Abortion and the pride of the Western world

I have discovered a secure way for being hated by everyone during a debate between liberals and conservatives.

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It merely consists of saying that one should forbid a woman to carry out an abortion and give the undesired child to a committed gay couple.

While I, as a progressive Christian, actively support efforts for promoting tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals, I cannot regard abortion as a good thing.

And I am not alone in that respect.

Popular writer Rachel Held Evans wrote a great post entitled “Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion” which I reproduced here.

'Ultrasound 1' photo (c) 2013, Martin Cathrae - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I knew what abortion was before I knew where babies came from. 

Growing up in the evangelical subculture of the 80s and 90s, I was well versed in the language of the pro-life cause, as familiar with Roe vs. Wade and the silhouette of a tiny fetus as I was with Disney princesses and contemporary Christian music. My young mind grasped the essence of the pro-life argument—that all of life is valuable, no matter how small or vulnerable—but mistakenly reduced the solution to abortion to a single step—vote for a pro-life president, and abortion will go away. A Republican president meant no more dead babies. It was as simple as that. 

…Until it wasn’t. 

The first president I voted for was George W. Bush. My dad dropped me off at the polling station and I marched into the Rhea County Courthouse to cast my vote for life.  While President Bush endorsed the 2005 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which I supported, he also championed a pre-emptive war in Iraq that costs hundreds of thousands of lives.  His presidency did not make much of a dent in the abortion rate, and even though he appointed conservative judges, Roe vs. Wade remained intact.  By the time W finished his second term, I had graduated from college, come to terms with the fact that the criminalization of abortion is highly unlikely no matter the party in power, expanded my definition of “pro-life” to include Iraqi children and prisoners of war, and experienced first-hand some of the major problems with America’s healthcare system, which along with poverty and education issues, contributes to the troubling abortion rate in the U.S. I remained pro-life idealistically, but for the first time, voted for a pro-choice president, hoping that the reforms I wanted to see in the healthcare, the economy, immigration, education, and for the socioeconomically disadvantaged would function pragmatically to reduce abortions. A couple of my conservative friends called me a baby killer. Several questioned my salvation. 

As I advocated for the election (and re-election) of President Obama, I confess I grew somewhat embarrassed by the pro-life cause. I hated those cars that boasted a “Choose Life” sticker on one bumper and a “You’ll Have to Pry My Gun From My Cold, Dead Hands” on the other. The stubborn commitment to abstinence-only education among many evangelicals struck me as counterproductive to the cause, and those awful statements about how a raped woman has a “way of shutting that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy were shameful and ignorant. Plus, sometimes it seemed like abortion was the only social justice issue my evangelical friends cared about, so they turned a blind eye to the ways in which Republican politics might hurt other disadvantaged groups, or turned my advocacy on behalf of other causes (like gender equality, trafficking, peace, healthcare reform, gun control, etc.) as an opportunity to make a statement about the horrors of abortion in comparison.  It was all picket signs and prayer walks. But I wanted more conversations, and action, around poverty, adoption, and healthcare. 

'stop abortion  now' photo (c) 2008, Steve Rhodes - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

For a lot of pro-lifers, it seemed, abortion was all about the baby.

The woman, and the factors that might contribute to her decision to terminate her pregnancy, didn’t seem to matter much.

But how can we end abortion if we don’t examine why women seek out abortions in the first place? Making it illegal won’t stop it from happening, and yet so many of our efforts are directed toward that end. Aren’t we wasting our time and money by simply throwing it at politicians who wave the pro-life banner, but then do little, practically, to address the underlying issues related to abortion? And why on earth oppose access to birth control and reforms in the health care system when those will likely make the biggest difference in actually curbing abortions in this country? 

(For an interesting look at the problem of categorizing the pill as an abortifacient, check out Libby Anne’s piece on the topic, where she notes that “if your goal is to save ‘unborn babies,’ and if you truly believe that a zygote – a fertilized egg – has the same value and worth as you or I – the only responsible thing to do is to put every sexually active woman on the pill,” because the pill actually reduces the number of zygotes naturally rejected by a woman’s body. Also, this month’s Christianity Today includes a short article on how the morning-after pill does not inhibit implantation, but rather blocks fertilization.)

Furthermore, as I became more involved in the feminist conversation (some feminists are pro-life, of course, but many are pro-choice), I began to understand some of the arguments against the criminalization of abortion, like that banning abortion does not necessarily reduce the abortion rate, that enforcing a ban on all abortions would be impossible, and that women would likely seek out abortions through unsafe, illegal procedures anyway. 

I also began listening to heartbreaking stories—from women like Cecily and Tamara who had to terminated wanted pregnancies for their health.   

And when I was honest with myself, I had to admit that I don’t know exactly when life begins (at fertilization? at the first heartbeat? at the existence of brain waves?). Does the Bible, or Christian tradition, really make this abundantly clear? There is even disagreement among Christians about this, (and historically, even among evangelicals), so was it really my place to deny a woman who has been raped, for example, access to a morning-after pill? 

And so I remained pro-life in my personal conviction, but I began to question my position that all abortions should be criminalized. I could be against abortion personally, but ambivalent about its legality, right?  I could have my own convictions about this issue without making a scene. It was as simple as that. 

….Until it wasn’t.

Under President Obama’s presidency, the overall abortion rate has indeed seen a decline, but he overturned some of Bush’s restrictions on late-term abortions, and there are these drones in the sky that don’t seem very pro-life to me.  I squirmed on the couch when, during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, cheers erupted upon every mention of a woman’s “right to choose.” A lot of pro-choice folks like to say that “no one is pro-abortion,” but when celebratory concert series and festivals are organized around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I can’t help but question the degree to which we have desensitized ourselves to the reality that abortion means the termination of, at the very least, a potential life, something that should never be celebrated with balloons and rock concerts. 

What frustrates me about the pro-choice movement is the lengths to which advocates go to de-humanize unborn children and sanitize the abortion procedure, reducing life to nothing more than a cluster of cells and the implications of pregnancy to little more than a choice. The word “fetus” is used instead of “child.” Efforts to encourage women to receive counseling prior to an abortion are stubbornly opposed. The argument is framed around the woman’s body exclusively, as if the fetus is inconsequential, and pro-life advocates are characterized as being “against” women’s rights. (Frankly, as a woman, and a feminist, I don’t like people invoking my “rights” to unilaterally support abortion.)

For a lot of pro-choicers, it seems, abortion is all about the woman.

The unborn child, and all the complicated, terrifying, and beautiful things its life represents, don’t seem to matter much. 

'Abortion on Demand and Without Apology' photo (c) 2011, Debra Sweet - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So just as I grew irritated with the pro-life movement for its inconsistency and simplistic solutions, I grew irritated with the pro-choice movement for its callousness and disinterest in discussing the very real ethical concerns surrounding the termination of a pregnancy. 

And then the Kermit Gosnell story blew up. 

The story involved dead babies and dead women, the exploitation of poor and marginalized immigrants and minorities, filthy conditions, racism, and multiple governmental failures.  

“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women,” the Grand Jury reported, “What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths… Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that. But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.” 

In response, pro-life made the (accurate) observation that it is a mere technicality that separates the legal termination of late-term pregnancies from the illegal termination of late-term pregnancies so gruesomely exposed by the photos from Gosnell’s clinic.  Pro-choice advocates made the (accurate) observation that Gosnell is being prosecuted precisely because what he did was illegal and warned that, should abortion be criminalized, practices like his would likely flourish. I was pleased to see many pro-life advocates acknowledge that the story highlights the role poverty plays in abortion, admitting that the women in this case were marginalized and vulnerable, and that their needs ought to be talked about more often. I was pleased to see many pro-choice advocates acknowledging that the stark reminder of what happens to a fetus in a late term abortion was rightfully unsettling. (It should be noted that late tern abortions make up a very small percentage of abortions, as do cases of rape and incest…so both sides tend to appeal to rare cases in debates.) Kristen Howerton, among others, had the good sense push past all the pointless rhetoric about a supposed media conspiracy to ask why on earth the state of Pennsylvania didn’t shut this place down sooner. 

Here was abortion—in all of its heartbreaking complexity, with all of its ties to life, death, poverty, exploitation, fear, loneliness, politics, and propaganda—sprawled out on the front pages of our newspapers, and no single side “won.” It was an indictment on our shared apathy, on our shared callousness, on our shared simplistic political solutions. 

“…Because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.” 

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to say. I was, truly, speechless. 

My conservative friends took the opportunity to chastise and pester me, convinced my delay in writing a post on the topic revealed my participation in some vast media conspiracy and my unwarranted preoccupation with “minor” issues like gender equality in the church. When I explained on Twitter that a post about abortion isn’t simple enough to fit into 600 words, a guy tweeted back, “Sure it is. I can fit it in three: It’s always wrong.” 

Is it? 

When the life or health of the mother is at stake? 

In the case of rape or incest? 

When a woman’s body naturally disposes of a zygote? 

Meanwhile, my more liberal friends begged me not to write anything at all. It’s too complicated, they said, too controversial, too complex. 

Is it? 

When the life of the weaker is taken by the stronger? 

When one out of five pregnancies in this country end in abortion? 

When places like these fail to get shut down in part because we’ve turned abortion into such a political issue? 

I think a lot of progressive Christians like myself, eager to distance ourselves from some of the rhetoric and policies of the Republican brand of the pro-life movement, shy away from talking about abortion, when our call to do justice and love mercy demand that we speak and act to address this issue, even though it may be more complicated than we originally thought.  

 

In fact, I wonder if an appreciation of the nuances in the debate, and of abortion’s connection to traditionally “progressive” issues like poverty and healthcare, may actually make those of us who are “stuck in the middle” especially effective agents of change.  Let’s face it: We are unlikely to find a single party that truly represents a “culture of life,” and abortion will probably never be made illegal, so we’ll have to go about it the old fashioned way, working through the diverse channels of the Kingdom to adopt and support responsible adoption, welcome single moms into our homes and churches, reach out to the lonely and disenfranchised, address the socioeconomic issues involved, and engage in some difficult conversations about the many factors that contribute to the abortion rate in this country, (especially birth control). It seems to me that Christians who are more conservative and Christians who are more liberal, Christians who are politically pro-life and Christians who are politically pro-choice,  should be able to come together on this and advocate for life in a way that takes seriously the complexities involved and that honors both women and their unborn children. 

In other words, instead of focusing all of our efforts on making “supply” illegal, perhaps we should work on decreasing demand.  And instead of pretending like this is just an issue of women’s rights, perhaps we should acknowledge the very real and very troubling moral questions surrounding a voluntarily terminated pregnancy. 

I am still unsure of exactly how to do this. I don’t even know where to start, really. The more I learn, the more complex this issue becomes. But the Gosnell case does in fact point to something simple: that we are failing to care for the most marginalized and helpless among us, be they unborn children or women whose desperation sent them to Gosnell’s clinic. And we won’t be able to promote a “culture of life” until we are willing to advocate on behalf of both. 

Perhaps God has called those of us who feel “stuck in the middle” to do exactly that.

I truly like the balanced perspectives she brought up.

I really think that Westerners should feel far less certain of the alleged superiority of their culture while contemplating the millions of abortions occurring every year.

To be clear, I accept abortion for protecting the health or life of a woman.

But I find this act profoundly selfish when carried out for refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions and upholding a selfish lifestyle.

The often used argument that embryos can be killed because they feel nothing could be used as well for justifying infanticides since we certainly dispose of medical means for making the newborn child utterly insensitive.

Philosopher Peter Singer was entirely consistent as he advocated the moral permissibility of killing babies deemed “unworthy of living”. And I think we have good grounds for fearing this might very well happen in the future.

As the great reformed apologist Francis Schaeffer pointed out, what was unthinkable in the past can become thinkable in today’s society at a breathtaking pace.

111 thoughts on “Abortion and the pride of the Western world

  1. Fascinating post. I, of course, oppose abortion in all circumstances.

    There is a problem with all of her bellyaching about the pro-life movement as-is, though: It’s actually been working since Roe v. Wade. Really well, even. Most of the victories since then have been to reduce abortions.

    Now, voting for Obama in the hope that health care reforms would reduce abortion turned out to be a disastrophe, eh?

    • Hello, thanks for your comment.

      I strongly doubt that increasing restrictions on abortion is such an efficient strategy in the long run.

