Category Archives: Pro-life

Open Letter to All Tasmanian MLCs

The following letter was sent this morning to all Members of the Legislative Council in Tasmania.  This is related to the End-of-Life (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill in front of the Council.

********************

Dear MLCs,

I’m writing to you today concerning the End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) bill.  Let us peel away the political language and call it what it is:  state-sanctioned suicide.

I have experienced the pain of suicide in my life.  After suffering both physically and mentally, my mother took her own life in 2002.  This was the most painful thing I’ve ever endured.  She determined her own way to die, but it was a choice which caused enormous heartache to our entire family.

Because we recognize the pain it causes, our society invests so much time and energy in suicide prevention.  Just yesterday, the “R U OK?” campaign was in action.  When a celebrity like Robin Williams takes his own life, after suffering horribly with mental illness, the world laments his choice.  We’re told that “suicide is never the answer.”  When the TV news features a story about suicide or depression, they always include a mention of the Lifeline number.  It seems like society wants to prevent suicide, while this bill aims to allow it.  This is double-mindedness.

During the debate over same-sex marriage, proponents of SSM argued that a vote or plebiscite on it would lead to LGBTQ youth committing suicide.  This is significant for two reasons.  One is that the idea was that removing the cause of their suffering (i.e. a vote on SSM) would save their lives – which were worth saving.  The other is that this political activity was considered to be triggering to vulnerable individuals.  If this was true, does not consistency then demand that we focus on 1) alleviating suffering, and 2) avoiding triggering vulnerable individuals through political activity related to suicide?

Getting into the legislation itself, one of my chief concerns is the slippery slope.  It is a documented fact worldwide that legislation like this is only ever the beginning.  My native Canada adopted physician-assisted dying in 2016.  This year the Canadian parliament is debating (via Bill C-7) the expansion of provisions for physician-assisted dying.  In fact, Tasmania’s proposed legislation even has the slippery slope built into it.  Section 142 proposes a review in two years about expanding to include minors under 18 years old.  Where will it end?  In the Netherlands and Belgium, legislation has progressed past the point of doctors facilitating suicide for mental suffering.

In 2009, Dr. Philip Nitschke appeared before a Tasmania parliamentary inquiry.  Under oath, he admitted to breaking the short-lived Northern Territory legislation, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.  Dr. Nitschke euthanized Bob Dent.  Why?  Because he was socially isolated.  Dr. Nitschke was never charged.  NT police looked the other way.  If this legislation is enacted, can we have confidence that Tasmania Police would not do the same if this legislation is violated?

All these kinds of laws are fraught with problems.  I urge you to reject this bill and recognize the worth and value of all human life.  Human beings are not animals which can be euthanized when they’re suffering.  We have a conscience.  We have the capacity to love and be loved.  If there is suffering, we must seek to alleviate it, not to extinguish the life of the one suffering.

Rather than state-sanctioned suicide, I ask you to propose legislation which will expand palliative care in Tasmania.  We need a network of hospices for professional, compassionate end-of-life care.  Rather than state-sanctioned suicide, I ask you to invest more funds in suicide prevention programs.   We have to do more to prevent vulnerable people from hurting themselves and their loved ones.  Truly, suicide is never the answer.

Thank you for your time and attention.  I wish you God’s blessing as you serve our state.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Wes Bredenhof

Pastor, Launceston Free Reformed Church


Fatal Flaws

Last year I was invited to an evening with a filmmaker named Kevin Dunn.  He’d made a documentary about euthanasia and assisted suicide.  During the course of the evening, I discovered not only that he’s a fellow Canadian, but he’s even from Hamilton, Ontario — the place I last served as a pastor.  And here he was in far-off Tasmania, presenting his new film.  He spoke and gave some background to the film and also showed us a few clips.  At the time, in 2019, there had already been four attempts to introduce “assisted dying” laws into Tasmania — and all had failed.  However, we were warned that proponents are nothing if not persistent.  Next week, the Legislative Council of Tasmania (the Upper House) will be debating and voting on another bill, this one entitled End-of-Life (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill.

