The Great Progressive Debate: “Is this particular killing worth our trouble?”

Ah, it’s summer, the season of suntans, barbecues…and British court-ordered ritual baby-killings. This year’s death cult festival features the tale of a Roman Catholic family, opposed on religious grounds to abortion, fighting to save the life of their perfectly healthy unborn child from the government’s overzealous limb-rippers and head-crushers. Fortunately, for the time being at least, this story appears to have eked out a marginally happy ending — as long as you don’t think about it too much.

You may remember Charlie Gard, the brain-diseased baby whose parents, in 2017, fought desperately to keep him alive in the hopes of finding experimental treatments for his illness — fought not against time or their son’s condition, but against the British government, which was demanding that their son be put to death against their will. The court’s argument at that time, you will recall, was that being executed was in the best interests of the child, and furthermore that parents have absolutely no legal or moral standing in decisions as to whether a child’s life is worth saving. In other words, as the court made perfectly clear to anyone inclined to grasp the obvious, the British government owns every human being under its jurisdiction, and will dispose of its human property in any way it damn well sees fit, so bugger off with your trivial whining about parental rights and the dignity of life.

Of course, even back in 2017, the arbitrary government-mandated death of an innocent citizen was nothing new for Great Britain, land of an infamously, criminally incompetent socialist health care system — the ironically named “National Health Service.” What was relatively new at that time was the unmasked and undecorated assertion, in a court of law and in Parliament, of the previously somewhat understated principle that the British citizenry were mere chattel to be dispensed with at the government’s whim.

Like all revolution-worthy atrocities in our late-modern world of soft despotism, however, the Charlie Gard story had its moment of rubber-necking attention, and then disappeared as though it had never happened, i.e., as though the issues it highlighted were of no consequence beyond the immediate context of that particular family’s losing battle.

And so it is that here in the summer of 2019, a judge has ordered a mentally disabled woman to abort her twenty-two-week-old fetus, on the grounds that it would be too traumatic for her to be separated from the baby after birth.

Never mind that there is no reason she should have to be separated from the baby after birth, since the woman’s mentally normal mother, who is a former midwife, has urged that she herself would take responsibility for the child. Never mind that the mother herself does not want an abortion, which means that the judge is essentially saying it would be more traumatic to the woman to give up her live baby against her will (which, again, she wouldn’t even have to do) than to have it forcibly yanked from inside her own body, piece by piece. Never mind that the baby has no known health conditions indicating that it would not be capable of a normal birth and life, nor is there any evidence that the mother’s own health is in any way at risk in this pregnancy. Never mind that the family is Catholic, and therefore opposed to abortion on religious grounds — they would be sinners, according to their own consciences, if they killed the fetus. Never mind, further, that the family insists that their Nigerian heritage also sets them firmly against abortion on principle.

Never mind all of that. This judge simply decided that, as a matter of her personal opinion, a baby would be too much for a mentally handicapped woman to handle, and therefore the baby should be killed. Think about that. This is a legal judgment being made as casually as an offhand comment during a private conversation, except that unlike the private conversation, this comment entails practical, murderous results.

Think of all the times, in various contexts, you have said or mused, speculatively, “I think that guy might almost be better off dead,” or “I don’t think that woman’s capable of raising a child.” You never believed for a moment that your thoughts would or should have any legal ramifications. In fact, that practical detachment was part of the reason you felt free to entertain such thoughts in the first place, as a matter of theoretical speculation or personal principle. By saying, “I don’t think she’s capable of raising a child,” you were passing a personal judgment on her capacities, or lamenting an unfortunate situation; you were never suggesting that you would think it appropriate to break into the woman’s home and kill her baby.

Now imagine that such casual comments actually did have the force of law. Is that not the very definition of tyrannical power?

And is it not also of the essence of the progressive way of thinking: “X would be a better result than Y, all things being equal; therefore the State should coercively bring about X, regardless of how many people must be violated, enslaved, or terminated to achieve this result.” Or, alternately, as in this present case, “X wouldn’t be a perfect outcome; therefore the State should coercively prevent X from happening, regardless of how many people must be violated, enslaved, or terminated to prevent this result.”

Today, however, there is a silver lining. The English Court of Appeal has overturned the original decision by the Court of Protection. (The “Court of Protection.” Is the British system of governance built entirely on Orwellian euphemism? Who, we may ask, was being protected in that judgment?) 

But silver is susceptible to tarnish, of course, and so one must not get too enthusiastic about this very good (for the family in question) news. Here, for example, is an interesting sentence from the news account of the Court of Appeal’s ruling:

According to Press Association reports, the judges said they would issue a full explanation of their decision at a later date, but that the circumstances of the case were “unique.”

The circumstances were unique. Remember that this is the judgment rendered on a decision by the Court of Protection, which handles cases of this sort as part of its core mission. In fact, the Court of Protection officially specializes in decisions regarding determinations of “best interest,” which is to say government decisions as to what would be in a citizen’s (or unborn child’s) best interest, independent of the judgments of the individuals involved. That the appeals court felt the need to emphasize that this case was substantially different from others indicates that they are in no way challenging the principle of state-coerced abortion. They merely claim that there are mitigating circumstances in this case. That they cannot even declare until “later” what those mitigating circumstances are suggests to me that they are probably still working on the euphemistic language required to explain that this family is a visible minority and immigrants, and therefore that the legal implications of not respecting the preferences of their cultural heritage in this instance might establish a difficult precedent for “culture-sensitive” cases of a different nature in the future.

In other words, don’t get too jubilant about this successful appeal. The decision rendered is being carefully confined to this particular case, which is to say it is designed to protect the premise of state-coerced abortion (of healthy twenty-two-week-old fetuses) for future cases. If the Court of Appeal — or more appropriately, the British Parliament — had removed the judge from the bench immediately, and charged her with attempted murder, then we might have something to get excited about. Likewise, if they had declared a need to revisit the whole issue of granting courts the authority to sentence the innocent to death over the heads of their desperately pleading families.

Unfortunately, what we have here appears to be nothing but an intramural squabble about the application of rules among progressive authoritarians.

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