Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 13, 2011

How prolifers actually live out their beliefs

“to understand how seamlessly and humbly we actually live out our belief in the sanctity of human life”Pterodactyl, on FamilyLifeNZ

On Nov 6 2010, a Walgreens pharmacist in Boise, Idaho – apparently one of those prolifers “living out his belief seamlessly and humbly in the sanctity of human life” received an order for a prescription for Methergine, a medicine used to prevent or control bleeding of the uterus following childbirth or an abortion. She asked the Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner whether this was for a patient who had had an abortion, and in accordance with the HIPAA Privacy Act, the nurse refused to tell her and asked for a referral to a pharmacist who would fill the prescription. The prolifer hung up.

To Pterodactyl, and to other followers on that blog who approve of pharmacists being legally entitled to deny women contraception or medical aftercare in order to “seamlessly and humbly” show how much they support “the sanctity of human life”: the patient’s privacy was not deserving of respect. To prolifers, women who might have had abortions aren’t entitled to medical privacy: women aren’t entitled to freedom of conscience. Women aren’t entitled to respect or dignity.

The pharmacist might seem arrogant and brutally uncaring as he put the phone down on a patient who was bleeding and might die, but really, to if you’re Pterodactyl, that’s just seamlessly humble behavior. Because letting a woman bleed to death is the way “to live out your belief in the sanctity of human life”.

This is part of the issue that the Catholic Church objected to when Amnesty International decided to support the right of women who had been raped to abortions and to medical aftercare: to AI, a human rights organisation, a girl or a woman who has been forced to have sex has the right to decide to have an abortion, and whether or not the abortion is legal, to have aftercare post-abortion. To the Catholic Church, it is only right for women to risk death in illegal abortions, and to be denied healthcare for complications afterwards. And this is what Pterodactyl calls “respecting the sanctity of human life”.

Following on to the conclusion: prolifers are llying hypocrites, or prolifers believe women aren’t human, and so aren’t included in the “sanctity” clause.

January 2, 2011

Invitation to a prolife Pterodactyl to debate basic human rights

Filed under: Pro-life — jesurgislac @ 10:41 am
Tags: , ,

As MTV’s recent documentary on abortion demonstrated, “abortion is common despite the silence around it, it’s not an easy decision, it’s extremely safe, and most women who do it really think long and hard about their decisions”.

In a recent debate on a prolife site, a prolifer who had previously made clear they support human rights regardless of sexual orientation, came out solidly against human rights regardless of gender, arguing that a “subset of humanity” (that is, each individual pregnant woman) ought not to be allowed to be the only people allowed to make decisions about abortion.
My position never changed from the statement I made early-on in the debate:

I think it’s even simpler than trying to mess around with definitions about “potential humans”, etc.

A woman is a human being. No one has a right to use her body against her will. Not even to keep another human being alive.

All prolife legislation and ethics rest on the idea that a woman isn’t really human: she’s just an incubator that can be used without her consent to make a fertilized egg into a baby, regardless of what damage this does to her. This dehumanization of women is what is profoundly wrong with the prolife ethos.

During the discussion, Pterodactyl asserted: “It is not interesting to you to know how a person can be queer, a defender of life at its incarnation and a religious rebel.”

I offered to provide a post where Pterodactyl could, if desired, defend the division between human rights for pregnant woman (not permitted by prolifers) and human rights for LGBT people (most prolifers are against this, too, simply because prolife is generally a religious/anti-human rights movement, though I’ve encountered prolifers who were surprisingly gungho about equal rights for gay men and almost-equal rights for lesbians).

To begin, then: here are the basic human rights violated by the prolife belief that the state, not the individual pregnant woman, has the right to decide if a woman shall terminate or continue a pregnancy.

The big one that prolifers violate by their belief women ought not to be allowed to decide whether to terminate or continue is of course Article One, but there are 11 other Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that prolife beliefs oppose.

