Friday, March 07, 2008

Two Minds on Abortion ... Rights

My good friend and colleague Alan Wisdom and I agree in essence about abortion. We are, however, in friendly disagreement on the use of the phrase "abortion rights." Here are the two viewpoints in a point-counterpoint format. I'll start with my viewpoint and then give Alan the opportunity to bat cleanup.

Jim says: Abortion is a violent noun, not a handy adjective

I suggest that all who oppose abortion hereby swear off use of the phrase "abortion rights."

Abortion is a violent noun that stands in stark ugliness by itself. An abortion aborts—violently ends—a life that God intended to continue. Abortion is not an adjective, handy for political and rhetorical purposes to modify a so-called right that was created ex nihilo by the Supreme Court’s social engineering.

Using “abortion rights” in writings and speech implies that there is a right to abort a baby. Thus, it also implies that anyone opposing abortion is proposing taking away a fundamental right, such as freedom of speech or freedom of religion.

The widespread use of the phrase “abortion rights” by abortion friend and foe alike is one of the public-relations triumphs of the last century. The pro-abortion forces have cleverly gotten everyone to apparently concede that there is such a right, simply by making the phrase "abortion rights" the ubiquitous term used whenever people refer to the subject.

If you would do a word-association test with random people, my guess is that if you said "abortion," a large percentage of people would produce "rights" as the first word that comes to their mind. Abortion being a right becomes indelibly implanted in people's minds, simply by the repetitive use of the phrase "abortion rights."

I consider the PR coup akin to getting people to attach "dignity" to "incest," so that every time the subject of incest is brought up, people would talk about being for or against "incest dignity." Or how about "genocide privilege" rather than just genocide, so conscientious Christians would be working to revoke the "genocide privilege"?

Morally and biblically speaking, there is no right to abort—to kill—one’s children. For the past relatively few years, the Supreme Court has propagated such a made-up "right," but I find it impossible to concede that taking an innocent baby's life in the womb is a fundamental human right.

If the unfettered permission to abort one’s offspring is bogus, no "right" at all, then let's not buy into the language that automatically terms it a right and concedes a prime point to the pro-choice crowd merely by the framing of the language. Let's discuss abortion, rather than abortion rights. Let’s oppose abortion, not abortion rights. In measures before our church bodies, let’s work to end abortion, not abortion rights.

The naked term “abortion” is so much more appropriate than the now-ubiquitous “abortion rights.”

I have no desire to run around stripping rights from people. If I am said to be opposing "abortion rights," then the main thing is that I'm ostensibly opposing some right, and it's only secondary that the so-called right I'm opposing is the "right" to abort one's children. But I am serious about disallowing not legitimate rights, but rather abortion, which is not a right but a sinful tragedy.

So all you folks out there who also oppose abortion: Why not eliminate the bogus “rights” from “abortion rights” in your speaking and writing, and simply use the stark, ugly term “abortion” from now on? After all, there’s nothing right about abortion.

Alan says: Make them use the word abortion in their preferred phrase

I agree with my colleague Jim that we need to use the word “abortion” to remind people what’s at stake in this debate. But I believe that “abortion rights” is a useful phrase precisely because it contains that word “abortion”—the word that its proponents take great pains to avoid. (Remember how the “National Abortion Rights Action League” became “NARAL Pro-Choice America”?)

“Abortion rights” captures exactly what is at issue. Is abortion a right or is it not? Jim and I believe it is not a right. Therefore we are against “abortion rights.” Those on the other side believe that killing your unborn child is a constitutional right. Therefore they favor “abortion rights.” And they admit it when they agree to use that phrase to describe their position.

It is so important to have an agreed terminology that is honest and accurate, because we are talking about an act that makes even hardened consciences flinch a bit. That’s why those on the other side of the debate prefer to call themselves “pro-choice”—a phrase that obscures the issue by failing to specify the “choice” that confronts us. It’s also why they don’t want mothers and fathers dealing with problem pregnancies to look at ultra-sound images of their babies. As we all know from personal experience, guilty consciences strive mightily to avoid a straightforward consideration of the evil that they have done or plan to do.

The challenge for “pro-life” people is to find ways to prick the consciences of our fellow citizens, trusting that the God who gave them those consciences will do the convicting and convincing by his Holy Spirit. We must know that we cannot argue them into repentance by the force of our strong rhetoric. The purpose of our words must therefore be more modest and subtle: to cause our fellow citizens to examine their own consciences, to look into the mirror at what they are doing and advocating.

Many of the best efforts of the pro-life movement—the silent vigils outside abortion clinics, the billboards offering help in finding alternatives to abortion, the films with ultra-sound imagery, the legislation banning partial-birth abortion—have had this effect of pricking consciences. And recent polls suggest that some minds and hearts have been changing, especially among the young.

