From thearchives - Published from 1982-96, Fidelity magazine was the predecessor of Culture Wars.
by James G. Bruen, Jr.
A Book Review from the January 1985 issue of Fidelity magazine
Death in the Nursery by James Manney and John C. Blattner, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Books, 1984, ISBN 0-89283-192-8, 210 pp., $4.95.
Abortion may be the silent holocaust, but it is not invisible. Newspapers advertise its availability; feminists tout its necessity; politicians genuflect before this “reproductive right,” and prolifers express outrage over its legality. Abortion has divided Americans openly and often bitterly since the liberalization of state laws in the sixties, but especially since January 22, 1973. Abortion has been a major issue in the 1980 and 1984 presidential campaigns, and the candidates have been required to take sides and to defend their positions publicly.
Infanticide, however, is almost invisible. Doctors don’t advertise this service in the popular press. Except in the unusual case, only the parents and some medical personnel know, and sometimes, I suspect, even the parents are unaware that their child has been singled out to die.
The death of a Down’s syndrome child, Baby Doe, in Bloomington, Indiana in April 1982, and the ensuing efforts of the Reagan administration to establish a hospital hotline for the reporting and investigation of nontreatment of handicapped infants, however, thrust the issue of infanticide upon the public. Since then media attention has nevertheless waned, and the veil of secrecy has descended again: even the records in the Baby Doe lawsuit were sealed by the court to prevent public scrutiny.
The veil, however, once lifted, could not be drawn as tightly. Baby Jane Doe, a spina bifida baby who was denied corrective surgery, and the pieces about her by Nat Hentoff in The Village Voice also drew public attention to the failure to treat handicapped newborn. And, although Baby Jane Doe is still alive, she has already left a valuable legacy: on the floor of the House of Representatives, Ms. Geraldine Ferraro supported the parents’ decision to withhold treatment, and thus the issue of infanticide, along with the issue of fetal experimentation, haunted Ms. Ferraro throughout her vice-presidential campaign.
Regular readers of the Human Life Review and other prolife publications will be familiar with much of the content of Death in the Nursery but will still benefit from the presentation in this book. Those with only a cursory familiarity with infanticide in the United States will benefit greatly from the book’s retelling of the stories of children such as Baby Doe and Baby Jane Doe, from its discussion of the medical, religious, and legal ethics and practices that allow and encourage infanticide, from its description of the moral similarities between the acceptance of abortion and the acceptance of infanticide, and from the questions it asks about attitudes toward the handicapped. And, while the authors applaud government efforts to obtain information about nontreatment of the newborn, and while they certainly do not advocate inaction, they also realize that doctors’ (and society’s) attitudes on the sanctity of human life are the key. The authors hint that the converging interests of prolifers and disability-rights activists will perhaps strengthen the demand that all human life be treated as sacred.
Because infanticide is often invisible, the authors believe that the government’s “most effective contribution to the battle to stop infanticide [may be] keeping the issue under the bright glare of public attention.” Death in the Nursery will also help keep the issue in the spotlight, and if it aids even a few people to see more clearly what is happening, it will have served a valuable purpose, for we must recognize that, like Christ, the handicapped newborn is put to death because of our sins, not because of his own imperfections.
As the authors note, however, in referring to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D.’s book Whatever Happened to the Human Race, even when a book is “widely read by Christians and prolife activists,” it still isn’t reaching “the sort of audience to make the media elite sit up and take note.” Indeed, some people will take note only on judgment day, but that is not an excuse to avoid trying to get their attention now; Servant Publications, therefore, has not flinched. Death in the Nursery is a forthright and readable account of infanticide in the United States.
James G. Bruen, Jr. is an attorney.
Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control by E. Michael Jones. Libido Dominandi – the term is from St. Augustine’s City of God – is the definitive history of the sexual revolution, from 1773 to the present. This book examines the development of technologies like psychotherapy, behaviorism, advertising, sensitivity training, pornography, and, when push came to shove, plain old blackmail – that allowed the Enlightenment and its heirs to turn Augustine’s insight on its head and create masters out of men’s vices. Libido Dominandi explains how the rhetoric of sexual freedom was used to engineer a system of covert political and social control. Paperback, $30.00 + S&H. [When ordering for international shipment, the price will appear higher to offset increased shipping and handling charges.] Read More Read Reviews
Culture Wars •