On Wednesday May 15, 2019, Alabama’s governor signed into law a near total-ban on all abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Even women — and children — who conceived through rape or incest would be forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy.
Despite its name, the Alabama Human Life Protection Act doesn’t protect life. It endangers it.
This law, which imposes fundamentalist Christian values on non-fundamentalist Christian bodies, is offensive enough on its own. But, in their quest to invade our uteruses, Alabama lawmakers went so far as comparing abortion to the Holocaust and other genocides.
The legislation reads:
“It is estimated that 6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered in German concentration camps during World War II; 3,000,000 people were executed by Joseph Stalin’s regime in Soviet gulags; 2,500,000 people were murdered during the Chinese ‘Great Leap Forward’ in 1958; 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 people were murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the 1970s; and approximately 1,000,000 people were murdered during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. All of these are widely acknowledged to have been crimes against humanity. By comparison, more than 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined.”
First of all, a fetus isn’t a baby. It’s a fetus.
But I’m not here to argue basic biology. I’m here to point out how it sick is to compare abortion in America to actual genocides, and especially to the Holocaust, where, in concentration camps, abortion often saved lives.
Many pregnant women were directly sent into the gas chambers because they were deemed unable to work in the camps. If they managed to hide their pregnancies from the Nazis, their newborns were often drowned or slaughtered for sport. But there was a third, more horrific possibility: If Josef Mengele discovered you were pregnant, he would perform experiments on you and your child without anesthesia.
When Ruth Elias gave birth to a baby girl in Auschwitz, Mengele bandaged her breasts so she couldn’t feed her newborn. ”He wanted to do research — I don’t know what to call it — on how long a new one can live without food,” she recalled to The Chicago Tribune, noting how she tried to feed her baby bread she had chewed up. One of the doctors told her the child would not survive, but Mengele would stop torturing her if the baby died. He then convinced her to inject her own baby with a lethal dose of morphine.
Mengele was happy to do the infanticide himself. One of those incidents occurred right after a prisoner gave birth. ”When he saw that there was only one baby and not twins, he tore the baby right out of the mother`s uterus, threw it into an oven and walked away,” Vera Alexander, who was a warden in a block where Mengele experimented, added. “We saw this.”
The horror stories go on and on. If Alabama lawmakers were so concerned about the horrors of the Holocaust, they’d know that women were regularly raped in concentration camps and pregnancy was often worse than a death sentence.
With the Alabama Human Life Protection Act in place, doctors who perform covert abortions are deemed criminals who could face up to 99 years of prison. But for descendants of Holocaust survivors like myself, gynecologists who performed these procedures in the camps were real life heroes.
We still celebrate Dr. Gisella Perl, a Romanian doctor who was deported to Auschwitz in 1944. When she was forced to work as a doctor in the camp, Josef Mengele demanded to know which women were pregnant. Soon she discovered he was recruiting these women to experiment and murder them. So, without any medical instruments, Perl performed hundreds of abortions for prisoners.
“Dr. Mengele asked Dr. Perl for the women who were in the early stages,” survivor Leah London Friedler explained to The Jerusalem Post. “He wanted to do experiments with the babies. But Dr. Perl, at the risk of her life, took the pregnant women out in the middle of the night with my mother to perform abortions, so as not to put the mothers in the hands of Dr. Mengele, giving them a chance to survive.”
While Mengele will go down in history as the Angel of Death, we remember Perl, an abortion doctor, as the Angel of Life.
Unfortunately, in 2019, more and more legislators refuse to accept that abortion is not about “killing babies.” It’s about saving women.
Bans on abortions don’t stop them from happening; they stop them from happening in safe conditions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, even in countries that outlaw abortion completely or have extreme bans like the Alabama bill, 37 per 1,000 people still have the procedure. Whether it’s legal or not, abortions are guaranteed — but when it’s illegal, sterile conditions are not. Today, unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide.
Pro-life politicians are endangering women in some of the very same ways that Nazis did. Yes, I’m comparing them to Nazis, because banning abortion is a violation of human rights, which is defined by international law as being free of torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. Forcing women to give birth against their will is nothing but cruel, degrading, and inhumane.
To use the Holocaust as a reason to support these extreme abortion bans makes about as much sense as calling a movement that endangers so many people “pro-life.” They aren’t saving lives — abortions are.