Is abortion genocide?

Demonstrators don’t understand meaning of genocide

By Kaitlin Johnson
The Northern Light

All Americans have the right to promote and defend their beliefs. However, they also have a responsibility to represent issues in an honest manner.

The Genocide Awareness Project, which has been hosted all across the nation, displayed its anti-abortion message for students to see. The project uses billboards covered in explicit images that claim abortion is genocide.

I do not pretend to have the moral superiority to define what is right or wrong. However, I dispute any attempt to call abortion genocide.

Genocide is defined by international law as any of a few specific acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. These acts include killing members of the group; deliberately causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life that are calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of that group to another group.

One key aspect of the definition of genocide is intent. To be genocide, there must exist intent to destroy a group of people.

There simply is no intent to systematically annihilate fetuses as a group. No one has suggested a plan to destroy all babies before they’re born. Each abortion is the individual choice of adults involved.

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If you believe that a fetus becomes a human being at the instant of conception, and that abortion is therefore immoral, then call abortion murder.

Over 16,500 people were murdered in America in 2005. The deaths of these individuals are not considered collectively as genocide. That’s because genocide is not the murder of a mass amount of people. It is a mass murder.

Hannah Lien, a participant in the April 15 and 16 demonstration, defended the comparison.

“Jews were killed because they were unwanted and now babies are being killed because they are unwanted,” she said in reference to the Holocaust. Lien said that during the Nazi times, killing Jews was acceptable, just like having abortions is now.

This is a gross oversimplification of the Holocaust. Instead of providing us with factual information, the demonstration bastardized history to fit a purpose.

There is nothing illegal in what the demonstrators did, but there was something inherently unethical in this choice.

Those who have survived genocide may attest that having an abortion is nothing like the slow process of dehumanizing and torture that accompanies genocide. Perhaps participants of the Genocide Awareness Project should spend time speaking with survivors. This might give them a better understanding of the emotional impact their claims have.

I applaud demonstrators for expressing their opinions. As a journalist, I fully support free speech.

However, I don’t think the participants took the time to fully understand the gravity of the claims they’ve made. I also don’t think they took the time to consider whether calling abortion genocide is an honest representation of either abortion or genocide.

Abortion is an issue that revolves around morality. Morality is closely related to honesty. In the future, before placing moral judgments on anyone, I hope demonstrators in Anchorage will take the time to consider if they are representing issues in the most honest light.

View of demonstration depends on definition of human

By Kyra Sherwood
The Northern Light

Everyone saw them: giant photographs of blood and little hands and feet, with signs posted to warn of genocide images.

But they weren’t pictures of Holocaust victims or refugees from Darfur. They were aborted babies.

If the demonstrators were looking for a reaction, they got one. Many students were offended or outraged, and most decried the comparison of abortion to genocide.

But that very comparison gets directly at the heart of this issue. Those who don’t believe a fetus is a human being can’t even begin to understand the use of the genocide label; for those who do, it’s obvious. If a fetus is a human being, and if fetuses can be called a distinct group of people classified by age and level of development, applying the dictionary definition of genocide to abortion isn’t so hard.

It becomes easier yet if one considers the statistics (more than 1 million abortions performed each year in the U.S. alone), the number of abortion centers across the nation, and the rhetoric used to support the practice.

That rhetoric is just what the Genocide Awareness Project is targeting with its campaign. According to the project’s Web site at, “Our purpose is to illuminate the conceptual similarities which exist between abortion and more widely recognized forms of genocide.”

It’s intended to shock, to confront people with the visceral reality of choices, to force them to think about abortion in a different way. It brings the true question of the abortion debate back into focus and strips it down to its bare and bloody core, leaving aside everything else: women’s choice, the tired specter of coat-hanger abortions in back alleys, products of rape or incest. These are important issues, yes, but they’re all secondary.

The heart is this: A fetus is not a collection of cells, a parasite, a clump of tissue. It’s a tiny human being, one with detectable brain waves at six weeks, every organ in place and unique fingerprints forming at eight, the ability to experience pain at three months.

The only important things separating an unborn baby from anyone on this campus are size, level of development, environment and time. If that fetus can be legally destroyed because it’s not human, at what point does it become human? What makes it a life one day when it wasn’t the day before?

Viability outside the mother’s body isn’t even a good dividing line. A womb is nothing more than an environmental support system, and no adult human would last long if stripped naked – deprived of the environmental support system of food, clothes and shelter, in other words – and abandoned in the Alaska wilderness in winter.

Some elements of the campaign and the rhetoric used are unfortunate, treading near the sensational and distracting from the humanity of the unborn that the GAP wants to emphasize, but the point is still clear, and it can’t be ignored when the pictures are staring you in the face. They demand a reaction – and not just a knee-jerk response.

Think about it. Why did the photographs bother people so much? They were just images of reality. So is it that reality that prompted people to such outrage?

Try it. Take a moment and look at the absolute facts. You don’t have to change your mind; just step outside of what you know and believe for five minutes. Embrace the open-mindedness so highly prized in U.S. universities. Your life doesn’t depend on it, but someone else’s might.

Related articles:
Get the facts on this story
Watch a video on the GAP protest
Letters to the editor: Readers respond to demonstration

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