      To my mind the best way to change things is:

      1) that people become aware that valuing human life and loving our kind entails also valuing unborn children
      2) that women willing to abort are offered all possible material and psychological support for choosing another option

      Interestingly enough, I know quite a few Continental European secular females who agree with 1) and also believe it is way too easy to abort just because you slept with the wrong person.
      But there are of course metaphysical issues related to the problem.
      If humans are just the material products of an undirected evolution, there is no compeling reason to think that one ought to value our species.

      But if there is a telos, a purpose (be it through Theism or some forms of Pantheism or Platonism), then I think that a good case can be made this should be avoided.

      • I strongly doubt that increasing restrictions on abortion is such an efficient strategy in the long run.

        See, I always thought this was a silly argument. We’re talking about mass murder on an unprecedented scale here. Support is important, but in the meantime we need to try and reduce abortion as much as we can.

        And saying “Well women will just get underground abortions then!” is simply not the case. Sure, some will, but it’s impossible to deny that abortions went up dramatically after Roe v. Wade. Making it illegal will almost certainly decrease them dramatically again.

  2. I was hard core pro-life, all about the baby! the baby! the baby!….until Gosnell. Because the manner in which the babies were killed after being delivered alive, the news coverage focused on the gory details.

    Hardly anyone mentioned the women. The woman whose death Gosnell had to account for. The women who were harmed by filth. The women who were physically maimed by incompetence. The women who were deceived as to the actual gestational age of the baby. The very poor, the very young, and the
    undocumented, who had nowhere else to turn, no one to give a hoot about them and their lives.

    After the trial, I was haunted by the murdered babies, and the women. I knew I had not given women much thought. So, now I am in the middle, too. Knowing that abortion cannot be criminalized, but realizing that ending a developing human being should not be taken lightly, either. And, like Rachel, I’m not sure how to proceed.

    By the way, it is increased access to contraception which has played the biggest role in the decrease in the numbers of abortions obtained.

    • Abortion cannot be criminalized?

      I’m not sure if you both grasp the full impact here. Babies are being slaughtered en masse. But I’m supposed to believe this shouldn’t be made illegal because it will leave the women (who CHOOSE to get the abortions) upset?

      Yes, I understand many were in difficult situations, and I really do sympathize. But not so much that I think that killing your child should be legal.

      More than that, I don’t buy that women have no moral culpability here. They’re moral agents, and responsible for their decisions as well. Sympathy should be had, but always kept in mind that they just made the conscious decision to kill their child, and rather brutally.

      • “But I’m supposed to believe this shouldn’t be made illegal because it will leave the women (who CHOOSE to get the abortions) upset?”

        No, because making all abortion illegal will put women’s lives at risk. Young girls who are victims of incest or rape, who are at an increased risk of complication and injury carrying the baby to term. Women who have life-threatening complications of pregnancy prior to a baby’s viability outside the womb. Rape victims who are so traumatized that are suicidal. Women whose food stamps or welfare payments are cut in the name of fiscal discipline. And, many other circumstances that you are unaware of, and probably wouldn’t care about, if you knew what they were. The idea that every abortion is obtained by a selfish woman, for convenience, is blinding you to the real dilemma about the vulnerabilities of many pregnant women. I also said that, yes, there are abortions which are obtained too lightly. I am against taking the life of a developing human being with no regard to its humanity. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. Re-read Rachel’s comments. You’ll see that she is not some pro-choice “radical” feminist. You have named yourself well, “Cynic”.

        • Yes, because when abortion was illegal things were so much more horrible.

          I’m sorry, but women are moral agents. Many are in desperate, horrible situations, and I truly, truly feel for them. I’m here to help. So are Churches, and crisis pregnancy centers.

          But you know what? I’m not so there to help that I’m willing to make it legal for THEM to make the decision to kill their child.

          You realize that’s what they’re doing, right? Deciding to mutilate their child?

          How sympathetic would you be to them if they were snipping their toddlers’ spines with scissors or ripping off their limbs?

          And believe me – I actually AM sympathetic. I’m just not willing to say that I’m so sympathetic that I’ll make the murder of an entire class of people legal.

          You are missing the main point here: There is a holocaust going on, and the mothers who get the abortions are morally culpable for it. They, ultimately, are the ones making the final decision to rip their children to death or snip their spines.

          And I refuse to DEMEAN women by not making them full moral agents. By not making them responsible for the things they do.

          • Well, the abortion descriptions you made are to late term abortions. Unless the woman’s life is directly at risk, only the most hard-core pro-abortion people are in favor of those. I’m not one of them.

            In the meantime, I’m going to really fight for women–the need for Congress to stop cutting benefits such as SNAP, more job training for women, greater access to contraceptives, a more aggressive pursuit against domestic violence, and a public policy that offers incentive to businesses which provide on-site day care and flexible scheduling. I hope I can count on you to join me in these things.

      • A few other points:

        1) I never called Rachel a radical feminist.

        2) I love how you just decide I’m a horrible person who doesn’t care about women because I want to make the slaughter of children illegal.

        3) When did I ever say I didn’t care about women in horrible situations? My point is simple: Women are full moral agents. I feel for them, I’m willing to help, I’m ready to forgive with no hesitation. I simply refuse to say that they don’t deserve any measure of responsibility for the evil they committed.

        Because they are committing evil.

        4) I never said that abortion was only done by selfish women for convenience, or remotely hinted at it.

        Your sympathy for women in bad situations is blinding you to the worst mass Holocaust in human history. We are worse than the Nazis, and we want to justify it because women are upset when they can’t get abortions.

        The answer isn’t to allow abortion. It’s to find another solution. Murder is NEVER a solution.

        Oh, and just to cover the bases:

        5) Yes, other people have culpability too. That doesn’t mean mothers don’t.

      • No, you cannot count on me to join in the fight in favor of SNAP – and if you want to know why, read Fr. Gordon McCrae’s blog “These Stone Walls”, about an innocent Catholic Priest jailed for twenty years because of false accusations of sexual abuse.

        No, I will not support contraception, which was the beginning of what led to all of this in the first place, and which my Church condemns.

        No, I will not fight for more job training for women. If they’re really as capable as men, then they should have no issues getting into the same programs.

        You may fight for the living women who choose to kill their children.

        I will fight for the children they slaughter, and I hope that they will consider adoption, seek out crisis pregnancy centers, and turn towards the Church for solace and comfort.

        And: So I take it, then, that you’re only in favor of killing babies when it’s painless.

        By the way – no, it’s most certainly NOT only late term abortions. At as early as three months – first trimester – fetuses have limbs and spines. You are demonstrably, entirely, wrong.

        Not to mention, your logic is atrocious. Women can have all of the issues you mention in both late and early term. They can have all of the issues you mention with infants and toddlers.

        You are a cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing what to believe while going to receive the Eucharist anyway with no respect for your Church’s actual teachings.

        I am not assuming this about you. I am merely going off of what you yourself have said.

        • >>>>>No, you cannot count on me to join in the fight in favor of SNAP – and if you want to know why, read Fr. Gordon McCrae’s blog “These Stone Walls”, about an innocent Catholic Priest jailed for twenty years because of false accusations of sexual abuse.<<<>>No, I will not support contraception, which was the beginning of what led to all of this in the first place, and which my Church condemns.<<>>No, I will not fight for more job training for women. If they’re really as capable as men, then they should have no issues getting into the same programs.<<>> You may fight for the living women who choose to kill their children.<<< Sigh. I am fighting for women to have all of those things, as well as the other things I mentioned, so the women WON'T choose to abort. I'm not fighting for women to get abortions. Do you understand that? I want to STOP abortions.

          I also don't want pregnant women to die, but you seem unable to get past the word "recriminalize". Yes, I am a good Catholic. I don't help women to abort. I don't support policies that promote abortion. I want women to be helped in every way possible because I want the number of abortions to go down. But I wouldn't change the law because women go underground and no one can reach out to them if they are invisible. And, if a woman is at risk of dying from complications of pregnancy, a doctor shouldn't have to fear losing his or her license for trying to save a woman's life.

          Anyway, you claim to have compassion for women, but really don't want to lift a finger to help them. You only want to condemn them as murderers. Such a pity.

          • You don’t support policies that support abortion…except for its legality.

            Also, when did I ever imply I’d never lift a finger to help them? To the contrary, I’ve repeatedly said otherwise.

            No, you are not in favor of all of those things. You are willing to let innocent children die even though you think its wrong as long as you can make the women who kill their children feel better.

            Do you realize that, Sheila? That what those women are doing is killing children? You really think that, in some situations, even though they’re the people who ultimately have to make the final call to get the abortions, they deserve no responsibility for it? That, in fact. we should allow abortions just in case they really, really, really want to kill their children.

            I still think you don’t quite understand the gravity here.

            Also: If you really are completely, 100% against abortion, then why did you even bring up that my comments (wrongly) only applied to late term abortions? Shouldn’t that not matter to you at all?

        • No, you cannot count on me to join in the fight in favor of SNAP – and if you want to know why, read Fr. Gordon McCrae’s blog “These Stone Walls”…

          What does that story have to do with SNAP benefits? You realize that I am referring to food stamps, right? Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program

          No, I will not support contraception, which was the beginning of what led to all of this in the first place, and which my Church condemns.

          Not all women are Catholic. I can get why you don’t want tax money used for contraception, but it’s better than forcing Catholics to pay for it. Tax dollars are used for stuff I hold to be immoral, such as the death penalty, but I’m an American and that’s too bad for me.

          No, I will not fight for more job training for women. If they’re really as capable as men, then they should have no issues getting into the same programs.

          “if they’re really as capable as men” Who says this? Oh. Feminists. So, you believe this is a feminist issue. Well, some women drop out of high school or college because they CHOOSE LIFE for the baby. They need education and job training.

          You may fight for the living women who choose to kill their children

          No, silly, I’m fighting for women so they WON’T choose abortion. The above points plus what else I listed are put into place so that women will not have to choose abortion in the first place. I’m trying to prevent abortions.

          You saw “recriminalize” and went a little nutty. I want doctors not to lose their licenses if they are trying to prevent a pregnant woman from dying. I don’t want women going underground because then there is no way to reach them. You can’t help someone who is invisible to you. I am a good Catholic, and you really have no right to say otherwise.

          • Ahhh, no. I thought you were referring to the organization dedicated to outing pedophile Priests.

            No, silly, I’m fighting for women so they WON’T choose abortion. The above points plus what else I listed are put into place so that women will not have to choose abortion in the first place. I’m trying to prevent abortions.

            Your method of doing that is keeping abortion legal, just in case women really really need it.

            You are a Catholic who wants abortion legalized, denies the reality of Hell, and believes in artificial contraception.

            Your idea of “compassion” is ignoring that women are moral agents who are responsible for their child’s death.

            But you said after the Gosnell business they were who you really felt sorry for.

            That’s great and all, but you forget: The most important part of that whole story was the brutal slaughter of the children. It was not the women who chose to abort them.

            They may find comfort in their Church, they may find comfort in family, they may find comfort in counselors.

            But when it comes down to it, the important point is the Holocaust. The one THEY took part in.

      • Your idea of “compassion” is ignoring that women are moral agents who are responsible for their child’s death.

        But you said after the Gosnell business they were who you really felt sorry for.

        Well, Malcolm, you have to understand that we’re talking about women here. According to sheila, a kind of lesser human for whom culpability for their own actions is a difficult thing to defend, and self-restraint is a fantasy.

        It’s a little like spousal abuse. Sure, some primitives may think that a man beating his wife is committing an immoral act – but people like sheila know better. They realize that if you outlaw spousal abuse, you’re just going to make it that much harder for women to receive the help they need because abuse will be driven underground. Plus, you’re not really treating the true causes of spousal abuse – we need to provide more funding for harried husbands so they have more leisure activities to engage in that will reduce their stress.

        They’re the victims here, after all.

        • It’s not at all the same.

          I put forth substantive ways to address the abortion tragedy, and both you and Malcolm simply dismiss them. This is partly why women continue to seek abortions. Simply making them illegal won’t address underlying issues. I’d love to see the time come when no woman ever sought out an abortion, when every single pregnancy was brought to term, and babies placed into the hands of those who want and love them.

          I have to wonder; if all abortions were outlawed tomorrow, would you still be resisting efforts such as mine? And to ignore the plight of the women in the Gosnell case, you are even more strident than Priests for Life, who has a great deal of compassion for women, who points them to the love and forgiveness in Jesus. PFL consistently stands for the dignity of both the woman and the babies.

