The culture of death so prevalent in today’s society reflects the emptiness and disillusionment so vividly expressed in The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot. This famous poem depicts a world of “stuffed men” who do not fully live life, who go through routine motions awaiting “death’s twilight kingdom.”
The lack of hope in today’s secular culture is evidenced by broken or non-existent family life and relationships, a breakdown of manners and common courtesy in social interaction, and indulgence in lavish lifestyles, sex, food, and media as ways to escape the emptiness.
As a result of this pleasure-seeking mentality, there is also a systematic effort to suppress and eliminate the weaker, more vulnerable members of society who present inconveniences to others and are seen as burdens. Legislative efforts to loosen or abandon restrictions on assisted suicide, euthanasia, and abortion are a direct result of the mindset that encourages us to eliminate people who are inconvenient or unwanted in our pursuit of pleasure. The result? “Hollow men” trying to keep themselves entertained on the death march.
The poem’s vivid imagery likens the world of hollow men to “a valley of dying stars.” Today’s dying stars are the unique lives which are unappreciated and disregarded by those who see them as useless. Parents are encouraged to terminate “unhealthy” unborn life. If the “unhealthy” are already present in the world, they are given the option to terminate their own lives so they won’t be a burden to others.
But eliminating the weak and defenseless will not lead to more happiness and convenience; it will only lead to increased fear and less freedom. When one category of human beings, such as the unborn, the elderly, or the sick are targeted for elimination, what is to prevent other human lives from being considered less valuable or worthy of protection? By what standard is this decided? The elimination and disregard of the weak and defenseless only puts pressure on the “healthy” to work harder to prove that their life has worth so they too, will not be marked for elimination.
Pope Benedict XVI writes in his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi(Saved in Hope): “A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and bear it inwardly through ‘compassion’ is a cruel and inhuman society” (#38). The ability to accept those who suffer, those who are weaker and more vulnerable, makes us more human. Christ himself demonstrated this nobility of heart in his treatment of the sick and rejected members of society.
With Christ, we are no longer hollow and empty; we are instead a people of hope, and therefore a people of life. We must not sit by idly as the “hollow men” systematically create a culture hostile to life at its most vulnerable stages. We must strive every day to counter these efforts by witnessing to the dignity and value of each person.
The Hollow Men by T S Eliot
Mistah Kurtz-he dead
A penny for the Old Guy
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.
Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
G.K. Chesterton said that “Ideals are the most practical thing in the world.” This is why we still defend the family. This is why we insist on the ideal of marriage as a permanent union between one man and one woman, which creates the only proper setting for bringing new souls into the world, and that this purely natural act should not be interfered with.
The social trends have steadily moved in the opposite direction from this ideal in the last century. It is no longer a matter of a few loud critics getting a little testy at our quaint ideas of morality; we have gone past being attacked to being brazenly ignored. But if the society at large does not understand the moral arguments for the family, perhaps it will gain some appreciation for the practical arguments. And the recent bad news has been good news in this regard. Our arguments have been given a huge boost with the collapse of the world financial markets and the continuing economic fallout.
An economy built on massive lending and spending cannot be sustained. But the reason it cannot be sustained is not merely economic, it is moral. It regards material wealth as the ultimate goal, and people as merely a commodity to achieve that goal. It is selfish and therefore self-destructive.
An economy based on the family is self-sustaining. Its focus is on the nurturing and training of children and not on the mere acquisition of goods. The family ideal as defended by Chesterton is something quite different than the industrialized consumer family, where the family members leave the house each morning by the clock and on a strict schedule to pursue work and recreation and the majority of life outside the home. Chesterton’s ideal was the productive home with its creative kitchen, its busy workshop, its fruitful garden, and its central role in entertainment, education, and livelihood. Unlike the industrial home, life in a productive household is not amenable to scheduling and anything but predictable.
The only thing surprising about this ideal is that it was once shared by almost everyone. Children used to be considered an asset; at some point they began to be seen as a liability.
Chesterton saw the beginning of this problem when he noticed people preferring to buy amusements for themselves rather than to have children. He pointed out prophetically that children are a far better form of entertainment than electrical gadgets. The irony today is that the retailers that sell the electronic amusements are going out of business because there are not enough people to buy this merchandise.
But there is another worse problem why children are now considered a liability. They don’t merely make other material desires cost-prohibitive, they are cost-prohibitive themselves. They must be educated. The cost of educating them is obscene. A college education is the most overpriced product on the planet, and over-rated as well. Parents have the privilege of sacrificing nearly everything to send their children to college, only to have them get their heads filled with doubts and destructive ideas, undermining everything their parents have taught them.
But there are fewer parents because there are fewer children.
When social security was instituted, each retiree was supported by 15 workers. Now each retiree is supported by only three workers. Those of us who are still working spend 15% of our income to support those who aren’t working.
