By Anne Fox
Post Roe v. Wade Massachusetts
Pro-abortion cheerleaders and many in the media are threatening that Roe v. Wade will be overturned within 18 months and “people will die”.
Actually, people are dying now - more than 2,500 babies each and every day!
In Massachusetts, there are still some old abortion restrictions on the books. Of course, they have not been enforced, or enforceable, since Roe v. Wade.
Pro-abortion supporters have been talking for years about overturning these life-saving laws every time they need to stir up the troops. This time the Senate actually passed the resolution, 38 - 0, and it may well be voted on in the House on July 18, 2018.
They claim that, if or when Roe v. Wade is overturned, those old laws will kick in and abortion will be illegal in Massachusetts. That would be wonderful, but it is exactly the opposite of the truth.
The truth is that Massachusetts is one of the fifteen states which have abortion enshrined in their state Constitutions. Overturning Roe v. Wade will change nothing in the state.
It is a fact that a state Constitution can offer more rights than the federal Constitution, but not fewer. This developed because of voting rights. The Massachusetts legislature passed the Doyle-Flynn Bill in 1979, which stated that no state funds would be used for abortion, and Governor Ed King signed in June.
The U.S. Supreme Court had found that the Hyde Amendment, which was essentially the same, was constitutional.
Instead of saying the Massachusetts Constitution could offer a greater right to life, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court looked at abortion rights and found in 1981 that the MA Constitution would offer more rights to abortion and abortion funding than the our federal Constitution.
The Massachusetts Declaration of Rights affords a greater degree of protection to a woman to have a doctor terminate her child by abortion than does the Federal Constitution, as interpreted by Harris v. McRae. (1980).
When Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will not impact the Massachusetts Constitution, or our State.. The only way we will be able to pass any abortion restrictions will be to amend the Massachusetts Constitution, not just on funding, but on abortion as a whole.
Some states have already done this. We need to look at their results...
By Ronald W. Pies, MD and Annette Hanson, MD (Originally published on July 7, 2018)
Editor’s note: The presented analysis in this submitted column reflects the views of the authors, not necessarily those of MD Mag. Health care professionals and researchers interested in responding to this piece or similarly contributing to MD Mag can contact the editorial staff here.
In an age of “alternative facts”, it’s hard to sort out myth from reality when it comes to so-called ‘medical-aid-in-dying’ (MAID)—also called physician assisted suicide (PAS). By whatever label we attach to it, this practice involves a physician’s prescribing a lethal drug for a patient with a putatively terminal illness who is requesting this “service.” Some form of MAID/PAS is now legal in 5 states and the District of Columbia.
People of good conscience, including many physicians, are sharply divided on the ethics of MAID/PAS. Unfortunately, much of the support for this practice is founded on several myths and misconceptions regarding existing MAID laws and practices. Here are 12 of the most common.
1. Everyone has a “right to die”, including a right to take one’s own life, acting alone or with assistance.
In contrast to “liberties”, rights entail the cooperation or assistance of others.1 Mentally competent people may be at liberty to end their own lives (i.e., will not be prosecuted), but there is no recognized right to suicide that involves the cooperation of others. In Washington v. Glucksberg [521 U.S. 702 (1997)], the US Supreme Court (USSC) denied that there is a constitutionally-protected “right to commit suicide” or a right to PAS. To rule otherwise, the majority held, would force them to “reverse centuries of legal doctrine and practice, and strike down the considered policy choice of almost every state.”
That said, the USSC has held that all competent persons have the right to refuse unwanted or “heroic” measures that merely prolong the dying process.2 Similarly, in Vacco v. Quill [521 U.S. 793(1997)], the USSC held that there is a legal difference between withdrawal of care and provision of a lethal intervention; i.e., everyone has a right to refuse medical care, but no one has a “right” to receive a lethal means of ending one’s life.
2. People who request “medical aid in dying” usually do so because they are experiencing severe, intractable pain and suffering.
Most requests for medical-aid-in-dying are not made by patients experiencing “untreatable pain or suffering”, as data from Oregon have shown; rather, the most common reasons for requesting medical aid in dying were loss of autonomy (97.2%), inability to engage in enjoyable activities (88.9%), and loss of dignity (75.0%).3
Many patients who request assisted suicide are clinically depressed and could be successfully treated, once properly diagnosed.
