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Should pro-life campaigners compare abortion to the Holocaust?

A new American film compares abortion to the Final Solution, but is such a comparison tasteless, and does it even help the pro-life cause?

By on Friday, 28 October 2011

Dr Bernard Nathanson was converted by love, not insults. AP Photo

Dr Bernard Nathanson was converted by love, not insults. AP Photo

In my blog last Monday I referred to the “180 Movie”, a 30-minute pro-life film made by the American evangelist and broadcaster, Ray Comfort. This film compares abortion to the Holocaust and gets random young interviewees in the street to acknowledge the truth of this comparison and change their minds about abortion. In my blog I was somewhat critical of the film and said that I felt Comfort “bludgeoned” his listeners into changing their minds. It struck me as a shallow kind of “conversion” that probably wouldn’t last.

Of the 49 posts following the blog, at least half strongly disagreed with my criticism, particularly my use of the word ‘bludgeoned’. Of the remaining posts, none actually agreed with my point about Comfort’s hectoring technique. I was slightly surprised at this; I had thought someone out there would see the film as I saw it. Perhaps it is a question of cultural differences: Comfort is an American Evangelical; I am a British Catholic. Although we both agree that abortion is evil on a grand scale, our style of saying so is different.

That blog led me to the wider consideration: are we correct to use the word “Holocaust” in the same breath as abortion? My colleague Stuart Reid has directed me to an interesting blog on this very topic: the “Conversion Diary” by Jennifer Fulwiler, which includes a recent piece entitled “Abortion and Holocaust Comparisons.”

Like me, Fulwiler is somewhat critical of the analogy. But she concludes that there is a link: both abortion promoters and Holocaust supporters share “the kind of evil that works to take away the humanity of human beings… And once this is accomplished, once a group of people have been thoroughly dehumanised in the mind of their society, evil can run wild while the populace yawns.” I completely agree with this.

So how do we convince the pro-abortion lobby and those who are indifferent, that we are talking about the killing of human babies here, not “pre-embryos” or clumps of cells? I do not know the answer, but I still think that to bring in the word “Holocaust” is to use graphic and highly emotive language that is more likely to increase hostility than otherwise. Francis of Assisi used to say, “Preach always; sometimes use words.” The kind of hectoring that someone like Comfort employs is not the same as preaching; indeed, it seems to me to be employing a form of verbal violence concerning a subject – abortion – where violence is already intrinsic. The far end of this spectrum is those crazy people who grab their guns to shoot abortion clinic employees. There is nothing Christian about that.

Dr Bernard Nathanson, the notorious abortionist who died recently, was not converted by the verbal assaults of someone like Comfort. In his autobiography he says it was love that changed his mind – the loving concern shown by the thousands of pro-life Catholics and others he came in contact with – and the sight of an unborn child in the womb through the (then newly-developed) ultrasound scan.

  • Mary O’Regan

     Bernard Nathanson, who I got to know a little when living in New York, was against comparisons between abortion and the Holocaust, and he wrote a commentary on this in his autobiography, The Hand of God.

  • ms Catholic state

    I didn’t find Comfort’s style hectoring at all.  And if it was….then how did he change 8 people’s minds so quickly.  I thought he has a very engaging and likeable style actually……

    Each to his own.

  • Mikethelionheart

    Comfort’s style is pathetic.
    A good example is the cheap little tactic he used to get the punk the say he would stop at a green light. First he asked the man to spell the word ‘shop’, then, knowing he has the word shop in his mind, asks him what he does when he comes to a green light. The man answers, incorrectly, ‘stop’.
    Those of us who come into regular contact with evangelicals are familiar with their cheap, tacky little tactics.
    Comfort, like most evangelicals, is all about the superficial and the pointless.
    As has been said, his ‘successes’ were skin deep and were probably forgotten by the next day. 

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    The word “holocaust” was not invented for what happened in Germany prior to and during WWII, so we ought not to limit it merely to that use either, and we do truth no justice by doing so.