Nowhere in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is there found any Article that prolifers claim is a human right for fetuses only: the right to make use of someone else’s body against her will in order to stay alive.
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December 3, 2010

Thank you for your service, now fuck you very much

Filed under: Pro-life — jesurgislac @ 6:28 pm
Tags: ,

It may interest you to know that 1 in 7 US soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are women.

Not everyone realizes how different the Iraq war is for women than any other American war in history. More than 160,500 American female soldiers have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East since the war began in 2003, which means one in seven soldiers is a woman. Women now make up 15 percent of active duty forces, four times more than in the 1991 Gulf War. At least 450 women have been wounded in Iraq, and 71 have died — more female casualties and deaths than in the Korean, Vietnam and first Gulf Wars combined. And women are fighting in combat.

So what do these serving soldiers get from the crawling morons of the pro-life brigades?

“Thank you for your service”?

Oh no.

The last thing any loyal American would want would be for a US soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, to be able to get full healthcare at the military base where she serves. The crawling morons at Secular Prolife regard it as their loyal American duty to force a serving soldier who needs an abortion, either offbase to deal with a foreign doctor, or to request emergency leave, fly home, and use her pay to get an abortion from a civilian doctor.

“Thank you for your service? Fuck you very much!” from pro-life Americans to serving soldiers in a war zone.

Ironically, they have this picture of a US soldier

illustrating their post about denying her healthcare. Wonder what’s it’s there for? Target practice?

September 9, 2010

Do pro-lifers really think of women as animals?

The pro-life argument is, in essence, a refusal to see women as human – or to perceive women at all.

It’s easy to see this in terms of slavery. The pro-life movement is the heir of the aggressive, racist-eugenic fascism before WWII*: which in turn inherited so many of its beliefs from the calm white-centric belief that inferior people shall be slaves to their superiors. Women in this scenario are the slaves of men: women have no right to decide for themselves how many children to have, and when. The forms of contraception which the pro-life movement is most likely to passionately campaign against are the contraceptive pill, its younger sister emergency contraception, and the IUD: contraception which is under the control of the women who use it, and which a man is not likely to be able to sabotage and may not even be aware the woman who is “his” is using. Emergency contraception even enables a rape victim to take control of her body and say no, at the least you will not make me pregnant: naturally, pro-lifers oppose emergency contraception being provided automatically to rape victims as soon as they seek medical treatment.

*The aggression in pro-life attacks on Margaret Sanger speaks of an enmity far older than the modern pro-life movement: Sanger was a believer that even the poorest women should be allowed to “improve the breed” (yes, she was a eugenicist, as were the pro-lifers who opposed her then) by her passionate pro-choice support of even the poorest woman’s right to decide how many children to have, rather than – as in her day – being forced by denial of contraception and denial of the right to refuse their husbands, to have as many children as they could until they died of it. Margaret Sanger’s eugenics was a form profoundly opposed to the fascism inherent in the white pro-lifers who opposed her: who believed white women owed it to “the breed” to be forced to have as many children as they could, and let two-thirds of them die. The strongest would survive, these pro-lifers felt: why give women the right to decide?

Slaves are not allowed to decide when they will be bred, or how many children they will have: pro-lifers want to roll back the human rights movement to the days when a man could literally own the women he bred, and the children he produced.

But even a slave may be cared for by her owner, at least to the degree of concern that she should be maintained as a healthy breeder: for some pro-lifers, who openly maintain that when a pregnancy goes wrong, the woman should be forced to continue the pregnancy though she dies of it, and regardless of what damage the pregnancy does to her. This is thinking of a woman as an incubator – a cheap, easily replaceable machine, used to produce babies, use till it breaks.

But there is still another sticky undercurrent to the pro-life movement: the belief that women are morally equivalent to farm animals.