          That’s my post-abortion plan. But we weren’t discussing that.

      • Let’s look at it in a different way.

        If abortion is illegal *Some women’s* lives will be more at risk – none are being actively murdered, of course (or only in the most horribly extreme of extreme situations, to the point where it’s just an irrelevant outlier). But millions – MILLIONS of babies will not be murdered. Some might go back alley, but Roe v. Wade has more than proven that making abortion legal will SUBSTANTIALLY increase abortions – by the millions, even.

        If abortion is kept legal, then a system is put in place where people are allowed to kill their children. We can try and change their mindset, we can try and offer support…but the fact is, we’re talking about having murder be something it is entirely legal to commit when it comes to a certain class of people.

        Think about this. Really think. We are talking about making the dismemberment of children entirely legal. Even if we provide support for women and support policies we hope will reduce abortions, even if we reduce them substantially, you seriously think it is a good idea to make murder of any class of people legal?

      • sheila,

        I put forth substantive ways to address the abortion tragedy, and both you and Malcolm simply dismiss them. This is partly why women continue to seek abortions. Simply making them illegal won’t address underlying issues.

        Who said we should ‘simply make them illegal’? What was focused on is whether or not we SHOULD make them illegal, not whether or not that was the only step that should be taken. I certainly don’t think that’s the case.

        I’d love to see the time come when no woman ever sought out an abortion, when every single pregnancy was brought to term, and babies placed into the hands of those who want and love them.

        Do you want to see a time come when no woman seeks out an abortion in part because the stigma against it is so high, as is the stigma against various consensual sex acts, that they don’t get into the problem in the first place? Because that’s part of what’s necessary.

        But the very idea that women and men should be held accountable for the choices they make sexually or in terms of abortion seems alien to many, yourself included. Again I ask: so women who get abortions in those situations are condemnable, right? They have done something wrong, they have earned condemnation?

        And what consensual sex acts – you know, those things that typically lead to the desire for an abortion to begin with – can we disapprove of and condemn as well?

        I have to wonder; if all abortions were outlawed tomorrow, would you still be resisting efforts such as mine?

        I resist an improper handling and approach to this issue, whatever the motivations. I would likewise resist a rehabilitation of spousal abuse as something that’s not really immoral, even if that somehow went hand in hand with a reduction in the net number of spousal abuse cases.

        Would you?

        • “Who said we should ‘simply make them illegal’?” Well, Malcolm did, when he expressed his outrage with my statement that I don’t want all abortions criminalized. Do you support abortions in some cases?

          The whole spousal abuse thing is not even worth discussing. You could choose any crime–serial murderer, serial rapist, bank robber, etc..

          And, no, I won’t condemn a single woman for having sex. I won’t have sex outside of my own marriage. My daughter waited until she was married to have sex. And, as a Catholic, she uses NFP.

          My son has sex, and he’s single. He’s not a believer. He knows what my own Catholic beliefs are about sex outside of marriage, or adultery, are. Guess what? I counseled him to use a condom every time. He made his choice to have sex in spite of how I raised him. He has left the faith. I don’t want him to get a woman pregnant and end up with her getting an abortion.

          Now, if THAT destroys my Catholicism, so be it. I’m trying to prevent a future abortion in my family.

    • Also: If you want to help get education and job training for single mothers, well, sure. Of course, I really think we should focus more on having less single mothers, but I suppose that’s a long term goal.

      Hold on for a moment with contraception. You asked if I supported it in order to help reduce abortions, then you changed your tune and said “Well even if you don’t you have to pay for things you don’t agree with all the time!”.

      Let’s go back to the original point: I think artificial contraception is a bad idea, and I think its court mandated legalization, followed by its inevitable wide spread use, is what led to a great many of the problems in society.

      You talk in the same breath about both making more contraception available and helping single mothers. What you’re failing to realize is that the widespread availability of contraception has substantially increased out of wedlock sex in the first place and brought us pretty far down this road.

      You also say it’s a “Catholic” issue, yet up to around 1960 or so almost every Christian Church would have unanimously agreed on its immorality.

      • “You asked if I supported [contraception] in order to help reduce abortions, then you changed your tune and said ‘Well even if you don’t you have to pay for things you don’t agree with all the time!'”

        No, I said tax dollars being spent for contraception is better than making individual Catholic institutions pay for them. I am well aware that churches outside the Catholic Church did not support contraception until 1961. But it is NOW a Catholic issue. The Catholic Church has stood firm on this issue.

        And, yes, our tax dollars are spent on all kinds of things which some taxpayers find to be immoral. I don’t understand why that statement gets you so upset.

        Pope Paul XVI was prophetic in his encyclical “Humanae Vitae”. I won’t dispute that, either. However, the horse has left the barn, millions of Protestants use contraception, and millions more who aren’t Christian use them, too. Again, they are not under the Catholic obligation that we are.

        Wouldn’t it be lovely if no single woman got pregnant? Yep. But they are, and we must help them to make the choice of life for that baby.

      • No Sheila, that is NOT what you said, and you’re not getting away with these neat little goalpost swing. Here is your original comment I responded to:

        In the meantime, I’m going to really fight for women–the need for Congress to stop cutting benefits such as SNAP, more job training for women, greater access to contraceptives…I hope I can count on you to join me in these things.

        I responded, no, greater access to contraceptives is something I am decidedly against. Our goal should never be to give people more excuses for out of wedlock sex. Instead, we should be trying to show people why abstinence is a good idea.

        Artifical contraception isn’t even a band-aid – it’s actually harmful, because all it does is encourage more fornication, which leads to more single mothers and more abortions.

        I don’t separate “Catholic” morals and “other” morals like you do, except when it comes to specific religious practices (like Sunday Mass). Morality is morality, and using contraception is immoral.

        • You didn’t even bother to go back to the correct comment I made. No moved goal posts. You quoted a different comment here, the one in which I said I support greater access to contraception, which I do. Not all women are Catholic.

          Anyway, here’s my entire quote, the one you edited (it’s at the 5:47 am point in the comments section).

          “Not all women are Catholic. I can get why you don’t want tax money used for contraception, but it’s better than forcing Catholics to pay for it. Tax dollars are used for stuff I hold to be immoral, such as the death penalty, but I’m an American and that’s too bad for me.”

          Then you tried to claim I was moving the goal posts by quoting the 4:59 am comment, which is “In the meantime, I’m going to really fight for women–the need for Congress to stop cutting benefits such as SNAP, more job training for women, greater access to contraceptives, a more aggressive pursuit against domestic violence, and a public policy that offers incentive to businesses which provide on-site day care and flexible scheduling. I hope I can count on you to join me in these things.”

          I’m sure it was an honest mistake. You do need to be careful about which comments you are using in order to make your points, though.

          • What? I just looked at it. No, I was responding to the comment I said I was responding too, and I flat out disagree with you. I didn’t even mention taxes, because whatever. Who cares about that?

          • “Hold on for a moment with contraception. You asked if I supported it in order to help reduce abortions, then you changed your tune and said ‘Well even if you don’t you have to pay for things you don’t agree with all the time!’.”

            Read it again. You were responding to what I said in that comment about taxes. But you paraphrased what I said, and in so doing, you altered its context. I specifically said that it was better that taxes be used than forcing Catholic institutions to pay, and THEN I said that taxes are used for things that I think are immoral, like the death penalty. And, I said that I’m an American, so too bad for me (that taxes are spent on things I find immoral)

            So, you paraphrased, and when I called you out on not including the sentence about taxes, you accused me of swinging the goals, or some such nonsense. As your proof of that, you went to a comment in which I did NOT mention taxes. Either way, I was not advocating that Catholics should buy contraceptives. Then, you call me a sham.

            I’ve been pretty patient here, trying to discuss my ideas with you. I understand that you believe that others outside of the Catholic church are obligated to follow the Church’s moral teachings, since “morality is morality”. I don’t see that they have an obligation to follow a Church that they are not within. We can certainly share our Catholic beliefs, but we can’t impose them. That takes a change of heart, and that can only be done by the Spirit of God.

            I’m really tired of all of this back and forth. And now that you are mixing up things I actually have said, you’ll get the last word. I’m not even going to read any more of your comments. It’s too hard to keep you from misconstruing everything I say, and spinning it to your liking. If I believed wrongly that you had no compassion for the women–just saying “I care” isn’t strong enough, you need to back that up with how you’d help them–then I sincerely apologize. You are a devout Catholic, and I appreciate your POV.

          • It’s not a mtter of following a Church, it’s a problem of those things being moral even if there was a Church. Do you know what natural law is? Have you ever looked into it?

            Leave if you want to, Sheila. I’ll end it with this: Your theory is that killing babies should be legal, and this is somehow a better situation than not allowing babies to be killed. You’re more concerned with the situation of the mother than the baby they kill – and yes, you are. Otherwise you’d agree without hesitation that abortion is always evil and should be illegal. But your priorities are very badly mixed, and you don’t seem to realize it.

            You have not been misrepresented, Sheila. You started off by misrepresenting ME, I called you out on it, and you glossed over it. I was responding to an actual, legitimate point you made about contraception – one you admitted you hold! We both agree, at any rate, that that is a point you made and a position you hold, and I responded to it. There was no straw manning going on there.

            Your position has been criticized, because Crude and I both think it’s a morally questionable, to say the least, position.

            Ultimately, you believe that abortion should be legal for the sake of the mother.

            I believe it should be illegal for the sake of the baby.

            And if you think, somehow, having the ability to slaughter your child enshrined into law is a good thing, then I think you’re fooling yourself. If it were true for any other stage of development, you’d be horrified at the concept. But with abortion, well, women will be mistreated!

            So, no, I stand by every word I wrote.

  3. “It merely consists of saying that one should forbid a woman to carry out an abortion and give the undesired child to a committed gay couple.”
    Last time I checked, it took two, female and male, to get into this pickle. How about satisfying the fundamentalist, half of the male’s salary goes into a fund for the unwanted child. If he doesn’t have any assets, we have the father put into forced labor camps. (Of course I am joking, but fundamentalists alway drop the problem on the female.) The mother has to do this, and can’t do that…whatever. Why not do something with the father that is totally biblical, Deut 23:1, crush his balls and cut off his pecker!

      • And I should add, by your definition. Not by mine. Either a fertilized egg is a cell, and not a human being. Or if the fertilized egg is a human being, then a sperm is half a human, and an egg is half a human, both of which gets flushed down the toilet regularly. And the whole point is that the male has as much responsibility as the woman to take care of the problem. Fundamentalists seem to like to blame women for everything, including the fall of man. I would say get over it, quit telling women what to do, and step up for your own responsibility.

      • What point do you even think I’m making here? Seriously? That fathers shouldn’t be involved?

        When did I ever say that?

        Sperm is not half a human, it’s a totally separate organism, that when joined with an egg becomes a member of the species homo sapiens. Before that, it was what it was: sperm.

    • Hello Gary. Not holding to Biblical inerrancy, I’m going to agree there are culturally conditioned wrong statements in the Bible.

      Otherwise, fundies do NOT push the whole responsibility towards the woman.
      They also blame Darwinism and think that teaching creationism in public school would drastically reduce the number of abortions.

      Cheers.

  4. Does any woman, ever, bear any responsibility for her pregnancy? Has there ever been a woman who got pregnant for whom we could say ‘She did something wrong’? And has there ever been a woman who had an abortion who we could say deserves condemnation for the act?

      • Well, just look at what Sheila said to me:

        The idea that every abortion is obtained by a selfish woman, for convenience, is blinding you to the real dilemma about the vulnerabilities of many pregnant women.

        So you see, the only reason I want to make abortion illegal is because I hate women, and don’t care when they’re in bad circumstances. Of course.

        But, if they only abort for convenience, well THEN it’s evil.

        By that logic, killing my toddler because I may have to go homeless to support him should not be illegal.

        Frankly, I’m starting to think Sheila is an example of the type of “progressive Christian” you decry on your blog.

      • Malcolm,

        I suspect – and I may yet be proven wrong – that these ‘vulnerabilities’ being spoken of are going to be drawn so broadly to basically include ‘any woman who has ever been pregnant and gotten an abortion, ever.’

