Gradualism: Slow Road to Destruction

Author: A.L.L.


American Life League

We have to go stage by stage, with the living will, with the power of attorney, with the withdrawal of this; we have to go stage by stage. Your side would call that the 'slippery slope.'

                                                    Derek Humphry, Director of the Hemlock Society.[1]

Introduction to the Three-Step Process.

I am sometimes asked whether I "believe in" the slippery slope, as though it requires an act of faith. I believe in the slippery slope the same way I believe in the Hudson River. It's there. There is no better metaphor to describe those cultural and technological skid marks which are evident to all who have eyes to see.

                                                                                  Pastor Richard John Neuhaus.[2]

Action and Social Inertia.

Occasional bizarre Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding, all of the points of the many anti-life agendas primarily abortion, 'gay rights,' euthanasia, organized atheism, Communism, and pornography are generally fulfilled through a policy of slow and steady incrementalism, also known as "gradualism."

A large society has an unbelievable amount of psychological inertia. Pro-lifers know that it is very difficult to motivate a large group of people to take action. Therefore, if an organization wishes to stimulate a great societal change, it must respect this inertia. The only practical way to make progress is not in one huge leap, but in small and nonthreatening steps.

A spokeswoman for the pro-euthanasia group Concern for Dying summarized this strategy in a letter to a pro-lifer when she said that "You are right when you say that our people believe rational suicide to be acceptable our position is that individuals make their own decisions and that those decisions should be honored by others. We also know from experience that if we try to foist our ideas too strongly and too soon on a society not yet ready to consider them, we will damage if not destroy our effectiveness. By moving cautiously and without stridency, we gain a larger audience for our views."[3]

This "progress" is invariably accomplished in three stages, as described later in this chapter.

Only Three Generations ...

Anti-moral social revolutions always happen over three generations. The first generation initiates the conversion by raising the idea and debating the issues; the second generation does the legwork and implements the revolution; and the third cements the 'progress' into place and defends it against any counterattacks.

There is, of course, no fourth generation. There never has been, and there almost certainly never will be. No country has yet been able to survive if most of its citizens look inward instead of outward, and are only concerned with self-gratification. Such people will accept no limits whatever on their behavior, no matter how legitimate or necessary such limits may be.

Anti-Life Networking.

In the larger scheme of things, all anti-life "social advances" are intimately related to one another and actually assist one another in many ways. The net result is a gradual and almost imperceptible disintegration of a society's moral fabric, as shown in the national and worldwide slippery slopes depicted in Chapter 2, "The Anti-Life Mentality."

Since anti-lifers share the same basic philosophy, their various movements work together with remarkably little friction. They sit on each other's boards, issue press statements and resolutions in support of each other, bestow "prestigious" awards to anti-life activists in other fields, and share money, information, and influence.

As one example, the American Humanist Association (AHA) lists its affiliations with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the 'Religious' Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR). It is also a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) of the United Nations.

The AHA has presented its "Humanist of the Year" award to, among others, Betty Friedan (1975), Faye Wattleton, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (1986), and Ted Turner of CNN (1990). Masturbation guru Sol Gordon was a 1990 recipient of the Humanist Distinguished Service Award. Not surprisingly, Isaac Asimov was president of the AHA until his death in April of 1992.

This kind of networking exists in every one of the fifty States, as well. For example, as of 1990, Barbara Dority was president of Humanists of Washington State, executive director of the Washington Coalition Against Censorship (a pro-pornography group), and served on the boards of the Washington State chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Hemlock Society.[4]

All of this is not proof of some massive Neoliberal conspiracy, because the actions of Neoliberal individuals and groups are dictated by a very simple yardstick: The increase of personal freedom. This means that all of the Neoliberal groups do not need to resort to conspiracy; they work together naturally with a remarkable lack of friction.

Step One of the Gradualism Process:
Admit Possible Evil, But Lobby Hard.

The anti-lifer's first step in the erosion of an existing moral standard is to admit that a certain behavior (contraception, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, pornography, etc.) may be immoral to many or even to the majority of people.

However, even as they are admitting the evil of the practice(s), the anti-life groups point out that the laws are being widely ignored in these particular areas, so society had better legalize such behaviors since they are "happening anyway." The laws are cast as oppressive and restrictive, and the perpetrators of the immoral or illegal acts are portrayed as downtrodden and near-helpless "victims."

