Little things can make big differences. Growing up in Massachusetts near the turn of the 20th century, Theodor Geisel would fall to sleep listening to his mother’s childhood rhymes. It spurred in him a desire to write rhymes. In college Geisel wrote for the school’s humor magazine until he was kicked off the staff. Undeterred, he managed to submit works under a pseudonym, his middle name and mother’s maiden name — Seuss. He became a professional illustrator, then an author, and eventually figured that he should be called a doctor.
Dr. Seuss died in 1991, but his 44 children’s books may live on for centuries. Who can forget characters like the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, or that fiendish Grinch and his plan to steal Christmas? Yet for all the zaniness of Dr. Seuss’ books, he taught some valuable lessons. In Seuss’ world there were Sneetches, some of whom had a little star on their bellies, and others who had none. The star belly Sneetches would snoot and snort at the plain belly Sneetches who had nothing of the sort. That is, until Sylvester McMonkey McBean charged the plain-bellies three dollars each to walk through his peculiar machine and get a star. When the star-bellies saw what happened, they paid McBean $10 each to remove their stars. After all, differences must be maintained. Back and forth the changes went. In the end, McBean left town filthy rich. And the penniless Sneetches came to realize, much to their delight, that they really were all the same.
Of course, Seuss’ world is much closer to our world than we care to admit. Man often refuses to accept that at our most essential level — our humanity — we are all the same. In Germany, Nazis branded Jews and Eastern Europeans as untermensch — subhuman. For most of the 20th century, South Africa struggled over apartheid: the separating of classes. After gaining its independence in 1910, the country began a system of territorial and cultural segregation of blacks. By 1950, all people were classified by race. Interracial marriage and sexual relations were banned. Black people were forced to surrender their lands for little or no compensation and to live in gerrymandered “homelands” that effectively prevented their involvement in national politics. Eventually, the peaceful opposition of blacks was met by deadly force from the government. Worse violence followed. Apartheid officially ended in 1994, but only after the international community imposed tough economic sanctions.
India is dealing with an unofficial caste of a different kind. There may be as many as 300 million Dalits — “broken people”— in India. They are called “untouchable,” perceived as impure and less than human. Cruelties against Dalits abound. A Dalit boy was beaten to death for picking flowers. A Dalit woman deemed a witch was paraded naked. Another was gang-raped before she was paraded. Dalits are burned alive. A Dalit was pelted with stones because he rode a horse in his wedding procession. The police sanction Dalit lynchings. A Dalit may not drink from a well, attend a temple, or even use the same cup as a non-Dalit. A Dalit can be killed for walking in an upper caste area. They live as nobodies, their humanity denied.
In a country founded on the self-evident truth that God made us all equal, we have created our own caste system. Our “nobodies” also have a name: the unborn. Forty-three years ago, the Supreme Court denied them recognition as humans; they must fend for themselves, which they cannot. Their survival until birth is a matter of luck. They may be legally killed merely because they are alive. They are ripped to shreds, or chemically burned alive, or harvested for parts. It all happens day in and day out, about 3,000 times each day.
Yet the unborn are as human as we are. Science has conclusively proven that human life begins at conception. At that moment, the new human has every genetic characteristic that he will ever possess. The unborn baby is fully human, just not fully developed. But then, for a large part of our lives the same can be said about us. We continue to develop well after birth. In fact, our brains are not fully developed until around age 25. So the humanity of the unborn is not a matter of one’s belief. It is a matter of science — and of accepting the truth.
Yet many refuse to accept their humanity because there is much to be gained by denying it. Like money. Abortion providers claim that they protect women’s health. But if so, they’d perform abortions for free. Planned Parenthood didn’t collect almost $1.3 billion in annual revenue by performing abortions for free. It is filthy rich, and so are the other providers. Rather than helping women overcome their fears, they milk those fears for profit. It’s all so easy because it’s all so legal. To them the unborn are nobodies, mere clumps of tissue.
Politicians also find great gain in ignoring the unborn. They push the notion of “choice” and “reproductive rights,” as if anyone has a “right” to kill another human. Ask a pro-choice politician about the humanity of an unborn child, and you’ll get anything but a straight answer. Rather than trying to help both mother and baby, they are usually only interested in helping themselves. Supporting legal abortion provides a storehouse of campaign money from abortion providers and lots of votes from badly misguided people. In a way, it’s predictable. Politicians have no need to worry about the unborn. They can’t vote. They’re nobodies.
But who are the worst of all? We are. We are because we have the opportunity to do something about the abortion providers and the politicians. Yet we are satisfied to not ask questions and to not demand answers. We are happy to remain ignorant. We are content to do our own things, to push our own agendas, to let other people get involved. To us the unborn remain as nobodies, all 58.5 million of those who have been killed, and all the millions more to come. We have chosen to remain blind to the unborn and their plight.
Perhaps we’d notice them if they had stars on their bellies.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.