A few weeks ago a New Zealand pro-life blogger, Brendan Malone, published an outraged post in which he complained that a Green politician, who’s pro-choice, had recently

issued an official press release which passionately attacked the NZ dairy industry for inducing the premature birth of unborn cows, a practice which often results in the death of the calf.
Yes, you did read that right; unborn cows, and look at the language used by Kedgley when talking about this issue, and the sort of action she wants the government to take against it…

Brendan describes this as “unbelievably hypocritical”, because the same politician is pro-choice.

Now, if you’re pro-choice, you believe that the pregnant woman is the person who has the best right to decide whether to terminate or continue her pregnancy: it’s a basic human rights issue, a basic healthcare issue.

What does this have to do with humane farming practices?

Dairy farming is an inhumane business. Male calves are of no value to a dairy farmer: they’re sold young for veal. Female calves are taken from their mothers young, reared and fed indifferently by humans, so that their mothers can be milked for food for our use: milk, cream, butter, cheese. Cows are bred to produce far more milk than their calves could use, so much milk that if they aren’t milked twice a day they suffer terrible pain and eventually die. Dairy farming is emblematic of how we as humans treat animals as if we have the absolute right to use them at our will to provide for our needs, regardless of how this twists and distorts their lives.

What does this have to do with a woman’s right to choose? If you are pro-life, you believe that women can be bred against their will – but surely even a pro-lifer would see some distinction between a human woman, even one deprived of her basic human rights, and a dairy cow? Women do not, even in the most extreme pro-life fantasies, lead lives in any way resembling a dairy cow’s.

But apparently Brendan Malone, and multiple regular pro-life commenters who follow his blog, really see no difference at all between a pregnant woman and a dairy cow. To them, arguing that the farmer of dairy cows ought not to be allowed to induce the cow early to get the milk production started, because this is an additional layer of cruelty on top of the regular day to day use of a dairy cow’s life, is “hypocritical”, because this same politician who opposes a farmer’s mistreatment of cows, opposes pro-life mistreatment of women: she believes that women ought to allowed to decide for themselves about their pregnancies. But to these pro-lifers, and I wish I was joking, women are no more than cows.

Indeed, in a later thread on the same blog, a pro-lifer Mikestruth was insistently arguing a Dolcett-like belief that being vegetarian and being pro-choice was somehow “inconsistent”: as if believing women have the right to choose was somehow inconsistent with not eating meat. (Dolcett, if you didn’t know and I often wish I didn’t, is the eroticisation of cannibalism – specifically, men consuming women as meat. Sorry: my tolerance for human perversity lapses at that point, as it has firmly lapsed with Mikestruth’s belief that women are food animals and arguing for human rights for women is weird if you’re a vegetarian.)

June 8, 2010

Pastor Chuck Phelps has sincere love for rapists

In 1997, a 15-year-old girl in Concord, New Hampshire, became pregnant after being raped repeatedly by Ernest Willis, an older man she knew from the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord her family and the Willis family both attended. The girl told her mother after she was made pregnant: the mother told their pastor, Chuck Phelps.

The Trinity Baptist Church website has this careful message on its front page:

In reviewing the events of October 1997, the present leadership is seeking answers for the victim, our congregation, as well as our entire Concord community. The prayers of our entire church are for justice to be served to the alleged perpetrator, and that mercy and care will be extended to the victim.

Pastor Chuck Phelps had the rape victim go up for “church discipline” because, he told her, Willis may have been 99 percent responsible, but she needed to confess her 1 percent guilt in the situation, and that she should be happy that she didn’t live in Old Testament times because she would have been stoned.

A witness from 1997 remembers “I can still see the little girl standing up there with this smile on her face trying to get through this.” The next day the witness, Fran Earle, called Mrs Phelps, who said the victim had decided not to press charges for statutory rape. Earle, who left the church in 2001, said it was “regular” to see young girls who were pregnant called to the front of the congregation to be humiliated in this way.

