Should pro-life campaigners compare abortion to the Holocaust?

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.