A Consideration of the Facts of In Vitro Fertilization and the Human Tendency to Demand What We Want, No Matter Who Gets Hurt.

Alabama’s state Supreme Court ruled last week that embryos created by In vitro fertilization, (IVF), are considered children. and this has raised concerns that embryos that are destroyed or damaged could lead to civil liability. So some Alabama fertility clinics are halting operations, and even some, otherwise pro-life advocates are are opposed to the decision.

But why should they be opposed. If life begins at conception, a foundational belief of the pro-life movement, should not embryos be protected from deep freezing and frequent discarding once they are no longer “needed?”

The Church has long opposed IVF. But why? Lets consider the concerns that are properly raised with IVF and the mess we have gotten ourselves into by our many attempts to play God.

All pro-lifers agree that we clearly play God by sentencing innocent life to death by abortion. This is life God has created (cf. Jer 1:5; Psalm 139 ). Through abortion we snatch the life from God’s creative hands and say, “This shall not be.”

But we also play God by insisting that infertile couples have a right to conceive and bear children, when nature and God have said no. It is not always clear why couples cannot conceive and even less clear why God might say “no” or “not now”  to a couple who wish to conceive a child at some given moment. The desire for a married couple to have children would seem always to be a good thing.  But simply because we deem something good, does not gift us the absolute right to overrule God to whom human life owes its first cause. With in vitro fertilization we go beyond assisting fertility and the marriage act. and we, in effect, sideline the God given manner for conception and turn it into a technology in a petri dish. This amount to telling God “This shall not be” in reference to infertility when it occurs.

Let’s consider the problems with In Vitro fertilization that has caused the Catholic Church to forbid it.

  1. Life becomes like a Consumer Product – In IVF,  fertilizable ova are removed from a woman’s ovary and put in a petri dish (the Latin for dish is vitrum) to which a few concentrated drops of sperm are added. This removes human conception from the marriage act, its sacred and proper place, where God acts to bestow life.  IVF puts it in the laboratory where man controls the process and conception is treated as a technology and a kind of sought after consumer product, rather than as part of a mystery of fruitful love caught up in the marriage embrace and the love God.
  2. It conveys the wrongful idea that a person or couple has a right to a child. A child is a person with rights; he or she is not merely an object, a possession, or a technological product. Further, life is something God grants, not something he must give simply because we want or demand it.
  3. God is Wrong! From a faith perspective, IVF simply refuses God’s failure to act in accord with the wishes of the parents, and removes the decision from God. God may be teaching something to the couple due to their infertility. Perhaps he wants them to adopt, perhaps he has a special work or cause he wants them to be devoted to. But IVF suspends such discernment, and forces the solution.
  4. There is a strong bias today toward only caring about what is best for adults. This is widespread in our culture. Hence, if adults are unhappy they can divorce, not matter what this does to children, the children have no legal voice or say in the matter. Further, if a child comes at an unexpected or inopportune time, many just abort. Again, it is the adults who matter. In IVF there is also some of this thinking since what seems to matter most is that the adults want a baby. Never mind what IVF may do to how we think of life, as a technology to be exercised at our whim, rather than a sacred mystery. Never mind that imperfect embryos are discarded or frozen. Never mind that many IVF procedures selectively abort later. Never mind that IVF children are more often born prematurely, or suffer higher rates of birth defects. What matters is what adults want and demand.
  5. Discarding Embryos – As already stated, it is a usual practice that more eggs are fertilized than the woman will need. This is because not all embryos survive. Thus, more than one egg, usually several or numerous eggs, are fertilized. If “too many” embryos survive the rest are either discarded (i.e. killed), frozen or mined for stem cells (i.e. killed). In some cases as well, if “too many” embryos are accepted by the woman’s womb, they may be selectively aborted later so that the “desired number” of children is not exceeded.
  6. For reasons such as these, the Church considers IVF to be gravely sinful.
  8. There are certain procedures allowable to Catholics which enhance fertility but do not remove or replace the marriage act. But IVF is far beyond what is approved for the reasons stated.

So here we are with another cultural show-down. But but please consider that IVF and abortion have this in common: Playing God and saying that I have a right over life, that I call the shots. Abortion demands the right to end life, IVF demands the right to produce it. Neither is a right we should claim. God is the author of life. IVF goes beyond assisting what God has set forth (i.e. the marriage act) and seeks to force an outcome, in effect, removing God sovereignty over human life.

Further, while many of its members and “consumers” of IVF services may choose not to think so, discarding of embryos is killing, is aborting. Freezing them is a cruel delay and a further indignity. Imagine keeping children “on ice” until their arrival is more convenient. And what if they never become convenient? The big chill continues until they become stale (i.e. dead).

