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Posts Tagged ‘Abortion’

dark-forest-night-nature-31000

Recently Richard Dawkins created a stir with some thoughtless tweets about aborting people with Down Syndrome, and Live Action has a column about the motives of some who abort their babies with Down Syndrome. With respect to author Sarah Terzo, it is an untempered treatment of deep complexities not at all explicated in the article, nor even hinted at. In the interest of truth and justice for many post-abortive mothers, here is a deeper exploration. It comes by way of my own experiences as the father of a special needs child.

When Regina became pregnant with Joseph (our first) it was pure magic. This child we feared might never be conceived after four years of prayers and disappointments, our first baby, was on the way. Early on we were offered the AFP, which tests for fetal anomalies and has many false-positive results.

We refused.

Why chance a positive result which would require amniocentesis to confirm, especially when amniocentesis kills one in every two hundred babies on which it is performed? There was no way that we would abort our baby, no matter what. “Besides,” I added to our bewildered Ob, “If God has X number of handicapped babies He needs to send into the world, we’ll take one. Children with needs require more love, not less.”

I never really thought He would take me up on that little bit of bravado.

It just didn’t make sense to have tests, to eat our hearts out if there were some potential anomaly that couldn’t be fixed. (Fetal surgery was just getting going at the time.)

Freeze frame. That’s an incredibly vulnerable time in every way for a woman. Physically she is immunocompromised, and increasingly uncomfortable toward the end. There’s the exhaustion of the first and third trimesters. There’s all sorts of concerns. At precisely the moment that a woman needs all the support she can get, when standing by her means everything for the father, for family and friends, she is hit with a devastating diagnosis.

Joseph was turning five when after years of misdiagnoses he was finally correctly diagnosed by some of the best minds in the field:

Autism, moderately profound.
ADHD
Mixed Expressive/Receptive Language Disorder (half of all tests he didn’t respond enough to establish a basal score)
Speech equivalent of 2.1 years
IQ tests: half very low average, half borderline.
Static Encephalopathy.
Cerebellar Defect.
Sensory Integration Disorder.

Shattering doesn’t begin to describe the pitch blackness I found myself in. It was a blackness so black that I couldn’t even see my wife’s pain and bewilderment. The upshot of it all was “What happens to Joseph when we’re gone?”

For the first time in my life I knew not only fear, but panic. So, I can relate to the parents who get the news when their baby is still in utero, when they are in a far more vulnerable state than we were. They also have an additional burden that I didn’t. I had Joseph for nearly five years. We had developed a relationship: I fed, bathed, changed, played with him. I dressed him, and took him everywhere I went. These parents know their child less concretely, more abstractly.

No one suggested that Regina and I kill our child. But it isn’t that way with poor prenatal diagnoses. I’ve met scores of women who were beset by the medical geneticists and their Ob’s to abort the baby. Far too many have recounted how they were burdened with blame:

“What do you mean you want to keep it? Why would you make your baby suffer that way?”

Lovely. Were that not bad enough, such news often comes when women have only one or two weeks left before they can no longer have an abortion (Statutory regulation).

Worse still are the fathers who pressure the mothers to abort, threatening financial, emotional and physical abandonment. “You’ll raise that freak on your own!” What a betrayal of trust and love, of all those little promises whispered when making love and begetting the baby.

More tragic still is the pressure from family and friends, and all too often, there stands the frightened, unsupported and completely besieged mother at precisely her most vulnerable moment.

So much for respecting women, for love and fidelity, for choice, for patient autonomy, for informed consent: Especially informed consent.

Parents are frequently not told of the surgeries, the therapies (medical, occupational, physical, speech, educational) that are available. They aren’t told of the Early Intervention program, of the advances made by those with Down Syndrome, of how many are now attending and graduating from college.

In other words, they are deprived of hope.

Comments made when they show up at an abortion center need to be evaluated in that light. In psychology the comments quoted by Terzo can be a good example of the defense mechanism called, “Reaction Formation,” which is the tendency to express the opposite of what one is feeling and threatened by, but cannot face.

So, how do we proceed?

