Sanctity of Life

Abortion: Man’s Inhumanity to Man

Tawnia Hoehne
Written by Tawnia Hoehne

“God has reserved to Himself the right to determine the end of life, because He alone knows the goal to which it is His will to lead it. It is for Him alone to justify a life or to cast it away.”  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who Gassed the Jews?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German citizen and theologian, was keenly aware that the growing persecution of the Jews under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party went against everything that was moral. Many Christians in Europe at the time acknowledged that it was horrifying for one man to treat another so despicably, yet they said very little publicly, choosing instead to stand down and to give Caesar his due. Bonhoeffer, however, refused to give in to this thinking, instead equating the regime’s genocide of the Jews to a calculated attack on Christ Himself, an evil that he, as a believer in Christ, had no option but to confront. This bold defense of life cost Bonhoeffer his own.

The Holocaust’s destruction is so compelling that I cannot but be drawn to it in horror. It is a true example of what my high school English teacher, Mr. O’Brien, referred to as “man’s inhumanity to man,” something he spoke about at length the day we discussed Robert Burns’ poem “Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge.”

“…Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!”

-Robert Burns

“We can’t turn away from life’s horrors,” Mr. O’Brien said. “We have to look at them squarely and remind ourselves what we’re capable of; otherwise, inch by inch, we lose the ability to gauge our own inhumanity.” He cautioned us to look for man’s inhumanity to man in everything, including in the books we read, in the movies we watched, in the hallway, in the lunchroom, on the basketball court and even in our homes.

In his report about the Dachou Liberation, Retired General Felix Sparks wrote, “The bodies of human beings were stacked like cord wood. All of them dead. All of them stripped. The inspection I made of the pile was not very close, but the corpses seemed to be all male. The bottom layer of the bodies had a north/south orientation, the next layer went east/west, and they continued alternating. The stack was about five feet high, maybe a little more; I could see over the top. They extended down the hill, only a slight hill, for fifty to seventy-five feet. Human bodies neatly stacked, naked, ready for disposal. The arms and legs were neatly arranged, but an occasional limb dangled oddly. The bodies we could see were all face up. There was an aisle, then another stack, and another aisle, and more stacks. The Lord only knows how many there were…I know I didn’t count them–it wouldn’t have mattered. We looked and said not a word. A group of guys from the company noticed us and said, ‘Wait till you see in there.’”

I look at photograph after photograph of Jewish people being led into gas chambers like starved cattle, and of their lifeless, naked, emaciated bodies tossed one upon the other, and I wonder how I would have reacted had I been a Christian in Germany at the time. Would I have stood quietly with the collective or, like Bonhoeffer, would I have broken the silence and called murder, murder?

I want to believe that, when my grandchildren asked what I had done to stop the Holocaust, I could have said more than, “Well, I didn’t kill anyone.”

Who Shackled the Slaves?

On noting his shock at witnessing the conditions under which African slaves were transported, Robert Walsh wrote in Notices of Brazil in 1829: “The height sometimes between decks was only eighteen inches, so that the unfortunate beings could not turn round or even on their sides, the elevation being less than the breadth of their shoulders; and here they are usually chained to the decks by the neck and legs.”

Of an incident reported to him by other witnesses, Walsh wrote, “The slaves were stowed in the narrow space between decks and chained together. They heard a horrible din and tumult among them and could not imagine from what cause it proceeded. They opened the hatches and turned them (the slaves) up on deck. They were manacled together in twos and threes. Their horror may be well conceived when they found a number of them in different stages of suffocation; many of them were foaming at the mouth and in the last agonies-many were dead. A living man was sometimes dragged up, and his companion was a dead body; sometimes of the three attached to the same chain, one was dying and another dead. The tumult they had heard was the frenzy of those suffocating wretches in the last stage of fury and desperation, struggling to extricate themselves. When they were all dragged up, nineteen were irrecoverably dead. Many destroyed one another in the hopes of procuring room to breathe; men strangled those next them, and women drove nails into each other’s brains. Many unfortunate creatures on other occasions took the first opportunity of leaping overboard and getting rid, in this way, of an intolerable life.”

I read this and wonder, had I been standing on that Jamestown dock in 1619, when the first 20 African slaves debarked from a Dutch ship and were hauled ashore in chains, would I have stopped the ship’s captain and said, “For the love of God–let them go!” or would I have stood there, gawking, as the chain gang shuffled past me?

As the slave trade progressed, would I have looked beyond skin color and recognized that people, made in God’s image, were being treated like beasts of burden? Would I have mustered my courage, found my voice, and established the abolitionist movement? Would I have risked my family’s safety and secreted escaped slaves in my basement, or rallied congress to condemn the practice of one man laying claim to another man’s body?