        I think the modern climate when it comes to women’s issues is such that women – outside of voting for the wrong party – are treated as basically being incapable of ever making a wrong or condemnation-worthy choice ever when it comes to sex or sexuality.

        That said, yes, I think it’s ridiculous to say that people who oppose abortion are blind to such ‘vulnerabilities’. You know, theft is outlawed even though some people may well need to steal to survive in their situation.

      • “I suspect – and I may yet be proven wrong – that these ‘vulnerabilities’ being spoken of are going to be drawn so broadly to basically include ‘any woman who has ever been pregnant and gotten an abortion, ever.”

        You are, of course, wrong. I used the word vulnerable, and I never intended it to mean that every single abortion is justified. That’s not true, which is why I said the decision to end a developing human being is often taken too lightly.

        Is your main beef with me, or with Rachel Held Evans, or both of us? Why are you so angry?

        Just curious–do you favor the use of contraception?

        • If you do, you go directly against your Church’s teachings, now and historically. But that’s something that doesn’t seem to really bother you.

          Also: When was Crude angry?

          As for why I’m angry…it’s not exactly anger. More like disgust that you’re in favor of the legality of murder.

          And, I think you’re a sham. You claim to be a Catholic, but you have no problem going against the teachings you don’t like and show contempt for people who dare to suggest that mothers have some sort of moral obligations for the slaughter of their children. You think that wanting to make abortion illegal is equal to not caring about unfortunate women.

          You are no ally. You are a progressive Christian, but you’re worse than people like Lothar because you call yourself Catholic. At least Lothar claims to be nothing than what he is.

      • sheila,

        You are, of course, wrong. I used the word vulnerable, and I never intended it to mean that every single abortion is justified. That’s not true, which is why I said the decision to end a developing human being is often taken too lightly.

        Alright. So can you name some abortions which are unjustified, then? Hypothetical examples, of course – by all means, name a few of them. Tell me the cases where it’s right to condemn a woman for having an abortion.

        While you’re at it, please name some consensual sexual acts a woman can engage in that you’d find condemnation-worthy. Again, hypotheticals are just fine.

        Sex outside of marriage, perhaps? I think Lothar may back that claim – then again Lothar’s kind of unusual.

        Is your main beef with me, or with Rachel Held Evans, or both of us? Why are you so angry?

        What rage and hatred animates you, sheila, that you paint people critical of your views in such a light?

        Just curious–do you favor the use of contraception?

        Sure do. It’s the artificial contraception I regard as problematic.

        See, I have this belief that human beings are ultimately capable of controlling their sexual behaviors and urges, and that they should control their sexual behaviors and urges, in various situations. I know it’s not very popular these days

        • I have a huge problem with a woman who isn’t sure she wants an abortion to wait until well into the pregnancy to have an abortion. That’s the late-term abortion. I also am against it when a woman could afford the baby but kills it instead of putting it up for adoption. These are probably the most common types of abortion, based on some studies.

          The Catholic Church is against abortion even where the life of the mother is in grave danger. In an ectopic pregnancy, a Catholic woman is not allowed to take methotrexate, which dissolves the developing baby. That woman has to opt for surgery, which may or may not be dangerous to her health. Insurances often don’t want to cover such a surgery when methotrexate is available. Being a Catholic myself, if I had an ectopic pregnancy, I’d want the surgery and would spend out of pocket if I had to.

          I’m not going into what kind of sex a woman may or may not have, especially since it takes two to have sex.

          I live in the real world. I know that there are millions of men and women living here in America that are not Catholic. They are not under the Catholic requirements regarding marriage and sexuality. I must deal in reality. I believe that if we front-load our efforts into helping women to choose to carry the baby to term, we should do that.

          Read my second, longer reply to malcolm for a detailed look at my proposals. Skip the first one–it got messed up, leaving out my replies to the arrowed sentences.

          Just love how you both are personally attacking me, though. It’s been very interesting. My Catholic conscience is clear. I am in no way promoting abortion. I agree that babies are being needlessly killed. I once followed a woman out of an ob-gyn office, who was in her 2nd trimester, and was planning to get a D &E. I begged her to reconsider. You don’t know me at all, either of you.

      • sheila,

        I have a huge problem with a woman who isn’t sure she wants an abortion to wait until well into the pregnancy to have an abortion. That’s the late-term abortion. I also am against it when a woman could afford the baby but kills it instead of putting it up for adoption. These are probably the most common types of abortion, based on some studies.

        So, let’s be clear: women who procure abortions in the above listed situations are doing something immoral and condemnable, correct?

        I’m not going into what kind of sex a woman may or may not have, especially since it takes two to have sex.

        Oh, that’s fine. Feel free to condemn the man too. Or, I suppose, both of the women.

        Now, let’s hear about those consensual sex acts that are immoral. Because otherwise? I’m going to say you’re bluffing.

        I live in the real world. I know that there are millions of men and women living here in America that are not Catholic. They are not under the Catholic requirements regarding marriage and sexuality. I must deal in reality. I believe that if we front-load our efforts into helping women to choose to carry the baby to term, we should do that.

        I know! I mean, spousal abuse is tremendously common in some countries and among some ethnicities, not to mention accepted. Can we really pass a law against such a thing when we live in a multicultural modern era?

        By the by – opposition to abortion doesn’t strictly require Catholic or even religious belief, unless we’re talking down the road where we say that without God, all things are permitted.

        Just love how you both are personally attacking me, though.

        You apparently equate ‘criticizing your ideas’ with ‘personally attacking you’. Why are you filled with such hate, Sheila?

        I am in no way promoting abortion. I agree that babies are being needlessly killed. I once followed a woman out of an ob-gyn office, who was in her 2nd trimester, and was planning to get a D &E. I begged her to reconsider. You don’t know me at all, either of you.

        You are approaching the issue with a hostile tone straightaway towards pro-lifers, and then are shocked – shocked! – when people react with a bit of fire? C’mon.

        Maybe, sheila, your views on this issue are flawed, and legitimate criticisms can be lodged against them.

      • Sheila, what is your reason for being against late-term abortion specifically? You have absolutely no logical underpinning for it.

        Most people who claim to be against late-term abortion are using some form of personhood theory, where the late-term child is for whatever reason now considered a “person”, be it because of a heart beat, or brain waves, or something else.

        But you don’t seem to be doing that. You don’t have a problem with abortion (and yes, I’m using “don’t have a problem” in the very limited way you specify) in certain circumstances because of how difficult and terrible it might make life for the mother. So why on Earth would you make a distinction between late-term and early-term abortions, except some base form of disgust that has no logical underpinning?

        By the by, Crude is not anywhere close to attacking you personally. I’ve taken some potshots at your character, but that is because I think you’re disingenuous and the type of “progressive” Christian Crude has specified in this post of his: http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/2014/03/common-ground-liberal-christians-and.html

        Not only that, and most importantly of all: YOU personally attacked ME first. Remember when you implied, then outright stated, they I had no sympathy for a woman who was raped, or beaten, or suicidal? Here, let me remind you:

        No, because making all abortion illegal will put women’s lives at risk. Young girls who are victims of incest or rape, who are at an increased risk of complication and injury carrying the baby to term. Women who have life-threatening complications of pregnancy prior to a baby’s viability outside the womb. Rape victims who are so traumatized that are suicidal. Women whose food stamps or welfare payments are cut in the name of fiscal discipline. And, many other circumstances that you are unaware of, and probably wouldn’t care about, if you knew what they were

        Oh yeah, let’s not forget this:

        At this point in the conversation I had not insulted you whatsoever, merely strongly disagreed.

        If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

        And in short: Cry me a river. If you didn’t want things to get personal then maybe you should never have assumed things about MY character.

        • “probably wouldn’t care about, if you knew what they were” Wow. THAT was attacking you? First of all, I said “probably”, and I’ve always referred to your own words as to why I have such a supposition. As to late term abortions: it’s not a personhood thing. You have made that supposition about me. You are incorrect. And, you’ve questioned my Catholicism because I don’t want every abortion to be outlawed outright. So, yes, that’s when you went after my character. Let me give you the chance: is it true that none of the situations I described change your mind about the mother being a murderer? If I’m wrong, I apologize. If I’m right, I stand by my statement.

          Babies are being saved in NICUs all across the world, who are being killed by late term abortions. There’s no need to kill a viable baby, period. If there are complications in a pregnancy that is that far advanced, delivering the baby is the best way to save a mother’s life. I hope this clears it up for you.

          • Two counter questions, then I’ll answer:

            1) Is it true you want to legalize murder?

            Yes or no. No elaborations.

            2) Is it true that there are Church teachings you decided you flat out don’t think are the correct teachings?

            To answer your question: Of course I don’t think all of your examples are murderers, full stop. I think they are morally complicit, to a major degree, in the ripping apart of their child with surgical implements.

            It is merely a bald fact that in order for an abortion to take place the mother needs to walk into the clinic and decide they want a doctor to snip their child’s spine (and yes, first trimester fetuses have spines and limbs).

            That is the mother’s choice. It is a choice that can be heavily, heavily influences by forces beyond her control, but ultimately she has to be the person to willingly choose it.

            And because of that, her child is dead. Because of a decision she made.

            So are many of the examples you gave murderers, full stop? Not exactly. But they have blood on their hands.

            They are also, by the way, automatically excommunicated.

          • In American jurisprudence, a person who facilitates a murder is charged with that murder, even if s/he did not actually commit it. I’m sure you know about felony murder. If a person dies during the commission of a felony, the one who committed the felony is charged, even if the actions taken during the commission of that felony were not the direct cause of the death. Same thing with capital murder. If a person is aiding and abetting a person, such as driving the getaway car, and the one who commits the crime kills someone, the driver of that getaway car is just as guilty as the one who killed the person. The one who hires a hit man is also guilty of murder, even though that person didn’t do the killing.

            So, when you say a woman is “culpable” in the abortion, my mind goes to the above. So does the Church’s. The woman is excommunicated because she has committed the mortal sin of murder. Only the Sacrament of Reconciliation can restore her, and usually, if I’m correct, the confession must be to a Bishop. Interestingly if a Catholic drives a woman to get an abortion, then that Catholic is also automatically excommunicated. Kind of like capital murder.

            Yes, murder should always be illegal. Not all killings are murder, though. And, I don’t want to get bogged down in those weeds. I know that the Catholic Church makes no distinctions when it comes to abortion, and that’s what you are presenting here. I didn’t make abortion legal, and I am not keeping it legal, either. Nor have I driven someone to get an abortion, or be an escort for anyone getting an abortion, or given money to anyone for an abortion, and on and on.

            Is there any Catholic teaching with which I disagree? Yes, I believe abortion ought to be done if the woman will die without it. That’s self defense, which the Church allows except abortion. But I would still adhere to that teaching, because that is my duty as a Catholic. So, as in the case of the ectopic pregnancy, I’d opt for surgery.

            The Church has this way of allowing self defense during time of war, too, provided that the war is a “just” one. Not too many wars are just.

          • I didn’t make abortion legal, and I am not keeping it legal, either.

            But you want to.

            That’s self defense, which the Church allows except abortion.

            The baby is not an attacker.

            Your whole point about legality misses the point of what I was saying. What should and shouldn’t be legal is what’s at stake here in the first place.

            Are such woman morally culpable in some way for the slaughter of their child? And we are absolutely getting bogged down in these details, since it is critical to your claim (which took quite a long time to come out).

            You’re right about one thing – abortion is actually worse than murder, if we’re being honest. It is the killing of a child for the sin of being in its mother’s womb. It has done nothing – nothing – to merit such an act.

            But here you are saying “Yes, I think killing babies should be legal”.

            Crude’s wife beating analogy comes to mind here.

            Let’s repeat: You want murder to be legal. You think certain situations excuse somebody who kills their child of moral culpability. In fact, you think the option of murdering their child should be open to such people, because their life could possibly be hard otherwise. And sometimes, you think that this is good enough for murder.

            These mothers are in bad situations. Their children are dead. The fact that it’s legal to kill your child is sick.

            If you don’t think it’s murder, prove it. There’s no getting around that.

            But you can’t, and frankly I think you know that there’s no way to justify it.

            Also – you don’t just disagree with the Church on a single instance with abortion. You disagree with the teaching at its core – you don’t think abortion should be synonymous with murder, never minds that it fits all of the criteria.

