Three Abortion Carols - (2007)
Parodied texts by the composer
for medium voice and piano
i. Away in a Basin [ 2 pages, circa 2' 05" ]
Away in a basin,
No crib for its head,
A little lost fetus
Asleep with the dead;
The stars in the heavens
Looked down where it died,
The little lost fetus,
A choice feticide.
Away with the remnants,
The parts never born,
A little lost fetus,
Apart and forlorn;
Away with the pieces,
Just surgical waste;
A little lost fetus
Aborted in haste.
Away with its body,
Away with its care;
A little lost fetus
Without hope or prayer;
The stars in the heavens
Looked down on the choice,
A little lost fetus,
Without any voice.
ii. O Little Child Unwanted [ 3 pages, circa 2' 30" ]
O little child unwanted and
Aborted by its mom,
Not stirring in its dreamless sleep
As empty words becalm;
For by such deathly silence
That once was human life,
One ends its fears through all the years
With forceps and a knife.
For woman born of humankind
Will end a human life,
While millions sleep, some angels keep
Their dirge for human strife;
So many deaths together
Proclaim a holocaust,
While praises mixed with politics
Urge death to millions, lost.
Aborted child by politics,
Forgive this world, we pray;
Cast out such sin and enter in,
Be born is us today.
There calls a still, small voice
To make glad tidings tell;
There is a choice when we rejoice
Each child with us to dwell. [ 1 ]
iii. Silent child, wholly defiled [ 2 pages, circa 3' 00" ]
Silent child, wholly defiled,
Just a life so reviled.
Politicians support this dread act,
From one to millions, numerical fact.
Sleep, not come to birth.
Sleep, not come to birth.
Silent rite, never contrite,
Clinic rooms expedite
Medical treatment to excise a child,
Doctor and mother to death reconciled.
Sleep in hideous peace.
Sleep in hideous peace
D and C, recovery
For the mother by death beguiled,
Not for her infant, not ever a child.
Sleep in permanent peace.
Sleep in permanent peace.
[ 7 pages, circa 7' 35" ]
"Every Child a Wanted Child," Mother's Day Poster
These parodies of beloved Christmas carols came to mind quickly, when considering some very silly statements which I carry in my memory. They are intended to upset, annoy and stimulate a reaction, as art is in part meant to do.
The first of these memories comes from 1994 when Schindler's List was playing in motion picture theaters (directed by Steven Spielberg, after Thomas Keneally's Booker Prize winning novel, Schindler's Ark published in 1982). I saw the film in the company of several colleagues at a theater on Broadway north of Lincoln Center, New York. One of those who saw the film was a Catholic woman; after seeing the film together this small group discussed it, and she said insensitively, "I wish those Jews would stop making such a big deal about the death of these." In response and with pointed irony, I asked her why her church in its regular liturgy made such a "big deal" about the death of one. Of course, she was angry with me. That is the point. One feature of mankind is the overt operation of personal double standards.
For that, I also have noted that many in the modern Judeo-Christian world [ 2 ] who portray themselves as Christians of one denomination or another are "pro-choice." This is easy to document, and I leave it to another to do so. Nevertheless, at the Christmas season, these pro-choice Christians become nostalgic for those seasonal carols which celebrate the birth of a single child. The images of the "baby Jesus" as the images of the "wanted child" in the 1938 poster shown above are deeply resonant with many in this culture, and yet there is a political disconnect between the one and the many, as the tale of the Catholic woman's comment about six million deaths illustrates so poignantly.
These and similar cultural iconic references suggested a parody of the beloved Christmas carols celebrating a birth, into a commentary on celebrating "no birth."
These settings are to be somewhat reminiscent of a music-box, lightly played and sweet, for much of the pro-choice argument is about saving the "unwanted child" from a life of poverty and woe.
In all political action, there is a war between ideas. On the pro-choice side is its very name, suggesting that one "chooses." The Lacanian notion of an empty signifier is apt here, for the choice is for termination of a fetus' viability. I make this verbal distinction because the "pro-choice" position specifically argues that the fetus is not a human life, while the opposing viewpoint argues for life at and near the moment of conception, such that the Catholic church will term a fetus a conceptus. Each individual's position on this simple matter defines who they are and in what they believe.