Statutory rape has a statute of limitations of 22 years from when the victim turns 18 in New Hampshire, so the police are now investigating Ernest Willis. Chuck Phelps, now senior pastor at another Baptist church in Indianapolis (with no message on its website for the victims of its Pastor), says that he did not “participate in a cover-up”. He simply had the rape victim kept in a “prophet’s chamber” (a guest room over the garage used to host travelling ministers) at the Phelpses’ Concord home until she could be “relocated”. “I just know that they made me stay at their house, and I wasn’t allowed to see any of my friends or talk to anybody. I had to stay there until they shipped me away.” After she moved to Colorado, a minister there asked her to write a letter to Ernest Willis’s wife, apologising to her for “abusing her trust” by having sex with her husband. Church members there monitored her phone calls and didn’t allow her to be with people her own age. When she gave birth in March 1998, Chuck Phelps urged her to put her baby girl up for adoption. After about a year she returned to Concord for about six months, living with her mother, attending Trinity Church, and seeing Ernest Willis in church regularly: he was still a church member.

Chuck Phelps’ current church is Colonial Hills Baptist Church , 8140 Union Chapel Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46240. Phone: 317-253-5597. Fax: 317-254-2847. There’s a comments form.

They say “We’re interested in your comments and questions.” They also say: “Colonial Hills Baptist Church is a family of caring Christians, a place where people feel like they are coming home. Through fervent prayer, the passionate and practical declaration of God’s Word, carefully presented and God-focused music, and a sincere love for the individual, Colonial Hills Baptist Church desires to help you and your family grow in Christ.”

Presumably, Ernest Willis and his family were “helped to grow in Christ” by Pastor Chuck Phelps. Wonder how many other rapists he’s “helping” at his new church?

Update, Sunday 10th April 2011
If you live inside the United States, you may be able to watch a 20/20 documentary on the ABC website (20/20 4/8: Victim’s Forced Confession)

Chuck Phelp’s new church, Colonial Hills Baptist, now has a message up on its website:

ABC’s 20/20 has featured a documentary having to do with independent fundamental Baptists. What occured in Concord, NH while Pastor Phelps was pastor was a part of their focus. Pastor Phelps now has a website available to provide accurate information. Please go to www.drchuckphelps.com for more information.

This 20/20 program is what ABC describe in a news release as a “yearlong investigation” into “a religious subculture many Americans have never heard of, yet has thousands of churches across the country . . . churches that critics claim can foster physical and sexual abuse.” Anchor Elizabeth Vargas said yesterday the 1997 incident at Trinity is “a big part of our hour” but other churches are also examined. (Concord Monitor) It would certainly be interesting to do a follow-up with the church in Indiana, to find out how many rapists have received the benefit of Pastor Phelps’ spiritual support there.

June 1, 2010

Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Gerard Nadal, the pro-lifer who showed up on my radar a week ago when he argued that (a) it was wrong for a Catholic hospital to perform a life-saving abortion; (b) it would have been better to let a pregnant woman die than perform an abortion anyway; turns out to be the kind of pro-lifer who prefers a high abortion rate to the free provision of contraception.

He doesn’t like the idea of abortions being safely and legally provided, nor does he care for organisations which provide free health care to women and children in developing countries. Explicitly, he’s against Marie Stopes International for its provision of:

In 2008 alone, MSI provided over six million people in 42 countries with high quality health services, including family planning; safe abortion & post-abortion care; maternal & child health care including safe delivery and obstetrics; diagnosis & treatment of sexually transmitted infections; and HIV/AIDS prevention. Millions of people die unnecessarily each year from health conditions that could be prevented or treated at low cost because they do not have access to basic sexual and reproductive health services. Marie Stopes International is working to change that.

Nor is he the least ashamed to say so, right out on a public blog: he’s for women dying. Women in the US, if they make the mistake of going to a Catholic hospital where the local Bishop has recently made clear that pregnant women must be left to die if their pregnancy is killing them: women in undeveloped countries, if their only resource is humanitarian agencies like Marie Stopes.