Euthanasiasts are employing this tactic right now. For example, at a meeting of the Canadian Pediatric Society in June of 1978, Dr. Frank M. Guttman suggested that "Legal mercy-killing and infanticide is necessary because it is happening anyway and legalizing it would encourage more respect for the law."[5]

It never occurs to these anti-life activists that such logic could be applied to any evil, including rape, robbery, and murder. However, the average member of the public has a natural revulsion towards "oppressors" and does not want to be counted among their number. So, the average member of the public does nothing while the evil is being artificially legitimized and then, when it is too late, demands to know why our society is in such atrocious condition.

It is also absolutely essential for the anti-life special-interest lobby to acquire the treasured "victim status" in this step, as described in Chapter 9.

Step Two of the Gradualism Process:
Legalize the Behavior, Then Muddy the Waters.

After the subject behavior (contraception, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, pornography, etc.) is legalized (almost invariably through the court system, since the people and state legislatures generally don't approve), the anti-life groups transform such behavior from a legal matter into a moral question that really cannot be judged right or wrong.

This important step is accomplished by the use of "moral relativism," which itself is founded in situational ethics the idea that there are really no "black and white" issues, and that people must be free to make all decisions based upon their own consciences and their own special situations.

This concept, which is nothing more or less than moral and ethical anarchy, is the basis of public school philosophy in this country.

The Neoliberals freely employ the mighty weapon of "mystagoguery," which consists of claiming that an issue is so complicated that no ethics system may solve it or even examine it rationally. If this precept is accepted, of course, everyone must be able to make up his own mind on every moral issue.

This logic leads us to wonder how, if our society's most powerful and experienced minds working together cannot solve an ethical problem, how each individual person can be empowered to do so. The classic example of "mystagoguery," of course, is the pro-abortion slogan "We really don't know when life begins."

In any case, the newly legal behavior now gradually becomes a protected "civil right," solely because the courts have ruled it permissible. Of course, it never occurs to the anti-lifers to look at the other side of the coin: That the behavior would therefore be entirely impermissible when it was illegal.

The anti-lifers who have infiltrated the government will now bring its full force to bear in order to protect these behaviors in the name of "equality" and "fairness."

And so, the new "civil right" becomes progressively entrenched at all levels and in all three branches of the government. It picks up a dedicated legal and bureaucratic following and becomes "rooted" in "advances" that have come before. In this manner, it "hardens" and gradually becomes a vital and functioning organ of the "body of social progress" that the anti-lifers insist cannot be removed without killing or maiming all previous "progress."

Eventually, free speech directed against the new "progress" becomes more and more expensive; dissenters are ridiculed and stereotyped at first, and gradually their viewpoint becomes anathema to the same "civilized" people who claim to champion free speech. Ultimately, the opposition must be jailed or eliminated in order to be permanently silenced.

Anti-lifers who have burrowed into the system also create a thicket of laws and regulations that support the "progressive" agenda while hobbling the opposition. As Joseph Sobran has said, "The more they multiply rules to protect abnormal people, the more they forget the rules normal life depends on. We may know what they think today; but there is no telling what they will think tomorrow. They make plenty of rules, but not according to any rule; and as a result, all their rules are unruly. We live amid a kind of riot of rules. Apparently the only kind of rule we must never make is a rule against what "happens anyway." In other words, we can make any rule we like, provided we know it will never be broken."[6]

This second step of the gradualism process is the most critical of the ratcheting effect. It is very easy to make so-called "progress" in society, but it is almost impossible to "turn the clock back," no matter how greatly such an action may benefit society. The ratchet never reverses. It may pause for a while until society digests the change and becomes accustomed to the latest "progress," but then the ratchet will inexorably click forward once again.

Step Three of the Gradualism Process:
Demand and Receive Pervasive Support.

The Process.

Finally, the subject behavior (contraception, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, pornography, etc.) is moved beyond the status of a mere "civil right." It has become a positive social good, deserving vast (and frequently compulsive) general support by society. One excellent example is the mythical "right to privacy," first discovered only 25 years ago by the United States Supreme Court in its Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which legalized artificial contraception for married couples.

