On the war on abortion and incitment to terrorism

RD (a Conservative Christian blogger and apologist) recently released a comment on my blog which made me truly shudder.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: I made mistakes concerning the person of RD. and sincerely apologize for this. See my note at the end of the post.

 

http://rightsadvocate.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/screen-shot-2012-10-21-at-5-01-39-pm.png

“Dear Michael East

You said:

The anti-abortionists who support the killing of abortionists can hardly be called pro-life!

Actually, the issue is not nearly as cut-and-dry as you try to make it out to be. If an individual truly believes that an unborn child is a human being, then if that individual takes action, up to and potentially including the use of deadly force in order to protect the life of the unborn child, and in so doing, the individual uses deadly force to stop the abortionist in question, then there is nothing inconsistent with maintaining such a position and with being pro-life. In fact, it is no different, in principle, from a pro-life person who has to use deadly force to stop someone from killing a newborn or from a pro-life person who uses deadly force to stop a serial killer from murdering a family. In all these cases, the pro-life person—as a last resort—must use deadly force in order to protect human life. And so that person would be entirely consistent in claiming to be pro-life while at the same time having had to use deadly force to protect a third-party from serious bodily harm or death. Now, of course, the person would also be under the obligation to use only as much force as is necessary to stop the threat, and thus lethal force would rarely be justified, but that does not mean that the use of lethal force would be illegitimate in such a case. It just means that its use would be rare. And while this latter fact makes the use of the third-party protection principle difficult to practically justify in the case of abortionists—both due to the fact that the State already knows about abortionists and does nothing, and due to the fact that using less than lethal force is difficult in such cases—the practical reality does nothing to negate that this idea is completely sound in principle.

In addition, note that given that my reasoning concerning the legitimacy of using lethal force in protecting a third-party is obviously sound in principle, and thus it would apply to unborn children if they were considered human beings under the law, then this means that if unborn children were considered human beings under the law, then you, I, and everyone else would literally be under a legal obligation to do our utmost, up to and including the use of lethal force, to stop any abortionist from plying his “trade” if unborn children were legally considered human beings. So far from there being an inconsistency in the pro-life position and a position which endorses the stopping of abortionists, if unborn children were considered human beings, then that sort of position would actually be required by law.

Finally, let me just note that when you really think about this issue the real inconsistency and incoherence is on the side of the pro-abortionists. After all, the pro-abortionist is someone who must support the following absurd position: if, one minute before birth, someone stops an abortionist from killing the nearly born child, then pro-abortionists consider that person to be a monster and a pro-life “terrorist”; but if that same person stopped some random murderer from killing that child one minute after it was born, then that person would be hailed as a hero and a “child-savior.” In my view, the patent absurdity of holding such a view is evident to anyone with eyes to see it. And yet, for the pro-abortionist, this is, necessarily, the view that he must, in principle, hold.”

 

I’ve long laughed at people telling me that there are Christian Talibans in America who want to bring about a violent theocracy. Now I realize I no longer can. In what follows, I want to offer my thoughts on his argument.

 

Killing an abortionist for saving an innocent life

 

I’m really not a huge fan of the abortion lobby and agree with RD that there is no rational criterion for distinguishing the killing of a “nearly born child” from one who just saw the light of day. I’m in very good company here, since the prominent bio-ethicist Peter Singer tells us that we should be allowed to annihilate disabled children until their 30th day.

But I completely reject the use of violence for preventing any abortion from happening and am utterly horrified by this very idea.

 

Basically, RD’s reasoning can be summarized as follows:

1) It is always permissible to kill someone who is about to consciously put an end to an innocent human life.

2) Abortionists are consciously putting an end to many innocent human lives.

3) Thus it is allowed to kill abortionists.

 

There are many things wrong with this line of reasoning.

2) does not hold in many cases, because the large majority of abortionists I know are sincerely convinced that unborn children are not yet persons and that killing them is as morally problematic as throwing away a bunch of outworn chemicals into a wastebasket.

It goes without saying I strongly disagree with that but I don’t view them as moral monsters at all. Most abortion physicians act in good conscience and Jesus reminds us that If you were blind, you would have no sin.

 

1) is outrageously false in many respects.

A consequentialist justification of terrorism

If 1) were to be consistently applied elsewhere, all societies would be plagued by an endless cycle of violence. As a Conservative Evangelical (Correction: RD is a conservative Catholic), RD tends to focus most of his moral indignation on sexual sins such as abortion (and alleged sins such as homosexuality).

But there are lots of other things people do which indirectly cause many innocent persons to pass away.

During the Bush administration, Dick Cheney (and many of his colleagues) consciously started a gruesome war in Iraq which has caused countless innocent children and civilians to perish under an atrocious pain.

https://matrixbob.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/dick-cheney-iraq-1111111111111111.gif?w=800&h=538

If 1) were true, it would certainly have been moral for any member of the American Left to try to liquidate him.

Or what about economically Conservative politicians whose decisions cause countless children in the third world to starve and perish?

What about American Republican politicians who cause poor children to die because they don’t receive a sufficient healthcare?

Or what about immoral CEOs whose decisions can predictably  lead many of their employees to commit suicide (as it occurred in the enterprise of my father)?

 

You see, all terrorist groups around the world (both secular and religious) use such a logic for justifying the use of “lethal” violence. I’ve absolutely no doubt that our society would very soon become a hopeless hell if 1) were to be adopted by a sufficiently large number of individuals.

Violence and the early Christians.

 

There were many people causing countless innocent lives to pass away in Judah and Israel at the time of Christ. The Zealots were preaching armed resistance against the misdeeds of the Roman occupants.

