When people suspect that funding for their pensions is being interfered with, they are up in arms. And if an insurance firm ‘goes under’ financially, a levy is imposed on the whole insurance industry to make good the loss: people’s life assurance must not be jeopardized. On these matters, only the merest hint of a threat needs to appear – and there is a public outcry. It is people’s own personal security which is on the line. And they see this security as resting on their ‘entitlement’ : on their rights, in the strictest sense – and not on any grace-and-favour of the powers that be.
But such rights for one’s later years cannot be enjoyed, if the most basic right of all is not assured : namely, the right to actually exist – the right to live. And we hear of older sick people in Holland now opting to enter hospital in Germany : in their own country, they have heard of too many cases of people having their lives terminated – with or without their consent.
We are sometimes reminded that such-and-such an innovation of custom would be a first step ‘on the slippery slope’; but the actual situation today is more like having already hit the ice-field at the bottom of the slope : In Britain, for instance, the widely adopted Liverpool Care Pathway for terminal patients is under investigation – as it leaves itself open (allegedly) to actually inducing termination.
Similarly with regard to abortion, we hear discussions as to whether a particular development is, or is not, the first step on the slippery slope – when, in reality, we have already ‘hit the ice-field’ below : In many countries, abortion clinics are in full production; and for several years now, U.S. and British statistics show that one-in-every-three women of working age there has had an abortion. We are talking about developments which are becoming so widespread that in daily conversation they are hardly remarked on.
Indeed, you could say that in these countries the popular battleground has already shifted away from the question of whether to abort or not abort ‘pre borns’ : Discussion now centres on which ‘already borns’ are to be deemed worthy of continued life. Australian philosopher Peter Singer suggests that during the first month after birth, some children who are defective could be terminated. (Medical people in Britain have gone public with a similar view). One wonders, then, how soon that test-period of one month would be extended – and, ultimately, for how long a period.
All of this radically changes the meaning of human ‘existence’. It changes the meaning of Life from something which one ‘has’ – to something with which one is ‘conferred’ if one passes the tests or quality-controls in place. In this new scenario, a person is no longer entitled to Life, as of ‘right’ – but is granted ‘permission’ to live, if he or she measures-up to a grading . (Failing the tests, the person is de-selected from participation in the race of life, and is considered disposable). I have been trying to sketch here a totally new thought-culture. And I have tried to make clear that it is on the ordinary citizen – and on his or here prospects for life – that this new mentality will impact : For all of us, there can come a day when it is our own life that is considered to be up-for-grabs.
EVERYBODY OPEN TO THE RISK
Some may say that I am appealing simply to people’s self-interest and that I should be appealing to religion or specialist-ethics. Naturally, I do support what our bishops will be repeating on the abortion issue : namely, that at the time of birth all treatment-personnel must remember that they have two patients, the mother and the child – so that there can be no direct killing of the innocent child.
But I am trying to prevent the discussion straying into issues of ideology : a stand against abortion is not just something upheld by certain intellectuals or political movements or church groupings. In the real world, it is the ordinary citizen’s right which is being chipped-away at, by this whole new climate of opinion. Those who think in the new way are trying to tell us that our right to Life is no longer absolute, but is conditional on criteria imposed by others.
Indeed, there may even come a day when governments will have to row-back on the ‘limited abortion’ provisions, which step-by-step have led to today’s wholesale abortion. At first it was thought that one could have ‘a little’ of abortion : there were “ ‘A Little’ Fatality” governments. But we have heard experts even in other medical fields pronounce that, once the deliberate taking of life is allowed in one circumstance, there is no way of preventing this spreading to other circumstances.
The undermining of one person’s right to Life, is the undermining of everybodies.