Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

[Disclaimer: This is one of my rare politically charged posts. Please skip this is my anti-abortion stance will cause your brain to explode and/or make you want to slap me for being insensitive. I have a point of view and sometimes, I throw caution to the wind and express it. You are free to express your opposing point of view, too, of course, but please, be gentle.]

I clipped this newspaper article by George Will last April. Mr. Will cites the case of a fetus in Britain who was aborted at 28 weeks gestation because it was prenatally diagnosed with a cleft lip and palate. Apparently, this fit the British law that abortion is permitted only when "there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped."

I wonder what Bobby Martin, a boy who was born without arms or legs, but who ended up playing high school football (and appearing on Oprah) would think about that? What is his parents took a look at an ultrasound picture and gasped, "Oh no! We don't want a boy without limbs."

No one would blame them. Right? Why bring a child into the world only to suffer?

The case I saw on television the other night would certainly fit the criteria for abortion in Britain. The doctors can't even diagnose this child, a now-twelve year old girl who hasn't grown beyond the physical size and mental capacity of a six-month old baby. What purpose does such a life serve? Wouldn't she (and her long-suffering family) be better off if she hadn't been born?

Then I turned the channel and saw the amazing story of these children and young adults who communicate almost entirely through music. Though their cognitive and communicative skills are impaired, they all display an amazing aptitude and passion for music, specifically the piano. These children with different abilities face difficulties in their lives most of us cannot even imagine. Would we choose to let them live, if the choice were ours to make?

Not all women take advantage of prenatal testing. What happens when a devastatingly imperfect baby is born? Well, in the Netherlands (land of my ancestry, I might point out) "the Groningen Protocol, as the hospital's guidelines have come to be known, would create a legal framework for permitting doctors to actively end the life of newborns deemed to be in similar pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities."

Child euthanasia remains illegal everywhere else. Unless, of course, the child is still a fetus, in which case, in the United States, abortion laws which essentially allow abortion at any time. Did you know that "U.S. abortion law, in terms of how late an abortion may take place, is far more permissive than that of other nations such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, for example."?

The Associated Press article by Linda A. Johnson published on March 10, 2005, concludes, "Experts said the Dutch report [of newborn "mercy killings"] will generate discussion but won't change American opinion or practices."

I'm sure that's true. After all, almost ninety-two percent of American abortions aren't done because a baby is imperfect. They are done for the following reasons:

25.5% Want to postpone childbearing
21.3% Cannot afford a baby
14.1% Has relationship problem or partner does not want pregnancy
12.2% Too young; parent(s) or other(s) object to pregnancy
10.8% Having a child will disrupt education or job
7.9% Want no (more) children

Not because the fetus has no arms and legs. Not because the fetus is missing a chromosome or has an extra one. Not because the fetus is doomed to die of a birth defect at birth anyway. Not even because the mother's life is in danger.

No. Most abortions are done because of convenience, not the "health" and "life" of the mother, but for her convenience. While our laws bend over backwards to give women the right to abort a baby which might endanger her life--you know the rhetoric, the heart-tugging stories--almost a million conceived human beings are aborted per year. Dramatic stories (like the boy with no arms and legs and his triumph in life) are matched by dramatic stories of women in terrible, disturbing, horrific circumstances. And I'll agree that there are ethically challenging cases where difficult choices must be made.

But most unborn human beings are simply obliterated for other reasons. Ninety-two percent of aborted fetuses, gone. Over thirty-three million human beings since abortion was legalized.

And if you are a black fetus in America, you have an even higher chance of being aborted before birth. "In the 41 areas for which race was adequately reported, approximately 55% of women who obtained legal induced abortions were known to be white, 35% were black, and 7% were of other races; for 3% of the women, race was unknown. The abortion ratio for black women (503 per 1,000 live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (167 per 1,000 live births). Additionally, the abortion ratio for women of other races (329 per 1,000 live births) was 2.0 times the ratio for white women. The abortion rate for black women (30 per 1,000 women) was 3.1 times the rate for white women (10 per 1,000 women), whereas the abortion rate for women of other races (22 per 1,000 women) was 2.2 times the rate for white women."

Only 12.9% of our population is black, yet 35% of the women who obtained abortions in 2000 were black.

Why isn't Ray Nagin outraged by that? Where is Kanye West's outcry?

