Monday, January 22, 2007

Gradual Descent [Bob]

It is not uncommon, while sitting at the gate before scheduled departure time, for passengers boarding my airplane to stick their head in the cockpit and ask if they can take a look. Most often those who do so are nervous flyers (who want to see if they trust us), aviation enthusiasts (who want to take pictures), or a fascinated little kid (who wants to push some buttons). But on occasion, the cockpit visitor is a seasoned veteran or frequent flyer who simply wants to ask a favor. They have a cold or a sinus infection and they are having trouble clearing their ears. They want to know if we can take it easy on the descent toward our destination. As long as operational necessity does not prohibit it, I am always happy to oblige.

With no conflicting traffic or weather to prohibit it, and minimal throttle movement to affect the pressurization system, we can actually make it hard to tell the airplane is descending at all. And though the pressure change from the top of descent to landing is exactly the same as it would always be, the result is a happy passenger who arrives at our destination pain free -- and nobody else is the wiser.

As "Sanctity of Human Life" Sunday approached, some of my reading reached a "harmonic convergence" that struck me with the applicability of this simple practice to the attitude our society holds on the abortion topic. Two issues in particular jumped off the pages of history.

The first regards the American Medical Association. Serge can address this issue better than I could but a review of Frederick Dyer's book, The Physicians Crusade Against Abortion, chronicles the efforts of the AMA toward stricter abortion laws during the mid-nineteenth century. Though the contemporary conventional wisdom holds that doctors' concerns have always centered on the safety and welfare of the mother, Dyer shows that it was a different issue that led Harvard Medical School's David Storer to write and lecture against abortion. Storer and his son Horatio encouraged the AMA to study the subject of when life begins.

As reviewer John F. Quinn notes, their work led the AMA to call on their colleagues to do all in their power to: enlighten the general public about the fact that fetal life begins at conception; urge doctors to press state legislatures for stronger anti-abortion laws, and offer rewards for the best anti-abortion essay published by a doctor.

That was in 1864. Today, the AMA's position is as follows:
H-5.990 Policy on Abortion
The issue of support of or opposition to abortion is a matter for members of the AMA to decide individually, based on personal values or beliefs. The AMA will take no action which may be construed as an attempt to alter or influence the personal views of individual physicians regarding abortion procedures. (Res. 158, A-90; Reaffirmed by Sub. Res. 208, I-96; Reaffirmed by BOT Rep. 26, A-97) [emphasis mine]
Why the difference? Since the AMA held its mid-nineteenth century stance on abortion, the practice has been legalized. In addition, medical technology has certainly improved, lessening the risk of both pregnancy and abortion to both mother and baby. In other words, the much-touted concern for the life of the mother is not the AMA's real issue. At the same time, ultrasound technology has only added further confirmation to Storer's archaic assertion that life begins at conception.

No, the difference between the AMA's contemporary abortion policy and the one it held in 1864 is not medically based. It wasn't then and it isn't now. It was grounded in the moral case that the fetus was a human being from conception. Instead, the AMA's change in policy is a reflection of the false notion of moral neutrality that has fermented within the culture since then -- the notion that the issue is a matter of "personal values or beliefs" which should never be allowed or construed "to alter or influence the personal views" of another.

I can only imagine the horror with which Dr. Storer would have viewed what is euphemistically described today as "the rare procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion." Storer, still cruising along at a mid-nineteenth century moral altitude, would have felt within his bounds to see "partial birth abortion" for what it really is -- infanticide -- and rallied his professional association to put and end to it.

Which brings me to the second observation.

Anne Barbeau Gardiner, Professor Emerita, Department of English, at John Jay College, CUNY, offers what for me is a stunning synopsis of the views of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger -- most notably her view of "evolution."

I expend great effort in my attempt to understand evolution. In that pursuit I have found it to be essential to first define what one means when we use the term. When it comes to "evolution," precise definitions make a world of difference. Sanger's definition proves the point. In her mind, birth control, primarily manifested as infanticide in the ancient world, reflected the progressiveness of a society. As the civilization became more advanced, infanticide increased. From there, Sanger extrapolated that, because infanticide could not be stopped, it would lead to even more advanced methodologies. After condoning infanticide, enlightened societies would move more toward abortion which, for Sanger, consisted of:
a woman fulfilling her "highest duty" by her choice to use "the surgeon's instruments" instead of "sacrificing" all that is "highest and holiest in her -- her aspiration to freedom ..."
In the final stages of progress, society would embrace contraception as the most "evolved" form of birth control.

While there is an obvious distinction to be made between infanticide/abortion and non-abortifacient contraception, Sanger would have been unmoved by it. Her view served only to see the "evolution" of killing babies as a methodological advancement whereby the practice is simply moved farther up the birth canal. Invisibility promotes acceptability.

It is instructive that Sanger believed the "art" of killing babies was enhanced by making it harder to see. To view this as a "progressive" form of evolution is to unwittingly shed light on what has always been one of humanity's most common proclivities -- the ability to rationalize otherwise repugnant behavior by obscuring its consequences. This is why Scott believes it is so important for people to actually see the reality of abortion -- and the reason pro-abortionists so vehemently oppose his doing so.

When Scott shows his pictures, those who view them are jerked out of the lazy, gradual descent they have been experiencing and back into the reality of what is happening around them. They are forced to recognize that they are passengers on a cultural airplane ... The person who requested the descent is still sick ... The entire airplane is headed for the ground ... and nobody seems to notice.

1 comment:

  1. Right on the money, Bob! The pic is perfect and you nailed the problem with the rest of your post. Given I just crawled off one of your jets (you were not the Captian) where the descent was exactly as you described (it took forever), I can relate!



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