Catherine Shenton

Man’s Search for Meaning and abortion: finding hope in suffering

Catherine Shenton
By Catherine Shenton
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“The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.”
– Helen Keller

October 10, 2012 (Unmaskingchoice.ca) - Viktor Frankl witnessed and experienced the far reaches of human suffering. “Life in a concentration camp,” he wrote, “tore open the human soul and exposed its depths.” Man’s Search for Meaning—his reflective recounting of his imprisonment by the Nazis—has much to tell us about life, suffering, and what it is to be human.

Frankl and his fellow prisoners had everything taken from them that could be taken. They were forcibly removed from their homes and separated from their families. Their possessions were confiscated. Even their names were replaced with numbers. Others told them when and where they could sleep, when they must arise, what work they must do, and even how much (or how little) they could eat. And yet we find many heroes among the victims of the concentration camps; for, as Frankl tells us, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I, and probably most people who read this, have never experience the depth of suffering Frankl and his fellow prisoners experienced. Our lives, nevertheless, are not without suffering in some form or another, and so I want to examine how suffering affects opinions and choices in our society. In particular, I often hear suffering given as a justification for abortion, whether the suffering be that of the mother or of the child. Does the suffering of either justify abortion?

Abortion to alleviate the suffering of women?

So many times I hear people condoning abortion out of a sense of compassion for women. An unexpected pregnancy can be a terrifying thing. Sudden responsibility for another human being, if she accepts this responsibility, may reshape a woman’s life—both present and future. Fear, uncertainty, and lack of support are just some of the factors that may contribute to the suffering of a pregnant woman. For some there are further difficulties to deal with—her child may have been conceived in rape, or her health may be in danger. If a woman is considering abortion, it seems reasonable to infer that she is suffering in some way, and that she sees abortion as an acceptable means of alleviating that suffering.

Viktor Frankl witnessed many men, who when confronted with difficult circumstances sought only to alleviate their own suffering, with no regard for the wellbeing of others. He tells of the Capos—men who betrayed their fellow prisoners and took the side of the Nazis. They made their own lives easier, but increased the suffering of others, even condemning some to death by their actions. While we may sympathize with the desperation that led people to behave in this way, these are certainly not the people we remember as the heroes of the concentration camps. We look up to those who chose the harder path—that of retaining their dignity and moral conviction in spite of their suffering, those who sacrificed in whatever ways they could for the benefit of others.

We admire people who do hard things when the right things are hard. We admire people who suffer with dignity, and who suffer for the sake of others. And yet, as Frankl points out, admiring this noble suffering in others is no assurance that we will respond this way when faced with our own sufferings. Most people can probably relate to this. Even in the simple things, we may blame our circumstances for our irritability, impatience, or our failure to help another. While suffering can be an opportunity for courage, so often we use it as an excuse. Frankl, on the other hand, maintains that to be worthy of suffering is to seek the ways our unavoidable suffering can benefit others.

While removing (in the case of abortion, killing) another human being whose presence is causing us difficulty is something we can do, and is a decision which some may sympathize with because they see the difficulty of our circumstances, this is not to say that it is something we ought to do. Acting to alleviate our own suffering at the expense of the lives of others is something many people have done throughout history, but on a deeper level we know that this is not a choice we would commend or even condone in other situations—why should we do so with abortion? Why should our society say that because one human being is suffering, she has the right to end the life of another? The answer is, we should not. We should instead do our utmost to alleviate the suffering of women in crisis, and to preserve the lives of their children.

When we talk about people having freedom to choose, we should always consider what is being chosen, and should strive to challenge one another to choose the highest good. For a woman in a crisis pregnancy, this may mean choosing to see her child as someone to fight for, rather than as something to be gotten rid of. Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Living for her child will not take away a woman’s suffering, but it can help to give that suffering meaning.

Abortion to alleviate the suffering of children?

There are times, according to some defenders of abortion, when abortion is what is in the best interest of the child. “The child is going to have a terrible life. The child is going to suffer. The mother is choosing what’s best for her child.” And what’s best for her child (according to these people) is death.

If someone is going to suffer—perhaps to suffer greatly—are we doing that person a service by ending his or her life? Is abortion justified in cases where children are very ill, or will be born into difficult life circumstances? Is sparing them this suffering an act of compassion?

