This paper was delivered at the third annual conference of Crawford County Right to Life in Denison, Iowa, on April 25th, 2015.
It is common in the pro-life movement today to speak of our ‘culture of death.’ This terminology seems appropriate, as we deal with the destruction of human life by abortion, the creation of embryos simply to be dissected in research, and the increasing calls for the infirm and elderly’s ‘right to die’ (which eventually will become the ‘duty to die’). It is apparent that our culture wants to wield death as a tool, employing man’s greatest (and still unconquered) enemy in order to solve societal problems. But, does the label ‘culture of death’ fully describe the problem we face today? Is the problem a culture of death when children are created through the technologies of in-vitro fertilization, genetic manipulation, and cloning? Is a ‘designer baby’ necessarily a product of a culture of death? One could perhaps make the argument that the use of such technologies is ‘pro-life.’ When you examine their motives, it is clear that the individuals who pursue such methods are not seeking death, but life. Is either the breakdown of the family or the complete destruction of marriage a product of a culture of death? Partially, but there is much more going on than a desire to wield death as a tool. Speaking of a ‘culture of death’ does little to address the problems of divorce, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, and so-called ‘gay marriage.’ Our culture is to a great extent focused on death; but we have a problem that runs much deeper. Many people are seeking death for their children and the elderly, but many more are feeding into the ‘culture of death’ through behaviors that have little to do with death. Until we as a pro-life community deal with the deeper issue, we will find our efforts to combat the ‘culture of death’ hampered. What is this deeper issue? We are dealing not with a ‘culture of death’ but a ‘culture of adults,’ a culture that has enshrined the tyranny of adults, the dictatorship of the current generation against the next.
Understanding the tyranny of adults as the primary problem in our society links together abortion, IVF, genetic manipulation, and euthanasia. It even links together the two great social issues of our day: the breakdown of marriage and abortion. In each case, the interests of adults trump the interests of children. Instead of being received as a gift through the coming together of husband and wife, children are made into commodities, products that adults have a right to when and in the way that they want. And, like all commodities, the consumer has the right to dispose of them at any time simply according to their choice. Thus, the tyranny of adults feeds into the abortion culture and make abortion not only possible, but necessary. Only if the pro-life movement can center our culture once again on the value and interests of children will we destroy this ‘culture of death’ and the scourge of abortion that is its hallmark.
Human society, for centuries, reflected basic human biology to protect and provide for the next generation, to encourage the procreation and care of children. Evolutionists may can it a ‘survival instinct,’ religious people call it God’s design and command, but either way, the ordering of human society was toward the rearing of the next generation. The basic building block was the family, the partnership (legally and socially established) between male and female that produced offspring. Marriage customs and laws attempted to ensure responsible sexuality because the sexual act led to children, and society had an interest in the rearing of the next generation and in ensuring a stable environment for children. Marriage was intended to protect the ‘least of these’ from exploitation and abuse. In addition, marriage protected women from being taken advantage of by men. If a man wanted a sexual relationship, he was required by society, even by the law, to marry the woman, to commit himself to her and her alone, and the children that came from such a union were to be provided for. Now, obviously, this system wasn’t perfect, and adultery, with out-of-wedlock birth, has been a problem throughout history, but the very structure of society itself was designed to discourage this, protecting both women and their children.
In our age, these protections have been swept away. There are two great divorces in our society today, divorces that exalt adult interests and diminish the interests of children. These two divorces are at the heart of our adult-centered culture, and it is on them that the tyranny of adults is founded. First, we have divorced marriage from sexuality, and second, we have divorced sexuality from children. One divorce cannot exist without the other. If a person wants sex without marriage, they must also have sex without babies. The commitment that sexuality requires because of its biological connection to children has to be abolished; a hook-up is decidedly less practical if a baby is often the result, with all of its attendant commitments for father and mother. So we must prevent conception in any way possible; not by refraining from sex until one is married, but by divorcing the sexual act from its biological purpose. Only then can we have the sexual experiences we want without the danger of commitment. Only then can we fulfill our adult desires without having to worry about children. We have now enshrined adultery in our culture, we have normalized it, and the popular media encourages it. It all seems so easy; with the technology of birth control, people can have all the sex they want with none of the consequences.
