How to Communicate with a Friend Considering Abortion, by Stephanie Gray

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“I’m pregnant, and I want an abortion.”

  How should one react when a friend says those words? 

  I am routinely (and as recently as the day I write this) contacted by friends (and strangers) who have friends who are considering abortion.  “What should I do?” they ask. “What should I say?” they wonder.

  Their concern is the well-being of their friend and her pre-born child; they don’t want her to go ahead with the abortion, but they come for advice because they recognize a noble desire, while necessary, is not sufficient to save a life.  How do they actually achieve their mind-changing goal?  They follow these four steps:

  1. Seek to Understand

  2. Support Her

  3. Inform Her

  4. Be Unwavering

  Let’s look at each in more detail, with practical tools to get the message out:

1.     Seek to Understand

  Think through your past to a time when you felt utterly overwhelmed and afraid.  Think about an experience of despair where you felt helpless.  Think about what it’s like to feel panic—to feel trapped—and how that affects your decisions.

  A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy may feel any number of emotions like the above, and anything you say or do is seen through the lens of what she’s feeling.  Rather than start your exchange by jumping onto a soap box, instead, grab a Kleenex box and ask questions that give her a chance to express herself.

  Truly and deeply listen to her—what are her concerns?  People not only need to be heard, they need to feel heard.  This is achieved through affirming truth she’s expressed, and communicating compassion: 

 ·         “There is no denying that is a really difficult situation…” or,

 ·         “That is really tough; I’m sorry for your suffering…” or,

 ·         “If I’m hearing you correctly it sounds like the crisis is overwhelming, and I can imagine it would be…” 

  Notice what you’re not doing here—you’re not saying something false (“I know what it’s like” when you, in fact, don’t know what it’s like); rather, you’re formulating words that acknowledge you understand her feelings are consistent with her crisis.

  From this expression of compassion, you seek to understand by asking questions that will give her a chance to express herself, and to help identify what she’s most concerned about (which you need to know in order to address the problem—you cannot alleviate a problem you do not know exists).

  For example, ask her, “Why do you want an abortion?”

  Her response will likely involve expressing concerns about money, school, lack of support from her partner or family, feelings of inadequacy, or perhaps even pressure to abort.

  What does this show?  She does not desire abortion as an end in and of itself; rather, she sees it as a means to address a problem. Once she identifies the problem, suggest other means to address it, always through the approach of asking questions:

·         “I’m sad for you that your parents said they’d kick you out.  You’re right to be devastated by that.  What if I was to let you live with me? Would that help? [Or, what if I was to connect you to a place where you could live?]”

·         “If I’m hearing you right, it sounds like you don’t have the resources to care for a child.  What if I was to connect you to a centre that will give you the resources you need?”

RESOURCE: An excellent pregnancy help website: http://www.visitationcenterus.org/

 ·         “It sounds like you don’t feel prepared to parent a child right now, and I can understand that.  What do you think about adoption?”

RESOURCES:

adoptionincanada.ca

http://www.theradiancefoundation.org/adoption/

·         “When a person receives a poor prenatal diagnosis, it can be scary to envision a future where the child has a disability.  Have you heard of stories of people who have had positive experiences caring for children with special needs? May I share some of these with you?”

RESOURCES:

https://loveunleasheslife.com/blog/2015/12/18/so-your-child-has-down-syndrome

Everylifecounts.ie

iamviable.com

http://aspecialmotherisborn.blogspot.com/

“Choosing Thomas”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToNWquoXqJI&t=341s

Questioning is not only important to identify her motivations to abort so you can provide alternatives, but questioning is an important tool to help her explore her “gut” feelings about abortion.  Questions that help her think beyond the present scenario, to imagine a positive situation in the future when she’s pregnant, can help bring to light her own negative feelings about the abortion procedure:

·         “Given that you just said you don’t even love the child’s father, I can understand it would be hard to envision parenting the baby.  Something that’s worth considering is if your scenario was just the opposite—if you were happily married and pregnant with a child you’d tried for so long to be pregnant with, would you ever consider abortion?  [After her answer: Why not?]”

·         “If your parents wouldn’t kick you out of the house, would you be less likely to consider abortion? Why?”

·         “If you had the financial resources you needed to raise another (or this) child, would you want to carry through with the pregnancy? Why do you think that is?”

NOTE: The point of these questions is to draw out of her any instinctive feelings of revulsion toward abortion—if she articulates that she would never kill her child in these scenarios, you can now explore her thoughts that it is a child, and whether the difficulty of her situation changes what the child is.

2.     Support Her

There’s something terrifying about being alone in moments of crisis.  There is something comforting about sharing, even a hard experience, with another soul.

  A true friend will stand by her throughout this unplanned pregnancy.  If she feels abandoned, then she may run to the abortion which she feels will get her “out” of this experience of crisis and “aloneness.”  Knowing she has someone to stand by her through the crisis will make it easier.

  Offer to be with her when she has difficult conversations with her relatives or boyfriend/husband.  Offer to go with her to the doctor.  Time is of the essence in these situations and so is generous, self-less help.  If you have to miss work or school to accompany her to a pro-life doctor the next morning, do it.  Offer to accompany her to a pregnancy help center.  As a friend, it’s important to remember you aren’t a professional.  Correspondingly, remember that professionals aren’t friends, and offering to be present when she gets assistance from them will make her feel more supported than simply giving her a phone number to call.

NOTE: When she gets professional assistance, ensure that the people you recommend for this are 100% pro-life.  Tragically, some individuals and groups that are labeled “Christian” don’t always hold a consistent pro-life ethic, and this requires you be extra vigilant in your recommendations.

  FURTHER NOTE: Get to know your local pro-life doctors and local pregnancy care center staff as soon as possible, before you meet someone in crisis.  The more information you can give to your friend about who works where, what they offer, and how friendly they are, the more likely it will be that she will call or visit.  And remember—offer to accompany her.

  Part of being a support is helping her see goodness in a future that she thinks looks grim.  Being on the outside, you have the chance to paint a picture of hope when she feels despair, to help her consider how short-term gain can bring about long-term pain, whereas short-term pain can bring about long-term gain.

  This message, handed out by pro-life activist Mary Wagner to women going to abortion clinics, speaks important words of hope to women in crisis:

“You were made to love and to be loved.  Your goodness is greater than the difficulties of your situation. Circumstances in life change.  A new life, however tiny, brings the promise of unrepeatable joy.  There is still hope!”

