The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg brings a sharp focus to the primary political, economic and moral issue that consumes our country. We can camouflage it with many distracting current events, but the issue of abortion is the epicenter of all the important current political seismic shocks. It continues to fracture what little is left of political collaboration. It is a life or death issue and there is nothing in between.
Abortion is not a new issue nor is neonatal death, nor sex selection to determine who is eligible for life. Hippocrates addressed this long before Christ. We however live in an era in which abortion procedures are much safer for the mother, even though not for the child. We have indeed become used to what many assume is a necessary procedure.
Many years ago as a teenager I remember speaking with an older woman in her late 30s who was a young teenager in Germany during World War II. I asked her how her country could allow the destruction of so many Jews. She replied that we just had gotten used to it. It took a World War to bring us to our senses.
This, of course, was not the only time and place where we were used to things that we should never become used to. We were used to slavery until a Civil War brought us to our senses. We were used to taking land from Native Americans and called it Manifest Destiny. Turkey did the same with Armenians, China is doing the same today with Uyghurs, while Africa is littered with intertribal destruction. When trying to improve our place in life, we humans often try to appropriate what others have as their own.
When trying to recover from personal or national disasters, it becomes especially alluring to seek a weaker scapegoat from which we can extract some hope of recovering a better life.
Whether it’s a genetic or religious class of people such as Jews, Armenians or Uyghurs, a financial class of people such as all the Bezos of the world, an unwanted class of people such as immigrants or an ‘obstructing’ class of people such as Native Americans, we always seem to find someone.
An unwanted pregnancy could be viewed as the worst disaster, the pinnacle of oppression. Every plan, hope or dream that had ever entered the mind of a mother is immediately placed on the endangered list by a pregnancy. Everything could succumb to the power of a child.
I am an old white male and still doubt that I could ever grasp the power of that feeling. It seems immediate, inescapable, overpowering and suffocating. It is no wonder that we could get used to doing anything to relieve us of this feeling.
But we should never resort to, nor get used to the taking of innocent human life. When we do, no one is safe. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as with the Indian Plains Wars, Tiananmen Square, and the Battle of Gettysburg should make us rethink what we’ve gotten used to. Hopefully this will not take a metaphorical war that could rupture the fabric of our Democracy and cut the heart out of our soul.
Tim McNicoll MD, MA Bioethics (Loyola Marymount University)
Simi Valley, California