Our Kid-Hostile World

Are children disposable? (www2.ljworld.com)

Are children disposable? (www2.ljworld.com)

The post-Christian West is a scary place. And I say this as a practicing Jew.

The abandonment of Judeo-Christian values in many quarters has left a vacuum. That has the potential to damage all of us morally, but it primarily endangers the most vulnerable among us, namely children.

Endless articles proclaim that childhood is now incredibly safe, and playgrounds certainly are. However, other developments signal increasing danger. Western culture is blasé about the miracle of life, callous about the deceased, and prefers to pretend children are miniature adults. So, it’s reasonable to ask: Do we still value children?

Philadelphia’s Kermit Gosnell made headlines last year for the grotesque way he had treated pregnant women and their unwanted babies. The Grand Jury report described Gosnell as “’a doctor who . . . regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.’”

If Gosnell were an isolated real-life monster, punishing him to the fullest extent of the law might soothe the public conscience. However, Gosnell’s ability to ignore the humanity of the children he delivered and dismembered  is alarming in part because he is not unique.

To wit, our neighbors across the Pond have uncovered their own horror show. The Telegraph reported this week that “the bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat [British] hospitals.” Perhaps the article’s most distressing detail was that “parents who lose children in early pregnancy . . . were not consulted about what they wanted to [have] happen to the remains.” Grieving parents mourn the loss of a life, not some cousin of coal. Who are the British bureaucrats who don’t believe that humans deserve to be buried with dignity?

Meanwhile, the Belgians have been pushing the envelope on end-of-life issues. The Belgian government legalized assisted suicide for terminally ill children this month, over the objections of pediatricians and religious leaders. While the Netherlands passed a similar law in 2002, the Dutch law applies only to minors who are 12 and up; that now looks positively restrained. The Belgians opted for no age restrictions, as if young children are emotionally prepared to make life and death decisions.

Supporters of the Belgian law believe its safeguards – including the involvement of parents and medical professionals – mean the law will be implemented appropriately, but there will inevitably be room for abuse. “Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition noted that 32% of the assisted deaths [for Belgian adults] are done without request, and 47% of the assisted deaths go unreported in the Flanders region of Belgium.”

In the case of a sick child, what if he is manipulated into consent, is temporarily depressed, or has parents who decide that his illness makes him an unacceptable burden? How will the Belgians differentiate between assisted suicide and murder, when the applicable law treats human life as a problem to be managed?

That Belgian law has at least one American fan. On Valentine’s Day, Los Angeles Times opinion writer Scott Martelle called for the United States to follow Belgium’s lead. Hopefully, Americans won’t.

It was only 70 years ago that Europeans witnessed the Nazis torturing and exterminating millions of their peaceful neighbors. Heating buildings meant for healing with human remains is eerily Nazi-like. The Nazis cremated countless victims, including Jews, for whom burial without delay is religiously required.

Only in a world where it is divisive to say that “we are all created in G-d’s image” is it contentious to assert that human life has inherent value. How quickly the West seems to have forgotten our own history and discarded previously fundamental values, like protecting the weak.

It’s as if an unspoken race to the bottom is underway, testing who can violate the greatest taboo and harm the most defenseless people. Parents should be wary of these cultural shifts; only Kermit Gosnell could see them and smile.

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