In this regard, however, the public shouting matches between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” people are not always helpful. The two sides often talk past one another rather than to one another. There is no common language that centers the discussion on a common concern. Neither side accepts the other’s self-designation. “Pro-choicers” would never agree that we are truly “pro-life.” (If we disagree with the liberal agenda on any issue ranging from the death penalty to welfare reform to Iraq, the “pro-life” label is dismissed with a sneer.) Nor would we grant that they merit the name “pro-choice.”

Even greater offense is taken at each side’s descriptions of the other. We don’t like being called “anti-choice,” when we have expended so much effort in offering better choices to those facing problem pregnancies. Likewise, the “pro-choicers” resent being called “pro-abortion.” Most of them deny that they believe abortion is a good thing to be encouraged. At least some of them are credible in making that denial. (Those who favor taxpayer subsidies for abortions, or forcing health care plans to cover abortions, or forcing health care providers to refer patients for abortions, or forcing pharmacists to dispense abortifacient drugs, are not credible in their denials. These folks are promoting abortions, and they can properly be called “pro-abortion.”)

The result is that each side perceives the other’s rhetoric as a hash of unjust accusations. They do not give a moment’s consideration to the accusations. Instead they reject them instantly and respond with a quick barrage of counter-accusations. This is not a debate that’s going anywhere. And, most seriously, it’s not a debate that’s likely to prick many consciences.

This is the point at which the phrase “abortion rights” can play a helpful role. The proponents of those “rights” accept the phrase as an accurate description of their position. The mainstream media—overwhelmingly favorable to that cause—also accept that phrase. And I am willing to accept it, as long as I am free to use other similar phrases (“those who exalt killing unborn children as a constitutional right”) that amplify the meaning.

This phrase gives us a framework for a debate that has at least a chance of engaging the real issue and thereby troubling some consciences. Any phrase that might induce the “pro-choicers” to acknowledge the reality of the “choice” that they are championing is a step in the right direction. Of course, they will probably prefer to say “abortion RIGHTS.” But we can emphasize that it’s ABORTION that they want to make a right.

The fact that they would turn something so manifestly evil—something that, in the most honest “pro-choice” arguments, is merely defended as a “necessary evil”—into a sacred right on a par with free speech and habeas corpus, shows how far they have twisted their consciences. Facing this fact may help a few of those consciences snap back in the right direction.

Of course, our argument against abortion rights is part of a larger necessary argument against the excesses of rights talk. Western societies have gone way too far in defining any desired good as an inalienable “right.” So we may need to raise an eyebrow and add a quizzical inflection to our voices as we say “abortion rights”—in the same way that we must cast doubt upon “gay rights,” “ordination rights,” “left-handed transvestite rights to use whichever bathroom they want,” and the like.

It also should be noted that talking about “abortion rights” can be a kind of jujitsu move, where we let the other side choose a label and then pin the new label on them, demonstrating that it still refers to the same ugly reality that the old label did. I think this is why the left keeps shifting its politically correct terminology so frequently—all the old “liberals” now want to be called “progressives”—because it can’t handle the underlying realities. So we just need to keep after them and remind them that “you can run but you can’t hide” from your conscience.

Et vous?
There you have it. So what do you think? Add your comments, and be sure to sign your full name, city, and state at the end.

Labels: , ,

45 Comments:

Blogger Grace said...

I think many folks who are pro-choice actually look at this issue in terms of women's rights. They feel that women have a total right to do whatever they want with their own bodies. This whole issue has somehow become conflated with feminism.

To me, this is a travesty. Do we own our children, born or unborn? An unborn child has it's own seperate DNA, it's own personhood, and is precious to God.

The church needs to develop a consistent lift ethic.

BTW, as an aside check out, "Feminists For Life."

And, hey, folks, if we're about peace... ((John))

What about peace in the womb?

(I'm writing this especially in case any of my friends from Shuck and Jive happen to drop by and visit.:) )

Pax.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

6:10 AM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Great post. (And I agree with everything that was said. : ) )

Your post reminded me of a tactic Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute uses to defuse both the issue of “choice” and “rights”. (Scott is such a skilled debater that he is finding it increasingly difficult to find debate opponents.) The following three paragraphs are his opening remarks from a recent debate. Read the whole thing, but focus in on the second paragraph.

"Men and women, I agree completely with everything [his debate opponent] just said. She's right that abortion is a personal, private matter that should not be restricted in any way. She's right that we shouldn't interfere with personal choices. She's right that pro-lifers should stay out of this decision. Yes, I agree completely IF. IF What? If the unborn are not human beings. And if Nadine can demonstrate that the unborn are not members of the human family, I will concede this exchange and so should everyone else who is pro-life.

Contrary to what some may think, the issue that divides Nadine and I is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. Truth is, I am vigorously "pro-choice" when it comes to women choosing a number of moral goods. I support a woman’s right to choose her own health care provider, to choose her own school, to choose her own husband, to choose her own job, to choose her own religion, and to choose her own career, to name a few. These are among the many choices that I fully support for the women of our country. But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. No, we shouldn’t be allowed to choose that. So, again, the issue that separates Nadine and I is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. The issue the divides us is just one question, What is the unborn?