But there are consequences. Certainly there are consequences for the adults, such as the danger of disease and emotional distress. Anyone who pretends that these two divorces have not harmed women needs to visit rural areas or poor, inner-city neighborhoods, where fathers are largely non-existent, and it is the women who are left to pick up the pieces and live out the lies of the sexual revolution by themselves. But while adults, and especially women, certainly suffer because of these two great divorces, it is the children who pay the ultimate price. Our biology is not so easily fooled. Divorcing marriage from sex and sex from babies has simply, and tragically, resulted in more unwanted children. Birth control only works as a tool to separate sex from babies if we have a back-up plan, and if one fails to prevent the pregnancy, then must be able to prevent the birth. Abortion is simply the highest form of birth control; we in the pro-life movement need to understand the connection between the two: you cannot have one without the other. There is a moral difference between preventing a pregnancy and ending one, and there are some limited situations where a married couple can ethically use some method of birth control, but the pro-life movement can no longer ignore the connection between birth control and abortion in the ills that afflict our society. Notice that we call it ‘birth control,’ not ‘pregnancy control’ of ‘conception control.’ The point is to prevent a birth, by any means necessary.
Why do men and women choose abortion? Most often, death is their tool of choice because they have conceived a child they didn’t intend to conceive, they do not consider themselves prepared and ‘ready’ for a child. They have divorced sex from marriage, and they intended to divorce sex from a baby, but something went wrong, and now there is a baby in the womb. The child is unwanted, and so it must be destroyed. A child conceived within marriage, even if it is ‘unplanned,’ is conceived within a structure where it can be provided for and protected. Even the structure of marriage does not save every life, but a child conceived outside of marriage has no societal protection at all. Even if it is born, the child is very often disconnected from one or both parents and is raised in a home characterized by instability. But these children are much more fortunate than those who are killed in the womb; they have survived, even if they still will suffer the consequences of the two great divorces. Their peers, on the other hand, have paid the ultimate price on the altar of adult desires. A society founded on the tyranny of adults can only come to one conclusion: if life cannot be prevented, then it must be destroyed.
But there is a more subtle side to the equation, and for this reason, it is much more sinister. We have divorced marriage from sex and sex from babies, but this does not only result in the prevention and destruction of life. These two divorces also result in the creation of life simply to fulfill the desires and serve the interests of adults. We are placing the next generation under our tyranny, creating them according to our whims, producing them when we want them and how we want them. We think that we have achieved sex without babies through birth control and abortion; that task is largely complete. The next great project is babies without sex. If in abortion, adults wield death against the next generation, with the march of genetic technology, it is the manipulation of life to produce the next generation according to our whims.
The danger is very subtle, and how we think and talk about children and such things as adoption are illuminating. Certainly, every parent wants a child ‘of their own.’ But speaking of children as ‘our own’ is dangerous; our children our not our possessions, they are a gift to us. Parenthood doesn’t give us a product to be used for the fulfillment of our own needs; it confers a task to serve the next generation. This is the danger inherent in the great good of adoption; adoption is not for the parents! Adoption is to provide for a child a loving home. The transformation of adoption from a child-centered institution providing for children into an adult-centered system getting grown-ups the child they always wanted is a terrible tragedy. If adoption is child-centered, then the intent is to match up a needy child with a stable, loving home where it can be cared for and reared. Two-parent, married households are then a must; if the child is severed from its birth parents, it should then be given the protection that marriage is designed to provide. But if adoption is adult-centered, then the intent is to give an adult, any adult, the child that they want, regardless of whether or not the child will be given a mother and a father who are actually married. The goal of adoption should be the good of the child, to serve and provide for the least of these in mercy, not to satisfy the desires of adults, as noble as those desires may be.