Our lack of domestic life is reflected in the fact that we don’t have a domestic economy. We don’t produce anything. We are suddenly watching massive layoffs, but the people being laying off (no offense to them) were not producing anything. They were either selling things, or sitting at desks and computer terminals, being paid with borrowed money, so that they could also go into debt. Now the financial center of the country has moved from New York to Washington, DC, as Gudge has passed the baton to Hudge,* who has promised that all the problems that were caused by too much borrowing will all be solved by even more borrowing.
But the younger generation cannot pay the older generation because we have committed demographic suicide. We are paying a high price not only for slaughtering our unborn children but for contracepting them. In fact, we have demonstrated that we cannot afford the high price.
We have seen the natural consequences of unnatural acts. We have witnessed a monumental economic disaster that is not the result of inflation or recession but of the devaluation of children.
Chesterton says that every high civilization decays by forgetting obvious things. The obvious things are the ordinary things, and we have forgotten them. The modern world that we have created has brought with it great strain and stress so that even the things that normal men have normally desired are no longer desirable: “marriage and fair ownership and worship and the mysterious worth of man.” Those are the normal and ordinary things. Those are the things we have lost, and we need to recover them.
“The disintegration of rational society,” says Chesterton, “started in the drift from the hearth and the family; the solution must be a drift back.”
Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable. –G. K. Chesterton 1909
Each year in America fewer and fewer disabled infants are born. The reason is eugenic abortion. Doctors and their patients use prenatal technology to screen unborn children for disabilities, then they use that information to abort a high percentage of them. Without much scrutiny or debate, a eugenics designed to weed out the disabled has become commonplace.
Not wishing to publicize a practice most doctors prefer to keep secret, the medical community releases only sketchy information on the frequency of eugenic abortion against the disabled. But to the extent that the numbers are known, they indicate that the vast majority of unborn children prenatally diagnosed as disabled are killed.
Medical researchers estimate that 80% or more of babies now prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. (They estimate that since 1989, 70% of Down-syndrome fetuses have been aborted.) A high percentage of fetuses with cystic fibrosis are aborted, as evident in Kaiser Permanente’s admission to the New York Times that 95 percent of its patients in Northern California choose abortion after they find out through prenatal screening that their fetus will have the disease.
The frequent use of eugenic abortion can also be measured in dwindling populations with certain disabilities. Since the 1960s, the number of Americans with spina bifida has markedly declined. This dropping trend line corresponds to the rise of prenatal screening. Owing to prenatal technology and eugenic abortion, some rare conditions, such as the genetic disorder Tay-Sachs, are even vanishing in America, according to doctors.
“There really isn’t any entity that is charged with monitoring what has been happening,” says Andrew Imparato, head of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), “A lot of people prefer that that data not be collected. But we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg. This is a new eugenics, and I don’t know where it is going to end.”
“I think of it as commercial eugenics,” says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the International Center for Technology Assessment. “Whenever anybody thinks of eugenics, they think of Adolf Hitler. This is a commercial eugenics. But the result is the same, an intolerance for those who don’t fit the norm. It is less open and more subtle. Try to get any numbers on reproductive issues. Try to get actual numbers on sex-selection abortions. They are always difficult to get. If you are involved in that commerce, do you really want people to go: So you aborted how many disabled children? That’s the last piece of information people want out there.”
Indeed, intellectual arguments in favor of eugenic abortion often generate great public outcry. Princeton professor Peter Singer drew fire for saying, “It does not seem quite wise to increase any further draining of limited resources by increasing the number of children with impairments.” Bob Edwards, the embryologist who created the first test-tube baby through in vitro fertilization, has also drawn protests for predicting that “soon it will be a sin of parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children.”
But these comments, far from being unthinkable, reflect unspoken mainstream attitudes and practice. Only through political gaffes (and occasional news stories) is eugenic abortion ever mentioned, such as the time in 2003 when a blundering Hillary Clinton objected to a ban on partial-birth abortion because it didn’t contain an exemption for late-term abortions aimed at the disabled. Women should not be “forced” to carry a “child with severe abnormalities,” she said.
In an interview with TAS, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania recalled his 2003 exchange with Hillary Clinton on the Senate floor in which she endorsed eugenic abortion. “It was pretty revealing. She was saying there had to be an exemption for disabled children being aborted as opposed to healthy children being aborted,” he says. “When she realized what she was advocating for, she had to put in the general niceties. But I don’t think you can read her comments and come to any other conclusion than that the children with disabilities should have less constitutional protection than children who are healthy.”
He added that “the principal reason the Democrats defended the partial-birth abortion procedure was for pregnancies that have ‘gone awry,’ which is not about something bad happening to the life of the mother but about their finding out the child is not in the condition that they expected, that it was somehow less than wanted and what they had hoped for.”
