I was born without vision in one eye.
The right eye was severely amblyopic. Surgery shortened the muscle to correct the problem, but, I’m told, by that time my visual cortex had learned to reject the information from that eye. I see a very little in the right peripheral field.
I’ve never found it a big deal. I driven a car safely for over 40 years, without an accident. As you might imagine, there are things I can’t do – play baseball or tennis, for example (watching me attempt to play tennis is excellent diversion). One reason I enjoy the Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse team is that the simple act of tossing and catching a little ball in a little net at the end of a stick while running is absolutely astounding to me. And there are compensations. I wasn’t tempted to waste any money on The Phantom Menace in 3D.
Now come some folks calling themselves “ethicist” who have developed a theory to support what sounds like a very crude undergraduate joke (“selective post natal abortion”). They have a very elaborate vocabulary to hide their conclusions, but in plain speech they declare that some babies born with severe problems such as (but not limited to) Down Syndrome cannot possible have a full “human” life (by standards that they and other professional “ethicists” have developed), will be burdens upon their parents and eventually upon society, and therefore may be killed after birth.
As usual, those who object to this sort of thinking, often noisily and firmly (and it is right to sometimes raise one’s voice) are being treated as primitive, foolish, and unsophisticated. Here are some of the comments selected for derision:
“These people are evil. Pure evil. That they feel safe in putting their twisted thoughts into words reveals how far we have fallen as a society.”
“Right now I think these two devils in human skin need to be delivered for immediate execution under their code of ‘after birth abortions’ they want to commit murder – that is all it is! MURDER!!!”
“I don‘t believe I’ve ever heard anything as vile as what these “people” are advocating. Truly, truly scary.”
“The fact that the Journal of Medical Ethics published this outrageous and immoral piece of work is even scarier”
Pretty mild and unthreatening, actually. Firm, certainly. The second merely assumes the same right that the authors grant themselves, to define who is human and worthy of life. Crudely put, but just a reductio ad absurbum. The editor (and, by the way, simply repeating a very bad idea often does not make it a good idea) defending the paper would have us accept the authors’ argument that there is no “moral difference” between fetus and newborn. If this can be argued, then it should be obvious that there is little “moral difference” between a fetus and a child of four or five, maybe older. Both are dependent on adults for their survival, probably incapable of surviving on their own. And that might well be true of any individual human being at any age. The flaw is the creation of an arbitrary standard, and the horrifying prospect that this arbitrariness raises. If self-appointed mandarins, the “ethicists,” have taken it upon themselves to define what is a worthy human life, and to propose the elimination of the unworthy, there’s no obvious end to their wantonness. We’re supposed to listen politely, when derision and revulsion are more appropriate responses. That there is no end to the process of defining unworthiness is obvious. “Lose your legs in defense of your country? Can’t be burden on us, you know. Can’t play baseball? Oh, that’s too bad. You’ll miss such an essential part of childhood. Go stand in that line over there.”
At least one of the purposes of law is to defend us from one another.
Hat tip: MCJ