Through the march of technology, we have provided alternatives to adoption, which actually make the situation far worse. Those who cannot conceive on their own can now be assisted through various artificial means, and the technology is progressing with incredible rapidity. Each of these means proceeds on the same assumption that is spoken and unspoken in our society today: adults have a right to children, however this can be achieved. Once we establish our right to have a child, it is but a short move to speak of our right to have the kind of child we want. Here the slope becomes very slippery. Children are turned into a product, a commodity to be designed and produced for the good of adults. A multitude of embryos are created; the weak or ‘defective’ are destroyed, the unused are frozen. We praise those involved in ‘snowflake adoption,’ and we should, but we must realize that in mercy we are trying to solve a problem that we as a society have created. Even if they are not frozen, a typical attempt at IVF implants a large number of embryos—living human beings!—into the womb, with the expectation that some will either die or can be aborted, once again culling out the weak. We are creating children, more children than a woman can carry, most of whom will die, all so that a father and mother can have a child ‘of our own.’
Technology continues to advance, seemingly faster than ethical restraints; these embryos can be manipulated or sorted to produce a child that fits the characteristics the parents want. Children can be produced in order to be blood or organ donors, they can be produced simply because mom wants a red-head, or a boy with blue eyes. The technology of reproduction is giving to adults the tools to be the creators of the next generation, to exercise a state of tyranny and control over our progeny hardly imagined by any who came before us. It is a great good to desire a child; but not at any cost, and not as our project rather than as a gift. We can praise that desire while also cautioning against the abuses, while educating the parents and in love showing them that a child is a gift, not a right to be demanded or a product to be assembled. There are more ethical means of artificial reproduction; certainly we should point people to them, but even there we should be careful of contributing to the mindset of an adult-centered world. To praise the gift of children, to be truly pro-life, is to demand that all children, those who exist in the petri dish, those who exist in the womb, those who are waiting for adoption, be preserved from the tyranny of adults.
This is an uphill battle, for our culture has a deep-seated bigotry toward the next generation. I do not use this word lightly; the term ‘bigotry’ is thrown around so much today that it means everything and nothing: for the purposes of this presentation, I will define ‘bigotry’ as the arbitrary denial of the liberties given to every other member of the human family to a certain group of humans. We the people of United States of America certainly have a history with this concept. The Declaration of Independence declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But for the first century of our existence of a supposedly ‘free’ nation, founded on those principles, we refused the unalienable rights given to all others to a certain group of human beings. All African-Americans were denied certain rights, as were members of other racial groups; but those born into the tyranny of slavery were denied the liberty given to every other human being within our borders. This bigotry was arbitrary to the extreme, as it turned on characteristics that have nothing to do with whether one is human being or not: race and skin color. No white man or woman, born or unborn, would be a slave. And with that philosophical foundation of bigotry, the people of one race exercised tyranny over the people of another, treating them as livestock, as goods to be bought and sold.
Today it is far worse. Although we claim to be a ‘free nation,’ we refuse the unalienable rights given to all others to a certain group of human beings: the unborn. This bigotry is completely and totally arbitrary, turning on such factors as size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. Pro-life apologists have decisively demonstrated that these arbitrary factors can be used to deny the unalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence to any of us at any time. As technology has progressed, it has become harder and harder to deny the biological reality that the child in the womb is a human being, genetically like every other human being. Much less than skin color and race, the differences between the child in the womb and the adult have nothing to do with their essence as human beings. And the tyranny that results from this bigotry is even more heinous. Not only is the unborn child treated as a commodity, to be manipulated and produced in the way that adults wish, but adults have the right to kill the child at any point until birth. Just as no white person would be a slave in early America, so no court today would recognize the tyranny of one adult holding the power of life and death over another.
