Wansee on Sepulveda

In 1942, 15 high German official met in secret to craft what would become known as “The Final Solution”, a plan to wipe out 11 million Jews. There are two very good dramatizations of this, a German film in 1984 (The Wansee Conference), and an HBO production in 2001 with Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci (Conspiracy). Although I say “dramatized”, they’re minimally dramatic, both hewing to the actual minutes of the conference, the impact of the re-enactment coming largely from a shared understanding that genocide is wrong.

That said, if you think Jews are the problem, the men at Wansee are heroes.

And this is why it’s impossible to talk about the recent Center for Medical Progress videos where Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior medical director, and Dr. Mary Gatter, PP’s Medical Director Council President, discuss abortion.

If you think that babies are the problem, Nucatola and Gatter are heroes. Nucatola even has a heroic backstory where she fell into being an abortionist because as an intern she had a patient who had a botched abortion die on her.

To a pro-lifer, this is like a German becoming outraged that a Jew had the audacity to fight back, and becoming Reynhard Heydrick or Adolf Eichmann. (And, of course, the German papers were full of outrage against Jews.) I think it’s safe to say that no productive discussion begins with “You’re just like the Nazis, and here’s why.” Even if you follow with “Hitler did nothing wrong.

Ace talks here about “honest discussion”.

“The babies were ripped apart, obviously, and we spared you this truth, which you did not wish to confront; and now that we have dead baby organs on our hands, which are, sorry to discomfort you non-thinking two-legged animals again, valuable to biotech corporations, what should we do? Just burn them? Well, America is about making a buck, and we’re not making our salaries based on giving out free cancer screening, idiots.

“All of this would have been obvious to you if you just bothered to think about it, but you didn’t want to, so we protected you from ugly reality.

Of course, that’s not exactly honest. As Ace points out, the real danger for Planned Parenthood is that people will start thinking about it. And there’s no Theresienstadt they can put together to show otherwise. One of the big “point-scoring” aspects of this video is that PP has equated mandated ultrasounds during abortions to rape, but they’re perfectly sanguine about ultrasounds to improve their cash flows.

Which brings up the second reason we can’t talk: We don’t really want to talk. We treat communication as a team sport, with the goal being to advance some state of general alignment with our ideas among people who aren’t really paying attention. In short, we want to win.

As such the first reactions out of anyone when something like this comes up is to scrimmage over yards gained and lost. So, when Donald Trump says something stupid about POWs in reference to John McCain, the left starts talking about how anti-military the GOP is while conservatives array themselves along a series of positions from pointing out that Trump doesn’t represent them, that he was a Democrat, that McCain was a traitor for some or other legislation, that Al Franken and Chris Rock said it first—and whether or not Trump actually said the things in question is barely a footnote.

So, too, here, we see all of the various positions being staked out: The tape is doctored, the motives of the recorders is impure, baby organs are not being sold (it’s tissue, and anyway they aren’t babies), it’s perfectly legal to sell baby organs, it’s heroic to sell baby organs—basically, the idea is to find the position you can make stick while giving as little as possible on your desired outcome.

It’s fundamentally dishonest, but we are a dishonest people. Our constant outrage is a testament to that. You can’t really be outraged all the time if you’re honestly looking at things, and assessing them realistically. One must suspect that the pro-life groups are less outraged by this—for they, above everyone else must be among the most aware of what’s going on—and more opportunistically seeking an advantage against their rivals.

There are some facts, however, that probably could be agreed upon, were we interested in advancing the discussion and not just point-scoring.

  • A life comes into being when sperm meet egg. This is true of all animals (that reproduce in this fashion), including humans.
  • The life is, biologically speaking, of roughly the same character as the life that made it. Donkeys make donkeys. Horses make horses. Donkeys with horses make mules. Homo sapiens make homo sapiens, or as we generally call it, humans.
  • So, an abortion or a miscarriage ends a human life, in the strictest sense of the word.

This is probably more ground than the average abortion advocate would care to give, and they seem to have settled on a narrower definition of “human”, which excludes “fetuses”. You’d think this would have the advantage of clarity: You could say “For legal purposes, humans only have rights when they’re born.”

But “partial birth abortions” (which Dr. Nucatola claims do not exist or do not have a precise medical meaning) complicate that by birthing the baby except for the last few centimeters—a technique which, ghoulishly or heroically, depending on your point of view, preserves the organs.

Abortion prohibitionists have a difficult argument as well. If you argue that all human life is equally sacred and worthy of protection under the law, how do you escape an obligation to track women’s periods? This argument solicits eye rolls and “Oh, come on!” from pro-lifers, but how do you know without constant monitoring that women aren’t terminating pregnancies by any means available to them? (Hint: They are.)

You can argue that such a thing would be impractical, but it was done in Romania (and tends to have to be done in repressive regimes, since population collapse seems to be the inevitable consequence of totalitarianism). The real question, though, is how do you argue, morally, that it shouldn’t be done?

One thing honest men should agree upon, however: All the information should be publicly available; it should not be hidden. This, and all debates, doesn’t require—doesn’t even allow—making the arguments in inoffensive, comfortable terms. Abortion videos should be as prominent as videos of other surgical procedures, statistics about long-term effects on health, on emotional state, on fertility, etc., should be collected and published.

The media hegemony that presents one side of an argument while hiding other things that might work against their preferred politics is really the enemy, regardless of where you stand. On any issue.

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