Which is the “Wrong Baby?” Doctor Aborts Healthy Child

14 April 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

He aborted the “wrong” baby. He had intended to abort a child with down’s syndrome, but instead, he aborted the healthy twin by mistake. Now, he has lost his license and is reported to be quite distraught.

Today, Al Mohler wrote on his blog:

Consider what this means for the sanctity of human life. We are now looking at babies as consumer products. We will accept babies that meet our specified qualifications, and abort when medical tests or other factors reveal that the baby does not meet our standards. Human life is reduced to just another consumer product subject to consumer preferences and demand.

Do we recognize what this means? The abortion of Down syndrome babies is a scandal of the first degree, and this nation is growing more complacent and complicit in this scandal by the day. Beyond this, we can be certain that babies are now being targeted in the womb for reasons far beyond Down syndrome. Specialists working with autism are concerned that forthcoming genetic tests will put babies who carry markers for autism next on the list for prenatal search and destroy missions.

This news story out of Florida is a warning to the entire nation. What is the real scandal here — that this doctor was ready to kill a baby with Down syndrome, or merely that he aborted “the wrong baby?”

The answer to that question will tell us all we need to know about the conscience of the age.

Or, stated differently, which one really is the wrong baby?

The question can only be answered if we, as a society, are willing to agree on one crucial issue: is the fetus a human being, or not. If not, then the entire abortion debate collapses. But if so, then all discussions of “rights” instantly shift to the question of responsibilities.

If the child is not a human being, then what has happened, however unfortunate, is no more damnable than a surgeon who mistakenly amputates the wrong leg. Granted, the patient’s express desires were compromised, but ultimately this is of significantly lesser consequence than the alternative position.

But if the child is a human being, then what has happened is no less damnable than had the physician performed his task as planned.

But the question is ever more basic: “who decides?”

The problem is this: morality is no longer anchored in one, objective reality. Recent data has concluded that among emerging adults, there simply is no category for understanding objective moral truth, relying instead on the product of individual, subjective morality:

[Emerging adults] are…doubtful that an identifiable, objective, shared reality might exist across and around all people that can serve as a reliable reference point for rational deliberation and argument…..It seems to be because they simply cannot, for whatever reason, believe in – or sometimes even conceive of – a given, objective truth, fact, reality or nature of the world that is independent of their subjective self-experience and that in relation to which they and others might learn or be persuaded to change. Although none would put it in exactly this way, what emerging adults take to be reality ultimately seems to consist of a multitude of subjective but ultimately autonomous experiences. People are thus trying to communicate with each other in order to be able to get along and enjoy life as they see fit. Beyond that, anything truly objectively shared or common or real seems impossible to access. (Christian Smith, Souls in Transition, p. 44-45)

And that is why it is so heinous to be (ahem) “ant-choice,” for the pro-life position naturally impinges on a woman’s assumed “right” to abortion. Any measure to curtail such rights is seen as a fundamental intrusion on a woman’s ability to make an individual choice.

Or, worse, the question of morality is assumed to be a purely “religious,” therefore having no determinative basis for medical and societal ethics. Again, statements to the contrary would be seen as a violation of the woman’s individualized rights.

In the present case, it (sadly) also means that there can never truly be a definitive answer to Mohler’s question. There can never really be a “wrong” decision in this case, for there are no absolute standards to which we may appeal.

Those concerned with the subject of bioethics must wrestle responsibly with these issues. Medical ethics can never move forward without a clear understanding of the nature of ethics itself, and the latter can never be understood so long as morality remains private.

14 April 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.

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