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September 2008

Few full-length movies translate well into successful television series, but the ’70s produced a noticeable exception. M*A*S*H recounted the antics of Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John McIntyre, Radar O’Reilly, Hot-Lips Houlihan, Needle-Nose Frank Burns, Max Klinger (complete with wardrobe!) and other military misfits. Though production of M*A*S*H stopped years ago, we’re still watching.

M*A*S*H did more than make us laugh. It introduced us to the dedicated men and women who battled hostile conditions to save badly wounded soldiers. Often besieged by waves of soldiers airlifted to their doorstep, the medics fought a relentless enemy: time. They needed to make quick but tough choices about whom to treat first. Lives depended on their decisions.

How did they make the right ones? They triaged the wounded. To triage means to sort, sift, or select. Medics prioritized the wounded according to the nature and severity of their wounds. Although everyone needed treatment, some could wait until the more seriously wounded received care. The triage system worked then, and it is standard medical procedure today. If a victim breaks a wrist, cracks a rib, and severs an artery, doctors know what to treat first—and fast.

The need to triage is not limited to physical injuries, for humans suffer in other ways. Triage also applies to the issues of life. By the mid-1800s our expanding country was feeling the growing pains. There were issues about foreign policy and a war with Mexico, the economy, public education, and transportation. But one issue towered over all others—slavery. It so badly infected our culture that when slave Dred Scott escaped to freedom, our own Supreme Court held that he was not a person and must be return to his master. Because we failed to close the gaping wound of slavery, we fought a civil war that killed and injured millions and brought us thisclose to destroying our country.

Our problems today differ from those of past years, but the need to prioritize remains. All issues are important, but we cannot effectively treat them at the same time. So we must dispassionately triage. What wound is causing us to bleed from our arteries? Left untreated, what wound will continue to infect our entire culture? Our triage must guide us as voters in choosing the candidates who will tend to our worst problems first.

What is our greatest and gravest wound? It is legal abortion. It violates our most fundamental and cherished right as humans and Americans—the right to life. In many ways, it is worse than the horror of legal slavery. In 1860, there were about five millions slaves in this country. So far, abortion has killed about 49 million pre-born babies. Unlike slaves, they could not escape the destruction awaiting them. Dred Scott was returned to slavery, but at least he was able to run. To where can the unborn flee?

As an unchecked hemorrhage weakens our bodies, so the gush of blood from abortion has weakened our national conscience. Hundreds, maybe thousands of women have died from legal abortion. Where is the outcry? So far, thirteen women have died from RU-486, the “safe” abortion drug. It is still sold. School personnel unwilling to give aspirin to kids without parental consent give them contraceptives and even help them obtain abortions, all without any parental input. It continues. As for the unborn, they struggled to find protection outside the womb. Barack Obama opposed legislation requiring medical care for babies surviving abortion. We show more compassion to injured animals. His votes are frightfully reminiscent of Dred Scott, and even more so of infanticide. But Obama remains a candidate for president. From all appearances, abortion has bled our desire to care for the most defenseless of all humans.

And abortion has caused massive secondary infections within our culture. Human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, sex-selection abortions, the abortion of the disabled, the marketing of fetal body parts are but a few. Medical personnel are now threatened with the loss of licenses for not being accomplices to abortions. Our culture condones assisted suicide and even the forced starvation of the infirm. It all stems from the loss of respect for life. And that stems from abortion.

No problem has caused the damage done by abortion. No issue requires more immediate care. For like slavery, legal abortion is legalized evil. Whatever our problems may be in the areas of health care, immigration, unemployment, welfare, education, housing, public transportation, even war, we do not allow the intentional killing to innocent human life to solve them. We may disagree about the solutions, but we still seek the good of all. But nothing good comes from abortion. Nothing.

Our most serious wound is abortion, and left untreated it is deadly for the unborn and for us. It must be fixed, and soon, for time is running short. Certainly we should not throw in the towel on solving our other problems. But we must realize that as committed Christian voters, we can put an end to a deadly evil. And we must.

Countless soldiers were given new leases on life because men and women dispassionately made the right calls. By doing the same in November we can close a gaping cultural wound, and save the lives of millions in the process.

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2008. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us on the web at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/

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