The Background: Gruesome reports of forced abortions continue to emerge from China, where a one-child policy has resulted in untold death, chiefly targeting girls. So far, few American media have circulated Monday's news of a U.S. State Department inquiry into the case of Cao Ruyi, who anti-abortion activists say will be required to abort her child this weekend if she fails to pay a substantial ''social burden fee."
Tragically, we have no shortage of incidents that remind us of abortion's horrors, intended and unintended. For example, last fall a hospital in Australia mistakingly killed the wrong twin in a selective abortion. Steven Ertelt, founder and editor of LifeNews.com, reports, "The mother of the two babies had wanted to abort the baby who doctors said had little chance to live. But now, both babies are dead." The doctors told the mother that one of the unborn babies had a heart defect that would require years of surgeries, if the child survived long enough. The mother asked doctors to abort the one child while allowing the other to live.
"However," Ertelt writes, "the abortion . . . went awry and the wrong baby was injected with drugs meant to end his or her life."
The Implications: Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Medical Fellowship in the UK, responds, "The story graphically illustrates the grim reality of the 'search and destroy' approach to unborn babies with special needs. Such procedures are now very common although very few involve twins."
His remarks deserve further reflection:
It is interesting that the killing of an "unwanted" child with special needs in the womb is regarded as "normal" whilst the killing of a "wanted" normal child is seen as a tragedy and worthy of international news coverage.
By contrast the Christian view is that the life of every human individual, regardless of its intelligence, beauty, state of health, or degree of disability is infinitely precious. A just and caring society is one where the strong make sacrifices for the weak, or in the words of the apostle Paul, "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Earlier this week, Ross Douthat's column "Eugenics, Past and Future" notes the eerie relation of today's selective abortions to "the American elite's pre-World War II commitment to breeding out the "unfit."' He concludes:
From a rigorously pro-choice perspective, the in utero phase is a space in human development where disease and disability can be eradicated, and our impulse toward perfection given ever-freer rein, without necessarily doing any violence to human dignity and human rights.
But this is a convenient perspective for our civilization to take. Having left behind pseudoscientific racial theories, it's easy for us to look back and pass judgment on yesterday's eugenicists. It's harder to acknowledge what we have in common with them.
First, a relentless desire for mastery and control, not only over our own lives but over the very marrow and sinew of generations yet unborn. And second, a belief in our own fundamental goodness, no matter to what ends our mastery is turned.
John Starke is lead pastor of All Souls Church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You can follow him on Twitter.