CBR shames victims of the real genocides

Jeannie Ludlow and Jeannie Ludlow

As someone who has volunteered and worked at an abortion clinic for seven years, I am compelled to respond to the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s “Awareness of Genocide” project that visited our campus. Below are some of the project’s primary arguments, with my responses.

No. 1: Abortion involves body parts and blood — yes. Most surgical procedures do. If we determined which surgeries should be permitted based on lack of grossness, then many life-saving and life-enhancing procedures would no longer exist. Personally, I found CBR’s mastectomy photos more disturbing than the fetus photos. However, I would never argue that women should not be permitted to have mastectomies just because the procedure looks gruesome.

No. 2: Fetuses have fingers and toes — yes, again, and most people know this already. In the abortion clinic where I have worked, we are required by Ohio state law to provide patients with a booklet of photos of fetal development no fewer than 24 hours before their abortions. The purpose of the law is to try to get women to rethink their decisions. It simply doesn’t work. Pregnant women who do not want to give birth have chosen abortion when it was illegal, dangerous, difficult to obtain and socially stigmatized. Most women tell us that they knew already what fetuses look like and that this knowledge had little or no effect on their decision to abort.

No. 3: Abortion is “not really reflected on”– this statement was made by a member of Falcons for Life and undergirds the logic of using pictures of dead fetuses to critique abortion. It may well be that for many people this statement is true, but it is not true for most pregnant women. In working with women who were seeking abortions I have never met one woman who entered that surgery room without having “really reflected on” her decision. In fact, most women I have worked with at the clinic tell me that they have been unable to think about anything else since learning they were pregnant.

No. 4: Abortion is linked to breast cancer — among the literature provided by CBR was a “fact sheet” that links abortion to breast cancer. The argument is this: because overexposure to estrogen is a risk factor for breast cancer, then a woman who has babies and nurses them will have a lower risk of breast cancer than a woman who has abortions. Therefore, having abortions increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The logic leap here is pretty obvious: if not having a baby increases my risk of breast cancer, then choosing to be childless for any number of years is just as risky as having an abortion. Dr. Susan Love, one of the country’s foremost authorities on breast health, writes that women should be concerned. We should not be concerned that abortion increases breast cancer risk, but that “anti-abortion groups are exploiting women’s fear of breast cancer.” Love cites the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the National Women’s Health Network and the National Breast Cancer Coalition as influential organizations that support the position that “research does not show a link between abortion and increased breast cancer risk.”

No. 5: Abortion is genocide — the equation of abortion with genocide depends on an equation of living human beings with fetuses and on the equation of hatred and fear (which fuel genocidal acts) with women’s choices regarding the timing and spacing of their childbearing. The literature I picked up from CBR calls abortion a “hate crime.” I can certainly understand that people who are politically opposed to abortion might make some extreme statements in order to delegitimate it. However, I cannot accept an argument that equates a grown African American man with a nine-week-old fetus (as the “lynching” photo pairing did). In the process of arguing that aborted fetuses are equal to victims of genocide, CBR in fact further victimizes the victims of genocide. This argument robs victims of genocide of their individuality, their autonomy and the relevance of their lives. This is a shame, indeed.