3.     Inform Her

It is possible to communicate truth without love, but it is impossible to communicate love without truth.  Loving your friend therefore means communicating the truth about the abortion she says she wants.

  Certainly how you communicate that truth matters.  You need to be sensitive and should continue to use questions as much as possible, but you nonetheless need to impart some hard truths.  When providing information, you should convey three things:

·         The humanity of her pre-born child,

·         The inhumane nature of abortion, and

·         How abortion can hurt her

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

The humanity of her pre-born child

A lot of women are unaware of just how rapidly their pre-born children are growing (for example, that a baby’s heartbeat has been detected at 3 weeks, and brainwaves have been detected at 6 weeks).  Ask a question like this:

“May I take you to a site which has amazing scientific facts of your baby’s development?”

RESOURCE: The Endowment for Human Development: http://www.ehd.org/  This is a fetal-maternal health website with prenatal development facts, along with actual video footage and 3D and 4D ultrasound.

Helping her bond with her child is key; two other ways to do this is through giving her a fetal model to hold, which helps her visualize her baby, and encouraging her to give a nickname to her child, for it’s harder to kill someone we’ve named and connected with.

RESOURCE: First-trimester fetal model: Order at www.lifecyclebooks.com (or ask your local pro-life society to give you one) 

The inhumane nature of abortion

Remember, you’re having this conversation with your friend because she said she wants an abortion.  But does she know what abortion actually entails?  It is essential that you convey the facts of the procedure.  You can ask,

“What do you know of the abortion procedure?  I have some knowledge of abortion and I believe you deserve to know what I do. May I share some information with you?”

RESOURCES:

Nucleus Medical Media: http://catalog.nucleusmedicalmedia.com/search?q=abortion&submit=&search_language=-1&search_type=&search_category=

First-Trimester Medical Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRDnVSMr5j0

First-Trimester Surgical Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5THDmys8z30&t=6s

Second-Trimester Surgical Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgw4X7Dw_3k

Third-Trimester Induction Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Af8vIym2o

Abortion: Before & After: https://vimeo.com/41433061

  When trying to explain that your motivation to share what you know comes from a place of goodness, you could use this analogy:

“Imagine there’s water with poison in it—whoever drinks it will die. Now imagine you are thirsty and, not knowing the water is poisoned, you drink it.  Would you have knowingly committed suicide?”  She’ll say no.  Then continue, “Now imagine that I know there’s poison in the water and you don’t.  I see you grab the glass and I don’t warn you what’s in it.  You drink it and die.  Have I just been an accomplice to your murder?”  She’ll say yes.  Then connect the dots: “In the same way, I know some pretty shocking things about the abortion procedure, and if I don’t share these things, then I’d be guilty of withholding life-saving information.  That’s not fair to you.” 

Some people have an unfounded fear that using abortion victim imagery could do harm to a woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. You don’t lose anything by showing her imagery. But you potentially lose something by not showing the pictures: her baby’s life.

Remember all the fears that are motivating your friend to abort? Those fears are very real in her mind; they are immediate problems. If she continues to maintain the idea that her pre-born child is not a baby and that abortion is not an act of violence that will kill that baby, then it will be easier for her to have the abortion than to deal with her problems. Your challenge is to make your friend more horrified of the abortion than she is terrified of her unplanned pregnancy. Pictures do that.

  Admittedly, you need to be discerning in your one-on-one interactions about when to use any material. Be gentle, listen, and when it comes to showing pictures, tell her that you care for her and that you want her to be informed of everything she needs to know about abortion

  Finally, be encouraged that using this information doesn’t just work in theory—it works in practice.  For example, a Los Angeles pregnancy center not only offers to show an abortion video to each client, but they provide a copy of that video for the client to take home.  In 2011, they conducted a survey of all mothers who chose life for their babies at the center after initially contemplating abortion.  80% of their clients who chose life said the video was the number one thing that helped them choose life for their babies. 

  When the women take a copy of the video home with them, it also helps them to convince husbands, boyfriends, parents or other people who might be pressuring them to abort that abortion is a terrible choice.  Showing the abortion video to parents pressuring their teen to abort helps them to understand the profound damage to their daughter (and grandchild) whom they love and want to protect.  It is good to show the video to everyone influencing her decision.  Further, some clients have reported giving their copy of the video to pregnant friends who in turn opted against abortion. 

That is consistent with this post below an abortion video on Youtube:

  “A big thank you goes out to whoever posted this video.  I scheduled an appointment with Planned Parenthood to have this procedure and wanted to learn more because they wouldn't give me any information. I'm calling to cancel right now. I don't want my baby ripped to shreds.”

How abortion can hurt her

Because abortion kills children it hurts women.  It goes against human nature to kill one’s offspring—that is why abortion can adversely affect women emotionally.  It goes against the nature of a woman’s body to unnaturally and prematurely interrupt pregnancy the way abortion does—that is why abortion can adversely affect women physically.  Consider asking your friend,

  “Have you heard about the complication risks of abortion?  May I share what I know with you?”

RESOURCES:

https://www.deveber.org/complications/

abortionbreastcancer.com

afterabortion.org

silentnomoreawareness.org

4.     Be Unwavering

  Remember the earlier comment that being alone in moments of crisis is terrifying?  That is true not only for the unplanned pregnancy, but also for the abortion procedure.  The act of abortion could be, in her mind, a terrifying moment she wishes not to endure alone.  Knowing she’ll be without a friend could be enough to convince her not to do it.  But if you are present, that could make her abortion experience easier to endure. This is why it is essential that if, after your best effort to convince her of abortion’s wrongness, she goes ahead with the procedure, that you not go with her, not drop her off, not pick her up, not facilitate her decision in any way.

  Keep this principle in mind: friends don’t drive friends to abortion clinics.  After all, if your friend was going to beat up her baby brother and you failed in convincing her not to, would you participate in that action, even if only to “be there to support her”?

  If your friend does abort and then realizes at some future point that she made a mistake, and if you had in some way facilitated that abortion, she’ll wonder why you did that when you knew it was wrong. She may even hold you partially responsible, and rightly so. But if you demonstrate integrity through your unwavering views and consistent action, this could be the factor that convinces your friend not to have the abortion—after all, actions speak louder than words.

