Anna Githens
Mercy Killing, Reproductive Rights, and other ill-conceived misnomers
By Anna Githens
May 29, 2014

What do "women's reproductive rights," "Planned Parenthood," and "mercy killing" have in common? All three were craftily composed to sound amicable and compassionate, when in reality they are misnomers. If you break them down and apply them to their respective causes, they hardly make sense.

Take Planned Parenthood, for instance. This benevolent sounding name has propagandized misinformed, expectant mothers through its doors for years, but therein lies the intended purpose: it was cleverly manufactured to deceive. A name depicting its true function might scare women away or cause them to reflect on their actions, and Planned Parenthood operatives can't afford to have women actually make informed choices. Their fight against parental notification laws and allowing expectant mothers to see their own sonograms before consenting to an abortion has demonstrated this all too well. A befitting name for the organization would be something like Lost Parenthood, for upon entering its doors, one may abandon all hope for parenthood.

In a similar vein, the phraseology regarding the alleged attack on "women's reproductive rights" is really a deviously contrived manipulation of words, since women in America are presently fortunate enough to not have their number of offspring regulated by the government. In fact, women have always had the right to reproduce in this country. American women may reproduce whenever they want to, wherever and with whomever they choose, with as many partners as they wish, married or unmarried, through a sperm donor, in vitro, or surrogate, without any restrictions placed on race, ethnicity, or beliefs. A woman may choose to give birth to as many girls and boys as physiologically possible. So I ask, how is a woman's right to reproduce in America under assault? If you are a woman who at some point in life was not allowed to exercise your "reproductive rights," please come forward.

Somehow, many modern feminists claim their reproductive rights are being violated since some morally conscious citizens are refusing to pay for their contraceptives. Let's be clear: refusal to pay for contraceptives is not a violation of women's reproductive rights for many reasons, but primarily because in using contraceptives, the woman's objective is to not reproduce. Since they wish to have taxpayer-funded contraception, not taxpayer funded reproduction, perhaps claiming assault on "women's contraceptive rights" would be more accurate, but this expression would not have been taken seriously, so "women's reproductive rights" suits their purposes perfectly; it has more of a victim-sounding feel to it. Liberals ought to know that American women presently do have the right to reproduce. Otherwise, for a more hands-on approach, maybe they should spend some time in countries where governments actually restrict a woman's right to reproduce, such as China and India.

For these reasons, whenever I hear a new, kindly sounding phrase conceived by the left, like The Affordable Care Act, I am instinctively skeptical. The Death with Dignity Act, yet another deceptive combination of words, has unfortunately made its way back into the New Jersey Assembly Health Committee. Already legal in five U.S. states, the measure has been reintroduced by assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), and would give doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who have been determined to have less than six months to live – as if this method of estimation of a person's life expectancy is infallible and an exact science. Although the bill expired in January, Mr. Burzichelli, its biggest proponent, has vowed to mobilize the support shown in New Jersey polls. His sister-in-law Claudia died at 54 of lung cancer and her moving testimony given to the Assembly committee in Trenton last year had tremendous impact on him and many others:
    "On the days when I have struggled to breathe or think about the stresses on my family, I would hope I might have more options than starving myself or taking my life in a violent way," Claudia Burzichelli said, "I don't know how I will truly feel if and when that time may come. But it comforts me there could be a another way, other options."

    "I hope New Jersey will become a state that gives respect and dignity to those who are dying," she added.

While I have nothing but compassion for Claudia Burzichelli and her family, the testimony she gave implies that enduring pain and suffering is undignified and unworthy of respect. Although I can appreciate her intentions and sympathize with her plight, her words have entered the public discourse and therefore have the power to influence lawmakers.

Bearing witness to a loved one's suffering does not change the fact that euthanasia – a fancy word for murder – is playing God by taking another person's future into one's own hands.

Progressives tend to use their own personal experiences to arbitrate moral decisions, which are usually emotionally driven. They often eschew integrity for matters of comfort, convenience, and appearance. They see no value in religious dogma, time-honored ethical codes, or spiritual resources, such as faith, hope, and charity. They seem to fail to understand that what matters most is inner strength – who we are on the inside, as opposed to what we feel on the outside.

From where is inner strength derived? What is dignity? Do human beings need state laws to legislate respect and dignity?

