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How Not To Resolve A Discrepancy

August 12, 2018 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

Procrustes, according to the Greek legend, was a robber who carried with him an iron bed on which he compelled his victims to lie. If the victim was shorter than the bed, he stretched him until he fit the bed. If the victim was longer than the bed, he cut of a portion of his legs to make the body conform to the length of the bed. In either case, the victim died. The term “Procrustean Bed” has come to mean forcing something to fit, sometimes ruthlessly, into an unnatural scheme.
Ultimately, Procrustes met his Nemesis in the form of Theseus who slayed robbers and monsters he encountered in his travels from Trozen to Athens.
Like many Greek myths, this one exposes a human folly in a stark and graphic way. And it is a truism that culture is always in need of having its follies exposed. The absurdity of Procrustes is intended to match the perversity of certain moral decisions. The myth is also a cautionary tale reminding people that gross absurdities can bring about great calamities. At the same time, it should be said that such absurdities cannot be sustained indefinitely.
In Paris on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was viewed at the time as a milestone achievement in the history of human rights, setting a standard for all nations to follow. Its Preamble begins by recognizing that “the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” The document proceeds to affirm that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political, or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status” (article 2). It goes on to state that “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person” (article 3).
This Declaration, extended to “all members of the human family,” illustrates relating human beings to a standard of rights. There is nothing procrustean here. Human beings and human rights belong to each other.
Nonetheless, over the last several decades, a new standard has been adopted in which the unborn human being must conform to arbitrary standards of convenience and being wanted. The right to be has been offset by someone else’s right to choose. If the unborn child does not fit the standards of convenience or arbitrary choice, it is the child that is made to be the victim. If the shoe does not fit the foot, then the foot must undergo surgical alteration. That which should be the unalterable standard becomes subordinate to serve the very forces that the UN Declaration of 1948 denounced.
How long will such an inversion of things continue? Is there another Theseus on the horizon, but one who can displace Procrustes without resorting to violence? Over the years, since 1948, the unborn human being has not undergone any change of nature. It remains a human being and a true, documentable member of the human family. What has changed belongs to the realm of attitudes. For proponents of abortion, they now see a millstone where many people once interpreted a milestone.
What is needed is a new Declaration that makes the inalienable character of the unborn human being more explicit and categorically undeniable. The term “all” should include all. The human family must include all its members. Have the various countries in the world, including the United States, Canada, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and so on, been moving backwards over the last 50 years? There can be no progress where human rights are depreciated.
The unborn has been victimized because he or she does not fit into someone’s plans, arrives at an untimely moment, or is simply unwanted. The capricious standards of human vicissitudes have triumphed over the enduring reality of the dignity of the unborn child. The powerful are given dominance over the weak.
As soon as the rights of some are denied, the rights of others are soon compromised. Abortion removes the rights of the father, siblings, grandparents, and even the right on the part of pro-life advocates to protest abortion. And there can be little doubt that euthanasia, the increased rate of suicide, and random shootings are attributable, to some extent, to the facile and culturally approved way in which death is imposed on the unborn.
The human family is a network that remains intact only when all its members are properly respected and protected. The UN Declaration, though lofty in spirit, has been decimated in practice. Its ideals have crumbled under the weight of convenience. Procrustes has replaced the secretary-general of the United Nations.
It is painfully ironic that as medicine advances, the cry for abortion is more insistent. As we know more and more about human mortality, the delusion continues to spread that abortion will give women “control of their body.” As we learn more and more about the harmful effects of abortion, both physically and psychologically, professionals betray their professions by continuing to deny them.
Being unwanted describes an attitude that has haunted the human race since the time Cain slew his brother, Abel. Christians, Italians, Czechs, Poles, the Irish and people of the Jewish faith have all, at various times in history, been unwanted. The UN Declaration was intended to eradicate this pernicious practice. And yet, being unwanted, as far as the unborn is concerned, is not only tolerated, but actively promoted and has served as a justification for prematurely terminating their lives.
Justice for all remains a beautiful ideal. At the present hour, we are far from that lofty summit. In the meantime, we can strive to understand what is happening and not be deceived. We can distance ourselves from Procrustes as we do what we can to further the cause of justice one step at a time.
(Dr. Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow with Human Life International and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College.)

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