The above link is to a British television report on "after-birth abortions." See HumanLifeMatters' blog of March 4th 2012 on this topic.
If we accept the principle that universal human rights are worth embracing, then all human life must be included within this ideal. That's what "universal" means. Human rights begin when human life begins and ends with life's natural conclusion. Anything else is either ignorance or sophistry and bigotry." -- Mark Davis Pickup
Saturday, March 24, 2012
"I am pro-life and anti-euthanasia but I don't agree with you about Latimer. There are always exceptions. My experience with the medical system has shown me that there are times, rare but they do happen, when a situation really is dire. I have never seen any evidence that Latimer seethed with resentment of his daughter. She was in pain and was going to be in more and more pain and she couldn't take pain meds because of the anti-convulsants she was on. How long is a parent supposed to live with that? They could have put Tracey in a home and left her there but in homes she didn't thrive, so they could have chosen slow death for her and looked away. And that would have been morally alright? Latimer is an inarticulate, not-Godless Saskatchewan farmer who doesn't expect or ask a nanny state to solve his problems for him. I just can't see what he did as evil. I can see killing a child in pain who faces more and more pain out of love."
"I don't see discussing this as being wrong either. We need to discern the difference between someone in a situation where there is no answer and the other woman who simply doesn't want her children to live as they are -not in pain."
"Having said that, I do agree that this is not a good time to be disabled. Surely it doesn't do the disabled any service to cover over the really hard questions?"
UNDERCURRENT OF PREJUDICE
You may have not seen evidence that Robert Latimer seethed with resentment for his daughter but, as the title of the previous blog states, there is seething undercurrent of public and media resentment and prejudice in Canada toward the disabled. It's often disguised in false yet noble sounding phrases such as "freedom of choice in dying" "death with dignity"and "mercy killing", but the effect is always the same: Get rid of the sick and disabled.
It's interesting to note that in October 2011, Canada's Parliament gave all Party support to developing a National Suicide Prevention Strategy yet there were MPs who supported it who also support assisted suicide for the disabled. So let me get this straight: The healthy and able-bodied population deserve suicide prevention but the disabled deserve help to commit suicide. What other conclusion should a Canadian with a severe disability (like me) draw from this?!
TESTIMONY UNDER OATH
Back to the Latimer case. I am going to make some comments based on the court transcripts of the second trial, not articles in the popular press. (Remember the testimony given was under oath by various witnesses close to the case.) Anonymous says Tracy was in pain and the pain would only increase because of the anti-seizure medication she was on conflicted with possible pain medications. Tracy was only given Tylenol. Firstly, let us establish that according to testimony of a Theresa Huyghebaert, group home manager in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Tracy did not have grand mal seizures rather only short milder petit mals. The prospect of pain management was not properly explored by Robert Latimer when the last surgery was planned on October of 1993. According to his confession, he started thinking about killing Tracy right after the doctor appointment. (Incidentally, only after toxicology tests revealed lethal levels of carbon monoxide in Tracy's system (from Latimer's truck) were the police finally able to pry a confession of murder from Robert Latimer. Tracy did not die in her sleep as he initially maintained.)
The idea that the sum total of Tracy Latimer's life was misery and pain was inaccurate. Even though Robert Latimer's wife (Laura) tried to portray Tracey's life that way to protect her husband and support the defence strategy to fixate on Tracy's disability and pain, the Prosecution was able to get her to grudgingly admit that Tracy had good times.
Was Tracy's life completely miserable as the media and Robert's defence lawyers maintained? Was Tracy's life unworthy of living? Was her life one of continual suffering? Did Tracy have no happiness, no joy? Did her life have no redeeming qualities as the defence lawyer, media and Laura Latimer portrayed?
Laura told court that Tracy's last surgery left her utterly miserable. She said: "Tracy was in a lot of pain. Tracy was miserable. She used to be a happy little girl, and she turned into someone who just sat slumped, just waited to be moved. She was -- she was very unhappy." The image of Tracy painted at the trial, and reported by the media, was untrue and this was revealed numerous times during the court proceedings.
Misery and pain were not the sum total of Tracy Latimer's life any more than pain and misery are the sum total in the lives of countless other people with severe disabilities.
TRACY WAS HAPPY
Tracy was a happy child. Professionals who worked with Tracy contradicted Laura's dismal portrayal of Tracy. Even Laura contradicted herself through her handwritten notes in a communication book that always accompanied Tracy for caregivers to read. Samples of Laura's notes alluding to Tracy being a happy child included comments like "Tracy was happy", "Tracy ate a good ham supper, she was a very happy girl", "When I came home, I gave Tracy a pudding. She was a happy girl.", "Tracy seems cheerful and more like her old self.", and "Tracy was very cheerful".