    It’s right to use the word “holocaust” when speaking aboutcatastrophic massacres. Since WWII the word “holocaust” has taken on a deeper meaning: It now means a great evil taking place in the open with only lukewarm opposition and even support from many quarters (I’m not a linguist but that’s my take on it).

    In the context of the merciless killing of unborn, I’ll submit there is no better word to fully communicate both the great evil inherent in abortion, the sanitisation of this ghastly act and also the passivism of ‘good’ people with regards to it. If nothing else, it forces us to recognise that evil did not end Nazi era, that the same twisted mentality is still in force in today’s world, and this recognition can only be a good thing.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbZaf2R2r-Q Bellator

    Abortion is statistically the largest crime of mass murder against human beings in all recorded history. Over 1 billion babies have been murdered through abortion in less than a century, this is far, far more serious than what we told about “the Holocaust”. I suppose the real question is, do people who stand up for babies lives, want to risk the ire of the powerful protectionist interests which guard “the Holocaust” industry? I’m not sure these interests are in any case pro-life at all; they’re far more likely to promote it under the banner of “human rights” (like Amnesty International).

  • Oconnordamien

    I didn’t comment on the last piece as I was afraid my utter lack of respect for Ray Comfort may have seemed like an an attack on the author. I think Mrs. Philips brother in law would call this “transferrance”. Not only does he use childish variations on the “What do cows drink” trick, it’s obvious that he simply uses the targets that suit his agenda, I’ve seen him use rather vulnerable people in his “interviews”. I also doubt the people who just told him where to go or beat his silly verbal tricks make the edit.

    On the subject of the piece I think the author is correct. The word Holocaust is so indelibly linked in our minds that to use it in a different context is counter-productive.

  • Brighteducation

    Women should have the right to choose to have a child, but there are too many economic pressures these days. The best way to avoid abortions is for people who care, like the Church to offer much more support to young families. The Church could start by providing affordable homes, after all the Church has plenty of property and can borrow money cheaply which young parents cannot. So I say no more moralising, just give families the real economic support they need, if you really do care about saving lives.

  • Anonymous

    There is a problem here. The Nazis- and the bien pensant Swedes like Nobel Peace Prize winner Myrdal- preferred alternative was sterilization for eugenic reasons. 
    It appears that their ‘scientific’ solution for ‘inferior races’ was to work them to death- not waste resources killing them. The final solution was a grim sort of acknowledgement they were losing the war. It was a good way to broach the subject within the bureaucracy while putting everyone on notice that if Hitler’s magical doomsday devices didn’t come through then the German people would be just as mercilessly done away with.It is little comfort to know that the Nazis wouldn’t have been as kind as we are to any abortionist caught operating amongst their blonde Madchens.Genoicides tend to be about the elimination of a specific ethnicity, or creed, or class of people. Certainly, if I were a baby food manufacturer, I’d clamour for abortion to be classed as genocide. But, that’s exactly the problem. The Right is considered to be making abortion an issue because they are on the side of the big baby food manufacturers. 
    Surely, this is the only Christian way forward?
    ‘ I do not know the answer, but I still think that to bring in the word “Holocaust” is to use graphic and highly emotive language that is more likely to increase hostility than otherwise. Francis of Assisi used to say, “Preach always; sometimes use words.”’
    Beautiful.

  • theroadmaster

    The Holocaust was an event of such unspeakable evil and horror than one should not use comparisons lightly when using this genocidal act as a reference point.   There is not doubt that abortion when presented in it’s gory, stomach-churning reality, can only be described as an act of unspeakable evil.  But it has been relativised to such an extent by the use of euphemistic and deceitful language by the Western secular media, politicians, social commentators in the “pro-choice” lobby, that the visceral reaction that one should feel has been reduced to a shoulder-shrugging indifference.  There are points of similarity between the attitudes which attempted to justify the nazi attempts to destroy European Jewry while dehumanizing the victims and the present day excuses for abortion and the choice of words to play down the humanity of the destroyed unborn lives.
    The countless millions of developing humans that have wiped out and discarded across the globe in recent decades is shocking beyond belief.  In the US alone some estimates put the numbers aborted since the infamous Roe v Roe judgement of 1973, as being in the  40-50 million range.  These were not “potential human beings” but “human beings with potential”.  In that regard, a whole class of human being is being discriminated against and this  is not unlike what happened to European Jews during the years of the Holocaust.  As I have stated, such comparisons should not be taken lightly but hopefully this reflection may help to enlighten those who want to discuss these topics in depth.

