Reconstruction of a Nation: Resilience in the Face of Terror

Posted on January 16, 2018 By

Aneeza Pervez

by Aneeza Pervez


Research Associate – Department of Psychology, Government College University Lahore, Pakistan




The resounding echo of gunshots created a symphony of chaos on the cold and dreary December morning. A nation stood still in their steps while a cold deeper than dropping temperatures penetrated their bodies, wreaking havoc in their hearts and minds. December 16, 2014 is a day Pakistanis are unlikely to forget. The brutality and viciousness of humans reached unknown peaks as six heavily armed gunmen entered and attacked the students of Army Public School Peshawar.

The country held its breath as news of the attack and its components reached the ears of the public. As the toll of the martyred and injured rose, the hopes of a staggering nation fell. The over 150 victims ranged from nursery children all the way to high schoolers and staff members. The gruesome manner of the attack and the dauntless bravery displayed by the victims were unheard of in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, this horrendous scenario was one of many Pakistan has been facing since 2007. According to the Global Terrorism Database developed and updated by researchers at the University of Maryland, US, beginning in 2007 until 2016 a total of 870 terrorist attacks have been aimed at educational institutions in Pakistan. These attacks have resulted in the death of over 400 students and staff members with over 800 injuries.

Due to escalating threats and fear amongst people, in the summer of 2016 the Government of Punjab shut down all educational institutions for a period of 3 months. Students were prohibited from entering the premises, whilst teachers and researchers were asked to report as per schedule. Every institute in Punjab, whether it was public or private, was instructed to vamp their security by elongating school and university walls and installing emergency sirens around the campus.

I can still remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in my office working on the upcoming issue of the Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology when I heard the screeching and terrifying sound of the emergency siren going off. I have never felt such fear in my life. For the first time ever, I found myself in a state of complete panic. In the sixty seconds it took for the department’s clerical staff to come and inform us of the drill, my mind had come up with a million scenarios. From visualizing an agonizing death to summing up the space in my office to seek shelter in, my mind was in complete chaos.

Despite the scare, despite the fear and despite the continuing reports of terrorist activities in Pakistan, I found myself in the following days getting up at 6 am every day to perform my job as a researcher and educationist. It was not just me. The University had over 100 staff members coming in everyday, risking their wellbeing in the hope of helping our country prosper. Regardless of the occurrence of these horrid attacks, the people of Pakistan, especially educationists and students, have remained steadfast in their pursuit of knowledge.

The image of Pakistan a foreign individual holds is that Pakistan is a country riddled with lies, corruption and terrorism. Quite recently the country was blamed for fostering and promoting terrorism. What I would like to convey in my post is that irrespective of the power-hungry agendas of politicians, the people of Pakistan have paid a great price in the war against terrorism. We have lost family members and loved ones, and have been scared emotionally and physically. However, we still stand strong in our commitment to promote the betterment of a global world.

sisters Naila Alam and Yasmeen Durrani

The average Pakistani’s resilience and strength against these negative forces can be seen in the achievement of people such as Dr Anam Najam, Rafia Qaseem Baig, sisters Naila Alam and Yasmeen Durrani, , and Ali Moeen Nawazish. Despite the adversities and negative press Pakistan seems to have faced, the country has excelled in the fields of technology, education, social welfare, etc.

We have people like Aitezaz Ahsan (a school boy who sacrificed his life to help his peers live), Muhammad Wali Khan, (a survivor of the Army Public School Attack in Peshawar), and Malala Yousaf Zai, (a Nobel peace prize winner and survivor of a terrorist attack), to help us realize that no matter how great pain and fear are, we will rise above them. We will not only survive, but live a life dedicated to wellbeing and betterment of those around us.

On a lighter note, if you ever find yourself visiting the country, let me warn you, the hospitality of the Pakistani people is second to none. Not only will we embrace you as our own, we will treat you like royalty!

Aneeza Pervez and Rachel MacNair in Lahore, Pakistan, December 4, 2017


Note from Rachel MacNair: I can confirm the last paragraph from personal experience.  See my story on my visit.  



Healing for the Perpetrators: The Psychological Damage from Different Types of Killing

Posted on January 9, 2018 By

Sarah Terzo

by Sarah Terzo

Violence harms not only its victims but in some cases also harms its perpetrators. Consistent Life Network Vice President Rachel MacNair has written extensively on how those who kill (in war, in abortion clinics, in execution chambers) are psychologically damaged by their actions, a situation she calls “Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS).” Recent accounts by a woman involved in abortions and men who killed people with drone strikes offer further—and noticeably similar—examples of the psychological harm caused by killing.

The pro-life group Live Action ran an article about a former Planned Parenthood worker who left the abortion industry. The woman, identified only as Gail, gave a heartbreaking account of what she witnessed at Planned Parenthood.

After describing how the fetal remains from abortions were put in little dishes to be examined, she says:

I would look at that dish, and the little arms and legs…and I always wondered who they would have grown up to be. I would pray for them, and try not to vomit because it smelled bad and was so gross. Then, all the abortion products of the day went into a biohazard bag all clumped together, and into a deep freezer. It would be collected, and I think sent off to be incinerated.

Gail was traumatized by the tiny body parts she saw. But she was also troubled by the fact that other workers at the clinic did not seem to share her feelings of horror—specifically her concerns about when the unborn babies could feel pain: “One doctor said, ‘I don’t know why its [sic] a big deal. It’s good money!’ Another doctor would pump her breast milk for her newborn baby in between killing other peoples’ babies. I never knew how she could do that!”

