Adam J. MacLeod

Judging human worth

Adam J. MacLeod
By Adam MacLeod
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May 24, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Some of the great civil rights battles of our day are being waged in Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, and Montana this year. If you do not recognize those states as civil rights battlegrounds, you are not alone. While advocates for assisted suicide have targeted those states with legalization campaigns, residents may not fully appreciate what is at stake.

The connection between assisted suicide and the civil rights struggles of previous centuries is foundational. To claim that some human lives are not worth living is to deny the intrinsic and equal worth of every human being. It is, in other words, to deny the principle from which we derived our prohibitions against slavery and racial segregation. Pro-life scholars and activists would do well to make this clear, and may be assisted in their efforts by consulting the arguments of Emily Jackson and John Keown in their new book, Debating Euthanasia. Jackson, a law professor at the London School of Economics, marshals the arguments for legalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, and Keown, the Rose F. Kennedy Chair in Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, defends their continued prohibition by law on both practical and principled grounds.

Central to Keown’s case is concern for the equal and intrinsic worth of all human beings. The “cardinal ethical principle” of the inviolability of human life prohibits the intentional killing of an innocent person, and it is precisely this principle that grounds the “equal and inalienable rights” that we enjoy “in virtue of our common membership in the human family.” The authors of the Declaration of Independence thought this principle self-evident. Keown points out that the principle also finds expression in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and a 1994 report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics. Neither anachronistic nor novel, this idea explains the law’s insistence on protecting the lives of all, irrespective of age, stage of development, or condition of dependency. No one is better off dead, Keown maintains, “even if some patients lose sight of their worth.”

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It is precisely the failure to grasp the implications of intrinsic human worth that plagues arguments for decriminalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, including Jackson’s. Jackson quite candidly rejects the inviolability of human life. “There is nothing independently valuable about being alive, other than that it enables me to live a life.” But to claim, as Jackson does, that the value of life is merely instrumental is to reject the immutably inherent and equal value of all human persons. On Jackson’s terms, any particular human life is more or less valuable, and thus variably worthy of legal protection, according to some standard of instrumental usefulness. But this raises the questions of how the value will be measured and whom the state will authorize to make the valuation.

Jackson recognizes this problem but seems unable to resolve it coherently. She insists that we should not accept the judgment of the lovesick teenager that her life has no worth, and yet we should accept the same judgment from the elderly or terminally ill person for whom “life has become an intolerable burden.” Jackson discounts outright the lives of persons in persistent vegetative states because of the “important difference between simply being alive, and having a life which is worth living.” But here, again, we are no closer to understanding what a worthy life consists of.

Jackson tries to resist the full implications of her own argument. She protests that “accepting that someone’s life has ceased to benefit them is not the same as saying they have no worth.” Family and friends of a suffering patient, she claims, can assent to the request for death without assenting to the judgment that the patient’s life is worthless. Presumably, the operative principle here is one of deference to the personal autonomy of the patient, but Jackson does not explain why deference is necessary. Given the high correlation between terminal illness and depression, deference would seem especially inappropriate in such cases.

Jackson’s conception of human worth becomes clearer in light of her analogy to animal euthanasia. “When it comes to animals,” Jackson observes, “most people accept that euthanasia is not only justifiable, but also often the right thing to do.” For at least some humans, she argues, the experience of dying is no different than a cat’s. Even allowing for differences between humans and cats, such as the practice of making wills and other provisions for resolution at the end of life, these differences do not “justify forcing someone to suffer intolerably.”

That Jackson considers this argument persuasive indicates that she has not fully confronted the claim that human beings have intrinsic and equal worth. Keown is quite clear that we should not force anyone to suffer, nor should we preserve life at all costs. “That would be ‘vitalism,’” Keown explains, “and morally indefensible.” The right to life is a “right not to be intentionally killed” (Keown’s italics). Animals enjoy no such right precisely because they are merely animals, and not humans. Acting with a purpose to bring about the death of a fellow human being is fundamentally unlike acting with a purpose to bring about the death of an animal.