      • I read Malcomthe cynics blog and the comments here. Here are my thoughts:

        In Malcolmthecynics blog he says:

        “You are a cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing what to believe while going to receive the Eucharist anyway with no respect for your Church’s actual teachings.

        I am not assuming this about you. I am merely going off of what you yourself have said.”

        I think you are making a jump from saying she has no respect for “the Churches” actual teachings just because she doesn’t agree with one or more of them.

        “The Church” teaches it is a mortal sin for married men and women to have oral sex, or to use birth control to prevent pregnancy. It is a mortal sin to think lustful thoughts. It is of course also a mortal sin to masturbate. It is a mortal sin to not go to church on Sunday.

        “The Church” teaches that if you commit any of these sins and die before you can confess them then you go straight to hell. I respect “the Churches” teachings on these and all things but I am not so sure I agree. I probably disagree on some things. I receive the Eucharist and I don’t think I should refuse it. Whether or not someone should be excommunicated is a matter for their Bishop and it is something that should not really be up for public vote.

        Now I happen to agree with “the Churches” teachings on abortion. But I think we need to approach others with charity. Always. We are not Jesus/God so even if he can be harsh I don’t think that necessarily means we have that right. This is especially true if someone is sincere in their beliefs and struggling with a Church teaching.

        And by the way I put the Church in quotes because although I am Catholic I view “The Church” as all of its members not just the magisterium. Although I certainly believe the Holy Spirit works in the Church including (and perhaps especially) in the Magisterium, I have my doubts about whether the Holy Spirit works in the church and the magisterium exactly as described.

        BTW: I am not sure the church teaches that abortion is wrong if it is done to save the life of the mother. I think that is acceptable in that case. It has to do with intentions. Just like in self defense you intention is to save a person not really to kill. Same with birth control if you take it for a different purpose than to prevent pregnancy – like for an unrelated health reason – then its acceptable.

        • I was not talking about mortal sins. We all commit grave sins (not necessarily mortal – that requires other things, and I won’t judge the state of one’s soul).

          Sheila disagreed with several key Church teachings. If you read Zippy’s response on my defense thread, a Catholic is even obligated to have to support abortion’s illegality – something I didn’t even know at the time.

          By the way – the Church says that both the child and the mother must equally try and be rescued. The end. It’s not nearly as controversial as people think. It is merely an acknowledgement that we must try and save both the child and mother with equal effort.

          Anyway, my harsh words to Sheila only came after harsh words to me as well as many wiIld misrepresentations. I invite you to read the thread (you can find the link at the bottom of the page) where I defend myself.

        • BTW – If she didn’t want me making judgments about her perhaps she shouldn’t have assumed I didn’t care about raped and suicidal women and then repeatedly misrepresented everything I said, then accused ME of doing that to HER. And then give me an apology conditional on me somehow PROVING that I didn’t hate women or some such nonsense.

      • Malcolm all grave sins are mortal sins as long as the sin is done with full knowledge and deliberate consent.

        All the items I mentioned have been deemed grave. The church is becoming very good at informing people of this so its hard to know who wouldn’t have this knowledge. And the actions would seem quite deliberate. Bottom line is this. If this doctrine is true as described, just about every 16-35 year old man who dies suddenly is in hell.

        For me personally I tend to view the Church as a Shepard. It is doing its best to make sure we do not stray from the straight and narrow. I tend to believe firmly that people who are able to follow the teaching are surely in heaven. But I certainly hope people who fall outside these guides can make it as well.

        • Malcolm all grave sins are mortal sins…

          No, you contradicted that yourself. You also need full knowledge and deliberate consent, which is something we really don’t know and can’t judge about other people.

          Bottom line is this. If this doctrine is true as described, just about every 16-35 year old man who dies suddenly is in hell.

          Perhaps. Luckily, it’s not my job to know this. We have our instructions – go preach the gospel, and follow the Church’s guidelines. The rest is up to God, thankfully.

          • Malcolm you cut off my quote where I continue with “as long as the sin is done with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” And then claim I contradict myself and proceed to say the same thing.

            Sure we can’t judge knowledge and consent with God’s ability but we can be pretty sure.

            Perhaps? Lets think this through. Studies might vary but on average young men will think sexual thoughts about once or twice every hour. Now not every thought will be a sin unless they linger on it. That’s true. But that’s allot of thoughts and deliberately lingering on one after you have been taught its a grave sin seems very likely.

            I find it fairly incredible that this is how heaven and hell is decided.

    • In my case, the answer is a resounding YES.

      A woman who slept with the wrong person (or was left by the father) should keep the child, at least for giving her for an adoption.

      Deciding to abort for upholding one’s wellbeing is coward and selfish.

      That said, before judging a specific person, I always have to keep Jesus words in mind. An individual is so complex, her suffering might be so terrible that we don’t have the right to view her as a wicked person, however strong we might disagree with her choice.

      Cheers.

      • Lothar,

        Here’s the thing. You say that, and I applaud it. But I can’t help but notice many times that talking about this subject comes with a stipulation: the woman is, in effect, never at fault. Her decision to have sex is never wrong because a woman is in control of her own body and she alone can determine what is or isn’t right. Same for abortion – a woman is never a moral monster for having an abortion, because it’s her body and she alone understands what she’s going through. You actually say some of this here:

        An individual is so complex, her suffering might be so terrible that we don’t have the right to view her as a wicked person, however strong we might disagree with her choice.

        I will accept reasoning like this the moment I hear people offer reasoning that we can’t condemn wife-beaters, because who knows what kind of stress they were under, or what buttons the woman was pushing? Actually, no, I wouldn’t accept it even then, because it’s just inane.

        Someday we’re going to have to make a decision: are women adults? Are they culpable for their actions or aren’t they? If they are, then yes, we really can judge a woman as having been – if only for that moment – a moral monster for aborting her child, or even for having entirely consensual sex with someone. (Likewise for a man, but really, few punches are pulled in that scenario.)

        There are women who are victims in the grand scheme of things. But not every woman who has an abortion is a victim, not every woman who gets pregnant is devoid of culpability, and not every abortion problem ultimately comes down to society not being willing to step in and provide this or that monetary support whenever a woman makes a mistake.

        • Well I entirely reject the Western liberal dogma that women can do everything what they want with their body.
          The same, of course, isn’t true of men as well.
          If we have been created by a loving Father, we don’t have the right to soil our body by becoming drug addicts or alcoholics.

          Yes, in an ultimate sense we cannot know whether or not a man beating his wife is a moral monster.
          Like for a woman deciding to abort, there might be lots of psychological factors which mitigate his sin.

          Cheers.

  5. A nice simple, non controversial topic Lothar! As a male Christian, I usually find it difficult to discuss this when there are strong pro-choice advocates around, particularly if they are female. To some extent, as a male I have to consider how valid my view is when there are females around. I would be talking about something I personally would never have to make a decision about.

    I would have to say that I don’t see a complete ban being right. In the very small cases where the mother’s life is really in danger, or the child is going to be “non viable”, then I feel a legal abortion should be available. Recognising that this is truly a tragedy. In the minority case of a mother being in this position due to rape, then I also recognise that a legal abortion should be available, if all other avenues are fruitless. Although, this needs to also be recognised as tragic.

    In theory, in the UK, this is I believe closer to how the law should be interpreted than what actually happens. The ban on abortion was removed due to the terrible things which were happening, but before long, opinions shifted and we moved to effective abortion on demand. So Schaeffer’s views to a great extent were correct here.

    The problem is that an abstract/theoretical view, either way is ultimately not dealing with the issues as and when they happen. The women, confronted with all sorts of issues needs to be supported, cared for, cared about and considered. The horror of the wholesale needless death of so many unborn babies also needs to be considered and not hushed up. Something is wrong when even one abortion needs to be carried out and as I said, in some cases an abortion needs to happen, but this is a tragedy. In many cases there should not need to be an abortion, education, support, caring alternatives, acceptance that people make poor decisions and many other considerations need to be made, but far too often they are not.

    I think many Christians get involved in what is a messy, tragic area and bring Jesus into it. Offering loving support to frightened mothers who really hadn’t thought enough and became pregnant, helping them bring a child into the World and supporting that. Just saying there should be no abortions ever is not a good option, if not supported by helping those who’ve “made mistakes” (or call it sinned if you may). Saying it’s an inalienable right for women to do what they will with their bodies is also not a good option, as this brings so much tragedy, which is often hidden or denied too.

    Unfortunately it’s the extremes at either end which make the most noise and probably make things happen, the weaker voices in the middle aren’t listened to or are not carrying the strength to bring better outcomes.

    Ultimately the value of every life needs to be more prominent and the unborn child’s right to life pushed higher than the rights of the mother. However there are no easy quick black and white answers to this question, each mother and child are important and both need love.

    • Hello Ross, nice to hear from you!

      Yep, I agree that if the health of the mother is gravely endangered, abortion should be considered.
      This also includes psychological trauma following a rape.
      And yes this should be viewed as a TRAGEDY instead of being callously brushed aside by pro-choicers who just believe that a bunch of molecules has ceased to exist.

      But what about women who have slept with the wrong person and got pregnant?
      I think that she should take her responsibility and bear the baby, even if it were to be adopted by someone else.

      This might be psychologically unpleasant, but the life of the unborn child seems much more important that emotional unease during the pregnancy. If I were a woman in such a situation this is what I would do.
      (Many secular women I talked to agree with me on that).
      And suffering myself under ADHD, anxiety and depression I know all too well what psychological pain is.
      Yet I am willing to endure it for goals which are far greater than my discomfort.
      And bringing to life a new human being is certainly such a goal.

      As for ” the child is going to be “non viable” I certainly agree if it means that the child is doomed to die during the first weeks or months of her life under an atrocious pain.
      The problem is that many people nowadays abort mentally handicapped children, implicitly judging them “unworthy of living” (lebensunwert).

      But who the hell are we for judging that they haven’t the right to live? What gives us the right to kill them because they don’t fit the needs of our capitalist society?
      As I said, there is no logical grounds for not committing infanticides against intellectually limited babies and toddlers IF you are willing to abort them en masse.
      If morality is limited to a question of pain and suffering for the greatest number, then we might as well kill babies (as Peter Singer advocated) since we DO have the technology for making them insensitive under anesthesia.

      I have the fear that this is what the Western world is heading to, namely a society where only offspring deemed “fit” will be allowed to see the dawn of a day.
      We really should view this as profoundly evil.

      Anyway I agree with your balanced position. The religious has no chance to win the culture war, and it unwittingly fosters the pro-choice movement by promoting extreme positions which are demonstrably false or harmful.

      I think it is VITAL to leave the culture war and start a rational and friendly dialog about such issues.
      https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/der-emotionale-hund-und-sein-rationaler-schwanz-und-deren-praktischen-ethischen-implikationen/

      So I would greatly appreciate further comments from you on my blog🙂

      Liebe Gruesse in Christus / lovely greetings in Christ from a Continental European scrounging the beautiful, wonderful and awe-inspiring Britain whose tongue remains foreign to him.

      • Dear Lotharson, thank you for your kind comments. Regarding my balanced position, you should have heard me in the pub last night! Even though I was only drinking Coke, I have capacity to rant and fulminate :-{

        I see there being a problem holding an extreme position, as you say, I also see we need to be more toward the middle, pleading for the rights of the child, educating people as to the real issues and tragedy. Maybe this can spread from the middle to the edges.

        Your point about the handicapped is very pertinent. I have seen people with various “conditions”, such as Downs’ Syndrome, pointing out that they could easily have been killed, before they had life. In a way the current resort of aborting children who are not “normal’, or “perfect” even, is a form of, or similar to Genocide. There is the problem that society, even so-called Christian ones have shunned these people and hidden them away, as if there were something shameful about them, no wonder we have this current approach. We need to show that everyone is important, loved and significant. Our churches and society should have valued places for those with spina bifida, Down’s syndrome, Aspergers etc.

        A problem with holding an extreme position is that it can drive people away and you end up with two equally opposed viewpoints. Although I agree with much of what your other posters have said, I find some of the language and viewpoints troubling. If we hold to absolutes and are legalistic, we are looking to a World which does not exist, an ideal World which it would be nice to live in, but that is not our World. I agree that we should not have sex outside marriage, that a woman who is pregnant should not kill the child within her. These are ideals that are great, but we do not live in a World where this happens. If a man has sex outside marriage, he sins, but he is not the one who will have to carry the child to term, the woman is. He can run away, she can’t. If we hold the strong view that these sins are dreadful, then the person who commits them will genuinely fear punishment, approbation, the disgust of others. No wonder they try and find an easier way out. Where is the forgiveness of God in this. Forgiveness needs to be there and apparent from others, so that if one falls, then there is a way out. If the posters above carry on with the way they talk, then I can just see more abortions and illegal ones still happening. If the language is of love and kindness, backed up with help and support, not condoning the behaviour, then more people would choose to keep the child.

