The Culture of Death – A Lament and a Resolution

Filed on 04 January 2009 in Speeches category. Print This Page

Listen to this marvellous piece of narrative from the Old Testament somewhere around 2,500-3,000 years ago. The background is that Jeremiah the prophet has just dictated a judgment against the king but with an opportunity to change his ways and thus save Jerusalem from destruction. The scribe is Jehudi.

It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. (Jeremiah 36:22-24)

Four weeks ago tonight, Black Friday on the 10th day of the 10th month, in the year 2008 Anno Domini, at 10.35pm, the abortion bill passed the Victorian Upper House effectively and legally allowing abortion through to term by any method for any reason.

Five years ago when I became involved in the cloning issues before us and then decided to run for Senate, one of my sons said “don’t get involved in abortion” and to tell the truth I didn’t want to as I thought such involvement might detract from having a voice on embryo research and cloning. However it became obvious to me that the fundamental issue we had to grapple with was what it meant to be human, when human life began and if it wasn’t of value right from the time of conception, when did it become of value. And so, the abortion issue is central. It is a community watershed. It is divisive – even among people of faith and even among Christian doctors (“where is your compassion?”).

Specifically, the Victorian bill allows abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks on demand and then after 24 weeks through to term if considered “appropriate” by a doctor who only has to consult with another doctor who also considers it appropriate but does not need to see the mother. There is effectively no restriction. No counselling is required, nor is there any “cooling-off” period; there is no restriction as to method of abortion including the horrific partial birth abortion, nor are there any guidelines re abortion for foetal abnormality.

Eugenic selection of even minor correctable abnormalities such as cleft lip has crept in under the radar in Victoria. This now has legal sanction.

All amendments failed including the one to take out the clause eliminating doctors conscientious objection.

This clause states that doctors who conscientiously object must refer on to a doctor who they know has no such objection. Ancient and venerated medical ethics have been trampled underfoot:

I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. Hippocratic Oath.

Words like unbelievable, incomprehensible come to mind. How can any government, anywhere, say that a doctor must cooperate in something that is against his or her conscience – especially when this involves killing?

If charged and found guilty then doctors would be unregistrable because they have broken the law and un-insurable and so forced out of practice. Catholic hospitals will need to close obstetric and gynaecological services unless they gain an exemption.

Well-presented arguments against the bill’s provisions were made by over 200 Victorian doctors and 150 doctors in other states. That these arguments should been over-ruled demonstrates the single-mindedness and power of the pro-abortion lobby. It is also sobering to consider the part that Emily’s List has played in this “historic moment for the recognition of women’s rights in Victoria… able to access safe, legal terminations free from persecution; and medical practitioners provide vital reproductive health services to women free from harassment …”. Their website boasts there are 152 Labor women in parliaments of which 113 are Emily’s List members.

Until it is reversed, the refusal of doctor’s right of conscience has paved the way for compulsory participation in other processes e.g. euthanasia; physician assisted suicide.

Doctors of Medicine With Morality have “signed in” to a statement of belief that includes:
We assert our right and obligation to practice medicine according to our conscience. We will not engage in or facilitate procedures or practices that we believe are inconsistent with (this).

This is now head-to-head conflict. The future of medicine is at stake. Where do we go from here? How long will it be before doctors are charged under this law? Will they be excluded from practice? It would seem from the above quotes from Emily’s List that this is their agenda and it is certainly the agenda of some world-renowned ethicists.

Dear God, what have we done? Like the King and his attendants, is there no consciousness of shame? In just a few verses we get a glimpse of complacency, arrogance and contempt – there is no humility, no respect, no remorse, no fear, and no shame. Ravi Zacharias, in his book Deliver us from Evil – Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture (Word 1996) writes: “The loss of shame in a society is ultimately an attack upon all of civilisation… shame was given to us as a guardian, not only of ourselves, but of our fellow human beings.”

Insidious forces continue to threaten our society from within and progressively weaken our nation’s conscience. These forces include the erosion of marriage and family as the bedrock of society, the limitation of freedom of choice and even more significantly threats limiting our freedom to even voice our objection to these forces. Add to that the blurring of what it means to be human – to be created in the Image of God – manifest in an encroaching Culture of Death.

The battle for human life was successfully defended in Victoria with the Physician Assisted Suicide Bill, but lost with abortion through to term. We are currently facing another euthanasia bill before federal senate, and a liberal abortion bill soon in Qld.

