While some voices have misunderstood and even twisted sections of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, has reminded a youth conference meeting in New York that commitment to planetary ecological health cannot bear fruit if it is divorced from other issues relayed to the treatment of human beings.
… Pope Francis says, that, on the one hand, we must be concerned with injuries to our planet and the irresponsible treatment of other living beings; on the other, however, we must resist the trends and ideologies that focus almost exclusively on protecting the planet or other species while allowing offenses against human dignity. He prophetically gives several examples of this ecologically-garbed individualism: when we combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining indifferent to human trafficking (LS 91); when we fight against genetically modified organisms but allow experimentation on the human genome and human embryos (LS 136); when we worry about cruelty to animals while justifying the ghastly practice of abortion of our younger, more vulnerable brothers and sisters (LS 117, 120); when we seek to keep natural environment intact as a gift, and care for the male and female members of endangered species, but then think we have absolute power over our created bodies, trying to cancel out human sexual difference through gender ideology (LS 155).
I am reminded of a popular song from the early 70’s by Edgar Winter’s White Trash, Who Will Save the Planet. The song asked urgent questions as relevant then as now:
Who will save our planet, who will volunteer.
Save the planet, don’t you know we love our planet Judgment time is here. Yes it is (yes it is), yes it is, yes it is (yes it is)
(Who will it be) will it be Mr. Black (Who will it be) will it be Mr. White
(Who will it be) will it be Mr. Wrong (Who will it be) will it be Mr. Right Will it be you or will it be me Lord knows who will it be Yes he does, (yes he does), Yes he does, (yes he does) Don’t you know he does.
Save the planet, who will save our planet Who will volunteer Save the planet, don’t you know we love our planet Judgment time is here.
What Archbishop Auza reminds us of is the inseparable link between the garden and the human community. There is no sound ecological policy without sound anthropology. Each person holds a responsibility and speak to the destructive cultural forces that accept infanticide while properly condemning child exploitation, or that embrace barbaric practices while advocating a limited ecology concerned with geography but dismissive of the natural family or the naturally embodied sexuality of the human person.
Humanity cannot divinize the garden and ignore the one for whom the garden was made without disastrous consequence. The plagues of human trafficking, abortion, embryocide, gender reassignment, and the wave of ideological irrationality masquerading behind the cloak of “autonomy” threaten not only the participants, but also the entire planetary community.
Who will save the planet? Those who embrace the integrated vision of ecology.
There is a revolution brewing at the U.S. State Department. If realized to its full potential it will usher in an era of sanity, reorienting international juridical, social, and political norms. It is driven by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who hosted the Second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington on July 16-18.
Not content with the status quo, Pompeo is driving a movement to restore legitimacy to the international human rights agenda. On July 8, 2019 he announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights. Chaired by Professor Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, the Commission promises a genuine examination of what it means to claim something as a “human right.”
It is a long overdue mission. Earlier this year Princeton University’s Robert George addressed the Institute for Human Ecology at its commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He identified a serious problem undermining the credibility of the international human rights movement. “People will try to win at ideological battles … with the language of human rights. So they’ll inflate claims, whatever they desire, and treat it not as a desire, a want, a feeling, a passion, but a human right.” Examples of the cheapening of the “human rights” lexicon are nowhere more prominent than in the rapidly advancing claims of gender ideology. “We lose our sense of the power and importance of the fundamental rights because of the inflation that happens when you conflate whatever it is you desire, whatever is on your agenda, with rights,” said George.
The Commission will focus part of its inquiry on the nature of unalienable rights – rights that flow from nature of the embodied person rather than political majorities, clever propaganda, or financial deep pockets. The commission should focus on the principles enshrined in the founding document of the Nation, which recognizes the self-evident truth that all “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The prospect of such an inquiry has enraged the cultural libertines and their political allies. The reason is simple. “Unalienable” suggests intrinsic, and that suggests an objective foundation for human rights, one that flows from the nature of the human person. It has a long and honorable pedigree. It is nothing less than a bold and overdue resourcement of the great inquiry undertaken by the ancient Greeks that traverses the history of western civilization. Secretary Pompeo gets it:
“It’s a sad commentary on our times that more than seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, gross violations continue throughout the world, sometimes even in the name of human rights. International institutions designed and built to protect human rights have drifted from their original mission. As human rights claims have proliferated, some claims have come into tension with one another, provoking questions and clashes about which rights are entitled to gain respect.