3. In states such as Oregon and Washington, where PAS is legal, there are adequate safeguards in place to ensure proper application of the PAS law.
In Oregon, reporting to the state is done solely by the physician prescribing the lethal drugs, who has a vested interest in minimizing problems. Moreover, if a physician was negligent in making the initial diagnosis or prognosis, there is no way to track this, since, by law, all death certificates will state that the person died of the putative underlying disease. At the same time, the physician is rarely present at the time the patient ingests the lethal drug, so the possibility of abuse—e.g., by coercive family members—cannot be adequately assessed.
The Oregon department of human services has said it has no authority to investigate individual death-with-dignity cases,4 and Oregon has acknowledged that its law does not adequately protect all people with mental illness from receiving lethal prescriptions.5 Thus, it is nearly impossible to determine cases in which, for example, terminally ill patients were pressured to end their lives by family members. A study in the Michigan Law Review (2008) found that “seemingly reasonable safeguards for the care and protection of terminally ill patients written into the Oregon law are being circumvented…[and that]…the Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD), which is charged with monitoring the law…does not collect the information it would need to effectively monitor the law…OPHD…acts as the defender of the law rather than as the protector of the welfare of terminally ill patients.”6
Kenneth R. Stevens, Jr., MD, and William I. Toffler, MD, both of the Oregon Health & Science University, point to other actual or potential abuses in PAS-permissive states, including "physician shopping" to get around safeguards; nurse-assisted suicide without orders from a physician; and economic pressures to use PAS, such as Oregon Medicaid patients being denied cancer treatment but offered coverage for assisted suicide.7 Furthermore, an investigative piece by the Des Moines Register revealed that mandatory reporting requirements were not followed by hundreds of doctors in states where MAID/PAS is legal.8
4. In the US, only people with terminal or incurable illnesses are eligible for PAS.
Most PAS legislation applies to an adult with a terminal illness or condition predicted to have less than 6 months to live. In Oregon and Washington State, nearly identical criteria are interpreted to mean less than 6 months to live—specifically, without treatment. Thus, a healthy 20-year-old with insulin-dependent diabetes could be deemed “terminal” for the purpose of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act.”
So, too, patients refusing appropriate treatment may be deemed “terminal” under current interpretation of the Oregon law. Thus, a patient with anorexia nervosa who refused treatment could be eligible for PAS under Oregon law, even though she could recover with intensive therapy. As Swedish investigator Fabian Stahle observes, “This is in fact an alteration of the traditional meaning of the concept of ‘incurable.’”9
5. “Slippery slope” arguments against PAS are overblown. In European countries that allow PAS, there is no evidence that patients are being euthanized improperly.
People with non-terminal illnesses have been legally euthanized at their own request in several countries for nearly 15 years. This has included certain eligible patients who have only psychiatric disorders. In 2002, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg removed any distinctions between terminal and non-terminal conditions—and between physical suffering and mental suffering—for legally permitted PAS. Between 2008 and 2014, more than 200 psychiatric patients were euthanized by their own request in the Netherlands (1% of all euthanasia in that country). Among them, 52% had a diagnosis of personality disorder, 56% refused 1 or more offered treatments, and 20% had never even had an inpatient stay (1 indication of previous treatment intensity). When asked the primary reason for seeking PAS/euthanasia, 66% cited “social isolation and loneliness.”
Despite the legal requirement for agreement between outside consultants, for 24% of psychiatric patients euthanized, at least 1 outside consultant disagreed.10-12
The US has not been immune to the slippery slope, either. For example, in Oregon, a psychiatrist opened a fee-for-service death clinic, where for $5,000, “terminally ill patients who are eligible to take advantage of…Oregon's suicide law can book a death that might look a lot like a wedding package.” 13
6. The method of “assisted dying” now used in Oregon and other PAS-states assures the patient of a quick, peaceful death, without serious complications.
