January 22, Day of Horror & Hope: Reflections 2022
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) bans the use, possession, testing, and transfer of nuclear weapons under international law.
I had been following its progress for some time, of course. I would get word this nation had ratified and that one had and we were getting close to the 50 we needed to go into effect. Finally, the 50th finished the ratification paperwork on October 24, 2020. According to law, it would go into effect 90 days from then. In 2021, they reported, that fell on January 22.
I burst out laughing. That date is very familiar, of course.
So the anniversary of the outrageous Roe v. Wade decision and the anniversary of nuclear weapons becoming unambiguously illegal under international law are a double anniversary. That we would need to make a Day of it was obvious. On the first Day of Horror and Hope (before we named it that), we held a webinar.
Putting these two issues together goes way back into our history. The Consistent Life Network was founded at the final meeting of Prolifers for Survival – our roots began with these two issues. As PS founder Juli Loesch (now Julianne Wiley) put it, “To me nuclear weapons and abortion were perfect bookends, symmetrical images of each other. They both involved a frank commitment to targeting innocent targets, and they both depended on the calculated willingness to destroy them deliberately.”
When I think about how the struggles against abortion and nuclear weapons are linked—beyond their common commitment to stopping mass killing—two specific parallels come to mind.
First, both struggles are broad in scope and may become still broader in the future. Pro-life activists, in their efforts against abortion, must consider the circumstances, laws, and policies in each nation or jurisdiction where they work. Peace activists, in their efforts against nuclear weapons, must consider the circumstances of each nation that possesses such weapons and which of the world’s many conflicts could potentially flare up into nuclear war.
In the United States, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, then abortion law will no longer be governed by a single legal framework. States will be free to determine their own laws, if any, regulating abortion. This change will make pro-life activism still more diffuse. Activists will face different challenges and will need to adopt different approaches depending on the state.
On a global scale, the struggle against nuclear weapons could also become more diffuse. If the US-China rivalry continues to intensify and China expands its nuclear arsenal, then this conflict will require more of peace activists’ attention. Further (although we must work to prevent this), if new nations, such as Iran, acquire nuclear weapons, then those nations will also require activists’ time and attention. Both pro-life and peace activists face diverse challenges that may become even more diverse as time goes on.
Second, while the political and legal approach to defending life is very important, pro-life and peace activists alike have similar opportunities to make progress outside the usual political channels. The Supreme Court might not overturn Roe v Wade, and even if it does many states might not change their abortion laws. The current nuclear-armed nations are unlikely to ratify the UN Treaty banning nuclear weapons anytime soon. Nevertheless, pro-life and peace activists can and should continue to educate on the violence of abortion and nuclear weapons and to make both types of violence unacceptable.
As I wrote when the nuclear ban treaty first entered into law,
an international treaty banning nuclear weapons creates a stigma against such weapons. Nations that fail to join the treaty have a similar questionable status to those that refuse to join treaties prohibiting landmines or chemical and biological weapons. As more nations join the treaty (even if those nations don’t possess nuclear weapons), the strength of global opinion that holds nuclear weapons to be morally suspect will grow.
Pro-life activists have long pursued a similar goal of exposing abortion’s lethal toll on children. This educational and persuasive work by both groups remains vital.
Further, both pro-life and peace activists can continue to promote alternatives to violence and to divert funds away from killing. Pro-life activists do so through the network of crisis pregnancy centers and the Grassroots Defunding campaign, which create alternatives to institutions that perform abortions and thus take money away from them. Peace activists do so through initiatives such as Don’t Bank on the Bomb, getting financial institutions to withdraw investments from nuclear weapons manufacturers. Conventional politics isn’t the only option available to us.
Pro-life and peace activists both face a diffuse, complicated set of challenges, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. They both also continue to have valuable opportunities to defend life from abortion and nuclear weapons.
In 1783, Benjamin Franklin responded to a question about the use of the newly invented flying balloons in warfare with a famous alleged quote, “What is the good of a newborn baby?” By 1784, Franklin proposed that the horror of destruction wrought by hot air balloon warfare held potential for “convincing sovereigns of the folly of wars.”
This January 22nd, the anniversary of both Roe and the day nuclear weapons became internationally illegal, we ponder the horrific use of technological advances in light of valuing the good of humans life and we seek for abolition.
One amazing sign of hope arising from WW I’s horrible death tolls are two accomplishments of the global peace movement: First, an international day to remember the horror and end war. Second, with one decade, the U.S. was among the first of 62 nations signing an International treaty abolishing war.
How have the twin horrors of 129,000 to 226,000 humans killed by merely two antiquated low-yield U.S. atomic bombs and U.S abortions ranging 1.5 million to 600,000 per year not resulted in in abolition after all these decades?
The modern connection between abortion and women’s rights began as plot by master propagandist. Larry Lader, who wrote the book Abortion in 1966 with half-truths and lies. His fellow NARAL founder, Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, fabricated numbers of women’s deaths in back-alley abortions. Lader persuaded feminist author and NOW leader, Betty Friedan, into thinking abortion empowered women — rather than irresponsible men. Friedan pushed a last-minute abortion vote at a NOW convention vote which united the feminist and sexual revolution movements. Lader’s book was cited 8 times in the Roe decision, without fact-checking.
Pearl Harbor and quickly ending war are cited to justify nuking Japan. Yet the U.S. previously concluded Japan would have accepted surrender. FDR twice rejected peace talks with Japan and ordered the Navy to allow a Japanese attack as an excuse for premeditated war.
The 1920s U.S. peace movement broadly ranged from bankers to pacifists in four major political parties. Mid-20th century advances in propaganda and modern two-party polarization did not challenge their hopes as it does ours.
One would hope the shared horror of climate crisis and pandemic would rapidly reveal that humanity is tied in a mutual garment of destiny, yet the propaganda of our bi-polarizing two-party duopolistic paradigm is formidable. Shared horror may be necessary. Yet is insufficient for hope.
Hope is found beyond partisanship in value-based principles, such as the Consistent Life Ethic.
For more on our January 22 March for Life actions, see:
For our coverage of the nuclear weapons treaty, see:
For more extensive coverage on both issues and their connections, push the “All Blog Posts” button at the top of the page.