Jackson fails to appreciate her interlocutor’s arguments in other respects, as well. An important corollary of the inviolability of human life is the principle of double effect, according to which it is sometimes permissible knowingly to bring about harms (as foreseen side-effects) that may never be intended directly. Jackson attacks this principle with a hypothetical:

If I visit my doctor complaining of mild stomach cramps, it would not be acceptable for him to give me a life-threatening injection of diamorphine, and he could not escape responsibility for my death by pointing to the doctrine of double effect. My doctor could not claim that his intention was merely to relieve my pain, and that my death was a foreseen but unintended side-effect.

It apparently does not occur to Jackson that the doctor’s disproportionate response to the pain would in fact supply a significant, perhaps conclusive, reason to infer that his intentions were not pure. She ignores what Keown expressly states, namely, that one of the conditions of the operation of double effect requires a “proportionate reason for allowing the bad effect to occur.” Far from excusing the disproportionate conduct that Jackson rightly condemns, the principle of double effect would rule out the doctor’s actions.

By contrast, Keown takes Jackson’s arguments seriously. (In one instance, he makes the effort to strengthen one of her arguments before refuting it.) Indeed, the book’s most glaring weakness is its asymmetry. The rules of engagement required each author to submit his and her contribution blindly, unable to predict precisely what arguments the other would deploy. Nevertheless, Keown and others have developed many of the pro-life arguments over a period of many years. If Jackson wanted to understand the arguments she was trying to refute, then she could have found robust statements of those arguments with little effort.

Despite this asymmetry, Jackson’s contribution to the book is well worth reading. She is often refreshingly candid, as when she acknowledges the limits of personal autonomy. She remarks that the choice of suicidal patients to end their lives requires the cooperation of others: “they are crucially dependent upon other people, namely healthcare professionals, to comply with their wishes.”

Jackson’s contribution also contains important reminders for opponents of decriminalization. Legalization proponents, like many citizens who are open to legalization, are motivated not by bias against the disabled but rather by compassion and respect. “It seems cruel to force someone to endure suffering they find intolerable,” Jackson’s argument goes, “and condescending to disbelieve them when they claim to be suffering so much.” Such advocates, therefore, tend to be unpersuaded by the common pro-life argument drawing analogies between contemporary legalization and Nazi euthanasia practices. As Jackson notes, the Nazis operated on social Darwinist theories of racial hygiene; their “motivation was never a compassionate response to individual suffering.”

Similarly, Jackson offers some insight into the relative inefficacy of “slippery slope” arguments. Accepting assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia does not, in her view, obviously set one on a course toward “the involuntary extermination of disabled people,” and therefore, a blanket prohibition seems to her “a peculiarly blunt approach to regulation.” Why not give carefully regulated legalization a try?

There are, of course, many good reasons not to try. Keown discusses the failures of regulatory efforts in Oregon and the Netherlands. Despite the prevalence of depression among those who request assisted suicide and euthanasia, fewer than 10 percent are referred for psychiatric evaluation. Oregon’s meager reporting requirements prevent any comprehensive study of abuse, but anecdotal evidence suggests that coercion by family members is sometimes a factor in the decision to commit suicide. And the speed with which the Dutch have moved from voluntary euthanasia of adults to non-voluntary euthanasia of infants should trouble even those who are unmoved by slippery-slope arguments. But for legalization proponents, these failures are insufficient reasons not to proceed with legalization, albeit with more rigorous regulations. Jackson herself criticizes the Swiss regulatory scheme for its lack of safeguards. For example, she favors rules that would require “thorough investigation of the person’s circumstances.” One has the impression that, no matter how many of these safeguards might fail in practice, Jackson will always be prepared to propose more, until reasonable concerns about abuse are satisfied.

Most importantly, Jackson has no answer to the moral argument against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. And herein lies a lesson for pro-life advocates as they fight legalization efforts around the country this year: they should resist the temptation to avoid making moral arguments. They are our strongest resources. To skirt the fundamental moral question would be both unnecessary and, it seems, a strategic blunder. Pro-life activists should not give offense or recall images of swastikas. It is enough to point out that a nation committed to racial equality should, for the same reason, be committed to the intrinsic worth of the sick and the disabled.

