Saturday, December 10, 2011
Some Reflections on the Greatest Human Rights Struggle of Our Time
I have been accused of playing only one string on my violin, the pro-life one. I do believe the other strings are also important: those that represent the stewardship and conservation of the natural world, the plight of the working poor and of poorest among us in this country and throughout the world, access to health care for all people, the advocacy of freedom for the people of the world, especially for those who now exist under tyrannical rule or who suffer under political and/or religious persecution in many countries and areas of the world, and the dignity of people at all stages and ages of life, including that of the handicapped and disabled. However, I believe the ostinato (to continue the musical analogy), that is, the underlying and supporting tone that must be there to hold up and hold together all the other causes for which we as believers in God should care, must be that of the fundamental value of human life.
It is human life from which all other values in life derive. If human life is not held to be sacred, then, we are merely physical beings, composed of human tissue, yes, but of no more or less value than any other living being or object in the natural world. It is then, according to this reasoning and view of reality that human beings and human “parts” can be used, exchanged and sold as commodities. Thus, the “market” in human (mostly, aborted) placentas and essential body organs that are sold in the black market to the highest bidder. According to this world view, then, it is acceptable to place a value scale on those members of society who are deemed to be less important or unable to contribute as much to the community as others.
Thus, when it is determined through prenatal testing that a child is likely to be born with Down Syndrome or some other genetic defect, it becomes acceptable to “terminate the pregnancy”, in contrast to saying that the killing the pre-born infant is warranted. (Note the terminology that is used in such a case.) And, when a terminally-ill person, a disabled person or a someone who is clinically depressed feels that their life is no longer worth living, society can declare that that person should be allowed to end his or her life. In fact, it becomes an issue that can be decided by majority vote, as it has in those states that now have legalized euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. The standard of what is morally acceptable becomes what the elite of the society deems it to be, what Pope Benedict XVI terms “The Tyranny of Relativism”, rather than there being a clear demarcation between what is right and wrong (moral absolutism).
It is, after all, a scientific fact that human life BEGINS at the moment of conception, when one of the millions of sperm that make their way toward one egg cell, succeeds in penetrating that cell and a human zygote is formed. The zygote then, the most minute form of the unique human being that has been endowed with its unique DNA combination, immediately begins the miraculous process of cell division, that will differentiate into nascent blood cells, skin cells, heart, lungs, brain, etc. When high schoolers study the cycle of human life, does it not begin, as it always has, with the union of the sperm and the egg, united to form a unique human being? Only in recent decades have those who hold to a perverse, but sacrosanct view of abortion as a “right”, attempted to differentiate the fetus from the growing, developing human being that exists and is nurtured in his/her mother’s womb, to make that life seem something less than human, thinking that we will not realize that using the word “fetus” for the unborn baby is only to substitute the Latin term that means “young life”!
I remember hearing it said that those who control terminology control the culture, and so it is today. (I think back to how this was done in Aldous Huxley’s prophetic look into the future in his book, 1984, written in the 1930s, that seemed far-fetched when he wrote it, but is the all-too-real state of affairs in today’s world and politically-correct culture. In his book, he described how the public was led to accept concepts and realities that were initially contrary to their values and way of thinking by the pervasive desensitization that occurred as these things were presented over and over in more “acceptable” and seemingly palatable, terms. Thus, in today’s p.c. environment, the growing unborn baby is known as the fetus. Body parts are harvested or procured and conception is accepted whether it occurs as a loving act between a man and a woman or as a technological accomplishment in a fertility clinic or research lab.
To be truly pro-life means to take a stance that favors and advocates for the dignity of every human being, to promote the well-being and care of people living in every stage and condition of life, from the unborn to the disabled, the handicapped, those who suffer chronic physical, mental or emotional ailments, including the terminally-ill, not to seek to suffering for suffering's sake, but to find value in the inevitable sufferings of one's life and not to seek to deprive others to find meaning and purpose in and through their suffering.
It means to value the poor, to give them support and aid, to reach out to the homeless with tangible means of assistance, to promote human justice where it it lacking, to place value and offer protection to those incarcerated, whether they are merely accused or convicted of a crime, and to help them to work for reform and redemption of their lives. Thus, it becomes unacceptable to advocate for the death penalty, no matter how egregious the crime one is deemed to have committed. To prefer lengthy or even life-time incarceration over the death penalty is to punish the offender while protecting society as a whole, while, at the same time, recognizing that here is a human being who has worth and should be afforded dignity and respect owing to the fact that she or he is a human being.
For those who accuse pro-lifers (or to use the more politically-correct term, anti-abortionists) of not caring for infants and children after they are born, all they need do to see that this is a misnomer is to take note of the thousands of pregnancy care centers and organizations and ministries throughout this country, located in every city of any size, that seek to provide and care for those experiencing crisis pregnancies and that go on to continue to provide support for unwed mothers and their children. Unlike Planned Parenthood, a for-profit organization, these centers are almost entirely staffed and funded by volunteers.
Planned Parenthood and those who advocate for a so-called woman's “right to choose” seek to make their case by denying the personhood of the unborn child as did those who defended the practice of slavery for more than hundreds of years in this country. For if they were to recognize that “a person is a person no matter how small” (Dr. Seuss), born or unborn, it would be clear that when a pregnancy is “terminated” by the active means of a surgical or medical abortion, one is ending the life of a unique and unrepeatable human being who possesses at conception his or her unique DNA and individuation. Thus, is was in the nineteenth century as abolitionist began to claim the moral high ground by asserting that ALL human beings have inherent worth by virtue of their personhood. This is in contrast to Margaret Sanger, the early 20th century eugenicist, who like Hitler, proclaimed that some lives are of more value than others, that some should be allowed “to breed” while others—the poor and the black race, for example—should not be, she who was the driving force behind The Birth Control League which later evolved into today's Planned Parenthood Federation, International.