In a way, Catherine Palmer and Gerard Nadal are the Two-Face of the Gotham villainy that is the pro-life movement. Catherine Palmer, who wrote the very sweet post that was the subject of my last rant, is all about saving the fetuses: she doesn’t want to look at denying women health care and basic human rights (and I imagine, never will: she’s also the only woman, and the newest, posting at Ethika Politika.) Gerard Nadal as consistently promotes the openly-misogynist pro-life cause: the belief that women do not deserve to live unless they can be forced to bear children, that no organisation that prioritises women’s health and welfare deserves to exist.

But, whichever face was turned towards you: Two-Face was always dangerously insane.

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Liver and Chianti

Pro-lifers tend to be in agreement that forced use of organs is immoral: they just make an exception for using the uterus (using the organs of a pregnant woman) without her consent. As the essay The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion has already demonstrated, the anti-choicers are themselves unwilling for their own bodies to be used against their will: men can’t get pregnant,and pro-life women have abortions as often as pro-choice women.

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

Many more eggs are fertilsed than there are babies born. For a baby to be created from a fertilised egg, a woman must be willing to use her body – not only her uterus, but her heart (which must beat for two); her liver, her kidneys, her guts – all of her bodily resources are used in the process of making a baby.

As I noted in a comment on Catherine Palmer’s blog Ethika Politika (the blog of the Center for Morality in Public Life) the pro-life argument against medically-required abortions is that women have no right to life or health if their bodies are being used by a fetus: explicitly, that fetuses are more valuable than women. (That the only way to keep a fetus alive, safe, and supported through pregnancy is to ensure that the health and life of pregnant women is made a priority, is something that does not appear to have occurred to pro-lifers.)

The pro-life argument against elective abortions, is that a fetus has the right to make use of a woman’s body against her will, because a fetus is a “person”. But that’s not a workable argument if a woman is a person: because then she has an inalienable right to decide for herself not to use her body to bring a fetus to term.

To rephrase the very basic statement of morality made by a member of the pro-life community against forced organ use: The [pro-life] community has tempted some to seek a weakening of the strict ethical rules which prevent patients—no matter how sick or catastrophically disabled—from ever being treated as a mere organ system rather than an equal member of the moral community.

The key rule is: Organs will be taken only if consent is freely given—either by the patient or by family members (if the patient is catastrophically disabled or otherwise unable to consent). That informed and freely given consent is both a legal and an ethical principle. Arguments that the use of an organ is for the “common good”, that saving life justifies taking the use of an organ against that person’s will, are profoundly immoral: A woman must never be treated as a mere organ system to be “submitted to the common good”. Not for the use of her heart, her liver, her kidneys – or her uterus.

Again, going back to the article about disrobing pro-life euphemisms:

This ideology is, broadly speaking, the pro-life ideology. This doctrine insists, sans sound premise, that certain human beings ought to be labeled non-persons and thus be denied rights. It insists further that it is fundamental to society that no woman who decides against pregnancy ought to be allowed her choice: that human rights for women ought not to be regarded as protected by the US Constitution or by any other human rights laws.

As Catherine Palmer herself notes: The ramifications of this mentality are unspeakable, but not unprecedented. Anytime unpopular human beings are reduced to something disposable, we see horrific effects. We saw it in our segregated nation under Jim Crow laws in the 1950’s, when African-Americans were lynched by the thousands because they were dark-skinned; and we see it in [Latin America] today with denial of medically-required abortions where pregnant women are allowed to die of preventable complications as a human sacrifice to a religious Law without humanity. (For horrid examples of pro-life Americans celebrating the ideal of human sacrifice to the Law, see the comments thread here.)

Like Catherine, I would like to think (and generally do think) that the propagators of these killings would never commit them were they to see them for what they really are.

But the pro-life movement is guilty of murder, terrorism, and other violence towards health service workers, and has recently and very openly made clear that where the choice lies between saving a pregnant woman’s life by performing an abortion, and letting the pregnant woman die even though the fetus dies too, they argue for the latter: they prefer two deaths to one.