Finally, one day, she had had enough: “Once, I saw tiny fully developed hands in the little pyrex dish. Tiny, tiny hands perfectly formed…that was one of the last straws for me…I gave up my whole belief system for money. I was paid $70,000 and they offered more when I quit!”

Despite Planned Parenthood offering her more money, Gail left the clinic. Later, she described the emotional toll assisting in abortions took on her:

I used to be really happy, loved life, saw beauty everywhere before I started working there. Then, I started working at Planned Parenthood, and I was always sad, always tired, and really depressed. …How I felt coming home each day from the abortion center was like a soldier who had come back from war. The emptiness. That’s how I felt. Empty. I don’t believe we were created to see so much death.

Gail compared herself to a soldier on the battlefield. And, indeed, there are some striking similarities between her story and one of a drone operator who left the military.

Former drone operator Brandon Bryant describes the horror of his first kill:

So we’re looking at this thing, these people, and it was like almost instantaneous that someone was like, “Confirmed weapons. Here’s the nine line. You’re cleared. You’re cleared hot.” And we fire the missile. And the safety observer is counting down. He counts down to zero, and he says, “Splash!”

And I watched this man bleed out. The missile had taken off one of his legs right above the knee. And I watched him bleed out of his femoral artery. And he’s rolling on the ground, and I can—I imagined his last moments.

I didn’t know what to feel. I just knew that I had ended something that I had no right to end….It was like my image of myself was cracking and breaking apart.

And the safety observer laughs, and he slaps me on the back, and he says, “You should have seen how you jumped when I said, ‘Splash.’”

Bryant too saw the graphic aftermath of violence against a human being. He saw the violence and knew that he was one of the perpetrators. Bryant recalls the terrible damage the missile inflicted on his target, with part of the man’s leg blown away. This description echoes Gail’s words about dismembered body parts. Both the killings Bryant carried out and the abortions Gail participated in were bloody and gruesome.  Neither Gail nor Bryant could deny the fact that they had killed (or helped kill) human beings.

Another parallel between the two accounts is the presence of other perpetrators who seemed immune to the horror. In Gail’s case, it was the two doctors, one of whom casually pumped breast milk for her own child in between killing other people’s children. For Bryant, it was another member of the military who turned the drone strike into a joke. Both these people were so hardened by the violence they were inflicting on others that they horrified Gail and Bryant. The abortionists and the safety observer may have repressed their consciences to the point where they no longer had normal human feelings. Gail and Bryant had not yet reached that stage. To Bryant and Gail, the killing hadn’t yet become normalized. When they saw the hard-heartedness of the people they worked with, they glimpsed what would happen to them if they continued killing.

Seeing the carnage inflicted on their victims led to terrible feelings of guilt and trauma in Gail and Bryant, and this prompted them to quit. Perhaps seeing the complete lack of remorse and human feeling in their colleagues was another factor in their decision to leave.

The emotional trauma of another drone operator provides another parallel with Gail’s experience. Former drone operator Stephen Lewis, who quit after one kill, says:

It makes any kind of relationship difficult. I can’t—I can’t communicate properly with my friends. I have to preface it with “I’m sorry, guys. I can’t hang out with you tonight. There’s too much going on right now.” It’s, in effect, killed every single relationship that I’ve had afterwards.

Unfortunately, Lewis does not appear to find the Department of Veterans Affairs to be a source of help for his psychological distress:

I’ve been to the VA, but it seems useless. It seems useless for me. It’s been six months. They’ve said, “Hey, you need an MRI.” It’s been six months without an MRI. It’s “Hey, you need medication to manage this pain.” It’s been six months without medication to manage pain. If they’re not going to take care of you, then why should you even go?

One can only hope that Lewis is able to find help for his emotional trauma.

Abby Johnson

There is a place former abortion workers can go for support after they leave the industry. Former Planned Parenthood manager Abby Johnson set up the organization And Then There Were None which holds healing retreats for abortion workers who have left the industry. They are able to find healing and a sense of camaraderie that would otherwise be elusive. One former clinic worker, Shelley Guillory, RN, describes why And Then There Were None is so important to her:



A lot of people tend to look at us as bad guys. We’re not bad guys. We’re human. We’re doing a job. For a lot of us to come out of the industry, we’re embarrassed. We don’t feel comfortable or safe speaking to anybody. It puts us in a very, very dark place. For a lot of us, we go into deep depressions. You’d be very surprised [at] the suicide rate that is very prevalent among abortion workers once they come out because sometimes you feel alienated. But with [And Then There Were None], we don’t have that feeling. We are loved even when we don’t love ourselves.

Former Planned Parenthood manager Sue Thayer also says:

I would say my favorite thing about [being involved with And Then There Were None] really, is just being able to be with other people who have had similar experiences and you can say anything, really, and they’re not shocked. Whereas some of the stuff that we did, or said to clients, if we say that out in public, you know, people either wouldn’t believe it or really think you’re a horrible person. But when all of us are together, it’s like “yup, we all did that.” So that’s really the only place that I’ve ever been that you can really be open about our experiences.

Those of us who value life and seek to relieve human suffering need to advocate for the victims of violence, but we also must promote healing for the perpetrators who change their minds. Compassion for all who are hurt by violence, whether guilty or innocent, is part of the Consistent Life Ethic.


