Monday, November 27, 2006

Elisabeth Elliot on Abortion

A topic not far from yesterday’s adoption post is the issue of abortion. How many mothers considering abortion would forgo their plans if they knew their baby was indeed a person, and that this person could be adopted and raised in a loving and caring home? 1.3 millions abortions are performed in the United States every year. Tragic!

A few weeks ago I mentioned a daily devotional my wife receives from Elisabeth Elliot. Today’s devotional on abortion was particularly powerful, so I thought I would share it with you all.

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As I mentioned earlier, some time ago I read of a new medical triumph involving unborn twins. Amniocentesis had shown that one of them had Down's syndrome. The mother decided she did not want that child, so with the simple expedient of piercing the heart of the baby with a long needle, it was killed in the womb. She carried the twins to term and delivered one child alive--the one she wanted to keep--and one child dead--the one she didn't want to keep. This was hailed as a remarkable breakthrough. I would ask you to pause for a moment here and consider this question: what was it, exactly, that was killed? What was it that was not killed? The answer to both questions, of course, is--a child. They were both children. They were twins. I used plain, ordinary words to tell the story--the words the news report used. Nothing ambiguous. Nothing incendiary.

I read the following week in the same magazine about another medical breakthrough. This time doctors had used an instrument inserted into a womb not to kill a child but to save one. This child had a serious heart anomaly which they were able to correct with intrauterine surgery. Can any honest and reasonable person fail to make the comparison here? In the second case, the instrument in the surgeon's hand enabled the tiny heart to keep on working. In the first case, the needle in the surgeon's hand made the heart quit working. What, exactly, should we call that?

The intrauterine surgery was called lifesaving because they fixed a baby's defective heart. What language are we allowed to use when we speak of destroying a heart that's working perfectly! There is a simple and obvious word, but we are not allowed to use it. Well, what about life-destroying? Is that permissible for this neat and efficient technique? Well, not really. Because the word life is explosive. Life is not relevant here. It's the mother's life that we are supposed to consider, nobody else's. The other isn't a life--not one worth living anyway, not one worth the mother's suffering for. So we must not use the ordinary words. They're too emotional. They're loaded. The fact is they stopped the heart. That's all. Just made it quit beating.

I was glad that the writer of the article on the baby whose heart was corrected acknowledged the possibility that fetal surgery might raise an ethical question which the medical world thought it had laid to rest. Might it be necessary, in view of these advances, to ask all over again whether a fetus is a person?

This is the issue today. It is, in the final analysis, the only question that needs to be considered when we speak of the unborn. Is the thing disposable? Is it an object with no life of its own, a bit of tissue which belongs to a woman who has the right to do with it what she chooses? If she needs it and wants it, she keeps it. If she doesn't need it and doesn't want it, she throws it out. So what's all the shouting about?

Truthfulness is the willingness to accept facts. Truthtellers are always regarded as either ridiculous, or so dangerous as to deserve death. "No truth," wrote Hannah Arendt, "that crosses someone's profit, ambition, or lust, is permissible. Unwelcome facts possess an infuriating stubbornness that nothing can move except plain lies."

Here are the unwelcome facts. We were talking about children: the twin who was saved, the child with the defective heart who was also saved, and the twin whose heart was pierced with a needle. They were children. Choices were made regarding those children: deliberate, conscious choices. One, to allow a child to live. Another, to intervene surgically so that a child might live who would otherwise die. (Would the surgeon who performed that operation have dreamed of telling the mother that her baby was not a person? He saved its life, and the mother was grateful.) But in the other case, what was the choice? It was to kill a child. These are the unwelcome facts, but they are infuriatingly stubborn. They will not go away. It was a child. It was killed. Nothing will move those facts except lies.

I ask you earnestly to look at the little creature with eyes and hands and beating heart, held in that safest of places, the mother's womb. No woman who holds such a thing within her doubts that she holds a child. No doctor who extracts it by whatever swift and putatively safe means can deny that what he extracts is a human being, and that what he does is to kill it.

I ask you for God's sake to look at the truth. And I ask you, finally, to think about what Jesus said: "I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40, JB). Jesus will not forget.

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