then you’re not a Jew.

      • James

        Judaism is a religion, not an ethnicity. If you’re not bar mizvahed, you’re not a Jew. Simple. And no, Jews for Jesus don’t get to define who is and who is not Jewish. Now, how many Jews do you know who compare abortion to the Holocaust?

        • Nathaniel

          Pardon me, but Jewishness isn’t defined by bar mizvahs nor outsiders like you.

          If you wish to complain, then talk to the Israeli government. Apparently I was Jewish enough for them to get a Birthright tour.

        • 19th-Century Radical

          Bar mitzvah merely means coming of age. A ceremony is irrelevant.

          • UWIR

            No, “bar” means “son”, “mitzvah” means “law”. “bar mitzvah” means that a person is a son under the law. Merely reaching a certain age is not enough, one has to declare oneself to be a follower of the law.

          • 19th-Century Radical

            Sorry, but that’s not true. It’s automatic on one’s 13th birthday.

    • Steve O

      you had to know that statement would fall apart nearly instantaneously as it has.

  • HowardRichards

    I agree. Frankly, I feel the same way about the kind of drunk driving radio spots MADD used to run, in which some cute or endearing person was introduced, only to die in a horrible accident caused by a drunk driver before 30 seconds were up. This reduced the deceased to a tool for advancing social changes, and the naked attempt to manipulate the emotions RATHER THAN THE REASON of the listener produced, at least in me, a backlash.

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  • AW

    Holocaust educators now encourage teachers to not use graphic images of bodies or play gimmicky “collect 6 million objects” games with their students because it depersonalizes the victims. I also found that focusing on the graphic photos or the numbers makes the Holocaust lack meaning to students. Instead, educators are encouraged to show students pictures of the lives of victims and survivors before the camps so that they understand these were people who lived much like us. If you have been to the museum in Washington DC, stuff like the “bridge of photos” and the ID cards you can pick up reinforce this approach. Students (and museum visitors) can then identify the event as happening to normal people who lived normal lives that were disrupted and (usually) ended violently for no reason other than irrational hatred.

    • James

      By the same token, movies about the Holocaust generally depict persons as they were before the Nazis arrested them or soon after, and not as they looked when they are killed by the Nazis. Viewers should empathize with the victims and they do so better when victims are dipicted as very much like you or me, and not the skeletal living corpses the Nazis turned them into through years of systematic abuse & maltreatment.

  • sheri

    Have you ever met a Holocaust denier? Pictures speak for them selves. Use the signs for a while at your local baby killing center and you will see the benefit to the babies.
    These equivocations are sickening. It in no way speaks from experience, we need to use what works. It sounds so much like the pro-aborts argument. It’s sad, we should not be eating our own.
    You want to take a cue from the pro-aborts? How about how loyal they are to each other. Forget about adopting their creeds and arguments, try instead emulating their endless loyalty.

    • Benjamin2.0

      “Use the signs for a while at your local baby killing center and you will see the benefit to the babies… we need to use what works.”

      I think you’ll find that ends don’t justify means.

      “How about how loyal they are to each other.”
      … All five of them. The difference here is that they are loyal to an end “by any means necessary,” whereas the means are exactly what we’re protesting. If we adopt the “by any means necessary” mentality, we might as well join the mob of five old ladies with rhyming sacrilegious slogans.

  • Niemand

    It’s always worth pointing out when someone brings up the Nazis in the context of abortion: The Nazis were profoundly anti-choice. It’s true that they demanded abortion for some women (or just flat out murdered them), but they insisted that women of the “right sort” keep their pregnancies, no matter the danger to themselves or the improbability of the fetus having a chance of living. You are, I suppose, more enlightened in that you’re expanding the definition of the “right sort” a bit, but your position on this issue is still essentially the same as that of the Nazis. Kinder, Kueche, Kirche, oder?

    • Randy Gritter

      So if the Nazi’s opposed communism then anyone who is not a communist has basically taken the same position as the Nazi’s. I can see how that rhetorical trick could be used in a lot of arguments.

      • Niemand

        The Nazis position went a tad beyond just “Not being a communist”. Anyone who opposed communism to the point of illegalizing it and arresting people for being communists is, indeed, taking the same position towards communism as the Nazis did. Yes, including the HUAC.

