Tuesday, June 25, 2019
British Judge Rules Mentally Disabled Woman Must Abort Her Baby: The Frightening, Coercive Power of the State on Full Display
The headline came from London, but it should serve as a warning all over the world. The New York Times headline: “Mentally Disabled Woman Must Have An Abortion, A British Court Rules.” Yonette Joseph reports for The Times, "A British court ordered an abortion for a mentally disabled woman against her, and her mother's wishes, with the judge calling the decision heartbreaking, but in the best interest of the woman who is 22 weeks pregnant." Joseph continues to report, "The unidentified woman who lives in London is in her 20s and has the mental capacity of a six to nine year old child according to evidence presented last week at the court in London. The circumstances of the pregnancy were unclear the court was told, and a police investigation was underway."
The most important, and troubling part of the article comes later, "Justice Nathalie Lieven handed down the decision at the court of protection which hears cases on issues relating to people who are considered to lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves." The judge said, "I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears she doesn't want it is an immense intrusion." But, The New York Times said the judge said she had to act in the woman's "best interest not on society's views of termination."
Let's just consider what we're dealing with here. This is a news story in the New York Times datelined from London, but the story understandably has ricocheted all over the civilized world, precisely, because it is so shocking. Here you have a judge ordering that a woman undergo an abortion even though she does not want the abortion, she wants to have her child, even though her mother who is her guardian also does not want the woman to undergo an abortion. She has promised that she will raise the child. But now you have a court officer, a judge in this case, declaring that she knows best, and with the power of the British government, she has ordered this woman against her will, and her mother's will to undergo an abortion.
The statement made by the judge excerpted in The New York Times is so shocking. We have to go back to it. She said again, "I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears she doesn't want it is an immense intrusion." An immense intrusion? That's Orwellian language. What does immense intrusion mean? This is not an immense intrusion, this is a horrifying abrogation of basic human rights and basic human dignity, the rights of the pregnant woman, her dignity, and her humanity, the rights of the unborn child who's basically invisible in the judge's decision, and that baby's integrity, that baby's dignity, that baby's right to live.
Speaking of the judge's statement, and that language of immense intrusion, Ryan Everson, writing for the Washington Examiner rightly observes, "If the government can force you to abort your child, is there any limit to its power?" Everson also helpfully explain some of the background "The pregnant mother and her family do not want an abortion, but she is under the care of a division of the UKs National Health Service, thus why this matter has gone to court, and why they have not already gotten one." But, because the pregnant mother is mentally challenged, the judge said, "I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll." That language is not only condescending, it's absolutely horrifying.
We're talking about a judge determining that she can read the inner state of a pregnant mother, and then, overrule the mother's desire to have her baby, dismissing it as simply the desire to have a beautiful baby like a beautiful doll. The pregnant woman's mother also expressed the fact that this abortion would run contrary to her Catholic morality, and she also promised to raise the child herself. The lawyer for the state in this case the National Health Service pressing for the coerced abortion speaking of the pregnant women said, "A termination is in her best interest" And then, speaking of the government officials with the National Health Service who were pressing for the abortion, she said, "In broad terms, they believe that as a result of her,” meaning the pregnant woman's, “learning disabilities, she is likely to find the loss of a pregnancy easier to recover from a separation from the baby if he or she is taken into care.”
Notice what's going on here. Now, you have the lawyer for Britain's National Health Service, saying that she believes and those in the government believe that this woman will be less traumatized by the termination of her pregnancy, than from having the baby once born taken away from her. How do they know that? How do they presume to know that? And, even if they do know that, we're supposed to believe that that justifies the killing of the unborn child? But, notice something in that statement from the attorney arguing for the coerced killing of the child. The attorney made the reference to the unborn child as he or she, not an it. That was, you can be sure, a mistake. But, nonetheless it is a revealing mistake, because that unborn child in this woman is indeed a he or a she, not only that, but a human being made in the image of God.