Adam MacLeod is an associate professor at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com.

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Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish

Did Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood lie about illegal organ harvesting?

Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish
By Ben Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Somebody in the abortion industry is breaking a Minnesota law that bans the sale or donation of aborted babies' body parts.

That's the conclusion of numerous elected officials, who are renewing calls to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos about the harvesting and sale of fetal organs and tissue.

Dozens of Republican state legislators asked Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to investigate the abortion provider after the Center for Medical Progress released videos detailing the little-known practice. The sale or donation of fetal organs or tissue is illegal under state law.

The local Planned Parenthood affiliate - Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) - said that it had never been involved in fetal tissue donation.

However, in the latest video released by CMP, the head of a biological company says it has an abortion facility operating in Minnesota.

Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), says she procures fetal organs and tissue from abortion facilities "in San Diego, in Oregon, in Minnesota, and soon we will be starting in New Jersey and Philadelphia."

At the heart of the issue is a Minnesota state law that requires abortion facilities to dispose of aborted babies' bodies "by cremation, interment by burial, or in a manner directed by the commissioner of health." To do otherwise is a misdemeanor.

Thus, ABR's research would be illegal in any case.

As it turns out, ABR has been registered as a non-profit in the state of Minnesota since April 2009. Its location is listed as 1010 N. Dale St. in St. Paul.

A former ABR employee, Deborah Heap Tierney, listed her occupation on LinkedIn as "procurement specialist" at the company, in Minnesota, from February 2009 - two months before ABR's business filing as a nonprofit - to November 2009.

Investigators want to know: If organ donation was illegal, what was she procuring, and who acted as ABR's supplier?

"Why is the nation's largest and oldest fetal procurement company in Minnesota in the first place, let alone four miles from Planned Parenthood Minnesota?" said State Representative Mary Franson, R-08B, in a statement sent exclusively to LifeSiteNews. "Minnesota law requires a dignified and sanitary disposal of fetal remains. Sales or donation of fetal remains is not permitted."

"Advanced Bioscience Resources admits in a recent video that they procure fetal tissue in Minnesota. That alone is illegal and criminal," State Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-39B, told LifeSiteNews. "I am calling on Ramsey County Prosecutor John J. Choi to investigate these claims and if true to pursue criminal charges against them."

But what about Planned Parenthood? Did it tell the truth when it denied ever having participated in ABR's organ harvesting business?

State Rep. Matt Dean, R-38B, sent a letter on July 24 to Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of PPMNS, to find out. He asked for the affiliate's "official policy on the donation of fetal tissue."

Echoing Cecile Richards, Stoesz replied on August 3, "I want to be absolutely clear." Although Planned Parenthood "believes strongly in the value of fetal tissue research...PPMNS does not participate, and has never participated, in any type of tissue donation program that would involve providing fetal remains (with reimbursement of expenses or otherwise) to any commercial vendor or to any other entity for the purpose of medical research."

When asked for official policy, she responded, "PPMNS does not and never has donated tissue of any kind and, accordingly, does not have a policy dedicated to this issue."

She then said that one of its policies requires that state law be followed on the disposal of aborted babies' remains, and the policy was adopted in 2011. She sent a copy of their policy, which was signed by Stoesz and two other PPMNS officials on July 27 - three days after Dean's letter.

Gov. Mark Dayton accused Republicans of "full-time grandstanding," saying, "As far as I'm concerned there's no basis for an investigation at taxpayer expense into a private nonprofit organization that has stated they don't engage in those practices here in Minnesota."

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith - who was part of the Planned Parenthood affiliate's leadership - agrees. Smith is a former vice president for external affairs at PPMNS.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-31A today told LifeSiteNews through a spokesperson that the state's Democratic leadership has turned a blind eye to a burgeoning scandal, and justice must be enforced at once.

"Speaker Daudt is outraged by the developments with Planned Parenthood," Susan Closmore, state House Republican communications director, told LifeSiteNews. "Speaker Daudt has called on Governor Mark Dayton to investigate this issue."