Thirty-three years ago, abortion became legal in the United States. Happy anniversary. Aren't we all so much happier now?

[Check out Barbara Curtis' post on this topic over at Mommylife. She's the mother of 12, including childen with Down Syndrome, and a former abortion-rights crusader.

[Edited to remove reference to Ann Coulter from the post, but you can check out her radical viewpoint here.] I hate for the point of my post to be lost in the distaste many have for Ann Coulter.]


Blogger Jack-on-the-Lake said...

I'm with you on this - and I am so sick of people deciding that if you are pro-life in this country, you must be either Republican or Conservative Christian.

Can't someone believe it is wrong to kill a fetus on pure ethics alone?

On the flip side, illegal abortions are a scary, scary thing to consider as well.

If you don't want a baby you CAN put it up for adoption, but let's face it those of us who aren't in extreme poverty or special circumstances just don't want to walk around pregnant for the 10 months it would take to give the baby away. Having been pregnant myself three times, I can fully understand why you wouldn't want to too. No one said doing the right thing is always easy or comfortable.

Women who can carry a baby to term and give it away to a loving family are brave and wise in my book.

6:21 AM  
Blogger MommieDoris said...

Thanks for such an in-depth post. You've brought up some very interesting facts and stories I was unaware of.
It does amaze me that with so many birth control options there are still so many unwanted pregnancies in this country. Even the very poor can obtain it for free at their local public health clinic. How many years has AIDS been a publicly discussed disease and yet the number of cases due to unprotected sex is rising. Aborting a pregnancy for something as minor as cleft palate is crazy. For short time I read the blog of an infertile woman who aborted a child with a birth defect. I stopped reading her blog once I got to know a child with the same illness her fetus had, who is an absolute delight. After many surgeries this child will have a normal life. Fortunately, another family has chosen to adopt this child. How odd that what one couple found they couldn't handle from their own biology, another willingly is taking on and adding to their family.
Clearly families are not explaining facts about sex, disease, and the consequences to their children very well. We need to have better education on these matters in our schools to help prevent some of the key problems in our society today.

7:39 AM  
Blogger portuguesa nova said...

I think eliminating the circumstances that would ever cause a woman to think she needs to get an abortion is far more important and would be much more effective not only to the women themselves but society as a whole than outlawing the act of abortion.

I often wonder how my views on this will change when I have my own children.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Thank you, Mel.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

For years, even before they were legal, I was part of a network of clergymen and women who helped women acquire safe abortions, when illegal unsafe abortions were a horror for women, particularly poor women. Abortion is never a choice between good and evil. Like so many moral decisions it is a choice between relative "evils".
It is a very complex issue. It hinges on the understanding of one's "life" being endangered. It is often "life style" and not physical life at risk. Life style is a relative and elastic concept open to debate but their are some such circumstances that justify terminating a pregnancy. My experience is that women anquish over the decision and do not do it easily.
All life is precious but it also is not a absolute value, if it were we would not allow our country to ask young people to go to war, or allow nature to take it's course when death is inevitable. If it were more of those opposed to abortion would also be opposed to the death penalty.
Abortion has never been a comfortable issue for me for may of the instances you write of. Society could do more to limit abortion through effective birth control education and support. Society if it wanted more children born should be prepared to support mother's and their children socially and financially for the benefit they bring to society: raisin "our" children. Women would choose to have fewer abortions if they saw a way to survive in minimal comfort. Such a "socialist" solution would be unacceptable in the United States, I am sure.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Unfortunately many women that find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy end up at a clinic where the only real "choice" presented to them is abortion. I doubt that these women are presented with other choices, or given places to go should they decide maybe this isn't right. There are many Christian church groups that do go above and beyond in providing these women with real choices, and help whether it be financially during her pregnancy and after her child is born; emotional assistance, and whatever help is needed to assure her that she is not alone. Many people think that the abortion clinic protesters are just that - get her to change her mind and that is that. There are many groups who will take that woman under their wings and give her all the help that she needs in order to save the life of her child. Believe it or not, they also do not condemn women who have had abortions - they are there to help her heal her heart and soul and show her the way back to a loving God. Abortion is not the answer. Not only does it end a life - it forever changes the life of the mother who then has to live with the consequences. We as women should be appalled at this "choice" as it really is not a choice at all, but a means to an "end" of what is deemed as a "problem". Mel, everything you wrote is exactly how I, and many other women feel.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

This country's general attitude toward unborn children is appalling.
I've heard about the Groningen protocol. (I've also got a little Dutch blood.) Pete Singer, at MIT, is trying to get a similar practice introduced here.