  Consider how you could explain your refusal to go with her:

  “Because I love you, I can’t go with you.  Because to love you is to desire your good, and I know too much—I can’t erase what I know about abortion and I know it won’t be good for you or your baby.  If I go with you, if I help you get there, then I’d be betraying you.  I’d no longer be guided by what’s best for you, but what’s best for me (namely, just making sure you aren’t mad at me). I love you enough that I’ll endure you being mad at me—even feeling hate towards me—rather than help you do something I fear you’ll regret in the future.”

  Hopefully, though, it won’t come to making that statement.  Because when you seek to understand and communicate truth in love, you can go far in convincing your friend to make a life-affirming choice.

 

A similar version of this document first appeared at https://www.endthekilling.ca/blog

Interview with a Beautiful Soul: A Single Mother's Story, by Stephanie Gray

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One of my favorite parts of my work is the incredible people I get to meet.  A few years ago I was privileged to meet a young student, Veronika, who radiated a profound joy and peace as a single mother in university.  Her life has been no bed of roses, but she is living proof that when we are other focused, when we live love, we find lasting happiness.  I asked her if I could interview her and she agreed.  As I read her answers below, I got goose bumps at the depth of this young woman's insight.  Consider what she wrote me about the photo of her baby Amelia included in this post:

“The picture I have enclosed of Amelia and I does not fully show my face but it's an important picture to me. Amelia became very ill with respiratory problems around seven months which meant a lot of nights of dealing with fevers, congestion, pain control and a sad little baby who kept waking up due to having trouble breathing in her sleep. I took this picture one night when I decided to let her sleep on my chest instead of in the crib and she slept throughout the night. I did that every night until she was better. To me, it represents what we do as mothers, that we stop looking at ourselves as individuals with needs and we begin to look at how we can serve another and therefore love another, and with that comes learning to love ourselves.

May your life be changed today by Veronika's witness:

Q: How old were you when you found out you were pregnant and what went through your mind?

A: I was twenty-two when I found out I was pregnant. I believed a mistake had been made: “Home pregnancy tests can be so inaccurate,” I thought.  Five tests and a doctor’s appointment later, I could no longer deny that I was pregnant. My first thought was, “How on earth can I be someone's mother?”  I ate a whole perogy pizza to myself as I rehearsed what I would tell my boyfriend and parents!

Q: How did your boyfriend react?

A: Though my boyfriend at the time was on board when he first heard the news, it didn't last very long; we parted ways in a very brutal manner at the eight week mark.

Q: Did you ever consider abortion? Why or why not?

A: I did, because it was pressed upon me; there was a lot of pressure. On top of that, I think it’s human to look for the nearest exit when the heat is on and our hearts are broken. I had loved her father very much, but he was gone whether I had the baby or not so I figured, “Why should I lose one more thing in my life?” I also thought about what my life would be like after an abortion—it looked empty, very empty.

Q: What would you say are the joys of being a parent, even a single parent?

A: I think I enjoy being a single parent more than if I had a partner! I like to run the show solo.  There are so many joys to being a parent it’s almost hard to describe what they are separately because it all just bleeds together into this joyful life. As of right now, the most joyful moments are watching Amelia grow and develop; she said “purple” for the first time tonight and I think my heart bounced off the walls and right back to me, I get to feel that way all the time.

Q: What do you hope for your and your daughter's futures?

A: For myself, I hope to finish school so I can have all that is good in life. Education truly is freedom. I'm looking to have a house by the time I'm thirty and a Cadillac shortly before that; I have an affinity for Cadillacs. As for my daughter, I hope I may give her the hope, passion and resources not only to follow my example but to go further than I ever could imagine.

Q: If you met someone who was faced with an unplanned pregnancy, scared, and considering abortion, what would you tell them?

A: I would tell them how I went from being very directionless to a full time student with a direction because of my daughter. I feel like if I had never gotten pregnant I would still be waiting tables in a sleazy bar. A child can help you reach your potentials in life if you allow it to; the most beautiful flowers were once seeds buried in dirt, you know?  I would tell them, if they believe they are not up to the task of being a parent, that the nine months we carry these little miracles is only but for a moment in comparison to the rest of our lives, and that while we are so lucky to be able to get pregnant there are women out there every day who are devastated by still born births, multiple miscarriages and the years they wait for a child to be ready for adoption. Lots of women view us as the lucky ones and that this baby may end up being someone else's only chance for a baby.

Q: Who inspires you and why?

A: All the mothers I attend school with! They are incredible ladies who not only chose to rise to the occasion of single parenthood but are now exceeding society's expectations by obtaining an education. Not a lot of people want to take the time of five or six years to obtain a degree but we know that those years pass whether we do it or not, so we might as well do it.

This interview was originally posted, in longer form, at www.endthekilling.ca. A couple years after the interview, Veronika sent this update: “I was told that you've been speaking very highly and me and my daughter Amelia. I just wanted to write you to thank you for sharing my story wherever you go and that me and Amelia are doing just fine.” She even replicated the original photo, albeit with an older Amelia:

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The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, Part 6, by Stephanie Gray

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The beginning of this series can be viewed here.

If you’ve made it this far, there is a glaring topic yet to be addressed: What about those who have already chosen IVF and what about those conceived by IVF?

As for the latter group, people conceived by IVF are image bearers just as those conceived naturally are too. Although the circumstances of an IVF-conceived person’s beginnings go against how God designed new life to be brought forth (as do the circumstances of a hook-up-conceived person’s beginnings do the same), that an unrepeatable, irreplaceable willed-by-God individual now exists is proof of God making “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).  God redeems all things and can take even our sins and draw good out of them.  Children conceived by IVF are the great good that come from it.  That doesn’t mean the original action was good; rather, it means that God is all powerful and can show His glory in any situation, writing straight with our crooked lines.

For those who have chosen IVF, the past cannot be undone.  And so, one’s IVF-related sins (e.g., creating children outside of sexual intimacy, endangering the lives of one’s children, eugenic selection of one’s children, freezing of one’s children, experimentation on one’s children, killing one’s children) need to be repented of/confessed.  These sins, like all sins, need to be laid at the foot of the cross.  One must call on Jesus for mercy.  Find out exactly how many embryos were created and pray over what names you should give them.  Besides memorializing the children through names, think about ways to remember them, acknowledging that they did exist.  If others are aware of your past choice to do IVF, reach out to them and tell them of your new conviction that that was wrong, so as not to lead anyone down the wrong path by example.  Let repentance, Christ’s mercy, and healing be your new story.  Pray over Psalm 51 which begins, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

Take also these words to prayer: “For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.  You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:24-28).