What was the correct response for Viktor Frankl when confronted with the challenge of speaking to fellow inmates who were in despair? He knew with certainty that if these men remained convinced that their lives had no meaning, if they remained without hope, they would die. Their suffering would end. He could have told them this. He could have said that they were all better off to give up on the miserable lives they were forced to live and simply die. Instead, he challenged them. He challenged them to consider not what they expected from life, but what life expected from them. He challenged them to find a “why” worth living for. He could do little to eliminate their suffering short of ending their lives, but he did much to alleviate it, to help them see meaning in their suffering.

Sparing others suffering when we can is, most certainly, an act of compassion when our means are moral. Sparing someone suffering by ending her life, however, is a misguided attempt at compassion. To deny someone a chance to live will indeed prevent her from suffering, but it will also prevent her from experiencing joy, from loving, and from having the choice to overcome her suffering with dignity. You are the only person with the choice to see meaning or despair in your suffering. You are the only person to make that choice of how you will respond to your circumstances. Why would we deny this choice to others?

We live in a culture that abhors suffering. Suffering is to be avoided—almost at all costs. Life is seen as good and valuable when it is pleasant, comfortable, and pleasurable. We may admire the noble way in which others suffer, but most of us would rather avoid suffering altogether for ourselves. No life, however, is devoid of suffering. There are times when it is inescapable. What then does this mean for our life? Every living human being will suffer in some way or another. Is life then less valuable? On the contrary, Frankl reminds us, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed… When we are no longer able to change a situation… we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Every human life will have suffering. Every human being will be faced with choices as to how to respond to his own unique suffering. Some will allow their suffering to chart their course, to dictate their thoughts and actions. Others will be the masters of their suffering. Some will hurt others because they themselves are hurting. Others will face their suffering as a means of protecting others from harm.

What did Frankl discover in his time in the concentration camps? “The truth—that love is the ultimate highest goal to which man can aspire.” To love is to choose the highest good for the other. If we love someone we certainly do not want to see that person suffer. We may do all we can to alleviate the suffering. But when we cannot take the suffering away, to love is to walk beside them and help them recognize their dignity, to help them suffer with their head held high.

To love a woman in crisis is not to offer her death for her child in order to take away her suffering, but to empower her to live for love, and so to find a meaning for her suffering. To love a woman in crisis is to walk with her so that she may not say “My circumstances forced me to do what was wrong,” but rather, “I had the courage to do what was right.”

To love one’s child is not to deny her life so that she may never suffer, but to give her life so that she may experience it in its fullness, and to teach her to suffer with dignity when suffering cannot be avoided.

We live in a culture where people seek to make their lives easier by ending the lives of others, but to love our culture is to constantly call people to live for something higher, to recognize their own dignity and the dignity of others. Humanity is capable of great cruelty, selfishness, and evil. We see this now with abortion, as we see it throughout history. Humanity, however, is capable of still greater love, selflessness, courage, and good. We must decide how we will respond to our own sufferings, and to the sufferings of others.

“We have come to see man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

—Viktor Frankl

Reprinted with permission from UnmaskingChoice.ca

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Newsbusters Staff

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Disney ABC embraces X-rated anti-Christian bigot Dan Savage in new prime time show

Newsbusters Staff
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March 30, 2015 (NewsBusters.org) -- Media Research Center (MRC) and Family Research Council (FRC) are launching a joint national campaign to educate the public about a Disney ABC sitcom pilot based on the life of bigoted activist Dan Savage. MRC and FRC contacted Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, more than two weeks ago urging him to put a stop to this atrocity but received no response. [Read the full letter]

A perusal of Dan Savage’s work reveals a career built on advocating violence — even murder — and spewing hatred against people of faith. Savage has spared no one with whom he disagrees from his vitriolic hate speech. Despite his extremism, vulgarity, and unabashed encouragement of dangerous sexual practices, Disney ABC is moving forward with this show, disgustingly titled “Family of the Year.”

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell reacts:

“Disney ABC’s decision to effectively advance Dan Savage’s calls for violence against conservatives and his extremist attacks against people of faith, particularly evangelicals and Catholics, is appalling and outrageous. If hate speech were a crime, this man would be charged with a felony. Disney ABC giving Dan Savage a platform for his anti-religious bigotry is mind-boggling and their silence is deafening.