A peaceful death is by no means guaranteed using current methods of PAS, as a recent piece by Lo pointed out: 14 “Physicians who support PAD need to consider how to address the potential for adverse outcomes, including longer time to death than expected (up to 24 hours or more), awakening from unconsciousness, nausea, vomiting, and gasping.”
Data collected between 1998-2015 showed that the time between ingestion of lethal drugs and death ranged from 1 minute to more than 4 days. During this same period (1998-2015), 27 cases (out of 994) involved difficulty ingesting or regurgitating the drugs, and there were 6 known instances in which patients regained consciousness after ingesting the drugs. However, it is difficult to know the actual rate of drug-induced complications, since in the majority (54%) of cases between1998-2015, no health care professional was present to attend and observe the patient’s death.15
7. “Death with Dignity” all comes down to the patient’s autonomy, and the right of patients to end life on their terms.
In the first place, under current legislation permitting so-called medical aid in dying, the patient is completely dependent on the judgment, authorization, and prescriptive power of the physician—hardly a state of autonomy.1 Moreover, autonomy is only 1 of the 4 ‘cornerstones’ of medical ethics; the others are beneficence, non-malfeasance and justice. As Desai and Grossberg observe in their textbook on long-term care:
“The preeminence of autonomy as an ethical principle in the United States can sometimes lead health care providers to disregard other moral considerations and common sense when making clinical decisions…we strongly feel that the role of the medical profession is to understand but not to support such wishes [for physician-assisted death]. Every person’s life is valuable, irrespective of one’s physical and mental state, even when that person has ceased to deem life valuable.”16
8. Doctors who conscientiously oppose PAS are perfectly free to refuse participation in it.
In theory, the California guidelines state that "A healthcare provider who refuses to participate in activities under the act on the basis of conscience, morality or ethics cannot be subject to censure, discipline … or other penalty by a healthcare provider, professional association or organization," the guidelines say.17 However, prior to its PAS law being declared unconstitutional, physicians in California could be compelled to participate in PAS, under certain circumstances.
California's health department regulation requires a state facility to provide PAS. If the request is denied, the patient has a right to a judicial hearing on the matter. If the court determines the patient is qualified, the attending physician must write a prescription for lethal drugs.18 Moreover, there is evidence that physicians are sometimes pressured or intimidated by patients to assist in suicide.7
9. Terminally ill people who request MAID are not suicidal and don’t commit suicide. They are dying, and simply want “hastening” of an inevitable death. In contrast, genuinely suicidal people are not dying of a terminal condition, yet they want to die.
This argument plays fast and loose with language, logic, and law. In fact, it turns ordinary language on its head, thereby eliminating suicide by linguistic fiat. As the American Nursing Association states, “suicide is the act of taking one's own life,”19 regardless of the act’s context. There may indeed be different psychological profiles that distinguish suicide in the context of terminal illness from suicide in other contexts, but that does not overturn the ordinary language meaning of suicide. Thus, when a terminally ill patient (or any other person) knowingly and intentionally ingests a lethal drug, that act is, incontrovertibly, suicide.
Most suicides occur in the context of serious psychiatric illness. Yet patients who express suicidal ideation in the context of a condition such as major depression rarely want to die; rather, as numerous suicide prevention websites note, “Most suicidal people do not want to die. They are experiencing severe emotional pain, and are desperate for the pain to go away.” 20
10. People requesting PAS are carefully screened by mental health professionals to rule out depression.
Most PAS statutes modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity statute do not require examination by a mental health professional, except when the participating physician is concerned and decides to do so. Specifically, “The patient is referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist if concern exists that the patient has a psychiatric disorder including depression that may impair judgment.”21
A study of the Oregon law concluded that “Although most terminally ill Oregonians who receive aid in dying do not have depressive disorders, the current practice of the Death with Dignity Act may fail to protect some patients whose choices are influenced by depression from receiving a prescription for a lethal drug.”21
In Oregon, 204 patients were prescribed lethal drugs in 2016 under the “Death with Dignity” statute, yet only 5 patients were referred for psychiatric or psychological evaluation.22
11. Doctors who participate in PAS are almost always comfortable doing so and rarely regret their decision.
Many doctors who have participated in euthanasia and/or PAS are adversely affected— emotionally and psychologically—by their experiences. In a structured, in-depth telephone interview survey of 38 US oncologists who reported participating in euthanasia or PAS, nearly a quarter of the physicians regretted their actions. Another 16% reported that the emotional burden of performing euthanasia or PAS adversely affected their medical practice.23 For example, one physician felt so “burned out” that he moved from the city in which he was practicing to a small town. Similarly, reactions among European doctors suggest that PAS and euthanasia often provoke strong negative feelings.24
12. For terminally ill patients, the only means of achieving “death with dignity” is by taking a lethal drug prescribed by one’s doctor.
