Cal Thomas -- Ethicists Abandon Sacred Standard

The birth of the McCaughey septuplets produced joy and thanksgiving for the couple and their families. It has also produced a debate among "medical ethicists," some of whom argue that Bobbi McCaughey should have aborted (euphemistically a "fetal reduction") in order to limit the risk to the babies and reduce the cost to the taxpayers of giving birth to so many children. One can almost hear Mr. Scrooge advocating the death of the poor in order to reduce the surplus population.

"Ethics" is "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation." This implies a standard. The McCaugheys accepted a standard when they said that God had a plan for their children, and they never considered killing one or more of them. Medical ethicists abandoned such a standard when they endorsed abortion "choice." That Bobbi McCaughey made a choice favoring life over death isn't enough for them. They have other concerns.

Where the ethical line is drawn, and whether it is drawn with indelible or disappearing ink, is relevant to what the medical profession will be allowed to do to the rest of us in the future. As medicine costs more, it will be necessary to consider whether life's value can depreciate, like a car.

In a Wall Street Journal article we learn that "fetal reduction" is becoming a common procedure for women who face multiple births. We also learn that doctors who advise aborting one or more babies because of "danger" to the others are frequently wrong. Often the babies left safely to gestate are born healthy, or are assisted to health by modern technology. We learn that some mothers selectively "reduce" for convenience. As one doctor notes, "If reducing from one to zero is acceptable in this society, then why not from two to one?" Some ethicists and commentators question the "right" of women to have multiple births, suggesting the government may wish to regulate the practice. This sounds like China's policy of limiting couples to one child, with forced abortion for those who violate the law.

What should be even more alarming is that the acceptance of abortion has produced threats to other categories of human life, just as former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop predicted it would. Prof. Steven Pinker, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an article for the Nov. 2 New York Times Magazine, defended infanticide. Pinker suggested that the active or passive killing of newly born babies should be treated differently from the killing of an adult because an infant is not yet a full-fledged person. Pinker contends that we must "think the unthinkable and ask if we, like many societies and like the mothers (who commit infanticide) themselves, are not completely sure whether a neonate is a full person."

Responding to Pinker's article in a "Dear Colleague" letter, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., say that Pinker "assaults the moral standard Western civilization has built over two millennia to protect children ... we believe that when such staggering and misguided statements are offered in the cultural marketplace, they must be refuted convincingly and repeatedly."

One category of life cannot be declassified without endangering others. If the unborn can be aborted, then why not kill the newly born and the elderly if they become "inconvenient"? If there is no God to govern, then why shouldn't government or medical ethicists or public opinion be our god?

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, we are regressing to a raw, purely arbitrary utilitarianism increasingly hostile to the notion that life is sacred and unique. The grand irony may be that the generation imposing this philosophy on our nation may turn out to be victims of it.

Source: The Pro-Life Infonet (

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