These parodies are a challenge to those who would celebrate birth with nostalgia and such phrases as "proclaim the holy birth," "the blessed child" and "holy infant so tender and mild." For those who blithely sing such words at services of their denomination's faith while arguing aggressively for the pro-choice position, I react as I did to the Catholic woman who bemoaned Jews continuing to remember six million deaths of the Holocaust, all the while she religiously remembered one death. [ 3 ] One infant is crucial to their religious narrative and its culture, while millions of aborted infants are not.
Among the most loved carols is "Away in the Manger," which speaks to the privation and ignominious circumstances of one birth. I have taken well-known melody by William J. Kirkpatrick (1838-1921) and created a simple accompaniment in which diatonic seconds clash lightly in accompanying the well-known tune.
The image of the "manger" -- a lowly place for a birth, according to the story -- is replaced by the even more lowly surgical basin in which the remnants of an induced abortion are housed before disposal as medical waste. One pro-choice argument has been about the use of embryonic stem cells for research, though science only this year passed that hurdle by learning to nurture stem cells without employing fetal tissue.
Another well-beloved carol is sung to the melody by Lewis H. Redner (1831-1908). The text is stripped away as I "abort" this carol's sweet recollection of the city name wherein the "infant" is born, and focus on the "unwanted child."
The poster shown in the graphic above refers to the "wanted child," and among the arguments proposed by the pro-choice movement is that the "unwanted child" should be the rationale behind the "choice" to abort. This is found in the eugenics arguments, a twisted view of Darwin's theory purported that the "unwanted" was evidence of the "less fit." This in fact has nothing to do with Darwin's marvelous observation that life is about reproduction, not the terminating thereof; Darwin wrote openly of the "grandeur in this view of life" and of the "Creator," both notions which the purported Darwinians have "aborted" from any modern understanding of Darwin.
The last carol parody is takes the totemic melody by Franz Xavier Gruber (1787-1863), and speaks to a kind of silence which is the stillness of the clinic treatment room.
Rather than the image of a "silent night" and "holy night" which those Christians who merrily celebrate as harbinger of a the "holy infant so tender and mild," I place the aborted fetus, the new and justified image of those who speak their credo of "pro-choice" alongside their credo of a "holy infant." The cognitive dissonance to these cultural images is writ large in modern politics. [ 4 ] The simple harmonic changes are spread across harp-like arpeggios and should be softly blurred with pedal.
In addition to my commentary on the singular religious focus on one "infant" and the absolute lack of focus on millions of "potential" infants, I note the original carols' focus on the "mother and child" and "the mother mild" creates an image of the mother as nurturer. One sees in the feminist movement over decades the assertion that women "nurture." Yet it should be noted that the culture of man also sees clearly the mother who kills, as in the tale of Medea [ 5 ], or in recent decades' news of mothers who have practiced infanticide. Therefore no image is wholly adequate to capture the range of human experience, except to show that the pro-choice totems are in large part empty and false.
The score for Three Abortion Carols is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
Three Abortion Carols
[ 1 ] The original carol text has several more verses, and so I had continued the parody as follows, though I omitted these additional verses from the score:
How silently, how silently,
A fetal life is gone!
As God departs from hardened hearts,
And love thereby withdrawn.
Few eyes witness the horror
Found in this deed of sin,
Where proud souls justify each death,
Each life that would have been.
Where children once were wanted,
Each mother loved her child,
Now mothers term "unwanted,"
The fetus, so reviled.
Where charity once watched
And love held wide the door,
A dark night wakes, and so forsakes
Some child for evermore.
[ 2 ] The Jewish segment of this nominal Judeo-Christian ethos is also divided according to political lines. Yet one reads "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." [Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:8 (37a)] From this tradition came the tag line for the advertisements for Schindler's List, Oskar Schindler's quote, "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire." Jewish advocates of third trimester abortion are hard pressed to reconcile this Talmudic observation with a wholly political stance which effectively overturns Jewish religious tradition.
The Jewish Perspective According to Rabbis
More on this subject, the chief rabbis of Israel (Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger) in this year have commented on abortion in Israel. the "halachic" basis for the rabbis anti-abortion position is articulated in Genesis 9:6 which reads: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."
"The vast majority of abortions are unnecessary and strictly forbidden according to halacha [Jewish law] because they are carried out even when the pregnancies do not endanger the mother's health," these rabbis have written in 2007.
