I’ve noticed that everyone who is against genocide has already been born.
This paraphrase recalls Ronald Reagan’s well-known line, “I’ve noticed that everyone that is for abortion has already been born.” The sentiment is similar. Children in the womb don’t have a say in how the world treats them. So, in order to declare oneself in favor of abortion, one must first, as a matter of logic, already be out of danger of being killed in one.
And the political aspect is largely the same. For half a century and longer, Americans have been having political debates about rights, autonomy, laws, trimesters (a strictly jurisprudential invention), and “privacy.” Children in utero cannot take part in these debates because they have no voice in the political arena.
To be sure, politics is not all there is to the abortion question. There are sonogram images of unborn faces and bodies, for example, and the amplified sounds of little beating hearts coming from within a mother’s belly. There are the devastating testimonials of former abortionists and clinic workers who came to see, in bloody reality, the humanity of the young ones they had a hand in killing. And then there is love, the love of a mother for her child, the love of a father for his wife and unborn baby, the love of siblings for their anticipated addition, the love of grandparents, and the love of one human being for another, regardless of family connection.
Babies in the womb are voiceless, but they do have those who speak for them. There are two sides to the abortion debate because there are those who recognize that politics often gives unborn babies a raw deal. There’s a debate in the first place because everyone recognizes that pregnancy—regardless of the euphemisms used to describe it—is a fact of human existence.
But there is a way in which substituting “genocide” for “abortion” makes the saying very different from what President Reagan meant when he delivered his pro-life message.
In many people’s minds, unborn babies are automatically excluded from genocide as a category of crime. Everyone who is against genocide has already been born—but what would the unborn say if we could ask them to help us define genocide?
Recently, the world has been shocked by charges of genocide brought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague accusing the Israelis of deliberately trying to eradicate the Palestinian people. I think the charges are deeply flawed—readers can come to their own conclusions.
But what I could not help thinking as I read the documents that South Africa submitted to the ICJ was that the number of civilians killed in Gaza since the October 7th attack on Israel is orders of magnitude smaller than the number of children killed by abortion worldwide over a similar period of time. Tragically, some 25,000 souls have been lost in the Israeli-Hamas war. By comparison, there are more than 50,000 abortions in the United States each month. There have been 200,000 abortions in America alone since war broke out in Palestine. And that’s just in one country. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are seventy-three million abortions worldwide each year. That means there are some two hundred thousand abortions—eight Gazas—every day of the year.
The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was designed to allow states to intervene if other states attempted to repeat the horrors of the Second World War, namely the industrialized murder of the innocent. Unfortunately, this Convention has not stopped genocide. Consider Rwanda, for example, where perhaps 800,000 Tutsis (the official Rwandan government estimate puts it as high as one million) were killed in the genocide of 1994. But the failure to prevent such atrocity does not detract from the importance of the definition of genocide laid out in 1948: the undertaking of a number of acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” In theory, the systematic murder of a people has been outlawed since 1948.
Except, that it hasn’t. Or at least not entirely. One may not kill people based on their national, ethnical, racial, or religious belonging. And thank God for that. But babies are pre-political creatures. They do not have religions or nationalities or passports. They have ethnic and racial affinities, of course, through their parents. But at least in the United States, these affinities are ignored by those who push abortion and profit from it. Women of color are much more likely to seek abortions. Planned Parenthood is very happy to accommodate them in exchange for money. Few, indeed, are the voices crying out against this deeply racist practice. And the problem is even bigger than the targeting of certain ethnic groups or skin tones. In the eyes of genocide conventions, babies in the womb count only if they are being killed as part of a war waged against those who are already born. Otherwise, they are invisible.
But they certainly aren’t invisible to those who are trying to exterminate them. The problem, baldly stated, is that abortionists and those who support legal abortion target unborn babies specifically and exclusively for precision-strike mass murder. This is not just a matter of practice, but also intent. There are people who call, outright, for the killing of babies. There are people who legitimize the practice, acknowledging that abortion is killing babies but insisting that killing babies is “okay.” The abortion industry would not exist without the express intent to end the lives of babies in the womb. Babies are abortionists’ only targets (although the babies’ mothers are often grievously wounded and sometimes killed in the process). Had unborn babies any political standing—that is, if they were considered part of a group or a people or a tribe—the deliberate killing of them would be by far the worst genocide the world has ever witnessed.
I believe that is exactly what it is. Seventy-three million people will be murdered this year. Just for being who they are—babies. But hardly anyone will call it genocide. There is a loophole in the 1948 Convention and in all other genocide law. To be considered a victim of genocide, one must belong to some kind of political category. In other words, one must already be born.