Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Abortion, euthanasia, and the slippery slope

Posted in abortion by Kathy on May 14, 2008

I’ve read a couple of different blogs recently that have gotten my mind on this topic. I alluded to this in a recent post — that the current pro-abortion stance is that a fetus isn’t a person and therefore doesn’t have a right to life until a certain (undefined) state of mental development or sentience.

One blog post got a lot of comments, with several people (including myself) throwing our 2 cents into the hat. On this blog, one commenter said at one point that a fetus isn’t a person until he or she is “self aware.” When I countered that this “self-awareness” or “mental development” stance is a slippery slope, so that those who are mentally disabled would be in risk in the future of having their legal “personhood” revoked, he said that was unlikely, since children as young as 18 months are self aware. The implication was that even the most profoundly mentally challenged people would not fall below this standard.

But in seeking to assuage my concern, he unwittingly proved my point. Did you get it? The standard for “self awareness” is placed not at some stage of fetal development (such as at viability), nor is it at birth (breathing on one’s own), but at 18 months after being born. Which means that if personhood is based on whether or not a person is self-aware, and self-awareness doesn’t happen until about 18 months of age, then “abortion” should be legal up through about 18 months of age.

I’ve been told by both this guy and another one that “slippery slope” is fallacious. Of course, they would say that. But I’ve seen too many things that have proven me to be right. What happened to the cliché, “Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile”? Of course I’m right — and I can show it by the furor that happens on the pro-abortion side any time the abortion base is chipped away by legislation or judicial rulings. If they were really advocates of women’s “choice,” then they would not fight tooth and nail for them to make the most informed choice possible — including being made to see the image of the baby on an ultrasound screen prior to consenting to an abortion, requiring a waiting period between the initial consultation and an abortion, etc. Nor would they fight against laws that make it murder if someone kills a wanted unborn baby — because the woman had made the choice for life and another person took that choice away from her. No, they’re scared of those laws, because (for them) it’s a slippery slope towards the total elimination of abortion on demand, which is the only “choice” acceptable.

But here’s another way I’m right that the “slippery slope” happens — euthanasia. Here is an article which talks about euthanasia in the Netherlands, and shows how that country has gone from ending a patient’s life by medical means at his request to ending his life by medical means without his request. It details the story of one lung cancer patient who refused to enter the hospital because she feared she would be killed. Her doctor convinced her that she needed to go to the hospital for treatment (she had labored breathing), and told her that he would admit her and take care of her and everything would be all right. By the time he left the hospital at the end of his shift, she was breathing normally. When he came back for his next shift, she was dead — another doctor had “euthanized” her, against her explicit will, because they “needed the hospital bed for another case” and “what difference did it make to her if she died today or in two weeks?” The author also shows that the Dutch don’t study or apply “palliative care” (care designed to ease suffering) because they simply kill those who suffer, instead of killing the pain; and she says that “the handicapped, new borns, comatose patients, and even completely healthy but depressed people have been euthanized without punishment by the courts.”

The author mentions an editorial in California Medicine, Sept. 1970, which talked of traditional values (every human life is equal and precious), and contrasted it with “utilitarian” values (what’s better for “society” at large, rather than the individual). Here are some quotes I pulled from this article (emphases mine):

What is not yet so clearly perceived is that in order to bring this about hard choices will have to be made with respect to what is to be preserved and strengthened and what is not, and that this will of necessity violate and ultimately destroy the traditional Western ethic with all that this portends. It will become necessary and acceptable to place relative rather than absolute values on such things as human lives, the use of scarce resources and the various elements which are to make up the quality of life or of living which is to be sought….

The process of eroding the old ethic and substituting the new has already begun. It may be seen most clearly in changing attitudes toward human abortion. In defiance of the long held Western ethic of intrinsic and equal value for every human life regardless of its stage, condition or status, abortion is becoming accepted by society as moral, right and even necessary. It is worth noting that this shift in public attitude has affected the churches, the laws and public policy rather than the reverse. Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices….

One may anticipate further development of these roles as the problems of birth control and birth selection are extended inevitably to death selection and death control whether by the individual or by society, and further public and professional determinations of when and when not to use scarce resources….

It is not too early for our profession to examine this new ethic, recognize it for what it is and will mean for human society, and prepare to apply it in a rational development for the fulfillment and betterment of mankind in what is almost certain to be a biologically oriented world society.

Okay, that’s both chilling and scary to me. Do you remember the old “I’m not dead yet” skit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail — we’re getting there.

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