Three years ago when I was National Director of Medical Students for Life, I approached some like-minded folks and with them brought to fruition a medical conference I had long envisioned as a means of enlightening the medical community. So, on January 21, 2012 at Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, DC, we held the first conference on Poor Prenatal Diagnoses and Therapeutic Interventions. It was live-cast and recorded and the entire conference can be viewed here. There will be more such conferences in the near future.

The purpose of the conference was to enlighten not only the medical community, but the rest of society; to give hope to those whose fear begets some of the ugly quotes in the Terzo article.

Regina and I were blessed with many beautiful and wonderful people who came into our lives and helped teach Joseph, most especially Mr. Robert Marinello who is one of the finest and most gifted speech therapists in the field. He got Joseph communicating in very short order, and gave me back my son. In the eleven years since we received the shattering diagnoses, Joseph has come into his own. He is poised to become an Eagle Scout in October at the age of fifteen, scored in the 98th percentile on his end of year testing this year, and is an accomplished athlete and dancer.

It took years, several years, to relax and trust that all would be well, to realize:

That God’s definition of well is not my own.

That God’s plans and dreams for Joseph are quite different from what I had envisioned when Regina gave birth.

That God was right beside me all of those sleepless nights I sat in the rocking chair beside Joseph’s bed, contemplating his future.

That God has an army of healers who do as a matter of routine what required the laying on of hands by Jesus two thousand years ago.

That God will use our fear and turn it into sacrificial love’s engine.

That God will then use special parents as the evangelists of this Gospel of Love.

In retrospect, what most made for the experience of being shattered was the fear of a loveless world and what it would do to our son. But God is faithful and He has shown us through our son an army of people who offer love, and hope, and opportunity.

Joseph is in good company among his peers with his particular style of learning and being in the world. The many therapists and professionals with whom he has worked have brought him and his peers not only into the realm of functionality, but of competitiveness with peers who are neurotypical. The same may be said of those with Down Syndrome.

News reports of parents seeking abortions for their special needs babies rightly anger and disgust us, but they don’t accurately portray all who receive these diagnoses. They also don’t delve into that pitch blackness in which I found myself, and in which these parents find themselves. The difference between us?

In my heart I knew that God would be faithful and what I was despairing of most of all was my own sense of smallness and inadequacy regarding the task before me. It was God’s fidelity as my father that empowered me.

I don’t judge these people quoted by Terzo. I agonize for them in their helplessness and hopelessness.

Take some time and watch the entire conference linked here. Then share this good news far and wide.

For many, all they need is the light of truth to begin to embrace their babies, to embrace their parenthood.

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How times have changed. Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby, once the champions of keeping abortions safe for women, now oppose legislative proposals such as the new law in Texas designed to accomplish those very noble-sounding sentiments used to justify legalized abortion. Specifically, they oppose the suggestion that abortionists need to be board certified Ob/Gyns in good standing and that they have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Worse still, they champion allowing nurses and physician assistants perform these inherently dangerous surgeries.

Lifesite News has an excellent article on this. From the article:

The American College of Surgeons released the “Statement on Patient Safety Principles for Office-based Surgery Utilizing Moderate Sedation/Analgesia, Deep Sedation/Analgesia, or General Anesthesia.” These are guidelines for all forms of outpatient surgery including eye surgery, plastic surgery, and, yes, “reproductive” surgery.

In 2003, an ACS/AMA (American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association) had a meeting which was chaired by LaMar S. McGinnis, Jr., MD, FACS, of the ACS and Clair Callan, MD, of the AMA. The participants unanimously came to the conclusion that:

“Physicians performing office-based surgery must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a transfer agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or maintain an emergency transfer agreement with a nearby hospital.”

The following groups all signed off on this regulation:

1. Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care
2. American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery,
3. American Academy of Dermatology,
4. American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,
5. American Academy of Ophthalmology,
6. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons,
7. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery,
8. American Academy of Pediatrics,
9. American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities,
10. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,
11. American College of Surgeons,
12. American Medical Association,
13. American Osteopathic Association,
14. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery,
15. American Society for Reproductive Medicine,
16. American Society of Anesthesiologists,
17. American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery,
18. American Society of General Surgeons,
19. American Society of Plastic Surgeons,
20. American Urological Association,
21. Federation of State Medical Boards,
22. Indiana State Medical Society,
23. Institute for Medical Quality-California Medical Association,
24. Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations,
25. Kansas Medical Society,
26. Massachusetts Medical Society,
27. Medical Association of the State of Alabama,
28. Medical Society of the State of New York,
29. Missouri State Medical Association,
30. National Committee for Quality Assurance,
31. Pennsylvania Medical Society, and
32. Society of Interventional Radiology.

