“All life is not equal…:” Abortion, Human Dignity, and Health Care Reform

13 July 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

“If any one age really attains by eugenics and scientific education the power to make its descendents what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power.  Man’s conquest of nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men (in the present that is) over billions and billions of men born later.  Human nature would be the last part of nature to surrender to man, but then the battle would be won.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

What does it mean to be human?  What is the basis for human value?  For dignity?  Sadly, in our present day, we seem to have walked away from these fundamental questions.

The complexities of the abortion debate – though worthy of respect – should not prohibit questions of concern over the morality of a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.  It was this very issue that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg addressed in a recent New York Times interview.  In discussing the reasons for abortion, Ginsburg comments: “…I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Her remarks ring coldly of eugenics: building a nation of only the most desirable human beings.  She further remarked that “The basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman.”

COST EFFECTIVE?

Yet, with the coming health care reforms, it may be the case that the government can make it its business to dictate appropriate care for the terminally ill.  The LA Times recently reported that President Obama acknowledged that his health care reforms would serve to help families avoid “…additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care.”  In a slightly more controversial statement, he added, “Maybe you are better off not having the surgery, but taking the pain killer.”

On the one hand, President Obama may be correct: when faced with terminal illness, it seems preferable to administer comfort rather than prolong the inevitable.  Yet who makes these decisions?  There is increasing fear that such choices will be removed from the hands of patients and families, to the government.  Granted, many insurance companies already have the power to deny treatment in certain cases, but concern exists that with the elderly requiring a disproportionate amount of health care, treating them is simply not cost effective.

What I fear is this: that we are heading to a time when a woman has the right to terminate the life of an unborn child, yet denied to prolong the life of an aging parent.

SOME LIFE IS MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

Recently our great nation celebrated the birth of its independence.  And in that great declaration we find these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.”

Yet increasingly, we are seeing that in the paraphrase of that Orwellian dictum, “some life is more equal than others.”  Women are free to choose to terminate the life of their unborn child, often preserving their lifestyles over human life.  The Guttmacher Institute reports:

 “The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.” (citing Finer LB et al., Reasons U.S. women have abortions: quantitative and qualitative perspectives, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2005, 37(3):110–118)

Meanwhile, the terminally ill are evaluated on the basis of cost effectiveness: a form of triage seemingly out of place with our enlightened society.   And this is to say nothing of growing rumors that President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, once wrote a book where he recommended a “global regime” with extreme, almost dystopian measures for population control, including imposed sterility.

WHERE DO WE GO NEXT?

 I rarely tackle political issues.  Yet I do not wish to remain silent on the issue of human life and dignity.  May I first encourage you to pray, if you are the praying type.  It is all too easy to point fingers and label others as having an “agenda.”  But it is the right thing to prayerfully support our nations leaders even when we disagree.

Secondly it is important to remember this: the women who choose abortion do so for many reasons.  Concerned though I am for the 45 million abortions that have taken place since Roe v. Wade, I cannot deny these women equal concern.  To be “pro life” is just that: to be supportive of the lives of the born as well as unborn.  Therefore my encouragement is not to simply be “anti abortion” but to support programs that improve conditions (both economic and social) so that women do not feel as helplessly backed into a corner.

Thirdly, if you’re one of these politically minded Christians who obsesses over everything, my advice to you is “lighten up.”  We follow One who has already “overcome the world.”  While issues such as those I’ve mentioned are worthy of attention, they are not worthy of fear-driven obsession.

And finally, if you are reading this as a woman who has had an abortion, then I am sorry.  I suspect you have met people from the church who have only offered you guilt.  I believe that what you did was wrong, but I also believe in the grace and love of Jesus who offers mercy and restoration to those who would come to His cross and receive His forgiveness.

13 July 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

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