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Pro-Life Suites Part I--Infanticide

This is the first post of an as-yet-undetermined number in which I discuss issues other than abortion that pro-lifers are concerned about. The immediate impetus for this series comes from the implication in some paleo-right circles (here, for example) that conservatives, particularly evangelicals, care only about abortion.

It is now widely known among conservatives that infant euthanasia is carried out in Holland frequently. The publicization of the infamous Groningen Protocol brought this long-standing fact to Americans' notice in a fashion that could not be ignored. And Wesley J. Smith points out that the conceptual and ethical ground is being cleared by non-judgemental discussions of this protocol for its implementation in the U.S. Even more ground-clearing has taken place in the form of personhood theory a la Peter Singer, widely taught as part of "ethics" in our universities.

The Born Alive Infant Protection Acts in the U.S., both federal and state versions, have been one attempt on the part of pro-lifers to be pro-active in resisting the push for Peter Singer values and law on our shores.

One problem with the federal BAIPA is that it contained no enforcement provisions. The Illinois version (which I believe never passed) had for enforcement a companion bill specifically permitting lawsuits by those with standing to sue if premature infants were not treated as persons and did not receive due care. This is a step in the right direction, but there is some question as to how often the parents of the child would sue if they themselves had deliberately procured an induction abortion.

It seems to me that active infanticide should be a major concern, especially when, as in a horrible case in Hialeah, it is not prosecuted despite being obviously against existing state laws. My guess is that selective law enforcement is a major part of the problem there, with that problem including both the complicity of coroners in their declarations of causes of death and state prosecutors in their decisions not to press charges.

I do not know whether I have ever blogged this story before, but quite some years ago an e-mail friend who shall remain nameless, a medical student, told me of a wanted preemie, born at 18 weeks gestation in the hospital where he was working. The practice guidelines of the OB group who delivered the child were such that, whether wanted or not, he would not receive breathing assistance or any sort of full-court press to try to help him survive before 24 weeks. They took him from his mother so that she would not be distressed by his attempts to breathe, and he breathed room air in another room for two hours until he was near enough to the end that the doctors decided to return him to his mother to hold. During that time period, my correspondent distinctly heard a female resident, upset by the child's respiratory distress, express the desire to smother him with a pillow. She was roundly rebuked by a black nurse and did not carry out her perhaps only half-serious threat. It was my correspondent's opinion that if the resident had said nothing but had quietly smothered the baby, it was possible that no one would have known, that other medical personnel (besides himself and the nurse) who did find out would have turned a blind eye, and that the murder would have been difficult to prosecute.

What might be done about active infanticide that goes unprosecuted? It seems to me that one possibility would simply be various education campaigns within the law enforcement and executive branches, including state and county prosecutors. For example, state right to life organizations could research state laws to confirm the obvious--that active infanticide falls under existing murder and homicide laws, regardless of the infant's age. Some prosecutor positions are elected positions, and state governors may also have influence upon law enforcement policy in the state. Right to life groups should be actively talking to county prosecutors, especially in places like Hialeah where a known incident has occurred, and looking for candidates who will state openly that active infanticide is murder and that it will be prosecuted within their jurisdictions to the full extent of the law, regardless of the age of the live, born child.

In any event, I think it is important for American conservatives to realize that the culture of death has many tentacles. Pro-lifers often do realize this, and so when pro-lifers are excited about a candidate for any office because they perceive that candidate as truly staunchly pro-life, this does not refer only to abortion but also to these other forms of murder of the helpless that have come to our shores and are being actively and cold-bloodedly promoted by our elites. People in different political offices will have different ways of helping to stem the tide, but in any event, anyone who thinks that pro-life is solely about abortion needs to life up his eyes and see what is coming over the horizon.

Comments (13)

Abortion is just an 'election-season concern'; conservatism (whatever that means) and its preservation is the more important issue.

Thanks for the heads up, Lydia. I did not realize things were this bad.

"I think it is important for American conservatives to realize that the culture of death has many tentacles."

Indeed, and they extend beyond abortion, eugenics, euthanasia and the bio-tech & sexual revolutions.
As long as Pro-lifers remain impervious to the dehumanization of so much of modern life, we will be unable to thwart the inexorable march towards man's abolition. The Pill, the Atom Bomb and a vast array of death-dealing devices, all originate from the same diabolical source. To think or act otherwise, is to fatally abandon vital and strategic ramparts to the Enemy.