I hope that the Commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored? How can there be human rights, rights we possess not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but simply by virtue of our humanity belong to us? Is it, in fact, true, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, that as human beings, we – all of us, every member of our human family – are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?”
The chorus of opposition to the commission is eloquent witness to its significance. Hostile objection has been raised by the National Council of Churches, Catholics for Choice, American Atheists, Freedom From Religion Foundation, America Magazine, and various presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.
They fear, with reason, an honest intellectual challenge critically examining the masquerade they label as “human rights”: abortion, same-sex marriage, and an avalanche of sexual and gender identity claims. At stake is the unalienable right to the free exercise of religion. Only by subjecting religious rights to a secondary status may the radical social engineers dismantle the natural family. Witness the efforts to destroy artist, expert baker, and devout Christian Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Persecuted for his refusal to endorse same-sex marriage through his artistic talents, Phillips endured years of government animus. The United States Supreme Court was compelled to slap down the bigoted commission for its “clear and impermissible hostility toward [Jack’s] sincere religious beliefs.” That is but one of the clashes resounding across the nation and the planet as the vocabulary of “human rights” is appropriated by a personal preference agenda that has more to do with feelings and untethered desires than with the nature of the human person.
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It seems certain that Vincent Lambert will be euthanized by a doctor because of his brain handicap. This shameful episode, recently the subject of a L.I.F.E. blog post, has divided a family and exposed to plain view the mandate of enforced euthanasia – more properly defined by Saint john Paul II as a form of murder – which is spreading over the insipid cultures of morbid post-industrialized First World.
In his masterful opus Evangelium Vitae John Paul the affirmed “that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” (n. 65)
Vincent Lambert will die because he is disabled and members of his family, excluding his loving parents and a minority of his siblings, have deemed his life not worthy of life. Some say it is his will; that he did not want life on such disabled terms. Regardless of the justification offered, what is happening to Lambert is a crime. John Paul speaks directly to each of these circumstances:
True “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages.
The choice of euthanasia becomes more serious when it takes the form of a murder committed by others on a person who has in no way requested it and who has never consented to it. (n. 66)
John Paul went on to describe euthanasia, along with abortion, as “crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize.” No one is obliged in conscience to obey such unjust laws but rather “there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them (n. 73).
God bless the parents of Vincent Lambert who have witnessed to love and fought a courageous battle against the sadness of modern culture which has lost the art of loving.
L.I.F.E.’s recent post on the U.S. Department of Justice and its intervention in the important religious liberty/civil rights action Carson v Makin was still hot off the wires when notice arrived that the District Court judge presiding over the case announced his decision upholding the discriminatory statute born of the disgraceful history of anti-Catholicism rampant in the Nations’ past.
Judge D. Brock Hornby’s decision in Carson was no surprise. More on that below. But two days later the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide the same issue in Espinoza v, Montana. That case will finally determine the status of the shameful state constitutional Blaine amendments and similar state laws born of deep hostility toward the Catholic Church. Montana’s constitution prohibits any government funding that benefits “sectarian” schools even when the school is perfectly qualified for an otherwise generally available public benefit. As discussed in L.I.F.E.’s earlier post, “sectarian” was a well-known code word veiling the true anti-Catholic purpose of the Blaine Amendments.
In Carson the District Judge recognized his decision as merely a step on the ladder to potential Supreme Court review. He concluded that the landmark 2018 US Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran left open just enough wiggle room on the precise issue of tuition benefits that other precedent from the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (which governs Federal District Courts in Maine) tied his hands and dictated the result. The validity of that case, Eulitt v. Maine, Dep’t of Educ., is questionable given the holding in Trinity Lutheran, but not to such a degree that Judge Hornby was willing say that it had been clearly called into disrepute – a standard that would have allowed him to escape its application:
I cannot, as a trial judge, say that Eulitt therefore has unmistakably been cast into disrepute. It is certainly open to the First Circuit to conclude that, after Trinity Lutheran, it should alter its Eulitt holding that sustained Maine’s educational funding law, but it is not my role to make that decision. I therefore apply Eulitt to this controversy and do not decide the post-Trinity Lutheran merits, nor the standard of review that should apply in reaching the merits. Based upon the Eulitt decision, I conclude that Maine’s educational funding program is constitutional.
