Nothing New Under the Sun, and Avoiding “Game Over”

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Nothing New Under the Sun, and Avoiding "Game Over"

I’m ram­bling a bit here, but all these dis­jointed thoughts about some life issues seem to be drift­ing together.

There’s noth­ing new under the sun, says the book of Eccle­si­astes. What’s strange to me is old news to some­one in a dif­fer­ent place or situation.

I’m think­ing in par­tic­u­lar of two women from Canada whom I recently met, and of the par­ents of Char­lie Gard, whose story you may already know (see Pete’s reflec­tion on Charlie’s death).

Char­lie Gard is at rest now, and his par­ents in their grief are at least spared fur­ther atten­tion from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion on Human Rights, which denied them cus­tody of their critically-​ill son. When they started seek­ing treat­ment for their baby — AND rais­ing money for it, so the National Health Ser­vice in their coun­try (Britain) couldn’t plead lack of resources — I’m sure they were shocked to find out that a hos­pi­tal could deny them cus­tody. The “experts” knew bet­ter. The “experts” were going to ration care, since the par­ents wouldn’t ration it themselves.

It can’t hap­pen here, I thought. We don’t have a single-​payer sys­tem for health care (at least not yet). I ven­tured to say as much to a few peo­ple. Two of them gave me a where-​have-​you-​been look and reminded me about Justina Pel­letier. Shame on me for need­ing to be reminded.

Noth­ing new.

The Cana­dian women I men­tioned were attend­ing a pro-​life con­fer­ence with me, and we chat­ted over cof­fee as we waited for the day’s work to begin. They told me about their province where a “bub­ble zone” law is in effect and where doc­tors who don’t do abor­tions are obliged to refer abortion-​minded patients to more accom­mo­dat­ing providers.

I was sur­prised at what they said, until I reflected that my own state has a buffer zone law, although no abor­tion provider will use it for fear of lit­i­ga­tion which will result in the law being thrown out. (Our law is mod­eled on the one the Supreme Court threw out in the McCullen case from Mass­a­chu­setts.) Like­wise, con­science pro­tec­tions for health care providers have been defeated again and again in my state leg­is­la­ture, although so far no statute requires abor­tion referrals.

Noth­ing new. The details are dif­fer­ent between my state and their province, but the issues are the same.

My Cana­dian com­pan­ions weren’t com­plain­ing, though. They spoke in matter-​of-​fact tones, with­out hand-​wringing. They go out to wit­ness near abor­tion facil­i­ties any­way. They sup­port physi­cians and other providers whose con­science rights are at risk. They refuse to shrug and go home, think­ing “game over.”

What a wit­ness they were to me, in their quiet way.

For that mat­ter, there was no “game over” for women at that pro-​life con­fer­ence who spoke about “adverse pre­na­tal diag­no­sis.” Those moms we lis­tened to were all told dur­ing preg­nancy that they had defec­tive babies. The lan­guage var­ied, but the mes­sage was the same. All were told they could abort. All said no (and I’m sure a few said “hell, no”).

The out­comes: some of the chil­dren died in infancy — but they died in the arms of their par­ents, not in the cus­tody of the state. Other chil­dren were born and, lo and behold, had none of the mal­adies that had been diag­nosed or pre­dicted pre­na­tally by the “experts.” Still oth­ers were born with com­plex con­di­tions that proved man­age­able and treatable.

Among the lessons: doc­tors don’t know every­thing. Noth­ing new there.

That brings me back to the fam­ily of Char­lie Gard. I’m sure that nei­ther of his par­ents woke up one day and said, “Gee, I think I’ll be pro-​life today!” They weren’t pur­su­ing a cause. They were defend­ing their son. They weren’t deny­ing the real­ity of their son’s con­di­tion, but they defended their own right to be par­ents and Charlie’s rights as well, first to receive treat­ment and then to die in their lov­ing arms.

One unex­pected sit­u­a­tion at a time, one appalling gov­ern­men­tal pol­icy at a time, all the peo­ple I’m think­ing about refused to say game over. The fam­ily of Char­lie Gard, the Cana­dian women who refused to be dis­cour­aged, the moth­ers who were told their kids were hope­lessly imper­fect: I have things to learn from each of them.

And that’s noth­ing new.

I’m rambling a bit here, but all these disjointed thoughts about some life issues seem to be drifting together.

There’s nothing new under the sun, says the book of Ecclesiastes. What’s strange to me is old news to someone in a different place or situation.

I’m thinking in particular of two women from Canada whom I recently met, and of the parents of Charlie Gard, whose story you may already know (see Pete’s reflection on Charlie’s death).

Charlie Gard is at rest now, and his parents in their grief are at least spared further attention from the European Commission on Human Rights, which denied them custody of their critically-ill son. When they started seeking treatment for their baby – AND raising money for it, so the National Health Service in their country (Britain) couldn’t plead lack of resources – I’m sure they were shocked to find out that a hospital could deny them custody. The “experts” knew better. The “experts” were going to ration care, since the parents wouldn’t ration it themselves.

It can’t happen here, I thought. We don’t have a single-payer system for health care (at least not yet). I ventured to say as much to a few people. Two of them gave me a where-have-you-been look and reminded me about Justina Pelletier. Shame on me for needing to be reminded.

Nothing new.

The Canadian women I mentioned were attending a pro-life conference with me, and we chatted over coffee as we waited for the day’s work to begin. They told me about their province where a “bubble zone” law is in effect and where doctors who don’t do abortions are obliged to refer abortion-minded patients to more accommodating providers.

I was surprised at what they said, until I reflected that my own state has a buffer zone law, although no abortion provider will use it for fear of litigation which will result in the law being thrown out. (Our law is modeled on the one the Supreme Court threw out in the McCullen case from Massachusetts.) Likewise, conscience protections for health care providers have been defeated again and again in my state legislature, although so far no statute requires abortion referrals.

Nothing new. The details are different between my state and their province, but the issues are the same.

My Canadian companions weren’t complaining, though. They spoke in matter-of-fact tones, without hand-wringing. They go out to witness near abortion facilities anyway. They support physicians and other providers whose conscience rights are at risk. They refuse to shrug and go home, thinking “game over.”

What a witness they were to me, in their quiet way.

For that matter, there was no “game over” for women at that pro-life conference who spoke about “adverse prenatal diagnosis.” Those moms we listened to were all told during pregnancy that they had defective babies. The language varied, but the message was the same. All were told they could abort. All said no (and I’m sure a few said “hell, no”).

The outcomes: some of the children died in infancy – but they died in the arms of their parents, not in the custody of the state. Other children were born and, lo and behold, had none of the maladies that had been diagnosed or predicted prenatally by the “experts.” Still others were born with complex conditions that proved manageable and treatable.

Among the lessons: doctors don’t know everything. Nothing new there.

That brings me back to the family of Charlie Gard. I’m sure that neither of his parents woke up one day and said, “Gee, I think I’ll be pro-life today!” They weren’t pursuing a cause. They were defending their son. They weren’t denying the reality of their son’s condition, but they defended their own right to be parents and Charlie’s rights as well, first to receive treatment and then to die in their loving arms.

One unexpected situation at a time, one appalling governmental policy at a time, all the people I’m thinking about refused to say game over. The family of Charlie Gard, the Canadian women who refused to be discouraged, the mothers who were told their kids were hopelessly imperfect: I have things to learn from each of them.

And that’s nothing new.