Good Argument, Wrong Analogy
It is not unusual for world history to borrow from Jewish experiences. Jesus of Nazareth, after all, lived and died as a Jew. Christmas is called the “Festival of Lights,” but that was long after the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, at the same season of the year, was the Festival of Lights. Someone once wrote that “imitation is the sincerest flattery.”It has become quite common in the debate over abortion and guns for partisans to utilize as a metaphor the plight of the Jews during the European Holocaust. The argument is made by those who oppose abortion that the calculated slaughter of the European Jewish community is similar to the killing of an unborn fetus. More recently, gun advocates have made the argument that if the Jews had not been disarmed by Germany prior to World War II, they would have survived the onslaught of the axis war machine.
The use of the Jewish experience in Germany to oppose abortion or to support guns is an insult and undermines both arguments. Abortion is not permitted in the third trimester. However, a cogent argument can be made for the proposition that abortion, even before a fetus is viable, is a destruction and hence the killing of a human life capable of reaching fruition. Abortion opponents have a powerful argument that the unborn need protection more than any other member of society. The genocide against the Jewish community in Europe was a result of almost 2,000 years of anti-Semitism. Ignorance, superstition, hatred and greed were nursed by European racists in a deliberate and calculated manner. The roots of anti-Semitism are well known and bear no resemblance to the argument that a woman should or should not have the right to choose an abortion. Those who do choose to abort their babies, as a means of birth control, are doing the wrong thing but not because they are products of inbred.
The anti-abortion movement would stand on much stronger ground by pointing out that the Constitution was never meant to permit a woman to abort her baby on demand and without regard to her fetus. It convinces no reasonable voter or legislator to say that abortion is the same as the German creation of World War II’s gas chambers. In addition, we must not forget that the Jews were also abandoned by the Western world, which gave Adolph Hitler, may his name be erased, the green light to eliminate Europe’s Jewish population.
It is true that prior to World War II the Jews of Europe were stripped of their guns, along with other residents. However it was not the lack of guns which killed Jews but rather the German war machine aided and abetted by Poland and other Eastern European countries. The refusal of the West to bomb the rail links leading to concentration camps or to do anything to help European Jewish population is an embarrassing story that has been recognized by more than one U.S. President. When the Jews rose up in Warsaw and other places, they did not have the guns they needed. The untold story is that the Jews who fought back, and there were many, were sold out and undermined by other partisans who were also supposed to be fighting the Germans. It is also important to realize that the Jews of Europe were thunder struck by the possibility that the most civilized nation on Earth at the time, which was supposed to be the German state, would ever resort to mass killing. The Jews had fought for Germany in World War I and have been decorated for their bravery. Jews were not killed in World War II by a lack of guns, but rather by a world that did not care and that turned its back on the People of the Book. More guns and well trained freedom fighters would have been helpful to the Jews, but so would support from the West and help from other partisans. There is no good evidence for the proposition that had Germany not taken away guns from the Jews more people would have survived the planned execution of an entire population.
I oppose abortion on demand or for birth control. I have a gun permit. I support the right of all races and religions to live in peace, freedom and harmony. When we argue important social issues, it is important that we stick to the facts but that we also be principled in our metaphors. As the Beatles said in Revolution, “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.” To make outrageous and outright silly arguments does not advance the cause of either those who want to eliminate abortion or those who fear the disarming of America’s civilian population.
Clifford A. Rieders, Esquire
Rieders, Travis, Humphrey,
161 West Third Street
Williamsport , PA 17701
(570) 323-8711 (telephone)
(570) 323-4192 (facsimile)
Cliff Rieders, who practices law in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of these organizations.