Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's Not Self Defense? You Haven't Birthed a Child Then

Jill, at Feministe, set me off with three thought-provoking posts. In the first, she addresses anti-choice organizations and terrorists. I'm much more threatened by fundamentalist Christian terrorists than by any other kind, so gathering all the damning evidence into one spot got my ire up.

Then, she had to cover the federally-funded frauds that are “pregnancy resource centers.” It enrages me that our government pays Christian fundamentalists to lie to people and endanger their health, through these bogus clinics and through the fact-free curricula of abstinence-only sex education courses.

But then, she drew my eye to the truly bizarre Why the Life of the Mother is Not a Valid Exception for Abortion. I'm not going to ask you to read through this whole article, because it's pretty horrible. Including one of the longest, most stupid, and most slanted hypothetical situations ever. The author, Doug Phillips, starts by comparing the killing of a three-year-old to the killing of a fetus. Is there anyone who thinks that killing a six-week-old fetus is exactly the same as killing a three-year-old child?

Now, this is what's really upsetting to me. Phillips is explaining why a mother's life doesn't need to be exempted by abortion laws:

“But we must have abortion when the life of the mother is in jeopardy,” some will argue. “Is it fair to deprive a husband and family of a mother?
The woman in question exists only as a wife and mother. Phillips denies her any rights whatsoever. And I thought the fundamentalists were supposed to cherish the mother. Oh, well. You can imagine how he'd feel about the life of an unmarried, childless woman.

He goes on:
After all, such an abortion is simply an act of self-defense by the mother against the child. And what if the child’s chance of survival is rather slim in comparison with the likelihood that the mother will die if the baby is brought to term? Surely, abortion is reasonable in such circumstances.”
Simply? Abortion isn't "simply" anything. I don't think of abortion as being legally akin to self-defense, but since Phillips has brought it up, let's go there. Isn't self-defense a perfectly legal defense to charges of murder? Because in Phillips world, an abortion is exactly the same as murder. Even if the fetus won't survive and the mother is going to die. What kind of person can't admit of any scenario where it might be better to abort
For thousands of years, man has found ways to rationalize murder,

Ain't it the truth? "Their army attacked us first, murders deserve capital punishment, God really hates abortionists." It's all just rationalization. It's all murder, right?*

but for those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there is but one standard for resolving this and all ethical questions: Holy Scripture. The Bible gives no authority for a parent to ever take the life of an unborn child[my bold].
So, humans are only granted the rights expressly stated for them in the Bible? Boy, is that going to be a hard sell. I prefer the way the Constitution is worded. But doesn't this go directly against the story of Abraham? Perhaps he's exempting that because Isaac wasn't unborn. Anyway, he's saying that abortion is wrong in the Bible, because we're never told it's okay. By that logic, you pretty much have to throw out anything developed in the last few millennia. God never says it's okay to give birth in a hospital, either, does he?
To conclude, mothers should never kill their babies. There are no exceptions. The Bible condemns abortion and offers no exceptions to this rule.
Before he was writing that the Bible didn't expressly condone abortion, now he's created an absolute prohibition. The reasonable reader might ask: how do we know that abortion is condemned by the Christian god? Phillips doesn't provide references, so I had to Google. Well, of course the Bible tells us so, according to God and
The Old Testament provides most of the information on God's view of life before birth, since it gives us the law. The law specifically addresses the issue of taking the life of a fetus in the book of Exodus:

"And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life." (Exodus 21:22-23)

Therefore, the law tells us that a man who induces an abortion or miscarriage is to be punished, indicating that God values life before birth.
No, actually, what that seems to say is that if two men are fighting and one who is not married to her hits a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry, her husband can demand some cash. If the woman is more seriously injured, then her attacker can be put to death. But there's nothing here about abortion. There is nothing here about any sort of premeditation, let alone a deliberate effort to abort and only to abort. Contrary to the commentary, it is clear that punishment is not required for this accident, only payment for the lost property. In exactly the same way that modern American courts deal with unimplanted embryos created through IVF; they are also property.

Nor is there anything here suggesting that the Christian's god has any particular interest in fetuses. If their god valued the fetus so highly, I don't think he'd let the wrong-doer off with a fine.

So, not only does this not provide a strong anti-abortion position based on the Bible, it makes it clear that accidentally killing a fetus indirectly (through an attack on a woman) is not an offense requiring the death penalty.

Now to return from the Biblical law which isn't "Thou shall not abort" to the woman-loathing Phillips. He's really, really opposed to abortion under any circumstances. In fact, he raises abortion up into "child sacrifice," which is just not the place for a Christian to go. Really, he's going against an awful lot of theology, not to mention Bible verses.

Furthermore, child-sacrifice as a means of self-preservation is universally condemned in Scripture as one of the most wicked crimes imaginable.
I don't know, it doesn't seems to me like Abraham is condemned. Of course, he didn't actually kill his son, but that he was ready to, in response to an order from his god, is considered a commendable sign of his faith. There's an idea: women demanding church-supplied abortions, because their god has spoken to them and demands the sacrifice? Not going to happen, I know, not least among the reasons, that no woman should have to defend her decision to anyone. Oddly, Phillips chose to ignore the even more famous child-sacrifice of the Bible, referred to in John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Child Sacrifice: It's fine unless a woman does it.

