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culture of death

Even during an age in which acts of callous brutality have become common, the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell shocks.  It was Gosnell who ran the filthy abortion clinic in which live babies were murdered, women were subjected to “treatment” by unlicensed assistants (including massive and even deadly doses of drugs), and fetal remains were kept in jugs, jars and cat food containers.  His conduct still shocks any conscience left functioning in our culture of death.

Sadly, while certainly shocked, I cannot say that I was surprised by the Gosnell revelations in the sense of finding them unexpected.  Indeed, what is perhaps most disturbing in this horrifying series of events is the genuine mainstreaming of the attitude that produced them.  One could begin with the callous disregard shown by the mainstream media for the story itself.  Most media outlets sought to ignore or bury the story, with all its embarrassments for the abortion industry.  But even more disturbing is the increasing sense in which Dr. Gosnell’s practices are outside the mainstream of medical ethics, not on account of what he did, but rather on account of how bad he was at doing it.  I do not mean by this that all physicians believe in the value of infanticide.  And, indeed, there are many, many conscientious physicians who seek to protect life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death—what one would think would be the natural position for one who has chosen the healing arts as a vocation.  Moreover, the people of Pennsylvania at least have enough good sense to forbid abortions after the unborn child reaches 24 weeks, and few physicians in that state, apparently, are willing to abort children after 20 weeks.  But Gosnell generally is condemned in the press, not for performing late-term abortions, but rather for giving later term abortions “a bad name” by performing them in an unsafe, unprofessional manner.

The idea that abortion advocacy organizations want abortions to be safe, legal, and rare is, of course, farcical.  But the abortion industry does not like to see such massive evidence of the procedure being unsafe (to say no more).  Such evidence might hurt them in the policy debate.  Moreover, it adds to the low esteem in which abortionists tend to be held by their colleagues in the medical profession.  But the role of the abortionist is coming ever closer to the medical mainstream.  Pro-life doctors are an embattled group, facing “official” bodies representing the medical profession that for years have been taking on an attitude and a role that is truly frightening in its contempt for life.

Official organs of the medical profession have come to see pregnancy as a health problem to be prevented or terminated except under ideal circumstances.  And such a view infects that profession, and society at large, with an attitude that is, in the name of health, hostile to human dignity and life itself.  Recent headlines have mentioned the judge who ordered that the “Plan B” abortifacient or “morning after pill” must be made available without prescription to girls of any age.  This is too extreme (at the moment) even for the Obama Administration, which is suing to keep the age at which girls can obtain “Plan B” without prescription (or, obviously, parental involvement) at 15.  Most distressing is the relative “moderation” of this position—more moderate, for example, than the position of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the medical profession’s “official” body in this area.  As one fawning CNN story put it, that body would like to see that girls and women are “able to buy [Plan B] birth control pills alongside ibuprofen and cough drops.”

Like most press reports, the CNN story equates Plan B with birth control, yet that drug only rarely prevents conception, instead inducing an abortion 75 to 89% of the time, according to the FDA’s own data.  So, the “moderate” position is to enable 15-year-old girls to induce abortions without parental or physician involvement, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wants girls of any age to induce abortions with as little “hassle” as getting rid of a headache.

Without an unexpected change in the current medical and cultural climate, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will get its way, while criticisms like this one will be dismissed as an attempt to harm young women’s health in the name of ideology.  The physicians’ groups justify their strident pro-abortifacient policies as a matter of “reproductive health.”  That is, the claim is that Plan B is necessary to prevent our “epidemic of unwanted pregnancies.”  And it is the view that a pregnancy that is unwanted is a health problem rather than a cultural problem that instills in medical professionals (and others) a powerful commitment to the culture of death.  Focusing on tragedies like rape and incest, and dismissing as either incurable or outside of medical concern the far more common and fundamental problem of sexual promiscuity, particularly among the young, such groups treat unborn children as dangerous invaders whose existence must be justified if it is to be allowed to continue.

