Sunday, September 14, 2008

Utilitarianism vs. the Culture of Life

The nomination of Sarah Palin has raised awareness of the issue of children with disabilities and of the sanctity of life in general. Pro-lifers were inspired by her refusal to have an abortion when informed that her child had Down Syndrome. This was a strong affirmation of the most fundamental tenet of the pro-life movement, namely that all human life has great value. In other words, she refused to see her baby as a burden but as a blessing.

Contrast this with the attitude of Barack Obama. He famously said that he didn't want his daughters "punished with a baby." More importantly, he voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act- denying medical care to babies ALREADY BORN after a failed abortion attempt.
Apparently, convenience is more important than life.

This great divide was further evidenced in two stories this past week relating to children with disabilities. In one story, a man named Thomas VanderWoude jumped in after his son with Down Syndrome fell into a septic tank. VanderWoude held his son above his head for twenty minutes before help arrived. By the time it finally did arrive, VanderWoude had died, but his son survived.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was the case of the woman in the UK who drowned her 4-year-old daughter in a bathtub because she was "embarrassed" by her child's cerebral palsy. Again, this shows an attitude that favors "convenience" over life, that views children (particularly disabled children) as a burden or a punishment.

How have we come to this point, where whole groups of people are seen as "inconvenient"? How have we decided that certain lives are not worth living? Occasionally, you will get an answer like, "who are we to let these children suffer?" But this is a false compassion. Everybody suffers- it doesn't make us less human. If anything, it makes us more human. We've gotten to the point in this culture where we want to eliminate all suffering, all inconvenience. That's why 90% of children diagnosed in the womb with Down Syndrome are aborted. That's why some who support abortion think Palin made the wrong choice in keeping her son Trig. These people cannot see the value in these lives. Perhaps it is because their measure of a person's worth is how much money they can potentially make, or how good-looking they are, or other superficial criteria. Certainly, in their viewpoint, someone like Terry Schiavo had no worth. What was she able to contribute to society?

But those who support life know that a person's worth is based on the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God. Millions of us were touched by the story of Terry Schiavo, just as we are by that of Trig Palin. Even if a person is in such a state that they are unable to show love to others, they are able to BRING OUT the love in others in a special way, by virtue of their humanity, by virtue of their being children of God.

Whenever we say that any human life is inconvenient, or undesirable, it is a dangerous road to walk down. People should know- we walked down this road before in the 20th century, and saw the greatest horrors in human history. We need to celebrate life. ALL life. Because it all has value. America has an opportunity to look at herself and see this, and thus become an example to all the world. Here's hoping we open our eyes.

UPDATE: This T-Shirt demonstrates what I'm talking about from those who do not respect life.

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