Hilter was not a nice man. I think we can all agree to that, and if for whatever reason you are unwilling to admit that, you may have to accept that premise arguendo. After all, Hitler started a war that ultimately resulted in the death of 2.5% of the world’s population, perhaps as many as 75 million people. When you add to this his most notorious atrocity, the systematic extermination of socially marginal groups like Jews, homosexuals, Romani, the disabled, and political dissidents, it is no wonder that Hitler has become the quintessential evil. The greatest—or at least the peskiest—argument that pacifists face is, “So are you saying we shouldn’t have stopped the Holocaust?” Of course there are countless reasoned arguments to make against this, but, as is so often the case (and I am not intended to bemoan this fact), what is reasonable has difficulty triumphing over what seems right.
Meanwhile, in the United States alone, well over one million abortions occur every year. In fact, between 1973 and 2008, some fifty million abortions occurred in the United States. These numbers reflect the world in a microcosm. Worldwide abortion statistics show that the number of abortions per annum stays consistently above forty million with no significant signs of long term decline in total abortions. This is by no means merely a third world problem either; the number of abortions per capita between developed and developing is comparable (24 and 29 per 1,000 women respectively). So my question is, why aren’t we killing the abortionists?
Clearly my point isn’t actually to suggest violence towards abortionists or even to suggest (and so defeat my own argument) that every doctor who performs abortions is the equivalent of Hitler. There is a comparison to be made, however, between the Holocaust and abortion statistics, one that ought to be telling. Consider that every year in world five times more abortions are performed than people were killed during the Holocaust. In fact, in America alone the death rates among the unborn and Holocaust victims is the same (if we date the Holocaust from 1933-1945). More startling still, when it is considered that six years of global warfare claimed almost 80 million lives, we cannot help but realize that abortions are occurring globally at three times that rate.
I wonder then why those who believe that Hitler was so evil and the Holocaust so atrocious (and I don’t dispute either of those analyses) that they needed to be countered with lethal violence and also believe that abortion is murder are so slow in taking up arms and opposing doctors who perform abortions with the same verve that they laud in our opposition of the Third Reich. After all, with 53% of Americans believing that abortion is morally wrong most of the time (and less than ten percent of abortions are therapeutic, eugenic, or as a result of rape or incest), there ought to be a significant portion of the American population who, if they consistently applied their beliefs, would be opposing abortion not with rallies, petitions, and grumblings from their living rooms but with the righteous use of deadly force.
With any luck, this farcical call to arms will have the effect of causing people to reevaluate the way they approach justified uses of violence. After all, I would hope that as many people who look at Hitler and feel icky at the thought of not having opposed him by force will feel just as icky about the idea of picking up a gun and shooting up the local Planned Parenthood. The problem is not with pacifists, who know never to pick up guns and shoot our co-bearers of the divine image, but with fair-weather militants who would gladly take a gun and shoot the guards at Auschwitz but to whom it never occurred to take the same action against the statistically more offensive abortionists.
If nothing else, the next time someone unthinkingly attempts to shut down pacifism by asking me “So you wouldn’t have killed Hitler?” I will be able to just as blithely respond, “So why haven’t you killed Cecile Richards?”