Let’s face it. Until the Supreme Court overturned Roe last June, most Americans had largely ignored the nation’s ongoing abortion debate for almost 50 years. Why? Maybe because to pay attention would entail coming down on one side or the other regarding the desirability of killing little humans, ones that look just like the sonogram on the fridge. Or, as William Murchison puts it in “Farewell Roe; Hello Dobbs,” our lead article, “We seem as a nation, as a people, to desire a little of this and a little of that: not wholesale permission to abort and not a wholesale prohibition either.” For nearly half a century most Americans have been irresolute, comfortable with the judicially imposed Roe, willfully ignorant about the details.
“Dobbs,” Murchison goes on, “was the precondition of our coming at last to grips, as a nation, as a culture, with the immensity of the right-to-life question. Dobbs summons us to look around, as did Alec Guinness, in the catastrophic final scene of The Bridge on the River Kwai, upon the consequences of moral miscalculation.” Three weeks before Dobbs was officially pronounced, the Human Life Foundation sponsored “Liberty to Do What?,” a panel discussion inspired by George McKenna’s prescient essay “The Odd Couple: Freedom and Liberty” (published in our Fall ’21 issue). By then the decision had already leaked; unhinged abortocrats were storming public and media venues while prolifers, aghast at the violence, cautiously anticipated a “win.” But the conversation that evening—McKenna was joined by Rusty Reno and Hadley Arkes—touched on moral miscalculation all around: “If we think that the Left in this country is unmoored,” wondered Arkes, “what will we think on the day after Roe v. Wade is overturned, when we strip away the cover and see, I’m afraid, the crippling moral divisions among conservatives, running down to the very root of things?” McKenna began the discussion with a crisp summary of his essay, reprinted here along with the other panelists’ opening remarks. You can watch their ensuing—and absorbing—interchange on our website (https://humanlifereview.com/liberty-to-do-what/).
Even before Roe, reports William Doino in “Pro-life Trailblazer: The Life and Legacy of Vicki Thorn,” the founder of Project Rachel had witnessed how abortion could upend a young woman’s life. “I can live with the adoption,” a high school friend who had twice become pregnant confided to her, “but I can’t live with the abortion.” Her friend’s confession was “a life-changing event,” Doino writes in his wide-ranging profile, which features extensive interviews with Thorn’s husband and colleagues—one that “taught her the virtue of accompaniment and led her to become a certified trauma counselor and spiritual director.” In 1984, Thorn launched Project Rachel in her Milwaukee archdiocese to console and heal women mourning aborted children—a process, she observed, that could take years to complete. Her message, says Doino, “was so new, so bold and so challenging that it left both sides of the abortion divide unprepared—and even a little unnerved.” Today, Project Rachel is a nationwide ministry of the Catholic Church, and Vicki Thorn, who died suddenly last spring, is a hero to countless women (and men) who have remade abortion-damaged lives.
The immensity of the right-to-life question encompasses the tiniest human creatures, those residing in research laboratories where the abortion damage is irreparable. “Social and religious conservatives have robbed American scientists of their chance to play a leading role in the promising field of stem-cell research,” the late actor Christopher Reeve (who suffered an incapacitating accident mid-career) told Yale medical students back in 2003. “We’re giving away our pre-eminence in science and medicine.” In “Does Effective and Ethical Stem Cell Therapy Exist?” Grace Emily Stark reports on how successful therapies are being generated today using adult stem cells while the death-dealing embryonic variety that Reeve, along with fellow actor Michael J. Fox, famously promoted on television and in Congress has failed to live up to its (and their) “promise.” Stark’s carefully annotated article takes readers through the recent history of stem cell research—including the Nobel Prize-winning discovery that adult stem cells could be “‘reprogrammed’ to exhibit the same pluripotency and capability of self-renewal as embryonic stem cells”— and demonstrates without a doubt “that healing born bodies need not be done at the expense of unborn human lives.”
