Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two lives remembered, how many thousand destroyed and forgotten?

The Sydney Daily Telegraph had an interesting front cover last Friday, juxtaposing the funeral of Mr. Richard Pratt with the funeral of a prematurely-born baby, called Nicholas, whose body was discovered in rubbish at a garbage processing facility. The front page was taken up with a large photograph of Mr. Pratt’s eldest son and widow, with a photo of a lone pallbearer setting down baby Nicholas’s tragically small coffin in the page’s bottom-right hand corner. The headline, in the centre of the page, was “A life remembered” in large type, with “… [sic] and one almost forgotten” just below it, beneath which were two small segments of text side by side, the one on the left headlined “MELBOURNE: 11am” (the time and place of Mr. Pratt’s funeral), and the one on the right headlined “SYDNEY: 11am”, the text beneath which read as follows:

COFFINS shouldn’t be made this small.
It took just 14 minutes and a congregation of 40 strangers to farewell baby Nicholas at Rookwood Cemetery yesterday.
The infant, who was born up to a month premature, was discovered at a western Sydney tip on February 11.
His family has never come forward and his grave will be marked simply: “Baby Nicholas, mother unknown”.
(my emphasis)
But I could not help but be struck by how the two characteristics that give baby Nicholas’s tragic story its full potency and poignancy—that he died before he was even old enough to be born, and the obscenely disrespectful manner of disposal of his body—are precisely the characteristics that one expects with unborn babies killed by abortion. The accompanying story on page nine only reinforced this impression for me:

… Coffins shouldn’t be made this small. Funerals shouldn’t last just 14 minutes.
But for the baby who was born with no one to love him, there was no alternative.
He had no ties to the community, no achievements to list, not even a name.
(my emphasis)
Could this not describe equally well any one of the untold tens of thousands of babies slaughtered each year in Australia before they could enter the community, be named and have some chance at achieving something in life? The article mentioned some of those who attended the funeral:

… There was pallbearer Warren Pepper from Heritage Funerals, who cradled the tiny blue coffin in his arms. Grandfather Henry Roach, 73, who traveled from the Central Coast because “you couldn’t walk out on a little fella like that”. …
(my emphasis)
But is that not what we as a society have done, and on a grand scale, by turning a blind eye to, or even endorsing, abortion? The story continued:

… For weeks the NSW Coroner’s Office has fielded calls from members of the public wanting to pay for the baby’s funeral.
But spokesman John Merrick said yesterday that option had been ruled out in favour of a taxpayer-funded service.
“We felt as though it was the state’s responsibility and the responsibility of every man, woman and child living in NSW to bury this baby,” Mr Merrick said.
Mark those words: “We felt as though it was the state’s responsibility and the responsibility of every man, woman and child living in NSW to bury this baby,” and remember them when, inevitably, New South Wales decides to follow the path of Victoria and other jurisdictions around the West in legalising, and requiring conscientious objectors to participate in, the murder of babies even older than poor baby Nicholas, i.e. legalised abortion all the way up to nine months. Will New South Wales discharge its responsibility to its future victims—not to mention the present ones—and give them a decent burial? Did Victoria provide taxpayer-funded burials, or any kind of respectful disposal of the remains, for the forty-seven babies whose birth was induced prematurely and who were then left to die (despite being older than the so-called viability point) in 2005 alone (see here)? Did it provide a decent burial for the body of a baby who was diagnosed with dwarfism and killed when not much younger than Nicholas (see here)?

The Telegraph even had a brief editorial on baby Nicholas’s story:

Deep sadness

THE story of baby Nicholas, the baby boy who died without knowing his parents or a single happy moment on this earth, is the most heartbreaking we've published this year.
Even more heartbreaking: somewhere, in tortured secrecy, this tragic child's mother mourns for her little son.
Sydney mourns for both of them.
(http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25410448-5001030,00.html)
Does Sydney mourn all the thousands of unborn babies whom it kills each year, who don’t get to know their parents—who were presumably rejected by them, in fact—and who don’t enjoy a single happy moment on this earth either? Does it even think of them? Not much, it seems; of the forty-five comments posted at a modified on-line version of the main story, none pointed out explicitly this strange contradiction, though a couple alluded to it.

So why is it that the smaller a born baby is, the more tragic is his or her death, but if we are talking about an unborn baby, even one identical in all other respects, whose death is willed then the tragic dimension vanishes? I’m afraid the familiar ‘clump of cells’ line is hardly satisfactory; if we’re going to be materialists then we are all just clumps of cells. And one wonders what mothers who have suffered through miscarriages make of this line. No more convincing is the line of argument, advanced by the likes of MgS, that ignores completely the characteristics of the unborn baby and confers an unrestricted power of life and death on the expecting mother by reason of the dependence of the baby on her; the logical extension of this line of argument is that as long as a child is dependent on someone else, his or her carers have a power of life and death over him or her. (MgS tries to get round this problem by arguing that the duty of care can be transferred after the baby is born, but it’s a pretty basic principle of justice that when a duty is transferred, so too are the corresponding rights, so the proposed solution is a false one.) This line of argument belongs, of course, to the school of thought according to which abortion is just a matter of ‘private morality’ which is no longer contested in mainstream public discourse. So if the matter is settled with the present status quo, why the need not only to legalise abortion (rather than just de-criminalise it) but even promote it and conscript conscientious objectors into it, and why the outpouring of public, mainstream grief for a baby who, in most respects, differs from abortion victims not in kind but only by degree (and even then, not by much)? Then there are those who will concede that every abortion is a tragedy, yet don’t seemed terribly fussed about doing anything to prevent them. Every fatal car accident, for instance, is a tragedy, so we do what we can to avoid them and punish dangerous drivers. Why not the same with abortion?

And then there is the second dimension of the tragedy of baby Nicholas’s short life: the shockingly undignified disposal of his remains, consigned to the rubbish. Yet I cannot imagine there being any significant difference between this callous treatment and the manner in which the hospital system disposes of abortion victims’ respective corpses.

It is a sick society that refuses to resolve, or even acknowledge, these contradictions.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
7.V.2009 A.D.

3 comments:

matthias said...

Well put CP. I do not know if the conscientious objection aspect to the Victorian abortion law will be challenged in the High Court ,but I do know that one day those who pushed it through parliament will face a Judge Who will not equivocate in passing sentence.

Cardinal Pole said...

Thank you, Matthias.

I do suspect that the High Court will strike the law down, or at least the conscience provisions of it (I'm not sure how the overturning would work, whether the whole law would have to be abandoned or just the offending portion).

Louise said...

But I could not help but be struck by how the two characteristics that give baby Nicholas’s tragic story its full potency and poignancy—that he died before he was even old enough to be born, and the obscenely disrespectful manner of disposal of his body—are precisely the characteristics that one expects with unborn babies killed by abortion.In the light of the reality of abortion in this country every day, where hundreds of babies are deliberately killed, this kind of article just looks like a bunch of hypocritical, maudlin rubbish.

For shame!