Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Holocaust as a Comparative Device

The Holocaust and Abortion
In a July 7, 1999 Press Release entitled "New European 'Black Death' Now Comes in Pill Form," Robert Sassone of the World Life League outrageously compared a newly available prescription medicine (RU486) with the Holocaust. In a press statement, Rabbi David Saperstein declared, "Comparing the difficult personal decision of a woman whether to terminate an individual pregnancy to the Nazi government's systematic extermination of six million Jews is an insult, both to the memory of those who perished and to the women who must wrestle with their conscience in making a deeply personal decision."

In order to truly understand this comparison, one must consider how abortion was treated in Nazi Germany. By some yard-sticks, Adolph Hitler might have been labeled as "pro-life". He was outspoken in his opposition to abortion for German women, seeing them simply as the breeders for the Aryan master race he envisioned. While abortion had been widespread in Germany prior to the rise of Nazism, Hitler issued a law which made the act of helping in an abortion a penal offense.

After promising in Mein Kampf to "to do away with the idea that what one does with one's own body is each individual's business," Hitler campaigned for an increased birth rate among German citizens, offering government loans to newlyweds, with abatements for each child produced. By also discrediting birth control and closing clinics which had dispensed contraceptives themselves, the Nazis succeeded in raising the German birth rate by 18% in 1934, with even greater gains in subsequent years.

However, Hitler's "pro-life" attitude did not extend to non-Aryan peoples, nor to Aryans deemed to be less useful in German society. He began his eugenics campaign by having the "imperfect" elements of German society-the mentally and physically handicapped-forcibly sterilized. As documented in the Nuremberg trials, high ranking officials of the RuSHA (a NAZI group of medical officials) initiated a program which required "racial extermination" of pregnant women and suspected fathers to determine the "racial characteristics" of the offspring. In cases where the offspring was not "racially valuable", an abortion was ordered by the SS high-command.

How could a government justify two divergent policies on abortion? How is it that abortion could be prohibited for some and mandated for others? The answer is, sadly, quite simple. The government was not required to explain: the citizens of Germany allowed themselves to become the tool of Hitler's will. The people abrogated their rights and responsibilities as individual moral decision-makers and allowed their own choices to be supplanted with those of the Fuhrer. With this information, can the freedom of choice over abortion in the United States be blindly compared with the Holocaust of World War II. The answer is simply no.

For more information on reproductive rights and related issues, go to the RAC Reproductive Rights issue page.

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