For more blog posts from Sarah Terzo, see:

Abortion Doctor Says: We are the Executioners

The Vital Need for Diversity



See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.


abortionabortion workersdrone warfareperpetration-induced traumapsychology

The Jukes and Kallikaks “Studies”

Posted on January 2, 2018 By

by John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from the book The Roots of Racism and Abortion: An Exploration of Eugenics, pp. 52-54

In 1877, Richard Dugdale published a study of a family whom he called the “Jukes” family. He referred to a mother several generations back in the family as “Margaret, the mother of criminals,” and then studied her descendants. He said that in 75 years, her descendants had cost the state of New York over $1.25 million—which, at the end of the 19th century, was a stupendous sum of money. Dugdale’s book became very fashionable, and many other people wrote similar studies.

Henry Goddard, a member of the AES [American Eugenics Society], published a book in 1912, tracing the descendants of a man whom he called Martin Kallikak, a fictitious name for a Revolutionary War soldier. According to Goddard’s account, Martin seduced a feeble-minded girl, and she produced a feeble-minded son, who had 480 descendants (as of 1912). Of the 480, Goddard said, 33 were sexually immoral, 24 were drunkards, three were epileptics, and 143 were feeble-minded. To clarify the case, Goddard claimed that Martin married a young woman of normal intelligence, and they had 496 descendants, with no feeble-minded children at all. Goddard’s study seemed to provide evidence for a link between bad genes, feeblemindedness and immoral behavior.

Among the books in the new literary genre, the Kallikak case history was the most dramatic, and was cited often. The point of all the stories, of course, was that feeble-minded people multiply like hamsters, dragging society down more and more in each generation. Allowing them to breed just makes a bad problem worse.

Writers used Goddard’s study to stir up prejudice against the disabled and to build support for eugenics programs. For example, in her book Woman and the New Race, Margaret Sanger (AES member) wrote: “The offspring of one feebleminded man named Jukes has cost the public in one way and another $1,800,000 in seventy-five years. Do we want more such families?”

Goddard’s work went beyond his effort to link bad genes, weak brains and poor morals. He was one of the pioneers in the effort to measure intelligence. Like [Francis] Galton, he believed that intelligence was an innate ability, rather than a set of abilities that a child develops under supervision and training. Like Galton, he thought that intelligence could be measured on a sliding scale.

Galton’s ideas about measuring intelligence attracted researchers in Europe and America. In France, Alfred Binet (1857-1911) developed tests to measure intelligence, and Lewis Terman (1877-1956) of Stanford University revised them for the United States. Terman was also a member of the Advisory Council of the AES. The Stanford-Binet tests are still used to measure one’s intelligence quotient, or IQ.

Goddard did research at the Training School for Feebleminded Boys and Girls in southern New Jersey, and he invented the word “moron” to describe some of the children there. Moron is the Greek word for fool, and Goddard used it to refer to people with an IQ of 50 to 75.

Goddard was on a committee that developed IQ tests for the Army in World War I. Robert Means Yerkes (AES member) organized IQ testing for 1.7 million US Army recruits in 1919, and summarized his findings in Psychological Examining in the United States Army. This was the report that led to Henry Fairfield Osborn’s nasty remark that World War I was worth the bloodshed because this book came out of it, and showed “once and for all that the negro is not like us.”


For more excerpts from this book, see:

Plato’s Words about Eugenics

More excerpts are coming up:

Sterilizing the “Unfit”

Post World War II Eugenics

The Eugenics of Roe v. Wade

For more of our blog posts on racism, see:

Historical Black Voices: Racism Kills 

The Poor Cry Out for Justice, and We Respond with Legalized Abortion (Graciela Olivarez)

More than Double the Trouble: Another Way of Connecting (intersectionality)

disability rightseugenicsracism

It’s a Wonderful Movement

Posted on December 12, 2017 By

Now a popular classic movie for the season, It’s a Wonderful Life shows George Bailey standing on a snow-covered bridge, ready to kill himself by jumping into the icy river below. Defining himself by his failures, at the height of his despair, he was visited by an angel who showed him what the world would have been like had he never lived.

Let’s take that same approach with the pro-life and peace movements. What would likely have happened without us?



In 1991, there were over 2,100 free-standing abortion clinics in the U.S., but now there are only around 500 surgical clinics. Without us, they may well have moved into shopping malls, and into or near public schools and private colleges. Infanticide of disabled newborns could have become commonplace, as the slippery slope from feticide of the disabled would never have been stopped.


As documented in Confronting the Bomb, nuclear weapons were at first considered just the best weapon in the arsenal. Over time, our actions made them taboo for using on people.



There would be no debate about paying for abortions in U.S. national health care – the government would have been covering them from the start.


The reaction to the September 11 attacks may well have resembled the reaction after the attack on Pearl Harbor – deep trouble for Muslim citizens, and more extensive war.



 There would be no crisis pregnancy network to help those women who don’t want to submit to abortion, and even fewer government programs helping such women who made the “wrong” choice.


There would be no conflict resolution skills training in schools, nor would mass nonviolent campaigns have developed to topple dictators and empires.


We have plenty of work left to do, but in this holiday season, we can also celebrate our achievements. and those of the compassionate people who came before us.

social movements

My Trip to Pakistan

Posted on December 7, 2017 By

by Rachel MacNair

I was invited to speak at the International Conference on Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Challenges and Resolution Strategies, held November 29-30, 2017 in Lahore, Pakistan. While there, I was also asked to give guest lectures at four different universities; I did two on psychological theories of why nonviolence is effective, and two on the trauma of killing.