        The language of legalism and punishment points to the ideal World which does not exist yet. In the World we have now, we need forgiveness as we all deserve punishment. When you see someone who has done something “wrong”, maybe we need to see that “There but for the Grace of God go I”.

        Those who have no faith in God, or moral absolutes will not be convinced by us claiming and holding to opposite views, this just prolongs and hardens our difference, however if we can show them an alternative and better way, maybe they will rethink their views. Many Christians already are supporting unwed mothers, bringing up children with “handicaps” (as are those without faith). The more we do this and the more it can be seen, then maybe views will change and this tragedy may be stopped.

  6. I’m a little disappointed – but not surprised – by the overall tone of the debate on this piece, which largely seems to have descended into aggressive assertions of each side’s position with little mutual understanding or kindness. It doesn’t really encourage anyone else to enter the fray, but here goes nothing.

    When I converted to evangelical Christianity, one of the first and most powerful beliefs I took on was an opposition to abortion (though it was a Roman Catholic neighbour who introduced me to the idea). Twenty years on, I’ve revised most of my views, including beliefs about hell, penal substitution, biblical inerrancy and homosexuality. However, my views on abortion have remained intact until very recently.

    For years then I’ve been very strongly of the view that abortion was unjustifiable baby-murder, full stop. All the talk of a woman’s right to choose rang hollow to me – the right to choose to destroy human life? Who could ever have that right?

    However, in the last 2 years I’ve begun to see another side. I’ve had to concede that there are cases when it isn’t clear-cut black-and-white, and when an early abortion may just possibly be the lesser of two evils. I’ve also had to concede that we have little scientific or religious basis for deciding when a cluster of embryonic cells becomes an actual human being, and that for the first few weeks of life it may not be meaningful to call an embryo a person.

    Furthermore, as a man who will never suffer an unwanted pregnancy nor the terrible pains of childbirth, I now feel that I have no right to dictate to any women on this incredibly difficult choice.

    What few pro-lifers remember is that the evangelical church used not to be against abortion, until Francis Schaeffer weighed in on the issue. The Bible itself used to be used to condone abortion in certain cases, based on a particular reading of Exodus 21:22-24.

    I remain personally against abortion in principle, particularly late abortion. But I no longer see it as an absolutely clear-cut or central issue, and I’m willing to hear the other side. I also remain unconvinced that seeking to criminalise abortion is a particularly helpful solution to this near-intractable problem.

    • Nicely put, you have summed up a lot of things I think, but in a much clearer and concise way.

      Francis Schaeffer was very influential in my life and lots of people I know. However, on reflection I find more and more that his views are/were problematic and not just regarding abortion. I wonder how much his views have influenced the current state of Evangelicalism and particularly American Christianity.

      I think “listening to the other side” is so important, and not just so that you can feel justified in hitting them back with the bible.

      • Thanks Ross! I think Francis Schaeffer has had a huge influence on the last few decades of Evangelicalism, particularly in the US but also in Europe and the UK. Sadly I don’t think it’s always been an entirely helpful influence.

        What I do like about Schaeffer is that (unlike many evangelicals) he engaged intelligently with the arts. However, I also feel that he often misrepresented non-Christian art and music as merely the art of despair or nihilism – or else as the search for a truth that could only be satisfied in mainstream Christianity.

        One of his big ideas of course is that we’ve wrongly separated life into an upper storey of faith and a lower storey of reason, for which he holds Kierkegaard partly responsible. While I think he has a point to a limited degree, I think his position also has a number of inherent problems.

        But it’s where Schaeffer misguidedly entered the ‘culture wars’ and sided with one particular party that I think he did his most profound damage to Evangelicalism.

        Interestingly his son Frank has now completely dissociated himself from his father’s politics and theology, while still showing respect for his father as a person.

    • I’m a little disappointed – but not surprised – by the overall tone of the debate on this piece, which largely seems to have descended into aggressive assertions of each side’s position with little mutual understanding or kindness

      You’re under no obligation, of course, to do anything, but I invite you to read my defense of myself, linked at the bottom of the page. I actually disagree – substantial ground has been covered. Sure, things got heated. Don’t they always?

      I’ve had to concede that there are cases when it isn’t clear-cut black-and-white, and when an early abortion may just possibly be the lesser of two evils

      I’ve had to concede that there might be cases where killing my toddler may be the lesser of two evils. Therefore, it should be legal.

      Anyway, I reject the “lesser of two evils” framework. Don’t do something evil, period.

      I’ve also had to concede that we have little scientific or religious basis for deciding when a cluster of embryonic cells becomes an actual human being

      That has always been silly sophistry. First off, there’s DEFINITELY religious basis. I often remember a quote from Jeremiah when God says “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”, just off the top of my head.

      Also, no scientific basis for deciding when a cluster of embryonic cells becomes a human being?

      What a reframe! On the contrary, all biologists would agree it is far more than a “clump of cells” and in fact a member of the species homo sapiens. The real question is, when did we decide that we had the right to judge what human is or isn’t a person? Almost every time this sort of sophistry has been attempted in human history some great evil has resulted, and even people like Sheila would admit that abortion in post Roe v. Wade America is no exception.

      Furthermore, as a man who will never suffer an unwanted pregnancy nor the terrible pains of childbirth, I now feel that I have no right to dictate to any women on this incredibly difficult choice.

      Furthermore, as a person who has never had lung cancer, I now feel I have no right to dictate to Walter White on his incredibly difficult choice to sell meth to pay for his treatments.

      Come on, that’s a terrible argument. Just because I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman doesn’t mean I can’t know when killing a child is killing a child.

      Not only that, but pro-choice women themselves disagree with you:

      http://malcolmthecynic.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/an-interesting-admission/

      From pro-choice Rachel Maddow, quote from a pro-choice video in a pro-choice article, attempting to make a pro-choice point:

      So, Rep. Buchy, here’s some realtalk: You don’t need to be a woman to know why women seek abortions.

      More than that, “being in a difficult situation” does not equal “whatever such a person does in such a situation should be legal”. Lots of thieves are in difficult situations. I feel for them, I think there should be resources available to help, I’m willing to show mercy. I also do not think thievery should be legal.

      I also remain unconvinced that seeking to criminalise abortion is a particularly helpful solution to this near-intractable problem.

      Man, it’s amazing women even survived in pre-Roe v. Wade America, right? Everybody but Crude and I seems convinced that making abortion illegal is a bad idea, but none have given a particularly coherent reason.

      • “That has always been silly sophistry. First off, there’s DEFINITELY religious basis.”

        Hello Malcom. I think that it would be great if you were to give up the use of such words towards nice folks you disagree with.

        I don’t mean that for my blog but as a personal advice for you in general .

        Though I often disagree with you, you often have interesting ideas, but people are extremely unwilling to answer you because they feel offended and insulted.

        Consider how Jesus treated his opponents. He did not use inflammatory languages towards kind pharisees such as Nicodemus or others who sincerely disagreed with him. He reserved harsh words for self-righteous bigots.

        So it is perfectly fine if you use such a language towards militant atheists (and I should add nasty religious fundamentalists) but you should avoid it with people who just appear to have another opinion.

        And always ask yourself: would I use such words if I were speaking to him or her face to face in the real world?

        As for me I am not perfect by any means and am also a work in progress.

        Lovely greetings in Christ, Marc.

        • Thanks Marc – very well put, and far more Christlike than my response!!

          I am actually anti-abortion (or very largely so), but I don’t do black-and-white and I have an irritating tendency to want to see the other side of any debate… particularly when I feel personally rubbed up the wrong way by the proponents of my own side!😉

        • Hi Lothar,

          First off, thank you for the kind words. Know that I comment here, even on this thread, because I find your thoughts intelligent and interesting. So there’s my compliment in return.

          I actually have pretty interesting conversations with people in general. Abortion is indeed a more incendiary issue for me with others. I once again will reiterate that, with sheila, I was NOT unjustified, and I tried to give my defense for that on my own blog.

          With EL, I was rather rude. I do apologize for that.

          Now, having given that apology, twice, I do want to say one thing, not in my defense, but so you understand:

          As a pro-lifer I tend to be used, in the real world, to people ho disagree with me to do it in the most vile and vicious ways, often trying to shut me up entirely because they simply refuse to consider my side of the issue. If you want evidence of this, I invite you to read my article “Abortion in Ethics Class”. So, in response I have developed a, if not exactly an aggressive tone, a VERY blunt one that can come off that way (even my early comments with sheila, while not insulting, were quite sharp).

          So that is another reason why abortion is such an emotional issue for me: People in real life have turned it into one for me.

          At any rate, I will try to keep what you have said in mind and make my comments less rude to people who have not yet been rude to me.

          -malcolmthecynic

          P.S. As for people like tildeb…well, I think I was more than justified. I originally responded to him with two sentences and he went off on me like I dropped an atom bomb. His attitude towards religious people was nothing short of incendiary and condescending.

          There are atheists I HAVE conversed with respectfully, but unless tildeb changed his views I doubt he will be one of them. That said, I will try not to START any arguments with him.

          And, as this is your blog, I will try to move conversations elsewhere.

          • Hello Malcom, it is perfectly fair to respond in a rude manner to people being constantly rude.

            You are certainly warmly welcome to respond to Tildeb and even start an argument with him if you strongly disagree with what he has expressed.
            To be quite honest, doing so could even spare some of my own time🙂

            Right now I have to prepare a scientific article in the shortest delay. As soon as I am finished I will publish a response to his most recent assertions.

            However you should definitely avoid using an inflammatory language towards nice opponents such as Sheila.

            I find it great you were humble enough to apologize.

            Friendly greetings.

      • Hi Malcolmthecynic, well, thanks for your response (I think).

        Of course you disagree with my views, but I don’t see any need to do it in such an aggressive and dismissive manner. And no, I don’t think it always needs to get so heated. I appreciate that you feel very strongly about this issue and see it as (quite literally) a matter of life and death, but from my perspective you do no favour to your cause by the manner in which you present your views – and knock down those of people who disagree with you.

        I find it hard to see how continuing this debate could be constructive or productive, given that we’re starting from such utterly different premises, and that neither of us is likely to change his mind over the course of an exchange of comments. I’ve stated my very basic position, which I continue to hold, and you’ve put forward what you clearly see as a rebuttal. So I’m happy to let it stand there.

        But if you’re interested in engaging with my more coherently-expressed views on the subject (albeit from 3 years ago), I wrote a long post on my own blog: http://evangelicaliberal.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/the-abortion-question/.

        All the best,
        Harvey / TEL

        • This is a nice response. Yes, this is a subject I feel more strongly about than others, and that comes out. I do still feel that, with the above conversation, I was defending myself quite fairly, and my language was, at least mostly, justified..

          But, you were not rude, in retrospect I rather was, so I hope you can accept this as a real apology.

          I’d be happy to engage you more civilly if you’re still interested, however.

          • Hi Malcolmthecynic, thanks for your gracious response – I’m sorry, I only just found it by going through all the comments on this piece, as I think it had got lost in my email spam filter (my workplace has quite stringent and slightly random filters).

            Anyway, apology fully accepted and credit to you for making it!

            I think we actually largely agree on the subject of abortion. Where we differ is that I take a tentative (and largely passive) position and you take a strong and active one. That’s probably largely down to our individual personalities and experiences. I always tend to see both sides of any issue, which is both a blessing and a curse!

            I still remain unconvinced that the Bible itself offers unequivocal, hard-and-fast instruction on the subject, but of course that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moral position on it.

            I do feel that abortion is wrong in the majority of cases, and late abortion does seem to me perilously close to infanticide. But I have no wish to condemn or criminalise women struggling with deeply problematic decisions that I will never have to face myself, or to pressure them to act in ways that I believe to be right but which they do not.

            I understand that you take a different view, and your reasons for this, and I wish you all the best in your endeavours.

            Thanks again,
            Harvey / The Evangelical Liberal

      • Also, no scientific basis for deciding when a cluster of embryonic cells becomes a human being?

