catholicherald.co.uk, 3 October 1986
Continuing our series on Peace, Carmel Martin, anti-nuclear activist, defends our right to live
ON JULY 23, 1986, my third child, a daughter, was born. I rejoiced at the wonder of creation and this new life entrusted to my care.
When I was only 15 weeks pregnant, a time in which a woman could legally have an abortion, I visited the hospital for an ultra sound scan. Through this new technology I clearly saw, much to my astonishment, the child within me sucking her thumb and kicking her legs vigorously, and I couldn’t feel a thing! She was so tiny and yet so alive and human.
To think of abortion fills me with great sorrow, but I am much sadder to hear that even christians are among its supporters, or are at least confused about where they stand. They use the many pro-abortion arguments which place the humanity and life of the unborn child lower down the scale of values. The key assumption in favour of abortion is that the fetus is not human enough to be accorded the human rights that people outside the womb are supposed to have. The basic right to life is denied to what is a unique human being in the prenatal stage of their existence. This is a scientific/medical fact which is often over shadowed by other considerations.
Many men and women do not want to bring the child within the womb to full development for social, cultural, economic or political reasons. Tied up with all these reasons is the “women’s right to choose” argument, which states that the final decision is to be taken by the woman who is pregnant and who alone bears the burden of the pregnancy, birth, and often child rearing. I understand and sympathise with the physical and emotional traumas some women experience; especially if the child-to-be is unplanned and unwanted, or handicapped, or the result of rape; or if the woman/family lives in dire poverty.
I can only make a plea to the mother for the right to life of the child who is innocent and voiceless.
To others and society I say that if we really love and care for the unborn, we need to love and care for mothers. In a more just society of better health care, less poverty and more community support, women will choose abortion less often. Men need to take more responsibility for reproduction, for fighting everything that oppresses women from pornography to rape, and for child-care. Finally, we need to make adoption more acceptable as a nonviolent solution to an ‘unwanted’ child.
The same confusion of values and sometimes callousness regarding unborn children, is reflected in the justification for the possible use of nuclear weapons, which would result in the slaughter of millions of innocent people. In the deadly game of military and economic domination people are expendable. Their life is not as important as our values, our politics, our lifestyle. Mother Theresa drew the connection quite clearly when she said that once society accepts the killing of the unborn, all that is left for us to do is to kill each other.
This we are planning with great speed and ingenuity. There are enough weapons to kill everyone many times over, and more are planned (eg HM Government’s plan to buy Trident submarines). And even if only a small percentage of the world’s 50,000 nuclear weapons were used, climatic changes would result in the destruction or at least a fundamental change to life as we know it. The use of nuclear weapons would not only be murderous but suicidal and yet, as if the rulers of this world have gone mad or believe themselves to be gods, that is exactly what is planned and contemplated.
What else connects these two issues?
Nuclear radiation is most especially lethal to unborn children. The nuclear industry (weapons and power) is causing abortion and birth defects now through radio-active contamination of the environment. Women who survived the nuclear explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki later gave birth to deformed children. Women in the South Pacific and Australia who were exposed to nuclear testing by the US, French, and British governments also gave birth to deformed children. This genetic damage will be passed on from one generation to the next.
The language of abortion and war dehumanises the victims. In wartime entire nations are called “Reds”, “Communists”, “Fascists”, “members of an evil empire”. The millions of innocent civilians who would be killed in a nuclear exchange are called “collateral damage”. In abortion, pregnancies are “terminated” and the suction bottle contains “products of conception”.
Neither the woman who chooses abortion nor the soldier who is trained to obey orders are exposed to the consequences of their actions. Before an abortion, the woman is not told the full medical and biological facts (not to mention the moral or religious ones), nor afterwards is she shown the tiny arms and legs that are burned or vacuumed from her womb. Soldiers trained to push buttons for nuclear missiles are not told that alongside the 60 military targets in Moscow live 8 million people, most of whom have nothing whatsoever to do with the military.
Mother Theresa is right. The acceptance of the silent holocaust of abortion will pave the way for the nuclear holocaust. But the rev.trse is also true. Our conditional, yet sincere intention to use nuclear weapons, which will result in the murder of millions of people, poisons our very hearts and souls and blinds us to the burning and dismemberment of millions of unborn children.
To conclude with an explicitly religious analogy. In the same way that abortion terminates the life and development of the unborn child a nuclear war will arrest, if not completely destroy, God’s plan to build the Kingdom “on earth as it is in Heaven”. Human sin will have intervened and successfully rebelled against God. But unlike the crucifixion of 2,000 years ago, this global crucifixion of Jesus will not be followed by a resurrection.
With both issues prevention is the only cure. The anti-abortion and anti-nuclear movements can and should work more closely together. The logic of death by abortion and nuclear war is the same, and can be successfully countered by a united front for life and peace; and where necessary, one movement should challenge the inconsistency of the other. The anti-abortionist should not forget the threat to all life, for all time, because of nuclear weapons; nor should “peace” workers forget the war being waged daily against unborn children in hospitals throughout the land.
The symphony of life and peace can drown out the dirge of death, but only if we all play our part to defend life and make peace.
The author is a Catholic mother of three children, ages 5, 3.5, and one month [Update: a 4th child was born in 1989]. In the last three years she has been arrested five times outside the Ministry of “Defence” in Whitehall while engaging in prayerful nonviolent resistance to the nuclear war preparations in this country.