Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Senior Vatican cardinal, Renato Martino, condemned the building of a fence between the U.S. and Mexico as an “inhuman program.” Whatever your views on immigration policy and the building of this fence, shame on the cardinal for belittling the word “inhuman.” No one is being harmed in the least, so how can he legitimately use the word inhuman to describe it? Inhuman is what Hitler did to the Jews. Either Martino doesn’t know what inhuman is, or he is just using rhetoric. My guess is the latter, and I find it despicable.


I find it ridiculous to say a sovereign nation cannot define and protect its borders by building a fence. Apparently, the cardinal thinks it’s wrong to prevent anyone from entering the country who may want to come here. Indeed, if we can’t have a fence, I don’t see how we can have border agents either. In either case we are preventing people from coming into this country illegally (one method is simply more effective than the other). Martino thinks we should just open up our doors, and allow millions of poor people from Mexico and South America flood into our country, overwhelm the job market, and overwhelm our social services until we become bankrupt. I wonder if he would feel the same about the Vatican City?

Attorney, Tracy Mehan III, wrote a good article on partial birth abortion. One paragraph is of particular note: “And consider the first time you and your spouse saw the ultrasound pictures of your child, pre-viability. One of you didn’t say, ‘Oh look, Honey, it’s our fetus!’ No one calls an unborn child a fetus except when the subject of abortion comes up. Then the mental filters go up, screening out the humanity of the being about to be destroyed.”

Elton John displays the sort of intolerance we find so often among the Leftist preachers of tolerance. He would like to ban religion completely.


Last Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gonzalez vs. Carhart, one of two partial birth abortion cases. I am opposed to partial birth abortion, and I am persuaded that the Supreme Court should give deference to Congress’ decision to ban the practice. Having said that, some of the oral arguments offered by the government’s lawyer, General Paul Clement, were logically torturous. I actually found myself agreeing more with the logic of Justice Ginsberg (extreeeeme leftist) than I did with the guy representing my point of view. Here’s a reproduction of their exchange:

GENERAL CLEMENT: Congress was entitled to make a judgment in furthering its legitimate interests that they were going to ban a particularly gruesome procedure that blurred the line between abortion and infanticide.


JUSTICE GINSBURG: General Clement, couldn’t a similar record be made with respect to what is the more common procedure, the D&E that involves dismemberment of a fetus inside the womb. So assuming you’re right that it is constitutional for Congress to ban the D&X proceeding, wouldn’t the same reasoning apply, couldn’t Congress make similar findings with respect to what is the most common method for second trimester abortions?


GENERAL CLEMENT: I don’t think so, Justice Ginsburg, and I think that this Court’s precedence, in particular the Danforth case, would stand as an obstacle to that piece of legislation, because in Danforth, this Court struck down an effort to ban what was then the majority method of inducing a second term abortion. And I think in the same way, there is quite a different situation when Congress comes in and tries to deal with the primary abortion method in the second trimester. Here, though, Congress didn’t go after the dog, so to speak, it went after the tail. This very aberrant procedure, atypical procedure. And the numbers are hard to come by, but I don’t think anybody suggests that the D&X procedure is anything more than a very small minority of second trimester abortions. And so I do think –


JUSTICE GINSBURG: Even though we are told by some of the medical briefs that the procedure is basically the same, they start out in the same way and that the difference — the differences are not large in particular cases.


GENERAL CLEMENT: Well, Justice Ginsburg, let me make a couple of points in response to that. I think — taken at the broader level first, I think there is one very important difference between these two procedures that led Congress to ban one and allow the other to stand. And that is whether fetal demise takes place in utero, which is, of course, the hallmark of all abortions, or whether fetal demise takes place when the fetus is more than halfway out of the mother.

. . .

JUSTICE SCALIA: Would it, would it be lawful or would it be infanticide to deliver the fetus entirely and just let it expire without any attempt to keep it alive?


GENERAL CLEMENT: Well, in the post-viability context it would clearly be, it would clearly be infanticide. I think in the pre-viability context, if you have a complete delivery but the child isn’t going to survive, I don’t think it would be infanticide to necessarily let the child expire –




GENERAL CLEMENT: But I do think by contrast if somebody tried to, with the fetus, you know, perfectly alive and in the hours that it might have to live, if somebody came in and ripped its head open, I think we’d call that murder, and in fact Congress passed another statute –


JUSTICE GINSBURG: General Clement, that’s not what this case is about, because I think you have recognized, quite appropriately, that we’re not talking about whether any fetus will be preserved by this legislation. The only question that you are raising is whether Congress can ban a certain method of performing an abortion. So anything about infanticide, babies, all that, is just beside the point because what this bans is a method of abortion. It doesn’t preserve any fetus because you just do it inside the womb instead of outside.