Appeals and Finality and Espinoza
Thus Judge Hornby’s decision did not reach the critical issue presented by Maine’s hostility to religion in light of Trinity Lutheran: may government discriminate in distribution of generally available public benefits – in the form of tuition subsidies – against a religious applicant merely because it/he/she is religious? The judge recognized that his rapid resolution of the case was merely the first step in what was little more than rehearsal for the appellate battles that lie ahead:
My decision not to decide the ultimate question … is no great loss for either the parties or the amici. It has always been apparent that, whatever my decision, this case is destined to go to the First Circuit on appeal, maybe even to the Supreme Court. … I hope that the rehearsal has given them good preparation for their argument in the First Circuit (and maybe even higher).
Two days later, on June 28, 2019, it became apparent that Carson will likely not be the vehicle for a definitive resolution of this decades long saga. On that date the Supreme Court agreed to decide the issue in Espinoza v. Montana.The issue will undoubtedly draw a Justice Department brief similar to that filed in Carson and dozens of amici, or “friend of the court,” briefs by interested persons and organizations. In fact, the United States of America filed an exemplary brief in the Montana Supreme Court supporting the plaintiff’s position against the discriminatory state rule. The case promises to one of those most closely with a decision expected in 2020. Here’s an example of interested party amicus brief that was filed by the excellent Pacific Legal Foundation. Espinoza is poised emerge as a final, fatal chapter in the sordid history of anti-Catholic government bigotry that has penetrated the American political left and is now manifest as a generalized anti-religious zealotry while keeping orthodox Catholics in the cross-hairs. L.I.F.E. will keep a close eye on developments.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is standing up for the Constitution. It recently filed a statement in support of three families who have had enough of the State of Maine’s discrimination against them solely because of religion.
The facts of Carson v. Makin are a shocking testament to the deeply rooted anti-religious malice permeating legal elites, some state legislatures, and many government actors. This time around the tables are turned. First Liberty Institute, one of the real civil liberties organizations on the front line of the religious liberty and human rights litigation, is representing the families.
These parents of school-age children live in school districts that do not operate their own public high schools. Maine law requires those districts to provide an alternative school program – and one of the ways that is done is by paying the tuition at another district’s public school or at a private school of the parents’ choice.
Parental choice. Sounds great. But … there’s a catch. Maine, which makes the funds available to any school that meets legitimate academic and other neutral standards, singles out religious schools for discriminatory treatment for only one reason: they are religious schools. That is a clear violation of both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
It’s all here in the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Maine.
Now the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has joined the case and is now at the forefront of religious liberty advocacy. Its statement of interest in support of the parents pulls no punches. Here’s are some choice excerpts from its brief (internal quotation marks and citations are omitted):
“The State … imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion: it forces students who are otherwise eligible for the tuition program to choose between participating in the program or remaining enrolled at a religious institution. The State may engage in this religious discrimination against students only if it satisfies the most exacting scrutiny. But the State has failed to identify an interest of the highest order to justify its discrimination, much less to explain how this discrimination is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Accordingly, the State’s exclusion of students who attend religious private schools from the generally available tuition program violates the Free Exercise Clause.”
“The State’s original justification for banning religious private schools from the tuition program was that including them would violate the Establishment Clause. The State has now wisely abandoned that justification, as it must: as the State acknowledges, under intervening Supreme Court precedent, ‘Maine could design a program that would allow parents to direct public dollars to sectarian schools without violating the Establishment Clause.’ ”
So there was neither need nor legitimate purpose in excluding religious schools from the funding program.
The brief then takes aim at what is really going on and eviscerates Maine’s pretexual concern about avoiding establishment of religion. That bogus argument harked back to an old line of cases disqualifying “pervasively sectarian” groups from some government funding. But the Court has long repudiated that standard as “disavow[ed],” “offensive,” “regret[table],” “born of bigotry,” and as having a “shameful pedigree.” Mitchell v. Helms.
In fact, Mitchell held that the religious nature of a recipient of a government benefit simply does not matter in honest constitutional analysis. The issue is whether the recipient adequately furthers the government’s secular purpose. When it does, then it has not received any special favor because it is religious. Therefore, as Mitchell noted, it would be “most bizarre that the Court would … reserve special hostility for those who take their religion seriously, who think that their religion should affect the whole of their lives, or who make the mistake of being effective in transmitting their views to children.” Ouch!