Disclaimer – Now, there are likely many well-intentioned couples who may never have thought through all this, or have been misguided, or are just so desperate for a child that they’ll do almost anything. But in the end, IVF is problematic and morally wrong for the reasons stated.

We live in times where too many think that they can just have what they want. Many think that, if we can do something, we should be free to do something. But there are more things at stake than just what people want. There is reverence for the sacred mystery of life, there is concern for the common good, there is what actually happens to imperfect or superfluous embryos.

Recent Pro-Life Laws Are Encouraging, but Is There Danger Ahead?

There is a “sorting” going on among the states of our nation on the issue of abortion. States are lining up on one side or the other as they did long ago around the Mason-Dixon line on the issue of slavery. In those times it was a divide that was largely between northern and southern states; today the split is between red (conservative) and blue (liberal) states.

The pro-abortion position has steadily become more radical: recent demands are for abortion with essentially no restriction right up to the moment of birth. The opening salvo in the escalating battle was fired earlier this year in New York, when Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the euphemistically named Reproductive Health Act into law, thereby enacting the most radical abortion legislation in the country—not coincidentally on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In New York a woman may now legally abort her child even as he or she is about to be born!

Bills similar to the one in New York have advanced through legislative chambers in New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont. So far this year, lawmakers in 13 left-leaning states have introduced bills to further protect access to abortion.

At the same time, legislators in conservative states have moved to pass laws limiting the so-called right to abortion. Earlier this month in Alabama, Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which bans abortion in nearly all cases. Efforts in Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio were a little less comprehensive, aiming instead to pass so-called “heartbeat bills” that effectively prohibit abortion beyond eight weeks of pregnancy. Utah and Arkansas voted to restrict abortion to the period before the middle of the second trimester. Other states permit abortion only until the fetus reaches viability, typically held to be 24 to 28 weeks of gestation.

Many analysts interpret the spate of state legislation to protect (or even increase) access to abortion as a response to the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Indeed, after signing New York’s Reproductive Health Act, Governor Cuomo said, “we are sending the clear message that regardless of what happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body[sic]” [*].

I am heartened to see many states moving to implement more substantial limits on abortion. Simply put, abortion is the taking of an innocent human life, and I cannot see any circumstances (including rape or incest) in which the direct killing of the innocent should be legal, let alone celebrated as a “right.” Even though rape and incest are despicable crimes, the child conceived as a result did nothing wrong and should not be put to death. There are some rare cases in which efforts to save the life of the mother result in the death of her unborn child, but such a death is indirect and unintentional. Actions to save the life of the mother may be permitted even if they are likely to cause the baby to die, provided they are directed at saving the mother and not at killing the child.

There are two fundamentally different approaches to bringing about the end of legal abortion in the U.S. First, there is the incremental erosion method, by which the period during which an abortion may legally be obtained without restriction is shortened (e.g., via heartbeat bills that seek to reduce the unfettered access to abortion during the first trimester) or the restrictions on abortions during later months of pregnancy are increased.

The second approach is to challenge Roe v. Wade directly by enacting legislation outlawing abortion with few if any exceptions. This seems to be the tack taken in Alabama. Its Human Life Protection Act does not have an exception for either rape or incest; abortion is not permitted even prior to the first detectable fetal heartbeat. The only exception provided for is when the life of the mother is gravely endangered. For us purists, the Alabama law is a dream come true. We believe that what is wrong is wrong and that we should not compromise with evil. Some have called Alabama’s new law extremist, but this is somewhat ironic coming from those who do not think it extreme to dismember a living child in the womb.

Even if one believes (as I do) that the Alabama law is not extreme, there remains the prudential question of which method is likely to be more effective? It’s possible that some of the most liberal Supreme Court justices would relish ruling on the Alabama law, seeing it as an opportunity to reaffirm the Roe v. Wade decision.

A key factor in any SCOTUS ruling on abortion will be Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh (and to a lesser degree Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts). I don’t think Kavanaugh is as conservative as either his supporters or detractors imagine, though others disagree (see here). Roberts’ positions have been unpredictable of late, and Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have each sided with the liberal wing of the Court on several occasions. Court watchers observe that the liberals on the Supreme Court (Associate Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer) vote together far more frequently than do the conservatives (Associate Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh) [**]. Roberts is known more as a slightly-right-of-center moderate, and his decisions lately have been particularly unpredictable.

Therefore, a showdown in the Supreme Court over the Alabama Human Life Protection Act has some people (including me) worried. If a current federal lawsuit to block implementation of the law succeeds, should Alabama continue to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, or would it be better to forward to SCOTUS  a “heartbeat bill” that attempts to erode Roe v. Wade? I am not a legal expert, nor do I follow the courts closely, so I don’t know the best way to proceed. I am just a dedicated pro-lifer who wants to end, somehow, legal abortion in this country. I believe there are prudential judgments to be made in determining the best path to take.