GENERAL CLEMENT: Justice Ginsberg, that’s right, but I don’t think that’s to trivialize Congress’s interest in maintaining a bright line between abortion and infanticide. And the way I would illustrate it is that line, even if you might think it has a temporal line, in the sense that viability versus previability is relevant, it clearly has a spatial dimension as well and the best illustration of that I think is think about a lawful post-viability abortion. There is a problem with the mother’s health, there is a problem with her life so it’s a lawful post-viability abortion. I don’t think that anybody thinks that the law is or should be indifferent to whether in that case fetal demise takes place in utero or outside the mother’s womb. The one is abortion, the other is murder. And I think that just recognizes that even in the post-viability context you have a very important line which is a spatial line, and that line is basically in womb, outside of womb, and what Congress tried to do in this statute is to draw that line and differentiate between one procedure where fetal demise takes place in utero –


JUSTICE GINSBURG: But if this case were limited to post-viability abortions it would be a different matter. But isn’t it so that the vast majority of these abortions are going to be performed pre-viability?


GENERAL CLEMENT: I think that’s probably right, Justice Ginsburg, but I think the point I would make is that Congress has an interest in maintaining the spatial line between infanticide and abortion, even with respect to pre-viability fetuses and that’s true for at least two reasons. [Clement was interrupted at this point, and from my reading of the transcripts, I do not see where he ever returned to his point.]

This dialogue evokes a question. What is the government trying to preserve: the definition of “infanticide” or moral sensibility? If the former, why should we be overly concerned? Definitions commonly change with use over time. If the latter, how can the government argue D&X abortions are wrong while D&E abortions are permissible? Justice Ginsberg nailed Clement on this point.


Clement said partial birth abortion (D&X) is a “gruesome procedure” that should be banned. Ginsberg asked why the D&E procedure should not be banned as well. Is dismembering a fetus from limb to limb in utero any less gruesome than partially delivering the fetus, puncturing a whole in its skull, and sucking its brains out? In each case the same “thing” is being killed. The harm done to the fetus is about equal (arguably the D&E procedure is more gruesome because the baby is chopped up in pieces, wherein the D&X procedure there is just one quick puncture to the head). The only real difference between the two procedures is the location of the fetus when it is killed. But how is the location of the fetus morally relevant? If I kill a man on the street by stabbing him in the head, is that any less evil than if I killed that same man in his house by cutting him up in pieces? Hardly! In either case an innocent human being has been killed. The location and manner of his death is irrelevant. Likewise with abortion.


Of course, this assessment hinges on whether the unborn are human beings in the same manner as the man in my example. Ironically that was the one question Roe never answered. But science has answered this question, and without controversy the unborn are human beings. If they are human beings, the unborn should not be killed in any manner whatsoever, regardless of their location and size.


How did Clement respond to Ginsberg’s question? By saying the spatial line between D&E and D&X abortions is vital to maintaining a bright line between abortion and infanticide. I agree in principle, but I think this is a rather weak justification. Indeed, the journey down the birth canal is the last remaining conceptual barrier between traditional concepts of abortion and infanticide. If that barrier gives way, the distinction between the two will give way as well. But how significant is this logically speaking? Why is the line important to begin with? If you can kill a baby in the womb one day before it is born, why can’t you kill that same baby one day after it is born? Has anything changed except its location? Birth may be a simple and practical demarcation line to distinguish between legal and illegal killing, but there is no biological or philosophical basis to see it as anything more than that. Nothing magically happens to the unborn in its journey down the 8” birth canal that magically turns it from non-human to human, non-valuable to valuable, and having no right to life to having a right to life.


Is killing a two month old baby outside the womb any less evil than killing a two month old baby inside the womb? It may not be as emotionally outrageous, but the two are morally equivalent because in both cases the same thing is being killed: a valuable and innocent human being. The only difference between the two is their location and level of development at the time of death. Just because they are small and hidden behind a veil of flesh does not mean they are any less valuable, or that the taking of their life is any less evil.


To argue against partial birth abortion on the grounds that it’s important for us to maintain a bright line between abortion and infanticide assumes abortion and infanticide are two different things—not by definitional convention (which is true), but ontologically and morally. But why should we accept that distinction? Who’s to say killing the baby in the womb using the D&E method should not be considered infanticide (particularly when we are talking about a post-viability fetus)? Who says infanticide only applies outside the womb to post-viable fetuses? Maybe the definition of infanticide should be expanded to include the unborn, rather than expanding the definition of abortion to include the partially born. To say the killing of an embryo/fetus in the womb is abortion—not infanticide—begs the question. If abortion is a form of infanticide because it kills an immature human being, then we don’t need to maintain a bright line between abortion and infanticide because there is no line to be had in the first place (and remember, I am arguing logically and morally, not legally).


Of course, it could be that General Clement understands this. It could be that he knows D&E is just as barbaric as D&X, and that the logic of his argument should apply to both D&X and D&E. It could be that the government is doing exactly what I blogged on a few days ago: using the incremental approach to morals legislation. I can’t be certain. Either way, I hope Clement wins the case for the U.S. government.