One of the pro-life groups I follow on Facebook is Lifechoice Tasmania.  They posted a link last week to the Fatal Flaws film, encouraging folks to watch it.  I posted a comment mentioning that I’d been to the evening with Kevin Dunn in Launceston and was thinking of maybe screening the film for our church.  One thing led to another and, together with Lifechoice Tasmania and ACL we showed the film last night for a max capacity audience.

It’s a powerful documentary.  Kevin Dunn is a story-teller.  Here he uses the power of story to share what’s happened in places like Newfoundland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the USA (yes, I know Newfoundland is not a country).  He speaks with real people, some of whom were pressured into dying (but didn’t), some who wanted to die (and did), and the families of some who died who had no choice.  Here’s a clip:

Dunn also interviews pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide advocates and presents their side of the story.  Interestingly, even for some of them, places like the Netherlands have gone too far in allowing people to take their own lives for mental suffering or just being tired of life.

If there’s one constant thread running through Fatal Flaws, it’s that there’s always a trend downwards.  Sometimes slippery slope arguments hold little value, but in this instance there is demonstrable proof that once the first step is taken, it all goes down hill from there.  Pro-death advocates are never satisfied — they always want the boundaries to be expanded.  Here in Australia, Lyle Shelton tells the story of Dr. Philip Nitschke in his new book I Kid You Not.  The Northern Territory briefly had euthanasia legislation from 1996-1997.  At a parliamentary inquiry in Tasmania, Nitschke admitted under oath to breaking the law to kill “a socially isolated patient.”  And he was never charged.

I recommend Fatal Flaws to all readers, not just those in Tasmania.  Even if you’re in a country or region that’s already allowing this evil, you can be sure there is or there will be pressure to expand it.  In Canada, for example, there’s Bill C-7 which will permit euthanasia for people with dementia, if that person had previously been approved (more info here).  And on this love affair with death goes…

A final note:  Fatal Flaws is not a Christian documentary.  It doesn’t speak about what the Bible teaches or a Christian worldview perspective on assisted suicide/euthanasia.  Nevertheless, it provides all the needed context to inform a Christian perspective on these matters.

Fatal Flaws can be rented or purchased online here.

 


Book Review: ‘I Kid You Not’

‘I Kid You Not’: Notes from 20 Years in the Trenches of the Culture Wars, Lyle Shelton.  Redland Bay, Queensland: Connor Court Publishing, 2020.  Softcover, 273 pages.

I’m told that when you join an army combat unit, you’ll usually get a lesson on that unit’s battle history.  I came to Australia nearly five years ago with little knowledge of the battles that have been waged here for what’s good and true.  Since then, I’ve witnessed the fight for the preservation of marriage and a few other skirmishes.  However, reading Lyle Shelton’s new book opened my eyes to many of the battles that took place before we arrived in 2015.  It’s like reading the battle history of biblically-minded and politically-involved Christians in Australia for the last two decades.

For those who don’t know him, Lyle Shelton may be the most hated man in Australia.  I follow him on Twitter and the abuse his trolls heap on him is ghastly.  While he first started drawing fire as a city councillor in Toowoomba, Queensland, it was really as the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) that he became the target of intense animosity.  This book documents two decades of his Christian political activism, battles fought — both those won (a few) and lost (more).

From his time in city government in Toowoomba, we read of the fight against brothels in Queensland in chapter 2.  Chapter 3 describes the battle against pornography in Australia — a fight simply to introduce a mandatory filtering policy.  There are chapters on abortion and euthanasia.  The battle against same-sex “marriage” takes up three chapters.  For me, one of the most interesting sections was the chapter on aboriginal relations.  I took a keen interest in that area when I was serving as a missionary to a First Nations community in Canada, so naturally I wanted to hear Lyle’s take on the Australian situation.  I was impressed with how Lyle applies Christian principles of forgiveness, atonement, and reconciliation.  His balanced approach deserves a hearing.

