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?


Natalia said...

Wow... You actually read all of this? You have a stronger stomach than I.

I just had to turn away in disgust after the first couple of lines.

Kaethe said...

Oh, yeah, I've got a really strong stomach. I used to read the gorey parts of Jaws to myself during lunch. I love me some grotesque fiction.

alberich said...

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

Actually, one of the interpretations given to this story within Judaism is that Abraham was actually testing God as well as the other way around -- Abraham did not intend to sacrifice Isaac, but when he heard the call to do so, he had to test whether or not God really would "provide the ram for the sacrifice" -- if God did not, then Abraham himself would have stopped at the last minute and known that what he thought was the word of God was not and known not to listen to those voices in his head, so to speak ... since he was stopped, he knew to trust those, er, voices ...

Of course, Woody Allen probably has the best version of the Binding of Isaac (and the moral drawn from the event by God indeed alas, is too true even today):

And Abraham awoke in the middle of the night and said to his only son, Isaac, "I have had a dream where the voice of the Lord sayeth that I must sacrifice my only son, so put your pants on." And Isaac trembled and said, "So what did you say? I mean when He brought this whole thing up?"

"What am I going to say?" Abraham said. "I'm standing there at two A.M. I'm in my underwear with the Creator of the Universe. Should I argue?"

"Well, did he say why he wants me sacrificed?" Isaac asked his father.

But Abraham said, "The faithful do not question. Now let's go because I have a heavy day tomorrow."

And Sarah who heard Abraham's plan grew vexed and said, "How doth thou know it was the Lord and not, say, thy friend who loveth practical jokes, for the Lord hateth practical jokes and whosoever shall pull one shall be delivered into the hands of his enemies whether they pay the delivery charge or not." And Abraham answered, "Because I know it was the Lord. It was a deep, resonant voice, well modulated, and nobody in the desert can get a rumble in it like that."

And Sarah said, "And thou art willing to carry out this senseless act?" But Abraham told her, "Frankly yes, for to question the Lord's word is one of the worst things a person can do, particularly with the economy in the state it's in."

And so he took Isaac to a certain place and prepared to sacrifice him but at the last minute the Lord stayed Abraham's hand and said, "How could thou doest such a thing?"

And Abraham said, "But thou said ---"

"Never mind what I said," the Lord spake. "Doth thou listen to every crazy idea that comes thy way?" And Abraham grew ashamed. "Er - not really … no."

"I jokingly suggest thou sacrifice Isaac and thou immediately runs out to do it."

And Abraham fell to his knees, "See, I never know when you're kidding."

And the Lord thundered, "No sense of humor. I can't believe it."

"But doth this not prove I love thee, that I was willing to donate mine only son on thy whim?"

And the Lord said, "It proves that some men will follow any order no matter how asinine as long as it comes from a resonant, well-modulated voice."

And with that, the Lord bid Abraham get some rest and check with him tomorrow.

(Woody Allen. Without Feathers Pp. 26-7)

Kaethe said...

Oh, yeah, Abraham was testing God. Yeah, I buy that.

Love the Woody Allen!

PC said...

Damn, K--that was [i]thorough[/i].

Remind me never to serve you with a frivolous lawsuit.

Kaethe said...

Thank you, very much. "Thorough" is very gratifying indeed.

Laura said...

I just came across your blog entry when I searched for Christians and IVF. This may surprise you, but I agree with Mr. Phillips. I do not say this lightly.

A week ago, we suffered our second ectopic pregnancy, ending all hopes of ever conceiving again. Both times, I didn't ask for "the shot". Both times, I didn't have surgery to remove them before they burst. My first instinct as a mother was to protect and defend the lives inside of me, even lives that I knew could not thrive and live. Both times, I was in agonizing pain, I lost a lot of blood, my life was in danger, and recovery was/is not easy, but my husband and I do not regret this path and would choose it again if we had to.

Our consciences are clear in the knowledge that we did everything we could to preserve the gift of life and that, in the end, it was God's will that our babies should be with Him. I know that I could not live with myself if I had willingly done something to harm my children out of "convenience" or the desire to have more biological children. Again, I do not say this lightly. We have a young family to consider and I would rather have my kids learn that life is precious and to be protected at all costs and that I would do the same for each of my children, not just the biggest and strongest, born or unborn.

I did not read Mr. Phillips article with revulsion. I read it as a balm to my broken and grieving heart. Perspective changes everything.

Kaethe said...

Congratulations on not dying. I am sorry for your losses. But I think the important point here is that you had a choice. I can't begin to understand why a mother with a young family would put herself through that kind of agony and risk death for no benefit to anyone, but if you're okay with it, good on you. Of course, I also didn't expect my father to just let his appendix busrt for no good reason, either.

What I don't understand is how you think you've taught your children that "life should be protected at all costs" when you gratuitously risked yours twice. While I can see the advantages of a mother risking her life to save a child, I don't get the point of her risking her life when she can't save the child. That seems to imply a disregard for protecting your own life that I find incomprehensible.

But thanks for the comment.