What Hillary Clinton blurted out is spoken more softly, though no less coldly, in the privacy of doctors’ offices. Charles Strom, medical director of Quest Diagnostics, which specializes in prenatal screening, told the New York Times last year that “People are going to the doctor and saying, ‘I don’t want to have a handicapped child, what can you do for me?'” This attitude is shared by doctors who now view disabled infants and children as puzzling accidents that somehow slipped through the system. University of Chicago professor Leon Kass, in his book Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, writes that “at my own university, a physician making rounds with medical students stood over the bed of an intelligent, otherwise normal ten-year-old boy with spina bifida. ‘Were he to have been conceived today,’ the physician casually informed his entourage, ‘he would have been aborted.'”
The impulse behind prenatal screening in the 1970s was eugenic. After the Roe v. Wade decision, which pumped energy into the eugenics movement, doctors scrambled to advance prenatal technology in response to consumer demand, mainly from parents who didn’t want the burdens of raising children with Down syndrome. Now prenatal screening can identify hundreds of conditions. This has made it possible for doctors to abort children not only with chronic disabilities but common disabilities and minor ones. Among the aborted are children screened for deafness, blindness, dwarfism, cleft palates, and defective limbs.
In some cases the aborted children aren’t disabled at all but are mere carriers of a disease or stand a chance of getting one later in life. Prenatal screening has made it possible to abort children on guesses and probabilities. A doctor speaking to the New York Times cited a defect for a eugenic abortion that was at once minor and speculative: a women suffering from a condition that gave her an extra finger asked doctors to abort two of her children on the grounds that they had a 50-50 chance of inheriting that condition.
The law and its indulgence of every conceivable form of litigation has also advanced the new eugenics against the disabled. Working under “liability alerts” from their companies, doctors feel pressure to provide extensive prenatal screening for every disability, lest parents or even disabled children hit them with “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” suits. In a wrongful birth suit, parents can sue doctors for not informing them of their child’s disability and seek compensation from them for all the costs, financial and otherwise, stemming from a life they would have aborted had they received that prenatal information. Wrongful life suits are brought by children (through their parents) against doctors for all the “damages” they’ve suffered from being born. (Most states recognize wrongful birth suits, but for many states, California and New Jersey among the exceptions, wrongful life suits are still too ridiculous to entertain.)
In 2003, Ob-Gyn Savita Khosla of Hackensack, New Jersey, agreed to pay $1.2 million to a couple and child after she failed to flag Fragile X syndrome, a form of mental retardation caused by a defective gene on the X chromosome. The mother felt entitled to sue Khosla because she indicated on a questionnaire that her sibling was mentally retarded and autistic, and hence Khosla should have known to perform prenatal screening for Fragile X so that she could abort the boy. Khosla settled, giving $475,000 to the parents and $750,000 to the child they wished that they had aborted.
Had the case gone to court, Khosla would have probably lost the suit. New Jersey has been notoriously welcoming to wrongful birth suits ever since the Roe v. Wade decision, after which New Jersey’s Supreme Court announced that it would not “immunize from liability those in the medical field providing inadequate guidance to persons who would choose to exercise their constitutional right to abort fetuses which, if born, would suffer from genetic defects.”
According to the publication Medical Malpractice Law & Strategy, “court rulings across the country are showing that the increased use of genetic testing has substantially exposed physicians’ liability for failure to counsel patients about hereditary disorders.” The publication revealed that many wrongful birth cases “are settled confidentially.” And it predicted that doctors who don’t give their patients the information with which to consider the eugenic option against disabled children will face more lawsuits as prenatal screening becomes the norm. “The human genome has been completely mapped,” it quotes Stephen Winnick, a lawyer who handled one of the first wrongful birth cases. “It’s almost inevitable that there will be an increase in these cases.”
The combination of doctors seeking to avoid lawsuits and parents seeking burden-free children means that once prenatal screening identifies a problem in a child the temptation to eugenic abortion becomes unstoppable. In an atmosphere of expected eugenics, even queasy, vaguely pro-life parents gravitate towards aborting a disabled child. These parents get pressure from doctors who, without even bothering to ask, automatically provide abortion options to them once the prenatal screening has diagnosed a disability (one parent, in a 1999 study, complained of a doctor showing her a video depicting the rigors of raising an afflicted child as a way of convincing her to choose abortion), and they feel pressure from society at large which having accepted eugenic abortion looks askance at parents with disabled children.
The right to abort a disabled child, in other words, is approaching the status of a duty to abort a disabled child. Parents who abort their disabled children won’t be asked to justify their decision. Rather, it is the parents with disabled children who must justify themselves to a society that tacitly asks: Why did you bring into the world a child you knew was disabled or might become disabled?
Andrew Kimbrell points out that many parents are given the complicated information prenatal screening yields with little to no guidance from doctors. “We’re leaving parents with complete confusion. Numerous parents are told by doctors, ‘We think there is some fault on the 50th chromosome of your child.’ A number of polls have shown that people don’t understand those odds.”
“There is enormous confusion out there and nobody is out there to help them,” he says. “This is a huge tangle. And it leads people to abort out of confusion: ‘I guess I better abort, because I don’t know. It sounds really bad and I don’t know what the percentages mean.'”