The brief is a tour de force of outstanding constitutional analysis. It drives in the final nail with a breathtaking coup de grace that should embarrass the Maine Attorney General and the deeply anti-religious ACLU, each of which is shamefully trying to defend Maine’s state mandated anti-religion animus. Mitchell noted that “opposition to religious school funding acquired prominence in the 1870’s … at a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general, and it was an open secret that “sectarian” was code for “Catholic.”
That’s right. Maine is using an old anti-Catholic dog whistle to attack religious education. The New England version of this deep-rooted “hostility to the Catholic Church” is an broader animus toward religion that typically manifests itself as anti-christian. Shame on Maine. Shame, shame, shame.
Advocates denied the abortifacient potential in the heated legislative and policy debates in the 2000s in states around the country. Even usually reliable pro-life “experts” were duped by what turned out to be superficial analysis of available data. It was all about the supposedly “extraordinarily rare” potential that EC may not prevent ovulation which could lead to fertilization and subsequent embryocide.
But it was a sleight of hand. Irrefutable finding in 2010 conclusively demonstrated that in the vast majority of cases Plan B does not suppress ovulation when administered in the fertile window. It’s all explained here.
In 2013 leading EC researchers finally acknowledged that Plan B is no more effective at preventing ovulation when administered in the fertile window than placebo!
That leaves the stunning realization that we have long been played by advocates who assure us that Plan B is not an abortifacient. In fact, they don’t know what the primary MOA of Plan B is. But we all know that the likelihood of a post-fertilization MOA, and thus embryocide, cannot be ruled out. Some researchers and medical experts assert that MOA is likely or proven. What is certain is that that there is no moral certitude as to the MOA of Plan B, it is certainly preventing pregnancy after ovulation, and its use is at least a conditional acceptance of embryocide.
The Great Plan B Deception … lives. Stick with L.I.F.E. and learn the truth.
Here at L.I.F.E. we can hardly contain our enthusiasm over the marvelous Potomac Declaration adopted last July at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo. The gathering drew more than eighty delegations, including dozens of minister-level representatives from around the world. It addressed challenges facing religious freedom, identified concrete means to address persecution of and discrimination against religious groups, and promoted greater respect for religious liberty for all, including a commitment to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
Vice President Pence also attended, and announced the creation of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program to “ensure that religious freedom and religious pluralism prosper across the Middle East as well.” The program will target development in the Nineveh plain in northern Iraq and ensure that U.S. aid is directed toward the minority Christian and Yazidi communities that were the most devastated by the ISIS genocide of recent years. It will balance the misallocation of U.N. aide – mostly supported by the United States – to ensure that the minority religious receive the assistance they need to restore their lives. U.S. Agency for International Development (US AID) Administrator Mark Green explained the troubled history that lead to the Genocide Recovery and Persecution plan in his remarks at the gathering. They offer a useful and poignant lesson in the realities of international relief funding – it’s not the money allocated; it’s how it is spent.
Pompeo also released the Potomac Plan of Action, which sets an ambitions agenda to 1) protect religious liberty, including related parental rights, 2) confront legal limitations on religious liberty, including the repeal of anti-blasphemy laws, 3) advance government advocacy for religious liberty, 4) aggressively respond to anti-religion motivate genocide and mass atrocity, and 5) preserve cultural heritage, and 6) establishing August 3, the first day of ISIS’s Sinjar massacre targeting Yazidis, as a nationally or internationally recognized day of remembrance of survivors of religious persecution.
Read up on these important steps to a more secure international respect for religious liberty.
An increasing number of states are adopting radically permissive abortion laws – such as New York, Virginia, and Vermont – that eliminate any restriction of the slaughter of the unborn. No waiting periods, no parental notice when a minor seeks abortion, no required counseling, no assurance that the mother is fully informed of the child’s development or ability to feel pain or other biological markers that may be highly significant in assessing the authenticity of informed consent – such as an ultrasound examination by which the mother may see what the abortionists and their enablers so desperately want to conceal. It has something to do with character.
On the other end of the social divide several states – eight to date – have adopted what some call “trigger laws” designed to challenge and hopefully erase the monstrous rulings of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Those states include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Others have laws on books with various limitations on abortion that pre-date Roe and would presumably come into force once again if Roe and Planned Parenthood were overruled.
There is much heat in the debates raging across social media. In order to provide some balance and clarity L.I.F.E. is offering this excellent discussion from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on just what abortion is and what Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton imposed on the Nation. It avoids hyperbole, addresses the core questions, and does not shy away from the “hard cases.”