Anti-life groups cast their opponents in the role of wrong-thinking kooks, and 'backwards' viewpoints continue to be systematically ridiculed, censored and suppressed in order to insure that the new "right" remains inviolable.

Examples of Coercion.

The "pro-choice" slogan is a myth. Pro-abortionists say that the people who oppose abortion don't have to have them, hence the popular bumpersticker IF YOU'RE AGAINST ABORTION DON'T HAVE ONE! Similarly, pornographers and sodomites say that all they want is to be left alone.

But the anti-life psychology demands not only that the public not interfere, but also that everyone must capitulate totally and support abortion, pornography and homosexuality wholeheartedly! In other words, everyone must not only tolerate these practices (since tolerance implies living with something one really doesn't approve of), but vigorously defend the rights of others to commit them.

This coercion takes many forms, as described in the following paragraphs.

Forced Abortion Funding.

Pro-abortionists say that we must be free to choose. However, every major pro-abortion group also demands that every taxpayer contribute towards paying for abortions for 'poor' women. Whenever a ballot measure or initiative is presented to the people for the purpose of banning state funding of abortion, NARAL, NOW, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood are in the forefront of the opposition. And if state funding is banned, the ACLU and other groups will immediately challenge the ban in court.

Pro-Lifers Need Not Apply.

With the eager backing of every pro-abortion group in the country, many medical schools used to grill prospective applicants on their views and then refuse admission to all candidates who dared express any opposition to or uneasiness about abortion. Many obstetrics-gynecology graduates were refused residencies for the same reason. This atrociously biased state of affairs had to be corrected by an act of Congress.[7]

No Conscience, Please.

Pro-abortion groups still contest the right of physicians to not perform abortions. All pro-abortion groups oppose medical 'conscience clauses' for doctors and nurses. The so-called "Freedom of Choice Act" (in the version existing at this writing) sponsored by virtually all pro-abortion United States Congressmen and Senators, would specifically ban all institutional conscience clauses. The original version would have prohibited individual conscience clauses as well.

In fact, many pro-aborts have stridently claimed that any medical professional who holds a pro-life view is, by definition, incompetent and must immediately get out of medical practice![8]

Print This Or Else!

In early 1990, a Vermont Catholic couple who ran a private printing press, Regal Art, refused to print membership forms for the state chapter of 'Catholics' for a Free Choice (CFFC) because CFFC lies about Catholic teaching.[9] Linda Pacquette, a member of Vermont CFFC, complained to the Vermont Human Rights Commission, which threatened the Bakers with a $10,000 fine and a lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages. The charge? "Religious discrimination!"[10]

Note that this couple runs a private printing press. They receive no government money, and are not a tax-deductible charity. In other words, they are a private small business but they are being forced into printing material that violates their religious beliefs!

'Crimes' Against Pedophiles.

A Roman Catholic priest in St. Paul, Minnesota was threatened by a judge with up to a year in jail for the 'crime' of refusing to hire as a young boy's teacher a sodomite with a long record of child molestation.

And, in New London, Wisconsin, a private religious center for troubled boys (which takes not a dime of government assistance) was forced by the State to sign a binding pledge to hire avowed, practicing homosexuals or have the boys forcibly removed from the center within 48 hours, have the center closed down, and face multi-thousand dollar fines.

AIDS and Civil Rights.

A 100-year old private dental clinic for the poor in New York City had to finally close its doors after being forced to pay a $50,000 fine by the City's Human Rights Commission, for the 'crime' of simply referring two AIDS carriers with bleeding oral lesions elsewhere. The clinic personnel simply did not believe they had the equipment or the expertise to help them. Now, the thousands of poor that the clinic used to see on a regular basis have to pay for their care or go without it.[11]

Condom Lunacy.

A pharmacist in Oregon was harassed and picketed by gangs of homosexuals after he announced that he would no longer sell condoms in his pharmacy because they conflicted with his Catholic beliefs. The sodomites condemned him for not slavishly and mindlessly endorsing their version of "safe sex."[11]


And so, what was originally an abnormality has now successfully evolved into normality. The former perversion has become a part of the warp and woof of society, and is one of the means by which the society defines itself.

And the ratchet prepares itself to click forward once again.

Mandating Philosophies: The Inevitable Result.

He who rides the tiger cannot choose to dismount.

                                                                                               Chinese proverb.

The Fallout.