Kevin, I don't know why you put the bio-tech "revolution" in the same category with the others. Surely, alongside of various horrors of the bio-tech world as in-vitro fertilization, there are numerous other inventions that are, simply, good. The category is far to wide to tar with the brush of dehumanizing all together.

Lydia, I agree wholeheartedly. The life principles extend far beyond just the 9 months of gestation. Perhaps one of our failures is to have focused so much attention on that 9 months that we have failed to stop the enemy in flanking maneuvers. Though, to be sure, I don't see how we could expect to have been more successful in those other areas with the limited resources (and limited attention span of those who don't care) that we have, seeing how little success we have had even in the abortion arena.

However, I believe that the true battle ground now is the family itself - the definition of family, the scope of parental rights, (especially the right to educate), etc. We started losing that battle when moms left the home to enter the workforce, but nobody seemed to think that the harm done was more serious than the harm to the individual family mom was no longer there for. Now we are on the defensive (and losing ground ever more rapidly) on whether marriage is inherently heterosexual. It won't be too long before marriage has no rooted meaning in the social arena at all.

The mental and physical "enhancements" touted by bio-radicals lead to a "post-human" paradise where we are our own Creators capable of redesigning ourselves in accord with our wildest desires. We can play basketball like Michael Jordan, swim like Michael Phelps, and possess the financial acumen of Michael Milken.

All revolutions tend to be rebellions against reality, but the bio-rev is more ambitious, in that it explicitly rejects God, His gift of Life and the integrity and complexity of nature. A futile quest for Perfection and the elimination of suffering are hallmarks of the culture of death.


So, would you say that a prosthetic hand that replaces a hand that was amputated is part of the bio-tech revolution and is anti-human? What if the prosthesis is merely the old hook of naval fame. Or a pair of hooks with a hinge to make it possible to actually grasp. Or... You see my point. I don't think it is possible to find clear a dividing line between appropriate and good uses of human creativity to alleviate suffering of bodily illness or malfunction, and excessive interference in God's handiwork, that works across the board. Unless we say: repairing an explicit malfunction is OK, making the body to be other than it was designed is not. But even there, how do we clearly define genetic differences that give rise to "normal" variation in such a way that we distinguish them from genetic differences that amount to a defect? Not so easy.

Is LASIK surgery a bio-tech revolution? More than an insignificant # of people come out of it with BETTER than 20-20 vision, some with about 20-15. But of course, we don't really know that 20-20 is the way an eye sees when it has no problems as all and is functioning perfectly - it is defined in terms of an average, and an average is not the same thing as a norm.

However we define good versus bad invention, there remain many biological/medical marvels that are good, and should not be categorized as a revolt against the human condition of subservience to God.

I second what Tomm is saying. Science and technology are marvels; like all marvels, fallen human beings put them to both profoundly good uses and profoundly wicked uses. With apologies to the NRA, test tubes don't make human-animal chimeras: morally despicable scientists make human-animal chimeras.

"I don't think it is possible to find clear a dividing line between appropriate and good uses of human creativity to alleviate suffering of bodily illness or malfunction..."

Then we're merely propping up the culture of death, if that is true.

Prosthetics predate the bio-revolution by a century and clearly fall on the modest, humane side of a necessary dividing line. And a society infused with moral common sense will have no problem with Lasik surgery. But, as you imply, if it becomes abused by the healthy seeking marginal improvement in their vision, as Ritalin
is used as a memory aid and focusing agent, or cosmetic surgery on genitalia, then we'll regret such "scientifc breakthroughs".

The end result of employing pharmacological and surgical therapies in the pursuit of vain and illusory ends is a barren and shallow life. Death flourishes in the dessert.

The creation of "Designer Babies" facilitates the notion that sexual procreation can take place outside of marriage and that laboratories are the preferred setting. On the other end of the continuum, the quest for a pain-free immortality takes on equally garish aspects. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that “to continue living forever—endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift.”