Prudence is often misunderstood as mere caution or as hesitancy to act. While prudence does sometimes dictate caution, and hasty action is seldom prudent, there are times when it is prudent to act quickly and decisively. Sometimes a carefully planned, gradual approach is best but at others a quick denunciation or correction is in order. St. Thomas Aquinas said,It belongs to prudence chiefly to direct something to a right end; and this is not done aright unless both the end be good, and the means good and suitable” (Summa Theologica II, IIae 49.7, respondeo). Prudence, then, is the virtue that determines the best way forward and then commands the will to execute that approach.

Some of you readers do have legal and political backgrounds, so I ask for your opinions in this matter. Perhaps a few focal questions can guide us:

    • Do you think the Alabama Human Life Protection Act would be upheld by SCOTUS?
    • If you think the Alabama Human Life Protection Act would be struck down by SCOTUS, do you believe such a decision would make things worse by reaffirming Roe v. Wade as “settled law”?
    • Do you think battling Roe v. Wade using the “erosion method” (via heartbeat bills and the like) is the better approach, or is it just a cop out?
    • Do you think that rape and incest exceptions should be included in any laws for the sake of expediency even if, like me, you oppose them in principle?
    • Is there a group of national pro-life leaders and legal experts guiding the appeal process in all these different cases or is each state on its own?
    • Do you think SCOTUS likely to take multiple cases (i.e., rule on abortion-related laws from several states) or just one?
    • Is there good reason to be anxious about upcoming abortion-related case(s) before SCOTUS?
    • Can you envision any other scenarios that could play out when it comes to SCOTUS and the states?

I pose all these questions sincerely; they are in no way meant to be rhetorical. I do not know what the best approach is in the current climate. Part of what drives my concern is my fear that a strong reaffirmation of Roe v. Wade by SCOTUS would make future progress more difficult.

I would be most grateful if you would use the comments section to let me know what you think, particularly if you have expertise in this area. Please also pray for a change of hearts and an end to abortion in this world!

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Recent Pro-Life Laws Are Encouraging, but Is There Danger Ahead?

The Masks Are Coming Off

An abortion bill, similar in many respects to the horrifying bill recently passed in New York, was recently tabled by the Virginia General Assembly. It would have eliminated many of the requirements already in state law for third-trimester abortions. That it was tabled is the only good news.

Most of you have already heard the exchange between Virginia state delegate Todd Gilbert and the bill’s sponsor, delegate Kathy Tran. He asked Tran if her bill would allow a woman who is in labor to request an abortion if a physician certified that the pregnancy would impair her mental health; Tran replied that it would.

About this truly shocking (but honest) admission, delegate Tran afterwards lamented, “I was caught off guard and probably wasn’t as artful in the moment as I could have been,”

“Artful”—In other words, she couldn’t wordsmith quickly enough to cloak the shocking truth that if this bill became law, a woman already in labor could legally have her child killed (with a physician’s approval).

And just in case you think things couldn’t get worse, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam sought to defend Delegate Tran and imagined the following scenario:

“So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother” (*).

Words cannot describe just how awful this is, claims that we “critics” simply misunderstand the governor notwithstanding. No indeed, the message is loud and clear: a baby is set off to the side and “kept comfortable” while the caring doctors and the mother have a nice little discussion about whether the newborn should be allowed to live or killed—truly shocking. We might just as well be back in pagan Rome under the Pater Familias laws, under which the father decided whether to keep a certain baby or have it cast into the Tiber or exposed to die. Infanticide, like abortion, is a very ugly business.

There has been plenty of news analysis about this “controversy,” but I prefer to call the bill a calamity, the legalization of outright cruelty.

This much must also be clear: the masks are coming off and the fierce face of abortion on demand is on display. Upon Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing of the “Reproductive Health Act” in New York, the open celebration, the applause, the lighting of the World Trade Center spire in pink were egregious and boldly fierce—“in your face,” if you will. (I have written more about that travesty here.) Now we have this shocking episode in Virginia.

For years, the pro-choice movement has cloaked itself in talk about keeping abortion safe, legal, and rare—but it was a cloak then and it is certainly one now. Today the cry is increasingly, “No limits! The right to abortion is an absolute, human right!” Why are the masks coming off? Scripture provides an answer, at least in terms of the satanic inspirations behind abortion:

But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short (Rev 12:12).

In past decades, the devil has seen fit to work largely in secret, but recently he seems to have changed strategies and is increasingly coming out of hiding. The dramatic increase in the need for exorcisms and deliverance ministry is indicative of this. I also see evidence of this as he inspires ever-more-radical abortion laws—edging right into infanticide; he further deceives many into calling this good and something to celebrate.

