The Unending Redefinition Of Human Rights And Human Identity

Aug 29th, 2020 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

Who decides questions of truth?  Who defines the boundaries of human rights?  In a pluralistic culture, who defines the standards of behavior based on these rights?  In our Postmodern, Post Christian era, answering these questions is no longer easy.  There is no foundation for our civilization, no agreed-upon set of ethical standards, and no transcendent authority to which to appeal.  Human autonomy is a given and the boundaries to that autonomy appear limitless. Two recent developments highlight the ongoing redefinition of human rights and human identity.

  • First, the groundwork is being laid within our culture for a new category of human rights—“fertility equality.”  David Kaufman explains this new movement: “This movement envisions a future when the ability to create a family is no longer determined by one’s wealth, sexuality, gender or biology.”  As one advocate put it, “This is about society extending equality to its final and logical conclusion . . . True equality doesn’t stop at marriage.  It recognizes the barriers LGBT’s face in forming families and purposes solutions to overcome these obstacles.”  Indeed, Ron Poole-Dayan, founder and executive director of Men Having Babies, argues that “fertility should not be defined as a physical condition but a social one.”  Human infertility is not the result of the human body not functioning properly, “rather, their specific life circumstances, like being a man with a same-sex partner, have rendered [humans] unable to conceive or carry a child to term without medical intervention.  A category of ‘social infertility’ would provide those biologically unable to form families with the legal and medical mechanisms to do so.”  Catherine Sakimura, deputy director and family law director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, strongly contends that “we have this idea that infertility is about failing to become pregnant through intercourse, but this is a very hetero-centric viewpoint.  We must shift our thinking so that the need for assisted reproductive technologies is not a condition, but simply a fact.”

What are fertility equality activists seeking?  There are several tactical goals which they advocate to achieve the desired “equality.”  But, such tactics have proven controversial, specifically among certain feminists.

  1. At a minimum, they desire that insurance companies cover reproductive procedures such as “sperm retrieval, egg donation and embryo creation for all prospective parents, including gay couples who use surrogates.  Ideally, activists would also like to see insurance cover embryo transfers and surrogacy fees.”  Insurance companies traditionally view health insurance in terms of a person and a person’s body, but “surrogacy requires [insurance] companies to shift that coverage onto someone else’s body” [i.e., the surrogate who is carrying the baby.]  Only Delaware and New Hampshire offer limited insurance coverage for these services.  Often, surrogacy as a means of having children involves a six-figure cost, so for insurance companies to cover such procedures is no small matter.  For would be gay male parents, “this high price of parenthood [is perceived] as a penalty for not being straight.”
  2. Fertility equality advocates also see this issue as one of social and “fiscal justice.”  It is about equality, fairness and rights.  This view of social justice logically transfers to “fiscal justice.”  “How will young LGBTs form families if they cannot afford it?” declares one advocate.   Such fertility benefits are becoming more common is the United States, especially in the tech sector (e.g., Facebook and Microsoft).  Unilever and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also provide some of the “most generous fertility benefits in the private sector.”
  3. But the fertility rights movement is generating some significant opposition within the feminist movement (e.g., Gloria Steinem and Deborah Glick, the firs openly gay member of the New York legislature).  They view “paid surrogacy as patriarchal, exploitative and even akin to slavery.”  Furthermore, some feminists believe that “the quest for fertility equality erases women and denies their essential biological role . . . Some opponents of surrogacy are uncomfortable with connecting the purchasing power of men—especially gay men—to the bodies of women.”  Indeed, Phyllis Chesler, a feminist professor, argues that “we’re talking about the eradication of womanhood as we know it.  Some people want to do away with reality, but biology is what will get you pregnant.”
  • Second, permit me to return to this summer’s Bostock Supreme Court decision which I addressed several weeks ago on Issues.  You might remember that this opinion, written by conservative, originalist Neil Gorsuch, held that sexual orientation and “identity” are included in the definition of “sex” under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  David Crawford and Michael Hanby, professors at the John Paul II Institute, emphatically declare that this decision “codified a radical new conception of human nature with a dubious ideological history.  It has inscribed into law the abolition of man and woman.”  They are particularly interested is several of the presuppositions of the Gorsuch argument:
  1. Justice Gorsuch thinks that “a man who ‘identifies’ as a woman is similarly situated to a woman who ‘identifies’ as a woman.  The unstated premise is that the relationship between our embodiment as male and female and our personal subjectivity (as expressed in ‘identity’) is essentially arbitrary, and that they lack any organic or natural unity.  These assumptions further imply that a man who ‘identifies’ as a woman might really be a woman, that to be a woman is a mental state, that we really are Cartesian ‘ghosts in a machine.’”
  2. If each of us is defined by a ‘gender identity’ only arbitrarily related to our male and female bodies, now relegated to a meaningless biological substrate, then there is no longer any such thing as a man or women.  We are all transgender now, even if sex and ‘gender identity’ accidentally coincide in an overwhelming majority of instances.”
  3. Furthermore, Crawford and Hanby maintain, that the Gorsuch ruling is “totalitarian:”  “It requires everyone to live for all public and practical purposes as if what they know to be true in their pre-ideological experience of reality—the knowledge we imbibe with our mother’s milk—were officially false, a ‘stereotype.’  Even worse, it requires everyone to live as if what they know to be false were officially true.  Ironically, what is now ‘true’ is nothing but stereotypes, that bundle of mannerisms, dress, makeup and hairstyles by which one imagines what it feels like to be a woman or a man . . . What we are dealing with is nothing less than a war on reality itself.  And everyone has just been pressed into service.  There is no totalitarianism as total as that which claims authority over the meaning of nature.”

