Small Comfort for Mothers, Fetuses, and Jews

November 15, 2011 § 12 Comments

Part Four (closely related to Part Three) of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many in a series of posts inspired by “Miss Representation.”  If you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie, and you have 8 minutes, please watch it here now.  

A very good and sweet friend sent me a 33-minute video and asked my opinion.  A man named Ray Comfort – someone claiming to be Jewish – compares doctors who perform abortions to Hitler, and those who allow this to happen to the German standers-by.  It’s done more subtly and with a defter hand than I just did it, but ultimately, that’s the message.  It’s very skillful, really – so much so that I myself was not exactly sure where he was going with it.

Please watch it, if you have time.  I’d love to hear how others’ reactions compare to mine.  If you don’t have time, consider this your crib notes.  Here’s an extremely abridged version of how Ray Comfort proceeds to elicit (read, “manipulate”) the responses he wants from his person-on-the-street interviews.  My reaction to each step is in parentheses.  And, full disclosure?  I’m Jewish.  And female.  And a mother.

Step I
Q:  Ever heard of Hitler/the Holocaust?
A: Nope.
(Me – horrified this stuff is not being taught and/or remembered.)

Step II
Q:  Ever heard of Hitler/the Holocaust?
A:  Yeah, he was the the leader of Germany who started WWII and killed a bunch of Jews, right?
(Me – is there a glimmer of hope for the educational system after all?)

Step III
Q:  Hitler had his armies dig ditches and shoot Jews into them and fill up the ditches with dirt.  Some of those people were still alive.  If a German officer had his gun pointed at your head, would you drive the bulldozer that filled up those ditches?  You’d be killing those Jews who were still alive.
A:  Varied – some yes (most tinged with guilt, but admitting it was only because their LIFE WAS IN DANGER) and some no.  They’d rather take a bullet than drive that bulldozer.  Also interviewed are token neo-nazis who idolize Hitler – scary, not to be ignored, but mostly aberrations.
(Me – Very tough question.  Deep and wrenching ethical issues.  )

Step IV
Q:  If you had Hitler in the crosshairs, would you shoot, preventing the killing of millions of innocents?
A:  Yes. (Unanimously)
(Me – well, that’s an easy one…)

Step V
Q:  If you went back further, 30-odd years, and you saw Hitler’s mother when she was pregnant with him – would you kill her?  (Comfort repeatedly uses the number 30 years, even though Hitler was 44 when he came to power, but no matter…)
A:  Some yes, some no.
(Me – yes, that’s a tougher question…gee, I wonder where he’s going with this?)

Step VI
Q:  So, you value human life?
A:  Yes
(Me – oh, how silly of me.  Now I know where he’s going.)

Step VII
Q:  How do you feel about abortion?
A:  Variety of answers, from “I don’t know” to “I’m Pro-Life, but I would never judge anyone else because each situation is different” to “Hellz, yeah, it should be legal…”
(Me – really appreciating how many are trying to acknowledge the complexity of the different situations…)

Q:  At what point in the womb does the fetus become a life?
A:  Variety of answers, from “I don’t know” to “3 months in.”
(Me – difficult question – I’m Pro-Choice and I have a very hard time with this one.)

Step IX
Q:  Finish this sentence.  “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…”
A:  Most are taken aback, but the answers range from “Never,” to “When the mother can’t take care of it” to “When it results from something that should never have happened.”
Q: (follow-up)  Why kill the baby for the crime of the father?  What justifies killing a baby in the womb?  Why advocate killing children in the womb?
(Me – hold it right there – something’s not right.)

Step X
Q: Hitler declared Jews “non-human.”  Isn’t declaring fetuses “non-human” the same thing?
A:  Answers vary from “Hmmmm…” to “I guess you’re right!”
(Me – hoooooo boy.)

Step XI
Q:  Have you changed your mind about abortion?  Would you vote for someone who supported abortion?
A:  Yes!  No!
(Me – oy.)

Step XII
Q:  All sorts of questions about believing in god, heaven, hell, the 10 commandments, that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and how all we have to do to be cleansed of our sins is accept Jesus as our savior.  Then we can get into heaven.
A:  Cool!
(Me – Okay, this guy Comfort is sooooooo not a Jew like he says he is in the beginning…)

I had to think hard about where Comfort twists the argument.  Was it in Step IX, when he asks people finish the sentence “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…”?  What he is implying, and trying to get others to imply is that if an abortion is performed, both the doctor and the mother think it’s okay, rather than that it’s the lesser of two potentially horrible evils, BOTH with deep and lasting consequences.  I think that’s extremely unfair.

Was it in Step X, when he equates declaring Jews “non-human” with declaring fetuses “non-human”?  Jews with years of life ahead of them, years of life behind them, jobs, educations, families, relationships and ties to this world?  Equated to non-viable fetuses?  This, to me, is a warped comparison at best, and the height of intellectual dishonesty at worst.

Was it in Step IX, when he challenges the few who dare to suggest that in cases of rape or incest, an abortion might be permissible?  When he comes back at them strongly with questions like, “Why should the baby pay for the sins of the father?”  And in this entire phase, there is no mention – NONE – of the impact being forced to have the baby would have on the MOTHER in these situations???  Does she merit any consideration, here?

