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Tag Archive: Jurisprudence

Forced Abortions & Sterilizations in Massachusetts?

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 (11:28 pm), by John W Gillis


Occasionally, I read or hear about something so stunning that I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience, watching from a detached vantage point as the world unfurls strangely in front of me. Yesterday afternoon, I had one of those experiences.

I was at work, pausing to check the headlines, weather and traffic, when I saw the surreal headline: “Massachusetts Appeals Court rules that judge was wrong to order mentally ill woman to have an abortion and to then be sterilized”.

Forced abortions and sterilizations in Massachusetts? Granted, the court-ordered violation of this woman – and murder of her baby – were stopped, but it still seems hard to fit these facts into the perception I have of the world I inhabit. This isn’t China, or some other totalitarian state; despite the admittedly growing monstrosity of state hegemony over too many areas of life, America’s still seems like a system worth saving through correction, not overthrowing. Judges don’t really order things like that, right?

I’m not wholly ignorant of the history of these kinds of criminal depravities in American jurisprudence; I know these kinds of judgments were not unheard of during the early heyday of Progressivism, 100 years ago or so, before the “historical marches” of fascism and communism progressed Europe into post-Christian, scientifically-ordered hell-holes, giving the eugenics and related movements a rather tarnished public image. I’m also very aware of the broad based public support for abortion, in both varnished and even unvarnished guises; for eugenics in just about every conceivable form excepting the currently unfashionable sex-selection killing of fetal girls practiced by Hindus and others; and even for sterilization of the “unfit” as part of the eugenic spirit, at least insofar as it is reflected in attitudes that some people, for the common good, just shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce. even if the means of accomplishing that are not part of the reflection. Still, I wouldn’t have thought any judge in 21st century America would dare to be so craven, regardless of her own level of contempt for the human being.

A day later, there are still a few lingering things haunting my mind about this fiasco, after getting past the shocking moral depravity of the judge in the case – Norfolk (MA) Probate and Family Court Judge Christina Harms, who retired from the bench last Wednesday, less than a week after handing down this ruling, which among other indecencies, stipulated that the mother ‘could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed … by ruse” into a hospital where she would be sedated and an abortion would then be performed’, according to the original Boston.com story I read, as well as the few others I’ve found.

The first is the amazing lack of legs this story has (not) grown. I would have expected that a story reported on  pretty major MSM news site about a judge in America ordering this forced abortion and sterilization would have gone close to viral within 24 hours – especially during an election year. This has barely caused a blip. Am I the only one shocked by this, or is this a case of the MSM looking the other way from what could be a political hot-potato for their political sponsors? Is there another explanation? I’m lost on this.

Secondly is the realization that it was apparently only the attempted forced sterilization that brought about the judicial rebuke from Appellate Court Associate Justice Andrew R. Grainger, who noted that the ruling contradicted a 1982 (MA) Supreme Judicial Court ruling on the right to procreate. The fate of the baby appears to have been handed over to yet another lower court judge for dispositioning! The courts might yet order the baby to be killed for having a mentally ill mother! Incredible.

Lastly, I was profoundly struck by what I can only characterize as a thunderous moral tone-deafness and spiritual imbecility on the part of the alleged adults involved in this, including the reporters (with the exception of Ben Johnson writing for LifeSiteNews.com, who picked up on this). It is a tone-deafness to the cruel irony that the mental incapacitation afflicting this women (schizophrenia), which is the cudgel being used to beat her into the torture chamber, appears to have its source in a prior abortion she had committed. Court records are clear that she had a breakdown after the abortion, and has been a basket case ever since, especially around issues concerning babies.

This poor woman is tormented by the evil of her earlier abortion, and this knuckle-dragging judge wanted to trick her into having another abortion! And her own parents are advocating for killing her child! May God have pity on all of them in their deformities. This tortured soul does not need an abortionist, she needs a priest. I pray one finds her soon.

On a Nationalized American Religious Disposition

Posted: Saturday, September 3, 2011 (8:57 pm), by John W Gillis


I don’t take many calls that come in from 800- or similar area codes, but I took one this morning, because I am expecting a call-back from HP regarding a warranty replacement hard drive for Ezra, my Windows 7 desktop computer (which I had prematurely identified last week as suffering from software problems, but which were being caused by a failing hard drive).