In fact, there was not a single organization involved in the meeting that did not agree that board certification should be the standard for all outpatient surgery. It was unanimous.

Note that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists signed on to this, but will no doubt offer up an exception in the case of abortion. It’s always that way with abortion. The need for abortion and abortionists trumps the same set of humane standards practiced in every other branch of medicine. While there are an average of 1.2 million abortions annually in the US, all of which are elective surgeries, consider the following annaul numbers of US surgeries that are not elective, that are immediately life-saving:

Over 230,000 Coronary by-pass surgeries.
Average of 150,000 Breast Cancer Surgeries.
Over 100,000 colon and rectal cancer surgeries.

Just from that small sample, which does not include all other cancers, appendectomies, etc… do we see the surgeons militating for lower standards of care, less accountability, no admitting privileges? These are the truly essential, not optional, lifesaving surgeries.

And what of the cosmetic surgeons, whose procedures are elective? Do we see them militating for lower standards of accountability?

Why is it that the abortion lobby consistently militates for lower standards of care, of accountability? Could it be that a great many abortionists are failed physicians, common butchers?

Where is their care for women?

Where is their professional pride and self-respect?

Why not militate for the highest possible standard of care?

Wasn’t this supposed to be about taking abortions out of the hands of butchers and providing the highest standard of care for women?

Is there a reason why all abortionists should not only be PHYSICIANS (and not nurses and PA’s), but also trained OB’s who are board certified Ob/Gyns in GOOD STANDING?

When did it all change?

Would anyone from the other side care to engage in a dialogue by answering these questions?

Image via medicaldaily.com

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staff_whole

Having spent yesterday reading the secular news accounts of Pope Francis’ recent comments about abortion and homosexuality, and having also read reports from the uber-right, it is distressing to see that people either can’t read or can’t think. This Pope is being undermined left and right.

Literally.

For the rest of us, we can read the Holy Father’s interview here.

According to the illiterati, the Holy Father doesn’t think abortion and homosexuality are worthy of much time and attention, and besides, as he has already said, who is he to judge? For the left, this distortion serves the purpose of eliminating the only significant barrier to the homosexualist and abortion agendas: the Roman Catholic Church. For those to the right of Mussolini, it serves to discredit “the Jesuit”.

In context, here are the Pope’s remarks, begining with the interviewr’s question which frames the response:

I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

 “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

Nothing in that quote contradicts the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s own document, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, promulgated under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

The Pope is also quite correct in saying that we must first address the wounds of people before hammering away at many of the moral issues, and here is where things get thorny.

Doctrinally, dogmatically, the Pope is on solid ground, a groundwork laid by the giants who came before him, from Pius XI to Benedict XVI. He does not need to reformulate what has been articulated so clearly and beautifully. Francis has been sent to show us how to minister to a broken humanity in a way that may well be alien to those whose only approach is moralizing. It begins with the language he employs regarding accompanying the sinner along the road of his life.

That means accepting the person where they are at and then walking the road with them. It means eating and drinking with those whose behaviors are profoundly disturbing to us. Working with street kids for seven years at Covenant House in the 1980’s was a formative experience for me, especially when so many had worked in prostitution. What moved the kids the most was the fact that we were the first people, for many of them, who were nonjudgmental and simply loved them where they were at.

I get where Francis is going with the Church. If John Paul II and Benedict charted the course, Francis is our guide.

Encyclicals are neat, crisp, and clean. Employing their contents with love and not bludgeoning people into submission with them will be the hallmark of this papacy. It is work fraught with the perils of which the Pope speaks when he talks of confessors being too lax or too rigid.

The same goes for the laity.

To those on the right who fear that the situational ethics that tore the Church apart Post-Vtican II has now made its way to the chair of Peter, they need to breathe deeply and accept authentic pastoral direction from the chief shepherd. After all, the Pope is right, we can’t only and always talk of homosexuality, abortion, and contraception. We must address the woundedness that gives rise to these ills.