Satan rages because he knows his time is short. Science is on the pro-life side. It is undeniable that a unique human individual comes into being at conception. Fetal development is now widely documented with 3D ultrasounds and in utero cameras—something from which abortion advocates like to “shield” pregnant women. Although the age of viability is usually considered to be 24 weeks gestation, some infants born earlier now survive; neonatal units are fighting to save the lives of children that across town at the “clinic” could be legally aborted. Young people are increasingly pro-life, and most Americans now support increasing limits on abortion. Yes, Satan knows that his time is running short, and so he rages, inspiring blindness to obvious truths and callousness toward human life—even the most helpless.

Will the Church boldly engage in this ever-fiercer battle or will we be fearful and ineffective? Will our leaders and the laity have courage to counter the callousness that is settling in? Will we resist or just be resigned? Will you be outspoken and join the ranks of those who witness, act, and pray?

Satan once raged at the babies when God, through Moses, was about to liberate His people. He raged again when Christ entered the world to save us. When God is up to something big, Satan rages. Remember this:

  • The Midwives resisted Pharaoh’s evil law.
  • The parents of the holy innocents in Bethlehem fought to protect their children from Herod’s wrath and fear.
  • Joseph and Mary obeyed God’s command to carry Jesus off to protection in distant Egypt leaving behind all that was familiar.

If we want to usher in blessings and end Satan’s raging, we must resist evil laws, act to protect our children, and be willing to suffer as a result. What are you willing to do?

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: The Masks Are Coming Off

Iceland Is Not Alone in “Freezing Out” the Disabled

Most of you have probably heard or read the reports trumpeting the “eradication” of Down syndrome in Iceland). The problem is that what is being termed “eradicating” the “problem” actually means that those with Down syndrome are being put to death. The celebratory language is all too similar to the way we once spoke of wiping out malaria by killing infected mosquitoes. But of course children in the womb are not mosquitoes; they are human beings, love and willed by God. Imagine saying that we had eradicated malaria by killing every person who had it!

A low point in the article linked above comes at the end, when a proponent of aborting babies who likely have Down syndrome is quoted as saying,

“We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication … preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder—that’s so black and white. Life is gray.”

Well, pardon me for considering murder to be so black and white! One minute a heart is beating heart, the next minute it’s not. The “thing” that you ended is a human life. Calling such a child a “possible life” is scientifically dishonest. A beating heart does not exist in something that is possibly alive; he or she is alive. No linguistic gymnastics can legitimately describe the situation otherwise.

Further, “preventing suffering” by killing the patient is an illustration of the twisted logic of the culture of death. Death is the increasing being proposed as the solution to today’s problems. If you—or more perniciously, “we”—decide that your life is not worth living, we will kill you and call ourselves compassionate for doing so.

The greatest tragedy in all of this is that we veto the gift of God. Some of God’s gifts come in paradoxical packages; those with disabilities and special needs have much to teach us and many ways to bless us. Without them we may never reach our full humanity, which is meant to include compassion, humility, reverence, and respect. Not one of us is perfect. All of us have difficulties that require support from others. When we forget or reject this we lose an important aspect of our humanity: interdependence.

Iceland is not alone in this; much of the rest of the world has also refused to accept the disabled into our communities.

Here in the United States, this is perhaps most sadly evidenced by the fact that more than 90% of unborn children with poor prenatal diagnoses are aborted. Perhaps the parents are informed that their child will have Down syndrome or a birth defect that will lead to a lifetime of challenges and an early death.

The pressure placed on such families to abort is often enormous. They are told, “It’s the right thing to do,” or, “You shouldn’t make your child suffer.” Some are even made to feel that they are doing something unethical by bringing forth such children. In addition, parents are often pressured to make a decision quickly; doctors may want the decision to terminate made within a matter of days.

Is there such a thing as a life not worth living? Many in our culture seem to believe that there is. A “therapy” increasingly proposed in today’s culture of death is killing the patient in order to solve the “problem.” People, it would seem, do not have problems, they are the problem, and thus their elimination makes the problem go away. Never mind that a human person of inestimable value is actually killed … Problem solved! Thus has arisen idea that an appropriate “treatment” for disabled unborn children is to kill them. Of course death is neither a treatment nor a therapy; it cannot be considered an acceptable solution for the one who loses his or her life. Yet this is often the advice given to parents faced with this situation.