Tracy enjoyed sleep-overs and had a kean sense of mischief and fun. Her mother wrote in Tracy's book: "Tracy was the worst little girl at the sleep-over, up at ten to seven, laughing and vocalizing."
In another place Laura wrote: "After supper, we had a bonfire and Tracy sat outside until about nine o'clock. It was a beautiful night. Tracy seemed alert and happy." Laura continued, "Tracy had a good weekend, sat out on the deck lots. Grandma and grandpa came yesterday, she was so happy to see grandma."
Tracy Latimer went to a developmental centre Monday to Friday for regular school days. She came home each day on the same school bus as her siblings and other children, and did so right up to the Friday before she was murdered by her father. There were discussions about integrating Tracy into the regular school system. All of this information was brought out at the trial was available to read in the court transcripts if anybody cared to research it.
Apparently Anonymous has not done such research or she would not put forth the assertion that Tracy's parents could have put her in an institution ... at least I hope she would not. Even so, an institution is far better than a grave.
Millions of people with disabilities have had misery in their lives. Many live alone, unloved and sometimes in pain. Sadly, that has been the reality for people with disabilities throughout history. But being miserable is not a reason to kill us. If misery were a reason for death, then who among us would be safe! It would create an open season on the disabled. The answer is not to kill us in a flimsy excuse for stopping misery or to bestow so-called death with dignity. The answer lies elsewhere: it lies in proper pain management, and seeking life with dignity and inclusion -- especially for those who do not have it.
Robert Latimer did not behave like a good father. A good father does not murder his child. If he did the right thing -- as he still maintains -- why did he lie to police and attempt to destroy evidence? Why did he maintain Tracy died in her sleep (until evidence showed otherwise) rather than admit right away that he put Tracy in his truck and piped exhaust fumes into the cab? Own up to it and take the consequences -- if, in fact he did the right thing. The fact remains it was not the right thing. If Robert Latimer murdered one of his healthy children he would have been condemned in the eyes of the Canadian public. But he murdered his disabled child and became a folk-hero.
ROBERT LATIMER/SUSAN SMITH
Let me contrast Robert Latimer's crime with another that occured a year later. American Susan Smith put her car into a South Carolina lake, drowning her two little boys, Michael and Alex. Why was Susan Smith universally reviled for killing her children while Robert Latimer became a folk-hero after killing his child?
The difference is this: Susan Smith killed two healthy children while Robert Latimer killed one disabled child. Michael and Alex Smith were adorable. Most people would think Tracy Latimer was not even cute. What should we make of the difference in public responses? Are disabled children worth less than healthy children? Would Robert Latimer have become a folk-hero if Tracy had been a healthy child?
I don't think so. That's a reason I said Canada has a seething prejudice against the disabled -- and that prejudice extends to children. God forgive us.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Last weekend, Global Television Network in Canada featured a documentary about so-called mercy killing of children. The very fact that such a topic is even entertained on national television reveals something about the moral state of my country.
|Annette Corriveau (R)|
The second case featured on the Global documentary was that of Robert Latimer. He is the Saskatchewan farmer who murdered his disabled daughter Tracy back in 1993. She had cerebral palsy. A protracted legal saga ensued in Canada that eventually saw him him convicted of second degree murder. I will not go through the details of the trials.
What shocked me during the time that the case moved through various legal avenues, up to and including Canada's Supreme Court, was the sympathy and support Robert Latimer enjoyed from the courts, media and general public in ways he would not have had if he had murdered one of his healthy children. I was shocked because I did not fully realize at that time what low regard Canadians have for people with serious disabilities!
A trust fund was established for Robert Latimer's legal costs; it received close to $100,000 from across Canada! Many Canadians felt that Robert Latimer should not serve any time for killing his disabled daughter. Television interviews with people on streets of Canadian cities revealed stunning levels of public support for Robert Latimer. One man said that Latimer did a favour for his daughter by killing her. Others thought he did what was best for Tracy and should not have been charged with a crime. The judge Latimer's first trial issued an unprecedented "constitutional exemption" to Robert Latimer. Members of the jury in Latimer's second trial asked that he serve no more than one year in prison. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association petitioned the Justice Minister to reject Latimer's second degree sentence. Public opinion polls consistently revealed that over 70% of Canadians supported euthanasia for the terminally and chronically ill and assisted suicide for the disabled. Disabled people like me began to understand that the lives of chronically ill and disabled Canadians are viewed as having less worth than healthy Canadians and not deserving the same legal protections as the rest of the population.