As mentioned, there’s history in this book of which I was unaware, having come “late to the party.”  For example chapter 6 describes Guy Barnett’s move to defund second trimester and late-term abortion.  Today, Guy is a well-known figure in Tasmanian state politics.  But in 2008, he was serving in the Australian senate.  He made an effort to roll back some of the gruesome practices of Australian abortionists.  The ACL supported his effort and, as part of that, invited Gianna Jensen, a survivor of a late-term abortion to come to Australia to assist the campaign.  I’ll let Lyle pick up the story:

She is probably the only person alive today whose birth certificate was signed by her abortionist.  He arrived back on the scene when it was too late.

Gianna indefatigably limped alongside me through kilometers of corridors in Parliament House — her bright and sunny disposition disarming the pollies before she unleashed her killer opening line (pun intended).  [the opening line:  “If abortion is about women’s rights, where were mine?”]

I’ll never forget the afternoon we ran into the then Greens leader Bob Brown in the Senate corridors.  I hadn’t bothered seeking an appointment with him.  The Greens care about saving tiny critters but, perversely, baby humans at risk of violence in the womb are not on their endangered list.

“This is Gianna Jensen from America, Senator,” I awkwardly said as we bumped into Brown.  At that moment, I had no agenda apart from being polite.  Brown, who is one of the most genuinely charming men you will ever meet immediately engaged Gianna in some good-natured banter about her need to see the sights of his home state, Tasmania.

My mind began racing as the Senator continued with small talk.  I felt I had to say something.

“Gianna is a survivor of abortion,” I blurted.  At that Senator Brown excused himself, turned on his heel, and walked off down the corridor.  Some truths are more inconvenient than others.  I’ll never forget it.  It was one of the most profound interactions I had at Parliament in my 10 years as a lobbyist.  I’ll always be grateful to Gianna for coming to our nation and telling her inconvenient story, even though her plea on behalf of unborn babies was politely ignored by our politicians.  (page 108)

An unforgettable afternoon, indeed — one prays it was unforgettable for Bob Brown too.

‘I Kid You Not’ is a must-read for newcomers to Australian politics — it’s a great primer on how we got where we are.  I’d also recommend it to Christian young people and others who are beginning to understand our need to be involved in the struggle for truth and goodness in the public square.  Lyle Shelton not only provides the battle history, he also has some insights into battlefield tactics — those used against the truth, but also those that should be used for the truth.  I would say that, unlike Lyle, and more like the current ACL director Martyn Iles, I believe we need to bring Scripture to bear on the situation.  That point notwithstanding, this book makes a valuable contribution to reflecting on how to be engaged politically as Christians. If we love our nation, if our desire is to see the nation flourish, then this is a battle to which all Christians are called.  Sign up.


Pastoral Q & A: The Morning After Pill

Can a Christian woman use the “Morning After Pill” as emergency contraception?

Let’s first be clear what we’re talking about.  The “Morning After Pill” is often marketed under the name “Plan B,” though there are other drugs and brands.  This is not RU-486 (mifepristone), a drug that causes abortion typically later in pregnancy.  The MAP is regarded as a form of emergency contraception — it’s for when other ways of preventing a pregnancy have either failed or been neglected.  The question is whether this is something Christian women can take advantage of.  To answer that, let’s imagine two scenarios.

Scenario 1

A young unmarried woman has been having sex with her boyfriend.  On one occasion, they forget to use their normal method of contraception.  She’s concerned that she may get pregnant, so she goes to the pharmacy for “Plan B.”  She takes the tablets and does not become pregnant.

Scenario 2

A woman in her 30s (with four children already) believes it would be unwise for her to have any more children.  She and her husband normally use a barrier method of contraception.  On one occasion, they forget and she’s concerned that she may get pregnant.  So “Plan B” is the answer.  As in the first scenario, no pregnancy results.