All of this “advice” and pressure goes a long way toward explaining the dismal abortion rates of the potentially disabled unborn. We in the Church cannot remain silent in the face of this; we must reach out compassionately to families experiencing such a crisis. Many of them are devastated by the news that their baby may have serious disabilities. Often they descend into shock and are overwhelmed by fear, conflicting emotions, and even anger toward God or others. Sometimes the greatest gifts we can give them are time, information, and the framework of faith. Simply considering some of the following may help:

  1. Despite what parents are told, there is no rush. Serious, life-changing decisions should never have to be made within a short period of time. Pressure should not be applied to families (by medical personnel or others) in order to force a quick decision; doing so is a grave injustice.
  2. Prenatal screenings are not always accurate. We often think of medicine as an exact science; it is not. Data can be misinterpreted and predictions can be wrong. Further, there is a difference between the result of a screening and an actual diagnosis. A screening can point to a potential problem and assess its probability, but it is not a definitive diagnosis. Further study is always called for if a screening indicates a possible issue. Sometimes, further testing reveals that in fact there isn’t a problem at all.
  3. As Pope Francis has pointed out, disabilities are not always as terrible as we, in our insistence on perfection, might imagine. Many people with disabilities live very full lives and are tremendous gifts to their families, the Church, and the world. Providing families with more information about disabilities and connecting them with other families who have experience is essential in helping them to avoid the doomsday mentality that can easily set in.
  4. It is vital to connect the faithful with the most basic truths of our Christian faith. To the world, the cross is an absurdity, but to those of the Christian faith it brings life and blessings in spite of the pain. Were it not for our crosses, most of us could never be saved. Raising a disabled child is not easy, but God never fails. He can make a way out of no way; He can do anything except fail. My own sister, Mary Anne, was mentally ill and carried a cross. We, her family, had a share in that cross. But Mary Anne brought blessings to us as well. In fact, I don’t know if I’d be a priest today if it had not been for her. I’m sure that I wouldn’t be as compassionate and I doubt that I could be saved were it not for the important lessons Mary Anne taught me. I know that she brought out strength and mercy, not to mention humility, from all of us in the family. Her cross and ours brought grace, strength, and many personal gifts to all of us. The cross is painful, but it brings life as well. Easter Sunday is not possible without Good Friday. Yes, to the world the cross is an absurdity. To us who believe, it is salvation, life, and our only real hope; it is our truest glory to carry it as Christ did.
  5. Disability is not an all-or-nothing proposition; it exists on a continuum. All of us are disabled in some way. Some have serious weight problems; others are diabetic, have high blood pressure, or experience heart problems. Some are intellectually challenged. Others struggle with anxiety, depression, addiction, or compulsion. Some experience a loss of mobility as a result of an accident or just due to the aging process. The fact is, all of us have abilities and disabilities. Some disabilities are more visible than others; some are more serious than others. In most cases, though, we are able to adjust and still live reasonably full lives. We may not be able to do all that we would like, but life still has blessings for us. And even our weaknesses and disabilities can, and do, bring us blessings by helping to keep us humble. How much disability is too much? Can we really be the judge of that? Can we really decide for someone else that his or her life is not worth living?
  6. Life is often not what it seems. In this world, we value things like wealth, ability, strength, and power, but God is not all that impressed by these sorts of things. He has a special place for the poor and the humble. The Lord has said that many who are last in this life will be first in the next (cf Mat 19:30). There is a great reversal coming, wherein the mighty will be cast down and the lowly raised up. We may look upon those who suffer disability with a misplaced sense of pity, but they are going to be the exalted ones in the kingdom of Heaven. As we accept the disabled and the needy in our midst, we are accepting those who will be royalty in Heaven. We ought to learn to look up to them, to beg their prayers, and to hope that hanging on their coattails may help us to attain some of the glory they will enjoy. The world may refuse to see their dignity, but we who believe cannot fail to remember that the last shall be first. Yes, life is not always what it seems.

What about those who aborted their babies? We as a Church cannot avoid our responsibility to declare the dignity and worth of the disabled. More than ever, our world needs the Church’s testimony, for this 90% statistic is a startling one. But even as we witness to the dignity of the disabled and to the wrongness of abortion, we must also embrace those who chose abortion and now struggle with having made that decision. We are called to reconcile and to bring healing to all who have faced this crisis and fallen. Many were pressured and felt alone and afraid. We offer this embrace through confession and through healing ministries like Project Rachel, which offers counseling, spiritual direction, support groups, and prayer services. Even as the Church speaks out against abortion, she must also reconcile those who have fallen under the weight of these heavy issues.

Tomorrow I will write a little bit more on this topic and present a parable of sorts.

Here are some resources for more information:

National Catholic Partnership on Disability
Project Rachel (Post-abortion healing)
Be Not Afraid (Outreach to parents who have received a difficult prenatal diagnosis)
Parental Partners for Life (Support information and encouragement for carrying to term after receiving an adverse prenatal diagnosis as well as support for raising a child with special needs)

Dreaming of the Day, as Demonstrated by an Old Commercial

The commercial below from 1949 seems astonishing to us today. We often look back on the days when just about everyone smoked and wonder how we could have been so foolish as to fill our lungs with smoke. That a commercial should actually feature doctors smoking and report that they prefer a particular brand of cigarette (filter-less at that) seems unbelievable.

