In the morning of June 16, one of the most impressive pro-life demonstrations in the history of London occurred outside the gates of the University of Western Ontario. It was a peaceful and prayerful gathering of pro-lifers witnessing to the sanctity of all human life and deploring the shameful decision of the university to confer an honourary doctorate on Henry Morgentaler.
University professors, for the most part, are intelligent. They take pride in their intellectual accomplishments. Why, then, can so many not affirm the truth that previous generations knew as self-evident – that all human beings have been created equal, that they have been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that chief among these is the right to life.
Nowadays, it’s more fashionable on campus to hold that morality is a matter of taste, not truth; that you have your morality and I have mine and there is no reason to choose between them. Therefore, we should uphold the right of a woman to choose to have her baby killed in the womb, even if we feel that all human life is sacred.
Note the contradiction in that argument. It presupposes that all people should tolerate abortion. The most implacable exponents of value relativism affirm some absolute moral rules. Even on a university campus, few people are willing to tolerate infanticide, child abuse or rape. Why, then, do so many academics tolerate the deliberate killing of innocent human life in the womb?
The prophet Jeremiah gave us the answer: ”The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” The sanctity of all human life is, indeed, a self-evident truth, but it’s a truth that many people suppress, because they have been implicated in abortion and they know in their hearts that abortion is wrong.
Some academics would have us believe that only Christian fanatics uphold the sanctity of human life. That’s plainly incorrect. Nat Hentoff is a prominent New York intellectual who proudly describes himself as a “Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer.” On the basis of reason alone, he understands that the deliberate killing of an innocent human being can never be justified.
Eric Cohen is an authority on Jewish law. Like Hentoff, he deplores not only abortion, but also the deliberate destruction of human beings for medical research.
Writing in the current edition of First Things, Cohen puts the matter well: “As Jews, we know well what it means to treat some human lives as less than human, or some human beings are there for experimentation. We know the moral hazards of justifying such dehumanizing violations on the grounds that embryos are ‘going to die anyway,’ just the way some Nazi doctors justified their inhuman experiments.”
Cohen then emphasizes: “Embryo destruction is not the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, but the lesson of the Holocaust should give us the wisdom to oppose making embryo destruction the new foundations of modern medicine. That, it seems to me, is the heart of Jewish wisdom.”
Morgentaler has grasped at least part of that wisdom; specifically, that late-term abortions are wrong. In an interview last year, he told CTV News that when a woman seeks an abortion at one of his abortuaries after 24 weeks, “we usually counsel the woman to continue the pregnancy and put it up for adoption if she is unable to care for it.”
Morgentaler well knows that the life of a human being begins on day one of the pregnancy, that by the fourth week, he or she has a beating heart and by the sixth week, detectable brain waves. Yet, Morgentaler refuses to accept the self-evident truth that from day one, all babies in the womb have an inalienable right to life.In a closing prayer outside Alumni Hall at the University of Western Ontario on June 16, Father Paul Nicholson, of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Parish in Listowel, asked God to grant the spirit of conversion on all those who take innocent human life, to console the women who have been hurt by abortion and to confer upon all pro-lifers the grace not to get discouraged as they carry on the struggle to witness to the truth about the sacredness of all human life.