Many Jews recoil at the use of the word “holocaust” to describe legalized abortion. To them it’s an offense to the memory of six million Jews who perished under the Third Reich. The Jewish Holocaust was obviously more heinous than the same amount of abortions would be.
Let’s think about that for a minute.
Notice first that this objection depends for its force on a tacit denial that the unborn are fully human. If they are, who would say that taking the life of a youngster (in this case very young) is not the moral equivalent of taking the life of an adult? Generally we are more shocked by the loss of young life than old, though we would hold that both are equally valuable in virtue of their shared humanity.
There does seem to be a sense, though, in which the evil of the Nazi Holocaust was compounded by the circumstances under which it was done. Aborted human beings die relatively quickly and, by comparison, with little or no mental anguish. (This is certainly not always true, but that’s another issue.) Jews, on the other hand, were treated like animals—terrorized, persecuted, raped, beaten, and then eventually murdered. The Nazi holocaust was worse than the abortion holocaust, not because the unborn are not human, but because of the barbaric conditions under which Nazis exterminated those they no longer valued. Both are unspeakably evil, purely on the merit of the number of human lives sacrificed. However, in the case of the Jewish Holocaust, the evil is compounded by the circumstances under which it was done.
Clearly, not all holocausts are equal. The numerous examples of ethnic cleansing in this century are made more egregious by the additional suffering, loss, and assault on human dignity they entail. Still, the destruction of over a million unborn children each year is a holocaust of significant magnitude simply because valuable human beings were wantonly destroyed.