It took decades to dispel the image of cigarette smoking as glamorous. It took just as long to put to the lie the notion that filling our lungs with toxic smoke wasn’t as unhealthy as, deep down, we suspected it to be.

Am I wrong to hope that we will one day look back on abortion and contraception in this way? Perhaps we will wonder how women could ever have been convinced to swallow pills that would drastically alter their endocrine system, that we ever thought there would be no ill health effects from such a measure.

Even more, I hope for the day when we will be utterly dumbfounded that the legal murder of babies in the womb was ever considered “good,” or a “right,” or labeled “healthcare.”

Call me a dreamer, but I will continue to hope and work for the day when we will be even more astonished at our hardness and obtuseness with respect to abortion and contraception than we are by this old commercial promoting smoking.

Thoughts on the Miracle of Life as we March on Cold and Snowy Day!

012114Well no doubt this year’s March will be a difficult one. 8 inches of snow and temps in the lower teens plus wind will surely make this a real witness for life for those able to march. The coldest march I ever endured was back in the mid 1980s when the temperature was 4 degrees, and there were 15 inches of snow. It was so cold that year that Regan’s Second Inaugural outside was cancelled the day before and moved inside.  The next day when it was even colder we marched! (See Photo at right).

But the Sacrifice is worth it, for he magnificence of life is really too wonderful too describe.  I found this description some years ago which summons reverence by its very ability to baffle the mind:

MIRACLE OF LIFE– Consider the miracle of the human body. Its chemistry is just as extraordinarily well tuned as is the physics of the cosmos. Our world on bothsides of the divide that separates life from lifelessness is filled with wonder. Each human cell has a double helix library of three billion base pairs providing fifty thousand genes. These three billion base pairs and fifty thousand genes somehow engineer 100 trillion neural connections in the brain—-enough points of information to store all the data and information contained in a fifty-million-volume encyclopedia. And then after that, these fifty thousand genes set forth a million fibers in the optic nerves, retinae having ten million pixels per centimeter, some ten billion in all, ten thousand taste buds, ten million nerve endings for smell, cells that exude a chemical come-on to lure an embryo’s lengthening neurons from spinal cord to target cell, each one of the millions of target cells attracting the proper nerve from the particular needed function. And all this three-dimensional structure arises somehow from the linear, one-dimensional information contained along the DNA helix. Did all this happen by chance or do you see the hand of God?

Today, many of us march for life, here in Washington, on the West Coast, and in other communities. Today we ponder the great mystery that is expressed in the 139th psalm:

For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being…Already you knew my soul my body held no secret from you when I was being fashioned in secret….every one of my days was decreed before one of them came into being. To me, how mysterious your thoughts, the sum of them not to be numbered! (Psalm 139 varia)

No human being is an accident, no conception a surprise or inconvenience to God. Mysteriously he knew and loved us long before we were ever conceived, for he says, Before I ever formed you in the womb I knew you (Jer 1:4). And, as the psalm says above, God has always known everything we would ever do or be.

It is often mysterious to us why human life is, at times, conceived in difficult circumstances such as poverty, times of family struggle or crisis, or even conceived with disability and disadvantage. But in the end we see so very little and must ponder the mystery of God’s reminder that many who are “last” now are going to be first in the kingdom (e.g. Matt 20:16; Luke 1:52-53).

So today, many will march, and all are called to remember the sacred lives that have been lost. We acknowledge our loss, for the gifts of these children and their lives have been swept from us as well. We pray for women who struggle to bring children to term and experience pressure to consider abortion. We pray for the immediate and sudden conversion of all support legalized abortion for any reason and for a dedication to assist women facing any difficulty in giving birth to or raising their children.

The following video is a shortened version of the masterpiece video called “Genesis” by Ramos David. It magnificently depicts fetal development. I have taken the liberty of adding a different music track since this is a shortened version. The Music is William Byrd: Optimam Partem Elegit (She has Chosen the Best Part), a text most fitting since we pray all mothers will choose life. The full length video is found in higher definition on YouTube by searching under “Genesis Ramos David”

More evidence that those who say they want Abortion "Safe and Legal" are not really serious about the "safe" part

071513Many of you are aware that last week the Texas Legislature passed historic legislation that significantly limits abortion in Texas and shows that the claim of the “Pro-Choice” abortion advocates that they mere want abortion “safe and legal.” For the Texas Law places significant requirements that so-called “clinics” must meet basic medical requirements and certification. All of these requirements will significantly enhance women’s safety from unsafe and shoddy medical practices all too common in abortion “clinics.”

