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ANZAC, Easter, and Baby J – revisited

Baby J shall not grow old, as we that are left, grow old; age shall not weary her, nor the years condemn. She died at 22 weeks of age after crying for an hour for her mother in a Darwin hospital. Nobody attempted to save her, because she was meant to be dead from abortion.

The last time I recall Easter and ANZAC day being this close was back at the turn of the milenninum, and that was when the heart-rending story of Baby J was in the news, the entirely healthy but ‘unwanted’ child of a defense department woman. The inner death of adults who would treat a baby so stands for the inner death of our culture – and a decade on, I don’t see signs of hope.

Anyhow, on the basis that it is better to light one candle than curse the dark, here is a re-remembering of Baby J from Easter / ANZAC 2000:

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Baby J shall not grow old, as we that are left, grow old; age shall not weary her, nor the years condemn. She died at 22 weeks of age after crying for an hour for her mother in a Darwin hospital. Nobody attempted to save her, because she was meant to be dead from abortion.

The doctor had ordered her death for no reason of tragic medical necessity, but because, as he told the Northern Territory Coroner, her mother “had a career in the defence forces and said she could not cope with a child” (The Australian, November 3, 1999).

This is the defence force we honour, those men and women who gave their lives for Australia and its children – children like Baby J, who had her life taken for a mother’s defence force career.

Our collective psychopathy with abortion may block normal shame over the abandonment of Baby J; she will not linger in our remembrance. Nor will we dwell on the fact, as we view the 102,000 defence force names on the Canberra War Memorial and pause at the tomb of the unnamed soldier, that every year Australian adults inflict death on that number of unnamed babies. Nor will we remember half-named, half-dead ones like Baby J, whom we “could not cope with”.

No, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will forget her, and them.

Millennial questions arise: is this pitiless rejection of Baby J as bad as it gets, or does the culture of death have more comprehensive abandonment planned for the unwanted of this new century? Trends suggest that a future Baby J will not be rejected in this careless manner; instead, once dead, she will be put to better use.

The international trade in body parts of aborted babies and embryos is estimated by US market consultants to reach $1 billion by 2002.

Melbourne IVF vivisectors, frustrated by Victorian regulations, import stem cells from embryonic humans destroyed in Singapore; other researchers can order specific foetal organs, excised and packaged within minutes of death, from “harvesting companies” in the US, which charge around $150 for the retrieval of a tiny liver or $500 for a trunk (with or without limbs); a spinal cord goes for $325.

Philosopher Peter Singer, who argues that newborns like Baby J have no intrinsic right to life, once co-authored a book with Queensland’s present Minister for Education, Deane Wells. In The Reproduction Revolution (1984), they pondered the prospect of creating unwanted embryos, severing their brain-stem, and allowing them to grow as brain-dead babies available for organ harvesting.

Singer and Wells found no intrinsic wrong in so mutilating another existence but feared that, at a societal level, commercial nurseries full of brain-dead babies “could do violence to basic attitudes of care and protection for infants”. Therefore, they “emphatically urge[d] caution” (Singer and Wells, The Reproduction Revolution, Oxford 1984, pp 148-9). Perhaps the present market can now bear their cautious scenario.

Recently, the Australian Academy of Science urged the market to accept “therapeutic cloning”, that is, creating embryonic human individuals and then killing them to extract vital parts for “therapeutic” uses, such as boosting one’s failing pancreas or brain. It is a more refined act than that of foetus-farming; champagne cannibalism by contrast. If society cannot yet stomach the full roast served up by the abortion harvesters in America, let its first taste of human flesh be mere caviar from the Academy.

Their proposal must be spelled out – that we, the adult members of the race, should kill and consume useful flesh from the younger members. Kill and consume. Whether the gross cannibalism of rows of brain-severed babies for their medical sweetmeats, or disguised as discreet “therapeutic” cannibalism of nameless embryos, it remains an image of depravity, of gorging at technology’s trough, trampling over the fundamental boundary between one human existence and another.

It was at another low point in the moral history of the West that, 2000 years ago, the other celebrated Baby J was born; arguably his influence led to the overturning of brutal cultural practices such as “exposing” unwanted infants in ancient Rome, or tribal cannibalism in more recent times.

In the centuries since Bethlehem, dehumanising attitudes towards subgroups of the human family – babies, slaves, women and Aborigines – have found a partial corrective in this second Baby J’s vision of human solidarity and obligation under the love of God.

Those who share that vision will be prominent in resisting this latest predation of the powerful upon the weak.

They will suggest that at the going down of a loveless sun on one Baby J and in the morning of the other’s third millennium, we remember them both.

They will ask that we contrast the ancient obligation, under love, owed to “the littlest of these my brethren” with our current social psychosis of medical abandonment and state-sanctioned butchery.

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