Like Catherine, I say the first initiative is educational in nature. We have a responsibility both to educate people who have been deceived by pro-life lies about fetuses, pregnancy, and abortion, and to educate people in valuing women as human beings. The abortion question ultimately comes down to the moral status of pregnant women, but pro-lifers like to argue that it’s all about “saving fetuses” – and then tell further, complicated lies both about the nature of fetuses/fetal development and about abortion. Both contradicting the pro-life lies and affirming the equal humanity of women are required to correct the inimical pro-life mindset. Pro-lifers need intellectual confusion to make their case: the service of truth corrects their lies.

Like Catherine, I say the second initiative is active in nature. The pro-lifers have political and religious power and money on their side: she argues that “we see that the Civil Rights Movement required authors and activists, professors and preachers, to bare segregation for the world to see”. I agree with her that the Pro-Life Movement will likely prove no different: it is not enough for them to expose themselves as indifferent to women’s lives and opposing human rights for women, it is essential that they should be exposed for what they are.

The pro-life ideology is an inhuman ideology “parading in dress-up clothes and pretending to be human”. Catherine quotes a Narnian in one of C.S.Lewis’s novels saying “But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that’s going to be human and isn’t yet, or used to be human once and isn’t now, or ought to be human and isn’t, keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet”. While a pro-lifer would naturally think in terms of violent action, which I oppose as I oppose all pro-life ideology – I agree with the recommendation to be wary of inhumanity.

The belief that other people exist to be used against their will is one of the most pernicious and deadly that humanity is rife with: and it is the pro-life belief in a nutshell. Pro-life euphemisms, be gone!

I should admit: I plagiarised large chunks of Catherine’s post with satiritic intent. The best satires were teaching rants. Catherine’s post presumes that if only those of us who believe that women are human and so support a woman’s right to choose, could understand the humanity of the cute li’l fetuses, we would somehow change our minds about the humanity of women. We do need to convince pro-lifers who have a sincere concern for humanity, that their concern is severely misdirected when they argue that because human fetuses are fully human, that must mean women ought to be treated as slaves, animals, or incubators. A fetus can have all the human rights that every human is born to: that does not mean that a fetus (or a pro-lifer claiming to act for a fetus) can force a woman to use her body as an incubator against her will. As humans we have the right to choose if, when, and how many children we will have: pro-lifer arguments that pregnancy is a “common good” for which women can be used against their will are straightforward arguments for enslavement and dehumanisation of women.

May 26, 2010

Pro-life is what they call themselves…?

In parts 4/4.5 of this occasional series, I discussed the case at an American hospital, St Josephs in Arizona – a case which we know must have been repeated out of sight of the world media over and over again, with more tragic conclusions: of a woman who arrived at the emergency department of a Catholic hospital deathly ill from her pregnancy. (Pulmonary hypertension, in this specific instance, but there are many things that can kill a woman when her pregnancy goes wrong.)

There was a simple, obvious, and awful way to save the woman’s life: perform an abortion on a wanted pregnancy. (She was 11 weeks pregnant and there is a health center that provides abortions in Phoenix Arizona: it seems reasonable to conclude that she wanted the baby, who would have been her fifth.) The woman was told that to save her life the pregnancy would need to be terminated. She agreed to the operation. (In the first trimester, aspiration is the normal method – it’s non-surgical, can be performed with only a local anaesthetic, and would have put minimal stress on her over-taxed heart.) The operation was performed: she lived. Had the doctors refrained from performing the abortion – or had they even moved her to an operating theater – she would have died. Of course, when she died, the fetus would have died too.