In both situations, the MAP/Plan B seems to prevent an undesirable pregnancy.  In both situations, the woman claims to be a Christian.  In both situations, the woman first goes to the Health Direct website of the Australian government (or equivalent) and is relieved to read that the MAP does not cause an abortion.  Instead, it simply stops or delays ovulation and it may also prevent sperm from reaching the egg.  But “if the sperm has already fertilised the egg, it is too late and the pill won’t work.”  So, going with the official information, neither scenario has caused an abortion.  No life has been taken.  Therefore, there is apparently no ethical issue with the Sixth Commandment (“You shall not kill”).

We need to think about this more carefully.

The first thing we need to reflect on is the actual facts regarding the MAP/Plan B.  The Health Direct website (and others like it) does not tell the full story.  The truth of the matter is that there are studies which suggest that the MAP can have an abortive effect (even the Wikipedia article acknowledges this — with sources).  If an egg has been fertilized, the MAP can prevent that human life from continuing to live in the womb.  No one can categorically say with 100% certainty that the MAP never causes early abortions.

That should change the way we look at this.  In pro-life circles, we sometimes use the illustration of a building about to be demolished.  Before a demolition company levels a building, they have to make absolutely certain there are no people in the building.  If there’s a shred of doubt about whether somebody’s still inside, you don’t level the building.  Similarly, if there’s any doubt about whether the MAP can cause an abortion, we would not want to take that risk.  We would never want to have blood on our hands, even by accident.

So, let’s go back to those two scenarios.

The first one is the most ethically problematic.  If the young woman in the first scenario claims to be a Christian, she is almost certainly self-deceived about her spiritual status.  You cannot be a true Christian and be actively engaged in any premarital sexual relations (Hebrews 13:4, etc.).  That would be living unrepentantly in sin — “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).  And if a woman in a scenario like that takes the MAP, she could be adding sin against the Sixth Commandment to her sin against the Seventh Commandment.  If she really wants to be a Christian, she must turn away from her life of sin, seek God’s forgiveness in Christ, and follow the Lord.  That will include accepting the consequences for her sexual sin, including, if it so happens, any pregnancy which might result from it.

The second scenario is somewhat more challenging.  I believe married Christian couples can have lawful reasons for using certain methods of contraception.  For example, a woman may struggle with severe postpartum depression which may leave her incapacitated for months after a birth.  She may feel suicidal or even homicidal.  In such cases, couples are wise to limit the size of their family using lawful means God has made available.  However, what if those means fail?  One thing we can say with certainty:  abortion of any sort or the possibility of an abortion is out of the question for Christian couples.  The MAP is not the answer in this scenario.  The couple has to prayerfully accept what God may bring.  If he brings them the conception of a child and they cannot see themselves clear to caring for another child, then adoption (to another Christian family) may be the best option.  But here again, using the MAP and possibly sinning against the Sixth Commandment must be ruled out.

Let me conclude with what I would say to someone who has taken the MAP.  I’ll be direct:  you may have caused an abortion.  Perhaps you did it ignorantly, working only with the information provided on official government websites and so on.  Perhaps what led you to take it was what the Bible describes as “sin with the uplifted hand,” deliberate and intentional living in sin (i.e. premarital sex).  But, whatever, the case may, if you did cause an abortion, this is not an unforgivable sin.  God’s grace in Jesus Christ is available for all who repent and believe.  God’s grace is big enough to cover this too.  However, let us respond to his grace with a hatred for all sin and a love for all life, even at its earliest stages.


Preborn Human Rights

Canada is one of a handful of countries that has absolutely no laws governing abortion.  The other two countries besides Canada:  North Korea and China.  We have no business lecturing the Chinese about human rights violations when we ourselves are among the worst offenders.  In our national anthem we sing of a country “glorious and free,” but the reality is something different for thousands of unborn human beings each year in Canada.  A new campaign has just been launched to bring attention to this national travesty.  My prayer is that this initiative will be richly blessed by God.  It’s time to speak up about the injustice and violence that’s perpetrated in our land behind closed doors each day.  May God make our land glorious and free for all, including for those who have not yet been born.