The next question people have is this: Going forward, what should be done?  Most obviously there should be an immediate stop to all IVF and reproductive technologies that manufacture human persons, carelessly treating the resulting individuals as though they are objects to be used and disposed of.  No more human embryos should be created outside of marital sexual intimacy.

As for what to do with those already here, with the embryos who have been created and who are suspended in a frozen state, ethicists and theologians are examining and debating the most ethical solution.  That alone is a topic for a whole other series, which goes beyond the scope of this one which was to make the case that IVF shouldn’t happen to begin with.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Rembrandt

The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, Part 5, by Stephanie Gray

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The beginning of this series can be viewed here.

With IVF being an unethical response to infertility, how can a couple, struggling to conceive, achieve parenthood?

First, they could investigate whether there are conditions of either the man or woman that can be corrected at their root.  After all, if there is an ailment or pathology, it is good to treat it so as to restore the body to the healthy state God designed it to have.  In the Scriptures we see Jesus healing peoples' ailments: the man blind from birth who Jesus gave sight to (John 9:1-11), the Centurian's servant lying paralyzed who Jesus healed (Matthew 8:5-13), and Peter's mother-in-law who Jesus removed a fever from (Matthew 8:14-15), to name a few.  In Matthew 9:35 we are told that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages...healing every disease and every infirmity.”

So if, for example, a woman who should be ovulating is not releasing eggs, then she could take a pharmaceutical that would prompt her body to ovulate.  Doing so would restore her body to the normal, healthy function it is supposed to have.  Doing so would aid the sexual act in achieving a pregnancy but not replace the sexual act like IVF does.  Note: It is important that where medicine is administered to help a woman ovulate, that it only be given in a dose that would cause her body to release one or two eggs.  To hyper stimulate her ovaries so that an unnatural amount of eggs be released could result in all the eggs being fertilized from an act of sex.  If she conceives, for example, four children then that becomes a high risk pregnancy with great cause for concern for both her and those children.

It is worth pointing out that because IVF has become so commonplace, because it is a money-making business, and because some people think it’s easier to ignore an underlying problem rather than address it, remedies that address health problems at their root are often overlooked.  There are stories, however, where couples who failed at IVF, or avoided IVF, had later success with achieving a pregnancy through an act of sexual intercourse.  This can occur unexpectedly or when they pursued medical interventions that corrected the ultimate cause of a couple’s infertility.  Consider stories here, and here, and here, and here.

Consider these organizations that get to the root of a couple’s infertility issues and can help patients successfully conceive naturally: National Gianna Center for Women’s Health & Fertility, FEMM, Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, Neo Fertility.

The next thing a couple who wants to become parents can do is look into adoption or fostering.   There are children around the world who are in need of temporary or forever homes, and the Scriptures clearly command us to “care for orphans” (James 1:27).

The third thing a couple can do is focus on spiritual parenthood.   Love, by nature, is fruitful, and a couple can look for ways that their love can bear fruit in the lives of people around them.  They can draw out their spiritual maternity and paternity by being actively involved in the lives of their nieces and nephews, volunteering in the formation of children at their church, signing up to be a big brother or big sister to a child from a broken home, etc. 

This latter approach, while bringing fulfillment, doesn’t take away the pain of infertility; it doesn’t take away the good desire to bear a child with one’s spouse.  We can’t always understand why certain desires go unmet.  It is a real suffering.

Click here for part 6 of the series.

The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, Part 4, by Stephanie Gray

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The beginning of this series can be viewed here.

Perhaps most foundationally, IVF ought to be rejected because it violates natural law when it comes to creating life and the nature of sex.

Someone might read what has been written so far and acknowledge the following:

  *Embryos should never be frozen because it endangers their lives

*Embryos should not be valued based on a eugenics mentality

*Embryos should never be killed

*Embryos should be treated with the reverence and respect we would treat a born child

  Then, such an individual might suggest that while IVF is generally problematic, that under very narrow parameters it could be acceptable:

*If only one or two embryos are created

*If the embryos are not tested for genetic “fitness” but embraced regardless of their health

*If the embryos are immediately implanted in the womb of their mothers

While such a perspective is certainly an improvement from how our culture practices IVF, this perspective is still flawed and ought to be rejected.  By way of analogy, 1+1=2 and while 5 is closer to the correct answer than 10 is, the number 5 is still a wrong answer.

To understand why even the narrow parameters are wrong, we need to take a step back and consider foundational principles, starting with the nature of sex.

A sex drive is inherent to being an adult human.  It is a sign our bodies have reached maturity and a sign our bodies are working correctly (which is why people may go to their doctors when they experience low libido).  Identifying the nature of something is necessary but not sufficient.  Just because we have a sex drive it doesn’t mean we should act on it anytime, anywhere.  So we then need to look at the nature of our sexuality through the lens of a moral code, in this case I’ll be looking at it through a Christian worldview.

By way of analogy, when considering the nature of the eye it is reasonable to conclude it is designed to see (and if someone is blind we can conclude, by examining the nature of the eye in contrast to the nature of, for example, the nose, that the eye is not functioning properly by not seeing, but that the nose is functioning properly by not seeing).  But should we always use our sight to see every single thing?  No, and an example would be to use our sight to peak through someone's curtains to see their private activity: Our eye is doing the “right” thing (according to its nature) by seeing but our will is doing the wrong thing by applying sight in that setting (moral code).

Likewise, when it comes to our bodies and sex we need to look at nature and a moral code.  From a Christian perspective, the only relationship in which sex is permitted is the permanent relationship of marriage.  Looking at the nature of sex can help us understand why this is the case: When a couple has sex their bodies release bonding hormones that “attach” them to their partner in a way they aren’t bonded to others.  Moreover, sex has the inherent power to create offspring.  These two realities make sex inappropriate for non-exclusive, non-lifelong relationships because it is not healthy for individuals to bond so intimately only to have those bonds broken or weakened by changing/multiple sexual partners.  The stronger a bond (and sex creates a strong bond) the stronger the pain when that bond is lessened.  Furthermore, in an ideal world, children should be raised in a loving home by both their mothers and fathers, and that is increasingly unlikely when the parents have not pledged a permanent union.

