“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What if abortion was illegal?

I came across an outrageous claim - This may be the greatest YouTube video ever made. I don’t know who wrote a title like that. Take a look for yourself. Overstated just a tad?

A note appears: “Simple premise: guy with a camera asks pro-life sidewalk protesters, many of them movement veterans, exactly what penalty a woman should face for obtaining an illegal abortion.”

Trick question
Somebody took his video camera into a street where pro-Life protestors were located and hot-seated them with the question, “If abortion were made illegal, what should happen to women who have abortions?” He must have thought he was cleaver. In an elementary way he was being rather clever. Of course the question was loaded.

If the responder answered that the woman should be jailed for committing murder, it would give fodder for a newspaper column about those heartless pro-Lifers. If the responder answered that nothing should happen to the woman who has an abortion after abortion becomes illegal, … well then, some columnist has fodder for an article that pro-Lifers do not really see abortion as the equivalent to murder at all. It’s a set-up.

The real question – had the videographer been honest rather than mischievous – would have been something like this: “If abortion was made illegal, what should happen to the abortionist (the murderer) or those who counsel, aid or abet in the abortion?”

The woman is as much a victim as the baby.

Punish where its due
Although the video was American, if the same thing happened in Canada and a microphone was shoved under my nose with that question, my answer would be something like this: The abortionist should be charged and tried for something akin to murder. Those who counsel, aid or abet should be charged under Canada's Criminal Code with a new provision that’s equivalent to Section 241 that deals with aiding and abetting in suicide.

Desperate decisions
In more than 20 years of pro-Life involvement, women in crisis pregnancies I encountered were true victims. They were desperate people making desperate decisions. Most were being pressured by boyfriends and/or parents to abort. The real facts were either withheld or downplayed about the humanity of the child they were carrying. They were truly tragic victims railroaded into abortion.

Granted, there were occasional instances where a woman could have cared less, had numerous abortions, and used abortion as a form of birth control. But they were rare cases. The vast majority of women were tormented about the decision to have an abortion and many later grieved their decisions to abort.

Life affirming options
In the early 1980s, I co-founded a Christian crisis pregnancy centre in the city of Edmonton, Canada, under the registered name of Outreach for Life (OFL). Over the last twenty-plus years they have helped literally thousands of women choose alternatives to abortion and make positive life-affirming decisions for themselves and their babies. Outreach for Life has provided complete information not only about pre-natal life but the risks of abortion. They have assisted women who chose adoption for their children to work through that decision and placed children in solid Christian homes. For women who chose to keep their babies, OFL, helped them with childcare, housing, mentoring, life skills, occupational training and an array of other help so they could support themselves and their babies.

Churches across the city provide funding to Outreach for Life, and have welcomed mothers and babies into their church families.

A just society

Videographer's mischief aside, abortion would be illegal in our society if we were truly a “just society.” If we believed in the “universality” of universal human rights (the first of which is the Right to Life)[1] -- abortion would be illegal. Abortionists would be reviled and jailed. And if we truly lived in a life affirming and compassionate society, we would treat women in crisis pregnancies with more respect than directing them to the local abortuary under the guise of “choice.”

Mark Pickup
[1] Article 3, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Monday, July 9, 2007

Personal freedom and the common good

On June 5th 2007 George Delury (74) committed suicide. For those readers who don’t remember him, Delury gained notoriety for the 1995 assisting the suicide of his wife, Myrna Lebov (52) at their Manhattan apartment. Although euthanasia advocates initially expressed confidence that Lebov had not been coerced, nothing could have been further from the truth. That’s exactly what happened! Delury let his wife know, in no uncertain terms, that she was a burden on him. Four months before his wife’s death, Delury made the following entry in his diary (which he let Myrna read):

“I have work to do, people to see, places to travel. But no one asks about my needs. I have fallen prey to the tyranny of a victim. You are sucking my life out of my [sic] like a vampire and nobody cares. In fact it appears that I am about to be cast in the role of villain because I no longer believe in you.”

Not exactly the sort of message to make a person feel valued, welcome, or wanted by their mate. The whole sordid story of what led to Myrna Lebov’s assisted suicide is chronicled in Wesley J. Smith’s book FORCED EXIT: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder (Random House, 1997). It’s a critical addition to the personal library of anybody concerned about where North America is headed with euthanasia and assisted suicide. Smith presents insights about how Delury helped destroy his wife’s will to live “by making her feel worthless and a burden on him.”