Rachel with conference organizers. Left to right: Farah Malik, Shameem Fatima, Rachel MacNair, Farzana Ashraf


I was delighted for the opportunity, but then found I had friends and family who thought I was “brave” to go to Pakistan. And when I went to the US State Department’s webpage – just in order to see if there were any recommended medical shots – it told me that I should avoid going to Pakistan if I didn’t have to, because of all the terrorist attacks. It listed those attacks. That list looked remarkably similar to the list of terrorist attacks in the United States in the same time period.

When I mentioned that in one of my lectures, I got a round of applause. They naturally resent the unfair stereotypes, because everybody resents unfair stereotypes against them, especially such harsh ones. They also resent them since they are victims of terrorist attacks every bit as much as everybody else. And they’re every bit as much opposed to those attacks, for the same reasons as everybody else, along with a resentment at the twisting of their own religion by those attackers who claim to be Muslim.

I start by saying this because one of the major obstacles to peace is the fear of that which is not actually realistic to fear. The homicide rate in Lahore is actually one-fourth that in Kansas City, Missouri, where I live. We are all more in danger of dying in a car accident, so if we wish to fear something realistic, we can fear getting into a car. I have a friend who objects to me pointing these facts out, as if my doing so discounts her fears. But I insist, if we don’t have a realistic understanding of where actual danger lies, then peace cannot be attained. Irrational fears lead to irrational actions.

Meanwhile, one presentation in the breakout sessions was on the problem of current American racism, and Black people who are being terrorized by police shootings, among other things.

Keynote Speech

I gave the keynote speech, on the topic of Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress.  The speech started: “The first rule of establishing peace is that we want to convince people not to kill each other. Not in war, riots, lynching, executions, or any of the other socially-approved methods. We can make an appeal with ethics. We can explain how it is ineffective for achieving certain goals, or that there are better nonviolent ways of achieving those goals. But one other thing that we need to do is help people understand how the act of killing is traumatic to those who do it.”



While I didn’t mention the consistent life ethic explicitly (I had only one personal conversation about the ethic explicitly, which was a lengthy and highly satisfying one), but I did use examples from the different kinds of killing. Combat, executions, slavery, and abortion. The horrific violence of torture was also included.

It was a different experience from when I’ve used the same material for a US audience. It would commonly be the case in a US peace conference that the audience might show some discomfort when I applied the principle to abortion. Conversely, I might get positive enthusiasm from people who realized I was being consistent across the board. Here, however, abortion was simply taken as a reasonable thing to have on the list.

The biggest danger for anyone in a country other than their own is getting lost. There was never any possibility of that here. Whenever outside my room, I was always surrounded by friendly people who take pride in a well-deserved reputation for hospitality. Rather than move to a hotel after the conference, I was invited to stay in a private home, with delightful children. When I admired a painting on the wall, all of a sudden I found that it was gifted to me, and I now have it hanging up at home.

I was asked once, in jest, if I had met any terrorist there. In fact, I never met a single individual that I could even say was merely impolite, or in any way less than friendly. The constant warmth and welcome ensured that that my time in Pakistan was a wonderful experience.

Symposium, Government College University of Lahore


Islampersonal stories

Could My Experience with Dan Berrigan Shed Light?

Posted on November 28, 2017 By

by Carol Crossed

Carol Crossed

Carol Crossed

This November I was pleasantly reconnected with a friend from 1985. Nancy and I had been young mothers together in the neighborhood. Our children ate P B and J sandwiches on the back picnic table and played street hockey until it got dark. That summer we escaped to The Women’s Peace Encampment in Romulus, New York. It was a space of tents adjacent to the Seneca Army Depot where women came from all over the world to oppose the nuclear warheads buried there. That year my husband had bought an old school to convert into housing; Nancy and I had a sale of chalkboards and cafeteria dishes, and raised money to host speakers and provide food for the over 100 women gathered there at any one time.

“Do you want to go hear a reading of Molly’s Hammer?” Nancy called me out of the blue just a few weeks ago in early November. The performance at our local community theater was about Molly Rush, the Plowshares activist. Molly’s character was flanked on either side by a man reading the role of her husband Bill, and on the other by a reader for Dan Berrigan, the Jesuit priest and prophet.

Daniel touched Molly’s soul to its core, shook her, scared her into an even greater depth of commitment to abolish nuclear arms. She planned to take the 5-hour journey in the middle of the night to literally hammer on weapons – figuratively, swords into ploughshares.

Much of the stage reading was a conversation with her husband about the probable cost of the trespass and weapons destruction. Who would take care of their 12 and 14 year old? How could she abandon him and the kids? The time was not right. What time was “right,” she asked? Wasn’t she doing this precisely because the boys were young and had so much of their life ahead of them?

I admired Molly so. Their stage conversation was reminiscent of my own with my husband over simpler commitments. Overnights in the klinker, as my kids would call it. My weekends in a Washington DC jail were child’s play next to Molly’s conversion to redirect her life for the cause of peace.

After the performance was an audience engagement time with three community leaders: a man who worked with inner-city homeless with their healthcare needs, a woman who was head of NOW (National Organization for Women) in Rochester, and an Rochester Institute of Technology professor who was an expert on non-violence. Many of my friends in the peace community were there and were acutely aware of the current contentious situation between the leaders of North Korea and our country. It was a somber conversation. What would Daniel do if he were alive?