        What a reframe! On the contrary, all biologists would agree it is far more than a “clump of cells” and in fact a member of the species homo sapiens.

        I am a biologist, and this matter is not as simple as you think it is. All species concepts are heuristics, tools for classifying things. For all of the established species concepts, there are exceptions that remain unclassifiable with the concept, and none of the established concepts is applicable to the earliest phases of organismic development. What you can say based on what is known about human biology, is that a fertilized human egg is indeed a *human* cell, but so is an unfertilized egg. If you think you can come up with a reasonable species concept that allows you to classify a fertilized human egg, but not an unfertilized human egg, as a “member of the species homo sapiens” – you are welcome to try that, I have no idea how you could do it without ending up with a concept that would classify a developing human in the 16-cell stage as not one, but rather 16 “members of the species homo sapiens” and which would end up classifying a developing human in a later stage of development as NOT a “member of the species homo sapiens” (not to mention that your concept would reduce what it means to be “fully human” to a fully reversible biochemical triviality).

        The real question is, when did we decide that we had the right to judge what human is or isn’t a person?

        *Everybody* who has an opinion on this issue is making exactly this judgment – if you think that a fertilized human egg has to be considered “fully human” / “a human person” but not an unfertilized human egg, you are making the exact same judgment as pro choice people, you just draw the line at a different point.

        • *Shrug* Well, that’s kind of my point – we can draw the line at ANY point. The reasoning for it is rather odd, though, and trivial.

          Anyway, surely the difference is rather obvious – the fertilized egg will develop into a full-grown human being, just like a toddler.

          The distinction seems fairly straightforward.

      • Anyway, surely the difference is rather obvious – the fertilized egg will develop into a full-grown human being, just like a toddler.

        The distinction seems fairly straightforward.

        The fertilized human egg has the potential to develop into an adult human being – if it successfully goes through all the developmental stages between egg and adult human. But the exact same is true for the unfertilized human egg, the list of stages it has to go through is just a little longer.

      • Okay, but you can say the same thing about a toddler.

        Absolutely.

        The difference is that it has started the process.

        Life is a continuous cycle, you cannot point to one spot in the cycle and say “here it begins”. You could do it relative to something, conception for example is a “start” in the sense that the development of a genetically unique individual has now started (well, that´s only approximatively true because it happens quite frequently that more than one adult individual can trace their origin back to the same zygote and because the DNA in your cells actually can and does change over time, but what the hell).
        But every step in development is a “start” in some sense, the question is whether this particular “start” is morally relevant (even “maximally relevant” in the sense that we define everything after it as having *full* human rights and everything before it as having *no* rights at all…).

        • Well…if we can say the same thing about a toddler, it’s rather odd that we’re having this conversation, isn’t it.

          I mean, I pointed out several biology books (I am in college, I can grab my own) that pointed out the clear line of demarcation between a sample of the DNA of one species and a member of that species is fertilization, meaning that this DNA is going to develop, unless something goes wrong (rather like “unless the toddler is hit by a bus”), into a grown human being.

          My argument here is that assigning a specific “personhood” status to one over the other is arbitrary, and personhood theories have historically lead to all sorts of atrocities.

          I have no idea if you’re against abortion under any circumstances, but even the most liberal pro-lifers would have to admit that post-Roe v. Wade America has multiplied abortions exponentially, and this is not a good thing.

      • Well…if we can say the same thing about a toddler, it’s rather odd that we’re having this conversation, isn’t it.

        Why should that be odd? To me, that seems to be an inevitable consequence of life being a continuous cycle of development.

        I mean, I pointed out several biology books (I am in college, I can grab my own) that pointed out the clear line of demarcation between a sample of the DNA of one species and a member of that species is fertilization, meaning that this DNA is going to develop, unless something goes wrong (rather like “unless the toddler is hit by a bus”), into a grown human being.

        There are clear demarcations between all developmental stages, else we wouldn´t define them as distinct stages to begin with. You are pointing to a particular demarcation between two stages that involves a transition to a full complement of human DNA (well, at least this is what happens most of the time during conception): If you think that this is the only a relevant transition for distinguishing “fully human” / “human person” from not “fully human” / “human person”, then you make personhood / being human ALL about DNA, ALL about biochemistry, and that seems to be rather odd to me.

        My argument here is that assigning a specific “personhood” status to one over the other is arbitrary, and personhood theories have historically lead to all sorts of atrocities.

        But you do that as well. You assign personhood to fertilized eggs, but not to unfertilized ones. To me, the moment of conception is no less arbitrary than defining the onset of “personhood” a little later (e.g. implantation) or a little earlier (e.g. ovulation) – I don´t see why any of these moments should be morally relevant because I don´t see any connection between changes in the genetic and epigenetic status of cells on the one hand and “personhood” on the other.

        I have no idea if you’re against abortion under any circumstances, but even the most liberal pro-lifers would have to admit that post-Roe v. Wade America has multiplied abortions exponentially, and this is not a good thing.

        Unrestricted access to abortion in all stages of pregnancy is not an option on the table in any country on this planet afaict (and I wouldn´t support it if it were on the table).

        • But my distinction isn’t actually arbitrary. It’s the exact same distinction we give to every other stage of life: An organism with the full complement of human DNA that’s going through developmental stages until it reaches adulthood.

          An unfertilized egg is not the same for what seems to me anyway to be rather obvious reasons.

          Anyway, what stage would you use, then, to arrive at the definition of “personhood”, such as it is?

      • But my distinction isn’t actually arbitrary. It’s the exact same distinction we give to every other stage of life: An organism with the full complement of human DNA that’s going through developmental stages until it reaches adulthood.

        An unfertilized egg is not the same for what seems to me anyway to be rather obvious reasons.

        I meant “arbitrary” in a moral sense. If you make it about genetics, then conception is indeed a very relevant / very “non-arbitrary” moment in human development. But from a moral perspective, I don´t see why a transition from 23 to 46 chromosomes or changes in epigenetic status should be of any relevance – from a moral perspective, conception seems to be no less arbitrary than earlier or later moments like ovulation or implantation for example. All of these moments are associated with significant changes in cell biology, but cell biology is not a morally relevant category for me.

        Anyway, what stage would you use, then, to arrive at the definition of “personhood”, such as it is?

        An extremely hard question… Philosophers have never reached a consensus on what “personhood” means, but what is obvious, is that some of the attributes that are commonly associated with “personhood” emerge very early in development while others emerge very late. So I think that drawing the line at any given moment and saying that everything before it is not “human” in ANY morally relevant sense while everything after it is fully human in EVERY morally relevant sense, cannot possibly be a meaningful approach – it will inevitably either be far too restrictive or not nearly restrictive enough. It seems much more reasonable to me to acknowledge the fact that personhood develops on a continuum and therefore restrict access to abortion as pregnancy progresses, but always prioritizing the health of the mother (I absolutely do support access to late-term abortions if the health of the mother is at risk).

        • Yes, well, that is exactly why I use the genetic marker: Because that’s what we’ve ALWAYS used. Otherwise, once again, we go back to issues of personhood being decided, not by who is and isn’t human, but who WE decide is a human person. Why not just bite the bullet here and say “Here’s a new member of the species homo-sapiens, biologically distinct and ready to develop into an adult human being, and since it is a human it is a person”. Otherwise we are in serious danger of making the definition dependent on some human quality as opposed to simply being human.

      • Yes, well, that is exactly why I use the genetic marker: Because that’s what we’ve ALWAYS used.

        I´m not sure what you mean by “always used”. The Catholic position “conception = ensoulment” existed long before we had any idea of what a “gene” is (the current Catholic position is based on the Dogma of immaculate conception that was proclaimed in 1854 – before that, the church shared Aristotle´s views, involving a preformation view of “embryology” (to the degree that Aristotle´s views can be called “embryology”) and “ensoulment” happening after 40 days for male embryos and after 90 days for female ones).

        Otherwise, once again, we go back to issues of personhood being decided, not by who is and isn’t human, but who WE decide is a human person. Why not just bite the bullet here and say “Here’s a new member of the species homo-sapiens, biologically distinct and ready to develop into an adult human being, and since it is a human it is a person”.

        This is a decision we have to make either way. I don´t see how genetics is of any help here. You say “…biologically distinct and ready to develop into an adult human being, and since it is a human…” – an unfertilized human egg is:
        – a live cell
        – a human cell
        – a biologically distinct entity that can be just as clearly distinguished from other biological entities as a fertilized egg can
        – equipped with developmental potential
        All that conception does is changing genetic and epigenetic status of the cell, bringing the cell a step closer to “adult human” on the continuum of human development. Again, I don´t see why changes in cell biology should translate to changes in moral status.

        Otherwise we are in serious danger of making the definition dependent on some human quality as opposed to simply being human.

        In principle, I totally agree here – the way we handle this can potentially lead down VERY dangerous roads. But I don´t see how not accepting the moment of conception as a morally relevant one contributes to that danger.
        If I said that we should be even more conservative than that and not make it dependent on a specific set of human chromosomes and a specific epigenetic state, but rather ONLY on whether a biological entity is part of the human reproductive cycle or not – thus granting “personhood” to cells and other biological entities in ANY stage of human development (turning male masturbation into mass murder), you would probably not find that very reasonable and would not see a danger of dehumanizing people based on you rejecting this definition of “personhood” – it´s no different for me rejecting the moment of conception as a morally relevant one.
        This is a hard issue, and genetics in particular or cell biology in general is of no help whatsoever IMO.

        • The Catholic Church’s view has been consistent with whatever the embryology has been – once we know that it’s a member of the human species, it’s a human person. This is clear from reading Aquinas, who wrote this before the Immaculate Conception became dogma.

          If I said that we should be even more conservative than that and not make it dependent on a specific set of human chromosomes and a specific epigenetic state, but rather ONLY on whether a biological entity is part of the human reproductive cycle or not – thus granting “personhood” to cells and other biological entities in ANY stage of human development (turning male masturbation into mass murder), you would probably not find that very reasonable

          When has ANYBODY said that sperm is a part of the human life cycle? When will sperm grow into an adult?

          This reminds me of a conversation I had with somebody on race. There’s a relatively big story out now about a group of kids in Jersey – a wrestling team – who dressed up a black dummy in a rival school’s uniform and hanged it, with hoods over their heads.

          As it turned out it wasn’t racial. They just happened to have a black dummy as opposed to a white one, and they were basically just trash-talking to the other school. So I said, “You can’t deny though, that’s idiotic. Let’s call a spade a spade”.

          The person I was talking with was hell-bent on agreeing that they did ANYTHING wrong. He said,”See? SEE? You made the same mistake they did, because “spade” is a racially insensitive term and you didn’t realize it!”.

          The moral of that little story is that I think we’re all smart enough to figure out the difference, morally and physically, between sperm and a human zygote.

          All that conception does is changing genetic and epigenetic status of the cell, bringing the cell a step closer to “adult human” on the continuum of human development.

          Exactly – we have reached the stage where, barring death from outside causes, it will turn into an adult. Before that, it won’t. This is how we define every other stage of life as human, but when we reach conception suddenly it’s all very murky.

          I just don’t buy it.

      • The Catholic Church’s view has been consistent with whatever the embryology has been – once we know that it’s a member of the human species, it’s a human person. This is clear from reading Aquinas, who wrote this before the Immaculate Conception became dogma.

        Aquinas shared the aristotelian view. He said that if you strike a pregnant woman, and kill either the woman or the *animated* fetus, you cannot be excused of homicide (and “animated” in this context means “having a rational soul”, with ensoulment happening after 40 days for male embryos and after 90 days for female embryos). The “once we know that it´s a member of the human species” part is misguided, it´s a category mistake because species definitions are not made for this – science can tell you whether a given cell is a human cell or not and it can tell you what the developmental potential of a given cell is, if you think that this knowledge has any moral relevance, be my guest, I don´t. Historically, Aristotle (and Aquinas) knew as well that what is growing in the womb is “human”, also before the 40 / 90 day “ensoulment” point – they didn´t think that it is a tiny horse or a tiny sea anemone or a tiny banana that is growing inside the womb, but they did not consider it to be morally equivalent to a human person until the 40 / 90 day point because they thought that there is no rational soul present before that.

        The moral of that little story is that I think we’re all smart enough to figure out the difference, morally and physically, between sperm and a human zygote.