The New Eugenics isn’t slowing down but speeding up. Not content to wait to see if a child is fit for life, doctors are exploring the more proactive eugenics of germline genetic engineering (which tries to create desirable traits in an embryo) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which is used to select the most desirable embryos after extensive genetic testing has been done before they are implanted in mothers’ wombs.
“The next stage is to actually start tinkering genetically with these embryos to create advantages such as height,” says Kimbrell. PGD is a “gateway technology” that will advance the new eugenics to the point “where children are literally selected and eventually designed according to a parent’s desires and fears,” he says. (Meanwhile, doctors are simultaneously reporting that children born through in vitro fertilization are experiencing higher rates of birth defects than the average population, suggesting that for every problem scientists try to solve through dubious means they create multiple new ones.)
Many countries have banned PGD. But American fertility clinics are offering it. Two-thirds of fertility clinics using PGD in the world are in the U.S., says Kimbrell. “Reproductive technology is an unregulated Wild West scenario where people can do pretty much anything they want and how they want it,” he says.
Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, coined the term eugenics in the 1880s. Sparking off his cousin’s theory of evolution, he proposed improving the human race through eugenics, arguing that “what nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.” As eugenics passes through each of its stages — from sterilizing the enfeebled at the beginning of the 20th century to aborting the disabled at the end of it and the beginning of the 21st — man is indeed playing God but without any of his providence or care.
Andrew Imparato of AAPD wonders how progressives got to this point. The new eugenics aimed at the disabled unborn tell the disabled who are alive, “disability is a fate worse than death,” he says. “What kind of message does this send to people living with spina bifida and other disabilities? It is not a progressive value to think that a disabled person is better off dead.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky, the great Russian writer of the 19th century, warned that the denial of sin and hell in education and religion would end in a world Socialism where men would surrender freedom for a false security. He pictured anti-Christ returning to the world and speaking to Christ, thus:
“Dost thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? And men will come crawling to our feet, saying to us: ‘Give us bread! Take our freedom.” – The Grand Inquisitor
In this sobering talk, Archbishop Fulton Sheen examines our death-oriented society, from the advent of abortion to the midnight of our headlong rush to self-extinction.
Thou shalt not give any of thy seed to be consecrated to the idol Moloch, nor defile the name of thy God. I am the Lord. Lv:18:21: 21
A Planned Parenthood affiliate’s newest president and CEO said in an official statement that she regards her work for the biggest abortion business in America to be a holy profession.
Melaney Linton, who will now oversee Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, is determined to further the Life-ending work of Planned Parenthood:
“I am honored and humbled to be entrusted with such a sacred duty…I pledge to do everything in my power to fight back against the ideological attacks on Planned Parenthood and women, so that no teen will ever say she didn’t know how she got pregnant, no one will ever be denied basic reproductive health care, and no woman will ever be forced to bear children she cannot adequately support.”
Starting March 1st, Linton will manage 13 abortion and abortion-referring centers in Southeast Texas and Louisiana, as well as the largest abortion mill in America, located in Houston, Texas.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast alone performed over 12,000 abortions in 2010 and banked over $17 million – 49 percent of which came from taxpayer dollars. Linton will succeed Peter Durkin, who earned over $200,000 in 2010 by performing this “sacred duty.”
Linton is mistaken when she calls her work “sacred.” There is nothing holy about extinguishing the lives of millions of unborn children as a way to line the company pocketbook. The new CEO vows to fight back against Life-affirming measures that have limited the abortion provider, because it cuts into the proceeds Planned Parenthood receives from every abortion committed.
Planned Parenthood, with their money-hungry abortion agenda, has lured women and young girls into their clinics with the promise of putting them first, but Planned Parenthood’s financial standing is all that matters to the abortion giant. The abortion business refuses to acknowledge the physical, mental, and emotional damage abortion causes, thus, abandoning women because they are no longer seen as a profit.
The Planned Parenthood abortion business is a multi-million dollar company which preys on women to drive up their bottom line. This government-sanctioned killing of children must be brought to an end. As members of the Pro-Life community, we are dedicated to ending the horror Linton and Planned Parenthood so fiercely defend. As long as Planned Parenthood remains devoted to ending innocent human life and committing these unjust moral atrocities, we are dedicated to severing the revenue stream that is responsible for the death of innocent unborn children.
Fr. George Rutler was kind enough to share his latest parish bulletin concerning the recent HHS mandate with the Cardinal Newman Society.
Our many fellow Catholics now enchained for the Faith of our Fathers in such places as China, Syria, and Egypt are, as Father Faber’s hymn says, “in heart and conscience free.” But what happens when a government tries to chain the conscience itself?
A few weeks ago, in a remarkably unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the attempt of the present Administration in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC to restrict religious freedom. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the Administration’s argument that the First Amendment does not guarantee the right of religious organization to choose its leaders, was an “extreme” infringement of the free exercise clause.