Let me be clear: If the unborn is a human being, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, killing them through elective abortion requires no more justification than having your tooth pulled."

(Bruce again.) Notice how the second paragraph affirms a woman’s right to choose a variety of moral goods, but then makes the important distinction between that which is morally good and that which isn’t. It’s a brilliant maneuver in that it properly draws our attention to the ultimate issue (whether the unborn are human beings or not) relegating choice and rights as issues that can only be determined subsequently.

Let me recommend Scott Klusendorf and the entire Life Training Institute to you at: http://prolifetraining.com.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

12:33 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

Jim & Alan,

Thanks for this. I think my biggest complaint beyond killing the unborn in the womb (which is of course the most important issue) is the way our language gets changed so often. The terms have moved beyond your argument. Now it is "reproductive justice" which pulls in a lot of other issues, but also tries to subsume the right to life under the banner of abortion rights. (Double speak for sure.)

Its like the new term for "assisted suicide." Now it is only "death with dignity," or better yet, Physician-assisted Death (PAD).

This is from a paper by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine:
“The term PAD is utilized in this document with the belief that it captures the essence of the process in a more accurately descriptive fashion than the more emotionally charged designation Physician-assisted Suicide.”

Anyway, didn’t mean to get off your subject, but whichever wording works to prick people’s conscience and turn this horrendous problem of abortion around.

Viola Larson,
Sacramento, CA

12:42 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

There is no evidence that restricting access or banning abortion leads to fewer abortions. In Peru, where abortion has always been illegal, the abortion rate is nearly two per woman during the course of her reproductive life. Across Latin America, where abortion is illegal in nearly all places, the abortion rate is higher than it is in the United States, and 5,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year.

Meanwhile, in Western Europe where abortion is legal and readily available, the abortion rate is half that of the United States. The difference is Western Europeans have more access to contraception and comprehensive sex education.

Shouldn't we be focusing our efforts on things that have actually been shown to lower abortion rates rather than wasting them on strategies that simply don't work?

(Supporting documents available at: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org, look under the "Fact v. Fiction" tab)

Meghan Foote
Greeley, CO

1:42 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Meghan,

You wrote:

"Shouldn't we be focusing our efforts on things that have actually been shown to lower abortion rates rather than wasting them on strategies that simply don't work?"

There are two questions here. The first is, what is/are the unborn? The second is, given our answer to the first question, what is an appropriate response?

If the unborn are human beings, our strategies to lower the abortion rate should reflect that fact. If the unborn aren't human beings, why should we strategize at all?

I believe that the unborn are human beings, what do you believe?

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

2:07 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

Bruce,

I don't accept the relevance of your question, and I know you're asking it to lay a trap.

I think we can agree that fewer abortions is better than more abortions.

Given that, what strategies should we use to accomplish the stated goal of fewer abortions?

2:20 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

Meghan.
It sounds like you are asking is it better to kill three innocent lives or one, when the question, it seems to me, as a Christian or even just a moral person, must be is it right to kill innocent humans.

2:28 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

oops, I forgot,
Viola Larson
Sacramento, CA

2:32 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

No, I'm accepting the fact that there is nothing, nothing at all, that we can do that will end all abortions.

And since I believe that to be true, the moral question for me is: is it better for me to spend my limited resources on an impossible goal, or should I try to do what I can to accomplish what is possible, fewer abortions?

Bans don't work. Limiting access does not work. Comprehensive Sex education works. Contraception works.

2:38 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

I'm certainly all in favor of comprehensive sex education, and increased access to contraception. I also think that we need to provide caring alternatives and support to women facing crisis pregnancies.

But, I can't help but think that law also helps to shape public opinion, or that in many cases would truly act as a deterrent.

I'm especially concerned with late first trimester or especially second trimester abortions.

More and more we've been able to push back the time of infant viability.

And, with all the recent developments in ultrasound technology, even life saving interventions done while infants are still in the womb, I think we need to take a fresh look at Roe vs. Wade.

2:49 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Did it again, folks.

The last post was from me.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

2:50 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Did it again, folks.

The last post was from me.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

2:50 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Viola said...

Meghan,
While these two things do work, sex education and contraception, that shouldn't be our only action. We as sinful humans can never totally do away with murder or robbery, etc. but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have laws against those acts.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, CA

2:52 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

The problem with those laws is that they disproportionately affect the poor and underprivileged.

The truth is abortion has never been illegal for the rich and powerful.

If tomorrow Roe v. Wade was rolled back and abortion was made illegal throughout the United States, it would only affect those who couldn't afford a plane ticket to France or some other work-around.

3:38 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Meghan said**I don't accept the relevance of your question, and I know you're asking it to lay a trap.

Ludwig Wittgenstein focused so much on the rules that the participants in a language game propagate for a reason. The only support the abortion lobby can create comes from an abuse of the rules of language.