There is a profound need for pro-lifers to make the case against perfection. We need to challenge the many, often innocuous appearing means by which it is sought, and remain ever mindful, that in the end, all revolutions consume their own.

remain ever mindful, that in the end, all revolutions consume their own.

But what about when revolution is needed. Like the Christian revolution. And the revolt against communism?

I agree that designer babies are an affront against God and the nature He gave us, as is the use of medical science to pretend that man can achieve some kind of perfection defined in bodily terms, when true perfection is in perfect conformity to His will. While I think that we can have a pretty good idea that some of these OTHER procedures, used on normal people, constitute a kind of excess, I would be extremely cautious about applying that standard in individual cases, because we often don't know if that individual is suffering under some non-visible defect that this procedure corrects.

Well, what about breast augmentation? Yes, it may help a woman who has had to undergo deforming breast surgery for other reasons. And so on for a whole myriad of procedures that CAN be abused but are not themselves evil.

The end result of employing pharmacological and surgical therapies in the pursuit of vain and illusory ends is a barren and shallow life. Death flourishes in the dessert.

The trouble is, we don't always know if the ends are vain and illusory, even if they appear that way to us. For me, I would spend much more time and effort trying to defeat things that have no business existing under ANY conditions, like partial birth abortion and IVF, than trying to put a leash on things that are not intrinsically dehumanizing but are sometimes used that way.

My own take on the things that have been raised here is that they can be decided only on a case by case basis, though some "cases" will constitute broad classes that can be discussed as such--for example, if it ever becomes safely possible (which I rather doubt) germ-line alterations that change not only the person himself but all his descendants to come. But sometimes one has to get very specific, which is less satisfactory from a philosophical point of view but may be unavoidable. Could anyone a hundred years ago have discussed IVF under some more abstract description without knowing about IVF? I doubt it. Mankind is endlessly imaginative and inventive for good, evil, and neutral ends.

I want to make clear that by no means in putting up this post was I intending to downplay the issue of abortion itself. I'm rather saying to anyone who thinks conservatives focus only on abortion, "No they don't. And if the abortion holocaust isn't enough for you to worry about under the header of 'pro-life causes', look at this other wild stuff pro-lifers often tacitly have in mind when they use that label."

I shd. add one more thing: I understand that Wesley Smith's take on this is that active killing of newborn infants isn't going to become big in the U.S. for a while and that deliberate rationing of care and neglect to death based on quality of life considerations is a bigger issue because it is here in the U.S. now. I'm sure he's right about this. The reason I focused on active infanticide in the post is both because some people don't know about the cases where it has happened or has nearly happened and also because I think it would be fairly easy _now_ to head off at the pass, as it were, by simply enforcing normal homicide laws on the books. Unfortunately that's sometimes a hard thing to make happen for those of us who don't happen to be prosecutors. It seems to me that governors could do more, being the executive arm.

There's a profound difference between being consumed by the many anthropocentric revolts all around us, or say; consumption by the Eucharist.

The whole "better living through science" inferno is sustained by our unwillingness to confront the root cause for its appeal ("Ye will be like gods") and to place the necessary moral, philosophical and practical brakes on many applications and developments that first emerge bathed in the glow of benevolence.

Your claim of "we don't always know", is the age-old lubricant for the precarious slope which we now find ourselves on.

Your claim of "we don't always know", is the age-old lubricant for the precarious slope which we now find ourselves on.

But the alternative is "We do know, for sure." As far as I can tell, we are unable to say that about the wide realms of bio science ad tech because, first, there are such vast amounts covered that we can't even really define the edges in a useful way, and second, that it simply isn't true of the wide realms of bio science and tech as a conglomerate that their very principles undermine properly human-divine relationships.

The slippery slope you are afraid of is simply the human condition. To be alive is to be subject to sin and temptation toward evil. The human response, reflecting hope in God, is not to stop living, but to go ahead and live on that slope and struggle upwards, while relying not on our own efforts but on God.

Embracing The Cross is the only response to the culture of death's promise of a painless, man-made immortality. Applying the Natural Law to biotechnology starts by reminding all of the role suffering plays in the human adventure. With all due respect, your response sounds like an avoidance
of that fact, and a tepid defense of scientism proffered with a nice vague Sunday school gloss. The kind the comes from the compromised pulpits of "pro-choice" ministers.

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