Undeterred, and menacingly on the cusp of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued an “interim final rule” which requires all private health plans, including those of Catholic hospitals and schools, to include coverage of prescription contraceptives, female sterilization procedures, and abortion counseling.
For a while, various Catholic leaders had hoped that they might reach an understanding with the Administration, and some even felt more at peace with the president’s assurances. But “peace for our time” only lasts until Poland is invaded. Cardinal Mahony, whom no one would fault for intransigence, now says, “I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on the freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster.” Our own archbishop said, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
At the time of the last presidential election, some may have thought that I overstated things in finding parallels with the dystopian world described in Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World, in which Julian Felsenburgh makes eugenics “a sacred duty.”
Since our Lord did not humiliate the frightened apostles by saying “I told you so” when he rose from the dead, I shall not say “I told you so” to any who underestimated the plottings of social engineers whose audacity is only an audacity of despair.
Blessed John Henry Newman, in Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects, cited the prediction of an eighteenth-century Protestant bishop and scientist, Samuel Horsley:
“The Church of God on earth will be greatly reduced, as we may well imagine, in its apparent numbers, in the times of Antichrist, by the open desertion of the powers of the world. This desertion will begin in a professed indifference to any particular form of Christianity, under the pretense of universal toleration; which toleration will proceed from no true spirit of charity and forbearance, but from a design to undermine Christianity, by multiplying and encouraging sectaries… For governments will pretend an indifference to all, and will give a protection in preference to none.”
¶ And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee…
Everyone knows that the Church is against abortion. But how completely do we always understand why, for Catholics, this is such a major issue? I begin with a story from the National Catholic Register:
“NEW YORK — Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, an obstetrician who oversaw the performance of about 75,000 abortions before becoming a leading pro-life advocate and a convert to the Catholic faith, died at his home in New York Feb. 21 after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 84.
…In his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God, he told the story of his journey from pro-abortion to pro-life, saying that viewing images from the new ultrasound technology in the 1970s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn baby…
He noted, regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age”.
That phrase of Dr Nathanson’s, “the humanity of the unborn baby”, is obviously enough the first part of what we need to understand. But that’s not enough. Being pro-life isn’t just a matter of being against abortion; it’s a positive, not negative, set of beliefs: it’s about knowing with certainty (which not everyone does) that all life is a priceless gift. And we begin with ourselves: with gratitude for our own life.
This gratitude is a distinguishing mark of all holy men and women. I think (as some of my readers may have noticed) that G K Chesterton is one of them, and that there is a strong case for his beatification and ultimate canonisation. His was one of the great prophetic voices of the 20th century: prophetic in both senses of the word, that is; he foresaw many things then still in the future and he also had a deep insight into what was wrong with the world in which he lived. This in turn had its origins in a profound sense of what human life ought to be.
And that all began with his gratitude for the gift of life. “I hung onto religion,” he wrote in his autobiography, “by one thin thread of thanks. I thanked whatever gods might be, not like Swinburne, because no life lived for ever, but because any life lived at all”. Seventy years before the pro-life movement Chesterton wrote this early poem, entitled “By the Babe Unborn”, about the wonder of life: in it, he imagines a child in the womb longing for birth:
If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,
If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.
In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.
Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.
I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.
They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.
A few years later, he attacked the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, one of whose key essays was entitled “The emptiness of existence”, and whose deep and systematic pessimism was to have such a massive influence on the literature and thought of the 20th century, by evoking once more his own key image of “the babe unborn”. Schopenhauer, wrote Chesterton, “had not that highest order of imagination which can see the things which surround us on every side with purified and primitive eyes. Had he possessed this he would have felt as we all dimly feel that a child unborn, offered the chance and risk of so vivid and magical an experience as existence, could no more resist taking it than a living child could resist opening a cupboard in which, he was told, were toys of which he could not even dream. He did not realise that the question of whether life contains a preponderance of joy or sorrow is entirely secondary to the fact that life is an experience of a unique and miraculous character, the idea of missing which would be intolerable if it were for one moment conceivable.”
Nobody has ever better summed up why Catholics don’t speak of their beliefs as being merely anti-abortion, but as being “pro-life”, an infinitely vaster conception. When Chesterton died, in the 1930s, abortion was still thought of, certainly by Christians of whatever persuasion, as unthinkably wicked. This was also generally true of secular public opinion, though there were, of course, exceptions: the Nazis believed in it, so did Adolf Hitler’s gushing English admirer, Marie Stopes.
By the 1960s, after the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, and then of Stalinism and other human monstrosities, there had been a great movement towards Schopenhauer’s vision of the futility of human life, towards believing in his words that “in a world like this … it is impossible to imagine happiness”: and one result was the comparative ease with which ordinary men and women were more and more persuaded that the taking of life in the womb was a matter of very much less consequence than their parents and grandparents had supposed.