In Meghan's language game it is a linguistic rule that, while life is vitally important, the unborn is not life. It's an arbitrary rule, pure and simple.

But it explains how she can authentically rail at the deaths in Iraq while celebrating the right to murder the unborn here in America.

The limits of philosophy are the limits of language. In Genesis 3, Eve's mistake was not asking the serpent, "What do you mean by 'Surely, you will not die'?" All we have to ask is "What do you mean by 'a fetus is not life'?"

But that would violate their own linguistic rule; thus it is "irrelevant". As Wittgenstein would say, they do not have a word for that.

7:35 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Jim Jordan
Fort Lauderdale, FL

7:36 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

The reason I say that the question is irrelevant is not to win some rhetorical point.

I say that it's irrelevant because whether they're human or not, a ban on abortion will not save them because bans on abortion DO NOT WORK. They never have and there is no reason believe that they will work in the future.

Is it truly a moral good to fight for a ban on abortion when we know that it not only will not accomplish the goal of ending abortion, but it will cause the death of thousands and thousand of women in the process of not working?

What will work is addressing the problem of unwanted pregnancies, through education, through birth control, and through working to improve the condition of the poor and the weak.

8:14 PM, March 08, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Meghan,

I noted my belief that the unborn are human beings and asked what you believed. You responded: “I don't accept the relevance of your question, and I know you're asking it to lay a trap.” I want to make the case that it is THE relevant question.

You write: “I think we can agree that fewer abortions is better than more abortions.”

It depends on what abortion is. If abortion is the taking of innocent human life, then I would have to agree that fewer abortions are better than more abortions. If abortion is merely the removal of a growing unwanted tissue mass, then I don’t think fewer abortions are better than more abortions. If someone wants to have a mole removed, they can have it removed with my blessing. The question I have for you is, why do you want to see fewer abortions?

You write: “...the moral question for me is: is it better for me to spend my limited resources on an impossible goal, or should I try to do what I can to accomplish what is possible, fewer abortions?”

Again, you seem to presuppose that strategies which produce fewer abortions are good or at least better, but why are fewer abortions to be preferred? We want fewer murders because murder takes a human life. I want fewer abortions because I believe abortion takes innocent human life. Do you really want fewer abortions? If so, why?

Your write: “Bans don't work. Limiting access does not work. Comprehensive Sex education works. Contraception works.”

Focusing in on sex education, what will be taught regarding abortion? Will students be taught that abortion is to be avoided? If so, on what basis? If a seventh grader asked you, “Meghan, you seem to think that fewer abortions are better than more abortions, why?” The answer that fewer abortions are better than more abortions is not a very satisfying answer when the question is WHY fewer abortions are better than more abortions.

You write (referring to laws against abortion): “The problem with those laws is that they disproportionately affect the poor and underprivileged.” and “The truth is abortion has never been illegal for the rich and powerful.”

Yes, if abortion were legally restricted, the poor and underprivileged would not have the same ability to skirt the law that the rich and powerful have. The rich and powerful can afford to travel to Malaysia to have sex with minors. Shall we decriminalize sex with minors in the United States because laws against sex with minors disproportionately affect the poor and underprivileged? If I asked you if an adult coercing sex from a minor was a moral wrong, would you not “accept the relevance of [the] question”?

You write: “I say that it's irrelevant because whether they're human or not, a ban on abortion will not save them because bans on abortion DO NOT WORK.”

Who is the “they” that you refer to? What would you say to someone who argued regarding slavery: “It’s irrelevant because whether they’re human or not, a ban on slavery will not save them because bans on slavery DO NOT WORK.” Never mind that bans on slavery have worked, is it really not relevant whether someone of African descent, for instance, is human? Can I saddle and ride off into the sunset on any animal of my choosing or is this something that one ought never do to a human being? Can I take the life of anything I chose or is that something I ought not do to a human being? Whether the thing in question is a human being seems very relevant to me.

Meghan, if abortion is merely the removal of unwanted tissue then we should no more oppose it than we should oppose the extraction of wisdom teeth. If abortion is the taking of innocent human life, then we ought to do all we can to oppose it and, by all means, the fewer the better. The question, “What are the unborn?” is as relevant to the abortion issue today as the question, “What are those with dark skin?” was to the slavery issue two hundred years ago.

And so I ask you: Are those with dark skin human beings? Or is that irrelevant to how we respond to slavery?

And I ask you again: Are the unborn human beings?

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

12:18 AM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Hey, Jim

Be kind. I don't think in Meghan's mind she is about "celebrating the right to murder the unborn."

Meghan is our sister in Christ. It's pretty awesome that she came over here to talk, given the fact she is vastly outnumbered.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

4:59 AM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

Are women human? Might it be possible that I'm concerned about them and the trauma that unwanted pregnancies and unnecessary surgeries cause in their lives?

7:19 AM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Meghan,

I'm concerned for both the women, and her unborn child. I'm sure that if we know one another personally we could work this through together, and find some common ground.

Are you feeling that any parameters should be placed on abortion.