Now, of course, pro-choice advocates, who have long marched under the banner of “safe and legal,” should hail the Texas decision since it goes a long way to ensure one of their two “pillar” positions (i.e. that abortion be “safe”). But of course they are not, they are howling in protest.

Yet as strong advocates for “women’s safety” they claim to look back in horror to the days of “coat-hanger” abortions and insist that those days must never return. So, surely, they will support measures to further protect women from the often unsafe, unsanitary and under-regulated women’s “clinics.” Many stories have recently surfaced that show just how unsafe these clinics are. For example

  1. http://www.slate.com/id/2285810/
  2. http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/67/1/99.full
  3. http://veneremurcernui.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/more-abortion-clinics-found-unsafe/
  4. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/legal_ugly_unsafe_igmHR7AIndw0LBZjeBTSqO
  5. http://www.slate.com/id/2285631/
  6. http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/flexicontent/item/14578-abortion-doc-gosnell-associate-in-delaware-is-suspended/
  7. http://www.slate.com/id/2285491/
  8. http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20110205/NEWS02/102050352/Delaware-health-officials-clergy-urge-lawmakers-act-abortion
  9. http://www.politicspa.com/gop-dems-on-same-page-in-response-to-abortion-clinic-scandal/21114/
  10. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/23/kermit-gosnell-abortion-c_n_812702.html

Well, you get the point. There are huge problems in the abortion “industry” regarding safety. The pro-choice advocates claim they want to have safe abortions available. Here comes Texas to the rescue with strong legislative protections for women who go to these so-called clinics. But as we can see from the reactions above, the “safe and legal” advocates are well prepared to sacrifice safety in order to keep abortion more legal.

It is clear that regulating abortion will limit its availability. Hence the “Safe” pillar, they claim to be at the foundation of their movement, has to give way for the legal pillar. Never mind that some women are butchered and even die.

It would seem it’s really the “legal” of “safe and legal” that matters. Or so it would seem. For all the talk about women’s safety, it would appear that such a concern is quite secondary.

Hence, the Texas Law puts the lie to the propaganda of the Pro-choice advocates. “Safe” for them appears to be more of an abstraction or a slogan. Real safety doesn’t seem to interest them, or at least, it seems to threaten them.

Without a doubt, the victory in Texas is a sad and ironic one. Focusing on women’s safety is a fine goal in itself. But, what of the safety of the unborn children? Well, step by step we’ll make this journey to recapture of the hearts of our countrymen. As for the safety of women, fine, but half of all babies killed are female. Would that Pro-Choice advocates really care about the safety of all women and children.

Here at least is a step to further exposing the hypocrisy of many who cry “safe and legal.” Here at least is a step in seeing that women who are often pressured to have abortions are not easily subjected to the horrors of an under-regulated “industry.”

Here is a video of the prayers on-going before an awful late term abortion clinic in Maryland. Take a few moments and watch. And while you watch, pray. One of those organizing the prayers says with confidence, “Carhart will leave soon.” And surely our prayers will help in not only that, but his conversion as well.

Photo Credit: Flickr (right click for URL)

"When I die, there will be no one left to sing for me." A reflection on A Washington Post Article on the Vanishing of Europe

"Empty_City_Road"  by Vicky Walsh, Posted through
“Empty_City_Road” by Vicky Walsh, Posted through http://www.deviantart.com/art/Empty-City-Road-74864575″target=”_blank

We have discussed on this blog numerous times before the coming demographic implosion, especially among Europeans as a result of declining birthrates. It is a matter of some debate how serious the problem is, even among those living in Europe. And not being a denizen of Europe I am not able to play the prophet.

But one thing is clear, the birth rates are so low among traditional inhabitants of Europe, English, French, German, and Italian among others that it would seem the Europe as we have known it is aborting and contracepting itself out of existence. These ethnicities, races, and national identities are largely being replaced by Muslim immigrants. This much seems quite clear.

What is unclear, however, is the degree to which the Muslim immigrants will adopt European ways, to include smaller family sizes, European ways of thinking and living. It is largely assumed here in America the Muslims who Emigrate to Europe bring with them an unassailable attachment to Muslim culture, understood in its most radical and anti-western demeanor.

This assumption is not necessarily yet demonstrated by good, solid sociological or demographic data. Some argue that Muslim immigrants are largely adopting European ways, others argue that the opposite is true.

Further, some argue that the French are beginning to turn the birthrate problem around and are now above replacement level. This too, remains to be seen, particularly as to whether it will be maintained going forward.

In many ways, the jury is still out regarding Europe and its future.