Last week I was in Canberra speaking before a Senate Committee re the Medicare item for 2nd trimester abortion between 14-26 weeks. This week I have posted on behalf of Medicine With Morality letters to SA upper house MPs re cloning, destructive embryo research and the mixing of animal and human genetic material. It doesn’t let up.

The Culture of Death – what does it mean?

A culture where choosing to die and the killing of others is seen as a solution for misery.

A culture that accepts the killing of 80-100,000 un-born children every year the vast majority as an extension of contraception or “reproductive choice”.

A culture in which it becomes progressively easier to think of, then justify, then carry out “mercy” killing, firstly on the person who requests it and then to relieve the suffering of others for whom it is considered their suffering to be incompatible with quality of life.

A culture that accepts without thinking the elimination of embryos and killing of the un-born that are less than perfect – e.g. Down Syndrome, or even easily correctable abnormalities such as cleft lip.
Digressing for a moment, why would we – or Medicine With Morality – have a view on the matter of medical benefits for mid-trimester abortion?

Well, being concerned with the ethics and outcomes of medical procedures, those that exist now and those that may be contemplated for the future e.g. Physician Assisted Suicide as recently rejected in Victoria, the doctors of MWM are also concerned whether such procedures should attract medical financial benefits thereby seeming to have some inferred national approval by virtue of those benefits being granted.

Specifically then our concern with this item is that it is being used for elective abortion in circumstances where the definition of life-threatening maternal disease has come to mean psycho-social distress and the definition of gross fetal abnormality has come to mean any abnormality or considered defect.

Our objections to such a use of this item encompass not only the fact that the life of an unborn child is being taken but also the nature of the abortion procedures coupled with the lack of any consideration of fetal pain; the issue of eugenic selection in our society and the implications of this with respect to our attitudes to the disabled in our society; and our concern for the mother who in her distress has chosen a solution she may later regret.

We are concerned that “termination of pregnancy” has come to mean terminating the life of the child when in reality the condition of pregnancy is terminated simply by induction of labour with delivery. Killing the child is not an essential part of this process.

We are concerned that abortion for minor readily correctable abnormalities such as cleft lip should have implied national approval by the granting of medical benefits. We are concerned that potentially viable babies of say 24 weeks can either have their lives terminated prior to delivery with no consideration of fetal pain or be delivered alive and then put aside to die – and that such should also have implied or inferred national approval.

It was chilling last week to hear a doctor say that if a baby was accidentally born alive during an abortion procedure, then it should not be alive as that was not the intention of the procedure.
If the goal of the procedure is pregnancy termination then medically it should be ensured that pregnancy termination is carried out, indeed legally perhaps also because if the baby is born alive there are responsibilities for treatment of the baby after birth, so from 24 weeks if the procedure is a termination of pregnancy then that is what it should be. … if the procedure being planned is technically that of an abortion, then the procedure should not end with a live birth

The senate hearings highlighted eugenic selection with some witnesses denying all knowledge of it happening, and others not only acknowledging it but actively defending it to the extent of saying how much extra it would cost our community to care for the disabled if we withdrew the item number and these babies were actually born alive! The implication – although it was verbally denied – was very clear: we should not allow these babies to be born. That is blatant eugenics and the magnitude of it was accentuated by one of the Senators on the hearing committee actually using the same submission on behalf of a parliamentary group – and that, without some of them at least not even knowing she had done this.

The Culture of Death.

It is a culture in which the intrinsic value of all human life is increasingly replaced by an objective assessment of value for the individual, then for society. We have then come to the point – where we have been before – in evaluating whether a life is worthy to be lived.

A culture that accepts the creation of human life for the sole purpose of research that will result in its destruction.

A culture that accepts cloning of human beings as long as we destroy them before 14 days.

A culture that accepts the mixing of animal and human genetic material even though any “life” thus created would also be destroyed before 14 days.

A culture where embryos are created and then discarded because they are deemed unsuitable for tissue donation to an existing sibling or other relative.

A culture where society expects and the individual – particularly the elderly and infirm – feels a Duty to Die because it is better for their relatives or for society.

A culture in which it becomes progressively easier to consider the value of one human life compared with another, where it becomes thinkable to transplant organs necessary for life to function from a person inevitably close to death – or even subject to capital punishment – to the premature termination of that life when it is considered to be of lesser value or to no longer exhibit “personhood”.