I would feel there is a huge difference between terminating a pregnancy at 4 or 5 wks after conception as opposed to well into the 2nd. trimester of gestation.

I also think there is a huge difference between the minority of women who may use abortion as a form of birth control as opposed to an abortion to save the life of a mom, or the termination of a pregancy where the unborn child has a severe disability incompatible with life, or even termination very early on in the case of something such as rape or incest.

But, where are you coming down in all this?? Maybe you can share your feelings and postion in greater depth, since we've never talked before.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

9:31 AM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger JAS said...

Becky,

All of the numbers available suggest that the vast majority of abortions in the U.S. are, in fact, "optional".

Check out the chart posted at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:AGIAbortionReasonsBarChart.png. It was produced in 1998 by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (a spin-off of Planned Parenthood). The first six categories ("postponement of childbearing"; "to end childbearing or remain child-free"; "cost of childbearing"; "disruption of work or education"; "relationship issues or partner objection"; and "perceived immaturity or parental objection" vary in seriousness, but all boil down to "birth control." Together they account for more than 90 percent of abortions in the U.S., and a large (60-percent-plus) majority in the six other countries studied.

The AGI also reports that the average American woman having an abortion is aged 21-30, employed, and in a stable relationship. A large number are married.

Andrew Scott
Bentleyville, Pa.

12:40 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

Should I address you as Grace or Becky?

I struggle with restrictions simply because I know that I am not smart enough to know all the circumstances that the women faced with this decision are dealing with.

That's why I prefer to talk about education. I prefer to equip people with the tools that they need to make the decision and then trust them.

It amazes me how many people don't want to do that. If you read the opinions in the Supreme Court late-term abortion decision last year you'll find that one of things upon which they based the decision was that they thought that women were neither smart enough or responsible enough to make this decision, so it was up to the state to take the away from them.

Imagine if they used that rational in any other situation. If, for example, they decided that men were not smart enough or mature enough to own guns, so they were going to take the choice away from them. You would go deaf from the screams coming from all across the country.

But, apparently, it's just fine to say that women are stupid and irresponsible.

My goal would not so much be no more abortions, but rather no more unwanted pregnancies. Which would mean there would be no more abortions.

For more on my thoughts, you can read a blog entry I wrote last year: http://www.transhomiletic.com/2007/01/blog_for_choice.html

1:15 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Grace/Becky wrote**Hey, Jim

Be kind. I don't think in Meghan's mind she is about "celebrating the right to murder the unborn."


I was trying to be kind, but I don't see how it is anything less than that. Meghan's mind is not the judge of truth. I'm sure that she is a genuinely pleasant person and a sister in Christ, but her position on abortion is replete with myths and moral relativism and other confusions.

Meghan**My goal would not so much be no more abortions, but rather no more unwanted pregnancies. Which would mean there would be no more abortions.

For example.
1) My goal - not "so much" no more abortions
2)But no more unwanted pregnancies.
3)Which means no more abortions

...which is not her goal "so much". There is a lot of confusion there.

Our conclusion should be unanimous, that we fight to prevent cases of "unwanted pregnancies" through counseling, education and support (as Meghan advocates). And as part of that campaign, as Christians we must recognize that there are no unwanted pregnancies if we believe that our God calls forth life, and make abortion on demand illegal.

And, no, there is no evidence that abortions go up if they are made illegal. Also, I reviewed every stitch of the majority's opinions in that Supreme Court case banning Partial Birth Abortion last year and the sentiment that "they thought that women were neither smart enough or responsible enough to make this decision" was not in it.

Justice Kennedy's majority opinion focused on the testimonies of the people who performed the Partial Birth procedure in determining what it actually was.

And things are what they are. The only way we can have one mind is to recognize the nature of things and not be distracted by what we think they should be or what we wished they were.

Jim Jordan
Fort Lauderdale

2:00 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Becky,

Let me first say that you live up to your “byline” (Grace) as you always extend grace to whomever you’re addressing.

You write: “I would feel there is a huge difference between terminating a pregnancy at 4 or 5 wks after conception as opposed to well into the 2nd. trimester of gestation.”

Can you articulate what that difference would be? I know that there’s a hugh difference in size and level of development, but I don’t think that alters what a embryo (or conceptus, or fetus, etc.) is.

Allow me to develop the idea:

The terms “embryo” and ”fetus” describe stages of organismal development (just as do the terms “infant” and “teenager”). When the organism in question is human, we thus refer to the human infant or human fetus, etc. Because these terms refer to different stages of development, the thing that is developing remains what it is throughout; it doesn’t become human, it is human, though all of the various stages. An infant isn’t less of a human being because it is less developed than a teenager and a teenager isn’t less of a human being because it is smaller than an adult. Nor is one human being less of a human being because it is more dependent on another. Do you accept this? If so, you’re appear to be arguing that there is a huge difference between taking innocent human life before 4 or 5 wks and sometime thereafter.

