Laughing at Dead Babies: The Avenging Conscience

baby, abortion, baby body parts

baby, abortion, baby body parts

A while back, I read a disturbing blog post by Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic and author of the book, UnPlanned.

She recounts her early experiences in the clinic:

It took a few weeks before I got the alarm code to our clinic. I guess it takes that long for them to trust you. I remember getting the code and feeling shocked. The code was 2229. That seems innocent…until they told me what it spelled out…BABY. Really. Wow. We were really joking about that…our alarm code was mocking the murder of children. 

A few weeks later I was introduced to our freezer in the POC (products of conception) lab. This was the freezer that held the fetal tissue until the biohazard truck came for disposal. I found out the name for that freezer…the nursery. Again, that was a joke. How had that become a joke? 

A few days later I learned the password to our phone system…2229…BABY. 

A couple years later I remember walking in on my supervisor making jokes with the abortionist and another employee in that same POC lab. They were joking about how the fetal tissue floating in this dish looked like bar-b-que. Did I hear that right? Did they really just say that? Then one of them said, “I actually think this part looks like strawberry jam.” I turned around and walked out without saying a word. I felt sick to my stomach. How did that conversation begin? How could they say that? Was it enough to make me leave? No. I was one of them now. I am drenched in the evil of this place.

Later, she joined in their ghoulish humor:

About a year before I left, the Coalition for Life group had moved in next door to our clinic. We joked about sending them a “welcome to the neighborhood” gift. Maybe we should send them cookies in the shape of babies with red icing on them that resembles blood. We laughed. We thought we were so witty. It was not wit. 

I could go on and on. I look back now and wonder how I could let my mind become so numb to something so terrible.

Abby’s post was remarkable to me, because just days earlier I had read an eerily similar account from another former abortion clinic worker, Jewels Green:

Even the macabre became commonplace. The gallows humor I’d seen in movies about medical staff that work around disease and death day in and day out was right at home in an abortion clinic. 

I vividly remember the cleaning lady who quit after finding a foot in the drain of the one of the sinks in the autoclave room (where the medical instruments were cleaned and sterilized after abortions) and how we all laughed and joked about it in the staff lounge for days and weeks afterward. 

When the power went out one time for hours and we were all explicitly instructed NOT to open the freezer where all of the medical waste was stored (read: dead baby parts in bio-hazard bags) but inevitably, someone did open that freezer and I will never, ever forget the stench of decaying human flesh for as long as I live —but we all laughed as we gagged and joked how at least “they” had it better in that non-functioning freezer because at least they couldn’t smell it.

[I]n my heart I always knew it was wrong. All of it was wrong….

Horrifying as their stories are, it makes sense that they joked about what they were doing, to the point of mocking the dead babies themselves. For one to cooperate in an unthinkable evil, one must assuage the avenging conscience in some way or another.

Professor J. Budziszewski discusses the conscience — and the revenge of conscience — in his book, What We Can’t Not Know (which I reviewed here).

The human conscience operates in three modes:

In the cautionary mode, the conscience acts as teacher:  “I shouldn’t do that; it’s wrong.”

In the accusatory mode, the conscience acts as judge: “I should never have done that; it was wrong.”

In the avenging mode, the conscience acts as executioner. We shall see how that works in a moment.

The “Five Furies” of conscience that come into play when we transgress the natural law (i.e., the universal moral law) are something we can all grasp:

1. Remorse

2. Confession

3. Atonement

4. Reconciliation

5. Justification

Professor B describes the rightly ordered way that the guilty conscience responds to the Five Furies (emphases mine):

The normal outlet of remorse is to flee from wrong; of the need for confession, to admit what one has done; of atonement, to pay the debt; of reconciliation, to restore the bonds one has broken; and of justification, to get back in the right.

However, if the guilty party does not respond to the Furies in rightly ordered ways and return to moral goodness, the Furies do not just suddenly go away (emphases mine):

But if the furies are denied their payment in wonted coin, they exact it in whatever coin comes nearest, driving the wrongdoer’s life yet further out of kilter. We flee not from wrong, but from thinking about it. We compulsively confess every detail of our story, except the moral. We punish ourselves again and again, offering every sacrifice except the one demanded. We simulate the restoration of broken intimacy, by seeking companions as guilty as ourselves. And we seek not to become just, but to justify ourselves.

All the furies collude. Each reinforces the others, not only in the individual, but in the social group.    (pp. 150- 151)

Thus in the buildings where women’s wombs were forcibly opened, where their living babies were shredded, dismembered, and thrown out with the trash, the reinforcement of evil is heard:

“We laughed. We thought we were so witty.”

“We all laughed and joked about it for days and weeks afterward.”

“We all laughed as we gagged and joked.”

“In my heart I always knew it was wrong. All of it was wrong.”

“I look back now and wonder how I could let my mind become so numb to something so terrible.”

G.K. Chesterton rightly noted: “Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down.”  Praise God for the gift of the avenging conscience, for to be pursued by the Five Furies, even to the very edge of the pit of hell itself, is a severe mercy given by a loving God who will use drastic means to call us back to Himself.

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6 thoughts on “Laughing at Dead Babies: The Avenging Conscience”

  1. I pray for those whose conscience is immersed in the blackness of their deeds. Some yrs ago I saw a film documentary on the “rape of Nanking” produced by a young Chinese-American woman whose family escaped from the hellish brutality of the pre-WWII Japanese invasion of China. She reported Japanese high command gave free rein to their soldiers; they were encouraged to commit the most incredibly vile atrocities. Men, women and children were tortured, raped, mutilated and executed. What stayed with me is the report that eventually the soldiers were overcome with a strange malady: an inability to eat. No medical cause was ever found. Then more recently I was reading Psalm 107, “Some were sick on account of their sins and afflicted on account of their guilt. They had a loathing for every food; they came close to the gates of death.” The Furies rightly pursue all who commit sin, myself included. Thanks be to God that Psalm 107 continues, “then they cried to the Lord in their need … He sent forth His word to heal them and saved their life from the grave.” Having heard Abby speak in our town, I know she would attest to that life-saving healing.

    By the way, the Chinese-American film producer suffered great depression while researching, creating the documentary and later committed suicide.

    1. The Furies rightly pursue all who commit sin, …

      From the Greco-Roman myths the Furies hound (just) all who kill. This in keeping with the
      “avenging conscious” subject of the author.

  2. Each example of the furies at work requires a raised conscience. It seems that some of these workers
    have no conscience at all, ergo: no furies to pursue them..

    1. Everyone has a conscience, even a poorly formed one. There are things we “can’t not know”. You would really love Professor B’s book. Truly enlightening.

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