A member of the panel referred to me. Could my experience with Berrigan when he was arrested in Rochester shed any light on current tensions?


October 27, 1991, Daniel Berrigan sits in to protest Planned Parenthood abortions

When Berrigan was here in 1989 and 1991, it was in the midst of massive national civil disobedience in front of abortion clinics and nuclear weapons sites. He couldn’t make sense of the “my issue is more important than your issue” mentality. Is that like saying the people you want to protect are more important than the people I want to protect? Nonsense, Daniel would say with a smile.

In his newly released biography on Berrigan, Jim Forest speaks to Dan’s challenge to his peace friends. Nuclear weapons and abortion suction machines were pretty much the same thing.

A recent article titled “Life Affirming?” in the Notre Dame Magazine (Autumn, 2017) by Professor Richard Garnett says there is a need to affirm life on the “right” and on the “left.”  He quotes theologian John Cavadini as saying a “culture that allows the powerful to kill the weak just because they are weak is a culture without significant moral substance and all attempts to use the language of morality will be subverted by this fundamental incoherence.”

I commented to the audience about Berrigan’s abortion clinic and army depot arrests on the same  day in Rochester. Some youth in the audience were spellbound. But other seasoned followers quietly reflected on how needed Berrigan was now. More than ever, he is needed now.


abortionconsistent life ethicDaniel BerriganUncategorizedwar and peace

Plato’s Words about Eugenics

Posted on November 14, 2017 By

by John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from the book The Roots of Racism and Abortion: An Exploration of Eugenics, pp. 15-16

Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived from about 427 BC to about 347 BC. His thought had a tremendous impact on all of Western culture. One of his greatest works was the Republic, in which he explored the idea of justice, and how to develop a just society. He favored a system of aristocracy, or rule by the best people.

Plato’s discussion includes military matters, and he talked about a class of people who would be devoted to guarding the society, a kind of warrior class. Soldiers should be fierce when dealing with enemies, but should not be a threat to their own neighbors. Achieving and maintaining this balance is difficult, Plato felt, and so he discussed some ideas for breeding the kind of people he wanted. His ideas about breeding soldiers are shocking, and it is possible that Plato was making fun of someone else’s ideas. But whether Plato took the ideas seriously or not, 19th century eugenicists were fascinated.

Plato noted that dogs are frequently gentle to people they know, but fierce to strangers. Dog owners pay attention to their breeding, selecting only those considered to be the best. If the owner does not pay attention to breeding, the value of the dogs—or birds, horses or other animals—can deteriorate quickly. The question, then, is whether the techniques of animal breeding can be adapted to humans, to raise soldiers. Plato found human breeding plausible, if the rulers of the society were willing and able to be deceptive, manipulating people into accepting the rulers’ plans. Breeding a soldier class requires that the rulers select the best of both sexes, and have them mate as much as possible, while discouraging mating among the inferior.

Plato’s scheme for a perfect society included not only barnyard methods of breeding humans and deception, but also promiscuity and abortion. Men and women considered too old to have healthy children could engage in sexual activity promiscuously, but any child they conceived accidentally was to be aborted.

Not all Greeks favored abortion and infanticide. Hippocrates, the Greek physician who is called the “father of medicine,” lived at about the same time as Plato. His greatest legacy is the charter of conduct he wrote for medical professionals, which was used for ages. It includes unequivocal opposition to euthanasia and abortion: “I will give no deadly drug to anyone, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such, and especially I will not aid a woman to procure abortion.”


More excerpts from this book:

The Jukes and Kallikaks “Studies”

Yet to come:

Sterilizing the “Unfit”

Post World War II Eugenics

The Eugenics of Roe v. Wade


For more of our blog posts on racism, see:

Historical Black Voices: Racism Kills 

The Poor Cry Out for Justice, and We Respond with Legalized Abortion (Graciela Olivarez)

More than Double the Trouble: Another Way of Connecting (intersectionality)




Converts or Heretics?

Posted on November 7, 2017 By

Rachel MacNair

by Rachel MacNair

We recently got a note asserting that one of our member groups had published a blog post which the note writer understood to be pro-abortion. The note-writer said: “This is the most shameful way to illustrate why CLE [consistent life ethic] can cover for abortion rights supporters.” He wanted to know if we would remove the member group from our list.

The post in question never actually mentions the consistent life ethic. It doesn’t use our reasoning. It’s from someone claiming to be pro-life but making a case against legal bans. It’s based on reasoning common to abortion-defending circles, which is probably part of the reason the note writer understands it as pro-abortion (though I object to the term “abortion rights supporters,” since abortion isn’t a right).

A blog post isn’t a group’s position. Blog posts explore individual opinions and ideas. That’s true of all CLN blog posts as well, including the one you’re reading now; what’s below is my opinion.

We’ve commented on legality before in our blog posts Should Abortions be Illegal? and Who the Law Targets.

Arguments on Legal Bans

Claim 1 in the post: “ I think most in the pro-life movement have failed to accurately identify those who really are the so-called ‘baby-killing politicians.’ Consequently, Christians keep giving their support to the ones who refuse to support policies that actually reduce abortions, even as they claim to be pro-life.”

My response: Some politicians give only lip service against abortion. They aren’t merely bad at supporting programs to prevent poverty or domestic abuse, thereby indirectly preventing abortions. They aren’t even good at policies tackling abortion directly. They give lip service to get votes, then rather than introducing or supporting any kind of abortion legislation, turn their attention to far more trivial matters.