What is getting little attention in the latest developments are legislative findings of fact that accompany the new laws in Georgia (restricting abortions after fetal heartbeat – with exception to protect the life of the mother) and Alabama (restricting abortion throughout pregnancy except to protect the life of the mother). Because those findings of fact are critical to a solid understanding of the issues, L.I.F.E. is presenting several of them for your consideration.
The findings make the case that the Supreme Court should hold that modern scientific data demonstrates that the the unborn child is a “person” within the meaning to the constitutional use of that word in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. How might it do so? It has to do with a doctrine called originalism that is gaining traction with constitutional scholars and justices on the Supreme Court. A recent article appearing Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy sets up the essential outline of the argument.
Want to learn more about it? Take L.I.F.E.’s free online college level course Bioethics & Law 101. Just follow the link.
The Legislative Findings
The General Assembly of Georgia found that “[m]odern medical science, not available decades ago, demonstrates that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons and more expansive state recognition of unborn children as persons did not exist when Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Roe v. Wade (1973) established abortion related precedents.”
Alabama made a similar finding but also invoked obvious parallels between abortion extremism, the Nuremberg war crimes trials, and the Nazi holocaust. And it didn’t stop there. It recalled as well the other massive genocides of the 20th century – Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and more. And yet they have all been eclipsed by the numbing scope of the genocidal abortion savagery wrought by Roe. Here are some of the Alabama findings:
In the United States Declaration of Independence, the principle of natural law that “all men are created equal” was articulated. The self-evident truth found in natural law, that all human beings are equal from creation, was at least one of the bases for the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the Nuremberg war crimes trials, and the American civil rights movement. If those movements had not been able to appeal to the truth of universal human equality, they could not have been successful.
Abortion advocates speak to women’s rights, but they ignore the unborn child, while medical science has increasingly recognized the humanity of the unborn child.
Recent medical advances prove a baby’s heart starts to beat at around six weeks. At about eight weeks, the heartbeat can be heard through an ultrasound examination. A fetal Doppler can detect a fetal heartbeat as early as 10 weeks.
Ultrasound imaging shows the developing child in utero.
As early as six weeks after fertilization, fetal photography shows the clear development of a human being.
It is estimated that 6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered in German concentration camps during World War II; 3,000,000 people were executed by Joseph Stalin’s regime in Soviet gulags; 2,500,000 people were murdered during the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” in 1958; 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 people were murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the 1970s; and approximately 1,000,000 people were murdered during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. All of these are widely acknowledged to have been crimes against humanity. By comparison, more than 50,000,000 babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined.
Vincent Lambert, 42, was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in 2008. He sustained severe brain damage and has been diagnosed as being in persistent vegetative state (PVS), a condition that presumes no self-awareness and no conscious response to external stimuli. He requires assisted nutrition and hydration (ANH) in order to survive but he does not require a ventilator.
Adding to the tragic circumstances is an intra-family dispute that pits his wife and some siblings against his parents and other siblings. The former want ANH withdrawn, asserting that he would not want it. The later insist that euthanasia must be rejected and ANH provided. The conflict is possible because Vincent never prepared what L.I.F.E. provides: an advance medical directive, or an appointment of health care representative. Even our short form directive would eliminate doubt as to the patient’s wishes and provide the necessary foundation to protect life.
PVS is not a terminal illness. Nor is it a state of permanently unconscious. Patients in PVS experience waking and sleeping cycles, typically do not require a ventilator, and frequently open and close their eyes. Disputes and uncertainty persist as to the precise nature of the condition as well as the accuracy of diagnosis. But what is undisputed is that PVS is not a terminal condition.
A 2016 French law applicable to terminally ill patients allows physicians to withdraw life sustaining treatment – including ANH – in purportedly hopeless cases while administering powerful sedatives until the patient dies from the lack of food and fluids.
The European Court of Human Rights and France’s top administrative body had upheld the doctors’ earlier decision to stop Lambert’s life support. His parents filed a petition with the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and, according to news reports, a French court ordered that his feeding be resumed until the UN body resolves the petition filed in that forum.
