Re: Traditional Xtianity teaches

From: George Murphy (
Date: Sun Oct 20 2002 - 19:56:56 EDT

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    John Burgeson wrote:
    > I wrote: "I refer you to Kathleen Parker's "Abortion is more than meets the
    > eye"article in the major newspapers this week. She and I "belong to that
    > soft-spoken cadre of people who oppose abortion but support choice. We are
    > the bane of both sides of the debate ... ."
    > Adrian asked: "Just out of curiosity, what precisely is this
    > anti-abortion-pro-choice position?"
    > I refer you again to Parker's article. She describes it quite well.
    > Based on the rather obvious (and agreed to) fact that we really do not know,
    > and will never know, the "exact point" (if one exists) when the developing
    > entity becomes a human being with a soul (indeed, we do not even know if a
    > "soul" exists), I argue the moral ethic that abortion therefore must be
    > considered to very likely be a "wrong," and therefore, in the absence of any
    > other reasons, ought to be avoided.
    > I also argue that there ARE other factors to consider, such as rape and
    > incest situations, and situations involving the pregnant female's health,
    > and situations involving severe fetal deformities.
    > I argue also that some of these factors are such that the possibility of a
    > law regulating abortion is simply not possible to construct.
    > I argue also that in the case of rape and incest, the female is in a
    > situation she did not herself choose. Morally, this can be argued as the
    > case of the "attached violinist."
    > I argue also that the American electorate is sufficiently split on this
    > issue that any law will do more mischief than it will help.

            I agree with a number of the statements here but the
    conclusion that there
    should be no attempt by the state to protect _any_ fetus against
    elective abortion is a
    non sequitur. If abortion is wrong (or "very likely to be a
    'wrong'") it is because it
    is the destruction of a human life, albeit a human life in a perhaps incomplete
    condition. The protection of human life is certainly one of the
    proper functions of
    civil authority.
            Yes, it may be difficult to frame laws which say when
    abortion is a legitimate
    option and when it isn't but this is not a good reason to allow
    fetuses which are _not_
    the result of rape or incest, do not have severe deformities &c to be
    aborted sometimes
    because it is simply not convenient for the mother to have a child.
            Opposing abortion but also opposing any legal constraint on
    abortion is,
    frankly, dilletantish. It is an ethical position which refuses to
    carry out the
    consequences of its beliefs. I know whereof I speak. The church
    body I belong to (the
    ELCA) has a statement on abortion which takes roughly this position.
    A few years ago it
    came to light that the ELCA health plan was paying for elective
    abortions. The church
    was unable to respond to this in any way that actually put its
    supposed belief that
    abortions should be as rare as possible into effect. So we're
    opposed to abortion but
    if you're covered under the church's plan and want one, the church's
    insurance will pay
    for it. The expressed opposition to abortion is, in practice, meaningless.

    > One part of the issue that interests me is the so-called "Partial Birth
    > Abortion" issue. The phrase seems to have been chosen by the pro-life
    > groups, and it was a good political choice on their part for it so easily
    > polarizes the issue. As I understand, the technical term is "Dialation and
    > Extraction."

            "Dilation and Extraction" is indeed the technical term for the medical
    procedure. An accurate description of the results of carrying out
    this procedure is
    "partial birth abortion."
            No one who is not a medical expert & who is getting the
    results of his or her
    medical exam would be content with having the doctor describe the results and
    recommended treatments entirely in technical medical language. The
    only reason for
    wanting to call a partial birth abortion "dilation and extraction" in
    public discussions
    of the issue (as opposed to a patient's medical chart &c) is to
    conceal the reality of
    what is done.

    > On my web site, page 2, section 9, I have placed the testimonies of six
    > women who testified before Congress about this procedure just a few years
    > ago. For those who favor a government law prohibiting the procedure, I ask
    > them to read these testimonies.

            Unfortunately the testimonies of viable infants who are
    killed by such a
    procedure are not available. (I'm sorry - not "killed": I think
    "terminated with
    extreme prejudice" is the technical term.)
    > I argue, therefore, that bringing a man in a blue suit carrying a large gun
    > into the doctor's office to make sure a doctor and his/her patient are
    > following some law correctly is a moral wrong.

            As I have pointed out before, your use of "man in a blue suit
    carrying a large
    gun" in this context is pure propaganda. Protection of human life is
    a legitimate
    function of the state, and sometimes that does have to be done by the
    police. The color
    of their suits is a matter of indifference. Presumably you do not
    object to men in blue
    suits with guns trying to stop the Washington gunman.
            Againm, your conclusion that the attempt to prohibit _some_
    abortions "is a
    moral wrong" is pure non sequitur. You have given no arguments that
    lead even into the
    neighborhood of this conclusion.

    > Finally, I argue that the pro-life and the pro-choice people both ought to
    > cut down on the rhetoric (I know -- I used some just above)

            You have used a great deal. In fact, I have to say that -
    quite untypically for
    you - almost your whole argument here is rhetoric.

    and get together
    > to see what aspects of the issue they might agree upon. Both sides, I
    > assume, favor adoption as an alternative. That much they could work together
    > upon.

            I am not "pro-life" in the usual sense - i.e., opposition to
    all abortions. I
    agree that that position is, for various reasons, unrealistic. But ideological
    opposition to any civil constraints on abortions is equally
    unhelpful. Avoiding both
    extremes means that the fetus should be afforded some degree of
    protection, though the
    "rights" of the fetus should not be absolutized.


    George L. Murphy

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