But if the post-writer asks who “really” are baby-killing politicians, we can’t ignore people directly advocating policies pushing abortion. George Will in the Washington Post  and  Ross Douthat in the New York Times  recently made excellent remarks about how extreme Democratic Party politicians are.

Claim 2: “The fact is that banning abortion is not the best way to safeguard the unborn. Three of the five nations with the lowest abortion rates are nations where abortion is legal. Further, the regions of the world where abortion rates are the highest are where abortion tends to be illegal. No doubt many factors account for this fact. Regardless, all in all, there is no correspondence between the legality or illegality of abortion and abortion rates.”

My response: All the evidence this author cites comes from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), the research arm of Planned Parenthood. AGI has a strong interest in abortion being legal. Citing them is like citing the tobacco industry on the safety of cigarettes. The source doesn’t lend credibility to the assertions.

Furthermore, as I detail in Chapter 15 of Peace Psychology Perspective on Abortion, laws that offer various “restrictions” on abortion – no Medicaid funding, informed consent, parental notification – all seem to mainly lower the abortion rate dramatically. Even distance from the clinics has an impact, with lower abortion rates in locations further from a clinic.

The studies showing this abortion-reduction effect come from people who oppose the legislation. They don’t want the laws to have that effect. This adds credibility to the findings.

If the abortion rate is lower in places several hours’ drive away from the abortion clinic, does it really makes no difference in the abortion rate if there’s no available abortion clinic at all?

Claim 3: “The desire to control and punish women seems to be over-riding the desire to reduce abortions. This is deeply misguided.”

My response: This is a stereotype. It has the same function stereotypes normally have: defining the in-group and the out-group. It’s also an ad hominem argument – “against the person” rather than against ideas.

And since it’s a common idea in the pro-life movement that abortion itself is punishing to mothers, as documented by the many post-abortion women active in the pro-life movement, the concept that banning abortion might be punishing women is not merely inaccurate but puzzling.


Claim 4: “But when coupled with sex education, contraceptives will more consistently prevent abortions. . . . This is particularly true of long-acting reversible contraceptives . . .  Conservatives continue advocating for abstinence-only programs, but the success of these efforts is poor.”

My response: There is indeed quite a substantial amount of literature on how poorly abstinence-only education works. There’s also substantial literature on how well it works. And there’s evidence both that other sex education works well and that it doesn’t. In the studies I read, I could predict 100% how the study would come out by noting the predilection of the researchers.

In the studies that say abstinence-only doesn’t work well, there’s also no consideration of how different programs operate. Scolding people, for example, may be less effective than reasoning with them, yet the programs are all lumped together.

In this case, taking the word of one side over the other is taking the word of abortion promoters.

As for contraception, when researching the scholarly literature I anticipated I’d find the same pattern: how effective contraception is found to be would depend on what the researchers wanted to find. Surprisingly, I found no such thing.

For regular contraception, some programs pushing it were associated with increased abortions, even when researchers really wanted to find otherwise. For documentation and reasons, see Chapter 16 in the book I edited, Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion.

But there is one exception: long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). Some studies show them to be effective in lowering pregnancies and abortions. I have statistical criticisms of those studies, as I explain in Chapter 16.

But I hope everyone can catch this point: LARCs work by messing up women’s bodies.

If that’s what the woman wants, justice requires only that she be aware of this

But when we have a world of domineering men, statutory rapists, and incest perpetrators, do we really want to push for such men to presume they’re entitled for women to be sexually available? Isn’t that a major reason there are so many abortions? Can we ever lower abortions if we ignore this?

One study found that strict enforcement of child support payments by fathers was associated with a lower abortion rate. Yet the same proportion of pregnant women was having abortions; the assurance of child support was apparently not changing many minds. The rate went down because fewer women were pregnant. Perhaps men were taking more care about impregnating them.

Consistent-lifers have a variety of views on contraception. But if we push contraception without doing anything about equality in sexual relationships, it would be very easy to do more harm than good. Contraception is mere technology. Social relationships are more complicated.

Heretics or Converts?

Getting back to the question: will we drop a member group from our list for publishing such a post?

We’ve certainly had times when we felt the need to remove people from our endorsers list. In one case a woman signed on to our Mission Statement yet turned out to be on Planned Parenthood’s board. We figured she didn’t quite catch the point. Another former endorser was quoted in a newspaper saying he favored aborting children with disabilities, though he opposed other abortions. Another publicly made a case in favor of the latest US war. Here the problem is whether they oppose violence, rather than a question of the best strategy to oppose violence.

Here’s a basic strategic question: if people have misunderstandings, is it better to work on dispelling the misunderstandings, or the people? We don’t “cover for” people when we’re carefully explaining to them some thoughts they may not have considered.

This comes down to a question of whether we’re seeking converts or hunting heretics. Movements that seek converts grow. Movements that hunt heretics shrink.

Burning of a Heretic, Stefano di Giovanni, about 1430 (PD-1923)

Many single issue pro-life voters have made a severe compromise in their own principles with Donald Trump. Trump is someone who’s made pro-abortion and contradictory remarks and doesn’t seem to understand the issue. He has a well-deserved reputation for turning on his friends.

But, many pro-lifers argue, we get anti-Roe v. Wade US Supreme Court judges appointed. But do we? The latest appointment, Neil Gorsuch, wrote an excellent book on euthanasia (which I highly recommend), but he explicitly stated in that book that the principles he was expounding didn’t apply to fetuses. He reiterated this in his Congressional hearings. And he has a strong position for keeping legal precedent. So, setting aside how he might rule on all other issues, there’s no assurance whatsoever that he’ll vote against Roe.