I think this country is headed toward judgment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the mass murder of so many of its God-given infants.

Barbara Curtis at Mommylife had an interesting post on Feminists for Life a week or two ago. It is quite interesting that the "mothers" of the modern-day feminist movement were generally staunchly pro-life.

11:48 AM  
Blogger curious servant said...

The legal framework that permitted Nazi Germany to carry out the Holocaust begain with the euthanasia of a retarded child. Chilling first step that resulted in horror on the grandest of scales.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

It might surprise you to know that I don't much disagree with you. I much dislike the fact that it may be used as a convenience measure and as almost a first line of defence. More people need to be a whole lot more responsible for their actions. With all of the birth control techonology available, there's not much excuse for the preponderance of unwanted pregnancies. I would not neccesarily like to make it harder to obtain, but I wish that so many didn't find it necessary to obtain.

7:00 PM  
Blogger dinodoc said...

I am relieved to see that we do not disagree on every point, as I was afraid we might. (Which, I think, is probably true for most rational people who compare/contrast viewpoints...very few are actually zealots.)

I found the statistics interesting; my only concern is that there is not even mention of cases of rape/incest/abuse, severe birth defects (aborting for just a cleft palate?!? OMG!), or the mother's health being in jeopardy. (Which happens, btw, to be my biggest gripe w/some state laws attempting to restrict abortions that do not list these exceptions.)

I honestly feel that the legal right to an abortion is the lesser of two evils. How many of these cases could be avoided altogether w/stronger education (sex/health, birth control, etc.)?

(Okay Mel, I'm being nice & leaving off something I was going to say in reply to some of your posters bcz it was too snarky. But I'll reserve it for future use in case anyone yells at me. Rational & adult discourse requires politeness & thoughtfulness, darnit!)

1:01 AM  
Blogger dinodoc said...

P.S. - I'm happy to see you waxing political! It is good to learn & understand another's point of view, no matter how similar or dissimilar. Good job! (Okay so I could have done w/o the Ann Coulter reference...but I'll just keep wearing my Birkenstocks & we'll call it even.)

1:06 AM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

Oh honey, you're referencing Ann Coulter?

To each their own. It's the beauty of America. I personally couldn't have an abortion, but far be it from me to judge others who do.


5:00 AM  
Blogger red fish said...

Wow! An intelligent discussion of abortion without the vitriol that is usually inevitable. You and your friends are to be commended.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Annie said...

I must confess I was with ya, right up until the Ann Coulter part.

It is possible to be very anti-abortion on a personal level and also very pro-choice. I might also suggest that all of this has little to do with being Christian or religious or any denomination. Rather it is all about accepting the differences of being human. Ahh being human, a very fragile and fallible condition. There, but for the grace of God go I.

As always, well written Mel. Just promise me you won't align yourself with Ann Coulter again. She is far too rabid for your even, well thought out sensibilities.

6:55 AM  
Blogger jennifer starfall said...

yeah, mel; ann coulter? ick. ;)

i've never had to make that choice. i honestly don't know what i'd do if i did. but i certainly could never make the choice for someone else.

or allow it to be taken it away.

and this is the first time i've ever seen this issue come up sans snark & venom.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Marisa said...

I don't like the relaxed attitude with which many in this country approach abortion, but I will always fight to keep it safe and available.

My great-grandmother died from complications from a illegal abortion when she wasn't much older than I am now. Her first husband died in the flu epidemic of 1918, she had three young children and only been married to her second husband for a matter of months. They were poor and she was desperate not to have another baby. And that desperation killed her.

So, while I don't like it, I believe with every ounce of my being that safe, accessible abortion must remain in this country.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I believe in the right for women to make their own choices regarding their own reproductive systems.

I don't think abortion should be a means of "birth control." I don't know any pro-choice person who thinks abortions are a wonderful thing, they are to be avoided as much as possible by birth control, etc...

Although, as a woman who got pregnanat while on birth control, what then? I never once thought of aborting Mr. Personality, but I would never take that away from someone else if they thought it was the right decision for them.