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Vatican: It’s ‘impossible’ for transsexuals to serve as godparents

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MADRID, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews)- After Alex Salinas, a woman living as a man in San Fernando, Spain, claimed her parish priest had allowed her to be the “godfather” for the baptism of her two nephews, local bishop of Cadiz and Ceuta, Don Rafael Zornoza took the matter up with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The response, which strongly affirms Church teaching on the nature of gender, was published yesterday on the diocese’s website.

“On this particular case I inform you of the impossibility of admission,” read the response. “Transsexual behavior publicly reveals an opposition to the moral demand of resolving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sex. It is therefore evident that said person does not comply with the requirement of leading a life of faith and to the function of godparent (CIC, can 874 §1,3).”

“This is not seen as discrimination, but merely as the recognition of an objective lack of requirements that by their nature are necessary to take on the ecclesiastic responsibility of being a godparent,” it concluded.

The prelate explained how Pope Francis has confirmed this doctrine on several occasions and quoted his last encyclical Laudato Si: “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.”

Bishop Zornoza also quoted Benedict XVI on the “ecology of man,” as “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father,” continued Zornoza quoting Francis. “Thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology.”

The bishop went on to explain that if parents are unable to find a suitable person to qualify as godparent, the priest can baptize the child without godparents, “which are not necessary to celebrate this sacrament.”

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“Words have been attributed [to me] which I have not pronounced,” he noted, referring to the media falsely reporting his approval of Salinas as godfather. He explained he had reached out to the Congregation “due to the complexity and the media relevance this matter has reached, and keeping in mind the possible pastoral consequences of any decision on the matter.”

Local media reported that the baptism, scheduled for this September, has been cancelled, and that Salinas’ sisters will not baptize their children until the bishop changes his mind.

Salinas, who had declared herself to be a “firm believer,” has now claimed to be an “apostate” due to the Church’s rejection, reported Spain’s EFE.

In a petition started by change.org, Salinas wrote she didn’t understand why “the Catholic Church denies me the possibility of being a godfather” if Spanish authorities have already changed her name from Alexandra to Alexander in her official IDs.

The petition falsely celebrated a “victory” after Salinas claimed she was being allowed as godfather.

Mainstream media, which initially reported Salina’s “celebration,” have not yet reported on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s response.

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Forced abortions at Canadian clinics central to cover-up of 12-yr-old’s abuse: pro-life leaders

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By Pete Baklinski

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A renowned Canadian judge is calling for an investigation into why two Canadian abortion centers failed to report an underaged girl who was forced by her stepfather to undergo two abortions after being repeatedly raped by him, one at the former Morgentaler Clinic in Newfoundland and the other at a Winnipeg, Manitoba hospital.

Retired Manitoba justice Ted Hughes told CBC News that the province of Manitoba should investigate how a 12-year-old girl with a previous record of abortion could be given another abortion and not have providers bring the child to the attention of welfare officials.

"I'm surprised that child-and-family-services, the ministry, isn't taking an aggressive stand. I would have expected that, because, unquestionably this child was in need of protection," said Hughes, who received national attention last year when he made 62 recommendations for improving the child welfare system after investigating the 2005 murder of 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

"Do I think this should be looked into? I certainly do,” he said.

After making these concerns public yesterday, Manitoba's Office of the Children's Advocate stated on the same day that it has launched an investigation, but that its findings will not be made public.

Pro-life leaders say the girl’s experience at the hands of abortionists is an indictment of the entire industry.

“Abortion centers are not health care centers. They are businesses, and their product is dead babies, professionally emptied uteruses. So they have a vested financial interest in not asking any questions,” said Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, to LifeSiteNews.

On Friday, the girl’s 35-year-old stepfather was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexual assault that began in 2011 when the girl was 11 and continued for over two years, during which the girl became pregnant twice. The stepfather traveled across country for the first forced abortion at the former Morgentaler Clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He then took the girl closer to home for the second forced abortion at the Health Sciences Centre in the Women's Hospital in Winnipeg.