My guess is that people who’ve read me on Why pro-choice is the ony moral option are surprised that I say it was an awful way to save the woman’s life. But it was: losing a wanted baby is a tragedy. To have to decide to terminate a wanted pregnancy in order to live is a very dreadful choice to have to make, and a pregnant woman has the right to choose not to have an abortion, even though the doctors tell her she would die otherwise. It’s everyone’s right to decide to die rather than receive treatment that goes against their conscience. But no one has a right to make that decision for other people. And a doctor’s overriding ethical obligation, unless they know their patient has other wishes, is to preserve good health and life.
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May 23, 2010

Pro-life is what they call themselves, part 4.5

In response to a comment on Feministe, which asserted: I don’t think any of the Catholics in question really, truly believe that if a pregnant woman’s life is in danger because of her pregnancy, she then deserves to die. That’s really kind of a ridiculous thing to say.

Well, yes, it is kind of a ridiculous thing to say – it’s both absurd and evil.

But it’s true – and not just of Catholics. There is a strand of thinking, and many of them have been arguing publicly over the last couple of days about this, that if a woman is going to die if she doesn’t have an abortion, she should die. They really, truly believe that a pregnant woman with the choice of abortion or death deserves death.

The discussion here on What’s wrong with the world illustrates this, with both Catholics and Protestants defending as a general good that idea that death is better for a pregnant woman.

But I think the reason they argue this way, positively in favor of death for the women and against life-saving abortions, is because for them death isn’t quite real – or the women who are dying.

Sister McBride probably believes quite strongly that abortion is wrong. Were we to discuss this issue in any normal circumstance, we’d probably have a massive argument. But she works in a hospital: she belongs to an order who care for the sick. For her, the decision to provide an abortion wasn’t, as it is to these religious people arguing that she should have let the woman die, a matter of airy theoretical bloodless law, but a real woman who was really dying. And faced with that reality, Sister McBride chose life.

I am absolutely certain that neither Gerard Nadal nor Bishop Olmsted has ever in his life been faced with a decision of such moral magnitude. For him, the death of a woman in pregnancy is something unreal and distant, a halo and an odor of sanctity.

“Must then a Christ die in every generation to save those that have no imagination?” Shaw asked, and the answer always seems to be, horribly, yes. But worse than that: for Nadal and his ilk, Christ must die in childbirth in front of them, before they can see they’re hammering in the nails.
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May 21, 2010

Pro-life is what they call themselves, part 4

This is why pro-lifers shouldn’t be allowed near hospital administration:

Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, and she was gravely ill. According to a hospital document, she had “right heart failure,” and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was “close to 100 percent.”

The patient, who was too ill to be moved to the operating room much less another hospital, agreed to an abortion. NPR

This isn’t an “ethical dilemma” even on the level of my last Pro-life is what they call themselves post: this wasn’t a situation where the pregnant woman might have been kept alive for long enough as a hosting mechanism so that the fetus could survive.

According to a professor of theology at Boston College the official church position mandates that the pregnant woman is allowed to die with her fetus, because “the Catholic perspective” is that performing an abortion is evil, and “you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means”.

John Ehrich, who is the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix (he now has a front-page letter on his St Thomas the Apostle parish website, from which I’m quoting), says “It is not better for a woman to have to live the rest of her existence knowing that she had her child killed because her pregnancy was high risk. When we try to control every possible situation in life, we end up playing the role of God. As people of faith we know that our lives are always in God’s hands. In these situations the reality of our dependence upon Him becomes ever more clear and pronounced.”

In short: a woman who is dying, who will live if she has an abortion, should be let die. Along with the fetus she is carrying, of course – no 11-week fetus will survive if the pregnant woman dies.

That’s pro-life theology: two deaths are better than one. That’s why no hospital should ever permit medical decisions to be made by people who will put their religious beliefs ahead of the patient.

Sister Margaret McBride is a nun of the Sisters of Mercy, founded in Ireland, “vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education with a special concern for women and children”. Canon law mandated automatic excommunication: whether an excommunicated nun is then expelled from her Order is up to the leadership of the Order.

Sister McBride acted in the spirit of her Order’s mission:

Mercy saves lives, lifting people everywhere out of desperation and sorrow, out of hunger, impoverishment and illness.

Mercy enriches souls, bringing spirit, laughter and hope to those who thought they were lost.