“By creating a pilot based on the life of this hatemonger and bringing him on as a producer, Disney ABC is sending a signal that they endorse Dan Savage’s wish that a man be murdered. He has stated, ‘Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.’ ABC knows this. We told them explicitly.

“If the production of ‘Family of the Year’ is allowed to continue, not just Christians but all people of goodwill can only surmise that the company Walt Disney created is endorsing violence.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins reacts:

“Does ABC really want to produce a pilot show based on a vile bully like Dan Savage?  Do Dan Savage’s over-the top-obscenity, intimidation of teenagers and even violent rhetoric reflect the values of Disney?  Partnering with Dan Savage and endorsing his x-rated message will be abandoning the wholesome values that have attracted millions of families to Walt Disney.”

Dan Savage has made numerous comments about conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics that offend basic standards of decency. They include:

  • Proclaiming that he sometimes thinks about “f****ing the shit out of” Senator Rick Santorum

  • Calling for Christians at a high school conference to “ignore the bull**** in the Bible”

  • Saying that “the only thing that stands between my d*** and Brad Pitt’s mouth is a piece of paper” when expressing his feelings on Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay marriage

  • Promoting marital infidelity

  • Saying “Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”

  • Telling Bill Maher that he wished Republicans “were all f***ing dead”

  • Telling Dr. Ben Carson to “suck my d***. Name the time and place and I’ll bring my d*** and a camera crew and you can s*** me off and win the argument.”

Reprinted with permission from Newsbusters

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Jacqueline Harvey

Ending the end-of-life impasse: Texas is poised to ban doctor-imposed death by starvation

Jacqueline Harvey
By Jacqueline Harvey

AUSTIN, Texas, March 30, 2015 (TexasInsider.org)  After five consecutive sessions of bitter battles over end-of-life bills, the Texas Legislature is finally poised to pass the first reform to the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) in 12 years. An issue that created uncanny adversaries out of natural allies, and equally odd bedfellows, has finally found common ground in H.B. 3074 by State Rep. Drew Springer.  

H.B. 3074 simply prohibits doctor-imposed euthanasia by starvation and dehydration.

Since H.B. 3074 includes only those provisions and language that all major organizations are on record as having deemed acceptable in previous legislative sessions, there is finally hope of ending the end-of-life impasse in the Texas Capitol.

Many would be surprised to learn that Texas law allows physicians to forcibly remove a feeding tube against the will of the patient and their family. In fact, there is a greater legal penalty for failing to feed or water an animal than for a hospital to deny a human being food and water through a tube.

This is because there is no penalty whatsoever for a healthcare provider who wishes to deny artificially-administered nutrition and hydration (AANH). According to Texas Health and Safety Code, “every living dumb creature” is legally entitled access to suitable food and water.

Denying an animal food and water, like in this January case in San Antonio, is punishable by civil fines up to $10,000 and criminal penalties up to two years in jail per offense. Yet Texas law allows health care providers to forcibly deny food and water from human beings – what they would not be able to legally do to their housecat. And healthcare providers are immune from civil and criminal penalties for denial of food and water to human beings as long as they follow the current statutory process which is sorely lacking in safeguards.

Therefore, while it is surprising that Texas has the only state law that explicitly mentions food and water delivered artificially for the purpose of completely permitting its forced denial (the other six states mention AANH explicitly for the opposite purpose, to limit or prohibit its refusal), it is not at all surprising that the issue of protecting a patient’s right to food and water is perhaps the one point of consensus across all major stakeholders.

H.B. 3074 is the first TADA reform bill to include only this provision that is agreed upon across all major players in previous legislative sessions.

There are irreconcilable ideological differences between two major right-to-life organizations that should supposedly be like-minded: Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life. Each faction (along with their respective allies) have previously sponsored broad and ambitious bills to either preserve but reform the current law (Texas Alliance for Life’s position) or overturn it altogether as Texas Right to Life aims to do.

Prior to H.B. 3074, bills filed by major advocacy organizations have often included AANH, but also a host of other provisions that were so contentious and unacceptable to other organizations that each bill ultimately died, and this mutually-agreed-upon and vital reform always died along with it.