Only a small minority of persons with a terminal disease seek a physician’s prescription for a lethal drug. It is not clear why self-poisoning confers more dignity to one’s death than more traditional and much more common ways of dying. Many people who are dying choose to “bear with” their pain. Some seek hospice care and—in cases of severe, intractable pain—merit palliative sedation.25
Some choose voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED), which, according to one study involving hospice nurses, results in a more satisfactory death than seen with PAS. In fact, “as compared with patients who died by physician-assisted suicide, those who stopped eating and drinking were rated by hospice nurses as suffering less and being more at peace in the last two weeks of life.”26
A form of VSED called ‘sallekhana’ has been practiced in the Jain religion for centuries and is regarded as an ethical and dignified means of achieving a “natural” death.27
The case for physician-assisted suicide legislation rests on a number of misconceptions, as regards the adequacy, safety, and application of existing PAS statutes. The best available evidence suggests that current practices under PAS statutes are not adequately monitored and do not adequately protect vulnerable populations, such as patients with clinical depression. The American College of Physicians,28the American Medical Association, the World Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have all registered opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
It is critical that physicians inform themselves as regards the actual nature and function—or dysfunction—of medical aid in dying legislation. The first step is to recognize and challenge the many myths that surround these well-intended but misguided laws.
The authors wish to recognize the important contributions of Dr. Mark Komrad and Mr. Alex Schadenberg to the discussion of physician-assisted suicide.
Ronald W. Pies, MD is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Lecturer on Bioethics at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY; and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Tufts U. School of Medicine, Boston.
Annette Hanson, MD, is Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program, and Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
- Szasz T: Fatal Freedom. Syracuse University Press, 1995.
- Loggers ET, Starks H, Shannon-Dudley M et al. Implementing a Death with Dignity program at a comprehensive cancer center. N Engl J Med. 2013 Apr 11;368(15):1417-24.https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1213398
- Oregon board investigates failed assisted suicide. Jun 20, 2005 http://www.drugtopics.com/community-pharmacy/oregon-board-investigates-failed-assisted-suicide
- The Oregon Death With Dignity Act: A Guidebook for Healthcare Providers, page 43. Accessed at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/education/continuing-education/center-for-ethics/ethics-outreach/upload/Oregon-Death-with-Dignity-Act-Guidebook.pdf
- Hendin H, Foley K. Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective, Mich. L. Rev. 106; 1613 (2008). Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol106/iss8/7
- Stevens KR, Toffler WI. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. JAMA, 2016;316(15): 1599 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2569774
- Suicide with a helping hand worries Iowans on both sides of 'right to die'. Desmoine Register, 2016 Nov 25 https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2016/11/25/too-weak-kill-herself-assistance-legal/92407392/
- Stahle F. Oregon Health Authority Reveals Hidden Problems with the Oregon Assisted Suicide Model. https://www.masscitizensforlife.org/oregon-health-authority-reveals-hidden-problems-with-the-oregon-assisted-suicide-model
- Kim SYH, De Vries RG, Peteet JR. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide of Patients With Psychiatric Disorders in the Netherlands 2011 to 2014. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(4):362-368 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5530592/
- Komrad MS. APA Position on Medical Euthanasia. Psychiatric Times. Feb. 25,c 2017. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/suicide/apa-position-medical-euthanasia
- Lo B. Beyond Legalization — Dilemmas Physicians Confront Regarding Aid in Dying.” N Engl J Med. 2018; 378(22):2060-2062 https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1802218?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Desai AK, Grossberg GT. Psychiatric Consultation in Long-Term Care, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, p. 262.