Anti-lifers correctly realize that, in order to most efficiently preserve their social "progress," they must outlaw or de-legitimize all forms of "discrimination," including even unfavorable thought against, for example, homosexuals.

However, when a group forcibly outlaws thought discrimination (in this case, making 'homophobia' a so-called hate crime), society eventually loses the ability to discriminate between right and wrong in that particular area. If enough issues are forcibly placed beyond the realm of debate or even thought, a society ultimately loses the ability to assert any truth in the featureless landscape of moral relativism.

Removing Abortion From Public Debate.

The debate on abortion has lately taken this worrisome turn. After it became obvious that pro-lifers were successfully confronting the public with the facts about abortion, certain pro-abortion leaders began to advocate outright censorship of pro-life views.

In July of 1989, the United States Supreme Court allowed individual States to slightly limit access to abortion with its Webster decision. Faye Wattleton, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, complained that "This decision leaves abortion to the vagaries of our residents."[12]

Several months later, Wattleton (who was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association in 1986) wrote in The Humanist that "We need to remove the abortion issue forever from the legislative arena. We need a universal recognition that our civil liberties are off-limits to partisan debate!" [emphasis in original][13]

In other words, Wattleton, who was head of the largest pro-abortion organization in the world, would like to prohibit state legislatures and even individual citizens from possessing a dissenting opinion about abortion!

The Results of Coercion.

This totalitarian form of censorship is as pernicious as it is blatant.

As appealing as such a strategy may seem to these totalitarian thinkers, the act of placing an issue off-limits to debate or thought flies in the face of common sense. When anti-lifers push for 'anti-discrimination' laws that actually elevate homosexuality to an exalted status, they are naive enough to be shocked and surprised at the backlash that inevitably results, both in the form of legislative opposition and outright violence. They fail to see that merely legislating against deeply-rooted beliefs will not cause them to evaporate instantly. They fail to recognize that the act of suddenly criminalizing deeply-held philosophies and beliefs will lead to widespread resentment, alienation, and a backlash of great depth and severity.

Legislating against 'homophobia' will no more effectively eliminate fear and loathing of sex perverts and their repulsive sex acts than a law banning agoraphobia will instantly remove all fear of open spaces.

And arrogantly insisting that abortion is "off-limits to partisan debate" will make many thinking people bristle at the fact that one group is summarily banning freedom of opinion in their chosen field unless one holds the politically correct viewpoint a basic characteristic of society in Nazi Germany.

Will Roe v. Wade Save the Country?

Perhaps the most classic example of permanent backlash this country has ever witnessed occurred as a result of the Supreme Court's despicable Roe v. Wade decision.

There is no question that Roe v. Wade is an evil decision that has cost this nation more than thirty million of innocent lives. However, the Supreme Court may have indirectly saved this country by short-circuiting our slow slide down the slippery slope and plunging us into the cold waters of the abortion abyss in a single day.

Prior to 1973, the anti-life forces in this country had been making small but very steady advances all over the country with their deadly abortion and euthanasia agendas. In the absence of Roe, they probably would have continued this slow advance, taking advantage of the principle of incrementalism.

Roe v. Wade changed all of that. In one day, abortion on demand was swept into all 50 states. The pro-life movement took nearly a decade to get over the shock and react properly. This reaction, delayed as it was, might never have taken place if abortion had slowly crept into place with little fanfare. If Roe had not been handed down, we might have had abortion on demand with virtually no pro-life movement to fight it in this country today.

Humanist Tom Flynn acknowledged this short-circuiting when he wrote that "Had this [abortion] debate run its course, consensus might have settled on a standard substantially more permissive than the viability based, twenty-four week criterion established by Roe v. Wade perhaps even abortion on demand throughout pregnancy.

"Unfortunately, Roe v. Wade interrupted the process in 1973. Abortion became the law of the land before most Americans had been convinced that it was morally licit."[14]

In other words, Roe v. Wade violated the immutable law of social incrementalism and gave the pro-life movement a focusing point. Without Roe, pro-lifers really could not properly focus on the thousand little steps that the anti-lifers would have used to gain the same result of abortion on demand.