This is an important point that must be considered when discussing or considering public policy sympathetic to assisted suicide. What takes the suicidal person to such a desperate and desolate point? Suicide (assisted or unassisted) is not natural. There resides within human nature a strong instinct toward self-preservation. But there is a stronger desire to be loved. Strip a human being of their connection to divine or human love, their sense of being wanted or needed, and they may eventually lose their will to live.
Hostile world

I am chronically ill with degenerative multiple sclerosis, and have been relegated to the life in a wheelchair and various indignities of a neurological disease attacking internal functions. I am acutely aware of the distance most people keep from me – be it physical or emotional. As unfair as it is, I am aware of the slightest expressions on people’s faces of pity, shock or disgust – sometimes real and sometimes just perceived. I am aware that I do not fit in and that people must make special accommodations to include me. There is always a little nagging question in the back of my mind: When they turn away, do they roll their eyes or grit their teeth?

People with chronic illnesses or serious disabilities live in an intolerant world that celebrates youth, beauty and health more than love. Each time I hear of an assisted suicide I wonder how many rolled eyes or gritted teeth did the person see? How many exasperated sighs did they hear when they asked for help?
Each time a public opinion poll reveals that 70% of Canadians favor assisted suicide, it reminds me that most of my fellow Canadian citizens believe its better to be dead than disabled and they agree with helping the disabled person kill themselves. They consider it compassionate.
Cheap compassion

Assisted suicide is a cheap compassion. It requires so little. Lofty goals of inclusion, reasonable accommodations can be suspended. And if autonomy can be twisted to include assisted suicide for the disabled then abandonment can be dressed as a virtue of self-deliverance. What previous generations called evil this generation will call good.
Assisted suicide is reserved for the terminally and chronically ill and the disabled, not the healthy and able-bodied. Why? Assisted suicide is really just hostility and bigotry against the sick and disabled.

Assisted suicide is cheap compassion because it is not really compassion at all. It does not require love or commitment to the common good of society. It celebrates self as the final authority. The eyeless “I” cries: “Every man for himself!” It calls to the individual who has sunk beneath the waves of circumstances, the miasma of depression or misery, and says you are your own master; you have no responsibility to the common good. Assisted suicide is aligned with human despair and says it is insurmountable. Euthanasia is murder and assisted suicide is a form of murder. It deforms the sacred image of both assister and assisted. It abandons the beauty of selfless love.

All true beauty stems from love – be it human or divine. Saint John tells us that God is love (1 John 4.8). As children of God (4.4, 5.2, cf. John 1.12) we are called to love one another. The Apostle tells us,
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. (1John 7-11)

It is a true community that is concerned about individual freedom – but individual form within the restraining influence the common good. The common good gives form in which individuals, and individual freedom, can flourish best. Individual freedom without love or responsibility to the common good leads to chaos. Love for others (and those yet to come) provides needed restraint to unfettered personal freedom.
Elizabeth Macdonald

That was the problem with the recent assisted suicide of Nova Scotian Elizabeth Macdonald (38). She had multiple sclerosis. Her husband said she was in excruciating pain since 1999—following her diagnosis. I have had MS for more than 23 years so I think I know a thing or two about pain associated with the disease. It’s easily controlled with proper administration of modern pain management techniques. If Elizabeth Macdonald suffered from excruciating physical pain for eight years, her physicians should be required to update their skills.
From the reports I’ve read, I find myself wondering whether the problem for Elizabeth Marshall was CONTROL more than pain control. Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable.

In the interests of maintaining transparency about Macdonald’s death, Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition rightful asked the RCMP to investigate whether Canadian law against assisted suicide had been violated (specifically Section 241 of the Criminal Code). Without the restraining influence of this law, other vulnerable people are at risk of seeking assisted suicide. Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg, was met with a firestorm of criticism from autonomists.
The rule of law
Surely they believe it the principles laid down in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms which begins with the following statement: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

The rule of law! Apparently the autonomists do not believe in it. After all, laws have a restraining influence on autonomy. Schadenberg merely asked the valid and proper question about whether a Canadian law had been violated. The autonomists wanted no such determination. Their god is unfettered personal autonomy. They roasted Alex Schadenberg for daring to ask a legitimate question.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I am glad there is an organization like the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Canada to advocate life with dignity rather than death for people like me. I am glad there are people like Alex Schadenberg who dares to ask unfashionable questions. He has the courage to face detractors who would try to shout him down and would abandon the rule of law for the sake of any individual or cause.

Individual choices impact others. If I have assisted suicide, it will detrimentally impact my wife, children and grandchildren. It will affect my doctor because I will ask her to stop being a healer and start being an executioner. It will impact my community, and possibly even my nation, by helping to entrench the notion that there is such a thing as a life unworthy of life.

And that is why I do not have a right to ask for assisted suicide and you have a duty not to grant such a request.

Mark Pickup