The Christian world is equally divided in a great schism, wherein the secular Christians easily argue the pro-choice stance, especially when not considering its philosophic roots of the nineteenth and early twentieth century eugenics movements. Because the West's Judeo-Christian culture is dominated by two major themes, Christianity and Marxism, I chose to comment as an artist using powerful musical symbols from the nominal Christian world. Given that "about one in five pregnancies worldwide end in abortion," the challenge to those cultural and religious Christians whose political stance is "pro-choice" is to explain and rationalize the statistical fact stated by the World Health Organization that twenty percent of all pregnancies are terminated in induced abortions.
The Challenge of Basic Math
While the "caring" argument of the pro-choice stance suggests that abortion makes women "safe," The Guttmacher Institute further reports that "Complications due to unsafe abortion procedures account for an estimated 13% of maternal deaths worldwide, or 67,000 per year," and that "approximately 220,000 children worldwide lose their mothers every year from abortion-related deaths." Given such facts, there is perhaps a better approach in which rampant abortion is replaced by other social actions which might further defend women's and children's rights and health.
Aborting millions of lives in order to "save" far less lives is basic math. The number of abortions far exceeds the number of abortion-related deaths. Moreover, when a fetus is included in the concept of abortion-related deaths, then the argument about "saving" lives via abortion becomes absurd.
As to the Christian side of the so-called Judeo-Christian ethic, one finds this reflection of the Talmudic commentary above: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." This text by John Donne, which I have set for mezzo soprano, harpsichord and string quintet, titled All is One.
Both Christians, Jews and Muslims allege faith in the scriptures, and one serves all three in some way. From this set of scriptural books, one can excerpt a number of quotes by which to answer the assertion that a fetus is not a human life form, as is asserted by the "pro-choice" argument.
Among several obvious texts worthy of citation is, "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine." [Exodus, 21:22] The various translations all come to the same as the texts of nostalgic Christmas carols, "woman with child." The fetus being a child is a very different challenge that the fetus not being deemed human.
The Challenge of Basic Theology
A second challenge to religiously affiliated individuals comes is this text, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" [Jeremiah 1:5]. Another translation offers the notion in this manner, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."
For those affiliated with any of the religions noted above, to include politicians as quoted below, the challenge is to synthesize rather than ignore a passage suggesting that their God could "know" or "form" a human in "the belly" or "womb." This text refers to a human life in utero. Defining the fetus as not human life in fact is to define away scriptural statements upon which religious affiliation is supposed to rely.
Another text is equally problematic. Psalm 139:16 reads in part, "thou hast covered me in my mother's womb." Another translation in a lengthier except reads, "Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance, and in Thy book they were all written--even the days that were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."
The convenience of the pro-choice argument to define away the fetus as human life is without argument contrary to scriptural statements as the above which speak of the "unformed substance" as some form of the personal pronoun, "me." While the pro-choice rhetoric about fetus specifically not being "human life" is persuasive to many, these believing people have not truly considered their own allegiance to their own religious tradition founded on the books from which these quotes above have been drawn.
The Anti-religious Stance and Population Control
As to my notion that there are two dominant trends in the Western Judeo-Christian culture, Christianity and Marxism, one might well observe that the abolition of slavery and its follow-on, segregation, came through actions of Christians like Wilberforce(1759–1833) through to Martin Luther King, and that the economic subjugation and massive open violence and conquest of the twentieth century came through the National Socialists of Germany, the Soviet Socialists of the USSR and the Maoist socialists of China. Moreover among the recent holocausts was the brutality of the socialist Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. All these brutal regimes were inspired by Marxist thought and theory, and the opposing trend throughout recent centuries has been the Judeo-Christian trend, and its largest subset, Christianity. One need note that an indisputable part of Marxism was overt anti-religious stances and activities.
Moreover, Engels went as far as to assert in an attack on "bourgeois" marriage that if men needed only to be concerned with sex-love and no longer with property and inheritance, then monogamy would come naturally. [The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, 1884.] A favorite quote to illustrate this established relativism is Engels' assertion, "Whatever benefits some necessarily injures the others...."
Thus in many ways, the so-called attack on the family is a fundamental part of Marxism' opposition to Christianity, Judaism and other world religions. Returning therefore to Oskar Schindler and the notion that "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire," one can turn this on its rhetorical head and suggest that the socialist notion of the state having predominance over the family might well destroy the "world entire." Certainly the history of savagery triggered by socialism in its various militant twentieth-century forms is evidence of this, and the softer socialism as practiced in justifying and massive funding of abortion is contributing to the decline in various populations, evidencing a demographic fall towards societal destruction.