In the media storm that surrounds the case there has emerged a strong statement from the Vatican. Consistent with a statement from Pope John Paul II in 2004 and a ruling on the issues from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2007 [link is in the bioethics library], the most recent Vatican statement affirms the essential norm that ANH is ordinary and proportionate care that must be provided to a PVS patient “as long as the person is able to receive nutrition and hydration, provided this does not cause intolerable suffering or prove damaging to the patient.” It continues by stating that its “suspension … represents … a form of abandonment” and describes ANH in the specific context as “an inescapable duty.”
L.I.F.E.’s Founder and President, Deacon Tom Davis, appeared on the WCAT Radio program Inter Vitam et Mortem on Monday, May 20, to discuss the Liberty Institute’s web resources and the aims of its various initiatives. Host and bioethicist Mary Ann Urlakis and Deacon Tom explored a lot of ground in their free wheeling dialogue. Get to know L.I.F.E. better by listening in on their exchange.
New York State now champions abortion to birth and Governor Northam of Virginia nonchalantly advocates infanticide. It’s really all so old. Abortion on demand to birth has been the mandate of a legislating Supreme Court for almost fifty years. Still, something in the condescending tone of New York’s governor and the Virginia Klan fan has disturbed a long dormant fury previously manifest in many as resignation. It reaches deeper now that they have stepped from behind the curtain and made so bold a thrust into the heart of virtue.
On February 25, 2019, several 2020 presidential candidates signaled their lock-step alliance with Northrup by voting to block the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Senators Sanders, Harris, “Spartacus” Booker, Gillibrand, Klobuchar, and Warren voted against the bill. They opposed criminal penalties for those refusing to provide the same level of care given any other baby born at the same gestational age. The bill also required immediate hospital admission of a “child born alive” following an attempted abortion.
Senator Ben Sasse was dumbfounded: “I want to ask each and every one of my colleagues whether or not we’re OK with infanticide.”
It calls to mind one of the most memorable defenses of decency in recent American political history:
“Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says ‘we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’ This is about the character of our nation.”
Carly Fiorina, GOP Presidential Debate, September 16, 2015.
Her words need no elaboration. To those unacquainted with the particular malice of Kermit Gosnell or infanticide, Fiorina’s indictment startled. As it should.
This kind of slaughter has become so ubiquitous that almost nothing shocks. Almost. In 2007 Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in one of the Supreme Court’s momentary lapses into social sanity known as Gonzales v. Carhart, described a typical second trimester abortion:
The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. 550 U.S. at 135-136.
The procedure has its alternatives, as Kennedy noted:
Some doctors … may kill the fetus a day or two before performing the surgical evacuation. … Once dead, moreover, the fetus’ body will soften, and its removal will be easier. Id. at 136.
In other second trimester abortions, when the baby’s head is too large to pass the partially dilated cervix, a variation may be utilized in which the child is delivered breach (feet first) until only the head or head and shoulders remain within the mother. Justice Kennedy provided the liberating details from the vantage point of a nurse who actually participated in the procedure performed on a 26 week human being:
[The doctor] went in with forceps and grabbed the baby’s legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby’s body and the arms—everything but the head. The doctor kept the head right inside the uterus… .
The baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby’s arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.
The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby went completely limp.
Kennedy described other methods used to kill a baby once its head lodges in the cervix.
One doctor squeezes the skull after it has been pierced so that enough brain tissue exudes to allow the head to pass through. Still other physicians reach into the cervix with their forceps and crush the fetus’ skull. Others continue to pull the fetus out of the woman until it disarticulates at the neck, in effect decapitating it. These doctors then grasp the head with forceps, crush it, and remove it.
“Disarticulates.” Almost nothing shocks. Almost. Justice Kennedy continued, quoting one abortionist’s testimony:
Another doctor testified he crushes a fetus’ skull not only to reduce its size but also to ensure the fetus is dead before it is removed. For the staff to have to deal with a fetus that has “some viability to it, some movement of limbs,” according to this doctor, “[is] always a difficult situation.” (Id. 139-140)
Gee, that really does sound difficult.