"He arranged abortions for both pregnancies, including cover stories," said Justice Christopher Martin at the sentencing, describing the man’s crimes as "shockingly calculated and cruel” and “among the worst nightmare scenarios.”

The man was arrested in 2012 after sexually assaulting his step-daughter’s best friend and the girl’s mom after breaking into their home. He cannot be identified to protect the victims.

The young girl, who is now 15, called both abortions "murder" in a victim-impact statement.

While legal and human rights experts are busy pointing fingers at who might be ultimately responsible for failing to help this girl as a victim of sexual assault, hardly anyone wants to point a finger at the abortion industry itself.

But Canadian pro-life leaders say the blame for this girl’s ongoing abuse rests primarily with the abortion establishment.

“By providing this abortion service for this young victim without asking any questions and without bringing in social services, these abortion providers were essentially protecting this incestuous stepfather and child rapist and setting up a situation that allowed him to continue abusing this poor little girl. They were protecting the perpetrator, not the victim,” Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews.

Douglas said that what this girl experienced in the hands of abortion providers proves that the abortion industry does not really care about women.

“It says they don’t care anymore for this young girl than they do for the little victims that were in her womb. They don’t care about the girl, they don’t care about the baby. All they do is provide death,” she said.

Natalie Sonnen, Executive Director of LifeCanada, said that legalized abortion in Canada has created a situation that “favours the abuser, without doubt.”

“Thousands of women and girls are susceptible to coercion by these men who get away with their crimes and are propped up by the industry. It is an absolute tragedy that these girls or women can be forcibly aborted and then sent back into the abusive relationship again. We have known for years that coerced abortion is a huge problem that our society refuses to address, for fear of offending the sacrosanct abortion establishment,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Various attempts have been made by pro-life politicians to introduce bills that would offer women some protection from coerced abortion, but with no success.

In 2008, Alberta Conservative MP Ken Epp saw his bill titled The Unborn Victims of Violent Crime reach second reading before it was squelched by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was keeping his promise to steer clear of the abortion issue. The bill would have allowed for separate punishments for killing an unborn child in a violent attack on a pregnant mother.

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In 2010, Tory MP Rod Bruinooge introduced a private member’s bill in 2010 called Roxanne’s Law that would have made it an offense to coerce a woman to seek an abortion. The bill was named after Roxanne Fernando, a Winnipeg woman beaten to death by her boyfriend in 2007, after refusing to get an abortion. Again, following Harper’s lead, the bill was only supported by half of the Conservative caucus and a handful of Liberals and failed to pass first reading.

Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, criticized politicians and the abortion industry for opposing the above bills that could have helped the young girl if they had been passed.

“The term ‘pro-choice’ rings hollow for many women and girls who are coerced into having an abortion, or feel that they are pressured into having an abortion against their will. Yet, the abortion industry and most of our politicians opposed Roxanne's Law, which would have made it illegal to do so.”

Van Maren said that far from securing women’s freedom, abortion-on-demand has reached a point where it is now being used as a “tool of oppression, not only for the pre-born child who is, as this poor girl tragically recognized, murdered, but also for those women and girls who bear the scars of their lost children and the trauma of being forced into this so-called government funded service against their will.”

Mike Schouten, Campaign Director for WeNeedALaw.ca, said that Canada’s continual resistance to regulating abortion has manifested itself in what he called a “real life tragedy.”

“While it is understandable that we focus on the rapist and the callousness of his crimes we also do well to collectively ask ourselves how we have come to live in a society that cares so little about the health and well-being of women, and in this case a young girl,” he told LifeSiteNews.

"This tragedy is a direct result of individualizing abortion to the point where the maximum amount of energy is put into protecting the so called ‘right to choose’ and little or no effort into actually caring for the health of this young girl."

"This sad story is another indication that a time of reckoning is coming whereby Canadians come to understand that abortion does not liberate a woman. Rather, it brings a host of new problems, and in this tragic case allowed for the continued abuse of a vulnerable young girl,” he said.

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