But there is another dimension of this story that thoughtful Christians need to consider carefully, and that is the warning in this story about the coercive power of the state. You have people in the United States calling for a single-payer health care system, and in particular a single-payer system that is tax funded, and run by the government, a form of nationalized health service. Well, just consider this warning coming from Britain. If you do have a government run health care service, it has the coercive power of the government behind it.
And, in these events in Britain just consider how coercive the government power is. The New York Times tells us "The woman and her mother identified by news reports as a former midwife from Nigeria are against terminating the pregnancy, with the older woman offering to care for the child according to the court and news media reports. The woman's lawyers and a social worker also objected to terminating the pregnancy." Yet nonetheless, a division of Britain's National Health Service went to court to argue for the coerced termination of this pregnancy, the killing of the unborn child over against the advice and the counsel and the pleadings of a social worker, the woman's attorneys, the woman herself, and the woman's mother.
As citizens, we had better be very careful what we ask for if we do ask for a government-run health care service, then guess what? It's going to be a government-run health care service run as efficiently as the government runs everything else, run by the same kind of coercive power that the government uses in other dimensions of life. But there's something else in this story that also should have our attention. This is not an issue that seems to interest many in the mainstream media, and it comes down to the fact that not only do we have in this account a pregnant woman who's identified as having diminished mental capacities, but there appears to be the concern that the baby might share those very same limited mental capacities, and we don't have to look far for evidence of where the mentality of the culture of death is taking us.
Babies diagnosed as having the likelihood of Down syndrome are now routinely aborted. Not long ago, a news report came saying that there are now virtually no babies with Down syndrome born in Iceland, not one, none. This dimension of the story does show up in a sense in the New York Times report, "Under Britain's 1967 Abortion Act, abortions can be performed up to the 24th week of pregnancy. A section of the Abortion Act allows the termination of a pregnancy if there is a significant risk of the babies being born seriously disabled. Otherwise, abortions must take place during the first six months of pregnancy." The next sentence, "The Disability Rights Commission denounced that portion of the Act in 2001, calling it discriminatory, and 'offensive to many people.'" Indeed, it should be offensive. Here you have the resonance of the old Nazi principle of Lebensunwertes Leben, of “life unworthy of life.”
One final thought, just consider the fact that when you think of cultures and societies, it is hard to imagine a society that is closer to the United States than the United Kingdom, particularly England. We recall Winston Churchill describing what he called, the English speaking peoples, and the unique bond and worldview that binds us together. There are many Americans who would say, "This can't happen here." And, perhaps right now, it can't happen here, but that doesn't mean that it won't happen here. This appears to be the kind of news story that we would expect to be datelined from a context of a totalitarian regime, but it's not. It's coming from the United Kingdom, but that does not make this story less frightening, but rather more.
The Charade of the ‘Pro-Choice’ Movement Is No More: Evaluating the Common Arguments of the Pro-Abortion Movement
I want to turn to another article next that also appeared in the New York Times. This one indicates something very important about our culture and its direction. John Irving is a prominent novelist, most famous for his fourth novel The World According to Garp. He also wrote a novel years ago entitled The Cider House Rules that has a great deal to do with America's debate over abortion, but in the op-ed piece published in yesterday's edition of The Times, Irving is arguing that America has gone back and forth on the issue of abortion. He describes in the United States what he calls “the anti-abortion crusade’s cruel history."
Now, I want to look at his article precisely because you are likely to encounter these arguments elsewhere. He writes, for example, "Amid the anti-abortion measures being pushed through state legislatures consider the mazy history of abortion in the United States. Women,” he writes, "capable of determining and managing their reproductive rights have been undermined by men in power before." That's quite a loaded lead. Let's see where it goes.
Well, here's the next paragraph, "Prior to the 1840s abortion was widespread and not illegal in our country." He goes on to say, "The defining issue during this period was quickening when movement was detected inside the woman's womb." He then wrote, "Our founding fathers got this right the choice to have an abortion or a child belong to the woman."
