In September 1914, the Battle of the Marne launched what would become more than four years of hellish warfare throughout much of Europe.
The Marne had a profound effect on the untold numbers of young men who had joined their countries’ forces with nationalistic enthusiasm and a simple, if immature, hunger for great adventure only weeks earlier. Following the slaughter of more than 500,000 men, “The German armies ceased their withdrawal after 40 miles at a point north of the River Aisne, where the First and Second Armies dug in, preparing trenches that were to last for several years.”
The horror of “the Great War” is as sordid as it is legendary. Of roughly 65 million men mobilized, something more than 37 million soldiers and sailors were killed or wounded, or simply disappeared in the acrid smoke of battle, from 1914-1918. That is a casualty rate of nearly 60 percent, a percentage virtually unprecedented in the history of warfare.
The grim statistics are staggering yet impersonal. In accounts of the war written in later years, whether in novels like Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or such autobiographies as Graves’ Goodbye to All That, survivors of the trenches described with unforgettable power what they saw and did. Here is how, in the 1960s, one aged veteran described the experience of fighting during those dark years:
As soon as you got over the top, fear has left you and it is terror. You don’t look, you see. You don’t hear, you listen. Your nose is filled with fumes and death. You taste the top of your mouth... You’re hunted back to the jungle. The veneer of civilization has dropped away.
Today killing of a different sort occurs regularly, only its victims are not frightened young men clutching the mud. They are the unborn.
Unborn babies do not sleep in trenches. They do not wear cumbersome masks to fend off poison gas. They do not bear arms, fire artillery, or wonder if they will live to see the next day.
The unborn live in a place of quiet and security. They are nurtured and protected by the amazing complex of tissue and fluid that composes the womb. They are sensitive to noise and pain and stress. They are persons, developing progressively into the fullness of physical personhood.
And as my colleague Arina Grossu, the director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity has noted, “The abundance of peer-reviewed scientific studies shows that the early brain and neurological development of the unborn child is sufficient for the perception of pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization. By 18 weeks post-fertilization when the connection between the spinal cord and the thalamus is complete, painful stimuli elicit a stress response in the unborn child and the child can perceive severe pain.”
Since 1973, about 56 million unborn children have been aborted in the United States. They never knew the trauma of slaughter on the front lines or shell-shock or going through life maimed and unhealed.
But with the soldiers of the Great War, they know death. They know dismemberment. They know unendurable pain.
They know these things because we allow them, and because we allow their mothers to be victimized by an abortion industry that euphemizes evil with terms like “choice” and “reproductive freedom” to dull the inherent knowledge that abortion is the taking of a person’s life.
Throughout Europe, there are memorials to the fallen of World War I. They are moving, solemn, and tragic. The unborn in the United States have no such memorials, only the ongoing threat of destruction within the very place in which they should be safest.
We remember the fallen of 1914-1918. We remember the aborted from 1973-2014 with the knowledge that their number is not yet complete. The centers of death sprinkled throughout our cities and towns do their silent, vicious work, day by day.
Thankfully, the movement to defend the unborn and stand with their mothers has never been stronger. But complacency in the battle for life is premature.
World War I ended with an armistice. Let’s end the war against the unborn and their mothers with finality.
Rob Schwarzwalder is the Senior Vice-President of the Family Research Council.
Publication date: September 4, 2014