A more welcoming and supportive culture (including much greater support for pregnant young women themselves, with their many physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual needs) is of utmost necessity where life issues are concerned.  Such a culture is not furthered by our hyper-sexualizing media, of course.  Nor is it helped by medical professionals who define their job as “treating” the rather natural results of sexual activity.

From assisting with life to guarding the gates to life; this has been the trajectory of medical officialdom.  It is not just physicians of course.  But this renders all the more troubling the medical professional ideology, which increasingly treats life itself, not as a right, but as a privilege.  Where unborn children are concerned, the ideology can be summed up in the phrase “better dead than imperfect.”  A useful example, here is provided by an article from the Wall Street Journal (the supposedly more sane of the dominant New York papers).  Titled “Tough Calls on Prenatal Tests” (April 4, 2013), this article tells of the rush to market various genetic “screens” for Down Syndrome and other “genetic abnormalities.”  The crucial comment, from my perspective:  medical specialists “worry that in the worst-case scenario, inaccurate test results could contribute to the abortion of healthy babies.”

Without any sign of hesitation or irony, the article’s author tells us that “medical specialists” recognize a bad outcome when they see it:  rejection of quality goods because they have mistakenly been presented as having defects.

Sadly, this grisly reasoning is borne out in practice.  The vast majority of unborn children with Down Syndrome whose mothers undergo prenatal testing are aborted.  Abortion figures, here, range as high as 90%.  Discomfort and even anger often are the responses to recitation of these facts.  The arguments are well-known.  Parents, it is said, should not be “forced” to care for a child with “genetic defects” and, what is more, should not “burden” society with children whose handicaps will make them life-long drains on the public.  That this is an argument that denies the worth and dignity of many, many vital, loving souls; it is worthy of eugenics advocates.

The implications of this attitude for the various “end of life” issues should be obvious.  How “valuable” are the elderly and terminally ill?  What will be the impact of hospital “death panels” be on our judgments concerning whose life is worth how much, particularly in its final days, weeks, and months (and years?).  Who among us has not been—and will not again be—weak enough to be considered a burden on others?  Once the value and joy of life is set in a scale, the ones operating the scale gain inhuman power, with all its corruptions, and we lose sight of our very humanity.

My point is a small one, in a world of very large and horrifying points:  to the extent that physicians and other medical professionals allow themselves to see their role as one of mere utilitarian instrumentality—as eliminating disease and other “abnormalities”—they become part of a highly dangerous culture in which each of us must prove our “normalcy” and even our value in order to receive treatment, survive, and be allowed to be born.  Abortion and, yes, contraception, is a key component of this culture because it treats life as something to be judged according to its conformity with “standards” of health and “normality” and even, of course, convenience.  We have all but buried our ability to sense the growth of this viewpoint where the beginnings of life are concerned, but the mode of thought involved increasingly pervades our thought—and the thought of those who may decide whether we live or die—in general.  As we enter a time of increasing scarcity with increasing power in the hands of government-guided “professionals” to ration medical care, this mode of thought will take more and more lives in an increasingly visible manner.  One only hopes more of us will awaken to see and oppose this trend before it is fully entrenched.  And it is the difficult duty of medical professionals who recognize their higher calling, of promoting well-being as an important element of being—of life—to reawaken in their colleagues, and the public, recognition of the crucial foundation of human dignity in acceptance of life, with all its burdens and imperfections.

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8 replies to this post
  1. An excellent, alarming and sobering article. On the subject of the morning after pill and sexual promiscuity amongst the young, I should like to note that the extent of Feminisms’ contempt for women is made clear as day here. For if Feminism really meant to aid females, it would not support subsidized distribution of a pill that terminates millions of potential female babies, but rather would push for laws holding biological fathers and their parents to account.

    Sexual promiscuity is, in my view, a lesser ill than the failure of young men and their families to take responsibility for their actions. Insofar as we are speaking of voluntary sex acts between young couples and not rape or anonymous prostitution, I presume there is some semblance of love in the act (although perhaps I fail to appreciate the cynicism of the young), and that while not ideal by a long shot, the decision – juvenille as it is – to have sex is made with at least some shred of understanding that a baby may result.

