Letter From the Editors
Bioethics in Law & Culture Spring 2019 vol. 2 issue 2
Joe Kral, M.A.
Ana Brennan, J.D.
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As many of us already know, abortion and infanticide are not modern phenomena. These practices go back for thousands of years. It really is not until the rise of Christianity that we begin to see a full understanding of the dignity of the unborn child. And to be honest Christianity got its respect for the unborn from its elder brother, Judaism. Both faiths recognized the phenomena of the unborn being sacred, a gift from God. This is the reason why ancient Christianity prohibited the practice of abortion and infanticide, because they saw their pagan neighbors condemning some of the weakest of humanity to death and violating the child who is made in the Imago Dei. When Christians would come across these children who were left to die, they would adopt and raise those children. This is one of the reasons why Christianity was gaining in numbers, it valued all life.
As George Santayana famously put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The beginning of the year has seen many abortion advocates going beyond the practice of abortion and supporting the practice of infanticide as a matter of public policy. This is most readily seen in New York’s new “law” and in Governor Ralph Northam’s recent comments. It would seem that neither Governor Andrew Cuomo nor Governor Northam understand just how abortion and infanticide were very much practiced in ancient times and how it was seen as something that devalued the human person. To be frank, abortion and infanticide are regressive policies. They harken back to a day and age when some human life was seen as not valuable. It has become clear that abortion advocates have not learned the lessons from history.
In many respects, this move to go beyond Roe has spurred on legislative initiatives to strike back at this latest attack on life in various states such as “Trigger Bans” and Fetal Heartbeat Bills. In fact, Alabama just recently filed one bill that would ban all abortion and not punish post-abortive women. Each of these initiatives, while there are questions on whether they will survive a court challenge, are testaments to just how much unborn human life is valued in these states.
However, one pro-life public policy has been overlooked and that is the area of artificial reproductive technology (ART). A few weeks after Governor Northam advocated for infanticide he signed a bill that stated that IVF embryos are “owned”. If it was not clear before just how much Governor Northam does not value human life in its earliest stages it should be crystal clear now. While it is good that much of the pro-life movement seeks to eradicate abortion through legislative means, it is not good that much of the pro-life movement tends to ignore legislative initiatives that involve IVF or surrogacy. Much of the ART industry treats embryonic children as commodities that can be bought, sold, donated, or destroyed. But the simple fact remains, if the IVF embryo can be “owned” under the law, the question becomes why can’t a woman “own” the embryo that is in her uterus. Virginia will be hard pressed to outlaw abortion now that it has a law along these lines. Pro-Life legislative advocates must become more aware of the dangers that IVF and surrogacy pose to a culture of life. This is one of our goals, to help pro-life legislative advocates gain a deeper knowledge of the issue and how it ties into the mission of protecting unborn life.
This particular issue of the Journal of Bioethics in Law & Culture features two powerful articles; the first by Dr. Steven Meyer of the University of St. Thomas (Houston). He discusses St. John Paul II’s notion of what is meant by the culture of life. This article travels through the very concept of what is meant by culture and how St. John Paul II’s theology helps give us a better understanding of not only what he means by culture, but a culture of life. The second article, by Dr. David Franks, critically examines the ROE Act in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is trying to follow in the footsteps of New York State and pass a law that is nearly identical. Dr. Franks explains why this is not only bad law but even how the bill goes well beyond the Roe and Doe decisions.
In conclusion, this has been a very busy time for the state legislatures. While some groups are lobbying for pro-life bills that will help usher in a culture of life, some organizations are quite obviously very busy trying to defeat measures that enshrine the culture of death. It has become quite clear that this year will be a defining moment for both the pro-life movement and the pro-abortion movement as well. It is clear that the pro-life movement has been stepping up efforts to defeat a very radical abortion agenda that has now moved from the idea of abortion being a right to the idea that a woman has a “right” to a dead baby. It is clear we are entering an age where many liberal politicians are beginning to embrace infanticide as a practice and have moved away from the 1990’s mantra of “safe, legal, and rare.” This is why it is even more important that we become more deeply aware of the issues at stake. We must be clear that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.