For its breathtaking natural beauty, few places can rival Alaska. Where else can glaciers, seashores, lakes, forests, and soaring mountains be found within minutes of each other. What other place is the home of grizzlies, caribou, mountain goats, wolves, beavers, bison, seals, walruses, sea otters and over 440 species of birds-just to name some of its wildlife. Anchorage has a moose problem! Fishing in Alaska is as good as it gets. Add the abundant diverse flora and Alaska becomes a bit of paradise.
But for all its beauty, Alaska can be a dangerous place. Mudflats composed of black volcanic ash make up part of the coastline near Anchorage. Dry, the ash has the consistency of powdered sugar; wet, it has the tenacity of super glue. Against warning, a honeymooning couple tried to walk on it. The wife’s boot became stuck, and in the couple’s struggle to free the boot, she sank to her hip. To make matters far worse, the couple hadn’t thought about the tides, which rise 30 feet in twelve hours. Police and fire officials could not free her even using a high-power sprayer that shot steam around her stuck leg. They built a makeshift dam in an effort to protect her from the 35-degree waters. Leg amputation was rejected because she was in shock. As the rising waters poured over his unconscious wife, the sobbing husband and rescue workers were forced to evacuate. They recovered her body after the tide receded.
Our actions have consequences. The history of man is filled with life’s lessons learned through trial and error. Long ago someone discovered, probably the hard way, that not all blue berries are blueberries. That a grizzly bear is not cuddly. That fire burns like crazy. Lessons were passed through the generations and have become the rules guiding our conduct. We ignore them at our peril.
Of course, our interactions are not just with the outdoors. We interact with God and each other. To guide us in right ways, God fills each person’s heart with the natural law, the law we come to know just by observing life and applying our reason to given situations. Natural law forms the basis of the Ten Commandments. Throughout the centuries, civilized societies have codified them into laws. When obedience to law breaks down, so does society itself.
Some people view law as a limitation on their rights. Actually, law is a limitation on our actions in order to protect our freedom. The two are very different. Action is mere conduct, some of which can cause great harm. Freedom is the pursuit of the objectively good, and in its fullest sense the pursuit of God, our greatest Good. The law operates to limit actions that can stymie or even destroy our freedom to pursue the greater good. It is the reason why we have stop signs and speed limits. It is why we have laws banning discrimination, stealing, cheating, and killing. Although law imposes limitations on our actions and might even cause individual hardships, it provides the boundaries needed to protect us all, even the actors themselves. Through the proper operation of the law, we enjoy freedom to pursue the greater good.
Unfortunately, when we cross the boundaries of moral law, it can be habit forming. One bad step leads to another. In 1973, we crossed the boundary that protects innocent unborn human life from destruction. It has lead to further assaults on life, and probably in ways that we would never have predicted.
So where are we now? In March 2012, medical ethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva published their paper, “After-birth Abortion: Why Should The Baby Live?” They conclude that “when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion,” killing a newborn is appropriate. This includes situations in which a child puts an unbearable burden on the family or even “on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.” The authors refuse to call it infanticide because to them, a newborn has the moral status of an unborn. The status changes only when a newborn becomes self-aware-a process taking days or weeks (if not months). And because the authors treat a newborn as merely a potential person, threats to the “energy, money, and care” of a family take priority over the life of the newborn. It’s a frightening but unsurprising extension of the abortion mentality.
Right now, we are crossing another boundary: sex-selection abortion. In recent years about 200 million unborn girls have been selectively aborted in China and India. Here, abortion providers in Texas, New York City, Arizona and Hawaii have been stung by undercover videos showing that they provide abortions for reasons of gender. Recently, the U.S. House proposed legislation banning the practice. Planned Parenthood and President Obama opposed the legislation, and it was defeated mostly along party lines. The White House professed opposition to gender discrimination but did not want government intruding in “medical decisions or private family matters.” Since when did sex-selection abortion fall under either category?
We may not be finished crossing boundaries. What is to prevent forced abortion of the unborn and even forced infanticide? China is already practicing forced abortion. Not long ago Chinese local officials forcibly aborted a seven-month unborn because a family could not pay the fee for having two children. It wasn’t the first. And if the state has an interest in family planning (it’s currently requiring employers to provide contraception), what will prevent it from requiring infanticide. Far-fetched? Did you ever think that an ethicist could justify infanticide?
That bride in Alaska died because she crossed over into a no-man’s land. If we respect boundaries given us by God’s law, we will protect ourselves from the tides of evil.
If we refuse, we will be the ones unable to stop the flow.
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 and have six children.
© Paul V. Esposito 2012. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Comments? Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/