The Corner

Health Care

The Associated Press Takes the Hemlock Approach to Language

(Eddie Thomas/Getty Images)

Don’t you dare suggest that suicide is bad. That’s the new approach at the Associated Press.

“Commit suicide” has been canceled, because sometimes people choose legal suicide.

In response to the AP’s tweet, an editor responded: “In religious circles, ‘commit’ also implies sin, and this is an outdated and painful implication.”

Shouldn’t a key takeaway from this past coronavirus pandemic year be: We don’t need more unnecessary death?

Instead, I fear New York could be on the verge of permitting assisted suicide as people want an option other than nursing homes for their evening years. We must work to change the culture that is slipping toward preferring suicide just as it prefers abortion. We saw this in the nursing-home deaths in New York — and the cover-up — and in other Democratic states’ consistently bad judgment. Andrew Cuomo had already declared his support for assisted suicide before the coronavirus pandemic hit. The greater pandemic we face is the lie that life is a burden. We live in a culture that tells women all too often — and yes, by its law — that an unplanned pregnancy is an impossible burden. And we’re increasingly telling our elderly that they are, too. Is this throwaway society really who we want to be?

In the religion of climate change, there is at least a bow to stewardship of the gift of creation. What about human life in its most vulnerable form? We need to change the way we live and think. We need women to know that they can be mothers and that we will help them.

I pray for the day when a young woman outside an abortion clinic takes me up on an offer to get in an Uber and visit the Sisters of Life Visitation Mission where they welcome women who want help being a mother to their child within them. There are options. There are people who live to support women and families. And instead of giving support to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and celebrating their mission to the elderly poor, our Catholic president has offered a Department of Health and Human Services nominee who sees them as the enemy somehow because they actually have the courage of their convictions and believe in religious freedom.

I’ll tell you, the longer I live and the deeper the extremes that rule our contemporary society grow, I live and breathe that the Humanae Vitae was right. Paul VI described the road we were going down, and so of course there was revolt, because evil hates the truth. Now, we have all kinds of violence — including violence against our words, too.

The last thing we need is more suicide. One in four young people have considered suicide in the United States, according to the CDC, during our time with the coronavirus. Loss of autonomy and control are the top reasons doctors in Oregon have reported reasons for people wanting physician-assisted suicide. This year we’ve all experienced a close encounter with our universal vulnerability. We need that to lead to a new appreciation of our dependency and a new spirit of solidarity. Carter Snead’s book, What It Means to Be Human, does an excellent job of thinking through where our public ethics — and thus public policy — has gone gravely wrong. He proposes something better. “And the greatest of these is love” comes to mind when thinking about his book and thinking about where we need to be.

Rather than codify dehumanization in language, the AP would do better to prioritize reporting on the misery that the pressure to have an abortion or kill oneself inflicts on individuals, families, communities, and the soul of our nation.

I recently talked to Carter about his book in a virtual event for the National Review Institute and the Sheen Center: