Cross-posted from The Telegraph
Abortion stories read like dispatches from the frontline of a war. The Telegraph reports:
The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found. Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.
That’s right – institutions created to protect life are being fuelled by burning the remains of the dead. Some bureaucrat somewhere obviously regarded this as “efficient recycling”. It’s more akin to cannibalism.
We pride ourselves in the West on being more civilized that the rest. We have a free press, jury trials, human rights and relative peace. And our TV screens are filled with images of brutality in the developing world that reinforce our sense of superiority. I’ve just finish reading Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, Jason Stearn’s account of the Congo wars that depicts savagery committed wantonly and in the open. Its crimes are visceral – “something foreigners do”, not us.
But what we actually do in Europe and America is to tuck our social evils away into spaces that we can’t see. Elderly homes full of neglect, children’s homes where unspeakable things occur, and medical facilities in which patients are abandoned or abused with the catch-all excuse of underfunding or targets that override the priority of human compassion. The latest story, of light bulbs lit by human remains, is the purest example of the banality of evil, because it is the kind of evil that is motivated by the desire to keep things quiet and tidy. Consider this:
One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’
It’s awful, but it’s also part of a pattern. We know that abortions could be carried out in Britain on the basis of gender-selection – something the American Congress has refused to ban. The UK sees around 180,000 terminations every year, and the Government has admitted that in nearly half of all cases the woman involved doesn’t even see a doctor. The Government has responded by proposing to change the rules to say that she shouldn’t have to. Meanwhile, we’ve witnessed a record rise in the number of “repeat” abortions and a parliamentary commission has warned that in some cases parents are “steered” towards a termination on the basis of cosmetic problems such as a cleft lip or a club foot. The recent Gosnell case has highlighted abuses carried out by doctors working for profit, as well as dangers involved in some procedures that many women are not warned about.
All of this ought to trouble us, ought to prick the conscience. Even if you think that abortion should remain legal for those who want it – and there is an overwhelming consensus that it should be available in cases of rape or medical danger – isn’t it important that our society knows what’s really going on behind closed doors? That people are informed about the statistics, the physiological realities, the economic factors at play? Isn’t it self-evident that a woman who has undergone a termination has the right to know what will happen to the baby’s remains – and that those remains are treated with dignity?
Failure to talk about these things protects, even fosters, the banal culture of death that pervades the West today. It starts by tagging aborted babies not as babies but as “medical waste” – something to be disposed of, not respectfully buried or cremated. And it ends with a generally reduced understanding of what human beings are. Not living, breathing, wonderful creatures with souls but, simply, animal matter. Although a deceased pet is generally treated better than this.
We desperately need to have an honest conversation about abortion in the West. Free from hysteria, yes, but cognizant of what it really involves. Otherwise, we tolerate the demise of human dignity.