By Christine Flowers
Recently, I’ve had occasion to contemplate the value of life at its extreme edges. I’m talking about the moments when we see it bursting into the world, fresh from its mother’s womb, “trailing clouds of glory,” as Wordsworth wrote.
I’m also talking, and personally, about those moments when life is a faint shadow of that former glory, the final moments of a magnificent life that is on the verge of ending. To me, humanity is not measured by what we look like, what we are able to contribute, our ability to speak, feel, see or create. To me, life simply exists on a beautiful continuum, and each stage of that continuum is precious.
In my mother’s last days, she was as dear to me, if not more, than when we took that trip together to Paris and London, and shared laughter, beauty and croissants. As I approached losing her, my appreciation for her weighty presence in my own life took on exponentially greater proportions.
Similarly, when I saw that newborn baby and his blue-eyed, red-cheeked radiance, I understood that God is present from the moment when life comes into us, well before we are actually born, and carries through to the actual stages of conscious living.
Maybe it’s because of what I recently went through, birth and then death, but I found myself actually shaking in anger this week when I read the story about noted atheist Richard Dawkins, who tweeted out the following comment to a woman who wanted to know whether she should abort a child if the “fetus” had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome:
“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”
Those comments, which are sadly typical of both Dawkins and those who follow him, triggered a storm of criticism, which is a very good sign. It shows that there are human beings out there who seem to have learned some vague lesson from the Holocaust.
Dawkins, in typical pretentious academic style, provided a later “apology” that was anything but. He attempted to explain that his answer was limited by the 140-character requirement of Twitter and that he really wanted to explain in more detail why he thought … that a Down Syndrome life was expendable.
Of course, he didn’t say it that way. If you listen to most people who support abortion rights, they are very cautious about coming right out and saying that some lives are not worth living. But the sentiment, and its significance, were obvious to those of us who can read between the lines and hear those high-pitched ethical dog whistles.
The most interesting part of Dawkins’ “apology” was his closing comment, where he states: “To conclude what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse.”
This is exactly what many of those in the pro-choice movement don’t want anyone to hear. I don’t think Dawkins was actually wrong in “presuming” that a majority of his fellow travelers would think it’s okay for a woman to abort a child that was not “perfect” from a biological perspective.
While we have been conditioned to believe that a woman has the right to “terminate” a pregnancy for any reason whatsoever in the earliest stages of the pregnancy, and can even seek an abortion up to the moment of birth in specific and limited medical cases, it should still cause evolved and compassionate human beings pain to think that aborting a child who might have mental and physical limitations but who is capable of great love and a great life, is okay.
It is not okay. It is not anywhere near “okay.” It is pushing up and into that region of acceptance that led Dr. Josef Mengele to conduct his experiments to develop “better” classes of humanity. It is exactly the sort of philosophy that convinced Margaret Sanger to argue for the sterilization of the poor and the dim-witted (thank God we no longer use that term) because having them reproduce would infect the populace.
People who support abortion rights hate it when someone points out the Mengele connection, and always make sure to defend the honor of Planned Parenthood’s founder. I understand why they do that, because it is troubling to be associated with a philosophy that finds human life to be expendable if it’s not perfect or convenient.
Many who support abortion will tell you that they do not believe in the humanity of the fetus, much less a three-week embryo. …
But I wonder if it isn’t a chicken-egg problem. Could it be that we now question the humanity of the imperfect, unproductive or dying human because we want to justify our belief that convenience trumps compassion? I consider a life that is slowly being extinguished by illness to be magnified in its value, because it teaches us that departures can be filled with as much grace as the years of vitality. I also consider a life that is forming in the womb to be beautiful because of the promise it holds for that future vitality.
And I consider children afflicted with a syndrome that renders them slower but not stilled, limited in body but not spirit, needy but capable of immense love, to be worthy of a life among us. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not worthy to sit at the bedside of a dying person, hold a baby in her arms, teach a child to ride a bike or bring a life into this waiting, sometimes undeserving world.
Editor’s note. This appeared at the Delaware County Daily Times and is reprinted with the author’s permission.