Yet, Jesus wasn’t one of them and consistently rejected the use of  violence against anyone. Following His example, the early Christians were horrified at the Roman custom to kill disabled children but they never murdered the perpetrators. They tried to change the societal mentalities underlying those cruel customs in a non-violent fashion.

Since RD is a fiery defender of Biblical inerrancy (Correction: RD is a Catholic basing himself on the Catechism of the Church of Rom for such matters), I want to quote verses which should put an end to any discussion:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

 

The culture war and the roots of the problem

 

I would go farther than that and affirm that wanting to bring about laws forbidding abortion isn’t a solution at all. It is like a doctor prescribing pain killers to a patient while completely ignoring the cancer devouring his cells.

It is the numerous societal, social, psychological and economical factors that push women to choose to abort which need to be changed.

If we lived in a really compassionate and egalitarian society where sex, love and commitment always form an unbreakable trinity, abortion would be almost entirely limited to cases where the health of the female is seriously threatened.

 

The danger of sanctioning the use of terror

 

I have nothing at all against RD and neither hate nor despise him. But what he wrote here is undoubtedly egregious and I just couldn’t not react to that even though I feel no personal enmity towards him.

Being a Continental European (Germanic Frenchman), I ignore what the consequences in America might be. But if he were a French or German citizen having written that, he would now be (at the very least) closely watched by the French or German intelligence agencies and most likely condemned to prison for “incitement to violent acts.”

EVEN IF he did not call anyone to directly do that, it is undeniable he has unwittingly provided a justification for violent actions against physicians and nurses carrying out abortions. And mentally unstable people could very well take him extremely seriously.

I’d advise him (and any other “Christian Righter” reading this) to become much more cautious in their writings and other assertions in the public sphere.

Of course, my hope is that it is their whole mentality which will change, following what I’ve outlined here.

 

Note: RD posted a strongly spirited answer here. He correctly pointed up mistakes I did concerning him being American, Evangelical and Conservative.

 

 

Advertisements

How NOT to be a progressive: using the law to shut down your opponents

My regular readers know that I am deeply engaged for fostering tolerance towards homosexuals and overcome the notion that a committed and loving gay couple is necessarily wicked.

Bild

That said, I am often put off by the reprehensible strategies the liberal lobby use for promoting this desirable goal.

 

One recent example from Canada caught my intention:

 

University bars sexual intimacy that ‘violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman’

Trinity Western University students must sign a covenant recognizing the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.

Trinity Western University students must sign a covenant recognizing the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.

The Law Society of Upper Canada has voted 28 to 21 against the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s proposed new law school in B.C.

The vote means graduates from the B.C. university would not be able to practise in Ontario.

“Benchers took this issue very seriously, and did not find it easy to reach a decision,” said the Law Society of Upper Canada’s treasurer, in a written statement.

“As members of the legal profession, we recognize the entrenched values of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Ontario’s Human Rights Code, including the right of equality and the right to freedom of religion, and the foundational nature of those rights to our democracy.”

Trinity Western University students must sign a strict Christian covenant governing behaviour, including abstaining from sexual intimacy “that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Critics say the covenant essentially bans anyone in a gay relationship from enrolling in the school.

Earlier this month, the West Coast Legal Education Action Fund, a non-profit organization founded to ensure women’s equality rights under the law, argued against the university law school’s accreditation in B.C.

But the B.C. Law Society voted to accredit the school. 

B.C. Law Society decision challenged

However, that fight isn’t over.

Michael Mulligan

Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan is trying to overturn the Law Society’s earlier decision by gathering enough signatures to trigger a rare special general meeting. (CBC)

Earlier this month, Victoria criminal lawyer Michael Mulligan launched a petition to trigger a vote to overturn the decision.

This week, Mulligan announced he had collected and submitted more than 1,000 signatures from B.C. lawyers opposed to the decision, more than twice the number required to trigger a vote.

That means the society has 60 days to hold a special general meeting to allow all members vote on the recent decision.

 

Mulligan believes the vast majority of lawyers take issue with the university’s covenant, which he says is at odds with a core principle of the lawyer’s oath to uphold the rights and freedoms of all according to the law, and will vote against it.

“Some of the benchers, while they spoke about finding the policies of this school as being, as I’ve indicated, as abhorrent and objectionable, some of them cast their vote thinking there was a legal requirement to do so.

“But the majority of the benchers in Ontario disagreed with the majority here, so it may well be influential.”

In December, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada gave Trinity Western University preliminary approval for its law school program and said it was up to provincial law societies to decide whether to recognize degrees from the school.

 

It is one thing to require from Canadian judges to sign a statement according to which they pledge to impartially apply Canadian laws, even if they find some of them objectionable.

But it is quite another thing to take legal measures for hindering or even preventing the employment of people having moral objections against Gay marriage, even if this might never play out during their professional life.

Imagine now a graduate from this university having no strong feelings on this issue and UNABLE to find a livelihood because his or her degree is no longer recognized.
Is it not an unjust punishment? Is not likely to turn her into a very resentful person?

By acting like this, the slaves of political correctness (I’m unwilling to call them “progressives”) prove they are the foes of an open society. They clearly display a fascistic mindset.

And I think this is a slippery slope.

While I am against the legal prohibition of abortion, I expressed why I consider it morally wrong when the health of the mother is not endangered, expressing a feeling many progressive Christians have towards what has been called “pregnancy cessation”, especially if mentally handicapped children are killed in this fashion.

 

I would not be that astonished if in one or two decades, the European Union were to issue a directive banning people from public jobs if they express such a view on the ground that it (allegedly) violate the right of a woman to dispose of her body.

BildWelcome to our brave new world where totalitarian laws are used to enforce “fundamental liberties”.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Bild

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.