We in the pro-life movement have prayed for a cure at the root of it all.

Will we now stop our ears and shout down the answer to those prayers?

Will we?

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c-minus-school-letter-grade[1]

In her hit piece against the Pro-Life Movement Ms. Elizabeth Jahr, a senior at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., pens a missive about the perceived colossal waste of money spent by pro-lifers in our annual March on Washington, D.C. Read her article here. My response to Ms. Jahr…

Dear Ms. Jahr,

First, allow me to congratulate you on having had an article accepted for publication in a major and widely respected outlet such as the Christian Science Monitor. Such publication is always an immense source of pride and validation when one is still a student, so heartfelt congratulations!

In your article you stake out some extremely caustic assertions regarding the wisdom and prudential judgement, efficacy and vision of the leadership and membership of the Pro-Life Movement. Inasmuch as you didn’t sugarcoat your critique of us, I will pay you the sincere compliment of addressing you less as a student, and more as a peer. It would do neither the pro-life cause, nor you any justice were I to approach your assertions with kid gloves. So here goes.

On the whole, as arguments go yours was rather hackneyed. It resembeled in tone and substance the assertions that all the money spent on the U.S. space programs could have been better spent on the poor. Of course, such arguments never take into consideration all of the many derivative benefits that satellite technology has brought to developing nations, but I digress.

Your claims that the money spent on travel to the Annual March on Washington could be better spent by serving the actual needs of women in crisis pregnancies is so far beyond the pale that you should blush for having said so. Certainly in your scholarly research for the article you looked at the 3,000+ pregnancy centers in this nation whose daily work includes getting housing, prenatal care, delivery services, food, clothing, diapers, supplies, employment, etc for women in crisis pregnancies.

In the ’80’s I worked for five years with homeless teen mothers at Covenant House in Times Square, NY doing just that. It was there that I met my friend, Chris Bell, who was so appalled that most girls in crisis pregnancies gave their babies up for adoption (for want of life skills training and the resources to keep their children) that he began Good Counsel Homes. At Good Counsel Homes, women may stay for the duration of their pregnancy, and for a year afterward. During that time they take daily life skills training in money management, nutrition, cooking, and every aspect of managing a home, as well as parenting classes and finishing a GED or Community College.

After their stay at Good Counsel, they enter into the Exodus program where their mentor visits their home twice monthly for two years to assure that their growth is secure. Chris runs five of close to five hundred such homes in the U.S. It costs some $600,000 annually per house. Were you aware of the scope of maternity homes and pregnancy centers? In your political science studies, had you been made aware of the efforts afoot in New York City to shut down the pregnancy centers here, and how their fate hangs in the balance in the Court of Appeals? It takes money to fight those battles.

It takes money to keep the maternity homes and pregnancy centers open. Millions and millions of dollars are needed.

The March each year continues to grow, and with that growth comes the great entusiasm, the great fervor that drives the raising of far more money than is spent on the March. Beyond that utilitarian analysis there is something more fundamental that you missed in your hit piece.

Published so close to the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington and “I have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, your article misses the fact that sometimes it just doesn’t matter the cost of calling attention to fundamental injustice and inhumanity. There have been some 57 million babies slaughtered in my lifetime in this country. You would have 600,000 marchers stay home? Really?

You also fail as a political scientist to acknowledge the amount of U.S. taxpayer dollars that already go to supporting women, children and families. Allow me, then, to link to some government data that dwarfs the few million pro-life dollars you place such a premium on.

The tens of millions of dollars donated to pro-life activities is given over and above the trillions of dollars spent annually by the government with the confiscatory taxes taken from pro-lifers and pro-aborts alike.

The first data table comes from the U.S. Department of Agricultire. Expenditures are in $Millions. So take the totals and multiply by $ 1,000,000. I’ll summarize Fiscal Year 2012 here.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program $78.445 Billion

National School Lunch Program $11.578 Billion

School Breakfast Program $3.277 Billion

Special Milk Program $12 Million

Child/Adult Care Food Program $2.855 Billion

Summer Food Service Program $398 Million

Child Nutrition State Administration $203 Million

WIC (Women Infants and Children Supplemental Food) $6.799 Billion

Commodity Supplemental Food $209 Million

Food Distribution on Indian Reservations $97 Million

TEFAP (Emergency Food Assistance) $444 Million

Grand Total: $104.3 BILLION

Then, according to USDA, we spent $78.445 Billion on Food Stamps in 2012.

