The ‘Wanted’ Child

  When Janet Sheikhan first discovered that she was pregnant, she and her husband were thrilled. But then Janet received terrible news. A test showed that the baby was severely deformed. On the advice of her doctor, Janet regretfully decided to have an abortion. But when she asked to see her tiny aborted child, Janet was shocked to discover that it was a perfectly formed baby boy. Later she read the autopsy report, which confirmed that the baby had not been deformed but was perfectly healthy. Janet was devastated to realize that due to a faulty medical test, she had aborted a normal baby. And when her story was recently told on 60 Minutes, host Leslie Stahl shared her outrage. The program focused on the mistaken test results, asking, who is responsible for this tragedy? Stahl treated the mother, who is, after all, the one who made the abortion decision, as an innocent victim. Of course, the bitter irony is that every day thousands of perfectly healthy babies are aborted—not by mistake, but deliberately and intentionally. But programs like 60 Minutes do not treat their deaths as a tragedy. How is it that even thoughtful, well-educated Americans today exhibit such an astonishing moral schizophrenia? The answer is that a baby's entire value is now defined by whether the parents want it. The role of technology is merely to support whatever they choose. Do they want a baby? Fine. Advanced reproductive technologies can be employed to help them. Do they want to get rid of a baby? Fine. Abortion technology is standing by to meet their desires. Neither choice may be pronounced wrong or immoral. This radical moral relativism reveals how much Americans have become children of the Enlightenment, a time when philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, among others, rejected the idea of an objective moral order. In the absence of a moral framework, all desires are considered equally valid, all equally legitimate. Without any overarching moral order, technology is merely an instrument to satisfy our impulses, whatever they may be. That's why 60 Minutes could not bring itself to address the 'real' moral conundrum—which is why the death of Janet's baby was tragic while the death of thousands of healthy babies just like her is a sign of liberation. No, the only socially acceptable scapegoat was the failure of technology to fulfill someone's deeply felt desire. Of course, it all begins with the assumption that a deformed child ought to be aborted in the first place—an assumption Christians everywhere ought to challenge. One of my own colleagues was told that his unborn son might have the same genetic defect that Janet's baby was diagnosed with. But as Christians, he and his wife did not seek a technological escape. Instead, they turned in trust to the One Who is the resurrection and the life. Just as in Janet's story, the diagnosis turned out to be mistaken. But unlike Janet, my colleague now has a healthy baby boy, and does not face the wrenching responsibility of having aborted his child in the search for a perfect baby. Would that the Janets of this world understood that the real tragedy is not a malfunction of technology, it's a malfunction of our moral senses. We have made machines of death—and unfortunately they work all too well.


Chuck Colson



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