But that's really historical fiction, and there's something huge looming in the background here. If you're going to go back to this period of time, we have to recognize it is before modern medicine, it is before antibiotics, it is before modern obstetrics and gynecology, it is before the ability to determine that a woman actually was pregnant considerably before there was the quickening or the movement of the baby in the womb. Throughout most of human history, that event has been the most universal sign of a pregnancy. He goes on to argue amazingly enough that abortion in the United States was morally stigmatized by physicians because they wanted basically to have a monopoly on the business of guiding the birth of babies, taking the business away from midwives.
Irving writes, "We don't know the doctors’ reasons for making abortion illegal. In the 1840s,” he writes, "the fetus wasn't yet sacred. Fetal life was still defined by quickening, when the woman felt the fetus move not before the fourth or fifth month." Again, I've explained why, that was largely universal. Speaking of his novel, The Cider House Rules, he writes, "It took 14 years to make the film of The Cider House Rules. I won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Over time, it's more meaningful to me that the movie also won a Maggie Award, named after Planned Parenthood's founder Margaret Sanger in recognition of 'exceptional achievement and support of reproductive rights.'" Just consider the astounding claim that's being made here. The worldview is actually laid bare. Here you have a man who tells us that he's far more proud of his Maggie Award, even than his Academy Award, his Oscar.
His worldview is also revealed when he writes, "I respect your personal reasons not to have an abortion. No one is forcing you to have one." Let's just pause there and say, well, that's not true anymore, is it? But then he continues, "I respect your choice. I'm pro-choice, often called pro-abortion by the anti-abortion crusaders, though no one is pro-abortion." I stop again. It might have been plausible at least politically, if not morally, to make that argument some time ago, but not anymore, not after we've seen state legislatures such as the General Assembly in New York move to legalize abortion at virtually every point during a pregnancy, not since we have seen similar legislation in state after state including now Rhode Island, and also, Illinois, not after just this past Saturday, we saw the twenty most significant Democratic candidates for the 2020 Presidential Nomination fall all over themselves to make the most extreme arguments about abortion because they want to be seen as most pro-abortion.
Consider the fact that the pro-abortion movement is now saying that there should be no stigma to abortion because there should be no shame in it, not after the Democratic Party is now openly calling for the end to the Hyde Amendment, meaning that they will now coerce the American taxpayer to pay for abortion, not after you have women in a calling out movement to one another saying, "I had an abortion, and I'm not ashamed of it."
This is not a pro-choice movement, this is a pro-abortion movement, and in truth it has been so from the beginning. If you go back to the case made by the lawyers arguing for abortion in the Roe v. Wade case in the early 1970s, they were arguing that abortion was necessary in order for women to have equality with men. If it's necessary for equality, it's not something that later democrats would say should be “safe, legal and rare.” If it's a good thing, then it shouldn't be rare. It's not a pro-choice movement, it's a pro-abortion movement.
Later in the article Irving writes, "Before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision the opposition to abortion wasn't widely referred to as a right to life." He roots that language in an encyclical from 1951 by Pope Pius the 12th. It was entitled, “Addressed To Midwives On The Nature of Their Profession.” The Pope stated then in 1951, "Every human being even the child in the womb has the right to life directly from God and not from his parents, not from any society, or human authority."
But, even as that statement is profoundly true, it cannot honestly be said to be the rootage of the historic argument in defense of a baby's right to life or for that matter a human being's basic right to life. Just consider the entire consensus of medieval theology that made that abundantly clear. Irving went on to accuse Christian pro-lifers of sacralizing the fetus, but let's look at that carefully. We as Christians do not sacralize anything. Sacralizing means to be made holy or sacred, set apart. We do not do that. Only a holy God can make anything holy, but we recognize that when he says, "Let there be life," it is thus a holy life because the Creator himself is holy. It is his holy gift. In the great clash of worldviews in which we are now engaged, we must recognize that we are dealing with matters of life and death. Just consider where we began today's edition of The Briefing, and consider where we have gone since then.