If that seems like impressive numbers, your weak and anemic argument collapses under the weight of the following numbers whose source is linked here. Based on Fiscal Year 2012, the U.S. Government (not including state and local expenditures) is spending the following:

Welfare $405 Billion (Including $54 Billion for housing and $107 Billion for families and children).

Education $118 Billion

Healthcare $920 Billion

The pregnancy centers never, EVER, turn a woman away and use their funding to help plug women in crisis into these government sources of assistance. So your argument that somehow babies are not being saved for want of resources falls flat. In truth, Planned Parenthhod receives over a third of a billion dollars annually from the Federal Government to keep them afloat. Would that Planned Parenthood did the counseling with that money that pregnancy centers do daily.

No, Ms. Jahr. the issue is not whether we all need to stay home and shut up in January. The issue is not that women are being turned away at pregnancy centers for want of funding. The issue is that our marching has not yet effected the change in law that King’s marching accomplished. But then, it took hundreds of years to end slavery, and over 80 more to end segregation. At age 40, the pro-life movement is only in its adolescence.

The movement is much larger than you might know, very diverse, and quite sophisticated. All on just tens of millions of dollars annually. More marchers attract even more marchers and more money for these groups. I’d be happy to introduce you to several leaders at the national level if you’re truly interested in learning more.

There is no more consequential issue or movement in our time, and your article has placed you on the wrong side of history. We already spend more than enough in tax money to aid women in crisis. We need more centers to reach more women, and fewer abortion clinics to prey on them.

I’m looking forward to your critique of Planned Parenthood and how they spend a billion dollars annually with regard to women in crisis. With so much more money in play, your analysis and proposals should be rather lengthy.

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SO001396

When tsunamis make landfall they can be rebuffed by mighty cliffs of granite, or accommodated by soft sandy beaches which allow the mighty waves to strip them, leaving them disfigured and littered with the tsunami’s wasteful debris and shattered bodies when the floodwaters retreat back into the abyss from whence they came. So it seems that the Church in America, once a towering giant, has become increasingly accommodating to the Culture of Death as it washes over her with impunity.

The examples over the past year alone abound. Revelations in last week’s New York Times that the Archdiocese of New York has been paying for union employees’ contraception and abortion benefits, “under protest,” are just the latest in a string of surrenders.

In this latest disaster, the Archdiocese claims that there is a difference between fighting the HHS Mandate and the union contracts inherited when they got into the latest arrangement. Read the Archdiocese’s refutation here.

Indeed, there is a difference between an illegally imposed government mandate to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion, and willingly staying in the healthcare field where the powerful union drives such services being mandated in the insurance plans.

To what degree is the Archdiocese compelled in all of this? From their statement it is clear that they feel the greater need to remain in the healthcare field because there is a proportionally greater good to be done. The larger moral question is how much good done by the archdiocese washes the blood of a single aborted baby from the diocesen hands that paid for the abortion? How is this argument different from the woman who feels the pressure from family to abort? Or the woman who pervceives the great good that will not be accomplished in her life if the baby prevents her from getting a college education? Is the emotional plight of the abortion-minded woman under duress not more compelling? Yet she incurs automatic excommunication if she knows the penalty. What of those in diocesan offices who maintain the involvement with the unions and write the checks?

Undoubtedly great arguments can be made for all of the good that would not be done if we abandoned the field, but it’s still a proportionalist argument being deployed against moral absolutes. Unfortunately, our opponents have been handed a PR win on this one.

In other matters, the silence of the bishops in the run-up to the scheduled vote in February regarding admitting gay scouts in BSA was deafening. When BSA rescheduled the vote, we had a second chance to speak out against this disastrous move, but neither the bishops, nor the Catholic Commmittee on Scouting condemned it.

A year ago when New York State voted to adopt gay marriage Cardinal Dolan rued that he was caught flat-footed. What can be the excuse of the USCCB on the Boy Scouts? My observations on what is so wrong with that move here.