        • Randy Gritter

          But the position on abortion was not exactly the same. It was only “essentially” the same. That is way more useful. You just ignore the differences as unessential and notice the remaining points are the same. Voila! You have instantly transformed your opponent into a Nazi.

          • Niemand

            So, are you saying that the Nazis were not in favor of suppressing abortion for certain women or that you’re not? If you think the position is correct, why does it even bother you that the Nazis also held it? They were and are your allies on this issue.

          • Niemand

            Actually, when I looked it up, it turns out that the current NPD is a bit more
            liberal than yours. „Besonderer Schutz muß dem werdenden Leben und der
            werdenden Mutter zuteil werden. Die Tötung ungeborenen Lebens darf nicht
            aus sozialen Beweggründen, sondern einzig und allein bei Gefahr der
            Gesundheit von Mutter und Kind, zu erwartenden schwersten Behinderungen
            sowie nach Vergewaltigungen erlaubt sein.”
            They’re willing to let a woman who is going to die otherwise or who is carrying a completely doomed fetus to get an abortion and even kindly allow one who has been raped to do so.

          • Niemand

            I also note that you don’t condemn Marc for the (inaccurate) comparison to the Nazis. That’s different because…?

          • John L

            Niemand, the Nazi’s position was the same as yours. They believed is was ok to murder human beings in their mother’s womb to achieve their ends. We who defend life believe in protecting ALL life of all people from the beginning of life (conception) to the end. If they believed some groups should not be able to have abortions and some groups should be able to have abortion, THEY STILL BELIEVE ABORTION IS ACCEPTABLE, like you. We know that it is unacceptable and we defend life. They excluded people from the human race, like you. They were and are your allies on the issue. You, Margaret Sanger, and the National Socialists.

  • Matt Vaughan

    This is really interesting. I actually wrote about being opposed to graphic images recently, and had a similar take:

  • ChevalierdeJohnstone

    This is very well said. Even for those who say they would gladly hold up the corpse of their dead baby to the world, presumably the aborted fetus in the photo is not their own. Her or his parents’ decision to obtain an abortion does not dissipate their responsibility for her or him. Holding up a picture of your own dead child is a sign of love. Holding up a picture of someone else’s dead child without their knowledge or permission may be a sign of love for the child, but it is a sign of hate for the parent, and yes, we are called to love them as we love ourselves.

    Another point is that the object of Holocaust photos differs tremendously from the object of our efforts to stop abortion. The object of Holocaust photos was to stir the American and European public to do something about it: to create legal systems to guarantee that genocide of that nature could never happen again. (It didn’t work, but it did at least work in Europe thus far.) Given the representative politics adopted or imposed on those nations, the natural means by which to provide for such legal systems was to instill a sense of moral outrage amongst the populations, so they would choose to pass laws condemning the Nazis as criminals and designed to prevent such atrocities from reoccurring.

    What is the object of efforts to stop abortion? Presumably it is to stop abortions? But the only people who can do so are the mothers. While it is not true that a woman has a “right” to choose, it is true that it is ultimately a woman’s choice. A woman who does not want to bear a fetus to term can do injury to herself so as to cause miscarriage. The enabling culture of much of our medical industry does a lot to make this easier for her, but ultimately she can do it all on her own. The only way to prevent her from aborting her fetus would be to shackle her for 9 months and force-feed her, and we would have to do that to every pregnant woman because there is really no way we can be absolutely sure who will ultimately decide to abort and who will not.

    We have the misconception in the pro-life movement, sometimes, that we can do something for the fetus. We cannot: we can only help the mothers. It is the mothers who are the proper, rational objects of our love and of our efforts to convince them to allow their children life. We use terms like “obtain an abortion” as if it were something on a shopping list, but abortion is not an item that is “obtained”, it is a decisive act that is committed.

    PIctures of aborted fetuses create a lie. It is the lie that there is something we can do, individually or as a society, to help future unborns; the lie that we can pass a law or enact some social or charitable program that will prevent future abortions, just as we enacted laws and social programs to prevent future Holocausts. This is impossible, because unlike the prisoners of the Holocaust there is no political party, no military regime, which controls the fate of these unborn children: there are only the mothers. It is the mothers, not the children, who are and must be the target of our efforts to show them the love (sometimes “tough” love) that will convince them to choose the beauty of life for their child whose physical existence depends on the mother and only the mother.