In the Global TV program last weekend, journalist Jennifer Tryon said that the Latimer pitted morality against law. That is a view but not in the way Latimer and Tryon might think. Many of us within Canada's disability community believed it was profoundly immoral to murder Tracy Latimer and show lenience toward her killer in ways that would not have been shown if Latimer killed one of his healthy children.
There is a seething undercurrent of hostility against Canadians with disabilities -- and that hostility extends to children.
Monday, March 12, 2012
I was recently asked to speak to representatives of the Knights of Columbus in Edmonton (Canada). Below is text of my presentation.
Mark Davis Pickup
I usually speak about euthanasia and assisted suicide. As someone who has been crippled with an aggressive and degenerative disease I am deeply concerned at devaluing of human life of Canadians who are chronically ill and seriously disabled. As you may or may not know, there is currently a legal challenge to Canada’s laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide that is coming out of British Columbia, and another out of Quebec. Public opinion polls have consistently revealed that 70% of Canadians are in favour of assisted suicide for the terminally and chronically ill and severely disabled. It is hard to believe that so many of my fellow Canadian citizens hold people like me in such low regard.
Keep in mind, legal challenges to Canada’s law against assisted suicide are happening in the wake of Canada’s Parliament giving all-party support last October to the idea of a national suicide prevention strategy – yet many of those same MPs also support assisted suicide for people like me. Although unstated, I hear what is being said. There is a common view that healthy but suicidal people should be prevented from taking their lives while suicidal disabled people should be helped to take their lives. People like me are seen in many circles as having less value than the rest of the population.
I don’t know why this should surprise me. Canada aborts unwanted or inconvenient preborn babies yet will go to extraordinary measures to save a wanted unborn child. Why does being wanted or unwanted, convenient or inconvenient define human value? (I thought civilized societies move toward enlightenment, not away from it.)
Civilized societies, by proper definition, protect the weakest, the unwanted and unloved, in all circumstances and eventualities. The great statesman and American founding father Thomas Jefferson said “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” This is true.
As you know, every year in Canada there approximately 100,000 abortions. Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien once said there is social peace about this issue. He was wrong. His comment showed the difference between a politician and a statesman.
There is not social peace about abortion. It continues to tatter at the social fabric of this great nation. In Alberta, there are 12,000 abortions each year and they are all paid for by the taxpayers. A woman can have an abortion for any reason at all or no reason whatsoever and she can have as many abortions as she wants at taxpayer expense. This must not continue. People of good will, such as the Knights of Columbus, have an important role to play in turning around our culture. In many ways, Canada lost its moral compass on the critical life issues of our day.
Alberta is facing a provincial election in the near future. Ask your candidates where they stand on tax funding of abortion. If they say are pro-choice, tell them that 6-8 million dollars goes to pay for abortions annually in Alberta. Are they equally committed to providing that same amount of money to provide women with life-affirming alternatives to abortion? If their answer is no then they are not pro-choice, they are pro-abortion, and are unworthy of holding public office.
Personally I am even harder lined. If someone is so-called “pro-choice” I consider them unfit for public office. This has resulted in the accusation that I'm a one issue voter over this stand. No, I am concerned about many issues but this disqualifies a candidate in the same way that an anti-Semite disqualifies himself from public office. The right to life is the first and highest human right because all other human rights depend upon the right to life. A person who is pro-choice is not committed to universal human rights -- rather selective human rights.
In May, in cities across Canada, people of will participate in the annual March for Life. On May 17th in Edmonton, it will begin at the provincial legislature and go to Churchill Square and back to the legislature. It provides an opportunity to send a message to those with the power to change things – that killing the most vulnerable Albertans is an outrage and barbaric. Paying the killers to do it is intolerable.
Beyond taking to the streets, pro-Life people have done many things to reach out to abortion-minded or post-abortive women. Pregnancy Counselling Centres in various communities reach out to women contemplating abortion. Project Rachel reaches out to post-abortive women.
Knights of Columbus have been a supportive part of the pro-Life equation. The purchase of an ultrasound for the Pregnancy Counselling Centre was a wonderful contribution.
