Having a chilled day and thought I'd pin a few colours to the mast over the few days between now and New Year. I have done it with 'Happy Holidays' and now I feel the need to respond to people like Geoffrey Clark, a man who was standing as a candidate for UKIP's National Executive Committee, until he opened his mouth and put his foot squarely in it by calling for the compulsory abortion of all foetuses that have been identified as having the potential to be born with Down's syndrome or spina bifida.
As if it might make things better the man supported his opinion by stating that the reason for the views he held were merely 'financial' for he was concerned that such children would be 'a burden on the state and the family'. Mind you, the man's amazingly sad utterances didn't stop with children born with health issues for he also (apparently) thinks that the state should re-assess the care given to over eighties as it was 'extraordinarily costly'.
Now whilst I am happy for the man to hold his views, and happier still that he voices them, because that is what democracy does - for it gives minorities and people with different views a voice and the right for it to be heard - it also demands the right to dialogue with the views and to engage in rejoinders. So here's mine:
I write this as someone who has, for as long as I remember, been 'pro-life'. This is a position that has attracted a fair amount of conflict in the past as I have been engaged by those who wish to demote babies into 'just a mass of cells' and render them to be an abstract 'foetus' as they support what is often little more than social engineering! [I invite those who support the aborting (not 'termination') of a child because it interferes with holidays and changes careers, lifestyle and financial circumstances.
Over the years there have been many who have accused me of being able to have my views based on their premise that: 'it's alright for you because you haven't got a handicapped child'.
Well, this is probably a food time to 'fess up and explain that I have not only held my views for a long time, but that I held them long before I became the father of a severely handicapped child who was with us for just under ten years. Ten years that taught me a great deal about the value and place of the handicapped among us and only confirmed my original views regarding the value of live and the contribution that some of the most damaged can make to the lives of the most able.
There are times when tough choices regarding life and death are forced upon us, and when these appear, the Church needs to be present to offer pastoral and moral support. There are times when the continuance of an obviously non-viable pregnancy that threatens also to take the life of an otherwise healthy woman come knocking at our doors. At some stage we may well find ourselves engaging with others who have the spectre of an abortion somewhere in their life story. What do we do when this is our reality?
I would consider that the first word to think of is always 'Love' regardless of the reasons or outcomes before or behind them.
I have decided that 2013 will be a year when I seek to turn those with 'righteous anger' away from it into a place of 'righteous love'.
The second thing to think of is the fact that in Exodus chapter Twenty we are told that we must never take life 'feloniously' - by which I mean, 'do not murder' - but where life must be taken (and it seems that there are times when the word 'must' is very much a reality, but reliance upon man's laws and the assumption that they overrule the requirements of God's is a flawed, and dangerous, state of affairs.
The third thing to remember is that God calls us to protect the weak, the vulnerable, the widow and the stranger in our midst and that we should do this courageously and without counting the cost. Too often we bring discussions regarding life down to one issue, 'quality of life', but what is really meant here is more often than not one of two things:
What will it cost - financially, emotionally, practically
What can they contribute - financially, emotionally, practically
I have seen a cerebrally palsied child, unable to speak, feed or toilet themselves communicate and contribute so much to the life of those around them.
I have seen the very best of people, sometimes in what appears to be the very worst of people, brought out by their encounter with frailty and helplessness.
To consider only the difficulties that children with major disability and handicap will bring to us in terms of negative numbers - be they financial, emotional or time - is to see past our own humanity and reduce us to nothing more than components. It is to remove the heart and soul from our society something which (with apologies to those humanists and secularists this might offend) is becoming more commonplace and more acceptable as our netion distances itself from being a people of faith.
So Mr. Clark (and those who might support your views) all I can say is that I am grateful that there isn't a 'Geoffrey Clark test' for those children who are yet unborn, and am glad that it wasn't on offer when you were as them, for each of us regardless of flaws and disability have within us that image of the invisible God that we need to treasure and that ennobles us and makes us and our society all the richer (regardless of financial cost).