Developer of ‘The Pill’ Dies at 102: A Look at George Rosenkranz and the Medical Moral History of the 21st Century
But next, we recognize that this development takes place within a common historical and moral context with other developments, and as we look to an obituary published in yesterday's edition of The Times. It's by Robert D. McFadden. The headline: “George Rosenkranz, Part of a Team That Developed Birth Control Pill, Dies at 102.” The obituary reminds us that Rosenkranz was a Jewish man; he was also a chemical engineer trained in Switzerland. He fled fascism in Europe as World War II was beginning, and he went to Cuba. He used his scientific background there to establish a laboratory that did experimentation with human hormones developing drugs.
As the article tells us, "In the early 1950s, a race was on among pharmaceutical competitors to crack the chemical code for an ovulation restraint." That means an oral medical contraceptive, a contraceptive that at least in theory would operate by preventing a woman from ovulating, and thus preventing pregnancy. The Rosenkranz team, however, was not originally working on this quest for a contraceptive. Ironically, it was working on the challenge of infertility, but of course, it's the very same system, and once hormonal controls were found to work in one direction, they could conceivably work in the other direction as well. At the end of his life on Sunday at age 102 Rosenkranz could look back on a social and moral and sexual revolution that he had helped largely to fuel. It is impossible to imagine the sexual revolution and modern America without ‘the pill,’ without the oral contraceptive.
McFadden right rightly, "The use of ‘the pill’ spread rapidly leading to vast economic and social effects. Women gained unprecedented control over fertility separating sex from procreation. Couples were able to plan pregnancies and regulate the size of their families. Women could plan their education, and careers, but," he writes, “’the pill’ also generated intense debates over promiscuity and the morality of birth control."
Well, of course, those debates came, because the sexual revolution couldn't have happened without ‘the pill,’ and in one sense, once ‘the pill’ was made available it was inevitable that the sexual and moral revolutions would happen, and the article actually includes the words that point to the reason why ‘the pill’ allowed the separation of sex and procreation. Let's just know that that had never been possible in human history before. You can draw a line in which you can say everything goes before, or after. The development of ‘the pill’ is one of those lines. Only then, basically in 1960 and forward, did human beings have any kind of technological control that would separate sex from procreation, but once that separation took place, you basically redefined human sexuality—again that bright line in human history. Just consider how the development of ‘the pill’ not only did what this article says, allowing married couples in some sense to have control over how many children they would have and when, it also gave technological authorization to adultery and premarital sex and extramarital sex and just about everything you can imagine.
The sexual revolution was certainly lucrative for Dr. Rosenkranz. He would move to Mexico and become the research director of Syntex. He would also later become CEO, and he became effectively a billionaire. He was also a world ranked bridge player, and in 1984 at a very well publicized tournament, his wife was kidnapped, later ransomed for a million dollars.
Amazingly enough, the obituary reports that Mrs. Rosenkranz survives him. Next year they would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. Rosenkranz himself took a rather technocratic view of the birth control revolution of which he was so much apart. He said, "I leave to others any debate about the ultimate worth of the pill." He continued, "We must never forget that original research is the lifeblood of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry and that an interdisciplinary team effort is the indispensable motor of significant research achievement."
Missing from that statement, explicitly missing is any recognition of the moral impact of the pill as well as other pharmaceuticals in the technological revolution that Dr. Rosenkranz helped to lead, but here in just one obituary is much of the history of the 20th century into the 21st, not only medically but morally.
‘Free’ Never Means Free: Identifying Moral Risk in Bernie Sanders’s Student Loan Debt Proposal
Finally, we turn to a story of domestic American politics and the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story with a headline “Sanders,” meaning Senator Bernie Sanders, “Proposes Canceling Entire $1.6 Trillion in U.S. Student Loan Debt, Escalating Democratic Policy Battle.”