What Carly Fiorina presented to the nation during the 2015 GOP debate was the most significant diagnosis of social malignancy in a generation. Not since Eisenhower ordered the filming of concentration camps in 1945 had there been such disgust. Not the killing fields of Pol Pot. Not the Biafrian genocide. Not the slaughters in Rwanda. “I dare anyone … watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking”. Eisenhower knew that others would deny the barbarity of the camps. Fiorina knew that many would deny that Planned Parenthood murders babies or that America sanctions harvesting baby parts. But we do. Watch the videos. While you’re at it, don’t miss “Eclipse of Reason,” an equally disturbing but valuable object lesson in what we have become:
Fiorina exposed callousness, banality, evil, and indifference. They speak not of bad behavior but of vicious character. She opened a festering wound desperately in need of debridement: our national character is rotting. It is not the language of political discourse that needs a cure; it is merely a symptom. The cancer is malice against nature that denies reason or purpose or truth if there be any chance that they may challenge the ideology of radical autonomy with duty, biological normalcy, or humility. Exhibit A: Governor Cuomo. Exhibit B: “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking …”
Defunding Planned Parenthood is the minimum any healthy society would demand. But ours is not a healthy society. Defunding a baby body parts harvesting machine is reflexively inexplicable to those committed to the protection of infanticide:
Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders, all of whom cast congressional votes to preserve the particular grotesquerie of partial birth abortion.
Bill Clinton, who twice vetoed partial birth abortion bans.
Barak Obama, who repeatedly cast his state senate vote against the Illinois version of the 2002 Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
How did we get here? L.I.F.E.’s Tom Davis presented much of the of the backstory in an article last summer: Treating Embryocide with White Gloves. Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood were at the genesis of the eugenic movement that swept across the nation and eventually found welcome embrace in the Nazi pogroms of racial purification. It was not long before the eugenic spirit crossed the threshold from sterilization and breeding houses to abortion and infanticide.
In 1942, Eugenicist Foster Kennedy, a member of the Medical Advisory Board of The Birth Control Review, writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry opined:
I believe when the defective child shall have reached the age of five years – and on the application of his guardians – that the case should be considered under law by a competent medical review board; then it should be reviewed twice more at four-month intervals; then, if the board, acting, I repeat, on the application of the guardians of the child, and after three examinations of a defective who has reached the age of five or more, should decide that that defective has no future or hope of one; then I believe it is a merciful and kindly thing to relieve that defective – often tortured and convulsed, grotesque and absurd, useless and foolish, and eventually undesirable – of the agony of living.
E.F. Kennedy, The problem of social control of the congenital defective: education, sterilization, euthanasia, Am. J. Psychiatry, 99:13-16.
In the same issue of the Journal, an unsigned editorial endorsed Kennedy’s view and urged that the proper role of psychiatrists was “the evaluation and melioration of [the] parental attitude” of “fondness” for such a child “and their ‘want’ that he should be kept alive.” Euthanasia (Am J Psychiatry, 99: 141-43 (1942).
At the end of the Second World War widespread revulsion over genocidal murder and human rights violations in national socialist Germany repressed the eugenic spirit of the age. But the idea that certain lives were simply not worth living was etched in the mind of state planners, medical professionals and social engineers.
By the time Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, a thoroughly secular understanding of human value based solely on materialist criteria had reasserted itself. Nobel Prize winning scientist James Watson, who together with Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA, opined that children should not be declared alive until three days after birth so that parents may have the option of allowing defective offspring to die, thereby saving “a lot of misery and suffering.” For his part, Francis Crick went even further in 1978: “No newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment … If it fails these tests it forfeits the right to live.” Lest the impression be left that these are fringe opinions it is worth noting that from 1989-1992 Dr. Watson was the director of the National Center for Genome Research, later renamed the National Human Genome Research Institute, within the National Institutes of Health.
The groundwork for Governors Northup and Cuomo was laid long ago. A more recent yet similarly radical view of human worth has been offered by Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. In his book Practical Ethics, Singer argues that human life has value only so long as it is conscious. He holds that any sentient being with consciousness is within the sphere of “equal consideration” of interests. (P. Singer, Practical Ethics, 2d ed., Cambridge University Press (1993) p. 74). By that he means that, human or animal, a conscious, sentient being has a greater interest in life than a fetus, a new born baby or a person diagnosed in persistent vegetative state:
I have argued that the life of a fetus (and even more plainly, of an embryo) is of no greater value than the life of a nonhuman animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc., and that since no fetus is a person no fetus has the same claim to life as a person. Now it must be admitted that these arguments apply to the newborn baby as much as to the fetus.
If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants. (Practical Ethics at 169-171).
If we can put aside these emotionally moving ... aspects of the killing of a baby … He is serious. This is about the character of our nation.