Meghan,

I began this conversation by asserting that the ultimate issue regarding abortion is whether the unborn are human beings or not and I asked you directly where you stood on this issue. You replied that you don’t find the question relevant (and suspected that I was setting a trap). I then attempted to demonstrate both that the question was relevant and that your professed desire to limit abortion presupposed that the question was relevant. Why would you, I asked, if the unborn are not human, want fewer abortions? To this, you replied:

“Are women human? Might it be possible that I'm concerned about them and the trauma that unwanted pregnancies and unnecessary surgeries cause in their lives?”

Meghan, in this response, you reveal that you do know, in your heart of hearts, that it matters whether something is human or not. Women are human, made in the image of God and this justifies our concern “about them and the trauma that unwanted pregnancies and unnecessary surgeries cause in their lives.” My wife and I took a perfectly healthy two year old female who lives in our house and had her reproductive organs surgically altered so as to make her infertile. If the female in question is human, we have done a monstrous thing. If the female in question is a dog, we have done our civic duty.

You deny that it matters whether the unborn are human and yet you justify your concern for women who undergo abortion because they’re human after all. And so now I know that the trap you’ve been avoiding isn’t one that I’ve tried to set, it’s the one that has always been within you. You know that it matters whether the unborn are human beings, yet you strongly support abortion, and it is thus necessary for you, given your support for abortion, to avoid consideration of the humanity of the unborn.

Grace (or Becky) notes above that you are a sister in Christ. I believe this. I’ve pushed you pretty hard, but I do not write as I do to try and trap you or to embarrass you in some way. Nor do I want to imply that you’re somehow mentally deficient. I think it’s more than evident from your writing that this is not the case. I do believe, however, that you are wrong on both the status of the unborn and on the relevance of the issue. It is extremely difficult to change one’s position in a public forum and so I won’t ask you to do so. I will ask you to reconcile in your own mind the discrepancy between asserting that it is irrelevant whether the unborn are human and your belief that we ought to have special regard for women who are, and because they are, human.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

2:10 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

Jim, I'm not a lawyer, so I have to depend on the opinions of those who are. Here is Dahlia Lithwick writing in Slate magazine about Justice Kennedy's opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart:

"Kennedy invokes The Woman Who Changed Her Mind not once, but twice today. His opinion is a love song to all women who regret their abortions after the fact, and it is in the service of these women that he justifies upholding the ban. Today's holding is a strange reworking of Taming of the Shrew, with Kennedy playing an all-knowing Baptista to a nation of fickle Biancas.

[snip]

Without regard for the women who feel they made the right decision in terminating a pregnancy, he frets for those who changed their minds. ('It seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.') (The 'infant,' not the 'fetus.') As both the dissenters and my colleague Emily Bazelon have pointed out, this portrayal of a rampant epidemic of regretful women may or may not be scientifically accurate. (The American Psychological Association doesn't think so.) But even if the numbers of women who would truly choose differently if they could choose again are larger than most of the medical literature indicates, one might question whether such women should be the pole star of national abortion policy.

[snip]

And Kennedy's solution for these flip-flopping women is elegant. Protect them from the truth. 'Any number of patients facing imminent surgical procedures would prefer not to hear all details,' he concedes. 'It is, however, precisely this lack of information concerning the way the fetus will be killed that is of legitimate concern to the state.' In Kennedy's view, if pregnant women only knew how abhorrent the procedure was, they'd always opt to avoid it. But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg points out in dissent, Kennedy doesn't propose giving women more information about partial-birth abortion procedures. He says it's up to the Congress and the courts to substitute their judgment and ban the procedures altogether. ('I'm sorry Bianca, there is a procedure out there that may be safer for you, but some day, you will thank me for sparing you from it.')"

As far as my statement about my goals, I will admit that I could have stated them more clearly. I probably should have said that ending abortions was not my first priority, rather my first priority is to end unwanted pregnancies, which, happily, would also have the effect of ending abortion.

Bruce, you seemed to be asserting that the only possible basis for wanting to reduce abortions was the humanity of the fetus. I proposed another reason to want to reduce them, and you now claim that I have proved your point. Huh?

2:45 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Meghan,

I understand. But, I don't think most people are feeling that women are stupid or irresponsible. But, as Christians, we do have to face the truth that all of us are fallen.

In a perfect world, all women would do what is best for their children, born or unborn. But, sadly this is not always the case at all. And, women can be pressured from other directions toward abortion.

I actually work with needy kids, many times that come from abusive backgrounds, so my experience is firsthand.

Somehow we have to find a balance between respecting the rights of the woman, and also protecting the life of unborn children especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

Bruce, your observation is difficult. But, I do see a moral difference in the abortion of a blastocyte, and the termination of an unborn child on the very edge of viability.

It can be difficult to draw the parameters, though, and I'm able to understand why sincere people are struggling with this whole issue.

3:13 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Meghan,

You wrote: “Bruce, you seemed to be asserting that the only possible basis for wanting to reduce abortions was the humanity of the fetus.”