Through it all, we have witnessed Cardinal Dolan welcoming Vice President Biden to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, going out of his way to assure that he does not declare Governor Cuomo, who is seeking the liberalization of New York’s abortion laws, a Catholic in bad standing. Which means that he is regarded publicly as a Catholic in good standing; abortion and gay marriage notwithstanding.

Are we surrendering on all of these issues? We welcome the “Catholic” politicians with open arms who are at the same time accelerating the implementation of a diabolical agenda.

In this Year of Faith, as our churches continue to empty, an unsolicited thought for our leaders. If fundamental moral truths and goods are not worth fighting for, then don’t be surprised when many find that there isn’t much worth staying for.

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light-in-darkness[1]

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is on trial for his life in Philadelphia because of how he ran his medical clinic, the “Women’s Medical Society” at 3801 Lancaster. That impressive establishmentarian-sounding title belied a business which reflected the abortion philosophy lived to its fullest expression and logical conclusion. In the final analysis, the Gosnell case reveals much more than who Kermit Gosnell is. It has revealed to us who we have become as a nation.

The Grand Jury Report reads like a a horror novel. So callous and cruel is this page-turner that it simply beggars the imagination. In it, the report details how instruments were not sterilized, and were the cheapest disposable instruments reused from patient to patient. In the process, Dr. Gosnell spread disease like a fly. One can only imagine if HIV was spread in his “clinic”.

Women of color were more often than not attended to by Gosnell’s staff of medically untrained and unlicensed personnel, including a fifteen year-old girl who administered anaesthetics, while Dr. Gosnell saw to the white women in slightly less squalid rooms, because as he said, that’s the way the world is. A black man who graduated from Thomas Jefferson Medical College abandoned black women to untrained, unskilled laypeople.

Looking past all of that, the blood-stained blankets, floors, and treatment tables, the toilet bowls women delivered their babies into (A common delivery method at abortuaries elsewhere), there was so much more.

Gosnell was frequently absent as women were being given their abortion procedures, and hundreds of babies were born alive. Here Gosnell would insure that there was no ambulance to come and discover his macabre shop, and here is where his most heartless proclivities became standard operating procedure. He would cut into the backs of these babies’ necks, crush through their spinal columns with scissors, and then sever the cervical spinal cords, essentially producing an internal decapitation. It is not likely that death was instantaneous for all the babies whose brains remained perfused with oxygen until the cessation of heart and lung function.

In the research experiments on rat spinal cords and brains for my MS degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, we worked on rats, and I decapitated quite a few with a special guillotine. Once decapitated, the feet ran in place, the tail twitched violently, and one could see the animals’ eyes still blinking until unconsciousness overcame the animal. It was horrid work and helped motivate me to work with bacteria in my doctoral research. I cannot imagine the pain experienced by these babies undergoing internal decapitation.

Yet, even that begs a deeper analysis. Why are we so repelled by these severings of spinal cords, what Gosnell and his criminal employees glibly referred to as ‘snippings’, as though one were simply gliding through a lock of hair? Why can physicians suck out brains, dismember the babies alive in utero, but be charged with murder for the same barbarism once the baby simply changes location?

Why do we consider the baby a patient in its own right only if it is extruded alive from the birth canal?

Here is where we discover Gosnell the monster is really Gosnell the reflection of American Jurisprudence at its own sublime and depraved worst.

The answer to the questions is simple. We have decided that the same baby, simply by being attached to an umbilical cord is not his/her own person, but an extension of the mother’s body. By that logic, an astronaut doing a spacewalk and connected to the ship by an umbilicus should have no more moral worth than the spacecraft itself. Were a fellow crew member to shut off the air supply intentionally, would they be charged merely with vandalism?

As the major media emerge from their blackout on this case, and the nation tunes in, we find ourselves at an interesting juncture. We are united in horror at the depravity and inhumanity of it all. It is a case that makes us consider the biological reality of the child whose murder would not have been murder if only proper protocol had been followed, and therein lies the madness.

Murder is not murder if proper protocol is followed.

We cannot long survive as a civilization of rational human beings with that sort of mentality. American exceptionalism has been consumed by radicalized autonomy, and in the process biomedical ethics, politics, and common decency have been savaged.

