The Unborn, the Elderly, and the ‘Throwaway Culture’ (Part IV)

January 26, 2014

This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week. A BIG THANK YOU to all who have contributed to the great formation work of our Catholic Schools.

Below is the next installment of Russell Shaw’s update on the prolife movement (click here to read Part I, Part II, or Part III).

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Update: Human Life

The Unborn, the elderly and the “throwaway culture” — Part IV

Already, a challenge involving a private employer who objects to abortion coverage on conscience grounds has reached the Supreme Court (up to the time of writing, the court hadn’t said whether it would consider the case). The court also has been asked to consider an appeal from the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturning an Arizona law restricting abortions after five months of pregnancy. Twelve other states also have such laws.

baby feet smObamacare aside, pro-lifers’ worst nightmare about the Supreme Court is that the president might get a chance to name another one or two justices to the court and shift the balance definitively to the pro-abortion side. That would be the probable result if one of the four clearly conservative members now on the court (Justice Anthony Kennedy is a swing vote) were to leave while Obama is in office.

The status of euthanasia resembles the situation of abortion in some ways, but is very different in others. Currently, euthanasia is legal in only three countries — the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg — while assisted suicide is allowed in Switzerland and, as noted, in four U.S. states. Whether legal or not, though, any observers believe so-called passive euthanasia via the withholding of food and water or life-saving treatment happens much more often than is commonly acknowledged, both in homes and institutional settings.

The setback dealt the death-with-dignity drive by Massachusetts’s voters in 2012 has apparently slowed it down for now, but supporters have by no means abandoned the fight. That is something they could hardly do inasmuch as support for the termination of life by assisted suicide or euthanasia is an important part of the ideology of secular humanism.

Not surprisingly, how most people view physician-assisted suicide depends heavily on how it’s presented to them. A Gallup survey in May 2013 — the same month Vermont became the fourth state to legalize assisted suicide — found 70 percent of Americans in favor of letting doctors hasten the death of terminally ill patients “by some painless means.” But when this was described as helping people “commit suicide,” approval dropped to 51 percent, with 45 percent opposed. (The same question was first asked in 1996. Approval peaked in 2001 at 68 percent and has been dropping since then.)

[Click here to read Part V, the final installment.]