Today we have a society that has as one of its core values the bigotry of the born against the unborn; the bigotry of one generation against the next. This inborn bigotry sees the child in the womb as less than human, perhaps not biologically, as it is hard to deny today the biological reality that the unborn child is a human being; instead, it is claimed that the child is less than human in some moral or philosophical sense. The language of ‘person,’ is a weapon used against the unborn, as we arbitrarily set boundaries as to when a human being becomes a ‘person,’ and thus can access the unalienable rights given to all such ‘persons.’ Pro-lifers should be careful when we attempt to pick up that weapon and use it for our own cause. The language of ‘personhood’ is a philosophical attempt to draw a distinction between what is simply a human being and what is a human being with unalienable rights. It is a dangerous game for us to play to also draw a line, even if the line is at an earlier stage of development than what the pro-choice crowd would say. A human being is a person; in fact, the language of ‘person’ is arbitrary; we should simply speak of those who are human beings and those who are not, and that is a biological, not philosophical, reality. We must fight against the language of ‘person’ as opposed to ‘human being,’ for in the minds of many, if not most, in our world today, those who are not ‘persons’ can then be arbitrarily destroyed.
This is much more subtle than what we used to deal with as a pro-life community. We used to have to make the argument that the unborn child is human; with the march of technology, that has become difficult to deny, now, we must make the argument that every human being is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” The struggle against abortion is a struggle against bigotry, the bigotry of a group (adults) that has the power, means, and legal authority to exercise tyranny against another group (children). We have much to learn from those who came before us in the battle against bigotry and tyranny; one of the most fruitful studies we can do as pro-lifers is to examine the legal and legislative battle against slavery. Though it took much work and many fits and starts—and the process is still not completed—we defeated tyranny and bigotry before, and we can do so again, but only if we see the problem for what it is: a system of tyranny founded on a deep-seated bigotry and the two great divorces.
But we must be prepared to fight on all fronts. It would be naïve of us to assume that the tyranny of adults over against children would only manifest itself when the child was in the womb. If tyranny is legally granted to adults over their children when they are in the womb (or the petri dish), then it would follow that there would be attempts to exercise this tyranny after children are born. We talked about the dangers of adult-centered adoption, where the desires of adults are given priority over the interests of children. We also talked about the divorce between marriage and sex and sex and babies that I believe is at the heart of all of these ills. We think we can exercise tyranny over the next generation because sexuality has been divorced from the procreation of children within the bonds of marriage. But what if marriage itself is destroyed, defined out of existence? The two great divorces have already done great damage to this foundational institution of society, an institution intended to defend both children and women. But at least marriage still exists, and it still technically has, as it always has, a connection with the procreation and raising of children. Marriage is still, on paper, a child-centered institution, intended to join children to their parents, and the parents to each other, providing a stable environment for the raising of the next generation.
But we are on the cusp of destroying marriage entirely, the final goal of the sexual revolution’s intention to enshrine the tyranny of adults over children. With no-fault divorce, we have already removed one factor—stability—intended to protect children from the whims of adults. And now, with the coming redefinition of marriage to make it genderless, we will sever marriage from its procreative moorings, recreating an institution that was intended to protect the interests of children, into an institution that satisfies the desires of adults. The tyranny of adults is the link between the two great social issues of our day; pro-lifers cannot ignore the fact that the same impulses that lead to the tyranny of adults over children in the womb also lead to the tyranny of adults over children by the redefinition of marriage. Marriage was designed to join fathers and mothers to their children and each other; those purposes are being swept away, and children will be the ones who will suffer. To be pro-life is to be pro-child, and to be pro-child is to be pro-marriage. The goal of those who champion sexual freedom is the stripping away of every right a child has to be raised in a home where his or her father and mother are married to each other. Make no mistake, it is not the redefinition of marriage that they are ultimately after; they intend to eliminate marriage entirely, destroying utterly an institution designed and established throughout history to protect and provide for children.
To be pro-life, therefore, is to be much more than anti-death. We cannot allow ourselves to be simply defined by what we are against, but by what we are for: we are for the next generation. Our children must be protected from death, but they must also be protected from the tyranny of adults. The same instinct that causes us to recoil from child abuse and human trafficking should also lead us to fight against abortion, genetic manipulation, and even attempts to redefine marriage. In everything we do as pro-lifers, the interests of children, the most vulnerable among us, should be paramount. And that will naturally lead us to the other end of the spectrum, to a topic that I have not yet directly addressed, but is tied up with all of these issues. The tyranny of adults, the bigotry of one generation over against another, is not only exercised against the unborn, but also against the elderly and infirm. The issues that surround the beginning and end of life are inseparably linked, because the same rationales given for the tyranny of adults over children are given for the tyranny of the young and healthy over the elderly and infirm. Those at the end of life are treated as less than human and subjected to death by those who exercise tyranny over them.