The total confusion about the nature of human rights and the meaning of human identity is overwhelming. We give the appearance of a civilization in a downward spiral of perversion and decadence as detailed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:24-32.  Paul’s delineation of this spiral does not apply only to ancient Egypt or the Greco-Roman civilization in which he lived; it is a startling description of America in 2020.  It is also obvious that this spiral will not be halted by who is elected president this November. Furthermore, this provides incontrovertible evidence that the problem of human civilization is not economic, social or political; it is spiritual, solved only by finding salvation and freedom in Jesus Christ (John 8:32, 36).  When Adam and Eve joined Satan in the rebellion against God (see Genesis 3), Wayne Grudem argues that two devastating results followed: [1] Sin struck at the basis for moral/ethical standards —i.e., “What is right?”  In the Garden, God defined what was right and wrong.  The test of that standard was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, from which they were not to eat.   Adam and Eve were moral creatures and, when faced with an ethical standard, had the capacity to choose obedience or disobedience.  Satan knew that and successfully challenged God’s goodness and His ethical standards; Adam and Eve joined the rebellion.  As God’s revelation continued to unfold throughout history, humanity has persistently defined “what is right” its own way; ignoring the standards that God as Creator and Sustainer of all life had revealed.  [2] Sin also gave a different answer to the question, “Who am I?”  The correct answer was that Adam and Eve were created persons:  Of value and worth as God’s image-bearers, yet dependent on Him and subordinate to Him as dominion stewards (Gen.1:26ff).  But once they sinned, the answer changed— a declaration of independence from God.  Since Genesis 3, humanity has been pursuing autonomy from God—a rejection of Him personally and of His standards.  In the Postmodern world of today, humanity has embraced a thoroughgoing pursuit of autonomy, defined as a rejection of authority and ethical standards, all in the name of individual rights and liberties.  Thus, the refrain from the book of Judges aptly characterizes American civilization today:  “Every man is doing what is right in his own eyes.”

See David Kaufman in the New York Times (23 July 2020) and David Crawford and Michael Hanby in the Wall Street Journal (25 June 2020).

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One Comment to “The Unending Redefinition Of Human Rights And Human Identity”

  1. Arlie Rauch says:

    Excellent and sobering evaluation!