The dignity of life

Dr. Ben Carson writes movingly of his “view on the sanctity of life,” relating two of the incidents from his medical career that led him to conclude that “the thought of abortion for convenience is repugnant.”


Several years ago, I was consulted by a young woman who was 33 weeks pregnant and was on her way to Kansas get an abortion. I informed her of the multiple options available to her outside of abortion and she decided to go through with the pregnancy even though the child had hydrocephalus and required neurosurgical intervention after birth a few weeks later. She kept the baby and loves the beautiful child that has resulted.

A couple of decades ago, I came into the pediatric Intensive Care Unit on morning rounds and was told about a four-year-old girl who had been hit by an ice cream truck, and was comatose and exhibiting little neurological function other than reactive pupils. I tested her pupillary reflexes and both pupils were fixed and dilated. The staff indicated to me that this is something that must have just occurred. I grabbed the bed and with some help, transported her quickly to the operating room for an emergency craniotomy. I was met along the way by a senior neurosurgeon who told me I was wasting my time and that at best, we would end up with someone in a vegetative state.

Nevertheless, we completed the operation and a few days later, her pupils became reactive and she eventually left the hospital. I saw her a few years ago walking through the hospital with her own 4-year-old little girl. She was neurologically fully intact and told me she had become somewhat of a celebrity because of the experience I just related. What do these two stories have in common? They both involve precious lives that could easily have been discarded.


You fight like crazy to save the life of a four-year-old girl, despite warnings that her life is not worth saving… and years later, you meet her as an adult with her own four-year-old girl in tow.  How does that make you feel?  I don’t want to speak for Dr. Carson, but I’m pretty sure his response would be: “Blessed.”

The good doctor’s recommendations, on this day when the March for Life once again ventures into the frigid winter air of a Washington that is abruptly devoid of reporters to chronicle their mighty gathering, are a combination of gentle wisdom for the people, and a stern admonition for the political class:

It is important to try to understand the emotional state of young women seeking an abortion. Instead of judging and condemning them, we need to provide compassion and support. They need to be provided with easy access to adoption services and information about assistance available to them if they decide to keep the baby. I have visited many warm, inviting facilities around the country that exist solely for the purpose of helping these young women.

It is equally, if not more important, to reach these young women before they become pregnant. Forget about those politically correct people who say all lifestyles are equal and inform those young women about the true consequences of out-of-wedlock birth for those who are not financially independent. We need to make sure they understand that they can provide a much better life for themselves and their children when they plan ahead and value themselves appropriately.

As a society, we cannot be afraid to discuss important social and moral issues. Our heritage as a nation is built on compassion, forgiveness and understanding. Courage is also vitally important because those who stand on godly principles and values will be attacked. Attempting to characterize love and compassion for human life as a “war on women” is deceitful and pathetic. We the people must stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by those with agendas that do not include regard for the sanctity of life.


What he says about reaching women before they become pregnant reminds me not only of life’s sanctity, but also its dignity.  There is something profoundly undignified about the culture created by feminist ideology, identity politics, and the business interests of the abortion lobby.  Abortion is only part of this culture… the terminal part.  The way men and women treat each other, the way women view themselves, and the way we treat our children contribute to the undignified confusion of liberty with license.  Nothing separates those concepts more powerfully than responsibility.  Free men and women, exercising their liberties, are personally responsible for the consequences of their actions.

Each ingredient in this mixture reacts with every other.  The Ruling Class has both ideological and practical reasons for strongly resisting a cure.  That’s why even though America has been growing more pro-life in general, and the vast majority (at least 70 percent) favor restrictions on late-term abortion, everyone who isn’t ardently “pro-choice” is branded an “extremist,” as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did the other day, when instructing pro-lifers to get the hell out of his state.

The alternative to abortion culture is supposedly close-minded judgmental religious intolerance, but Dr. Carson exhibits none of those traits when he speaks of helping young women understand “they can provide a much better life for themselves and their children when they plan ahead and value themselves accordingly.”  That is an appeal to dignity, which includes responsibility as a vital component.  You cannot respect anyone’s dignity without expecting them to act responsibly.  But “responsibility” has been redefined by abortion culture to mean nothing more than “use birth control,” a definition they wish taught to increasingly young children.


One of the Left’s current crusades involves making birth control supplies available to very young girls, without the consent or awareness of their parents.  That’s a project which respects the dignity of no one involved.  Planned Parenthood is now under fire for providing services to underage girls without inquiring about the age of their sexual partners, a practice that conceals instances of statutory rape.

President Obama commemorated the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade by declaring, “This is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.”  I can think of 55 million people who might disagree, if they had been born.  To count them as nothing more than thankfully avoided inconveniences is an insult to the dignity of our nation.  I want to know what those missing people would have dreamed about, and what they would have done to make their dreams real.

We can do a far better, far more righteous and honorable job of ensuring freedom and opportunity by acknowledging that many important choices occur before the one about having an abortion… choices both men and women are charged to make with love, wisdom, and self-respect.  We can build a culture that actively encourages them to make those decisions wisely, and conduct themselves with dignity.  Who ever got the idea that adults should indulge the young and clean up the results of their errors without judgment?  We are assuming nothing better can be expected of them.  That’s a gesture of profound disrespect, with terrible consequences.  Young people learn by studying what adults permit, and encourage.


The better path doesn’t have to be stern, frightening, and judgmental.  That’s a false choice presented by people who get plenty “judgmental” when confronted with ideas they want to suppress – look at Gov. Cuomo.  Abortion culture is increasingly united by nothing stronger than reflexive hatred of its critics, which is rather stern and frightening, if you ask me.  We’ve got a small group of people hissing “extremist!” and spitting venom at anyone who thinks there should be higher safety standards in abortion clinics, or wants to restrict the kind of abortion that comes two inches away from infanticide.  (For that matter, they’ve been known to get testy with people who speak out against infanticide.)  And they claim all women are biologically obligated to agree with them, or at least sit quietly while the abortion lobby speaks in their name.

High expectations can be presented with love and kindness.  The absence of such expectations is not “compassion,” although it is falsely marketed as such.  There is a wonderful, healthy humility we feel in the presence of new life, as anyone who has held a newborn member of their family can testify.  The absence of that humility brings arrogance, which leads to passage of the most terrible judgment that can be rendered.

Our society would benefit from more humility, of the sort one of history’s most accomplished neurosurgeons doubtless felt, when he met the little girl born to the little girl whose life wasn’t supposed to be worth saving.  Dignity, responsibility, and humility are inseparable, and all three are alien to the culture of death.




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