An article appeared in the Washington Post today, on the very front page, which sets forth the demographic issue in Portugal. And there, according to the article, seems to exist a kind of worst-case scenario. The article describes the increasing results of what can only be described as a cultural suicide of the Portuguese through abortion and contraception leading to very low birthrates. But there also seems to be little economic incentive for people to immigrate and prop up the numbers. It seems very few are interested in taking the places of the diminishing and dying Portuguese.

The result, according to the article, is economic implosion as well as a sociological nightmare wherein few younger people exist to care for the older ones and in many parts of Portugal it seems that no one will be left to bury the dead.

Yes, it is the worst of both worlds: declining birthrates along with no immigrants to fill the gap.

Ronald Regan once received some heat from conservative Americans during the immigration debates of his administration. Inclined to grant amnesty to those here illegally, he observed that if our population is not increasing in America, neither will our economy grow. He was right, but certainly went against the prevailing orthodoxy which tends to see the economic pie as a fixed set of resources that must be divided among ever larger numbers at the table.

But this does not seem to be absolutely the case. It would seem that increasing populations also bring with them some of their own assets. Economies are generated by demand, and the supply, which we have in some abundance, grows to meet it. Growing populations, at least in the more affluent West, do tend to grow the economy as well.

I am no economist and will admit there are matters to debate here, but my own experience shows an increasing population in this country has, in fact, generated a growing economy for the most part.

But, as the example of Portugal shows, it would seem that a declining population, does not leave more with a fewer at the table, but results in less for everyone. Lowering of the economic tide eventually grounds all boats.

Consider some excerpts from the Washington Post article on Portugal today:

For an enterprise in the business of welcoming life, the birthing ward in Portugal’s largest maternity hospital is eerily quiet….Elsewhere in the hospital, signs of Europe’s crisis within a crisis are everywhere. Serving a country that was battling a low birthrate even before the region’s economy fell off a cliff, Alfredo da Costa Maternity Hospital delivered about 7,000 babies a year until recently. But…the number of births crashed last year to 4,500, leading the hospital to mothball an entire wing and slash 20 percent of the staff.

The recent decline in births across Portugal — a 14 percent drop since 2008 — has been so acute that in an increasingly childless country, 239 schools are shutting down this year and sales of products such as baby diapers and children’s shampoos are plummeting….At the same time, in the fast-graying interior, gas stations and motels are being converted into nursing homes.

Portugal is at the forefront of Europe’s latest baby bust, one that is shortening the fuse on a time bomb of social costs in some of the world’s most rapidly aging societies….

Europe has faced a gradual decline in birthrates since the 1960s…a modest rebound during the 2000s….has now gone into reverse.

The baby shortage, economists say, is set to pile on the woe for a swath of the continent that may already be facing a decade or more of economic fallout from the debt crisis that started in 2009.

A reckoning accelerates. By 2030, the retired population in Portugal, for instance, is expected to surge by 27.4 percent, with those older than 65 predicted to make up nearly one in every four residents. With fewer future workers and taxpayers being born, however, the Portuguese are confronting what could be an accelerated fiscal reckoning to provide for their aging population.

[Some] experts predict that the population loss ahead could be beyond even the worst-case predictions….That has many here bemoaning the “disappearance” of a nation and asking: Who will be left to support a dying country of old men and women?

Seniors living at the home, such as Maria Jesus Rodrigues, 87, relish the contact with children. “We used to have children everywhere when I was young. We never thought about the economic side; we just had them,”

Rodrigues…burst into a local folk song. “I have to sing now,” she crooned, “because when I die, there will be no one left to sing for me.”

These are excerpts, the full story is here: Crisis in the Cradle

Hence it would seem that Portugal is in very serious shape, inheriting the worst of both worlds. Low birthrates and no immigrants. There was a time, when Catholic Portugal teamed with large families.

In a way, there is a judgment of God upon the whole West, In effect God seems to be saying, “If you don’t love life you don’t have to have it.”

Large sections of Portugal may simply go into an unpopulated an abandoned status (until some economic incentive returns for others to move and live there).

Other large sections of Europe, once Christian, seemed destined to become Muslim Caliphates. That of course presumes that the Muslim immigrants retain their identity and their love for large families, and do not adopt decadent Western ways.

All that remains to be seen, but it does seem clear that the Europe we have known is passing from our sight. Pope Benedict spoke of the lights going out all over Europe. He certainly had the faith in mind, but as an article like this shows, it is not only the Christian faith which is diminishing in Europe, but even European as we’ve known them maybe endangered and simply disappearing.

The Church has always been right about contraception and abortion. These paraded in as devilish lives which promised “reproductive freedom” and prosperity. But in fact, they only ushered in what they’re really all about: death.

Here is a video from heady and arrogant times. I like Star Trek, but this clip is very emblematic of an era and the thinking that has led us down some very tragic paths. Captain Kirk speaks right out of the mentality of the mid 1960s.