Monday, August 21, 2006

Abortion Stops A Thinking Mind

Abortion is an issue that forces us into intellectual corners. It is a topic that challenges the task of thinking clearly not only about a moral dilemma, but about how we view the origin and nature of our very humanity. It is hard to imagine a more perfect example of this than that which was offered in USA Today recently.

You know you are in for an unbiased, objective opinion when, asking the question “Where does God stand on abortion,” the author starts out by addressing:
"the constitutionality of a rare procedure opponents call 'partial-birth' abortion."
The inclusion of “rare” in the description of partial-birth abortion is a common tactic used to minimize any negativity one may hold toward the subject so as to avoid having to defend it. It harkens back to former President Clinton’s hope that we could succeed at making abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” But it defies logic that the infrequency of an act is sufficient to justify its moral status.

“Mr. Oswald, is it true that you are known to shoot American presidents with high-powered rifles from book depositories in Dallas, Texas?”

“Rarely, sir.”

“Very well, case dismissed.”

Notice also that it is not the morality of the “procedure” that is in question, but its constitutionality. The fact that the Supreme Court and/or legislative statutes may allow abortion to continue is the standard by which the author (an Episcopal pastor, Tom Ehrich) judges where God stands. This is an interesting position that completely bypasses the challenges most opponents of the “rare procedure” put forth. It also tells us precisely nothing about God’s stance.

For that, we would need to include what many Christian ministers, asked where God stands on a given subject, would call an exegetical analysis of Scripture. Ehrich’s description of partial-birth abortion (and the sixteen weasel-worded paragraphs that follow), makes no such effort. Because doing so would require actual mental exertion on his part, and because the conclusion he reached might be deemed “judgmental,” Ehrich finds it more instructive to simply delve into the multi-headed hydra of human opinion on the subject.

Here we find Scriptural tidbits taken completely out of context in order to justify any view one happens to hold on the subject. Ehrich (did I mention that he is an Episcopal pastor?) chastises anyone who dares to draw actual conclusions on the subject, especially those who think they
"can make an absolute case for or against abortion"
Those who have the audacity to attempt to do so are relegated to the
"extreme positions that command the microphones and drown out the others"
when we would all be better served by a
"… search for a common sense middle to assert itself against both extremes"
How would one define a “common sense middle” on abortion? Honestly, what is the middle ground between allowing the destruction of an innocent human life, and not allowing the destruction of innocent human life? These two choices are mutually exclusive. Until someone can show that the entity being destroyed in an abortion is not a human being, there is no middle ground. Saying that there is, no matter how nicely or non-judgmentally one says it, does not make it so.

The absence of logical argumentation reaches its peak in the sidebar to the piece, offered by Daniel Maguire, which treats us to what “Religions say …” about abortion. For example:

Roman Catholics: The popes have taught that abortion is always forbidden, and the church hierarchy has held to a doctrine that strongly opposes it. Even so, grounds for permitting abortion exist … there is no one Catholic view.

Protestants: … are largely open to a moral choice on abortion … some abortion rights are accepted within denominations

Jews: Abortion is an option for Jewish women from the earliest sources of the Bible and Mishnaic commentary

In each of these cases, actual Scriptural support for the pro-abortion position is glaringly absent. Instead, we are treated once again to the opinions of people who claim to adhere to a given religion. What their Holy Scripture (which, in this case, all three share in the Old Testament) happens to say is apparently irrelevant. Where there is some orthodox view offered, as in the case of the Catholics, for whom abortion is “always forbidden,” we can conveniently ignore that position anyway. Instead of submitting to the teachings of the church, we are free to justify any action based on the opinion of some and then claim there is “no one Catholic view,” even if, three sentences earlier, we spelled out what that view actually is.

Islam: highly prizes fertility [but] even so, Islam believes that we are obligated by God not to overpopulate … after 120 days, abortion is permissible only [in specific instances]

If it is in fact true that Islam favors fertility but not overpopulation, how do either of those positions in any way impact the question of whether or not abortion is morally justifiable? Additionally, the arbitrary nature of this defense is laughable. Why not 119 days … or 121? The inanity goes on …

Buddhism’s “middle way” attempts to reconcile its prohibition against “willingly taking the life of a living thing” with its conflicting allowance for cases where there is no “greed, hate or delusion.” But these two are logically incompatible. Does it follow that one who is not greedy, hateful or delusional in her allowance for abortion may then take the life of a living thing? Is doing such a thing prohibited or not? Beside that, the author fails to note that Buddhism regards human suffering as an illusion that it aims to have us escape. In that case, one needs no justification for “willingly taking the life of a living thing.” Death is irrelevant at best, and unreal in fact … if there are facts at all.

We are told that, since the legal approval of abortion in India in 1971, “almost no objections [have been raised] from Hindu religious authorities” regarding abortion. Yet in the same paragraph the author notes that Hinduism sports a “moral law that is dynamic and changing.” On what basis would a Hindu religious leader, awash in a Hindu sea of gods and shifting moral relativism, justify his objection? Indeed, the Hindu worldview would never generate any such thought. There is no reason to object to the karma another person brings upon himself.

Finally, the North American native religions avoid moral reality by invoking the feminist claim that the topic of abortion is a woman’s issue, not a man’s. That is of course, unless you happen to be a male fetus. Along the same lines, Taoism and Confucianism are said to value “sex and sexual pleasure” while promoting moderation as a “virtue in reproduction” and thereby allowing “abortion as a backup if needed.” How quaint. It becomes virtuous to destroy another human being so as to promote the higher value you place in sexual pleasure. What a deal! If I were to go about making up a religion that allowed me to justify anything and everything I felt like doing, I can’t imagine coming up with a more self-serving one than that.

And that is what each of these justifications for abortion have in common – humanity’s proclivity for self-service. When it comes to the abortion debate, we are forced to question the nature of humanity -- when life begins and how that life is constituted. If Christian theism is true, we are made in the image of God and, against all our protestations, denials, and attempts to avoid the accountability we have before Him -- we know it.

At the core of our being, in our deepest intuitions, we know that the taking of innocent human life is wrong. Because the stakes are so high, we will go to great lengths to explain it away. Making a vacuous declaration that a “fetus” is not alive, or that it is not human; ignoring basic logic in our argumentation; blatantly contradicting ourselves and our basic human intuitions -- each of these is a small price to pay for the right to the unfettered human autonomy we crave.

We create God in our own image to justify behavior that we could never otherwise condone. Doing so forces us to manufacture arguments that rational, logical persons would never otherwise try to pass off as being legitimate. Clear thinking goes out the window. Everyone’s opinion is valid. Non-judgmentalism rules the day.

And the slaughter continues … rationalized by some self-described definition of where "god" stands on the issue ... and justified by the most revered of all gods -- the one we see in the bathroom mirror.

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