A couple of weeks ago, the House of Representatives in Harrisburg passed, by an overwhelming vote of 139-58, the Down Syndrome Fetal Protection Act, which bans any abortions designed solely to terminate pregnancies where the fetus is diagnosed with that telltale extra chromosome.
After the bill had passed out of the health committee, I wrote a column praising the pro-life legislators in Pennsylvania who saw how “reproductive choice” had become a more palatable term for “eugenics.”
Even though the column elicited the usual pushback, it was good to see that 139 state legislators had the guts to make a stand for the most vulnerable among us: the ones who could not speak for themselves in a world where communication is the currency of power.
I felt even prouder of Pennsylvania as I watched a tragedy unfold in Great Britain over the last few weeks. A little boy named Alfie Evans was, until Saturday morning, fighting for his life in a hospital in Liverpool. But he was not waging a battle with the support of doctors and nurses helping him to survive. Two-year-old Alfie and his parents were forced to fight against the government’s efforts to end his young life prematurely.
Like Baby Charlie Gard before him, who was denied the right to seek treatment abroad by that same sterile and nihilistic British health system, Alfie had a degenerative brain condition that the doctors couldn’t cure.
And because they were incapable of treating him, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital essentially took the toddler hostage.
The facility was placed on an information lockdown, because, even after the government ordered Alfie to be taken off of life support in the hopes that he would expire in a conveniently brief period of time, Alfie lived for four more precious days. He breathed on his own. He clung to the life that was breathed into him by God and facilitated by his mother, and that was so inconvenient for the hospital and those who simply want him gone, erased, removed. Dead.
I thought that I had seen it all when I followed the Baby Charlie case last summer. Despite the calls from Pope Francis and President Trump, from other leaders of faith and politicians and from “Charlie’s Army” on social media, the London hospital that had the child under treatment and observation refused to allow his desperate parents to take their baby to Italy for possible lifesaving alternatives. The family had raised the money for the trip, and still the government fought to keep that child hostage. I say “hospital” and “government” interchangeably because the British have a single payer health system which essentially blurs any distinction between the opinion of doctors and the exigencies of “good, efficient government.” Sarah Palin warned of death panels in the U.S., and she was wrong on that count. But echoes of her words are more than evident in British hospitals.
Baby Charlie is now with the angels, and I know that he was waiting when Alfie soared to heaven on his own mighty wings.
But none of this cancels out the horror of what happened to these little boys.
They were denied the opportunity to seek further treatment that, however experimental, provided a glimmer of human hope. Their parents were stripped, through a sterile and utilitarian legal process, of their right to determine the medical treatment their boys would receive.
Most chilling of all, the British police actually warned people on social media to be careful what they say and write about Alfie’s case. Yes, in the country where the concept of free speech was born, they seemed to be threatening people with undetermined repercussions if they made “malicious communications.”
So not only were two little boys, in less than a year, barred from seeking treatment, they were cut off from the world. So much manpower, to make sure they died within a socially acceptable time.
We have entered a dark time, when we push children toward the gates of Heaven because they are “imperfect.”
In Pennsylvania, at least, there’s still hope.