For the good of children, and the good of a couple, sex should only happen in marriage.  This means that if sex should only happen in marriage, and sex is how God designed humans to reproduce, then any children produced should only come about from the union of the husband’s and wife’s seeds.  That being the case, this thinking rules out a couple ever using a third party’s sperm or egg to create offspring because it would result in children that could never come about through that specific marriage/sexual relationship.

Ethicist and Rev. Tad Pacholczyk has remarked,

“Our sex cells, or gametes, are special cells. They uniquely identify us. They are an intimate expression of our own bodily identity, and mark our human fruitfulness. Hence our own gametes exist in a discernible relationship to marriage. Each of us, in fact, has been given a capacity, a radical capacity, for total self-donation to a unique member of the opposite sex in marriage. Our gametes, and their exclusive availability to our spouse through marital acts, are an important sign of this radical capacity for self-donation. They uniquely denote who we are, and manifest the beautiful and life-engendering possibility of giving ourselves away to the one person whom we singularly love as our husband or wife. Hence, donating to sperm or egg banks violates something fundamental at the core of our own humanity. It dissociates us from the deeper meaning of our own bodies and gravely damages the inner order of marriage.”

Does this mean if a married couple uses their own sperm and egg that IVF could be justified?  As we dig deeper, we will see the answer is still no:

A human person may not claim a right to another human person, for to do so would be to classify the other as an object.  So as much as parenthood is good, and the desire for children is good, parents do not have a right to children.  The human person is not to be possessed (or treated as a possession).  Hiring a third party to harvest the life-creating human parts and to force those cells together to make another individual come into existence is reflective of behavior that treats the other as a possession, of “making” another rather than “receiving” the other. 

It’s worth pointing out that a couple may not intend this, but the morality of actions does not hinge on intentions alone.  For example, someone may have a good intention when having an abortion (do not bring a child into an abusive relationship) but if the means to achieve that end is immoral (i.e., the means brings an end to the child’s life) then no matter how good the intentions are, the action itself is still wrong.  The very nature of the action of IVF is that it treats the other as an object or a possession, whether the parties involved intend this or not. 

Next, consider what makes marriage set apart from all other relationships: It is leaving and cleaving; it is two becoming one flesh; it is the inclusion of sexual intimacy that both bonds and (sometimes) bears babies.  Certainly, besides having a sexual relationship, married couples also live under the same roof, share meals and finances, and talk about their hopes and fears, but non-marital relationships can include those elements too.  After all, siblings, cousins, and friends sometimes live under the same roof, share meals and finances, and talk about hopes and fears.  But these other relationships may not include the sexual intimacy reserved for marriage.  Moreover, while a married couple may invite others into their home to share in meals and friendship, it wouldn’t be proper for a married couple to invite others into their home to share in their sexual activity because that is supposed to be a private and intimate expression between the committed couple.  If it weren’t for technology, then sexual intimacy would be the only way to generate offspring; one could say that generating children is inherent to a couple’s sexual activity.  By pursuing IVF a couple is taking the life-creating element of their private, exclusive, one-flesh union and making it come about through a third party. 

Note: A couple may find there are times when they need to seek outside support to help their sexual activity achieve its ends, whether that is getting counselling if they are having trouble with their intimacy/emotional bonding or seeking medical help if their bodies aren’t working properly (e.g., the husband needs pharmaceuticals to achieve an erection or the wife needs pharmaceuticals to ovulate).  There is a vitally important distinction to be made here: In these situations the couple is enlisting a third party outside of the moments of bonding or life creation  to correct something that is wrong so that when the couple is privately and exclusively in those moments, they can achieve the ends of bonding and babies.  This approach works with God’s designs and ensures the body and mind are in optimal condition to express and achieve what God has beautifully created for the husband and wife.  Contrast that with IVF where the couple is enlisting a third party in the very moment of life creation that is designed by God to occur in the sexual act, an act which is reserved only for the spouses.

Further, when God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) He entrusted male and female, creatures below God, with an incredible power to facilitate the creation of new human life made in the image of the Divine.  That isn’t to be taken lightly.  As Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker in the movie Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  A couple ought to treat their life-creating powers with the greatest reverence and responsibility, and with a sense of the sacred; IVF, even with a married couple, fails at doing so, as the chart below explains:

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The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, Part 3, by Stephanie Gray

The beginning of this series can be viewed here.

Another reason why IVF ought to be rejected is that it is a failure of parents to protect and nurture some of their children and instead involves placing them in jeopardy.

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When my friend’s 12-year-old son was so sick he required hospitalization, my friend was almost continually at his bedside.  When she wasn’t, she left confident that he was being cared for in good hands.  Childrens’ hospitals typically have charities that facilitate as much parent-sick-child closeness as possible by providing accommodation so parents do not have to travel far to be near their hospitalized child (something my friend and her husband took advantage of).  Moreover, while a nurse or doctor can provide medical expertise and consolation, nothing beats a mother or father’s love and presence.

Contrast that with frozen embryos: These youngest and most vulnerable humans among us are abandoned—temporarily or permanently—by their parents.  They are not visited or sung to.  They do not receive the gift of their parents’ presence, journeying by their side as they go through a difficult time.  Instead, they are intentionally denied the environment created for them at the age they are at; they are denied—temporarily or permanently—the safety and security of being nestled beneath their mothers’ hearts.

Some might respond that if it was okay for my friend to temporarily leave her son in the safety of the hospital, couldn’t parents temporarily leave their embryos in the safety of fertility clinics?  The answer is no, for these reasons:

1)      Children in a hospital are not typically there because of a health problem the parents intentionally created (in fact, if they are (e.g., parent beats a child unconscious), then social services would step in and override parental rights because they have shown themselves unfit).  With a fertility clinic, the frozen child is in a situation of jeopardy as a direct result of the parent’s choice.  The child may be killed in the thawing process (see part 1).  Or the child might eventually be implanted in the wrong womanOr a child’s life could be put in danger by power outages or storage tank malfunctions.  It is worth emphasizing that these are consequences that come from a situation the parents created to begin with.

