Dan Hart is Managing Editor for Publications at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Stream on August 13, 2017.
Recently, a professor at the University of Chicago wrote that intentionally killing babies after birth who are “severely deformed or doomed” should be permitted.
A few weeks later, the Center for Medical Progress released a video showing a Planned Parenthood vice president discussing ways that abortionists can dodge laws restricting partial-birth abortion and do them anyway.
Why do so many people prefer death over life? Those who support euthanasia and abortion often claim simple compassion. They feel for the mother in an unplanned pregnancy who “needs the choice to not have the child,” or the terminally ill patient who “needs the choice to end his suffering on his terms.”
Compassion? Or Fear?
I’d suggest another motive: fear. We tend to fear the unknown. We fear what we expect will be hard and painful, what we know will cause us to suffer. We fear getting married, having a baby, or having to tend to the daily needs of an elderly parent. All these disrupt our comfortable habits of life. We impose these fears on others, and call it compassion.
I get this. I constantly fear what is hard. We all do, whether we admit it or not.
My wife and I have a seven-month-old baby boy. Since his birth, I often wonder, “Can I really love this child enough so that he develops into a good, loving person?”
What I’ve found, though, is that my heart stretches on its own. When I’m with my son, or even when I’m just thinking of him, I often feel surges of love for him. This in turn makes me want to do all I can to will the good for him.
Why does this happen? Surely part of it is God-given instinct. But when God blesses us with a child, and we do what we ought, God gives us the graces we need to love that child. We have a capacity for love, built in to our hearts by our Creator. When we cultivate it, God stretches it beyond what it would have been if we had acted in fear rather than faith.
Chris Gard and Connie Yates, the parents of Charlie Gard, are a beautiful recent example of this.
When their son Charlie was born, they had no idea that he was terminally ill. All they knew was that Charlie was their baby boy, and they loved him. Once they learned about Charlie’s condition, Chris and Connie fought for his life with everything they had.
They seemed to know instinctually that that’s what love demanded. Before Charlie’s birth, Chris and Connie may have had no sense of the lengths to which their love for their son would take them. They endured multiple court challenges and appeals over the course of six months. They fought the rules and regulations that kept them from doing what was best for the health and well-being of their son.
There’s no need to fear the unknown. If we give love a chance, our hearts will stretch.
This capacity for love may surprise the very people who find themselves in the hardest trials. It shines through in testimonies of women who have given birth to unplanned babies. They may call it “accidental happiness.”
Short Circuiting Love
Part of what makes our culture of death so tragic is that it short-circuits our natural capacity for love, which may be the most natural human instinct there is. It deprives us of the greatest adventure the human heart can experience. It starts as an act of sacrificing one’s self for the good of another — only to discover that in sacrificing ourselves, we become more than we were.
Yes, it takes a scary leap of faith to accept the unknown. But God gives us the graces of love, if we’re open to them.
Fear convinces university professors that killing “severely deformed” babies is good, since persevering would be “too much to take” for the parents and the baby. Fear convinces the abortionist that he can skirt laws and abort unplanned babies so that the women who don’t want them will be “more comfortable.” We fear the unknown, because we know it will involve painful sacrifice. But when we are honest with ourselves, we also know that the greatest joys are found when we sacrifice our own comfort for the good of others.
It’s amazing what human beings can do if we just give ourselves a chance — a chance to blaze new trails, to embark on new adventures without knowing precisely where they will lead. There’s no need to fear the unknown. If we give love a chance, our hearts will stretch.