    Certainly men – young men as well – ought to be aware of this and ready to bear the consequences, even if not in a mature way. That young men nowadays are unaware and unaccountable is a scandal. Feminists should be demanding laws that make such men financially responsible and generally hold them to account. They should insist that Point #1 of all “sex education” should be to teach people to realize that any potential sex partner could be the father or mother of their children and to keep this at the forefront of their minds if they choose to engage in premarital sex or if passions, left to themselves, lead them to it. DNA testing for fatherhood ought to be mandatory in cases where pregnancy results from sexual promiscuity with more than one man.

    Of course, Feminists will never advocate such things. They wish to “empower” young girls by teaching them to treat men as sex objects meant to gratify whims. Feminists do not want men to be responsible because they view pregnancy as the beginning of patriarchy, from which the morning after pill liberates women. Of course, the lesbian Feminists, animated by sexual jealousy, would prefer to banish men from the lives of women altogether.

    • Mr. Rieth: (1) “if Feminism really meant to aid females, it would not support subsidized distribution of a pill that terminates millions of potential female babies, but rather would push for laws holding biological fathers and their parents to account.” Isn’t it possible to do both–distribute pills (which, if we’re going to use your terminology, terminate millions of potential male babies, too) and also push for male accountability? I know that I’m in favor of both of those things, so I assume many women and “feminists” are as well.

      (2) “That young men nowadays are unaware and unaccountable is a scandal. Feminists should be demanding laws that make such men financially responsible and generally hold them to account.”
      I’m pretty sure such laws exist, and that women have long demanded them; how easy they are to enforce is another matter entirely.

      (3) “Feminists will never advocate such things. They wish to “empower” young girls by teaching them to treat men as sex objects meant to gratify whims.” I’d be interested in seeing the Feminist Manual or Little Red Book of Feminism which teaches that; could you provide me a link or a specific reference?

      (4) “the lesbian Feminists, animated by sexual jealousy, would prefer to banish men from the lives of women altogether.” I’m always fascinated when some people claim to know what other people are “animated” or motivated by. Somehow, the motives of others are always less admirable and less noble than our own–“we” are just selfless seekers after Truth or brave souls speaking Truth to Power, while “they” of course are motivated by jealousy, envy, and resentment.

      (5) I don’t suppose it’s occurred to you that the broad generalizations “feminists” and “feminism” are about as useful as the equally broad generalizations “Christians” or “conservatives”? There are actually different strains of “feminist” thought, different “feminist” politics, even different “feminist” views on sexuality. Perhaps you could cite a source or two to substantiate your rather broad-brushed claims?

      • Mr. Shifflett,
        1) I specifically wrote negatively about subsidizing distribution of the pill because the subsidy is a different issue from the distribution. Taxpaying Catholics and other people with similar views are being forced to subsidize the pill under the notion that it is a public intetest matter, when clearly it is not. It is one thing to have more liberal views regarding sexual matters, quite another to force those who disagree to pay for your views.

        2) I know of no Feminist advocating criminal or civil prosecution for the initiation of divorce, which was once considered a matter of severe breach of life long contractual obligation by civil authorities. In fact, Feminists have liberalized divorce laws so far as to make marriage fraud (not keeping vows) unpunishable. This is their legacy and it has allowed millions of bad men to destroy the lives of women they promised to love as wives. Feminists don’t care about this because they are against marriage as a life long institution and support liberalized divorce as a means to emancipation.

        3) There is no Red Book, of course. I readily concede your point that different strains of feminism exist and that I am generalizing. That said, I think my generalizations are easily recognized as accurate descriptions of the modern feminist political movements.