Since we are created in God's image and likeness, we are inherently dignified and we are called to become like Him – and God's only Son became like man and endured suffering to the end. Jesus suffered excruciating pain and agony and is the most highly esteemed historical figure who ever lived. Christ conquered death. He rose again; death did not defeat him and did not have the last word. Life did. Truly living is loving life in all its fullness, which includes highs and lows, joys and sorrows, pleasures and pain. The way to diminish death's power is to embrace life in all its facets, which will subsequently aid in nurturing the soul.

As with everything else in life, it all comes down to belief verses unbelief. We must choose between reliance on self and reliance on God. Those who are truly faithful, who believe in a loving God, should adamantly oppose any and all forms of euthanasia. As the Bible informs, "Therefore we should rejoice in our suffering, bearing it as long as the Lord wills. For only through such trials will our faith become purified more precious than gold" (1 Peter 1:6-7).

I once had a friend who suffered terribly at a very young age from cancer of the esophagus. After losing his ability to swallow, he was given a feeding tube. As he slowly deteriorated and physically weakened, something miraculous happened – in submitting to God, his faith was strengthened and purified. As he neared his final days, he professed, "My suffering was my greatest blessing." While his body became frail and decrepit, through contrition and God's grace he became interiorly strengthened, and despite his painful circumstances, his heart overflowed with gratitude and joy. As it says in the Bible, "If you put up with suffering for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God's eyes. It was for this you were called, since Christ suffered for you in just this way and left you an example, to have you follow in his footsteps" (1 Peter 2: 20).

While "mercy killing" may sound benevolent and sympathetic, in the end it is still killing. The word "mercy" precedes "killing" to conceal as a smokescreen what is essentially a ruthless and criminal act, which is derived from misplaced compassion. Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. The one who is merciful bestows something good on someone who doesn't deserve it. In other words, the one in a position to punish or harm is the one capable of being compassionate or forgiving. Therefore, the expression "mercy killing" is theoretically a misnomer and an oxymoron, for the only true source of mercy is God, the Creator of all human life.

The Death with Dignity Act aims to destroy the gift of life. It sends a message that there is no meaning in suffering, that those who endure suffering are irrational fanatics, when actually they are models of true heroism. It is through the martyrs that we have an ever-flourishing Church today, for the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

What merits honor? Asking for a lethal injection to end your suffering to assist you in committing suicide? Or asking to be crucified upside down because you are not worthy to die the same way as Christ? St. Peter, the rock upon which the Church was built, bravely and humbly chose to die in this manner.

In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Dr. Viktor Frankl discloses crucial observations he made about human suffering while laboring in four different Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz. He says, "Man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."

He argues that although we cannot avoid suffering, "we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose." He states:
    "Today's society is characterized by achievement orientation.... It blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual's value stems only from his present usefulness then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler's program, that is to say, 'mercy' killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer."
Advocates of mercy killing wish to eliminate suffering. Sounds nice, but it isn't. Frankly, it is unrealistic, uncharitable, and prideful. While we may feel tremendous compassion for a person who is suffering, taking it upon ourselves to end that person's suffering by killing them is not demonstrating true compassion. The word compassion has its roots in Latin: com means "with" and pati means "to suffer;" therefore compassion means "to suffer with."

Furthermore, as St. John Paul II said, suffering has redemptive value. It is meant to purify us in preparation to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Ending a person's life prematurely can deprive him of redemptive suffering and deny him means for atonement. St. Faustina wrote the following in her diary: "If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: One is the receiving of Holy Communion and the other is suffering."

Suffering ceases to be suffering when it has meaning, as Frankl explains below:
    "I told my comrades that human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death... that they must not lose hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and its meaning. I said that somebody looks down on each of us in difficult hours – a friend, a wife, somebody alive or dead, or a God – and he would not expect us to disappoint him. He would hope to find us suffering proudly – not miserably – knowing how to die."
This past Christmas, a ninety-five-year-old friend of my mother's spent his last days in hospice care. Despite his semi-comatose state, friends would read to him regularly and comfort him as much as possible. A local priest visited him frequently, prayed with him, and kept him company. As the old man neared death, the priest came in and gave him his last rites. On Christmas Eve, that same priest brought his guitar and played as the others held hands and sang Silent Night. The elderly man died later that night surrounded by loved ones.

Demonstrating true compassion to another may take more of our time and cause us more heartache, but isn't that what real love is all about?

© Anna Githens


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Anna Githens

Anna Githens is a freelance writer who is passionate about promoting Christian ideals and tried and true American values. With an M.A. in Theology from Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary and a B.A in Economics from Providence College, she has diverse career experience in bond trading, teaching, and journalism. She is a mother of three wonderful sons and resides in New Jersey with her family.


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