There is no mention of what’s permissible when a mother’s life is in danger.  This fascinated me, because in Step IX, I kept waiting for someone to finish his loaded sentence with “when the mother’s life is in danger as a result of the pregnancy.”  If anyone gave this answer, it ended up on the cutting room floor.

Strange, because, in Step III, when asked if they would fill in the ditch with dirt, even if some Jews were still alive in it, we heard several of them say, “ONLY because my life was in danger.”  And stranger, because Ray Comfort seemed okay with that.  He didn’t go after them then like he did when, in Step IX, people said there were situations when abortions were permissible.  Does he feel that it is worse to end a fetus’s life than to end a Jew’s life?  Surely that would be twisting his words, and I’d NEVER do that.


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§ 12 Responses to Small Comfort for Mothers, Fetuses, and Jews

  • Alias Violet says:

    Faulty analogies are common in fallacious arguments. If the Holocaust is “like abortion,” who is “like Hitler” what I will call the “abortion Holocaust?” Who is the mass organizer of abortion? Are there penalties for not “aborting” a stigmatized child, as there was a penalty for failing to gather up the Jews if told to do so? What–in the analogy–is equivalent to a concentration camp? “Abortion clinics” is the simpleton’s answer, but the comparison falters immediately–no labor, no starvation, no use of remains to make products, no pillaging. Death is the only commonality. One of the main goals of the Holocaust was “purifying the human race.” What is the societal goal of abortion? Is there a societal goal? I don’t see one.

    I am not denying that abortion raises profound ethical questions, as the rights of two entities are in conflict. When does a fetus begin to have rights? When does a woman cease to have rights because she is pregnant? At what point in a pregnancy, if ever, should a woman lose the right to refuse her position as physical host? Should a woman cease to have rights because she is pregnant? Is a woman “parenting” from the moment she becomes pregnant? If so, what other legal obligations does she have? These are complicated questions.

    One observation of almost every society on Earth that I’ll make: A spontaneous abortion (a miscarriage) never generates a birth or a death certificate. On a seemingly universal level, societies do not extend recognition to the unborn as full human beings, worthy of basic documentation. That always speaks volumes to me

  • Leslie says:

    1. I don’t think “Comfort” is his real last name.
    2. I watched only the first few minutes of the video (I’m at work, sooo…) and he seems only to be interviewing total idiots. Perhaps there were better specimens further on. But there’s we elect people to make decisions for us. Because some of us are idiots and easily persuaded by faulty logic.
    3. In that documentary “Freakonomics”, they mentioned something about the petty crime rate going inexplicably down in the 90s, and they tied it back to Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion in the 70s. Because women who knew they couldn’t care and provide for the children were not having those children and exposing them to the kind of environment that can turn some into criminals. You never know, possibly criminals like Hitler. So thank you, Ray Comfort, that’s possibly a good example of someone who could have been aborted, so messed up he was because of his environment: Hitler. (I realize I just took leaps and bounds in logic at the end there. But there really is a segment in Freakonomics about the relation of the crime rate and legalized abortion.)

    • 1. Neither do I.
      2. Some of them are not idiots, though I agree the first few minutes showcases the real morons.
      3. I thought “Freakonomics” was a book. It’s a movie, too? In either case, I need to view/read it. Fascinating fact, and I disagree about your progression of logic. I don’t think it requires leaps and bounds at all to arrive where you did.

  • Chris C. says:

    Ridiculous argument. False logic. Trying to compare apples to oranges. Right wing moron.

    And knowing then what I know now, I would have taken the shot at Hitler’s mother. And probably capped his father as well.

    signed –

    Pro-choice Republican gun-owner.

  • Max Olivewood says:

    Very powerful piece. Congrats!

    Beginning with step VIII Comfort shows himself unable to withstand scrutiny. “At what point in the womb does the fetus become a life?” is actually meaningless as asked, unless the words “human being” are substituted for “life”. My answer would be somewhere between the commencement of cell differentiation (at the earliest) and the first heartbeat (at the latest), but please see my final paragraph with respect to this question.

    In step IX, “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…” is intellectually dishonest in its conferring of post-partum status on a pre-partum entity. By no stretch of the imagination, or of the dictionary, is a fertilized egg a baby. And the follow-up question: “Why kill the baby for the crime of the father?” disregards the too often pertinent other side of the coin: Why allow a mother to die for the crime of the father?

    Regarding step X: I don’t believe that Hitler ever actually declared Jews to be biologically non-human. I’m not certain of this, (Hitler did say a lot of crazy things,) but even if I’m not correct, Mr. Comfort might still find some difficulty in equating a person who does not see a fertilized egg as a full-fledged human with Hitler, which is his unmistakable implication.

    I could go on…but…

    We must acknowledge, (though many do not,) that the true meaning of life is beyond the absolute concrete understanding of humans. That is because we can only view it from the inside – unable to comprehend the whole from within its midst. Even the catch phrase “Pro-Life” has no real meaning when illuminated by the many lights of life’s inherent complexities. We must be wary of those who present us with answers to the unanswerable. There was a Hitler, after all.

  • Joy Sharp says:

    I almost never read op-eds on the subject of abortion; They are seldom thought-provoking and never intellectually honest. This one, however, was both. Part of me wants to rave on and on about good writing, but most of me wants just to mourn.

    • Thank you, Joy – intellectual honesty is always central to my goals, and that you say I’ve achieved that means the world. The caliber of the responses is amazing, as well. We need to support discourse like this. And I’m completely with you on the mourning.

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