2)      Would parents leave their children alone in a hospital that considered both caring for that child, or killing that child, to be equal options?  Would parents leave their children alone in a hospital that intentionally weeded out children it deemed unhealthy or less desirable?  Clearly not.  And yet, the very nature of fertility clinics is that they will kill some children, do research on other children, etc.  Fertility clinics can also be involved with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, described as follows by the Reproductive Partners Medical Group: “This technology allows doctors to select embryos free of a specific genetic problem in order to create healthy babies.”   When doctors “select embryos free of a specific genetic problem” that means they are also killing embryos that have a specific genetic problem.  The IVF industry is not primarily guided by children’s interests but instead by parents’ desires.  It is an industry that manufactures and uses young humans to meet the wishes of older humans.  And that mentality infects all that they do.

Consider the story of journalist Elissa Strauss and her husband: They, their dog, and two of their children live in California while two of their other children live in New York—as frozen embryos.  The Strauss’ already got what they wanted—an IVF-conceived child brought to term.  Given that they created multiple children to achieve that one child, the question became this: What to do with their remaining embryos?  When writing about their options Strauss commented, “embryos are useful.”  And right there is the problem.  The parent is looking at the child for usefulness.  That is not the language of love.  Parenthood ought to be about the good of the child but IVF turns things upside down so it’s about the perceived good of the parent—at the expense of using a child (or several children).  Moreover, because IVF allows for control and perfection in a way natural conception doesn’t, IVF can feed a parent’s tendency toward control and perfection so that these become obsessions.  These become gods; they are put on the highest pedestal, above the child herself so that IVF is not about that baby, or that baby, or that baby, but instead is about a baby, a perfect baby, at the perfect time, at any cost.  No longer is human relationship, particularly that of parent to child, about awe and reverence towards this or that very specific unrepeatable, irreplaceable, priceless and yet imperfect individual, but instead it is about making and grasping at any individual who works with the mold one has created of what one wants.

It perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, although is profoundly sad, that Strauss and her husband opt to take their “useful” embryos and “donate” them to research—thereby killing them.  While Strauss even acknowledges that at some future point they may want more children she opts against hanging on to the embryos they already have: “We concluded that should our tides shift and we decide we want to have another kid, we will try to have another kid. Even if that means going through IVF.”  Even if it means going through IVF.  Again.  If embryos are useful, no need to let old ones linger.  Just start fresh.  And use new ones.

What begins as an understandably profound and deep-seated ache for children that, if fulfilled, allows a couple to reach their fullness as mother and father, with IVF becomes twisted and distorted.  When the natural desire turns into an obsession it very quickly causes one to lose sight of true love, of reverence for persons, and of the self-sacrificing nature of parenthood.

As pointed out by abort73.com, if the greatest love is to lay down your life for another, then the opposite of the greatest love is to lay down another’s life for your own.

Click here for part 4 of the series.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Dr. Jayesh Amin

The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, Part 2, by Stephanie Gray

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The beginning of this series can be viewed here.

Another reason IVF ought to be rejected is that it treats human beings as commodities/objects. 

Consider this language from Genesis Fertility Centre, which does IVF: “We are now proud to be perfecting the use of elective single embryo transfer (eSET)…Using eSET we’re able [to] select a single perfect embryo” [emphasis added]. 

What happens if a child is less than “perfect”?  If they aren’t weeded out for destruction right there in the lab, then they may be killed in the womb: The Daily Mail in England reported that some IVF-conceived children who had Down Syndrome were aborted.  That shouldn’t come as a surprise, really.  When items we buy are imperfect, we return them to the store, expecting our money back, or an undamaged replacement.  If we view humans as objects that we can manufacture to our specifications, then when they don’t “perform” or appear as we wish, it follows from such thinking that one would dispose of the “object.”

Or consider this language from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART):  “you can donate your embryos to another woman with fertility problems.”  Since when is it ethical for one human to “donate” another human?  Objects, like an original painting, can be donated (to a museum, for example)—but not subjects.  Consider this: If a slave owner decided to “donate” his slave to another plantation, wouldn’t we be just as outraged as if he sold that slave?  Wouldn’t we acknowledge that either approach treats the slave—a human being—as though she is a possession owned by someone else? 

Some might raise a question here about the adoption of born children—isn’t adoption like what is being suggested by SART above?  There’s an important difference: When placing a child for adoption, society does not use the language of “donation.”  Adoption agencies do not say “You can donate your infant to other adults” because a donation is an object and infants are not objects.  Moreover, adoption is done for the good of the child, finding willing adults to open their hearts and their home to a child in need, whereas the IVF industry is ordered to create, or pass along, children to adults in want

If a couple opts against implanting some of their embryos in the mother’s womb, or in another woman’s womb, then SART explains the other options: “you can donate your embryos for laboratory research to help improve pregnancy rates for infertile couples in the future…you can ask that your embryos be thawed and discarded.”  Consider the experimentation on Jews and others during the Holocaust—some humans were researched on (and then killed) with the justification that the information obtained would be helpful for others.  Don’t we raise a collective outcry against this?  Why then would we embrace that same philosophy with human beings that happen to be younger than Holocaust victims?  Even if embryos were protected from death-inducing experimentation, and instead quickly “thawed and discarded,” such an act is still death-inducing, and treats humans as though they are disposable.  Would we ever do this to toddlers?  For example, consider the following paragraph and imagine that each time it references embryos [bolded for effect] it were instead speaking of toddlers:

“Freezing of excess good quality embryos after IVF…provides patients with a ‘back-up’ should the initial fresh embryo transfer not result in a pregnancy, at a much lower cost than starting IVF all over again and often with minimal medications. Frozen embryo transfers have allowed many of our patients to achieve more than one pregnancy from a single cycle of ovarian stimulation. Embryos can be frozen at any stage of development during the IVF process. Eggs that are fertilized can be frozen as early as 1 day after an egg retrieval procedure, but it is more common to allow embryos to develop for a number of days before freezing them.  This allows us to observe how well the embryos are developing so that we only end up with embryos in the freezer that we think have a good probability of establishing a pregnancy” [emphasis added].

Viewing humans as backup? 

Creating extra humans to save money? 

Watching the humans grow a little bit longer so we can select the fittest and kill the weakest? 

That is the language of commodity, not humanity.  If it were technically possible to treat toddlers this way we would respond that it isn’t morally possible to do so.  The same should be our reaction when it comes to how we treat embryos.

Click here for part 3 of the series.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Galina Fomina

The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, Part 1, by Stephanie Gray

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Click here for the series introduction.

