Donald DeMarco, In My Mother’s Womb: The Catholic Church’s Defense of Natural Life, Manassas, VA., Trinity Communications, 1987. In Canada: Mission House Publications, 101 Silver Spring Crescent, Kitchener, Ontario, N2M 4P3, 234pp., $11.95.
This book, which is dedicated to Father Alphonse de Valk, “a priest for life,” collects essays which have appeared in various periodicals, including The Human Life Review. It contains seven other bio-ethical issues, a conclusion on the implications of technologized parenthood, and an appendix reprinting the Vatican “Instruction on Life in its Origin” (February 22, 1987). The book should be of great interest to those concerned with the defense of natural life; they will want to refer to it frequently for explanations and examples.
DeMarco is much concerned with the language used in discussion of abortion. He shows, for example, how the term “pro-choice” plays into the hands of the pro-abortionists. The other side can be depicted as “anti-choice,” which makes them seem against freedom. When it seems difficult or impossible to decide what is moral, the right thing seems to be not to decide: let a woman choose for herself. So the “pro-choice” faction wins a victory by default, and the real issues, such as the nature of the unborn and the psychological damage produced by abortion are pushed aside.
Similarly, many people assume that there is one universal remedy for alienation, suffering, and the like – compassion. But Kiekegaard said, “It is a fault when a fashion selects a particular form of one-sidedness and magnifies it into a total norm.” As Jacques Maritain wrote, virtues which once kissed come to hate each other. When the time-honoured cardinal virtues, such as justice, temperance, and prudence, are forgotten, the rhetoric of compassion supports a woman’s desire to abort; in fact, compassion encourages her to do whatever she wants. In a very perceptive discussion, DeMarco brings out clearly why compassion and freedom must be illuminated by light and wisdom.
No moral norms
We have been conditioned, he asserts, to take verbal incongruities in stride, genetic engineering, test-tube babies, and technologized parenthood.
In his first book, The Mechanical Bride, Marshall McLuhan tried to jolt his readers to realizing that to the blind processes of mechanization nothing is sacred, not even the quintessential image of loveliness. And so the freedom to live and reproduce according to personal moral norms is being lost.
Leon Kass wrote in 1972 that the new reproductive technologies “provide the corollary to the pill: babies without sex.” One of DeMarco’s main worries involves babies without father or clearly recognizable mother, the concepts of fatherhood and motherhood are being stripped of their meaning. In artificial insemination, the “father” is often unknown to the mother. An Atlanta gynecologist deliberately inseminates a woman with sperm from different donors, so that no one will know who the father of the baby is: “she is just receiving biological material.” In a New York State judgment it was said that when the donor is anonymous and the wife does not have sexual intercourse or commit adultery with him, the baby is not “begotten” by the man in question. If anyone does the “begetting,” it is the doctor – who is often a woman, so that the child has no natural father and may have been “begotten” by a woman.
DeMarco discusses many other strange happenings. A single woman sued Wayne State artificial insemination clinic for restricting its services to married women; she said her right to privacy was violated. At a meeting of Catholic science teachers, one generous nun proposed the starting of a new order, consisting of surrogate Sisters who would bear children for infertile women.
By showing where “High Tech Babymaking” leads, DeMarco brings out in contrast the fundamental reasonableness of the Church’s defense of natural life. As he says, “motherhood and fatherhood should flow from their source in personhood as nature flows from the hand of the Creator.” This is very well put, as is a great deal else in this interesting and important book.