That’s what’s at stake here. That’s why the Church is so insistently (the secular world thinks obsessively and unreasonably) hostile to the taking of unborn life: because Catholics believe – more fundamentally than in anything else – in God’s Creation of this world and in the fact that, in Chesterton’s words, life in it “is an experience of a unique and miraculous character, the idea of missing which would be intolerable if it were for one moment conceivable”. The deepest tragedy of the 20th century is that for so many men and women, this dreadful notion became not merely “conceivable” (was ever a word used with a more poignant irony?) but normal.
Margaret Higgins Sanger was a radical feminist, eugenicist, Marxist, and the founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She talks to Mike Wallace about why she became an advocate for birth control, over-population, and against the Catholic Church and morality.
Margaret Higgins Sanger was a radical feminist, eugenicist, Marxist, and the founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Sanger was born Margaret Higgins in 1879 in Corning, New York. Her parents, Michael Hennessy Higgins and Anne Purcell Higgins, were socialists and early activists in the women’s suffrage movement.
In 1902 Miss Higgins (i.e., Margaret Sanger) earned a degree as a registered nurse and married architect William Sanger; the following year she gave birth to her first child. Later acknowledging that she had neglected her children (one of whom died of pneumonia at age four), Sanger declared that she was not a “fit person for love or home or children or anything which needs attention or consideration.”
In 1912 Sanger and her family settled in New York City. She became a member of both the Women’s Committee and the Marxist Committee of the New York Socialist Party. “Our living-room,” she would write in her 1938 autobiography, “became a gathering place where liberals, anarchists, Socialists and I.W.W.’s [Industrial Workers of the World members] could meet.”
Also in 1912, Sanger began writing a women’s-rights column for the New York Call entitled, “What Every Girl Should Know.” In addition, she wrote and distributed a pamphlet titled Family Limitation, which provided details about contraception methods and devices. By publishing this pamphlet, Sanger ran afoul of the Comstock Law of 1873, which classified such material as obscene and barred its dissemination via the U.S. mail.
After separating from her husband in 1913, Sanger began writing an eight-page monthly feminist-socialist newsletter called The Woman Rebel, which often promoted contraceptive use and sex education. Using the slogan “No Gods and No Masters,” The Woman Rebel was distributed through the mail, and once again Sanger came under fire for violation of the Comstock Law. In 1914 she was indicted on criminal charges but promptly fled to England.
Sanger returned to the U.S. in October 1915, and the following year she opened a women’s “birth-control” (a phrase she coined) clinic in Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States. The government deemed the clinic illegal, however, and shut it down nine days later; Sanger spent a month in jail for her transgression.
In 1917 Sanger founded the Birth Control Review, a publication favoring contraception as a means of limiting society’s birth rate.
In 1921 she created the American Birth Control League, which eventually would evolve into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the largest abortion provider in the United States.
Also in 1921, Sanger established both the Clinical Research Bureau (which was the first legal birth-control clinic in the U.S.) and the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control.
In 1930 Sanger was elected President of the Birth Control International Information Center; from 1939 to 1942 she was an honorary delegate of the Birth Control Federation of America; and from 1952 to 1959 she served as President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Sanger’s reasons for advocating birth control stemmed, in part, from her views on race and heredity. She was a devoted eugenicist who advocated forced sterilization — of the poor and the mentally deficient, in particular, who she believed were likely to produce “subnormal” offspring — for the purpose of improving society’s overall gene pool. Examples of her ideas on selective breeding are found throughout her columns and newsletters. For instance, she wrote:
“It is a vicious cycle; ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds ignorance. There is only one cure for both, and that is to stop breeding these things. Stop bringing to birth children whose inheritance cannot be one of health or intelligence. Stop bringing into the world children whose parents cannot provide for them. Herein lies the key of civilization. For upon the foundation of an enlightened and voluntary motherhood shall a future civilization emerge.”
“The undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind,” Sanger elaborated.
The eugenic theme figured prominently in Sanger’s Birth Control Review, wherein she published such articles as “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics” (June 1920); “The Eugenic Conscience” (February 1921); “The Purpose of Eugenics” (December 1924); “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics” (July 1925); “Birth Control: The True Eugenics” (August 1928); and many others.
At a March 1925 international birth-control event in New York City, Sanger advocated — for the “salvation of American civilization” — the sterilization of those “unfit” to procreate. In addition, she condemned the “irresponsible and reckless” rates of procreation among those “whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers.” She was referring specifically to Catholics who rejected the use of contraception. “There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people,” she added, “that the procreation of this group should be stopped.”
In her quest to engineer a civilization devoid of “subnormal children,” Sanger often worked jointly with groups and individuals whose goals vis a vis eugenics overlapped with her own, even if their larger agendas differed from hers. In 1926, for instance, she presented a lecture on birth control to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey. In September 1930 she invited Nazi anthropologist Eugen Fischer (whose ideas were cited by the Nazis to legitimize the extermination of Jews) to meet with her at her home.
