In recent months, a series of undercover videos has exposed Planned Parenthood’s practice of harvesting fetal organs. In defense of this practice, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards argued:
This is actually laudable that women and their families choose to make fetal tissue donations in order to potentially save lives of other folks.
Note that an action which would ordinarily be considered barbaric (i.e. dismembering a fetus and selling her pieces) has been transformed by Richards into an act of mercy (i.e. making “donations” to “save lives”). This is nothing new. The same tactic was used by those who sought to justify the institution of slavery and the crimes of the Nazi regime.
Consider the following argument by T. W. MacMahon in defense of American slavery:
The various uses to which the produce of slave labor is converted by civilized nations, the moneys derived from it, and the souls that are dependent upon it, almost border upon the infinitude of numbers. It is estimated that there are in England between five and six millions of human beings who derive their livelihood from cotton alone. … But this is not all. It is but a mere iota of what slavery … does for mankind. …
From the moment that [the cotton plant] is placed out of the hands of those who sow and pick it, its mission becomes mercifully universal, hopeful, and vital – imparting employment to untold millions of operatives in every diversity of labor – opening fresh channels for the investment of capital and the circulation of money –keeping society from chaos and giving stability to governments – covering exposed nakedness from the blasts of winter and the heat of summer – saving from bankruptcy, ruin, or starvation, merchants, bankers, ship-chandlers and ship owners; the common carrier; the loaders and unloaders of cargoes; sailors; carders; spinners; weavers; engineers; mechanics; chemists; dyers; shopkeepers; tailors; sewers; lace-makers; milliners; dress-makers; rag-gatherers; paper manufacturers; printers; editors; publishers; and so on, ad infinitum. (Cause and Contrast: an Essay on the American Crisis, 102-103)
Consider also the defense given in behalf of Nazi physician Karl Brandt. Brandt, a close confidant of Hitler, tortured prisoners in medical experiments which were unspeakably cruel and often lethal. When Brandt was tried for war crimes at Nuremberg, the following defense was given:
In the same way as the state demands the death of its best men as soldiers, it is entitled to order the death of the condemned in its battle against epidemics and diseases. No antique sacrifices to gods and demons are demanded any longer, only a well considered expiation as a help for the community and indeed exclusively in its interest. (Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, 1:989)
According to MacMahon, slavery is merciful, for the institution provides employment, clothing, and prosperity to millions of people all around the world. According to Brandt, lethal experimentation is enlightened, for it ultimately aids physicians in their battle against disease. According to Richards, abortion is generous, for the left-over pieces can be donated to medical research. Thus, according to these apologists, the act of selling a mother’s children, the act of torturing a prisoner to death, and the act of ripping the arms and legs off of a six-month-old fetus all turn out to be expressions of humanitarianism.
I don’t buy it.
[See also: Four pro-choice arguments that echo pro-slavery arguments]