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Abortion and Hatred

(Originally published in Celebrate Life, September–October 1999;
reprinted in SOBRANS, Bonus Issue 2000, page 12)

According to a recent article in the New York Times, scientists have found that the frolicsome dolphin, the most intelligent and beloved of marine mammals, has “an unexplained darker side”: it kills members of its own species for no apparent reason. Dead porpoises and young dolphins have washed up on shore bearing the teeth marks of adult dolphins. Dolphins have even been known to bite humans. “We have such a benign image of dolphins,” says Dr. Dale J. Dunn, a veterinary pathologist. “So finding evidence of violence is disturbing.”

The interesting question is why dolphins kill their young; it’s still unclear whether the young are killed by their own mothers, their fathers, or by other adult males who want to mate with their mothers and resent earlier offspring. “Infanticide is common in nature,” the article notes. “Females kill their young when food is scarce and male lions and bears, for example, sometimes kill the young of a female taken as a new mate, giving them a reproductive and evolutionary edge.”

It’s amusing that the concept of evolution, which was supposed to make the concept of divine purpose in nature unnecessary, has mutated into a concept of purpose immanent in nature itself — as if animals could somehow sense that their genetic destiny is at stake when they mate. Or have male mammals read Darwin?

[Breaker quote: Greater 
hatred hath no parent ...]Be that as it may, many animals, male and female, do kill their own young and sometimes eat them. No matter how this fact is explained, it still strikes us as “unnatural,” in the old sense of contrary to the general principle of nature that causes beasts — and humans — to love and nurture their own offspring. Otherwise gentle animals, such as gerbils, will also kill other members of their species they feel are invading their living space.

Hatred is very much a part of nature, and it finds its ultimate expression in killing. The reasons may sometimes be obscure, but the fact is plain enough. There is no reason to suppose it serves any higher or “evolutionary” purpose.

We shouldn’t shrink from recognizing the same thing in human nature. Those who oppose abortion often speak of mothers who abort their children as victims — the idea being that a young girl has gotten pregnant by an irresponsible man, and that she goes to an abortionist only because she has no clear concept of what abortion is.

This is a sentimental notion. Women who abort are unable to love the children they carry; and many of them know very well what they are doing. The desire to end an inconvenient life is a form of hatred.

In many cultures, from ancient Greece and Rome to modern China, infanticide has been accepted. Parents kill their newborn children or abandon them in places where they are exposed them to starvation and wild animals. Even in our liberal (but formerly Christian) culture, this still seems well-nigh incomprehensible.

But infanticide is beginning to find its defenders among us — defenders who appeal to the logic of abortion, which says that nobody should be burdened with an unwanted child. They differ from most abortion supporters only in consistency: they don’t pretend that a human being isn’t being destroyed.

Like abortion, infanticide has always occurred even when illegal. The law can never eliminate such evils entirely, for the simple reason that parents often hate and resent their children, as witness the phenomenon of child abuse. I know of one woman who wanted to get an abortion, was discouraged from doing so, and years later told the child: “I wish I’d aborted you.”

Being self-centered leads inevitably to hating others who are obstacles to selfish desires. What is “natural” in fallen human nature easily descends to the diabolical. And our modern, post-Christian, liberal culture treats the self-centered life as normal, rejecting abortion laws as tyrannical impositions on what has been called “the imperial self.” Most of those who favor legal abortion now support even “partial-birth” abortion.

To paraphrase Our Lord, greater hatred hath no parent than to kill the child. No false compassion should be allowed to create illusions about this terrifying fact of human nature.
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