- McGreevy P. Guidelines issued for California's assisted suicide law http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-guidelines-california-assisted-suicide-law-20160120-story.html
- California Code of Regulations. § 4601. Petitions to the Superior Court and Access to the End of Life Option Act. http://www.dsh.ca.gov/Publications/docs/Regulations/2016_10_31_End_of_Life_ISOR.pdf
- American Nurses Association. Position Statement. Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and Aid in Dying. April 24, 2013 https://www.nursingworld.org/~4af287/globalassets/docs/ana/ethics/euthanasia-assisted-suicideaid-in-dying_ps042513.pdf
- Ganzini L, Goy ER, Dobscha SK. Prevalence of depression and anxiety in patients requesting physicians’ aid in dying: cross sectional survey BMJ 2008; 337:a1682 https://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a1682
- Emanuel EJ, Daniels ER, Fairclough DL, Clarridge BR. The Practice of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide in the United States. Adherence to Proposed Safeguards and Effects on Physicians. JAMA. 1998;280(6):507–513. doi:10.1001/jama.280.6.507 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/187854
- Stevens KR Jr. Emotional and psychological effects of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia on participating physicians. Issues Law Med. 2006 Spring; 21(3):187-200.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16676767
- Statement on Palliative Sedation. Approved by the AAHPM Board of Directors on December 5, 2014 http://aahpm.org/positions/palliative-sedation
- Ganzini L, Goy ER, Miller LL et al. Nurses' experiences with hospice patients who refuse food and fluids to hasten death. N Engl J Med. 2003 Jul 24;349(4):359-65.https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa035086
- Tukol JTK. Sallekhana. https://www.jainworld.com/education/seniors/senles15.htm
- Sulmasy LS, Mueller PS. Ethics and the Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide: An American College of Physicians Position Paper. Ann Intern Med. 2017;167(8):576-578. http://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2654458/ethics-legalization-physician-assisted-suicide-american-college-physicians-position-paper
By Don Feder
Sen. Richard Durbin (D., IL) (who once compared Guantanamo guards to Nazis) says Democrats should sacrifice a few Senate seats in red states to defeat POTUS’s Supreme Court nominee. I hope they do. With fewer Democrats in the Senate, it will be easier to confirm Trump’s other nominees for SCOTUS and lower federal courts in 2019 and 2020.
Why does abortion loom so large, above every other controversial issue – including gay “marriage,” immigration, and the Second Amendment – for right and left?
For liberals, abortion is the crown jewel of it pantheon of pseudo-rights. If Roe is overturned, it will call into question all of the other times they’ve used the judiciary to legislate social policy.
For conservatives, there’s the recognition that the right to life is the basis for all other rights. The aborted child does not grow up to give stump speeches, marry, own guns, or choose a religion to follow.
The slippery slope isn’t theoretical; it’s real. It’s a slalom.
If society can condone the killing of the unborn, it advances infanticide, euthanasia, medically assisted suicide, and medical triaged for the elderly and infirm. The right to life – the first right enumerated in the Declaration of Independence – is imperiled for all, not just the unborn.
That’s why we should be willing to make any sacrifice to get a pro-life replacement for weaselly Anthony Kennedy, who swung with the Constitution on occasion, but more often with the mob.
By Tim Rosales
On May 15th, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that the End of Life Options Act was unconstitutional. The law took effect on June 9, 2016 and was ruled unconstitutional by Ottolia because the Legislature passed the law during a special session convened by Governor Jerry Brown to address health care related issues.
At the time of its passage, California became the 5th state to approve physician’s assisted suicide.
Ottolia gave California Attorney General Xavier Becerra five days to file an emergency writ; to seek a stay and keep the law active during the assumed appeal process. Ultimately, the court of appeals agreed with Ottolia’s ruling and denied Becerra’s writ of appeal, but did give Becerra, or other interested parties, 25 days to provide additional arguments as to why the court should grant the stay.
The initial lawsuit to overturn the law was filed the same day the law took effect by a coalition of groups that included the Life Legal Defense Foundation and the American Academy of Medical Ethics.