I recently watched a tragic documentary about men in China longing for wives but not being able to find a life partner.   Why is this happening?  According to 2016 statistics, China has 33.59 million more men than women, thanks to a culture that embraced a one-child policy and has a preference for male children. And this has led to an ugly byproduct: human trafficking.  There simply aren’t enough women to match the number of men and some are responding to this by going to desperate measures and treating women as property, trafficking them as modern-day slaves, forcing them into relationships they do not want.

There is no denying the understandable desire for an exclusive relationship with a life-long partner.  As the example above demonstrates, however, a legitimate and good desire does not give a person license to fulfill the desire under any circumstance—enslavement (even by a “kind owner”) being an obvious example.

The desire for children, like the desire for a spouse, is a natural and good desire too.  That’s why it’s heartbreaking when someone, longing for a child, is faced with infertility.  And honestly, the word “heartbreaking” doesn’t adequately capture the anguish such couples go through.  Having friends and relatives who have suffered with this plight, there really aren’t words that capture this cross.

Does the desire for children give a couple license to fulfill their longing under any circumstances?  As the opening analogy demonstrates, a good desire cannot be fulfilled if the way to achieve it is immoral.  For example, kidnapping a child would be an obvious example of an immoral means to achieve the end of parenthood.  Less obvious, in some peoples’ minds, is the means of IVF to achieve the end of parenthood.

Which leads to the theme of this blog series: Is it ethical for couples to use IVF to create offspring?  The short answer is no.  A common follow-up question is, “Why?”

Before answering that, it’s important to highlight fundamental principles that guide my thinking:

1)      Each human being is equal in dignity to another; each individual is unrepeatable and irreplaceable. 

2)      A human’s dignity is inherent to her being, which means the moment she begins to exist is the moment she has dignity.  Science teaches that beings which reproduce sexually begin their lives at fertilization.  Because this series is not about making that case, it is assumed that readers embrace this truth already, or that they will spend time reading the explanation for this point here, here, or here

3)      Because our dignity is grounded in who we are, that means how we were conceived has no bearing on our worth.  In other words, amongst a group of four humans, if one is conceived as a result of love, another from lust, a third via violence, and a fourth brought about through technology, while these “means” are not all equal, the “end,” each resulting human being, is.

4)      Parents are entrusted to meet their children’s needs and protect them from harm until they are independent adults capable of caring for themselves. 

5)      Humans are subjects, not objects; this means humans are not commodities and may not be owned, bought, or sold.

6)      We can understand how something should be by considering its designs (or nature) and then look at that through the lens of a moral framework of how one ought to live.

Agreement on the aforementioned principles provides the foundation to help one understand why IVF ought to be rejected.  Now, let’s flesh out the reasoning:

IVF endangers and disrespects the lives of pre-born humans.

According to Pacific Fertility Center, “Embryo freezing is a very routine part of the IVF process and approximately 60% of patients end up with some embryos in storage.”  According to Dr. Sonya Kashyap, medical director of Genesis Fertility Centre and a clinical assistant professor at UBC, “80 to 90 per cent of embryos survive the thawing process.”  IVF has resulted in more embryos being created than are implanted in their moms.  As a result, it’s been estimated that the United States has 1 million human beings in freezers.  And in the United Kingdom, a report came out revealing that 1.7 million embryos were destroyed in attempts to create other embryos via IVF

Here’s how that disrespects pre-born children:

a)      It intentionally creates and then kills some humans.   

b)      Even when pursuing the option of freezing rather than immediate killing, thawing endangers the lives of some embryos: 10-20% of them will be killed by that process.  Is it fair to endanger the lives of some children in an effort to create other children

c)      Even if all conceived children are implanted in the same cycle, what risks are being brought to these children’s lives?  Consider a testimony here: One couple went through three cycles in which they implanted 6 children each time, for a total of 18 offspring.  In the end, however, they only birthed two of the 18.  Had all 6 children progressed through pregnancy each time, that type of “multiples” pregnancy would have been a serious risk to the lives of those children, let alone the life of their mother.  Moreover, in such a situation, a “selective reduction” abortion is typically suggested where a doctor will kill several children in-utero to increase the odds of one or two developing safely to term.

I am not going to mince words here: Destroying humans from IVF, whether embryos in the lab or later in the womb when they have matured to the fetal stage, should be classified as intentional homicide.  It should be labelled as first degree murder.  Is that a bold statement?  It is, but can the following reasoning be refuted?  Destroying the youngest and most innocent among us in these cases is both intentional and premeditated.  One fertility website describes “selective reduction” as “a relatively safe procedure.”  But safe for who?  It certainly is not safe for the pre-born children targeted amongst their siblings where they will be victims of “the injection of a lethal chemical…directly into the heart chambers” [emphasis added].  Note the use of the term lethal.  The dictionary defines it as “of, relating to, or causing death” and “capable of causing death.”  But to cause death is to imply that prior to the death there was life.  Or consider the language of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the United Kingdom.  Regarding unused or leftover embryos it writes, “Some people prefer to discard their embryos. Embryos that are no longer needed are simply removed from the freezer and allowed to perish naturally in warmer temperatures or water” [emphasis added].  The dictionary defines perish as “to become destroyed or ruined: cease to exist.”  If we are making someone cease to exist, that means they did exist.  And so, the snuffing out of living, existing, entirely defenseless human babies who happen to be smaller and less developed than newborn ones is an entirely barbaric act.

Click here for Part 2 of this series.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Pritamprajapati9

The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, Introduction to a Series, by Stephanie Gray

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Several years ago a colleague and I were debating a student on a Florida college campus.  We were discussing the science of when life begins and the student simply refused to accept the fact that human development begins at fertilization.  An interesting detail about the student’s own beginnings came out in conversation: She was conceived by In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). 

  Upon my learning that, her unwillingness to accept the science of when life begins made more sense to me—because for her the topic was deeply personal.  What if she had always longed for siblings?  To admit life begins at fertilization is to admit she may have actually had siblings—but that her parents had kept them frozen, had them killed, or had them “used” for research.  What if she had a poor relationship with her parents?  What if she felt she was never “good enough” and could not meet their expectations?  To admit life begins at fertilization could lead to questioning why she was chosen from all the others that had existed alongside her.  To admit life begins at fertilization could make her wonder if her parents wished they had chosen a different embryo than her.  Sometimes painful realities can cause us to deny truth.