Let me make a proposal: A few years ago, Columbus Magazine carried a story about a Knights' sponsored conference in San Francisco for men affected by abortion. If memory serves me correctly, they were not sure what kind of response they would get. They were stunned as men from across America registered for the conference. I would like to see a similar event for men in Alberta that would help them reconcile with God and themselves about something that may have bothered them for years and they kept in silence.
You see, for decades feminists told society that abortion was a women’s issue and only affects women. That is not true. For every abortion there is a man involved too. Let me tell about my experience.
When I was a teenager, my girlfriend and I found ourselves faced with an unwanted pregnancy. I pressured her to have an abortion. I did not want a baby, I wanted to party and have sex without consequences. She didn’t want to do have an abortion but I pressured her. Eventually she gave in to my pressure. She didn’t really know what an abortion was or that we were going to kill a child, not removing a blob of tissue as it was presented then (and still is). That woman later became my wife, LaRee. We have regretted our abortion for 40 years. Eventually LaRee sought counselling to help her resolve her grief. I was left to my own means.
In the years after the abortion, particularly after our next child and was born, there was the unstated remembrance that she was not my first child. Fatherhood fit me like a glove. I was the loving protector and provider for my children ― except for one. I poured myself into the pro-Life movement as penance for what I had done and to assuage my remorse.
There may be other men who have regrets about abortion. When a man is young and sowing his wild oats, so to speak, he may not care. That comes later. As he matures, his family takes on increasing importance. His careless and false start as a young man can become an underlying or private sorrow for him.
Why not sponsor a retreat/conference for men of abortion? How many men in Edmonton grieve lost fatherhood because of abortion! Are there one hundred or a thousand men? Until someone reaches out, we will not know.
In this city of a million people, even if there are only a hundred men who need to work through an abortion in their life, then a retreat or conference to help them is worth it. They need to forgive themselves and be reconciled with God.
This is one way the Knights of Columbus can contribute to the tragedy of abortion and encourage healing. Thank you.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
In a recent blog I addressed the idea of Christian perinatal hospice. It is a concept whereby parents facing a pregnancy involving a terminally ill unborn child are supported to carry their baby to term and prepare for their child’s death. It is a ministry of loving care for the entire family while honouring the humanity of their baby.
No sooner had I written the blog and I came across a disturbing article published in the March 23rd 2012 edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” It was written by Dr. Alberto Giugilini at the University of Melbourne in Australia and Francesca Minerva who is associated with Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in the United Kingdom.
In the article, Giugilini and Minerva state: “We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.” They argue that newborn babies are only potential persons without any interests and should be subject to the interests of actual persons of their families. They try to extend the abortion mentality beyond birth: “If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.” Giugilini and Minerva do not identify when they think newborn babies should become actual people.
Their argument is not new, nor are they the only ones to advocate such things in the callous Brave New World of secular bioethics. American ethics professor at the University of Virginia and Harvard, Joseph Fletcher (1905-1991) was a pioneer of bioethics. Forty years ago, he advocated “post-birth abortion” for disabled newborns. His criteria for “post-birth abortion” was simple: If a baby does not increase happiness or reduce human suffering then the baby should die.
Princeton University professor Peter Singer has argued that infants have no moral right to life because they are not “persons.” In an interview he was asked when he thought an infant becomes a person? He said “sometime during the first year of life.” He has advocated the killing of healthy babies for more than 30 years. In 1981, Singer wrote:
Now it must be admitted that these arguments apply to the newborn baby as much as to the fetus. A week-old baby is not a rational and self-conscious being, and there are many non-human animals whose rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel pain (sentience), and so on, exceed that of a human baby a week, a month, or even a year old. If the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee [Peter Singer, "Taking life: abortion", in Practical Ethics (London: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 118] (emphases added)
Why is the term “after-birth abortion” used instead of infanticide? Could it be that abortion is so pervasive and the abortion mentality so widely accepted, that couching infanticide in the abortion mentality is perceived as an easier sell to society? After all, the culture has coarsened to the point where killing disabled newborns is accepted, but not yet so coarse as to sanction the killing of healthy but unwanted babies. The idea will require some – how should I say it? – marketing.
Remember that abortion had to be marketed in the 1960s to soften public attitudes. Previous generations would be horrified at the wide-spread abortion we now have in Canada, the United States and Europe. What was unacceptable in the past, becomes tolerable today and commonplace tomorrow, unless checked by moral absolutes.
People who believe in a just and compassionate society of inclusion must stand up for the value of every human life even in a culture that no longer believes it (especially in a culture that no longer believes it).