One thing I have never been able to reconcile is that the Republican Party, the one of "stay out of my personal business," "less government" and such, is the party who would tell women what to do with their own bodies. If that isn't the ultimate government control, I don't know what is.

9:48 AM  
Blogger The Dung Beetle said...

Despite my personal aversion to abortion, I remain pro-choice on this, and many other issues.

That's all I have to say.

Vote for me in 2008.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Vashti said... got me thinking. I attend a Mennonite church. I am a pacifist. I don't believe that violent means are the solution to any situation. I believe in the sanctity of all life. The abortion debate, and how divisive it has become in this country, makes no sense to me for the following reasons. Our current administration and the Republican Party are labeled "Pro-life." I heard the catch-phrase "we support a culture of life" time and time again during the last election. How do the death penalty and war fit into this support for a "culture of life?" Many people vote based on this one issue and consider those who are pro-choice to be somewhat evil. This is what does not make sense to me. I am pro-choice, not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice simply because if the government is given the power to tell you you can't have an abortion, they are given the power to tell you you must have an abortion. I am thinking of what I have heard to be (I have not researched) the laws in China. The one child per family law. Culturally, most families want a boy to "carry on the family name." What happens to the 50% of the pregnancies that are girls? I don't think that the government should govern our bodies therefore, I am pro-choice but resoundingly not pro-abortion. I am also opposed to the death penalty and to this war. Think of all the innocent civilians being slaughtered, coldly referred to as "collateral damage." Think of all of our young men and women dying. Why aren't people as outraged and activated politically by this as they are by the abortion debate? I don't believe that it is any human beings choice to decide when or how another should die. In any circumstance. Maybe there should be another word besides pro-choice. If one believes in the "sanctity of life" then believe in the sanctitiy of ALL life.

2:36 PM  
Blogger The Dung Beetle said...

Well-said, Vashti. I agree with your perspective.

And Mel, Ann Coulter aside, I don't believe I've ever come across an abortion discussion/debate as civilized as this one you initiated. I use to hope that as individuals, we all could discuss and disagree without becoming violently disagreeable. Personal experiences have since left me cynical and jaded.

You have rekindled a glimmer of faith in humanity for me. I salute you.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

One of the most well-written articles I've read on this subject, Mel. Thank you.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Catharine said...

As someone who has accompanied a precious loved one during her abortion, I must stand with Tossing Pebbles on this. This is not a black-and-white issue. It is not a simple story of good vs. evil. It is a complex, personal story that has never been taken lightly by any woman I know, regardless of their philosophical stance. You cannot know the terror of a young woman whose birth control has failed, who has no means of support for a child, nor the ability to support herself through a full-term pregnancy, unless you have actually stood in her shoes.

Christian compassion cannot simply extend to the unborn child. Extending compassion to a woman who makes one of the hardest decisions a woman can come to, even when you disagree with her, is a part of being a sensitive, compassionate, morally grounded person. The world is made up of more than just one person's religion and one person's experiences, and until you've lived every woman's individual life, prayed to her God, felt her pain, breathed her fear, cried her tears, you are in no position to run her life or judge her heart or her spirit. Each of us has enough on our own little plates just keeping our own moral compasses true without having to make the moral judgements for everyone else, regardless of how right we think we are. Nobody is that smart. Nobody.

This is a deeply, profoundly personal and agonizing decision, not something to be held up as a banner in the "us against them" wars. It diminishes us all.


8:51 PM  
Blogger The Dung Beetle said...

Very good points, Catherine. I feel the same way, but was unable to communicate my thoughts as effectively as you and Vashti.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

La Shawn Barber blogged about the effects of Roe v. Wade on the black community.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Diddy-Win said...

In response to Vashti - there is a VERY good book on the subject you raised regarding China's one child policy and forced abortions called, "A Mother's Ordeal" it is a gripping, true story of a female abortion doctor who was being forced to abort her second child...

In response to ALL pro-abortion folks - if the birthmothers of two of my adopted kids had chosen to abort, I cannot imagine what my life would be like. They seriously considered it, but realized that the child they carried was a human being and could not snuff that life out. Oh, and I am so thankful for the selflessness of these two young women who could not take care of a child and wanted so much more for these lives. My daughter is a senior in college now and has given speeches about the choice that her birthmother had to make and how she would not be walking this earth had she chosen to kill her. She is a delight and I am very proud of the fact that she recognizes the gift of life that she has been given.

11:27 PM  

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