Just consider the opening to this article, "Senator Bernie Sanders proposed on Monday eliminating all $1.6 trillion of student debt held in the United State, a significant escalation to the policy fight in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary two days before the candidates’ first debate in Miami. Senator Sanders is proposing the federal government pay to wipe clean the student debt held by 45 million Americans, including all private and graduate school debt as part of a package that also would make public universities, community colleges, and trade schools tuition free."
Here's a basic worldview issue before we even look at these audacious proposals. The first worldview issue is this: be very, very careful, look very closely when anyone uses the word ‘free.’ What does ‘free’ mean? In this case it certainly doesn't mean free. There is no indication that education will become less expensive by means of Senator Sanders’ proposals. As a matter of fact, once you have government paying for something and calling it free, you can count on the fact that in every single case the actual expense is going to go up, sometimes by a multiplier effect. This is one of the major issues we need to confront in our culture, ‘free’ actually never means free, not if there's value. Someone is paying for that product or that service somewhere. If you receive it for free, it's because someone else is paying for it. Nothing is actually free.
But looking specifically at the headline news that Bernie Sanders is now calling for the government, that means the taxpayer, to wipe out the entire student debt held by 45 million Americans, we need to consider what economists call moral risk. It's a very important worldview category, moral risk. It means that we have to be very careful not to create an economic incentive to bad behavior, but that's exactly what this is. This is the very definition of moral risk. Consider if adopted what this proposal would say, "Go out, and load up as much irresponsible student debt as possible." And, when you consider equity and justice, how in the world could this be equitable or just?
You have people who irresponsibly piled up debt as well as others whose debt is responsible, you have some people who work so that they could limit their debt, you had others who simply relied upon the ease of getting loan after loan, borrowing more and more money. There's no acknowledgment in this that what is categorized as educational debt in the United States often has nothing at all to do with education. Under many of these educational loans, you can buy clothing, you could buy a fur coat, you could buy a car. This is not to say that all 45 million did or would do this. It simply means that when you offer this kind of blanket program forgiving debt, you are basically saying to people, "Hit me, borrow money, you're not going to have to repay it."
Just consider the headlines that followed the announcement a few weeks ago that a major African American philanthropist speaking at Morehouse College in its graduation ceremony said that he was going to personally cover all the student debt of the graduating class. That's great news, right? Except, it wasn't great news to those who did not borrow money but dropped out of school to work. It wasn't great news for some of those who had worked while they were in school because now their friends who didn't work and simply use borrowed money are going to have that entire cost paid for. Just consider the fact that many people who didn't go to college, didn't go to college because they did not want to take on this kind of debt.
Furthermore, even as Bernie Sanders and others, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, are offering similar kinds of proposals, there's very little recognition of the fact that most of this student debt is not held by people who are in lower economic strata. Most of this is held by people who are defined as middle class. There is, politically speaking, virtually no chance that any of these proposals will ever actually pass Congress. Remember, the total package Senator Sanders called for included wiping out not only $1.6 trillion in student debt, but also making tuition free at public universities, community colleges, and trade schools.
But, moving away from the political, let's just remember the morality again. Remember that economic category of moral risk. You have to be very careful about setting up an economic structure that encourages people towards irresponsible or bad behavior. That's the very definition of this kind of policy. If you want to be serious about making education more affordable, you're going to have to lower the cost, but I can guarantee you that you're not going to hear those running for the Democratic Presidential Nomination tell America's prestigious colleges and universities, you actually are going to have to find a way to tighten your belts and charge less. I guarantee you, you won't be hearing that.
One final unusual note on The Briefing. After recording The Briefing this morning confirmation came that an appeals court of judges in the United Kingdom has at least temporarily reversed the lower court's ruling concerning the coerced abortion for the woman identified as being mentally challenged. That's good news, but even as the confirmation has come, the three judge panel has not announced the rationale behind its decision, nor is it confirmed that the decision of this appellate court will stand. We certainly hope and pray that it will be. In the meantime, the very fact that the lower court ruling happened and happened the way it happened is warning enough, and this is a story we are going to follow very closely.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'm speaking to you from Dallas, Texas, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.