2011 & 2013 Legislative Sessions present prime example

This 2011 media report shows the clear consensus on need for legislation to simply address the need to protect patients’ rights to food and water:

“Hughes [bill sponsor for Texas Right to Life] has widespread support for one of his bill’s goals: making food and water a necessary part of treatment and not something that can be discontinued, unless providing it would harm the patient.”

Nonetheless, in 2013, both organizations and their allies filed complicated, contentious opposing bills, both of which would have protected a patient’s right to food and water but each bill also included provisions the rival group saw as contrary to their goals. Both bills were ultimately defeated and neither group was able to achieve protections for patients at risk of forced starvation and dehydration – a mutual goal that could have been met through a third, narrow bill like H.B. 3074.

H.B. 3074 finally focuses on what unites the organizations involved rather than what divides them, since these differences have resulted in a 12 year standoff with no progress whatsoever.

H.B. 3074 is progress that is pre-negotiated and pre-approved.

It is not a fertile springboard for negotiations on an area of mutual agreement. Rather it is the culmination of years of previous negotiations on bills that all came too late, either due to the complexnature of rival bills, the controversy involved, or even both.

On the contrary, H.B. 3074 is not just simply an area of agreement; moreover, it is has already been negotiated. It should not be stymied by disagreements on language, since Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life (along with their allies) were able to agree on language in 2007 with C.S.S.B. 439. C.S.S.B. 439 reads that, unlike the status quo that places no legal conditions on when food and water may be withdrawn, it would be permitted for those in a terminal condition if,

“reasonable medical evidence indicates the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration may hasten the patient’s death or seriously exacerbate other major medical problems and the risk of serious medical pain or discomfort that cannot be alleviated based on reasonable medical judgment outweighs the benefit of continued artificial nutrition and hydration.”

This language is strikingly similar to H.B. 3074 which states, “except that artificially administered nutrition and hydration must be provided unless, based on reasonable medical judgment, providingartificially administered nutrition and hydration would:

  1. Hasten the patient’s death;
  2. Seriously exacerbate other major medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  3. Result in substantial irremediable physical pain, suffering, or discomfort not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  4. Be medically ineffective; or
  5. Be contrary to the patient’s clearly stated desire not to receive artificially administered nutrition or hydration.”

With minimal exceptions (the explicit mention of the word terminal, the issue of medical effectiveness and the patient’s right to refuse), the language is virtually identical, and in 2007 Texas Right to Life affirmed this language as clarifying that “ANH can only be withdrawn if the risk of providing ANH is greater than the benefit of continuing it.”

Texas Right to Life would support the language in H.B. 3074 that already has Texas Alliance for Life’s endorsement. Any reconciliation on the minor differences in language would therefore be minimal and could be made by either side, but ultimately, both sides and their allies would gain a huge victory – the first victory in 12 years on this vital issue.

It seems that the Texas Advance Directive Act, even among its sympathizers, has something for everyone to oppose.

The passage of H.B. 3074 and the legal restoration of rights to feeding tubes for Texas patients will not begin to satisfy critics of the Texas Advance Directives Act who desire much greater changes to the law and will assuredly continue to pursue them. H.B. 3074 in no way marks the end for healthcare reform, but perhaps a shift from the belief that anything short of sweeping changes is an endorsement of the status quo.

Rather, we can look at H.B. 3074 as breaking a barrier and indicating larger changes are possible.

And if nothing else, by passing H.B. 3074 introduced by State Rep. Drew Springer, we afford human beings in Texas the same legal access to food and water that we give to our horses. What is cruel to do to an animal remains legal to do to humans in Texas if organizations continue to insist on the whole of their agenda rather than agreeing to smaller bills like H.B. 3074.

The question is, can twelve years of bad blood and bickering be set aside for even this most noble of causes?

Reprinted from TexasInsider.org with the author's permission. 

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I can’t believe how quickly our annual Spring campaign has flown by. Now,with only 3 days remaining, we still have $96,000 left to raise to meet our absolute minimum goal.

That’s why I must challenge you to stop everything, right now, and make a donation of whatever amount you can afford to support the pro-life and pro-family investigative reporting of LifeSite!

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But though we have made great strides in the past few days, we still need many more donations if we are going to have any hope of making it all the way by April 1st.

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