There will be no links to other articles on this post. I will not be analytical in the academic or philosophical sense. I sat down to write this because I am sad tonight. Scott does not often share his feelings on this blog, but as most of you are aware, I am not Scott. The emotional aspects of the pro-life movement are central to my expression because I am an emotional man. And tonight this emotional guy is sad because I have been studying and reading and meandering about the internet and I was struck again with the simple question that drives me to write and speak and advocate for the pro-life movement in the first place. What are we doing?
That is the meat of the matter right? What are the unborn and what are we doing to them? All of the clever arguments for those who support the rights of cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and abortion amount to explanations as to why we are allowed to do something to another life, but this is the simple question that addresses the ultimate morality of bio-ethics. The unborn may not feel pain, they are not self aware, the embryo lacks any physical characteristics that look human, the terminally ill are often depressed and in pain. I understand that many of the things that others say about the objects of our actions are true. I also grasp that there are benefits to the deaths of these human beings. A frightened pregnant teenage girl gets to have a brief surgical procedure and move on with her life. The unused embryonic humans can be a benefit to our research and help produce therapies and cures for children all over the world. Families anguishing over loved ones suffering and cognitively absent get to release that loved one from the terrible agonizing prison of their broken body and begin to pick up the pieces of their lives. But what are we doing? Without explaining anything to me about the condition or context of the object of my actions or the positive end results of those actions, what are we doing?
There is very little argument that the unborn, the terminally ill, the severely brain damaged, and the extreme elderly are not human beings. Some others may wish to quibble over their utility or their inclusion into the moral family of personhood, but no one really argues that they are not human beings. So what are we doing? In the case of abortion, we are terminating the lives of human beings in gruesome procedures because we find ourselves pregnant as a result of sex. Who cares that we all know that sex is the leading cause of pregnancy? We end the lives of human beings on a massive scale because the natural and expected human life that was begun as a result of our actions is not wanted. I know that there are hard cases such as rape and incest, but only an idiot would pretend they represent abortion. About 95% of the time, we just don’t want the baby. And so we kill the unborn human being. All of the rest of the arguing is to explain why that is okay. What we are doing is ending human life for convenience.
How about the terminally ill? My mother was telling me about her living will. She said that she wants all measures to prolong her life removed in extreme cases so that I would not be burdened to make the decisions I made with my father for her. She said that this included artificial feeding tubes like those removed from Terry Schiavo. I asked my mother if she understood that whatever her wishes were, I had no intention of dehydrating her to death. They will have to drag me off to jail before I will be a party to that. What we did to Terry was deny her basic human necessities. We stopped feeding her. I respect my mother’s desire to not be kept alive by invasive and extreme medical measures, but I will not be a party to dehydrating her or anyone else to death. Nor will I be a part of poisoning them to death by an overdose of prescription drugs. That is what we are doing.
Finally, what about embryonic stem cell research and cloning? We are creating little human lives and then quickly destroying them or harvesting them for their stem cells. We are endlessly lectured that taking these liberties with a human being will produce great cures to terrible maladies. We are assured that this stage of development does not physically resemble anything that would be likely to incite emotional responses similar to the well formed aborted fetuses in graphic images used by pro-lifers. We are told that these lives that hold no potential of progressing to being a person can rescue us from all sorts of terrifying illnesses. I am reminded of a scene from the movie Extreme Measures where Hugh Grant has been confronted by Gene Hackman. Hackman’s character has been secretly experimenting on the homeless to produce a cure for spinal chord injuries. He tells Grant’s character of the courage it would take to kill one innocent human being if it meant ridding the world of cancer. Here is the end of the exchange:
Hackman: Helen hasn't walked for years. I can cure her. And everyone like her. The door's open. You can go out there... ...and put a stop to everything and it'll be over. Or we can go upstairs and change medicine forever. It's your call.
Grant: Maybe you're right. Those men upstairs, maybe... ...there isn't much point to their lives. Maybe they're doing a great thing for the world. Maybe they are heroes. But they didn't choose to be. You chose for them. You didn't choose your wife... ...or your granddaughter. You didn't ask for volunteers. You chose for them. And you can't do that. Because you're a doctor. And you took an oath. And you're not God.
I agree with the next line as well. I don’t care if you can cure every illness in the world. Who and what we are is at least or more important than the results that we can achieve through our scientific efforts. They promise a world free of so much horror, but at what cost? I know what we are doing. They may yet accomplish all that they say they can, and then the world that my son and daughter live in is suddenly free of some terrible things while grimmer all the same. Because what we are doing is shaping what we are becoming. And what we are becoming if we continue to terminate the lives of innocent human beings as an answer to medical, financial, emotional, or research needs is as terrible as what we are already doing every day. And that makes me sad tonight.