For people of my generation, if someone spoke of a person’s “robbing the cradle” that phrase meant that a man or woman married someone who was significantly their junior in age. That was before Roe v. Wade.
Words, phrases and attitudes have changed in the forty years since the Supreme Court declared abortion to be legal. The thrust of this post is not going to be an examination of the morality, immorality or amorality of that decision and the consequences we have seen as a result of it. There is more than sufficient material on that topic which has already been published.
Rather, I thought I would examine one possible outcome for our society as our attitudes toward human life and death have evolved as a result of the decision. But before we peer into a possible future, it might be useful if we used the guidance of history to review how we have gotten to our present state of mind.
With Roe v. Wade we redefined human life. We declared pregnancy to be a “sickness” and insurance companies were mandated to cover pregnant women for the condition as they would “any other illness”. Thus, a woman was empowered to “take control of her body” in the matter of her pregnancy in much the same way that she was able to purchase aspirin for a headache.
Gone were the days when an unwed, pregnant mother-to-be was whisked off to a geographically distant relative on some pretext of helping an “aging family member” until the time of her giving birth to her offspring. Now science and society had created an alternative to deal with the problem or, should I say, the “illness”.
We had, by legally defining a fetus as a “non-person,” been able to hold our heads high and repeat those famous words that “All Men are created equal.” Since a fetus was not a man (or woman) it was not entitled to those rights or privileges any more than your ordinary house cockroach.
In the ensuing years, having started down the path that says that the ultimate concern should be for the potential mother’s health, (that is both a physical and mental matter), we have gradually been able to extend our original definition of non-humanness through the advances which science has made.
Now a fetus who may have Downs Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis or may simply be the wrong gender can be identified. In the interest of the mother’s mental health, this unwanted child may be terminated because it doesn’t fit into either its parent’s view of what is best for her or what society deems best for itself.
It should be clear from our history that mankind is a “discriminating” lot. If it were otherwise, we would not have felt the necessity to create an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to cite one obvious example, nor would the KKK ever have had any membership.
So given our history of discriminating against others, now that we have the ability to discriminate against “non-others” as many think of human embryos, let’s picture how this attitude might play out were a despotic government to come to power.
In this future, women who rejoiced in having the “right to choose” might no longer have that right if the State didn’t consider them to be suitable breeding material. Those who were required to donate sperm would be carefully screened for the physical and mental characteristics that the State deemed desirable. Those of both sexes who did not meet the State’s defined criteria would be sterilized to limit population.
The State and the State alone would determine what and who was of value. All those who did not contribute to its own well-being would be eradicated. This, of course, would be most noticeable among the population of the elderly as they were systematically decimated either through neglect or by means of euthanasia. End Of Life Panels would have the final word on who would receive and who would be denied medical treatment – all in an effort to make ours a beneficent and utopian society.
This is, of course, an imaginary future and could never actually happen – at least not in America. We are a noble people dedicated to a great purpose.
I wonder if that was what the guards said to themselves as they pulled the lever, releasing the gas in the showers of the death camps as they purged their society of several hundred more whom the State had declared undesirables.