But what about scientists who aren’t looking to heal born bodies so much as to upgrade them? In “Transhumanism and Being,” Jason Morgan explains how scientists are seeking what popular transhumanist Ray Kurzweil has dubbed the Singularity, where humans “leave behind flesh-and-blood biology and merge with computer hardware.” And become immortal. Or so preach the high priests of Silicon Valley, who would remove the original sin of humanity from humans by installing the techno-self, which in reality would be no “self” at all. “Uploading consciousness to a mainframe and slipping the body off like an old shoe,” Morgan writes, would be tantamount to death. “Whatever comes next is not immortality but wishful thinking.” But even if “the most science-fiction-esque scenarios” never materialize, transhumanism is already having an effect: “We are not really arguing centrally over whether a child in the womb is a human being,” he reminds us. “What an increasing number of those on the anti-life side are saying now is that it doesn’t really matter.” Ellen Wilson Fielding also has something to say about the Singularity, the “sort of sidestepping of death,” she quips, “that surely only a socially challenged techie would find appealing.” In “The Silmarillion in Silicon Valley,” Fielding compares the Kurzweil project to “Tolkien’s mortal human race” and “their quest to escape their own mortal fate by toppling the laws of nature and of nature’s god.” Beginning with America’s founding, her essay is an extended meditation on the shared “understanding of a stable human nature with defined capabilities, characteristics, and rights” that has informed most of Western history. And how its fracturing in identity-scrambled America today is manifesting in dangerous absurdity: “If our pet dog leaped from our second-story window under the delusion that it was a bird,” she posits, “we would not benignly endorse its choice of identity . . . Why don’t we react to our fellow deluded humans with similar seriousness and a determined grip on (stable) reality?” Gender reassignment surgery? It is “astonishing,” she says, “how many go along with it.”
Astonishing, too, how many go along with physician-assisted suicide—or medical aid in dying, call it what you will—even as the evidence piles up that eventually it will metastasize into involuntary euthanasia (see the Netherlands). In this issue, John Grondelski interviews FamilyVoice Australia’s National Media Spokesman Greg Bondar for an update on the debate down under, which, Bondar reports, “is currently skewed heavily in favor of proponents of euthanasia, who have support from the pro-death Australian media, celebrities, politicians, and even some in the church.”
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How the Catholic Church is failing to make the best case for its teaching—one that not only wins legal battles but also hearts and minds—is the subject of Helen Alvaré’s new book Religious Freedom after the Sexual Revolution, reviewed here in Booknotes by Edward Mechmann, who concludes this “road map for effective Church communication on all the major contemporary challenges . . . couldn’t have come at a more propitious moment.”
From the Website features Pastoral Reflections from three Protestant ministers: Paul Stallsworth, W. Ross Blackburn, and Victor Lee Austin, as well as signature blogs by Diane Moriarty and Peter Pavia, and a poignant piece on the pain that accompanies miscarriage from Maria Maffucci’s online Insisting on Life column. We wrap up with an array of arresting appendices: Jonathon Van Maren’s “Canada’s Killing Regime” and Wesley Smith’s “Jared Kushner—the Transhumanist in the White House” complement articles in this issue, while three others focus on recent stories in the news: CNA’s Edie Heipel smashes the Guardian’s incredible claim that a fetus isn’t visible in the womb till after 10 weeks of gestation; a Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising press release denounces the federal indictment of 26-yearold “pro-life atheist” Herb Geraghty, “the latest to join the growing list of peaceful pro-life individuals targeted by AG Garland and the Biden administration’s extreme pro-abortion agenda”; and Madeleine Kearns reports on liberal hysteria over how abortion scenes in Blonde, a new biopic about Marilyn Monroe, depict the unborn child.
With this edition we complete 48 years of continuous publishing. When he launched the Human Life Review in 1975, J.P. McFadden feared he might not have ample material to fill subsequent issues. He sure was wrong about that.