Here's your conservative freak-out for Monday, March 24, 2014: Socialist British hospitals are aborting babies and then burning up the fetuses to generate electricity. And that, apparently, shows where America is headed: your grandmother, wiped out by a death panel, thrown into the furnace heating the White House pool. As with all things, this should be taken with a dose of skepticism.
"The bodies of thousands of aborted … babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found," the Telegraph reported on Monday morning. The remains of "at least 15,500" fetuses were incinerated by National Health Service hospitals over the course of two years. "One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge," the paper reports, "incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’"
If you did to a paper grocery bag what you do to aborted babies Environmentalist would make you the Burning Man! pic.twitter.com/A1TGF0fWxf— IRA (@MEAN_MARINE) January 24, 2014
American conservatives are very upset. Breitbart's new UK outlet picked up the story, with commenters linking the practice to the Nazis, to Hell, to environmentalists, and to Democrats, in some variation of that order. The response was similar on Twitter. ("What's the carbon footprint of burning dead, aborted infants?")
A columnist at RedState identified as "streiff" did the yeoman's work of delineating the slippery slope.
This is what happens when a society loses faith. Humans lose their humanity. When that humanity is lost, society feels free to use humans in whatever way it perceives will generate the best Return on Investment. In order to justify abortion, the unborn had to be dehumanized.
"While it always to poke fun at the Brits, this is undoubtedly happening today in the United States," streiff writes. It is like the film Soylent Green, the writer argues, in which people judged not to be useful to society are turned into food.
In the Telegraph quote in the second paragraph, there's an important bit of information obscured by the ellipsis. The 15,500 fetuses include those who died as a result of miscarriages in NHS facilities; the number of fetuses that falls into each category isn't clear. The BBC indicates that only 12 facilities actually burned the fetuses, only two of which did do so as part of a waste-to-heat or waste-to-energy program. In other words, the worst case scenario presented in the headlines is a hard-to-measure subset of a subset of what happened. The country's health minister has issued a statement instructing that any fetal remains from NHS facilities be buried or cremated by default — and, importantly, that woman who have an abortion or miscarriage be instructed that burial, cremation, and incineration are options from which they can choose.
The broad theme of outrage from conservatives is understandable, suggesting that there is a robotic disinterest in the treatment of what they consider a baby, not a fetus. That the story overlaps with socialized medicine and energy programs reinforces the tendency to assume the worst, as does the Telegraph's enthusiastic hopping to the worst case. But the extension of concern about the exaggerated practice to critiques of, for example, Wendy Davis.
This isn't "what happens when a society loses faith." It is an insensitive practice by several British hospitals. It's worth remembering such distinctions.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.