What does all of this mean for those who call themselves ‘pro-life?’ I firmly believe that until we grasp the deeper issues underlying abortion, we will never completely eliminate this scourge from our land. As long as marriage is divorced from sex and sex from babies, abortion will always be necessary, because more sexual promiscuity always leads to more unwanted or unprepared for pregnancies. The abortion industry knows this better than we know it ourselves; that is why Planned Parenthood is glad to hand out free birth control. We will not rid ourselves of abortion until we address the two great divorces, which form the foundation of the bigotry of the born against the unborn, a bigotry that manifests itself in the tyranny of adults. This means that we have to take a firmer stand as a pro-life community against the proliferation of birth control in our society. Many in our ranks have pretended for far too long that we can argue against abortion and not against the rampart use of birth control; we must learn that one cannot exist without the other. As paradoxical as it might sound, the statistics bear it out: as long as sex is divided from babies, we will have a need for abortion. And, as long as we have sex without marriage, we will have a need for abortion. Both divorces need to be combatted, or else the need for abortion will remain.
We must strive to create a society that honors and welcomes children as gifts, not as products. We must strive to create a society where marriage is honored and strengthened, and is child-centered; many of us are involved in both causes already, but the pro-life movement and the pro-marriage movement must be more united, under the common banner of the interests of children and of women. We must strive to create a society where those who have no voice, who cannot vote, are protected by those who can. To do this, we must be constantly aware of every instance where the desires of adults trump the interests of children. Legally, legislatively, and in our own lives and conversation, we must once again protect children, the most vulnerable among us. And if we protect children from exploitation and death, then for many of the same reasons we will protect the elderly and infirm. The pro-life movement is far more than ‘anti-death,’ we are ‘pro-life’ in every sense of the word, caring for the least of these, from the child in the womb to our elders in the hospital bed, even the mother who is contemplating the abortion.
The solution to a crisis pregnancy is to eliminate the crisis, not the pregnancy, to provide for the person who feels they have no choice, who has been duped by the culture around them. Our efforts to provide for desperate mothers and fathers in crisis situations are absolutely vital; being pro-life is much more than being anti-death, it is being for the unborn child and for the mother and father. They are as much victims of this culture in which the tyranny of adults is enshrined as their children are. In all that I have said today, please remember that I am speaking primarily against the cultural elites in the media, in the academy, in politics, who have crafted and created a society where adults hold tyranny over children. They have misled and deceived an entire culture; they have duped mothers and fathers into seeking tyranny over, and even the death of their children. They think that they are left with no choice; the pro-life movement needs to not only speak against death but provide for life with works of mercy, realizing above all that the victims are not only the children.
We must treat the parents as victims of abuse by our culture, those attacked by a predatory elite class who has deceived them into thinking that they are the tyrants. Tyranny harms those who are placed in power, as any post-abortive woman will tell you; the adults are in need of the truth in love, especially our young people, who are deceived by their schools, they are deceived by the media, they are deceived by the abortion providers which come and give presentations in their dorms. Our young people are being exploited for the profit of the abortion industry, and so we must speak the truth to them in love. The women who have had abortions or who are in a crisis pregnancy are the victims of a culture that has taken away from them every protection as they have taken away every protection for their child. The desperate couple seeking in-vitro fertilization or genetic manipulation is often the victim of deceit and dubious ethics. By serving their children, we serve them, and we must serve them. We must educate this generation, we must teach them the truth about the society the elites have assembled and promoted. And we must do this with care, with compassion, with love, knowing that while legislation and court cases are important, the only way a culture of adults can be transformed into a culture that welcomes and protects children is by convincing one person at a time.