Sometimes—but not always.  Contrast that student with an audience member I met.  She was also conceived by IVF but she told me in no uncertain terms that while she loves her life, she does not agree with how she came to be: “My mom doesn’t understand,” she said to me.  “She doesn’t see how I can be against the very thing that made me exist.”  She carried on, “I’ve seen the paperwork.  We were all just numbers.”  This young woman was able to separate how she came to be with who came to be. 

The IVF debate is so controversial because it affects real people.  It has been reported that in the United States alone, almost 1 million children born were conceived by IVF or another assisted reproductive technology.  And so, whether we are aware of concrete cases or not, IVF-conceived persons are in our families, churches, workplaces, and interacting with us in the general public.  Moreover, even higher numbers of people—those who have tried IVF, whether they were successful or not—are in our families, churches, workplaces, and interacting with us in the general public.

This series, The Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization, will provide a moral commentary on this increasingly common reproductive technology.  Doing so on a topic that is not just theoretical but that affects people personally is challenging because there is a risk that some might feel offended by statements made.  There is a risk that condemning a way of thinking or behaving could be perceived (incorrectly) as condemning individuals involved. 

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he writes about some people seeking out messengers who tickle their ears with what they want to hear, but that Timothy, and we, have a responsibility to be faithful to do our duty in proclaiming truth, remembering that it is the truth which sets people free (John 8:32):

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.  As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

There is something more uncomfortable than being criticized for proclaiming the truth—it is avoiding being criticized by avoiding proclaiming truth.  There is something worse than being wrong—it is being wrong and not admitting it.  Look at the business world: The best businesses prioritize critiques and evaluation; they are constantly asking what they did wrong and how they can improve.  The ones that succeed are the ones that aren’t afraid to change course when facts and reason disprove what seemed to be good ideas. 

Our world that has made millions of human beings through IVF and thinks IVF is a good idea.  Is the world wrong?  This series will answer that.

Click here for part 1 of the series.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Suicide: To Assist or Not? That is the Question, by Stephanie Gray

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     This past week my newsfeed filled with news of the suicides of two famous people, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.  It has struck me that there is consensus among the posts I see that these deaths were tragic, that the loss of their lives is something to be mourned, and that the cause of their death—suicide—is something to be prevented—or is it?

     As best we know, Spade and Bourdain died alone, at their own hands.  But what if they hadn’t been alone?  What if their suicides had been assisted?  What if their actions were aided by a physician?  In our confused culture, a subtle change of facts can make the thing we prevent the thing some assist. 

     Which brings to mind an experience I had on a plane last weekend.  I was flying to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to speak at a conference for physicians on the topic of assisted suicide, newly legal in Canada as well as in places like DC, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, The Netherlands, and Belgium, to name a few.  During my flight I read a phenomenal book on the subject by my friends Jonathon Van Maren and Blaise Alleyne: “A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide.” Shortly before landing, a passenger next to me noticed the cover and commented to me, “That’s certainly not light reading!” he said.  In a brief conversation I learned that he had elderly relatives and his wife worked in healthcare.  “Would you like to have my copy?” I asked.  “It’s a short read—I finished it on this flight.”  He gratefully accepted it and promised to e-mail me his thoughts.

     Van Maren and Alleyne have brilliantly distilled the assisted suicide/euthanasia debate to this central question:

     Who gets suicide assistance and who gets suicide prevention?

     When the debate is framed that way it becomes difficult to give anyone suicide assistance—which is the point.  If we believe in human dignity and equality then everyone inclined to suicide should get suicide prevention, not suicide assistance.  Van Maren and Alleyne help explain it this way: A lot of times in the assisted suicide debate people will say it’s about choice, about the freedom of an individual to choose whether she herself lives or dies.  And yet, if we would try to prevent some people’s suicides (e.g., Spade and Bourdain) then it’s not about choice at all.  By trying to stop their deaths we are overriding their choice.  Which means rather than being about choice, assisting with some suicides is about judgment—about other parties making a judgment about whether someone’s life is worth saving—or not, about whether someone is better off dead—or not.  If person X would prevent Spade’s suicide but assist with grandma’s suicide, then person X is making a judgment about each person’s life and not valuing them equally.  And that’s the problem.

     Van Maren and Alleyne write,

     “Most people who support assisted suicide also support suicide prevention. This is The Split Position… [which] considers suicide and assisted suicide as totally separate topics. People who hold to this position have often never tried to reconcile their conflicting beliefs. Our goal in responding to The Split Position in conversation is to attack this cognitive dissonance – to pit their own beliefs in preventing suicide and assisting suicide against each other, and show that The Split Position is a basic human rights violation because it splits people into protected and unprotected classes. Suicidal despair is always a symptom of some other unmet need. The desire to die is changeable, suicide prevention is a human right, suicide assistance is a human rights violation, and our moral duty to the suicidal is to prevent self-harm, never to facilitate it.”

     In articulating why the “Split Position” should be rejected (as well as the position which favors suicide assistance for anyone), Van Maren and Alleyne explain the pro-life position of total suicide prevention:

     “In a society that truly values each and every human life, we have a responsibility to view the desire for suicide as an opportunity to love that person better, and to love that person more. What someone is saying when they express the desire for suicide is that they are in pain, and that they feel unloved. We have a responsibility to respond. From a personal and social standpoint, we need to ask questions such as: What is our duty to the suicidal? Are we responsible to care for and love those who cannot love us back? How can we love this person better?

     “Opposing assisted suicide does not mean a refusal to recognize how dire situations of extreme suffering or how painful the final days of terminal illness can be. It simply means rejecting assisted suicide as an ethical, humane, or life-affirming response to those circumstances. Instead, we propose that treatment centred around the person (rather than ending that person’s life) be implemented.”

     They further observe,

     “John Paul II wrote that ‘the world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love.’  Suffering unleashes love, it demands our creative response, and a response to alleviate suffering, but never to eliminate the sufferer. Our duty to the suicidal is suicide prevention, and even in the face of a terminal prognosis or incurable condition, never to ‘quit’ on someone and give into suicidal despair. Rather, we must work to relieve unbearable suffering and apply our creativity and imagination to improve quality of life, even when it is in short supply, even in a person’s darkest moments or final days.”

     And so, in the wake of the tragic deaths of Spade and Bourdain, let us remember that just as they deserved suicide prevention—not assistance, so do the elderly, the disabled, the sick, and the dying.  To further understand why, get a copy of Van Maren and Alleyne’s book today.  It is the best apologetic I’ve read on the subject.  

    

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