One final remark. Did you notice the euphemism being used to describe all of this?: “fetal demise.” Oh how we can make something so ugly sound so benign. What’s next, gunning down a man on the street will be known as “adult demise”?


One more final remark (smile): Justice Stevens said, “Whether the feet are more than halfway out, and some of these fetuses I understand in the procedure, are only four or five inches long. They are very different from fully formed babies.” This is why the Court needs to stick to interpreting the law rather than making it. Biologists and philosophers are cringing everywhere. What a foolish statement.

I recently visited Lee Strobel’s website and discovered an amazing library of short video clips providing answers to tough theological and apologetic questions from all the big hitters. It’s worth a visit.


Bisexuals present an interesting dilemma to advocates of same sex marriage. They argue that people should be allowed to marry according to their natural preferences: men who naturally prefer relationships with men should be allowed to marry a man; women who naturally prefer relationships with women should be allowed to marry a woman. But in the case of bisexuals, they naturally prefer both men and women. Given the principle of their argument, how can they deny bisexuals the right to marry two people (polygamy)? If they deny them that right they do so only by contradicting their guiding principle. If they are consistent and grant them that right they risk being ostracized by the moral majority of this country who think polygamy is wrong. Heads they lose, tails they lose.


Bisexuals present yet another challenge to the arguments advanced in favor of same-sex marriage. Many same-sex marriage advocates argue that gays should be able to marry someone of the same sex because their sexual desires are not chosen, and it would be unfair to deprive them of the good of marriage given that fact. Dennis Prager asks a fair question to those who make this argument: “Should a bisexual be able to marry someone of the same-sex?” If the person answers in the negative they are violating their principle that people should be able to marry according to their natural preferences. If they answer in the affirmative they reveal that their argument is a front. One cannot argue that same-sex couples should be able to marry because they have no choice in their sexual desires, and argue that those who do have a choice (bisexuals) should be able to marry someone of the same sex as well. Either the ground for same-sex marriage is the lack of sexual choice or it is not. The fact of the matter is that the “no choice” argument is typically a front for a more basic, libertarian view that people should be able to do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But if that is the basis for promoting same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage advocates would do well to just say so.

Things keep getting worse across the pond. Britain, a world leader in bioethical depravity, is edging closer to the Brave New World. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has made an inquiry to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics to allow the active euthanization of severely disabled newborn babies. They argue that the option to actively euthanize these babies (infanticide) will promote the overall good of families by sparing them the emotional and financial burdens associated with raising these types of children, and will prevent some late-term abortions. They wrote in their submission, “We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test and active euthanasia as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns.”


Medical advocates are turning the moral question on its head by asserting that it would be wrong to allow certain children to live. Joy Delhanty of University College London said, “I think it is morally wrong to strive to keep alive babies that are then going to suffer many months or years of very ill health.”


Bioethics professor at Manchester University, John Harris, justified the idea on the basis of existing abortion logic: “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” Harris is absolutely right. The logic of those who support abortion up to birth but not immediately after birth is unprincipled. The correction, however, will not be found in permitting the killing of newborn babies as well as the unborn, but in prohibiting both.


Thankfully there are still some morally sane intellectuals left in England. John Wyatt, a consulting neonatologist at University College London spoke out against the proposal saying, “Intentional killing is not part of medical care. . . . The majority of doctors and health professionals believe that once you introduce the possibility of intentional killing into medical practice you change the fundamental nature of medicine. It immediately becomes a subjective decision as to whose life is worthwhile.”


The Netherlands have already sanctioned the practice in what they call the Groningen Protocol. There was international outrage when the Protocol was proposed. Like so many other issues, the first time it happens there is outrage. The second and subsequent occasions there is silence. So far there is silence on Britain’s proposal.


I wonder if we—both Americans in general and the church in particular—really understand what is happening in our world. Do we really understand that doctors are wanting to kill newborn babies they deem unworthy of life, and where the philosophy that allows this leads? We’re making some of the same intellectual and political moves as Nazi Germany. We want to rid our world of the undesirables: the old and sick, the unwanted unborn, and the severely disabled. It’s a pursuit of perfect humanity in a perfect world. Ideological utopias always end in death of untold millions. When will we wake up to see what is happening, and that we are allowing it to be done in the name of science? I am truly afraid for the future of our world. Moral depravity is picking up momentum. What was once called evil is now called good, and what was once called good is now called evil. God warned us of this day. It is here.

Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania have placed speaking in tongues under the microscope. Their conclusion: brain scans confirm the sort of experience described by the practitioners. The area of the brain associated with volition and language was relatively inactive, while the consciousness region of the brain was not. Check out the article (free registration required).

Thanks go to Max for bringing this article to my attention.