Over the last two posts, I have discussed the suggestion, published in The Journal of Medical Ethics, that parents (or the state) should be able to kill their infants if they discover a defect or hardship that would have led them to have aborted the baby before birth. Much of this discussion hinges on the authors’ (Giubilini and Minerva) definition of personhood.
In this post, I will address an important question that actually gets discussed in the article: why not put the kids up for adoption rather than killing them? I mean, it can’t be easy for a parent to put their children up for adoption, but that has to be a better option than killing them. Right?
Wrong. At least, according to Giubilini and Minerva. In the article, they assume that unhealthy or unhappy babies will be killed. But what of the healthy and happy babies? Wouldn’t it be better to put these babies up for adoption? That way the babies can live and even bring happiness to those adopting them.
Before we consider this too seriously, however, we need to take the mother into account. Giublilini and Minerva explain that giving up a child for adoption can be psychologically difficult for a mother. They acknowledge that abortion sometimes creates a psychological hardship for would-be mothers, but argue that the psychological trauma caused by giving up a child for adoption is worse, because the potential exists to reverse the decision. A woman who has had an abortion is able to move on because she knows her decision was permanent and can’t be undone. A woman who has given up her child for adoption, however, will always have to live with the thought that maybe she could or should reconnect with her child.
I am certainly not inclined to rank levels of psychological distress, especially not in such matters where I do not (and cannot) have any experience. But I do think that it’s important to identify what is happening here. The avoidance of feelings of guilt is exalted above the dignity of human life. Better to kill a human being than to go through life with a burdensome child. Better to deal with some temporary guilt over killing the child than to deal with lifelong guilt over seeing the child live with another family.
There is no discussion of right and wrong, just a desire to alleviate the consequences of our actions and a firm commitment to avoid guilt.
Francis Schaeffer explains: “Humanism makes man ‘the measure of all things.’ It puts man rather than God at the center of all things.” Ironically, in giving ultimate value to man, we lose the only adequate basis we have for considering humanity to be valuable. Man is valuable because he has been created by God, created in his image even. But once we make man “the center of all things,” then he is free to decide that some people are not people. The value of humanity has not been placed in each individual by a Creator, it comes from our ability to contribute to society (or whatever arbitrary standard of value prevails).
Speaking in the late 1970s, Schaeffer compared the harsh realities of abortion and euthanasia to the child sacrifices of the ancients:
“In Old Testament days, God expressed special abhorrence for the Canaanite practice of infant sacrifice…the ancient Europeans also offered up their offspring to the gods. These people killed their offspring in order to purchase from the gods, they hoped, their own personal peace and affluence. Today, indiscriminate abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are also performed for the personal peace and affluence of individuals. People who destroy their own children and others’, so that they can maintain their life-styles, are also sacrificing to the gods—the gods of a materialistic world-view and practice, and the god of the ‘self’ as the egotistic center and measure of all things.”
We need to be careful here. There are reasons that people pursue abortions that are not to be scoffed at or quickly dismissed. A Christian solution to these social issues will require a depth of compassion, commitment, and sacrifice that the Christian community is not accustomed to. We ought to bear the burdens of those who feel they have no other options than abortion—before or after birth—rather than simply condemning them. But we must be aware of what is being proposed and prepare ourselves to respond with wisdom and compassion.
I will let Schaeffer’s words conclude this series of posts:
“We challenge you to be a person in this impersonal age. Be human in this inhuman age. Put the people in your life first—whether perfect or marred…You and the those around you are people, made in the image of the personal God who created all people in His image.”