Sanger’s commitment to eugenic “sexual science” dovetailed seamlessly with her Marxist vision. While she had been heartened by the success of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, she doubted that a revolution for a new communist order in the U.S. could be carried out by a proletariat class of limited intellectual capacity. Thus she sought to elevate the quality of the overall gene pool by means of eugenics. “In pointing out the limitations and fallacies of the orthodox Marxian opinion,” Sanger wrote in The Pivot of Civilization, “my purpose is not to depreciate the efforts of Socialists aiming to create a new society, but rather to emphasize what seems to me to be the greatest and most neglected truth of our day: unless sexual science is incorporated … and the pivotal importance of birth control is recognized in any program of reconstruction, all efforts to create a new world and a new civilization are foredoomed to failure.”
In January 1939 two of Sanger’s organizations, the Clinical Research Bureau and the American Birth Control League (ABCL), merged to form the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA).
At this point, Sanger turned her attention specifically to the reproductive practices of black Americans. She selected former ABCL director Clarence J. Gamble (of the Procter and Gamble company) to become BCFA’s southern regional director. That November, Gamble drew up a memorandum titled “Suggestion for Negro Project,” whose ultimate aim was to decrease the black birth rate significantly. Anticipating that black leaders would be suspicious of anyone exhorting African Americans to have fewer children, Gamble suggested that BCFA place black leaders in high positions within the organization, so as to give the appearance that they were in charge of the group’s agendas. BCFA presented birth control as a vehicle for the upward economic mobility of blacks.
Sanger authored several books during her lifetime, including: What Every Mother Should Know (1917); Woman and the New Race (1920); Happiness in Marriage (1926); Motherhood in Bondage (1928); My Fight For Birth Control (1931); and Autobiography (1938). Another book, The Pivot of Civilization, was published posthumously in 2006.
Sanger today is considered an icon of the feminist Left. Former Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt once said, “I stand by Margaret Sanger’s side,” leading “the organization that carries on Sanger’s legacy.” Planned Parenthood’s first African American President, Faye Wattleton, stated that she too was “proud” to be “walking in the footsteps of Margaret Sanger.”
Planned Parenthood actively celebrates Sanger’s legacy each year by presenting its “highest honor,” the “argaret Sanger Award, to an individual who best promotes the organization’s values and ideals. Past recipients of this award include: actress Kathleen Turner; Robin Chandler Duke, former President of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (and President Bill Clinton‘s ambassador to Norway); Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion; and Hillary Clinton (who won the award in 2009).
Sanger died in 1966 in Tucson, Arizona of arteriosclerosis. According to her New York Times obituary, she sought to encourage birth control and/or abortion among “subnormal children.”
Read more: “The Negro Project- Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Plan for Black Americans
One-child policy a surprising boon for China girls
That’s the headline on an AP story that should win some sort of prize for morally obtuse reporting.
The most obvious outcome of the China’s one-child policy, coupled with the deeply-ingrained desire for male children, has been the routine destruction of Chinese girls in the womb. The UN estimates that 43 million girls are “missing” in China today, due primarily to sex-selection abortions.
But for those who aren’t killed, the policy is a “boon,” AP tells us. The story explains that there are more girls studying in the finest schools, more girls owning laptops, more girls receiving lavish gifts from their families. Life is good—for those girls who survive long enough to experience it.
After 14 paragraphs of upbeat reporting, the AP story finally notices a cloud on the horizon:
Crediting the one-child policy with improving the lives of women is jarring, given its history and how it’s harmed women in other ways. Facing pressure to stay under population quotas, overzealous family planning officials have resorted to forced sterilizations and late-term abortions, sometimes within weeks of delivery, although such practices are illegal.
So if you don’t count the women who are slaughtered in the womb, and the women who are subjected to involuntary sterilization, and the women who have their unborn children torn from their wombs by the government-backed butchers who drive around the country in vans equipped as slap-dash abortion clinics, and the women who live in fear, trying to dodge the family-planning officials who will punish them for pregnancy, and those who live with regrets, having sacrificed their children—if you exclude all those women—well then the one-child policy is a “boon” to the others.
Thanks, AP. Always nice to see a “good news” story.
A recent Associated Press story on the work of the ASPCA had this to say:
It took years of campaigning to change thinking about sterilizing pets, but it has paid off. This year fewer than 4 million unwanted dogs and cats will be euthanized, down from as many as 20 million before 1970.
There are several reasons: Aggressive adopt-a-pet campaigns are carried out every day in cities all over the country and breed rescues save many dogs. But animal experts believe spaying and neutering has played the biggest role in saving so many lives.
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal correctly calls this out as eerily Orwellian:
Did you catch that “saving so many lives”? True, fewer animals were put to death, but that’s because they weren’t born in the first place. By this logic, hunting a species to extinction “saves lives” because it prevents any more of the species from being killed.