Those who stand on one side in this societal debate and advocate coerced government funding of what is now very inexpensive birth control available at most any pharmacy evidence their view that a fetus is not human. This is the ethical statement when a fetus may be killed in utero while so many call "ethically" for the abandonment of a state-coerced death penalty as well as for the abandonment of all war based of an ethical stand against killing, per se.
Ethical Killing, Legal Killing and Profitable Killing
The casual and modern notion of "harvesting" from fetal tissue for science is termed by some "ethical." Yet exposing this openly causes consternation for those who would defend an ethical decision, but not have it and its outcomes detailed.
One reads an opinion: "This week, pro-life activists published a three-hour video of Planned Parenthood's top doctor talking about the exchange of fetal organs that are extracted from women during abortion. 'We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I'm not gonna crush that part,' Dr. Deborah Nucatola tells her lunch guests, undercover activists who posed as members of a biologics startup. 'I'm gonna basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact'." In "Tissue of lies: Why liberals and the media are in denial about the Planned Parenthood video," by Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, 17 July 2015.
The parts business is open for business, and prices are dickered. Killing for profit creates a product as its the end result in this new and enlightened world.
One reads, as but one example: "Fetal Liver CD133+ Stem/Progenitor Cells (FL-CD133) are positively selected from homogenized liver tissue. First, fetal liver tissue is enzymatically digested and further processed to generate a leukocyte-rich suspension. CD133+ cells are then positively selected from the leukocyte-rich suspension using immunomagnetic anti-CD133 microbeads, leaving highly purified fetal liver CD133+ cells." In "Fetal Liver – CD133+ Stem/Progenitor Cells, $2,425–$24,250," Stem Express web page, accessed July 2015. Some detail for "fresh" reads: "Fresh FL0300F, 0.5 million/vial, $3,031; FL0301F, 1 million/vial, $6,062; FL0302F, 2 million/vial, $12,124."
Hurry! Hurry! Get your fresh fetus parts! Step right up!
In accordance with the promises of some prominent socialists as history records their sentiments, it will all be accomplished In a kindly manner .
'I'm gonna basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact." So has it been planned.
[ 3 ] "Holocaust" stems from the Greek through Middle English, the word being of two parts and referring to sacrifice in the form of a burnt sacrifice. The ovens of Nazi concentration camps all too vividly prove the linguistic truth of the word, now often used with reference to burning alone. The Cambodian genocide, for example, is often referred to as a holocaust as well, and some anti-abortion advocates openly term rampant abortion in the West a holocaust. For more on the implications of this, see my comments and especially the footnotes to The Margaret Sanger Song .
[ 4 ] Among the modern politicians who have spoken on this matter is presidential candidate and former First Lady, Hillary Clinton. In an address to New York State Family Planning Providers (January 24, 2005) she states, "I believe we can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women." She added, "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place."
Being Pro-Choice Is Being Pro-Abortion
Senator Clinton said, "Being pro-choice is not being pro-abortion. Being pro-choice is trusting the individual to make the right decision for herself and her family, and not entrusting that decision to anyone wearing the authority of government in any regard" [Remarks at the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, Washington, D. C., Jan 22, 1999]
The Linguistic Parlor Tricks
This betrays a linguistic parlor trick, as NARAL identifies itself as an "abortion rights" league, and for the approximately one million American women and 45 million women worldwide who "choose" abortion each year, in the moment that the choice is made for -- the Latin for this preposition is "pro" -- these women and those who support the decision are most assuredly pro-abortion. This linguistic manipulation is an attempt to avoid the simple language and logic which pro-choice advocates seek to obscure. Moreover public financial support of abortion is in fact pro-abortion, for all public funding is intended to engender "more" of that which it funds, such as education, public safety and the like.
If indeed abortion is a "sad, even tragic choice" as Senator Clinton argued, the enthusiastic political support for it conflicts with her characterization of it. Given the "replacement rate" for Western nations' populations falling precipitously, it seems that abortion for any and all reasons might be sound from the justification of "personal choice," but it is fast becoming a "sad, even tragic" element in declining populations -- also the stated goal of Malthusians and those whose credo is the unfounded fear of "population explosion." One only need examine the demographic forecasts for many Western European nations to examine the consequences of such thinking, wherein the survival of the individual mother -- in Darwinian terms -- is fast becoming a proof of the "unfit" nature of many Western nations' societies.