No, you misunderstand me here. I began our conversation by writing: “There are two questions here. The first is, what is/are the unborn? The second is, given our answer to the first question, what is an appropriate response?” I then stated my belief that the unborn are human and asked what you believed regarding the status of the unborn. You replied that you didn’t accept the relevance of the question. From that point on, my argument has been very tightly focused on the relevancy of the question of the status of the unborn. (Read back through my posts and you’ll see that this is the case. I can understand how this might have gotten lost in that you’ve been responding to others besides me.) Again, all of my argument with you has been around the relevancy of my initial question to you: Do you believe the unborn are human beings?

You continue: “I proposed another reason to want to reduce them, and you now claim that I have proved your point. Huh?”

Yup. Here’s why:

Me: The first question we must ask is, “Are the unborn human?”

You: The question, “Are the unborn human?” is irrelevant. What matters is reducing the number of abortions.

Me: If the question, “Are the unborn human?” is irrelevant, why do you want to reduce the number of abortions?

You: “Are women human? Might it be possible that I'm concerned about them and the trauma that unwanted pregnancies and unnecessary surgeries cause in their lives?”

By answering as you did, you established that it matters whether something is human or not. Three simple words, “Are women human?” give away the store. You do believe it is relevant whether something is human or not, you just refuse to consider this in the case of the unborn.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

5:30 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

Yep, you figured out my diabolical code: Saying it's irrelevant to me is just another way of saying that I don't care.

Yay! You win! Woooo! Go, Bruce!

Although I have no idea what it is that you think you've accomplished.

5:54 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Meghan,
The Slate article is more poetry and propaganda than substance. For example:

But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg points out in dissent, Kennedy doesn't propose giving women more information about partial-birth abortion procedures.

Please, if you read the opinion itself at the link I provided, you will find more than enough information. Kennedy himself supplies it, using the testimony of abortion providers themselves.

I humbly suggest you consider that Bruce and I are correct in this matter and you are wrong. After all, you are contradicting yourself everywhere. Couldn't it be that you are confused somehow?

And what on earth is wrong with doing everything you want to do in educating and supporting women to help reduce the need for abortion WHILE making abortion on demand illegal?

Jim Jordan
Fort Lauderdale

8:27 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

I'm sure you know more about the law than Justice Ginsburg, but I humbly suggest that if you want to get information to women about abortions a supreme court opinion may not be the best way to do it.

From Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion:

"Revealing in this regard, the Court invokes an antiabortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence: Women who have abortions come to regret their
choices, and consequently suffer from '[s]evere depression
and loss of esteem.' Because of women's fragile emotional state and because of the 'bond of love the mother has for her child,' the Court worries, doctors may withhold information about the nature of the intact D&E procedure. The solution the Court approves, then, is not to require doctors to inform women, accurately and adequately, of the different procedures and their attendant risks. Cf. Casey, 505 U. S., at 873 (plurality opinion) ('States are free to enact laws to provide a reasonable framework for a woman to make a decision that has such profound and lasting meaning.'). Instead, the Court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety."


I'm not confused at all about bans. They kill women and don't stop abortion. Other than being big symbolic victories, what exactly is good about them?

8:45 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Okay, break time.

Five people have 30 comments in this thread, and few of them are on the actual subject of the original posting. May I ask that the five take any further comments to one another offline, please? This is not meant to be a chat room for a few people, as much as I appreciate the care and thought that went into some of the postings.

If anyone else would like to post on the actual subject, please do so. The subject is the use of the phrase "abortion rights" in the place of simple "abortion." If one is opposed to abortion, which one should a person use? That's what Alan and I wrote on, and that is what I asked for others to join in on. Thank you.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

10:10 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Jim,

I think Richard John Neuhaus uses the phrase "abortion license." This works on two levels: first, because it is licensed it IS legal. Second, it is also a form of license (think of licentious).

I wonder what Bill Buckley came up with???

Blessings,

John Erthein
Erie, PA

7:30 AM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

By the way, Alan hit the nail on the head although Jim's proposal is also constructive.

Alan wrote**We must know that we cannot argue them into repentance by the force of our strong rhetoric

Indeed, what more force can you have than "pro-life". More rhetorical sleight of hand will only get mixed up in the rhetorical gumbo. I made that point in my first comment that since language is proprietary (People make their own rules) they can make language say whatever they want or to say nothing at all. Ask a "pro-abort" what "pro-life" means and they're likely to tell you it's a hypocrite who doesn't care about children after they are born and drives a gas-guzzling SUV.

We are better off focusing on what abortion is and how devastating it is to women. We can't force them to say the word abortion; they've already moved on to "Reproductive Rights" anyway like Alan alluded to - they're constantly changing their names.

The ultrasound photos did more than any word has done to educate people about what abortion is. Wilberforce had the rich folks who profited from the slave trade come up alongside the slave ship fresh with the smell of death. Conscience must be our focus, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Jim Jordan
Fort Lauderdale

7:32 AM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Pastor Glenn said...

