'Annuit Coeptis': Wondering if God Still Smiles on Us
Since the release of the undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood, the defenders of that organization and its good works have repeated certain inconsequential arguments. The films were edited. The image of a doomed infant kicking its legs as it lay in a pan is not the same infant referred to in a technician's horrifying account of mutilation and butchery, spoken over the image. The filmmakers concealed the real explanation for the baby kicking away his few moments of life – he had been exposed, after a botched abortion. Furthermore, the organization that made the undercover films is biased – a pro-life group with a dogmatic animus against the sort of practices merrily discussed by the physicians of Planned Parenthood over lunch. And Planned Parenthood provides all sorts of valuable medical services for women – let us focus upon that, and not the side issue of infanticide.
As to the extermination of children born alive after unsuccessful abortions, there is no need for quibbling about the accuracy of films. We know that the entire Democratic House caucus, with only a handful of exceptions, is expressly and adamantly in favor of the practice. We know that because they voted against a bill that would guarantee protection of infants born under such circumstances. They voted against it and then, represented by the redoubtable New York congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, angrily denounced it as interference with a woman's "right to choose."
At first blush, the connection between such a right and the death of a child actually out of the womb and in the world might seem obscure, since the woman's prerogative of controlling her own body is no longer implicated. But liberals have a political theory, or a series of political theories, lumped under the rubric of "feminism." And this theory declares any interference with the practice of abortion to be objectionable. They have a plan to bestow equality between the sexes upon humanity, now and forevermore, and the liberation of Woman from the obligation of childbirth at any time and under any circumstance is part of it. They have a theory of justice – they will change the world and make it just.
Still, how can anyone, based upon a theory, harden her (or his) heart to the plight of a helpless infant, unaware of how he (or she) entered the world and gasping for life? Edmund Burke called people with such theories "metaphysicians." He wrote:
Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thorough-bred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of Evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil. It is no easy operation to eradicate humanity from the human breast. What Shakespeare calls "the compunctious visitings of nature," will sometimes knock at their hearts, and protest against their murderous speculations. But they have a means of compounding with their nature. Their humanity is not dissolved. They only give it long prorogation[.] ... Their imagination is not fatigued, with the contemplation of human suffering thro' the wild waste of centuries added to centuries, of misery and desolation. Their humanity is always at the horizon –and like the horizon, it always flies before them.
Given the prospect of bending history toward equality and replacing benighted religious notions with illuminating science, who could be troubled to let a few small lives get in her (or his) way? Such lives are immediate and finite, hence ephemeral – not historic.
All of their furious denials of wrongdoing notwithstanding, the healing hands of Planned Parenthood admit unapologetically to harvesting what they call "fetal tissue," and they claim to do so for the good of humanity. But "fetal tissue" means only intact human organs – liver, heart, lungs, brain, and "gonads" (presumably testicles, in the cheery talk of one of the filmed physicians). And from what nature of being can you remove such human organs, fully formed and not affected by surgical instruments or contaminated by abortifacient chemicals? Not from a baby giraffe, not from a rhododendron plant.
The issues of mercenary intent and violations of federal statute by the alteration of abortion procedure to harvest unimpaired organs may prove Planned Parenthood's undoing, but such issues pale before the simplest and most obvious reality now exposed before all the world. We tolerate in our land the killing and dissection of babies. This goes on with regularity, from day to day, throughout the country, according to a corporate policy. Do the killings and dissections as such not conform to the legal definition of "crimes against humanity" (International Criminal Court: "any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: murder; extermination")?
"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever." In Query XVIII of his Notes on Virginia, Jefferson, of course, is not talking about abortion. He is discussing slavery, which also reduces human beings to property, though for the purpose of exploiting their labor, not chopping them up and selling the parts. Lincoln, in his "house divided" speech, foresaw that the nation would become all slave or all free, and if the former, no longer just in any sense derived from its initiating document. It could not be that the Constitution conferred a right to property in a slave, whatever the Supreme Court said, because the Constitution was meant to give effect to the precepts of the Declaration of Independence, which are entirely opposed to slavery. And it likewise cannot be that the killing and dissection of a fully formed human infant represents anyone's constitutionally protected choice. The Constitution was never written to sanction such a thing, as we all know. It took justices of the Supreme Court to transform it into a license for slavery and infanticide.
If the reader will examine the backside of a one-dollar bill, he or she will find three Latin expressions on the faces of the Great Seal of the United States. About the eagle's head on the right side of the note is the expression familiar to most of us, "E Pluribus Unum" – out of many, one. To the left, and under the unfinished pyramid are the words "Novus Ordo Seclorum" – a new order of the ages. And then, above the eye of Providence, atop the pyramid, it says, in somewhat larger letters, "Annuit Coeptis" – He (or it) indicated approval of the beginning (or of the undertaking). It could be Providence that is said to have shown approval, but I choose to understand the two words as conveying that God smiled upon the beginning of this nation, upon the enterprise of America.
Philology aside, this conforms to the closing observations of Tocqueville – that while there may have been greater worldly beauties in pre-democratic civilizations, American democracy, by virtue of its justice, was more beautiful in the sight of the Almighty.
The author intends to elevate his view so as to see the Beautiful as God sees it. Let us elevate our view so as to discern what is beautiful in our nation's animating spirit, and know that what has been revealed is anathema to it.