In this progression in our society we have departed from the intrinsic value of human life to criteria capable of varying definition: quality of life; value of life to self and society; suffering; proximity of death; personhood. These definitions vary from person to person consistent with individual autonomy, from society to society, and from government to government.

It is legal in Australia to carry out destructive research on spare embryos left over from artificial reproductive technology and in some states – but not Western Australia which was the first state to reject this – the deliberate creation and destruction of embryos by cloning for purpose of getting stem cells. But, as if that were not enough, already there are persuasive arguments calling for the use of actual organ tissue instead of stem cells from more mature foetuses.

It gets worse. Some prominent bio-ethicists argue that a new-born baby does not exhibit self-awareness – and so is not yet a person – therefore it is justifiable to terminate its life up to around four weeks of age. And there would seem to be no valid reason for not using this child’s organs for another instead of wasting them.

Further, in order to avoid the situation where a late-term abortion is carried out for reasons of abnormality and the diagnosis is then discovered to be erroneous, it has been argued that it is better and less discriminatory to terminate the life of a new-born than to do a late-term abortion.

One method of late-term abortion is the horrific “partial birth abortion” when the baby is “partly born” with legs first then the head is delivered having been “aborted” by puncturing the back of the head to allow insertion of a powerful sucker to evacuate the brain to allow the easy removal of the collapsed head. At the Senate hearings last week one of the doctors wanting retention of this item explained the advantage of this procedure for the mother as being able to avoid having a caesarean section and “that a lot of women would prefer to go to sleep and wake up not pregnant”.

Similarly with terminating the pregnancy when lethal fetal abnormality is present – there is no medical reason why the baby needs to be killed in utero as a part of this process. Some argue that it is better for the mother that she deliver a dead baby. But killing should never be seen as a solution for misery. A better solution if the baby is delivered alive is for it to be wrapped, named, cuddled and allow to die naturally.
Why even think that the baby must be killed first?
> To turn back the clock and pretend that she was never pregnant
> To avoid the dilemma of whether to keep the baby or have it adopted
> Because this baby should not live and be a burden on the family and a burden on society – and if you (the mother) do not agree then you are a genetic outlaw

We had pity on the university students when they found they were pregnant and on the mother with four children who found herself pregnant again. In their anguish, shock and grief we had pity and decided we could fix this, turn back the clock, denying the truth that they were ever pregnant and get rid of the “products of conception”. But denial is never a solution for grief. Accidents happen. People make mistakes. Risky behaviour has consequences. How did we ever think that taking a life would ever be a solution for misery? And, of course, that is not true anyway – people do suffer consequences from abortion as we all know.
The plea from others – both distant and significant – “she’s only a girl, have pity”; “she has difficulty coping, show pity” swayed the doctor’s judgment and yes, we turned the ultrasound away and said “yes, we’ll turn back the clock and we won’t tell a soul and you won’t have to worry about a thing” and we said to ourselves that these bits of tissues were just products of conception.
And it is better – and legal – to kill the baby now, in utero, because it is not yet a real person and you can’t really get attached to it because you haven’t seen it (except on ultrasound, so we won’t show you that)

Personhood of the mature embryo is also dependent on the mother’s view – even a changing view – as to whether the baby is wanted. If, after an abortion procedure, the baby is (accidentally) born alive then, as it is no longer wanted by the mother, it should not be alive and it is therefore justifiable somehow to put “it” on one side until it dies.

Similarly, there is the obvious inconsistency – with obvious disregard for any acceptance of the yet-to-be-born baby as a person – between chosen abortion and the baby being killed in utero through an attack or an accident involving the mother, such distinction being accepted by some courts in bringing to justice the persons responsible for the attack or accident, compared with the total lack of accusation if it was the mother’s choice. Mother’s choice – right through to term.

Finally, the true agenda of the “right to die” lobby becomes clear with the following quotes.

Dr Nitschke in Killing Me Softly says that anyone should have the right to kill themselves, including troubled teens, prisoners and the elderly who are sick of life. “Instead of doctors — or politicians or legislation — calling the shots, dying will become democratised. This heightened level of autonomy will open up new choices to the ordinary person”.