The call was from an organization looking to add my name to a petition supposedly being submitted somewhere or another as a token of protest against the legal successes of a militant atheist group committed to outlawing the observation of the National Day of Prayer. This anti-religious campaign, I was assured, represented an affront or assault (I can’t remember which now) on my “Christian rights”. I listened to the entire recorded message from the organization’s general counsel, but hung up before I could be roped into providing a telephonic “signature” to the petition (or be hit up for a contribution, which was undoubtedly the real point of the call).

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to the goal of this group: resisting the pernicious agenda of an angry minority intent on manipulating the law to enforce a practical atheism on American society in a kind of ironically inverted federal establishment of (anti)-religion. It also might not be prudent to blithely assume that such clowns, and their judicial enablers, will never be able to pull off their ultimate goal – they have made significant inroads already, after all. Moreover, every battle lost involves real casualties, even in a winning war. Making it illegal for the president to proclaim a National Day of Prayer would surely strike an historically alienating and politically chilling blow against liberal society’s foundational building block of religious freedom, and even against the idea of tolerance itself, and it would teach a stark lesson to society (and to society’s children): that solidarity can and should be trumped by religiously intolerant ideology. This would be grievous, because sans the bitterclingers of atheistic denunciation, the National Day of Prayer effects nothing but a spirit of national solidarity across a wide and diverse body of people, many of whom profess religious views and affiliations that would have surely made them enemies to each other in most pre-American societies – and even still today, in more than a few places:

Religious Hostilities in the World, 2009 (Pew Research)

Still, I have a hard time getting worked up about defending the National Day of Prayer. Partly because I don’t like it. Contrary to those opponents who claim the practice “supports religion”, I think it undermines religion, usurping religion for secular/political purposes. Despite the finding of the U.S. District Court judge who, in April 2010, found in favor of repressing the National Day of Prayer in part because it “promote[s] a particular religious practice”, it is in reality the utter opposite of a “particular religious practice”; it is the very definition of a generic “religious” practice – at least from a religious perspective. It is “particular” only in the sense that it is national, and focused on the nation over against any understanding of the Divine – that is to say, over against religion! Hardly the kind of thing that worried Madison, Jefferson, or their compatriots.

Having been thoroughly steeped in the Old Testament, I am far from comfortable with the idea that God can and should be reduced to a generic concept, or a least-common-denominator deity, invoked for the sake of serving the interests of the state. That smacks of idolatry to me. Nonetheless, I don’t denounce the practice as idolatrous per se, since I can see how it is quite possible to build toward the realization of theological truth through the embrace of virtue inherent in the social idea of solidarity, and so I can warily accept it in Christian hope while rejecting its reductionism.

But perhaps the thing that bothered me most this morning was the acute absence of that other crucially important social idea: solidarity’s sister, subsidiarity. Here was this guy, from somewhere probably half-way across the continent, calling me – a complete stranger – to ask me to listen to a pre-recorded spiel from some overpaid lawyer who wants to argue a silly case in a federal court somewhere, and finally to place my essentially anonymous name as a quantifiable object on a petition (assuming one actually exists) to be submitted as evidence that there is some sufficient mass of people within the republic who object to the theological rape of the public square. Good grief.

Can a handful of judges and lawyers really be allowed to determine the religious character of a nation of over 300 million people? Do we really need lawyers to tell us how and when to pray at all? Is this what citizenship has been reduced to: reciting your name (in perhaps an indignant tone) into a computerized phone bank’s storage array? And what does it mean to fret about a symbolic national prayer event when local churches close for lack of parishioners; families fracture at a continually alarming rate (when they even bother to form at all anymore); the fundamental communal institution of marriage is recast as a personal lifestyle choice of the self-focused individual – until we no longer even know what marriage means; entire generations continue to be reared in a “pop culture” that stridently and effectively promotes alienation from society; employers routinely lack any fealty toward either the communities that support them, or their employees; and political speech has been largely reduced to a propaganda of binary options embracing either faster or slower centralization of power and decision making into a federal bureaucracy.