I’d like to think that, when my grandchildren asked me what I had done to stop slavery, I could have said more than, “Well, I didn’t own one.”

Who Murdered the Children?

Nearly 4 centuries after slave trade arrived on our eastern shore, and 7 decades after Hitler set out to exterminate the Jewish people, a growing number of states in America allow unborn children to be aborted right up until they are ready to be delivered. Babies who survive an abortion have varying degrees of legal protection in 31 states. In Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wyoming, medical care is only required by law if the child is past the age of viability. In 19 states, alive and outside the womb, an aborted child may legally be denied lifesaving medical care.

Clearly, if a child isn’t considered a valued, living human being at every stage of life in the womb, he or she is at risk of not being considered a valued, living human being at any stage of life outside the womb.

On January 23, 2019, One World Trade Center was lit in pink to celebrate New York’s historic Reproductive Health Act, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which pushes the limits of abortion to the very day of birth. Of the law, assembly member Deborah Glick said, “New York women deserve to have their own healthcare decisions respected. Abortion is a medical procedure, not a crime.”

Early in 2019, Kathy Tran, Virginia Democrat, put forth a measure that would allow abortion throughout all 40-weeks of pregnancy in the state, even if the mother is dilated and ready to give birth. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring, backed the legislation, hailing it as a win for women’s healthcare.

In February of this year, the Colorado House of Representatives voted down House Bill 1068, which addressed the medical needs of babies who survive abortion procedures. The law would have required a doctor performing an abortion, in which the child remained alive, “to exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious physician would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age and requires that the child born alive be immediately transferred to a hospital” or face a $100,000 penalty.

Read that again: the law would have required medical care to a child who is actually ALIVE and outside the womb, yet it was voted down.

I want to hate the politicians who create laws which treat children in the womb as subhuman, the lobbyists who push for them, the abortionists who tout them, and the feminists who hold them up as proof of societal advancement. Instead, I’m immensely sad for them, for our country and for mankind, both the born and the unborn.

More than anything, however, I’m horrified with myself.

I confess that, for most of my adult life, my stance on abortion was that it is absolutely, unequivocally, the killing of an unborn child. I contended that, although I would never have an abortion myself, I would never tell another woman she could not have one.

But, over the years, Mr. O’Brien’s words have come back to me, reminding me of my duty not to turn away from the horrors we inflict upon each other, lest, inch by inch, I become unable gauge my own inhumanity. I began to wonder, if we piled aborted children up like rows of cordwood, or chained them together, some alive, some dying, and some dead, would I see abortion as an attack on Christ Himself? Would I speak?

I have been brought face-to-face with my sin of omission, my moral corruption, my inhumanity to man. My silence has had an insidious effect on abortion, slowly advancing its normalization and leading, ultimately, to its celebration.

I Gassed the Jews

In my refusal to advocate for children in the womb, I surely stood with the collective in Germany, watching Jews file onto trains that would carry them, first to Bergen-Belson, then on to Auschwitz-Birkenau for their Zyklon B showers.

I am no Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I Shackled the Slaves

I stood, mute, on the docks at Jamestown, and watched as a race of people, separated by sex, stripped naked and chained together, began their lives as cotton-picking, tobacco-harvesting slaves to the masters that bought them and beat them and sold them again.

I am no abolitionist, no underground railroad conductor.

I Killed the Children

“Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” Matthew 25: 44-45

In a passive attack on Christ Himself, I stood next to Andrew Cuomo, clapping wildly, as he signed the Reproductive Rights Bill into law. I lit One World Trade Center in pink. I stood silent as Caesar decreed that a living being, once chained to her mother via an umbilical cord, could be denied basic care, including lifesaving medical aid, warm clothing and nourishment. I quietly closed the door, turned on the Zyklon B shower, and rendered unto Caesar the right to pile lifeless bodies up like cord wood.

May God forgive me and grant me the courage to speak life. When my grandchildren ask me what I did to stop abortion, legal genocide in the womb, I hope I can say more than, “Well, I didn’t have one.”

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

*After Abortion: If you have had an abortion and are having trouble dealing with the emotional aftermath, know that the Lord loves you and forgives the repentant. That doesn’t necessarily mean He will immediately take away your pain, but He is the source of true hope and comfort, the one who will help you heal. For more information on post abortion care, please visit Word of Hope.

About the author

Tawnia Hoehne

Tawnia Hoehne is a freelance writer who creates web content for businesses and non-profit organizations across the upper Midwest. She lives with her husband, Steve, on a dairy farm in rural Frazee, Minnesota. Tawnia is a member of St. John's Lutheran Church (LCMS), Corliss, Mn.

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