CNN reports, “In a separate motion, they argue that medical aid in dying was not related to the stated purpose of the special legislative session that passed the act, explained Alexandra Snyder, the executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation.” Some interested parties even go so far as to say that the special session was “hijacked” and used to pass the legislation more rapidly and with less scrutiny.
It was this aspect of the lawsuit that Ottolia centered his decision upon – the legality of passing this law during the special legislative session. In other words, the legislation did not align with the state purpose of the Legislative special session.
Matt Valliere, Executive Director of PRAF, released a statement in response to Ottolia’s ruling that focuses on the broader issues at hand with assisted suicide when he said, “Halting the law likewise has the benefit of protecting a great many vulnerable people against deadly harm through mistakes, abuse and coercion – risks that go hand in hand with this type of dangerous public policy.”
Valliere’s statement continues, “This ruling confirms that assisted suicide advocates circumvented the legislative process. It represents a tremendous blow to the assisted suicide legalization movement and puts state legislatures on notice regarding the political trickery of groups like Compassion and Choices.”
Currently, we await a June 29th hearing where Ottolia will consider a motion by Becerra to reverse his earlier decision.
***Update: Following the writing of this article and as of the publish date of this newsletter a state appeals court has reinstated California's law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives. The court gave opponents of its decision until July 2 to file objections.***
We are Know-Somethings: On the American Declaration of the Equal Dignity of Every Human
Justly felt, our pride as Americans on this Independence Day. A rare clarity thinned the obscurity of world history when that Declaration was made: all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Never had a nation been founded on such a declaration of the equal dignity of each human life. And therein lies the great paradox of America: to be a nation whose particular mark is dedication to a universal truth.
That’s what Lincoln reminded us as he made a stop at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on his way to Washington, D.C., for his first inauguration, in 1861:
“I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. …I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men.”
The American Declaration that all humans are created equal meant the founding of one nation, yes, but all the dispossessed of the world, all those subjected by tyrants and oligarchs, were now to have something of an American aspiration. And that wind would blow through every nation on earth.
From the Founding, we failed our own vision. The self-contradiction of slavery was so absurd as to be ridiculous, if it weren’t for the incalculable horrors, the infernal terror, involved in the denial of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to black Americans.
And we have been tempted since to betray the American Declaration, for increase of power and wealth and comfort tends to corrupt. As we become oligarchs, we compromise on equal dignity:
“When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we called the maxim that ‘all men are created equal’ a self evident truth; but now when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same maxim ‘a self-evident lie’” [from the 1855 letter to George Robertson].
This betrayal tends to metastasize. As the Second Party System collapsed in the mid-1850s, one of the emerging contenders were the xenophobic, nativist, anti-immigrant Know-Nothings. For these, Lincoln had the perfect words:
“I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic]” [from the 1855 letter to Joshua Speed].
Pro-lifers are the polar opposite of the Know-Nothings. We are the partisans of all humanity. We believe the American Declaration, without exception and without dilution. We are know-somethings. We know that every single human life has equal dignity. As we would not look on the refugee as an alien, so will we not look on the unborn child as an alien invader either, even if he or she was “unplanned.” We know that declaring “all men are created equal” can have no codicil, such as “except the unborn child.” We will offer radical hospitality to every single human, for as we do to the least of these, we do unto the Lord.
We will maintain the American Declaration to the end, whole and high. That means the fire of revolution never ceases to burn in us. But as the one Revolution has occurred, it is in patience and with trust in providence that we commit ourselves to working through democratic and republican processes to see that America, at last, realize, without exception and without dilution, the truth of her Declaration. Lincoln reminisces to Speed:
“In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union.”
We will crucify our feelings for the torment of the least among us, so that we, with both serenity and urgency, may carry on the public deliberation and charitable works necessary to exorcise the Know-Nothing spirit blind to the equal dignity of each human life. This great day, we give thanks to the good Creator for this great nation, and for the Declaration that changes everything.
By Dr. David Franks, Chairman of the Board of Massachusetts Citizens for Life
When a man joins with a woman and a new human life comes into existence, a new father is created. Nothing will ever change the fact, no matter how long the child lives. The man has become a father and, especially the first time it happens (if natural dynamisms have not been short-circuited), once he’s made aware of the fact, he begins to grow into the specific responsibility that is paternity, his soul gestating within the womb of the providential universe—unto a new form of care.