Among the arguments for abortion is that it is "safe," as is "safe sex." The statistics belie this, for "it is estimated that 68,000 women—seeking to terminate pregnancies—die from unsafe abortion every year, and millions more suffer complications. Of the estimated 210 million pregnancies that occur every year, about 46 million end in induced abortion; more than 18 million of these abortions are performed under unsafe circumstances every year...." [World Health Report 2005. Geneva: WHO. ] The report concludes further that in "...many countries, the law remains silent about harmful traditional practices such as FGM [female genital mutilation], child marriage and sex-selective abortion."
It is an odd twist in the broad dialogue over abortion worldwide that feminists are now challenged by "sex selection" abortion, and the gay and lesbian activists are being confronted by some research suggesting that "sexual orientation selection" might also become a reality, wherein former avid "pro-choice" advocates of abortion are now confronting being "anti-abortion," when applied as "sexual orientation" selection. Whatever, the issue is remarkably complex, and simple slogans do not serve to advance a civilized dialogue.
Whatever ones politics, it is hoped that most -- like Clinton's remarks above -- find the choice to abort "sad" and "even tragic." More sadly, there are some avid pro-choice advocates whose politics is for population reduction on ecological/environmental grounds as well as on Malthusian prophecies of worldwide disaster. For them human rights are meaningless concepts.
Suffer the Little Children
As to Christmas, Christians who support abortion even through to partial birth terminations, and those who speak of the "unwanted" child, I would remind that among the Western Canon's greatest Christmas stories is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. In it, comes this exchange as he is asked to donate to the poor during the time of Christmas:
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned--they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides--excuse me--I don't know that."
"Decrease the surplus population." So wrote Dickens in the mouth of the unrepentant, unsympathetic Scrooge. Those who advocate massive funding for abortion are advocating exactly what this Christmas "carol" advocated through the words of a character whose heart was hardened and whose change of heart was the theme of this seminal story. Senator Clinton, as noted above, calls abortion "sad" and "tragic" but nowhere manages to come to the conclusion that a nation should not support it.
At what point in Scrooge's storyline trajectory is she and others like her then? It is a fair question which will not be answered until the Ghosts of Unwanted Children Past come to enact a new Christmas carol, like unto the Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Until then, I find such as these Three Abortion Carols quite apt.
[ 5 ] Medea killed her own children by Jason and escaped in a chariot sent by either Helios, god of the sun or Hecate, said to be Medea's mother. In Euripides' retelling of this Greek myth (circa 431 BC.), Medea exclaims, "It never shall be said that I have left / My children for my foes to trample on." For this mother, the murder of her own children was a political and personal statement at the same time.
Murderous Mother Empowered
Throughout history and in literature the murderous mother has been a recurring theme, with such entertainments as Wife, Mother, Murderer (1991), an American drama film, directed by Mel Damski, or the news stories and books about Susan Smith (b. 1971) who was convicted in 1995, of murdering her two sons, 3-year-old and 14-month-old sons. The image of woman as nurturer is only half the story, and it is left to those who would advocate unrestricted abortion and yet find these Three Abortion Carols offensive to explain their advocacy in terms of their religious affiliation.
It is interesting to note the link to the past, as one reads: " 'The first proposal in such a case is, 'Do we get rid of it?' Francis said. 'The murder of children. To have an easy life, they get rid of an innocent.' Francis recalled that as a child he was horrified to hear stories from his teacher about children 'thrown from the mountain' if they were born with malformations. 'Today we do the same thing,' he said. 'Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves,' Francis said." In "Pope: Abortion is 'white glove' equivalent to Nazi crimes," by Nicole Winfield, By NICOLE, Associated Press, 17 June 2018.
A Tally for the White Gloved
"... statistics compiled by Worldometers indicate that there were over 42.3 million abortions world-wide in 2019. The independent site collects data from governments and other reputable organizations and then reports the data, along with estimates and projections, based on those numbers. When contrasting the abortion numbers to other causes of death, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, traffic accidents and suicide, abortions far outnumbered every other cause." In "Abortion Was the Leading Cause of Death Worldwide in 2019, Killing 42 Million People," by Steven Ertelt and Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews, 31 December 2019.