I am uncomfortable with the term "abortion rights" because in my way of thinking, it is a mask put over a monstrous act in the hope it will somehow sanitize what it prefers not to say before the only partly paying attention public. Abortion is the violent destruction of unborn human life. To overlook that fact is to deny the humanity of the real victim. So is a pre-born baby human or not? It would seem that the burden of proof would be on those who refuse to acknowledge the innate humanity of the one being aborted. But if it is human, then "abortion rights" could easily become the precedent for "pedophilia rights" or "infanticide rights" or "assisted killing of the aged and mentally impaired rights," and so forth. It always works for the goals of ethnic cleansing, no matter where or when. The first step is always the denial of the humanity of the victim class.

11:26 AM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Toby Brown said...

The argument that we cannot and should not outlaw abortions because people will have them anyway is equal in my mind to saying that we should not outlaw incest because it's 'bound to happen'.

A silly argument for a Christian to make...

--Toby Brown
Cuero, Texas

11:48 AM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

Except, Toby, banning incest doesn't have the side effect of killing thousands of women each year in elicit, unsanitary, back-alley incests.

12:02 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

...illicit...

12:03 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

The claim that "thousands" of women died from back-alley abortions was shown to be, well, an enormous lie, by none other than Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who had campaigned for the legalization of abortion.

I just could not let this fallacy pass one more time.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

12:52 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Meghan said...

From the New York Times editorial "Abortion Rights in Latin America," January 6, 2006:

"In a region where there is little sex education and social taboos keep unmarried women from seeking contraception, criminalizing abortion has not made it rare, only dangerous. Rich women can go to private doctors. The rest rely on quacks or amateurs or do it themselves. Up to 5,000 women die each year from abortions in Latin America, and hundreds of thousands more are hospitalized."

And since Mr. Berkley has asked us to stop on this, that's all I have to say.

12:58 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Benjamin P. Glaser said...

100% Agreed. Especially the point concerning the automatic retort of the pro-choice crowd concerning the "death penalty". Love how libs can equate unborn babies to murderers.

But even beside that it is the greatest sin we can commit as the church that we do not speak louder against the slaughter of the innocents.

Benjamin P. Glaser
Pittsburgh, PA

4:36 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Meghan
All you have are editorials. Do you have any facts?

Meghan says**And since Mr. Berkley has asked us to stop on this, that's all I have to say.

Mr. Berkley must be out to dinner with Bill O'Reilly of "Name and town, name and town" fame. But opining will not save us.

Language has failed here. What we need to do is use those same pictures the abortionists use as evidence that all parts of the baby have been removed against the abortionists...just as Justice Kennedy did with the written testimonies.

Jim Jordan
Fort Lauderdale, FL

9:18 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Dennis said...

I am reading your blog for the first time. The Roe vs Wade decision by the Supreme Court has resulted in a lot of discussion and hot air for 35 years. I have thought that the clever arguments by both sides left a lot to be desired. I was glad to see that many of the comments affirmed that the real crux of the issue is the humanity of the fetus/preborn child. Isn't that essentially a religious question? And should we codify into law that which is properly described as a religious belief?

By the way, if the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the prior decision on abortion, it would not make abortion illegal in the United States. New York and California legalized abortion prior to the Supreme Court ruling. Of course, it would be illegal in states such as North Dakota.

4:41 PM, March 11, 2008  
Blogger Paul Schmidt said...

Jim,

I think the word abortion should not be used and the word -- murder -- would be better.

Dennis,

Athiest and Agnostics can argue against abortion also. Religion does not have a monopoly on claiming that the unborn child has humanity. See Doris Gordon's Pro-Life position for the atheistic pro-life argument.

The idea seems so straight forward from a reasoned argument as well as religious, that the following quote seems appropriate:

Do not be deceived -- 1 Corinthians 6:9

6:15 PM, March 11, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Dennis,

Thanks for noting that overturning Roe vs Wade would not make abortion illegal in the United States. It would, as you note, return the decision to the states and thus let the people have a say in the matter.

You wrote: “I was glad to see that many of the comments affirmed that the real crux of the issue is the humanity of the fetus/preborn child. Isn't that essentially a religious question?

No, I believe it’s a mistake to consider the humanity of the fetus/preborn a matter of religion. If you were to ask me why I considered an embryo to be human, I wouldn’t appeal to a religious text, I’d just ask you, for the sake of clarity, what kind of embryo were we talking about, a chicken embryo? a dog embryo? The moment you responded, “a human embryo”, the discussion is over because there ought be no question of the humanity of the human embryo.

Life begins at conception and progresses through the developmental stages. If the life in question is human, it is human from start to finish. Thus we speak of the human embryo, the human fetus, the human newborn, the human adolescent and the human adult. Abortion, at any stage of development, takes human life.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

P.S. Dennis, so that you know, Jim requires those who post here to sign their full names and note their city and state.

10:06 PM, March 11, 2008  

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