  • Anonymous

    1. I never call the Shoah the Holocaust, because I want “holocaust” to remain a cultic term with discernible meaning and without misleading associations. Shoah means “calamity”, and that describes the Shoah admirably. A “holocaust” is a whole burnt offering to a deity.

    2. ISTM that saying abortion, on even a massive scale, is comparable to the Shoah is a mistake. IMO they are too different. And Hitler does not – AFAICS – deserve to  be treated as uniquely murderous, if only because Stalin & Mao both succeeded in killing tens of millions more than he ever did. For sheer corpse-production, the Communist tyrannies taken all together make Hitler look like a slacker. So a comparison with Nazi blood-letting rather than with that by Communist tyrannies seems doubly inaappropriate.

    “But she concludes that there is a link: both abortion promoters and
    Holocaust supporters share “the kind of evil that works to take away the
    humanity of human beings… And once this is accomplished, once a group
    of people have been thoroughly dehumanised in the mind of their society,
    evil can run wild while the populace yawns.” I completely agree with
    this.”

    ## Her words can apply equally well to evils in which the Church has been complicit – for her words describe ecclesiastically-tolerated abuse of minors very well. It was an Irish report into those events that compared the sufferings of the victims to those of the victims in the concentration camps. And is the past use of torture by the Church not dehumanising ? We need to be very wary of using emotive comparisons in speaking of abortion, in view of the Church’s complicity in doing dehumanising acts; and her words do not guard against this.

  • theroadmaster

    Using euphemisms to hide the stark reality of abortion does a double disservice-both to the English language and the reality of a barbaric act.

  • ms Catholic state

    It would be better if the fathers offered more support…..that’s what fathers are for isn’t it.  Conditions were much worse in times gone by….yet people coped because families were stronger and marriage was taken seriously.  That is what the Church preaches.  Take responsibility for those you bring into being.  It’s natural justice!

    No sacrifices of unborn children because of the viccicitudes of the economy please!!

  • Emma

    I disagree, in the 180 movie the people who were pro-choice changed their minds once they realised how barbaric abortion is as the Second World War holocaust was. I think the graphic images of aborted babies spells out the truth. If people find it so offensive then why don’t they ban abortion?

    What I liked about the video too was that a man who was neo-nazi (very anti Jewish) listened to what the man said about Jesus and salvation. He said he’d go away and think about it, so in the video it just shows how even someone far from God can change if they are willing to.

  • http://twitter.com/snowmedia Bradley Snow

    By the standard use against Mr. Comfort your own article would qualify as an assault.  But words are necessary and we often draw comparisons to bridge where people fail to understand on the evidence alone.  I see fair calm discussion taking place on the 180 movie (180movie.com) which is greatly needed when it comes to this issue.  I hope this movie will wake up the world to the mass murder that is taking place everyday under the protection of law.

  • ms Catholic state

    And of course….fornication was frowned upon.

  • Anonymous

    At over 1.6 billion mechanical abortions in the past 45 years [and Heaven knows how many chemically induced ones?!] – why don’t we just stick to the term genocide?

  • Dalemwood

    This is also a mean-spirited reply, is it not? The point was that the skin-head was extremely confident and Comfort exposed that he wasn’t as smart as he prided himself in being.
    We are all called to evangelize, and while the St. Francis approach (love in action) is paramount, we are also commanded by both Christ and St. Paul to “preach the gospel.”

  • http://www.thewisethingtodo.wordpress.com/ adrian clark

    This is Jesus Christ following faithful disciple encouraging people to change their minds about abortion.  If you think there is a vague possibility that a  baby in the womb may be saved as a result of this movie why not give it your full support?