This sort of deceptive language is commonly deployed on behalf of totalitarian regimes to conceal their brutality to human beings. It’s fascinating to see it used in this context, where the moral stakes are so much lower.
Exactly. It’s a classic case of a warped “destroy the town to save it” mentality. The ASPCA is saving the animals lives by preventing them from being alive. What’s far more disturbing is that the ASPCA’s Orwellian language of animal control is often used against unborn humans, in two inter-related debates: population control (which even has an ominous name), and abortion.
Pro-Choice Action Network crows about “the tremendous benefit to society of ensuring that every child is a wanted child.” But abortion doesn’t magically make children suddenly become wanted. What they’re really saying is that they’ll prevent “unwanted” children from being born. Unlike ASPCA, they don’t stop reproduction before conception, so their real message is that if all the unwanted children would die, children would be happier. You might as well suggest raising the per capita income by killing the poor.
Of course, these pro-choice mantras about wanted and unwanted children are false: many women abort children they want but feel they can’t keep, due to pressures from their finances, families, or the fathers of the baby; and of course, an untold number of children who reach childbirth are abused or treated as if they’re unwanted by their families. Two things should be noted about this. First, many of those children grow up into happy and well-adjusted adults – a lousy childhood is a terrible shame, but it’s generally not the final chapter. Second, abortion actually makes this problem dramatically worse, not better.
We can see this most acutely in the realm of children with disabilities. Right now, the statistics for the unborn disabled are disturbing: over 90% of those children who are identified as having Down’s Syndrome while they’re still in the womb will be aborted, and the statistics aren’t much better for a number of other mental or physical disabilities. What message, exactly, does this send (on behalf of both parents and society) to those children who are born with Down’s Syndrome, or to those physically- and emotionally-healthy children who suffer some sort of childhood accident, and become disabled? If you’re aware that your sibling was killed by abortion for being disabled, and then you become disabled, who wouldn’t feel like an “unwanted child”?
The fact is, abortion perpetuates a mentality which treats children like commodities. If you don’t like the hand you’ve been dealt, get an abortion and try again. It’s this mentality which creates a culture increasingly hostile to children, and it’s no mystery why, even as society has become more economically enriched and technologically advanced, we’ve become increasingly barbaric towards the vulnerable. If we could just eliminate the undesirable members of our society, every citizen would be a wanted citizen, right?
On the population control front, the parallel is obvious. Not only do the two groups use identical language about controlling population sizes, but many of the more famous would-be population controllers have backgrounds in biology (Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich) or environmental sciences (Club of Rome’s founder Alexander King, Limits to Growth author Donella Meadows, etc.), and have approached the idea of controlling humans as if we’re simply another animal.
Here’s how Paul Ehrlich begins Population Bomb:
I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time. I came to understand it emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi a few years ago. My wife and daughter and I were returning to our hotel in an ancient taxi. The seats were hopping with fleas. The only functional gear was third. As we crawled through the city, we entered a crowded slum area. The temperature was well over 100, and the air was a haze of dust and smoke. The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people. As we moved slowly through the mob, hand horn squawking, the dust, noise, heat, and cooking fires gave the scene a hellish aspect. Would we ever get to our hotel? All three of us were, frankly, frightened. It seemed that anything could happen – but, of course, nothing did.
If you didn’t already know that this book was about population control, you could hardly be criticized for expecting that the author was some sort of racist or xenophobe, talking about how disgusting and scary he finds the people of the Third World. And frankly, you wouldn’t really be wrong.
Ehrlich didn’t think that the problem with the world was that there were too many Ehrlichs — that his wife or his daughter simply put too much strain on the Earth to be allowed to live — but that there were too many beggars, paupers, and Indians. Of course, the absurdity is that the natural resources being used by the Ehrlichs (for example, in flying a family of three from the United States to India, and staying at a hotel) dwarf what the average Indian was using, and natural resources, after all, were what Ehrlich claimed to be worried about.
Like the other examples discussed above, Ehrlich was quick to employ the Orwellian claim that he was wanting this for India. It was our moral responsibility to make sure that fewer Indians were poor. Earlier, I remarked that you “might as well suggest raising the per capita income by killing the poor.” Ehrlich drains that claim of any irony — that’s his actual proposal. Widespread abortions, along with birth control and sterilization of the poor, were all part of his plan (and still are). Here’s how he presents this as a sort of charity:
Old India hands will laugh at our reaction. We were just some overprivileged tourists, unaccustomed to the sights and sounds of India. Perhaps, but the problems of Delhi and Calcutta are our problems too. Americans have helped to create them; we help to prevent their solution. We must all learn to identify with the plight of our less fortunate fellows on Spaceship Earth if we are to help both them and ourselves to survive.
So we should prevent poor children from being poor … by preventing poor children from being, period. By this logic, bringing humanity to extinction helps “both them and ourselves to survive” because it prevents any more of the humans from being killed (or worse, poor).