This year’s Mass. March for Life took place two weekends ago, on Father’s Day. This conjunction inspires meditation upon the necessity of paternal care to generate a culture of life.
I’ve come across no better expression of this nexus than what the great French poet Charles Péguy writes in The Portal of the Mystery of Hope. He understands that the world goes on solely because of children, and a father strains like Atlas to sustain the world—even to make it ramify beyond inertia.
“My three virtues, says God./Master of the Three Virtues./My three virtues are no different than men and women in their homes./Children are never the ones who work./But no one ever works except for children./It’s never the child who goes to the field, who tills and who sows, and who reaps and who harvests the grapes and who trims the vine and who fells the trees and who cuts the wood./For winter./To warm the house in winter./But would the father have the heart to work if he didn’t have his children./If it weren’t for the sake of his children.”
These weeks have also seen the tragic spectacle on our southern border, with children taken away from mothers and fathers. I have some sense of what a father might feel to have his children ripped away, and I tell you that no one of moral feeling, and certainly no one with a Christian conscience, should entertain the thought without being filled with zeal for justice. Unjustified state violation of the integrity of the family is transgression of one of the most basic principles of social ethics: subsidiarity. And when subsidiarity is violated with regard to families, maternal and paternal care is destroyed and new life is endangered at the root.
A few months ago, I noted (concerning the tragedy of Alfie Evans) that, regardless of the complexity of the medical issues involved, the principle of subsidiarity cannot be abrogated except under the most extreme of situations. The nation-state, the supreme artifice of modernity, is, I believe, a necessary thing, a good thing, but it is also a dangerous thing, given the chthonic pull of nationalism (not to be conflated with patriotism) and the totalitarian tendencies of the bureaucratic administration of life. Without subsidiarity, the state (and the atomized populace of such a state), forget the most basic human decencies and the most basic hedges on popular/bureaucratic overreach. These are perilous times for basic human rights, and a child’s right to live and flourish requires remembering that the modern nation is no sacrosanct god and there are rights no power on earth may violate (the right to life, the right to freedom of conscience, etc.) So, we must also bear in mind the artificiality of the nation-state when thinking about borders, because the free movement of people is an ab-original right, absolutely pre-dating the emergence of the nation.
Of course MCFL takes no position on the specifics of immigration reform. But it is every pro-lifer’s responsibility to maintain the inviolability of subsidiarity, and preeminently when it comes to the right of familial integrity over against state claims. Certainly, subsidiarity cannot be usurped by the state for something so far down the line of positive law (versus the human rights of natural law) as the maintenance of borders.
As Pope Leo XIII puts it in Rerum novarum: “Provided, therefore, the limits which are prescribed by the very purposes for which it exists be not transgressed, the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty. We say, ‘at least equal rights’; for, inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature. If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire.
“The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself.”
Family integrity, and parental care, have everything to do with the sanctity of human life, its creation and its development. You can’t honor one without honoring the other.
It is also incumbent upon pro-lifers, given the actual political pathways open to us, to note that allowing the Republican Party to collapse into racism and xenophobia would be a disaster for the pro-life cause as a civic movement strictly speaking. Obviously, a pro-lifer cannot support a racist party, and given that the Democratic Party is zealously committed to the legal right to privately execute unborn children, we cannot allow demagogically fanned racism fester among Republicans.
A father’s heart keeps growing with the gestation and birth and raising of his children. It grows and grows within and towards the limitless horizons of the good Father’s love, Who looks upon all the dwellers of the earth with care. Life requires expansive and expanding love in the heart of fathers.
Sunday, June 17 was a wonderfully warm Father's Day in lots of ways. Enthusiastic pro-lifers at MCFL’s Massachusetts March enjoyed inspirational music by the Delmore Band and responded with cheers to poignant messages from leaders who represented a wide range of organizations helping to save unborn lives.
Fr. Sheehan led the March to the State House and through the streets of the city returning to the Parkman Bandstand enabling all to publicly witness their genuine respect and love for the dignity of human life.