        4) My ad personum views on feminists, lesbians and the homosexuals do not come from literature, but rather personal experience. The totality of these experiences cannot be done justice to in a few sentences. Suffice to say I spent 5 years working for an openly homosexual director of a government agency in Poland engaged in propagating culture. During this time, I made the aquaintance of large numbers of feminists, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals, gender studies professors, writers, artists and poets. As part of my work, I frequented gay clubs for five years. All of my views about this particular society of political animals are based on this experience. As this faction was welcomed and coddled by German, American and generally Western academia, I take them to be in the mainstream of Feminist or Gender political thought. If my criticisms are personal, it is only because those are the explicit terms by which Gender ideology operates. It presumes that sexual orientation and sexuality are the true basis for all character formation and insists on personalizing political debate.

        • Mr. Rieth: I will of course respect your experiences; mine, so far as “feminists” are concerned, have been quite different. Personal experience, of course, is for all of us both a starting point and a guide to reality, but sometimes it leads us to unwarranted conclusions and to stereotyping; “Every conservative I’ve ever met has been a bigoted redneck” or “Every Christian I know is homophobic” could be accurate descriptions of someone’s personal experiences, but it would be unwise to generalize on such limited evidence.

          I did not take your comments about male “responsibilities” to be referring to divorce (I had in mind issues of outright abandonment and refusal to help support the children), which I agree feminists (but not feminists alone) have generally favored liberalizing. Divorce, in my view, is a thorny issue; but since I’ve been divorced twice, I might not be the best person to weigh in on the subject.

          Finally: I’m not sure that your grouping of “feminists, lesbians, and the homosexuals” is entirely fair–that is, an awful lot of feminists aren’t lesbians–but that’s perhaps a peripheral issue here. Still, when you write that “Feminists don’t care about this because they are against marriage as a life long institution” you must be referring either to particular feminists of your acquaintance or to a particular strain of feminism; I’ve known plenty of women who consider themselves feminists and who have married (men) or wanted to marry (men), and who would be perfectly happy to be in a “life-long” marriage.

          • Just one point in response: the reason I mentioned divorce immediately, rather than child or spousal support, is precisely because the feminist sexual revolution has lowered the standard of justice due to women by creating a society wherein a man who leaves his wife and children is merely acceptable so long as he pays child and spousal support. This is a grave harm towards women, who deserve to have husbands they can rely on and whose children deserve a father. If feminists cared about women they would crusade for stricter limits to when a divorce can be granted. Certainly the fact that now it is enough for men to just decide to leave is not a just standard. But if the goal is to break up marriages in order to cultivate women who can live without men – then the feminist support for liberalized divorce laws becomes clear. I omit the case of women initiating divorce against men because it is a seperate issue.

  2. Bravo once more, Dr Frohnen! There is another take. That is the American (unofficial) founding philosophy of “steal it first and kill anybody who wants a piece.” Living people have the ability to murder other living people yet unborn for the sake of mere convenience, so they do. Financially, we spent/borrowed/squandered enough to put our children and grandchildren into penury, so we have. Philosophically and practically, we found it more pleasant to live in an ideological dream world, and so we do, too lazy (for the most part – not you, dear fellow!) to study and teach properly, as we are. Environmentally, we use force to keep others from building within sight of our properties. But if left unattended, little doubt what corporate America would do to the countryside. The abortionist position could be seen as merely another utterance of that British trade-union phrase, “Screw you, I’m all right, Jack.”

    • How right you are, Stephen. Of course, the great irony of all this is coming: the baby boomers now are becoming elderly “dead weight.” Having bankrupted the children they did not off before birth, they have left themselves without a social safety net capable of supporting them in their old age. Nor do their often-abandoned children have the inclination to provide that support. Euthanasia seems an entirely predictable result, and one already being institutionalized in a number of countries, (including our own through various hospital death panels).

      • Bruce, not about the right to life per se, but i had a few (and another few) drinks with some young, earnest and unfailingly polite Chinese visiting London. In terms of thrift and prudence, respect (ie for parents, education, etc) and diligence, etc, we were peas in a pod. Deeper into the club claret it became clear about their complete disgust with the Western decadence you write about so well. Darn close to spitting. There will be neither pity nor mercy when the comeuppance cometh, from the Far Eastern quarter at least.

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