Ludwig Minelli head of Dignitas claims that suicide and assisted suicide are human rights.
“If the Right to Suicide is a Human Right… we must accept that, in order to make use of this right, there must be no legal requirements other than that the person has the mental capacity needed to decide to end his or her own life. Conditions which insisted that somebody must be terminally or severely ill would interfere with the essence of that Human Right. Human Rights are, inherently, unconditional.” Assisted Suicide Backers Mislead the Public by Wesley J. Smith August 11, 2008, Life

It is indeed a culture of death when it not only becomes a right to die at any chosen point along the life-span for any chosen reason – a philosophy that is already apparent in some parts of our society and in our young people if things get too hard, I’ll just kill myself – but also to insist on assistance in that by the medical profession and to have legislative backing that this is what the doctor must do and that if he will not, then he should not be a doctor.
If people are not prepared to offer legally permitted, efficient, and beneficial care to a patient because it conflicts with their values, they should not be doctors. Professor Julian Savulescu, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, BMJ 2006;332:294-297 February 4

Then we have a culture that not only insists on death on demand as a moral and legal right, but also where doctors refusing to assist are liable to de-registration.

It is so weird that those holding to a liberal world-view would push for the “Freedom of Choice Act” in the USA that would override all state restrictions on abortion, yet would restrict the choice of doctors not to participate. Further, that they would restrict freedom of association and appointment (e.g. in the choice of teachers in Christian schools) by anti-discrimination legislation and freedom of speech by anti-vilification measures – when even the defence of marriage can be construed as vilification of homosexuality.

What can we do? What must we do? What is a Christian response?

Allow me to crystallise:
1. for the Christian it is to evangelise; change the hearts and minds of people through Christ to adopt a Christian worldview on the intrinsic value of all human life
2. values education; educate, educate, educate;
3. commitment to excellence in your vocation and so reach high levels in society or government where your Christian influence is going to be more significant
4. watchman role; we must warn of the consequences – at the very least to each other and to God’s people. Be – or support – a strong moral voice. They all make a difference (ACL; FOL; Saltshakers; CDHL; RTL etc). If we are not grieving then there is something wrong (Ezekiel9:4).
5. be part of an influential lobby group – ACL + above moral voices + MWM
6. support Christians in parliament and help them get elected. Support a Christian party. Most importantly we need people in Senate and holding a responsible balance of power. But also teach people how to vote – a [2] vote for a minor party is a wasted vote – put CDP [1]. Ultimately we need numbers to counteract the influence of specific interest groups.

Some specifics on how to change our culture.

Through values education to children in families, churches and schools:
Reaching our kids with a consciousness of God, the gospel and with eternal values – in schools, after-school clubs, Sunday School, holiday missions and camps.
Telling the Truth – re sex; marriage; drugs; alcohol; gay sex
Teaching our own children by example, by praying with them, listening to them, introducing to good literature and visual material that emphasise the spiritual component of our being

Through education on specific issues:
Educating Christians so they understand but also educating them so they can persuade others e.g. 20 reasons why marriage is good and why children should have a mother and a father; 20 reasons for keeping sex till marriage; reasons to oppose pornography; why voluntary euthanasia is dangerous for society etc.
Grounding our own people in these matters and mobilising an army who understand the times; who know what to do; making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Eph 5:15).
Building ‘values’ bridges into the community; public education through seminars, panel discussions and specific teaching sessions on depression, death and dying, euthanasia, the role of family on our society, suicide.

Preaching the gospel.
We need more Christians! Bring them in. Into the Kingdom to adopt Kingdom values – through personal evangelism, church programs and activities, home groups, to youth, in Sunday School and in schools programs.

Christians should have more children!

We need a Voice: challenging and, when appropriate, confronting.
This is the watchman role. Speaking to issues involving our culture, to be a prophetic voice and say what needs to be said (Ezek 33:7-9). At all levels – a Church voice; Christians in high places in gov’t and business and society – without fault and without compromise
We need to appeal to lasting values of virtue and honour, justice and mercy that are a part of universal and natural law. We need to proclaim the Word of God – as Jeremiah had to – to the rulers and people of this land.
This is what the LORD says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne–you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.'” Jeremiah 22:1-3.

And yes, we need a political voice.

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Martin Luther

Yes, we must preach the gospel but there is also a time when we must directly confront that evil of which they need to repent “you shall not do this thing”!

So my friends, a sobering exercise indeed. Let us encourage one another. May we enjoy every new day that God gives us and may we never give up.

Sometimes you just gently teach
Sometimes you preach with invitation
Sometimes you confront and challenge
Sometimes you have to condemn
Sometimes you have to drive the money-changers out of the temple
Sometimes you have to walk to Calvary.

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