Hospital Spent Nearly $200,000 on Lawyers to Pull Plug on Toddler Alfie Evans’ Life Support
From Life News:
The hospital in England that removed the life support of British toddler Alfie Evans in April over the objections of his parents spent more than $190,000 in lawyers’ fees in the legal battle that ended in the termination of the 23-month-old’s life support.
The actual amount spent by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, England, was likely much higher, because the $191,584 doesn’t include what was spent during the last week of March and four weeks in April, the BBC reported Saturday.
The financial expenditure is the latest insight into what occurred during the extensive legal battle waged by the hospital to pull the plug on Alfie’s life support. It said doing so was in the seriously ill child’s “best interests.”
Alfie, from Bootle, Merseyside, suffered from a degenerative brain condition. He had been in a semi-vegetative state for more than a year, according to the BBC.
Alfie’s case drew international attention, even prompting Pope Francis to offer support to the child’s parents, who wanted to take Alfie to a hospital in Italy.
But Alder Hey ultimately won the court case and ended Alfie’s life support on April 23. He died five days later.
The revelation of the legal expenditures—resulting from a freedom of information request—drew a harsh rebuke from the toddler’s aunt, Sarah Evans.
“We had a hospital [to take Alfie to]. We had the money to take him elsewhere. We had the plane ready. We had Alfie fighting, and they paid this to kill him? Ask yourselves why,” she wrote on Facebook.
Robert Moffit, a senior fellow with the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, said that there’s a lesson to be learned from Alfie’s case for those on this side of the Atlantic.
“For Americans, this British case is a teachable moment,” Moffit said. “Government control of health care is government power over health care. In such a system, the exercise of personal freedom requires the bureaucrats’ permission slip.”
Alfie’s father, Thomas Evans, hinted that more information about the toddler’s final days would be released in the coming weeks.
“We wanted everyone to know that, in time as we grieve, we will be speaking out further to the buildup to Alfie’s death, and we will be speaking out the truth and in detail about the week that we had to go through,” Evans wrote on Facebook, referring to the final five days of Alfie’s life.
“No other parent should ever, ever go through [this],” Evans wrote.
LifeNews Note: Jeremiah Poff writes for The Daily Signal, where this column originally appeared.
By Anne Fox -
Some (many) times it is so embarrassing to live in the Commonwealth! James Antle lll, in "Ubuntu" an article in Chronicles of American Culture, lets the cat out of the bag about abortion and the Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Cambridge.
Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, another charming lady who happens to be the dean of EDS identified one apparent exception to Ubuntu: the “blessing” of abortion, whereby a woman can become a whole person by terminating her relationship with the “other” in her womb—even if it is a purely elective abortion undergone by a woman who “becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship” and “has every option open to her,” but nevertheless “decides she does not wish to bear a child.”
After all, says Ragsdale, “The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.” Perhaps fearing she might be misunderstood, Ragsdale continued:
“These are the two things I want you, please, to remember—abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.” She then repeated the second part of the sentence three times to make sure no one missed out on the gospel according to "St." Margaret Sanger.
By Anne Fox - Charles Krauthammer has announced that he has only a few weeks to live. He said, "I leave this life with no regrets...It was a wonderful life -- full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended."
During the battle leading up to passage of Obamacare, I found Krauthammer's analyses of what was wrong with the proposed policy and what should be done to be incredibly helpful. He had the best insight available and I will always be grateful.
I remembered, also, that he had made some very good points on abortion. When Clinton was elected, Krauthammer regretfully thought the abortion fight was over. This was one of the few times when he was completely wrong.
He complimented the Catholic Church for leading the fight against abortion and pointed out that it wasn't just the selling of baby parts that Planned Parenthood wanted to cover up. It was the fact of what really happens in their so-called "clinics".
Concerning abortion, he felt that what was morally right should be enshrined in law and wrote: "The role of democratic politics is to turn such moral sensibilities into law. This is a moment to press relentlessly for a national ban on late-term abortions."
Krauthammer did what any intelligent, fair-minded person would do, he came down on the side of the babies.
I'll be praying for him!
Photo by Washington Examiner