If we were to apply strict pro-life standards to either Trump or Gorsuch, neither one would pass the test. Nor would many of the other politicians or Supreme Court judges pro-lifers have worked so hard for.

Babies need to be saved. There are different ways to save them.  All activists work on methods they understand to be effective. Working together will mean working with people with whom we still need to have discussions to make their thinking clearer, rather than rejecting those people, especially when they agree with us that killing is wrong.


abortionpoliticsstrategyUS Supreme Court

Using Empathy during a New Cold War

Posted on October 31, 2017 By

by John Whitehead

John Whitehead third from left

An American contemplating the hostile state of current U.S.-Russian relations might well be pessimistic. Russia, this American observer might conclude, is an implacably hostile enemy whose actions reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambition to act aggressively abroad while suppressing dissent at home. From this perspective, America has no choice but to wage a new Cold War, acting forcefully to check Russian aggression. Such a perspective is not only dangerous—as it risks open warfare—but tragically narrow-minded. A view of U.S.-Russian relations that includes empathy for Russian policymakers and their perspectives allows an alternative interpretation of Russian actions. Putin and other policymakers may well be acting out of fear of the United States and seeking to protect Russia from a perceived U.S. threat. From this alternative perspective, avoiding provocations and working to relax tensions is a better option for the United States.

The political scientist and psychologist Ralph K. White applied empathy to U.S.-Soviet relations during the last Cold War. More recently, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Brown University Professor James G. Blight applied White’s principles to U.S.-Russia relations as of 2001. This approach continues to be valuable today.

In their book Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century, Blight and McNamara quote White’s explanation of empathy and its relevance in international relations:

Empathy is the great corrective for all forms of war-promoting misperception. It means simply understanding the thoughts and feelings of others. It is distinguished from sympathy, which is defined as feeling with others—as being in agreement with them. Empathy with opponents is therefore psychologically possible even when a conflict is so intense that sympathy is out of the question. We are not talking about warmth and approval, and certainly not about agreeing with, or siding with, but only about realistic understanding . . .

[Empathy] means trying to look at one’s own group’s behavior honestly, as it might appear when seen through the other’s eyes, recognizing that his eyes are almost certainly jaundiced, but recognizing also that he has the advantage of not seeing our own group’s behavior through the rose-colored glasses that we ourselves normally wear. We may have grounds for distrust, fear, and anger that we have not permitted ourselves to see. (Quoted on pp. 65-66)

If we apply this empathetic approach to Russian policymakers, we can see that for almost 20 years the United States has acted in ways that, from the Russians’ standpoint, threaten and humiliate Russia. These provocative American actions fall into roughly three broad categories: 1) NATO expansion; 2) attacking Russia’s allies; and 3) undermining Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

From Russia’s perspective, then, the United States has expanded a hostile military alliance’s reach right up to the Russian border, waged war against Russia’s friends, and tried to undermine Russia’s military power. Viewed this way, anti-American hostility is understandable and seemingly aggressive Russian actions can be seen as defensive. Even the Russian attack on Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, while unjust, makes sense as a Russian attempt to prevent NATO from expanding to include Ukraine as well.

  1. NATO Expansion. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a product of the Cold War, a military alliance created specifically to counter a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution the Soviet Union did not mean the end of NATO, however. Instead, NATO has grown, bringing in as new members many Eastern European countries that were once parts of the Soviet Union or Soviet satellites. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined NATO in 1999; Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, as well as the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined in 2004; Albania and Croatia in 2009; and Montenegro in 2017. From the perspective of the Soviet Union’s successor state, Russia, this expansion of a historically hostile military alliance into what had once been Russia’s sphere of influence—indeed, right up to Russia’s borders—must appear an extraordinarily hostile policy. To recall a relevant parallel, the presence of pro-Soviet regimes in Cuba and Nicaragua during the Cold War provoked extreme fear and hostility within the United States; how much more extreme would such reactions be if 13 nations in the western hemisphere all joined a pro-Russian military alliance?
  1. Attacking Russia’s Allies. The United States has repeatedly waged war against countries that are friendly with Russia: Serbia in 1999, Iraq in 2003, and Syria since 2014. The Russians would naturally view such war-making as a sign of American hostility or at least contempt.
  1. Undermining Russia’s Nuclear Arsenal. Since the 1990s, the United States has actively pursued a missile defense system: that is, missiles meant to shoot down other missiles launched by hostile countries. Such a system is currently being set up in Europe, under NATO supervision: a key installation was established in 2016 in Romania, with another to follow in Poland in 2018. This missile defense system is ostensibly meant to protect European nations from Iran, but Russian policymakers understandably view it as a threat. Such a system is threatening because from the Russians’ perspective an effective NATO missile defense system could undermine whatever credible threat Russia’s arsenal of nuclear missiles pose to NATO nations. By the paradoxical logic of nuclear deterrence, to lack a credible ability to threaten another nation makes one vulnerable to aggression by the nation possessing the missile defense system. In short, the Russians perceive the missile defense system as making them less able to deter an attack from United States and NATO.

Rather than viewing Russia as merely malevolent and implacably hostile, American policymakers should consider how their own actions have provoked Russia and helped create the current tense situation. Less threatening behavior that respects Russian interests and concerns could ease tensions: stopping further NATO expansion and cancelling the European missile defense system would be good first steps. Such an approach is preferable to another Cold War.