Singer defends his position by arguing that “our present absolute protection of the lives of infants is a distinctively Christian attitude rather than a universal ethical value” and that several ancient cultures considered infanticide, “the natural and humane solution to the problem posed by sick and deformed babies” and concludes that their “superior” moral sense was subverted by the Christian “doctrine of the sanctity of human life“. His thought is mired in his own subjectivism:
[T]he fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that makes the difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings.
When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of a happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second: Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. (Practical Ethics at 182-186).
Given Singer’s notion of reflective self-consciousness as the critical element of personhood, it is not surprising that he dismisses any idea of intrinsic value for the newborn infant:
I cannot see how one could defend the view that fetuses may be “replaced” before birth, but newborn infants may not be.
It all began here, in the United States, championed by Sanger and carried on today by Planned Parenthood and a cadre of abortion zealots who cannot see the humanity in treating a newborn that survives an abortion as a person. It has something to do with character.
Embracing life as the earthly vessel fades presents unique challenges. End of life medical decision-making strikes many as an uncomfortable topic. But loving life includes nurturing it and, when the inevitable approaches, assuring that the values and integrity that marked more robust seasons are not sacrificed to pressures, expediency, or despair.
We have heard some voices object to the very concept of advance directives as opening a Pandora’s Box best left to compassionate decision making by loved ones. That may be adequate for some people in some circumstances. But the risks are plentiful. What if you are critically injured in an accident in Vermont, New Jersey or Washington where assisted suicide laws hover over end-of-life health care decisions? What if you don’t have next of kin who share your values? What if your spouse or children face the prospect of pressures that may lead them to mistaken judgments? What about your peace of mind that may accompany knowledge that you have spoken your heart and made clear to your medical providers what your decisions are, or would be, based on your underlying values and beliefs?
L.I.F.E. offers a comprehensive life protective Advance Medical Directive that assures ordinary care will be provided if you become incapacitated, yet recognizes that futility has no place in continued life support in the final stage of terminal illness. It provides for a proxy decision maker who will have full access to your medical team and records and full authority to direct care in accordance with your wishes. It also offers the option to make an anatomical gift (organ donation).
The typical living will is a generalized and inadequately nuanced binding legal document entered into without adequate reflection or understanding that may predetermine the withholding of life sustaining treatment when it is otherwise warranted. Would you want all antibiotics withheld if suffering from pneumonia just because you previously opted for a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in the event of a cardiac arrest? Can anyone confidently anticipate all the factors to be weighed in making such critical life decisions before the actual circumstances arise?
To dive deep into the issues arising in end of life medical-moral decision making and the development of legal instruments to assert various levels of control and clarity about whocontrols such decisions, as well as the forces are work in society and law driving developments, don’t miss this extended study of the topic by LIFE’s Tom Davis.
L.I.F.E. has been following the wildfire of transgender advocacy. The latest chapter is the misnomered “Equity Act,” a proposal currently pending in the House of Representatives. The Bill would amend portions of federal statutes including:
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000a, et. seq.)
Civil Rights Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3631),
Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601, et. seq.),
Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. 1691),
Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb)
Civil Service Reform Act Of 1978 (5 U.S.C. 110),
Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1301 et seq.), and
Judiciary Act (28 U.S.C. 1862)
The unquestionable aim of the Bill is to insert LBGTQ theory into Federal civil rights law and thereby compel LBGTQ claims as a social norm. It would accomplish that end by adopting questionable Congressional findings of fact embracing the terms “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (referred to as “LGBTQ”) people” and then adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the protected classes identified by pre-existing law. That would elevate LGBTQ claims to equal status with “race,” “color,” “religion,” “national origin,” and “sex.”
Just last week The New York Times ran a Sunday editorial on three parent embryos as a path to cure certain diseases. L.I.F.E. is a step ahead. Must reading is Kevin Semataska’sTruth and Cloning: Political Ideology, Scientific Integrity, and the Advent of Three Parent Children from the 2018 JP II Journal of Bioethics exposing deceptive “clone and kill bills” masquerading as ethical restraint and the developing clash between those supporting “reproductive” cloning and those determined to call it anything but. The Times assures us that three parent embryos are not a path to designer babies – we’ve heard that pitch before. The ugly truth remains: the western industrialized nations are in the midst of a eugenic cleansing that began almost a century ago. Read more about it here in Crisis Magazine’s Treating Embryocide with White Gloves (also a .pdf in our L.I.F.E. bioethics library here).