In Belgium in 2010, a woman in her 30s, depressed and suffering from emotional illness, ended her life.
Her story, while tragic, is not unusual; suicide claims the lives of 1 million people each year.
What is different in the case of Tine Nys is that her suicide was made possible with the help of a supportive medical community and the tacit approval of her nation’s government.
In Belgium and the Netherlands, euthanasia is a legal and all-too-common occurrence for individuals with mental illness and cognitive disorders.
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These governments, once expected to protect the most vulnerable citizens, are now willing participants in ending their lives when pain or sickness renders them lacking in value.
Citizens of the U.S. and their governments appear to be going the way of Europe in embracing euthanasia.
None of this is surprising.
The state has long endorsed a practice that ends human life when some people deem it inconvenient.
Abortion has been not only legal in the U.S. but a prevalent procedure for decades.
We long ago exceeded Europe’s much more restrictive approach to abortion.
Indeed, some argue that modern society’s approach to morality is on a continuum. If so, once one class of vulnerable human life is deemed expendable, the value of other vulnerable lives becomes open for debate.
Which is why a new Texas rule that would force us to reassess the value of life at all stages and in all conditions should be praised and not condemned.
Under the new rule, Texas would require that fetal remains from miscarriages or abortions be buried or cremated, regardless of how long the fetus has been gestating.
The rule would apply only to miscarriages and abortions that occur in medical facilities, not those that occur at home. The facilities, not the would-be mothers, would be responsible for the cremation or burial and the requisite costs.
Currently, children who die in utero are disposed of in sanitary landfills, like other forms of biological medical waste.
The rule would ensure that their bodies be treated with the same respect and human decency as any human life.
But for some individuals, the very acknowledgment that an unborn child represents a life is too controversial.
The pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights wants to stop the rule from taking effect.
The group has persuaded a federal court to delay the rule’s implementation until a formal hearing is held in January, saying in its lawsuit that the rule will “restrict a woman’s right to access safe and legal abortion by increasing both the cost of reproductive health care services and the shame and stigma surrounding abortion and pregnancy loss.”
But such claims are baseless, given that the rule would have no demonstrable impact on a woman’s legal right to enter an abortion clinic and end the life that resides within her.
It is hard to imagine burial and cremation costs being so dramatically high as to drive up the price of what is already a highly lucrative procedure.
And organizations like the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops have offered burial services in Catholic funeral homes and cemeteries free of charge.
In a culture where “shout your abortion” was a popular hashtag and nearly half of voters selected a candidate who supported absolutely no restrictions on abortion whatsoever, it’s difficult to accept the notion that requiring the dignity of a proper burial stigmatizes women who choose to pre-emptively end the lives of their unborn children.
Opponents argue there is no medical reason for the rule, and on that point, they may be correct.
They also call the rule “politically motivated.”
Without a doubt, it is. Politics are inescapable when it comes tolife, death and morality.
But in an age when it is becoming increasingly easy to nullify life, the new rule would serve a profound purpose: It forces us to reconsider the value of the most vulnerable by reminding us that the unborn, the underdeveloped and unwanted are still human.
And as humans, they deserve from us a common decency and respect, even if their death is sanctioned by the state.
Perhaps this new rule would make us pause to reconsider the debate over the value of life before we fully embrace devaluing it further with physician-assisted suicide.