    When we show images of aborted fetuses we depersonalize the issue. We make-believe that the relationship in question is between the observer and the fetus; that the observer can “do something” to save an unborn child. But only their mothers can save these children; we can only save the mothers. We ought to show images of mothers – mothers who chose abortion and who regret that decision, and mothers who considered abortion and chose life, and the new joy their choice has brought to the world.

    • Nathaniel

      While I obviously oppose your position, I must applaud you for pointing out a grievous and offensive hole in many anti-abortion positions. Far too often the woman is conveniently erased, her life and reasons for choosing an abortion wiped away.

  • Nancy J. Murphy

    While your opinion is valid, the photographers offer evidence.

  • Anton

    I always think it’s interesting that someone can write a long essay on the subject of pregnancy and abortion, but not mention the mother even once.

    Talk about depersonalization.

    • Benjamin2.0

      You’ve depersonalized your mother, specifically, by not mentioning her, specifically. Hold yourself to your own standard, or eyes will roll.
      Alternatively, perhaps holding people responsible for the things they didn’t mention is bizarre. This, of course, requires that you address what they did write, which is hard.

      • Anton

        Benjamin, I think I have every right to think it’s odd that a long essay about pregnancy and abortion fails to mention —even once— the woman inside whose body the fetus is gestating. It’s a perfect demonstration of how misogynistic our discourse about the matter has become. We’re totally comfortable erasing her from consideration, as if fetal development is the be-all and end-all of the issue.

        I’m a Christian, but I feel the issue of abortion needs to be discussed in the context of female reproductive rights. If we won’t even admit that a female is part of the discussion, then we’re guilty of dehumanizing her and denying her responsibility.

        • Benjamin2.0

          You still never mentioned your mother! She’s a necessary efficient cause for your even writing that comment, you misogynist! You think because you’re a man that she’s worthless.
          I’m a Christian, and I think that female reproductive rights ought to be discussed in the context of natural rights contrasted with things people just made up and called “rights” because they enjoy the benefit of the word’s connotations. On the other hand, discussing them in other contexts doesn’t in itself make one guilty of denying the former or the responsibility of anyone in general or particular (and the idea that this is dehumanization is, flatly, absurd).

          • Anton

            I didn’t notice anything in your incoherent response that explained why it’s unreasonable to expect that a discussion about pregnancy and abortion mention the mother and consider her an active agent in the discussion.

            If the woman is erased from the issue entirely, that’s making her no more than a vague environment where the fetus develops. And that’s dehumanization, plain and simple.

  • Niemand

    Care for a picture of what you get in a typical abortion? Can you spot the “baby”?

    • Ron Turner

      I can spot the troll.

  • Monica Miller

    Abortion victim photos are not about the reasons why women seek abortions– these images are needed– not only to persuade women NOT to kill their unborn children– and they do!– but to awaken a culture that sanctions and lives by the horrific violence and injustice of Roe V. Wade. and expose the corrupted ethic of the abortion industry that feeds off of the desperation, fears and ignorance of women seeking abortion. These images are directed at the pro-death culture that is sitting on a a pile of dead bodies of innocent unborn children who cannot be seen, who could not speak for themselves–to help this culture realize the injustice of abortion and bring about its reversal.

    Showing these victims honors them-and reverses what the abortion industry hoped to accomplish– treat them as if they had never existed! The aborted baby featured in an abortion victim photo now is permitted to speak his truth– and the pro-life movement indeed as a DUTY to allow that truth to be visible.

  • Steve O

    This argument has lots of problems. Example: you say the pictures of the holocaust where not used but shown. I’m not sure how this is anything but simantecs as no action is done with out purpose. Undoubtedly all that is shown is in some manner used.

    secondly to state that there is a purpose to an action isn’t to state that the purpose justifies the means, but that there is a purpose aka a reason for the means even being there which is not all, but part of what you need to justify any action. tos sum the ends does not justify the means but if there is no end then the means alone doesn’t justify he action either.

    regarding your point about happening and what shouldn’t. The reason for showing people what happened at Aushwitz was what? The reason for patton walking people through some of the camps was what? The reason for giving them that information is what? So they could do it again? so they could sigh and say “oh that’s nice?” I’m not sure what reason for communicating the event their could be EXCEPT to show that such things shouldn’t be allowed to happen. I wonder that you couldn’t derive that yourself. And I’m not mocking just wondering.