Can you imagine how the family and friends of that woman whose life was saved would have felt – a friend, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, taken to hospital gravely ill – and then the hospital simply puts her to bed and lets her die, even though they could have saved her?

As a matter of contrast, though acting to save a woman’s life by performing an abortion got “automatic excommunication”, ordained priests in Arizona who are known to have sexually abused children were never excommunicated.

For Michael Teta and Robert C. Trupia: the Vatican took years to examine their cases and finally have them laicized: but a 2004 report names 44 priests who served in Arizona who are credibly accused of molesting children. (YumaSun) Some may have been laicized. None were excommunicated.

Pope Benedict XVI said “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

So there may be “legitimate diversity of opinion” about whether or not it’s okay to rape a child. But saving a woman’s life when her pregnancy is killing her? That’s always wrong.

The Pope says so. Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix says so. The “medical ethics” priest of Phoenix says so. Raping a child.. legitimate diversity! Performing an abortion so that one life is lost instead of two:

If a Catholic formally cooperates in the procurement of an abortion, they are automatically excommunicated by that action. The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty.

“Defending life”, of course, in the strange Catholic sense meaning “Let the pregnant woman die”.

I have no problem with the Pope and the bishops and the priests of the Catholic Church arguing as a theological principle that it’s wrong to perform abortions. I do have a problem when their religious beliefs are allowed to make pro-life decisions in hospitals where pro-life reasoning has no place: pro-lifers may feel that two deaths are better than one, but no doctor or nurse or any other health professional ought to let that theological reasoning override their professional standards of care for their patient.


Update: Just in case anyone was in doubt about the correct Catholic position on saving a woman’s life, there’s a post by Elizabeth Scalia, who also blogs as The Anchoress, all about how when a woman is dying and an abortion will save her life, the Catholic thing for her doctors to do is let her die – after all, if God wants her to live, God will save her. (In this kind of thinking, Catholics really don’t need to run hospitals, because if someone’s broken their leg or their appendix has burst, well, if they’re meant to live, God will save them: if they die because the leg wasn’t set or because the appendix wasn’t removed, well, God obviously wanted them dead.)

Michael Liccone’s post on the same site is almost a sideline (since the main issue for most people is the publicity about the substandard care that a Catholic hospital is required to provide by the Church’s ethical code): he points out that Bishop Olmsted sidestepped a pastoral disagreement by declaring that Sister McBride had excommnicated herself – which meant the bishop did not have to engage with the nun or pay attention to any medical evidence which would have justified the abortion according to a Catholic directive that was thought to imply that it was OK to perform an abortion if it was to save the woman’s life. (This is substandard, because it may well mean the woman will be literally at the point of death before the hospital can elect to save her: a Catholic hospital is required to be indifferent to a pregnant woman’s health and wellbeing, regardless of what long-term damage may be caused, which a secular hospital is not.)

The comments thread to the post (and to the echoed post) however makes clear that to many ardent Catholics, Bishop Olmsted’s position is the moral high ground: Catholics stand for letting pregnant woman die rather than performing an abortion. I’d say that was disturbing, but it’s also not uncommon: it’s just pro-life to let women die.

Plus this frankly amusing post by a Catholic who appears to feel that the real problem isn’t that the woman’s life was saved, but that the woman’s life was saved by a Catholic hospital – if she’d known she might die, she should obviously have gone to some other hospital where they have no moral objection to saving pregnant woman’s lives. (I agree with that, but this guy’s post is just so NIMBYish about it: why must these pesky pregnant women behave as if they thought the hospital should just act to save their lives?) (I felt slightly sorry for mocking because Nadal was very polite when I joined a discussion here, but he did acknowledge in the course of the discussion that there was a NIMBYish element to his opposition: and he presents here in detailed response to a doctor’s comments, his own settled belief that the Catholic Church’s position is that the pregnant woman should have been left to die: it was morally wrong to save her life.)

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