        I think so as well. If you have to escape a burning hospital and you can only save either one newborn or a bunch of test tubes with human zygotes – we are all smart enough to make the right moral choice. And if you are in a burning hospital and can only either save a human sperm sample or some test tubes with human zygotes, but to save either one you would have to make a five minute detour and thus risk your life – I very much doubt that there are a lot of people willing to run the extra mile in a burning hospital to “save” the test tubes (or saving the sperm sample of course, which I would consider to be just as “heroic” and just as silly).

        Exactly – we have reached the stage where, barring death from outside causes, it will turn into an adult.

        That is wrong. It is more likely than not that it will not develop into an adult for reasons that have nothing to do with “outside causes” – attachment to the uterine wall for example routinely fails, leading to a completely natural abortion (and the woman will have no idea that she even was carrying an embryo for a few days). There are no “outside causes” involved here, that´s just the way this works, it´s error-prone on every level even if there are no outside causes messing it up. There is no qualitative difference between a fertilized egg and an unfertilized egg in this respect – the list of “ifs” that have to happen for it reaching the adult human stage is just a little longer, that´s it.

        This is how we define every other stage of life as human

        We don´t. The legal definition of the words “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” does not even mention developmental potential, not in US law and not in any other country on this planet afaict. And for a biological definition – we don´t classify an unfertilized human egg as “not human” and a fertilized human egg as “human” because they differ in developmental potential, they are both human cells.

  7. I had put a response to theEvangelicalLiberal, or so I thought,a day or two ago. I think there’s a hole in the internet and it fell out!

    Unfortunately, here and everywhere else it seems, there are those who don’t quite know how to hold a rational, courteous and sensible debate without using reductio ad absurdem techniques, which generally end up in them claiming that others are saying things they have not said. This seems to be quite a thing with many Christians who hold to a conservative and/or inerrantist position. This follows Godwin’s law where arguments end up comparing someone to Hitler or the Nazis.

    We were talking about Schaeffer’s influence on Evangelicalism and I see this a lot in his approach and maybe this is where so many others get the tactic from. Unfortunately I think maybe he is the author of the second “Great Evangelical Disaster” without even knowing it. Looking at the way he critically analysed anything that seemed or was, contrary to his own fundamentalist/separatist viewpoint, I can see that he was more inquisitorial than inquisitive.

    As a good Christian approach, I like tELs looking at the other side of the argument. I try this also and I think we need to “wear the other’s shoes”. I think it is too common for some to see the other side, without “wearing their shoes”. The problem is that we need to come to decisions maybe not quickly, about where this leads. I don’t trust or follow moral relativity, because I think there are absolutes, but it is hard for us as subjective beings to know these. Inerrancy and its allied approach gives too many absolutes, but doesn’t recognise the messiness of the broken World we live in and the problems of hard decisions.

    In the real World, if we are there with someone who is in great fear and considering an abortion, I feel, as a man, it is very difficult to lay down the law. I would say we should make a position clear that we may feel abortion is wrong , but do it lovingly. If the person carries it out then we should support them afterwards too, not that we are condoning or agreeing with the action, but because this is what our faith demands.

    There is much wrong with Britain, but also much to like, from another British Heretic, regards.

  8. Andy,

    Consider the hypothetical case of a burning hospital, in which two patients are trapped: a 10 year old child who has two broken legs, and a 90 year old patient with emphysema. I presume that you, if forced to save one patient would choose to save the 10 year old. But surely it doesn’t logically follow from this that it’s ethically permissible to walk in to any old non-burning hospital and execute 90 year old patients with emphysema.

    You might also want to read this paper by Patrick Lee and John Haldane:

    http://www2.franciscan.edu/plee/aquinas_on_human_ensoulment.htm

    • calebt45,

      Consider the hypothetical case of a burning hospital, in which two patients are trapped: a 10 year old child who has two broken legs, and a 90 year old patient with emphysema. I presume that you, if forced to save one patient would choose to save the 10 year old.

      Indeed I would. And if I would be in a burning fertility clinic and were forced to save either the 70 year old janitor or one thousand embryos, I would save the janitor. And if there would be no one beside me in the burning fertility clinic, and I could save one thousand embryos but doing so would come with a small risk to my own life, then I wouldn´t save them (while I would absolutely take this risk for the 70 year old janitor). Would you react differently?

      • I suspect that I probably wouldn’t react differently. Do you agree that the fact that we would make these decisions doesn’t effect our right to deliberately destroy the unfavoured entities in the dilemmas?

      • I suspect that I probably wouldn’t react differently. Do you agree that the fact that we would make these decisions doesn’t effect our right to deliberately destroy the unfavoured entities in the dilemmas?

        Yes, I´d agree. But if we rephrased one of the scenarios slightly, from:
        ” if there would be no one beside me in the burning fertility clinic, and I could save one thousand embryos but doing so would come with a small risk to my own life, then I wouldn´t save them (while I would absolutely take this risk for the 70 year old janitor)”
        to a situation where the “small risk” is exactly equal to the risks (to life and health) and costs (in time and ressources) associated with a pregnancy, then I also would not save the embryos and I suspect neither would the overwhelming majority of other people who would find themselves in such a situation. Now, one could argue that this scenario is not comparable to a woman wanting to get an abortion because the woman could have avoided becoming pregnant (unless she was raped of course) and I think that this is a valid objection. However, one could rephrase the scenario again and say that I am the reason for why the fertility clinic is burning in the first place, because I acted irresponsibly (lets say I was smoking and dropped my still burning cigarette into a garbage can) – then I also would not risk my life and health (even if the risks are small, relatively speaking) to save the embryos. And given this last scenario, I don´t see how I could be against women´s right to choose an abortion in an early stage of pregnancy while simultaneously being unwilling to pay comparable costs and take comparable risks, even if I could save 1000 embryos instead of just one with that.

      • I think that what we WOULD do and what we SHOULD do aren’t necessarily overlapped, though.

        Anyway, my answer is, as always, try to save both. Instead of speaking of hypotheticals, let’s speak of what’s going on with abortions in this country.

  9. “I have discovered a secure way for being hated by everyone during a debate between liberals and conservatives. It merely consists of saying that one should forbid a woman to carry out an abortion and give the undesired child to a committed gay couple.” – You’re leaving out people who aren’t liberal or conservative (or who are, but are atypical). I think it’s a wonderful sentiment. Full disclosure: I am prolife (PL), but I’m also very much an atheist. I’m super happy to hear a religious PLer say what you have said. I can imagine that it could result in strong pushback within a community of religiously devout people to openly support gay adoption (although probably not on par with the backlash PL atheists get in ours).

    • “I have discovered a secure way for being hated by everyone during a debate between liberals and conservatives. It merely consists of saying that one should forbid a woman to carry out an abortion and give the undesired child to a committed gay couple.” – You’re leaving out people who aren’t liberal or conservative (or who are, but are atypical). I think it’s a wonderful sentiment. Full disclosure: I am prolife (PL), but I’m also very much an atheist. I’m super happy to hear a religious PLer say what you have said. I can imagine that it could result in strong pushback within a community of religiously devout people to openly support gay adoption (although probably not on par with the backlash PL atheists get in ours).

      Hello, thanks for your comment!

      I am glad you found my blog.

      I am neither liberal nor conservative and fairly atypical in all my views.

      I can imagine that being a pro-life atheist in the States is as hard as being a pro-Gay Christian in the Bible Belt.
      In Europe you are going to find many like-minded people in the later case.

      You might be interested in a parable of Jesus I rewrote:

      https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/the-good-godless-gay/

      Cheers.

      • Hi there Lotharson. I just read your parable. It made me smile.🙂

        I hadn’t realized before, but I take it from your latest post that you live in Germany. Are you a native German? (Lotharson sounds Icelandic.) That certainly put’s a different spin on my observation about ‘atypical’ liberals and conservatives since those terms are culturally relative.

        For me, a major problem with political conservatives in my country is their policies on government spending for the poor. (I live in the U.S.) It’s my understanding that in EU countries, the economically conservative position is closer to what here would be considered economically liberal. I have internet friends in the UK, and we discussed the debate in parliament that preceded the vote legalizing gay marriage, I was interested to see that social conservatives there seemed to have no objection to same sex civil unions, but only to same sex marriage. That’s the situation in Germany too, is it not? As recently as 2011, that was the position of the liberal party leader in the U.S. In the U.S., social conservatives object to same sex civil unions. In fact, in the legislature of my home state of Indiana, there was a debate just last month about inserting language into the state constitution which would prevent passage of any future law that would allow same sex civil unions!

        The internet is a wonderful tool for networking with people whose views are ‘atypical.’ I’ve been able to correspond with quite a few atheists, gay people, and political liberals who are atypical in being prolife. I’ve also found political conservatives and devout christians who are atypical in supporting gay marriage. I’ve even found a few atheists who are atypical in that they’re very politically conservative, which (at least in America) is probably the rarest group of all.

  10. HI Marc – as your most loyal universalist opposition here I’d like to say a word about abortion (and like you I’m against abortion on demand on Christian moral grounds). The problem with Francis Schaeffer’s stance has different strand for me.

    First he was a Calvinist Fundamentalist who kind of introduced a distorted sectarian version of the history of ideas onto an unsuspecting world. Everything that was good for him come from the Reformed tradition and everything that was bad came from [people’s refusal to accept it’s sovereignty based theology (especially those pesky Catholic Christian Humanists – and this sort of thing is bound to happen with a majority of reprobate people being born and dying reprobate and therefore creatures of God’s wrath by the decree of double predestination). The paradoxical thing about Schaffer was that he had another side – a sort of semi hippie bohemian. And a tone time he drank full fo sixties counter culture 9adn according to his son he was pastorally sensitive to gay people – because he loved artists). From this he discerned that racism is wrong. Slavery was wrong and anti-Semitism is wrong – and then he read these judgements back into the Bible as interpreted by the Reformed traditions of the past as judgements upon the most excellent tradition that strayed into hard heartedness on a few points by going against the clear teachings of the Bible.

    Hmmmmm – I don’t; think he was right – critiques of anti-Semitism slavery and racism came from completely different traditions within Christianity at first- he had no right to claim them for hard line Calvinism – even if his heart was in the right place. The critiques of these abominations – along with the critiques of persecution on religious grounds – came from people like the Christian Humanists and the radicals such as the Quakers originally and they were made in terms of God’s love for all and the dignity of all in God’s love.

    Of course towards the end of his life he was a founding father of the Christian Right in America. Now as far as i know America has in many states has very liberal abortion laws – more liberal than the UK I understand. Americans are far more conservative than people in the UK on the whole. OS hwy the anomaly? If there was a free conscience vote for American politicians on the matter the laws on abortion would have been tightened up long ago. However, because of Schaeffer and his ilk the issue has become a political point scoring one. To be anti-abortion you also have to be pro libertarian gun laws, anti civil partnerships, pro militarism, pro death penalty, anti proviso of adequate supervision for the mentally ill etc. etc. Schaeffer alliance with his co-belligerents had–unintended consequences. He really did care about abortion and other matters – but it just goes to show how easy it is for human beings to mess up. Especially when they are begin self righteous and working from a sectarian prospectus.

    • Thanks for your excellent analysis, lovely Dick🙂

      I still think that Schaeffer had a remarkable intellect, BUT he is grossly overestimated by his modern followers, and he did bring along a lot of dubious and unproven assumptions.

      As far as I can tell, he did not focus too much on predestination, and I surmise that his heart could not really accept that horrific doctrine.

      The creation of the Religious Right was definitely one of the greatest disservices to Christianity and God.

  11. As a male,I have no opinion on abortion,it is none of my business. I do,however cringe a bit when it is used as birth control,which it was never intended for,I do not think. Most anti abortion folks,in my experience,are so,due to their religious tenets. Fine,but the issue has no business in the political arena,it is way too personal an issue for that. Republicans are supposed to be the party of “stay out of peoples’ private lives. What could be more private than this gut wrenching decision.You are entitled to your religious beliefs.What you are not entitled to,is to impose them on others.Now the dialogue has degenerated into what was supposed to be settled long ago.Contraception. Contraception,contrary to popular opinion on the right,is not abortion. It prevents unwanted and unplanned pregnancies,and reduces the demand for abortion. It is a good thing!! If birth control is really abortion,as some extremists claim,why no objections to condoms or vacetomy?

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