For more writings of John Whitehead on war policy, see:

Rejecting Mass Murder: Looking Back on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Three Reasons for Opposing the US Bombing of Syria

Self-Defeating Violence: The Case of the First World War

See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

war policy

No Resort to Violence

Posted on October 24, 2017 By

by Jim Kelly

Jim Kelly


Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017. It’s also the third of three posts that come from Jim Kelly. This post is based on a presentation at the session of the Consistent Life Network’s research arm, The Institute for Integrated Social Analysis.

Already Inclusively Nonviolent

From the very start, after each murder of an abortion-performing doctor, the right-to-life social movement organizations and religious leaders unfailingly characterized their movement as inherently nonviolent.

For example, after the Eric Rudolph bombings in the mid-1990s, the executive director of the Georgia Right to Life said that violence “is never the solution to social problems.” Gary L. Bauer, then president of the Family Research Council, said “Violence is not the answer to violence.” David O’Steen, longtime executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said “The goal of NRLC is to break the cycle of violence, which includes abortion, not perpetuate it.”

Movement spokespersons pointed out that none of those who killed or injured abortion clinic doctors and personnel had any connection with any right-to-life organization. Each was a “lone wolf.”

More than a decade later, after Scott Roeder murdered George Tiller in 2009, the remarks of leading pro-life organizations recycled their earlier avowals of nonviolence. Here are a few of the most immediate (all from editor, June 1, 2). Note that, once again, their disavowals explicitly claim adherence to an inclusive nonviolence:

“Kansans for Life deplores the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and we wish to express our deep and sincere sympathy to his family and friends,” KFL director Mary Kay Culp told immediately after the shooting. “Our organization has a board of directors, and a 35-year history of bringing citizens together to achieve thoughtful education and legislation on the life issues here in Kansas,” she explained. “We value life, completely deplore violence, and are shocked and very upset by what happened in Wichita today.”

Father Frank Pavone, the founder and director of Priests for Life, a prominent pro-life Catholic group, urged the media and those involved in the abortion debate “not to assign blame to the pro-life community that would never employ these kinds of tactics to oppose abortion . . .We at Priests for Life continue to insist on a culture in which violence is never seen as the solution to any problem. Every life has to be protected, without regard to their age or views or actions,” he said.

Thomas Glessner, a pro-life attorney who heads The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), a group that provides legal services to hundreds of pregnancy centers, said “The pro-life movement stands against violence and killing and this opposition is in our DNA,” he said. “Those who resort to violence against others act cowardly and should be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

It’s evident that when challenged to respond to questions raised by movement lone-wolves who kill abortionists, pro-life leaders link their opposition to abortion to the nascent nonviolence movement, as embodied by, among others, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and countless others. The core of the movement opposing abortion rests on a principled nonviolence that has separated itself from just war theory.

Just War?

The prestigious neo-conservative monthly First Things, founded by the late Richard John Neuhaus, sponsored a December 1994 symposium entitled “Killing Abortionists.” The symposium, no surprise, morally condemned the use of violence by abortion opponents.

But, surprisingly, the majority of the subsequent letters to the editor (March 1995: pp. 2-4) criticized the symposium participants precisely because these abortion opponents had failed to defend the “justified” use of violence in defense of the innocent, a consideration that is explored in just war theory. The letter writers implied that if one applies that theory to the case of abortion, violence against abortion doctors can be justified.

Rev. Earle Fox wrote that Paul Hill’s stated principle was that “’Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born child is legitimate in defending an unborn child’ . . . It did not appear to me that anyone [in the symposium] successfully disproved his principle.” He offered the analogy, “If that abortionist had been on his way, Uzi in hand, to murder all the children in a given school building, all the parents in town would have surrounded that school armed with whatever weapon they could lay hands on…. [thus] Mr. Hill is not guilty of any crime punishable by law.”

Letter writer Eric A. Voellm challenged the moral consistency of the symposium members: “If we truly believe that the child in the womb is every bit as much a person as a child outside the womb, can there really be any legitimate excuse for not employing deadly force? …. Alas, the pro-life movement is faced with a conundrum. Either we insist upon the unborn child as a person with all the legal rights of an adult, including the right to expect assistance in the defense of its life, or we fold up our tents and concede that the child in the womb cannot expect the same legal and moral considerations as the child already born.”

Similarly, Tom Sheahen concluded that “The reasoning of many of the symposium participants is weak, and inadvertently strengthens Hill’s case … The chilling thing about this entire symposium is that, on the level of logic alone, Hill’s premise wins the argument. Not one of your commentators addressed this question, ‘What should I do to protect this particular child on this particular day?”

In short, some people applied Just War Theory to the situation. Yet these are clearly a very small minority. Most pro-lifer leaders responded instead with an appeal to the principles of nonviolence.

Not Just War, But Peacemaking

When social movement leaders are pushed by the pressing need to justify their position in its core essence, they grasp the moral fact that they must move beyond the more ordinary tactics of winning voting support and financial up-keep for their movement. So abortion opponents dig morally deep and pronounce that they are in effect active pacifists seeking the end of all violence.

The routine framing of abortion in the media is that it’s a conservative counter movement. Few understand the radicalism at the movement’s very core: a resort to violence in any form is a negation of the human good.


The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)

The Mind’s Drive for Consistency (Rachel MacNair)


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.