What is sickest about the Gosnell case is that Dr. Gosnell is really us. The only real distinction is that he stepped outside of the boundaries we established for our American psychosis. Abortion can only be permissible if we assuage ourselves with certain boundaries of propriety for the mass murder of our citizens. There is no greater pariah in the asylum than the one who upsets the rhythms of the asylum.

The filthy conditions in that clinic would have been a twenty-four hour news story, as would have been the severed feet in jars. It was the decapitations of babies who could be seen and heard that merited him six of the seven counts of murder. Again, it comes down to a matter of protocol. The baby only becomes a patient when it is extruded from the birth canal, which is a radical departure from the traditional two-patient model of obstretric medicine.

To look into the face of Kermit Gosnell is to look in the American mirror, a rare glimpse of clarity as the fog temporarily lifts from the mirror. With more than fifty-five million babies aborted in forty years, it is time to use the Gosnell trial as an opportunity for some national soul-searching. But will we, or have those parameters for the national psychosis become too fixed and immovable? Will we offer up Gosnell as a sacrificial offering, a way to assure ourselves of the validity and functionality of the boundaries of psychosis that were breached?

One wonders.

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“No exceptions. No compromise.”

That is the goal of every true pro-life citizen when it comes to abortion legislation. Rape, incest, and the life/health of the mother have been wedge issues that have been used to establish the principle for acceptable/legal abortion that have led to the more liberalized laws accounting for 55+ Million abortions over the past 40 years.

While “No exceptions. No compromise,” are the goal, the question arises as to an appropriate response to legislative proposals that have the standard exceptions language written into them. Can Christians in general, and Catholics in particular support legislation that seeks to limit the extent of this grave moral evil, without abolishing it altogether? Can it ever be acceptable to use the same language of rape, incest, and life of the mother to severely and immediately restrict abortion, just as they were once used to establish abortion?

To hear some in the pro-life movement, the answer is an emphatic, “NO!”

The powerful witness by many who were conceived in rape is a vital ministry and has won many hearts and minds by giving a face, identity, and human story to those who are singled out for destruction because of the circumstances surrounding their conception. But some use an emotional arm-twisting tactic, wherein they say that support of exceptions clauses means that the supporter would have had them aborted.

It’s flawed logic, and counter-productive. It’s meant to shut down opposition, but in reality it frequently shuts down productive and vital dialogue.

Nobody would support the rape that led to the activists’ conceptions, but that doesn’t mean that such a moral position means we are implicitly wishing they had never been conceived. In the same way, if it can be shown that it is morally acceptable to embrace pragmatic, incremental legislation as the best available means of limiting abortion en route to abolishing it altogether, it does NOT suggest an implicit endorsement of the abortions allowed in the exceptions clauses.

Here is where Pope John Paul II added much-needed clarity in his 1995 Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.:

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

{Emphasis added, G.N.}

Thus, in the ordinary teaching of the Catholic Church, it is permissible to limit the grave evil of abortion if incremental legislation is the only currently available option.

For those who say, “It’s not up to me to say who lives and who dies,” my own opinion is that the polar opposite is true. What we must first realize is that the current liberal application of abortion is the default condition.

What we are offered, frequently, is a compromise law that would restrict, but not eliminate abortion. In other words, we are being offered the lives of the babies not conceived through rape and incest (which are the vast majority of abortions). For many who can’t see this reality, they turn down the opportunity to save tens of millions until the day comes when they can save the remaining thousands. In the interim, the millions who could have been saved perish with the thousands who could not.

This because some pro-lifers wanted an all-or-none reality. Such an approach would be intolerable in a police hostage negotiator, but in certain pro-life quarters it is the epitome of virtue.

Pope John Paul II helped us see that the moral Magisterium of the Catholic Church sees it differently.

We abhor EVERY abortion, but are loathe to ignore the lives being offered to us through less than perfect legislation. Along with the missed opportunity to save millions, there is another missed opportunity.

A derivative benefit of incremental legislation is the conditioning, or forming, of the public conscience about the sanctity of pre-born human life. Outlawing the majority of abortions becomes a societal statement that elevates the public conscience. It is precisely through that elevated conscience that society will come to an appreciation for the humanity of those conceived in rape or incest.

If, unlike Superman who is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, we cannot achieve our aim in a single stroke, it remains for us to take the stairs.

Thank you, Pope John Paul II, for your enduring witness to the moral Magisterium of the Church.

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