We don’t need a national day of prayer; we need to stop expecting Leviathan to fix our problems for us. We need to re-learn the idea of community, as an antidote to unfettered individualism – beginning with marriage. And we need to start building a national fellowship based not on cues taken from distant politicians, but on a broad commitment to the commonweal rooted in the social cultivation of virtue – a true patriotism, which can only take place in a society that is open to honest and vigorous religious (and moral) dialog in the public square. This, it seems to me, is not something to be accomplished through national campaigns, events, and petition drives, but by the simple practice of virtuous citizenship, and by the practice of a truly hopeful religious ecumenism: one that refuses to sacrifice truth for serenity, but insists that a real knowledge of God is possible among honest men and women.

Scientists who didn’t predict quake are indicted

Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011 (7:34 pm), by John W Gillis


When I saw this headline, I thought it was a joke – perhaps something from the Onion. Apparently, the story is a few days old, but I just saw it a few minutes ago:

Seven scientists and other experts were indicted on manslaughter charges yesterday for allegedly failing to sufficiently warn residents before a devastating earthquake that killed more than 300 people in central Italy in 2009.

….

Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella ordered the members of the national government’s Great Risks commission, which evaluates potential for natural disasters, to go on trial in L’Aquila on Sept. 20.

Italian media quoted the judge as saying the defendants “gave inexact, incomplete, and contradictory information’’ about whether smaller tremors felt by L’Aquila residents in the six months before the April 6, 2009, quake should have constituted grounds for a warning.

This is how civilization ends.

The way things are done now makes us importunate, dependent, and increasingly unfit to govern ourselves

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 (11:18 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Thursday, May 26th, 2011.

The always-readable J. E. Dyer, published in the Green Room over at HotAir, on the burgeoning bloat of judicial control over the character and content of America’s social order:

When the law is in proper relationship to the people, the scope of the judiciary is very limited, but actually more meaningful to the enterprise of “good government.”  Today, we have a body of law so huge and burdensome that it has started going 15 rounds with itself on a regular basis, and the judiciary acts as a referee on intricate and inherently political questions of policy.

It is possible to think in different terms, and to conceive of a regimen of law and jurisprudence much more like that envisioned by the Founders.  Americans need to wake up and recognize that accepting the way things are done now makes us importunate, dependent, and increasingly unfit to govern ourselves.

This short article provides a fascinating glimpse into what is threatening to become the perpetual silly season of legal posturing and social engineering by examining a convoluted “environmental” (Cap ‘N Trade) law and related lawsuit in California. Dyer’s concern regarding the foolishness of modern approaches to such problem solving is made all the more poignant by the fact that she’s happy, from a practical perspective, for the imposition of the injunction that provides the jumping-off point for her article, yet she is wise enough to understand, from a principled perspective, at what cost a “victory” obtained in such fashion must come.

Subjectivism’s Necessary Appeal to Juridical Power

Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2010 (3:24 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Saturday, Nov 20, from Georgia Warnke, in Justice and Interpretation (MIT Press, 1994):

MacIntyre insists that the "only rational way in which these disagreements could be resolved would be by means of philosophical enquiry aimed at deciding which out of the conflicting sets of premises, if any, is true."  But within the liberal tradition, not only can individual claims to what the good life is for human beings not be understood or appear as validity claims in the sphere of public discussion; the same restrictions apply to the set of assumptions that would be used to support these claims. They too are reduced to subjective preferences. And, since liberal individualism thus denies that any conception of the good or any set of assumptions can be true or false, where conflicts occur they must be resolved by other means.

[…]

MacIntyre concludes that the characteristic mark of liberalism is that it does not seek a real resolution of conflict in genuine philosophical inquiry. Rather, liberalism simply accepts the verdicts of the legal system, verdicts that have been formed through appeals to whatever position in the philosophical debates seems to support them most easily at the time. "The lawyers, not the philosophers, are the clergy of liberalism," MacIntyre claims.

Discussing Alasdair MacIntyre, in Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (University of Notre Dame Press, 1989)

It’s not hard to predict that a cultural philosophical framework of moral relativism will culminate in a system where might makes right, but MacIntyre’s observation has the virtue of showing us how this proceeds in our case, and it is a case of putting the cart before the horse. A legal system needs to be able to draw on a knowledge of the good in order to produce an order of justice. When the lawyers themselves define the “good,” the place of good is usurped by self-interest, and justice is cashed out for political advantage.