A second grassroots pro-life response occurred when newly-elected President Bill Clinton (showing great insensitivity, a Neoliberal sin), deliberately insulted millions of pro-life activists by revoking several Federal pro-life laws at the exact time that the 1993 March for Life in Washington, DC took place. The four largest pro-life organizations in the country all reported jumps in membership applications and contributions of more than 25 percent. Perhaps the election of the only pro-abortion and pro-sodomite President in the Republic's history will be the last straw for decent people.

Only time will tell.

Thanks to the Media.

Strangely, the efforts of the pro-life movement are being greatly aided by its most intractable enemy: The media. Almost every secular television, radio, newspaper and magazine outlet has been constantly trumpeting the "imminent demise of Roe v. Wade" since the Supreme Court's mid-1989 Webster decision.

The perceptions of a quarter of a billion people are changed only slowly, and this massive media 'saturation campaign' has given the false impression that abortion access has been drastically restricted. Major bursts of media and abortophile propaganda have occurred with the Webster and Rust decisions and the Pennsylvania case heard by the Supreme Court in 1992.

Thanks to this propaganda, rank-and-file pro-abortion people are getting used to the idea of a post-Roe America, and are more and more unlikely to "rise up in protest" as the abortophiles would like them to. In other words, the media is preparing the ground for pro-life "reverse incrementalism."

It is now up to the pro-life Movement the "conscience of the nation" to reverse the deadly anti-life tide and restore respect for all human beings in this country.

It remains to be seen whether or not we have learned our lessons from the Neoliberals' mistakes.

References: Gradualism.

[1] Derek Humphry, Director of the Hemlock Society, in a December 18, 1986 interview.

[2] Pastor Richard John Neuhaus, quoted in "The Return of Eugenics." Commentary, April 1988, pages 15 to 26.

[3] Mrs. A-J. Rock-Levinson, Executive Director of Concern for Dying, in a 1978 letter replying to a pro-lifer's question. Quoted in Father Paul Marx' And Now ... Euthanasia. Human Life International, 1985, page 23. Second revised edition.

[4] The Humanist, January/February 1991, page 44.

[5] "Infanticide." National Right to Life News, April 1979, page 5.

[6] Joseph Sobran. "Liberals Obsessed with Imaginary Dangers." Conservative Chronicle, July 25, 1990, page 30.

[7] Eugene F. Diamond, M.D. "Do the Medical Schools Discriminate Against Anti-Abortion Applicants?" Linacre Quarterly, February 1976.

[8] One example of such a demand can be found in Marc D. Stern's article "Abortion Conscience Clauses," in the November 1975 edition of the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems, pages 571 to 627. Further information on pro-abortion opposition to 'conscience clauses' can be found in the Winter 1979 and Summer 1981 issues of the Human Life Review (pages 88 and 41, respectively). Also see Jack Fowler. "Prolife Hospital Faces Sanctions." National Catholic Register, February 3, 1991. Pages 1 and 9.

[9] Free Speech Advocates fundraising letter of September 1990.

[10] "Pro-Life Printers Wage Battle of Conscience." Free Speech Advocates newsletter, January 1991, pages 2 and 3.

[11] "The New School Tie." National Review, July 12, 1985, pages 20 and 21.

[12] "Ray Kerrison." New York Post, July 4, 1989.

[13] Faye Wattleton. "Reproductive Rights Are Fundamental Rights." The Humanist, January/February 1991, page 21.

[14] Tom Flynn. "'Pro-Choice:' Wrong Turn for Abortion Rights?" Free Inquiry ("An International Secular Humanist Magazine"), Winter 1991/92, pages 6 and 7.

Further Reading: Gradualism.

Florynce Kennedy and Diane Schulder. Abortion Rap. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971. 238 pages. In 1970, a band of Neofeminists pressed a Federal suit challenging New York State's abortion laws. The suit was never decided, because it was declared moot when the New York legislature overturned the laws in April of 1970. But the testimony obtained had so much propaganda value that excerpts compiled by two of the attorneys for the plaintiffs were published in this book. The result is a veritable text on anti-life strategy, tactics, and thinking. You will find excellent examples of aggressive compromise (incrementalism), use of the victim status, transference, and the begging of every possible question, along with accompanying abundant propaganda, outrageous levels of anti-Catholic bigotry, and quaintly archaic Newspeak.

© American Life League BBS — 1-703-659-7111

This is a chapter of the Pro-Life Activist's Encyclopedia, published by American Life League.