*Nope, it's not. Even though Phillips has raised the idea that in some circumstances an abortion may be self-defense, he's not going to let a mere woman use it:
Scripture does give three valid bases for taking the life of another, none of which can even remotely be construed as a justification for “abortion for the life of the mother.” Man may take another’s life in the case of just warfare; man may take another’s life when acting on behalf of the civil magistrate to execute a person guilty of a capital crime; or man may take another’s life as an act of self-defense, or in defense of others where there is a significant and immediate threat to life best remedied with a lethal response. [my bold]
He has created this scenario of the self-defense abortion, but he isn't going to let a single woman use it.

Mothers may not kill their babies as an act of self-defense because an unborn child intends the mother no harm and lacks the mental capacity to pose a willing threat to a mother.
Did you know that the law requires self-defense only against someone intending to kill you? When did the mental capacity test come into play? What is the mental capacity required?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bigotry, a Primer

Well, obviously bigotry is on my mind today. So I thought I'd try a little experiment. I'm linking to today's top story at the New York Times, ostensibly the United State's paper of record: Israel Extends Strikes Deeper Into Lebanon. The big world news story will make a fine example of some of the aspects of bigotry that we must all actively strive to fight.

How are they doing?

Well, only one person quoted on the first page of the story is singled out by a professional title that gratuitously specifies sex

"Miri Elsin, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told
Agence France-Presse."

Nine people are named in the first page of the article, only one is singled out as being female, thus an unspecified default of "male"

A different woman is quoted in the last paragraph of the story, giving a Beirut resident's view of the attack

Other Issues
The story doesn't rely on too many assumptions; race, religion, sexual orientation are never brought up, for example. There's a fair amount of classism common to news reporting where world leaders get a lot of coverage, over people who are directly involved in the story: no soldiers, no families of the dead or wounded, only one Beirut resident mentioned.

That's what I see. Feel free to read the article and share anything you notice. I don't expect any one person to notice every common bigoted assumption.

Prove It

I am sick and tired of people pointing to tiny differences in averages between men and women, differences much smaller than the larger ones within either group, as evidence that men and women are different. I am sick of people doing the same thing with averages between racial or ethnic groups, or socio-economic groups, or religious or sexual-orientation or whatever crazy half-assed basis for segregating.

So, from now on, I'm not only going to assume bigotry, but I'm going to call people on it. You get nothing from me. You want to claim that Affirmative Action is unfair, you better find the evidence to demonstrate that position, and I'm not granting you anything. I'm sick and tired of someone proclaiming how "I'm not prejudiced, but..." You are. We all are. Part of human intelligence is pattern recognition, and humans are consequently prone to finding patterns where none exist. We are all susceptible to extrapolating from a few personal examples to sweeping generalities. We are all just as prejudiced as we can be, and it takes hard work every day to fight against that.

So, today I would like to praise Ben A. Barres from Stanford University, for an excellent article in Nature, Does gender matter?, calling out gender prejudice as demonstrated by some very privileged people.

Hat tip to Feministing

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Now, without all the complications of Race and Class

Let's talk about tragedy again. Up to 10 accused of assault of girl, 11

"'It's a tragedy on two fronts,' [Police Chief Jerry] Dyer said. 'Number one is that you have an 11-year-old victim that was obviously taken advantage of by a number of individuals and sexually assaulted. What heightens the tragedy is the fact that these are individuals that we believe to be attending our local colleges and involved in our athletic program, playing football for at least one of these colleges.'"

Let's compare and contrast: one 11-year-old victim versus up to 10 men in their late teens or early twenties who may have committed criminal acts or may have been complicit in criminal acts. Which is the greater tragedy?

Now, let's parse how the tragedy is heightened: Is it that assault by 6'3" football players is worse for the child? Or that this incident could unfairly cast all football players in a poor light? Or that this could unfairly tarnish the reputation of all men who attend junior colleges?

In case you hadn't realized, a lawyer makes it clear for us:

[attorney Michael] Idiart said [Tony] Caviglia [football coach at Fresno City College] called him Sunday afternoon to ask if he would meet with the seven players at Fresno City College. Idiart, whose son played for Caviglia in 2001
and 2002, agreed.

He spoke to the players for a half-hour in a conference room at the college, explaining their rights and answering questions.

"They wanted to know if something happened, and if they were simply there, if they could get in trouble," Idiart said, adding that some of the players were concerned about their football careers.

The tragedy is that this may be damaging to the players' future.
* * *

An amusing side note: people make contradictory statements all the time, usually without realizing it. Usually the listener doesn't notice it either. But it makes for some strange looking statements when someone gets quoted in print. Check this, from a witness about the victim:

"She looked a little mature," she said. "She didn't look 11. She was a cute little girl."

Hat tip to Feministing and Inside Higher Ed

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Shame of the Sea

Is it a good pun or a bad pun? That is the question.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time Lies...

...for the first time in eight years. Previously it flew, but last week it was all stretched out in a poolside lounge chair, lounging, reading half a chapter from The Poe Shadow while the Offspring frolicked in the pool.


Eight years. Eight years of summer beach trips spent standing in the pool, bouncing babies, pulling floaties, spinning kids around, and always, always, always,looking at them. This year both girls were old enough, and brave enough, and friendly enough to amuse themselves and play with noodles and other kids for minutes at a time. Not all day mind, but for maybe fifteen minutes after I'd finished slathering everyone in sunscreen. Three dutiful applications of sunscreen a day; that's forty-five minutes!