The Beethoven story has been told in pro-life circles for a long time. I think I first heard it as a medical school professor putting this choice to his students.
‘A man has syphilis and his wife has tuberculosis.
They have had four children: one has died, the other three have what is considered to be a terminal illness.
The mother is pregnant. What do you recommend?’
And when the students recommend abortion, the professor tells them, ‘You’ve just killed Beethoven.’
Trump says that he is pro-life now, despite having supported partial-birth abortion in the past. The problem is not whether he can check a box. Pro-life voters expect leaders to have a coherent vision of human dignity …
Trump’s supposed pro-life conversion is rooted in Nietzschean, social-Darwinist terms. He knew a child who was to be aborted who grew up to be a “superstar.” Beyond that, Trump’s vitriolic — and often racist and sexist — language about immigrants, women, the disabled, and others ought to concern anyone who believes that all persons, not just the “winners” of the moment, are created in God’s image.
Nordlinger mentions the Beethoven story, and makes this point.
The truth is, most of us are not “superstars,” “stars,” or “winners.” A lot of people are sort of sad sacks. I appreciated what the anti-abortion arguers said about Beethoven et al.
But much more appealing and persuasive is the idea that life is life, period. Anything else lands you in Margaret Sanger Land, if not Dr. Mengele’s clinic.
And then he sketches vignettes of people he encountered in his travels—stories that depict profound love for those who are not “winners.”
In “Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation,” Ronald Reagan wrote:
…The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life?…
What more dramatic confirmation could we have of the real issue than the Baby Doe case in Bloomington, Indiana? The death of that tiny infant tore at the hearts of all Americans because the child was undeniably a live human being–one lying helpless before the eyes of the doctors and the eyes of the nation. The real issue for the courts was not whether Baby Doe was a human being. The real issue was whether to protect the life of a human being who had Down’s Syndrome, who would probably be mentally handicapped, but who needed a routine surgical procedure to unblock his esophagus and allow him to eat. A doctor testified to the presiding judge that, even with his physical problem corrected, Baby Doe would have a “non-existent” possibility for “a minimally adequate quality of life”–in other words, that retardation was the equivalent of a crime deserving the death penalty. The judge let Baby Doe starve and die, and the Indiana Supreme Court sanctioned his decision.
Federal law does not allow federally-assisted hospitals to decide that Down’s Syndrome infants are not worth treating, much less to decide to starve them to death. Accordingly, I have directed the Departments of Justice and HHS to apply civil rights regulations to protect handicapped newborns. All hospitals receiving federal funds must post notices which will clearly state that failure to feed handicapped babies is prohibited by federal law. The basic issue is whether to value and protect the lives of the handicapped, whether to recognize the sanctity of human life. This is the same basic issue that underlies the question of abortion...
The value of the life of each individual is not determined by whether he is a “loser,” “failure,” or “total superstar.”
The life of each individual is precious because God is the author of life, and each human being is made in His image.
An intubated female premature infant born prematurely 26 weeks 6 days gestation, 990 grams. Photo taken at approximately 24 hours after birth. ceejayoz: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.