Posts Tagged ‘abortion


The Heresy of ‘Pro-Life’ Christians

Our scripture readings in ELCA Sunday service often provoke my thoughts. My thoughts are never aligned with the Pastor’s sermon, for sermons are typically generalized and oriented toward a certain orthodoxy. The last Pastor who made sermons a challenge to our lives was the late, great Bill Christman (a Presbyterian).

Today’s First Reading, Genesis 2:18-24, included:

Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Today’s Gospel, Mark 10:2-16, included:

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’

Those who identify as Pro-Life assert that a fertilized ovum – the zygote – is a person, fully equivalent*. Their justifications for tying this assertion to a “right” to life are invariably shallow, effectively being ‘It just is, that’s all’. I have never seen or heard of a Pro-Lifer using Genesis 2 and Mark 10 as an authority for this assertion. It seems obviously applicable: in what way does a couple literally “become one flesh”, except via conception? If God demands that the couple not be separated, surely He intends that the very “one flesh” also not be separated.

*Except when it isn’t – some Pro-Life advocates defer personhood until implantation of the zygote.
And even those notable Conservative Protestants, the Southern Baptists, have previously sanctioned some abortions.

This Mark 10 justification of the Pro-life agenda would better adhere to scripture than the typical citations. Will Pro-Lifers embrace this justification? It is unlikely that any will ever notice my comments in a tiny blog. If they independently make this association, they will risk an accusation of hypocrisy, or worse, for the scriptures do not instruct us of an isolated facet of our relationship with the Almighty.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, Son of God, brought a New Covenant between God and man. Jesus was overt in his violations of many Jewish laws. He affirmed a fairly small portion of the Old Covenant, for while He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.” – Matthew 5:17, that left a large body of legalities to be voided. His statements in Mark 10 were remarkable for specifically citing Law that was to remain unaltered, without allowance for obliquely fulfilling the spirit of the Law. Jesus established finally, as explicitly as we ever see in scripture, a linkage between conception and marriage.

There are Christian denominations which ban divorce, such as the Catholic Church, the LDS-Mormon Church, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Conservative Protestant such as Southern Baptists. Every one includes exceptions.

Exceptions are something which Jesus did not often offer. He certainly did not instruct us that conversion to Islam, or adultery, or other exceptions apply to divorce. Yet such exceptions are normative in even the most conservative denominations.

Is this why Pro-Lifers do not cite Jesus’ authority from Mark 10? Do they attempt to conceal their hypocrisy which is already well-known?

If they are sincere in claiming that their attitudes about reproduction are guided by Sacred Text, let them permit themselves to be guided by the only words of Jesus regarding the “one flesh”. Let them embrace the same hatred and violence at the most-closely related offense to the Law of God – divorce – that they exhibit toward those who make, and even to those who merely advocate, reproductive choices.


Questions & Abortion

During this election cycle, it is a more prominent position for candidates to advocate the outright ban, without exception, of abortions. Exceptions which are currently legal include the cases of incest or rape.

This is not the limit of reproductive control. Abortion is defined as occurring after implantation of a zygote on the placenta. Some activists and politicians also advocate banning the destruction of a zygote prior to implantation.

I have several questions regarding either of these total bans of abortions.

Abortions occur with the participation or involvement of one or more people. Examples of individual participation would be: a pregnant woman who intentionally or neglectfully does something which results in abortion; a doctor who intentionally or neglectfully does something, without knowledge of the pregnant woman, which results in abortion. Examples of multiple participation would be: a standard abortion, with a consenting pregnant woman, an attending doctor, and nurses, assistants, and staff.

In the case of a violation of law, who is the responsible party?
For a standard abortion, would the doctor (who overtly performs the proscribed act)
be the responsible party, with others as accessories?

The proponents of Colorado’s proposed ‘Amendment 62‘ to their Constitution write,

“It won’t threaten the death penalty on doctors who do legitimate invasive surgery that could unintentionally harm a child in the womb.”

The proposed amendment does not specify such a limitation – the proponents refer to how existing law is implemented.

To what penalties, ostensibly less than death, might such doctors be subject in Colorado
– or in other jurisdictions which might have either of these total bans of abortions?

The proponents of Amendment 62 also write,

It won’t open the door to criminal investigations of women who miscarry. …miscarriages are completely unintentional…
It won’t ban surgeries for women who have tubal pregnancies, also known as ectopic pregnancies. The crucial issue in criminal law is always intent.

Establishing or eliminating intent or negligence requires investigation by government prosecutors. They do not have the discretion, under comparable current statutes, to dismiss investigations without even a perfunctory investigation. Miscarriages, for example, have resulted from stress, alcohol consumption, and abuse as well as from unintended causes.

Do proponents of either of these total bans of abortions want state or federal governments
to investigate episodes which are currently regarded as medical conditions?
Do proponents of either of these total bans of abortions want state or federal governments
to investigate such episodes beyond the current practice of investigating the situation
as it regards the pregnant woman’s welfare?

Many criminal statutes are written to both outlaw a specific act, and also ancillary acts. These ancillary acts include conspiracy, aiding & abetting, etc. Some prosecutions for conspiracy are successful despite an inability to prosecute for direct violation of statute. Assuming statutes written in conformance with such common practice:

Would even non-medical staff of a doctor who performed an abortion be subject to prosecution?
Would people be prosecuted for planning an abortion – perhaps to be conducted outside of legal jurisdiction
– regardless of whether or not an abortion occurred?

For pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, the pregnant woman would, with the total ban of abortions, necessarily carry for nine months and give birth to the child of a blood relative or of an attacker.

The Colorado state Constitution states:

[Section 3.] All persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights, … the right of enjoying … their lives … and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
[Section 25.] No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.

A pregnancy due to rape or incest would be a arduous experience. It would often be psychologically (and even physically) damaging to the pregnant woman.

What consideration do the proponents of abortion bans give
to the effects of such pregnancies upon a woman?
Does a ban’s “due process of law” obliterate the damage done to a woman’s rights under Section 3?

That potential for harm that a pregnant woman faces also exists for a child who is the result of a criminal act. It can be shattering to learn, for instance, that Grandfather is also Father.

Who decides for the yet-unborn child?
Does government decide that a pregnant woman must always either abort or not abort?
Or should the pregnant woman decide – sometimes to abort, sometimes to carry for adoption,
or sometimes to actually carry, birth, and parent the child?

Abortion bans often are proposed in the form of defining personhood for a zygote or embryo. That is, they would make abortion legally indistinguishable from the killing of any other person.

What would the legal penalties be for violations of an abortion ban?
Is there any way, consistent with the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, for penalties
(compared to post-birth killings) to be reduced or for death penalties to be proscribed?

The proponents of abortion bans have never specified how they believe that total bans could be implemented. I do not know whether they have not considered the need to write implementing legislation (as is required for all other legislative or constitutional initiatives) or they choose to avoid the subject.

What might be some unintended consequences of this amendment?

Are people who support efforts to totally ban abortions buying the proverbial pig in a poke?
Do they have the slightest notion of the significant ramifications of such laws?
Do they want such laws to apply to themselves, their family, their doctors, and others?

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Basic Understanding

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.
- Edward R. Murrow

Intellectual Property Notice

All original material Copyright James R. Stone 2010, except where specifically noted. Some images licensed under Creative Commons, or GNU Free Documentation License, or unlicensed and public domain.

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