    “They should be available, shown personally to those who… believe it some benign and magical termination of pregnancy,…..”
    Yep I agree and I believe that society largely believes that it is COMPARaTEVeLY benign. That the termination of a pregnancy is just that and while it may be unfortunate it is not to them what in fact it is: murder.

    “These pictures should not be used to … to win any victory at all. … They are pictures of people.”
    Sure They are pictures of people. but to put it bluntly they are pictures of a crime. A crime denied. By the doctors perpitrating the crime and by those deceived into helping. In short They are evidence and they are shown as such. Because when a person is killed those who participate in the killing must be confronted with the crime if there is any hope that such evidence can be used to get them to face facts. It’s a right of the victim, and the duty of those who care about perpitrator or victim of which the mother and child are one and the doctor is the other.

    “Let them be evidence when evidence is required,” That’s how they are being used The argument is simple enough that it largely just requires just the evidence and some one to connect the dots. The emotional side of the argument is a bit harder of course. No one wants to believe what is going on. Why would they?

    “….choice” Sarcasm requires irony but not all irony is sarcasm. Their is an incongruentcy in our use of words that has to be pointed out. Demystifying the jargon used by the other side is a necessary part of the discussion.

    “Where is the dirge,….” all that of which you speak is to be found in the compassion of those presenting the signs in their voices and faces. But if the signs seem to septic for the subject I’m not sure how you see dead bodies as lacking solemnity.

    I don’t think you’ve shown the comparison to be a bad one, but perhaps you’ve shown that you don’t fully understand the motivations of those who try to expose the wrongness of what’s being done. And that further discussion of the topic is needful among some catholics.

  • Slurm

    Planned Parenthood lies to mothers about the violence and emotional damage from abortion. Are these pictures good to use for exposing said violence?

  • Slurm

    Consider doubting Thomas and Jesus’s wounds

  • Yonah

    In general, I think it would be fair to state that in Jewish community there is a very certain nervousness to using photographs of Holocaust victims. It is not done easily, and often it is done sparingly. On one hand, Jewish tradition has a deep respect for the dignity of the dead…for their personhood…in that it’s typically felt disrepectful to look upon them in death as they have no say in it. So Jews do not typically have open casket funerals, viewings, etc. On the other hand, in the case of atrocity….and denial of it by the enemy…then, it can be understood that some well managed photographic documentation serves the greater good. For me, the aborted fetus signs is a garish disrepectful practice as it occurs on the street in the midst of competive politicking…and the dead in the photos have no say in it…and then the question: what greater good is being served by it? I can conceive of a restrained context where abortion photos would be appropriate…in a documentary sense. But, out on the street corner…I don’t think a teach-in is going on…rather, a full court press sales job without a question and answer forum…in that sense, the dead are being “used”…not respected.

  • Ron Turner

    You’re wrong.

  • Rachael

    Sometimes evidence needs to be shown before an argument can be had. Abortion to many people means something other than what it is, and a picture of what abortion has done to a person, helps people to understand what abortion actually is. Abortion is an action; evidence that shows the consequences of that action is evidence that reveals the true nature of that action. The basis of a good reasoned argument, is good evidence. Given the point at which our culture is at, in terms of its blindness to the reality of abortion, we need to start with the evidence in order to lay the ground to make the argument. Sadly there’s no way around that.

  • Tom

    I’d also add this:

    If ones standard for judging the auschwitz pics is their effectiveness…you’d have to judge abortion pics the same way.

    You can’t say “auschwitz pics worked, therefore abortion pics are okay (even if they don’t work)” as that’s apples to oranges.

    Abortion pics don’t help the cause. Nuff said. Even if they WERE moral, not all that is lawful is prudent (but, then, imprudence is itself a sin!)

  • rozdieterich

    Marc, I find your argument intriguing. I’m no philosopher, so I wonder what specific elements (utilitarian intent?) make the use of such pictures objectifying and wrong. If an anti-abortion ad used an anonymous photo of a smiling baby to emphasize its humanity, would it likewise be an objectification? i understand that effectiveness is not the point, but isn’t it necessary? The anti-life mindset consists in a large part as the disengagement of the mind and emotions from the humanity and reality of life and death. Can you say a little about this, please? Thanks.