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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June 27, 2010

Why is abortion like setting fire to kittens?

As many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed believer in a woman’s right to choose: I support all six demands of the women’s liberation movement: equal pay, equal employment opportunity, free contraceptive services, abortion on demand. (The last demand, free 24-hour childcare, I think is brilliantly utopian, world turned upside down, but the first five are all achievable in our present political state….)

Setting fire to kittens, on the other hand: inarguably wrong. Even if you hate cats, and as many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed cat worshipper whisperer.

Pro-lifers generally run blogs that do not accept dissenting viewpoints. (They’re like gay marriage opponents in that way.) But for pro-lifers, the “dissenting viewpoint” can be anything like “Contraception is a good way of preventing abortions” or scientific facts about how methods of contraception work, to assertions that women have abortions for all sorts of reasons, including the purely economic fear of losing your job, and these reasons are none of them outrageous or wicked. If you don’t want a woman who works for a Catholic school to have an abortion because she can’t afford to lose her job, then – as the ACLU did – you fight the case of a woman fired for getting pregnant, so that Catholic schools in future will refrain from encouraging their employees from having abortions. If you think a high abortion rate is a bad thing, you fund free access to contraception, you put in place sex education in schools that encourages children to think about sex positively as a source of pleasure for themselves and each other and using contraception whenever they have sex unless they intend to engender a child, you provide maternity care and paid maternity leave and rights for working parents to have time to care for their children and earn a living. We know that pro-lifers are not interested in reducing the number of abortions because, as a political movement, and, mostly, as individuals, they support none of these things.

What are pro-lifers interested in?

They hate abortion. And they want you to know they hate abortion.

Part of this goes right along with hating abortion because it means women can have, in the pro-life euphemism, “sex without consequences” – why pro-lifers also oppose free access to contraception. Women, in this view of things, ought not to be allowed to have sex joyfully, for her own pleasure, without fear: the fear of becoming pregnant is something that ought always to be looming over a woman’s mind when she thinks about having sex. Especially an unmarried women: hence pro-life support for firing an unmarried woman who decided not to have an abortion. This hatred of women having sex for pleasure is very strong in the pro-life movement, and for many years I’ve assumed it to be the key motivator. There’s considerable evidence for this in the policies/campaigning of the pro-life movement, as this post by Ampersand outlines:

In contrast, the leaders of the abortion criminalization movement have consistently put their political weight behind policies which make little or no sense if they genuinely think that abortion is identical to child murder. And those same leaders routinely endorse policies that make a lot of sense if their goal is to penalize women who have sex – to, as I’ve heard many of them put it, make sure women “face the consequences” of having sex. And they’ve done so with the apparent backing and blessing of the vast majority of the rank and file. [Further analysis at Alas a Blog.]

This belief – that denying access to abortion is an effective means of turning pregnancy into punishment and babies into “consequences” – is why many pro-lifers say they think abortion ought to be allowed for rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life.

But for some pro-lifers, that’s still not acceptable. For them, the key is hating abortion, and hating people who support the right to have an abortion. They don’t care about women dying: they don’t care about fetuses dying, or babies dying: they certainly don’t care about preventing abortions, because where would their source of hate be then?

I read this post on Slacktivist about false witness some time ago; Fred illustrated his point with reference to an awful incident the paper he worked for had reported on, a “group of disturbed and disturbing children doused a kitten with lighter fluid and set it on fire” and other incidents in which disturbed and disturbing people had done this awful thing. Fred noted that people were universally and unsurprisingly against kitten-burning:

But one also came away from reading that thread with the sense that people seemed to think this ultra-minimal moral stance made them exceptional and exceptionally righteous. Like the earlier editorial writers, they seemed to think they were exhibiting courage by taking a bold position on a matter of great controversy. Whatever comfort might be gleaned from the reaffirmation that most people were right about this non-issue issue was overshadowed by the discomfiting realization that so many people also seemed to want or need most others to be wrong.

The kitten-burners seem to fulfill some urgent need. They give us someone we can clearly and correctly say we’re better than. Their extravagant cruelty makes us feel better about ourselves because we know that we would never do what they have done. They thus function as signposts of depravity, reassuring the rest of us that we’re Not As Bad As them, and thus letting us tell ourselves that this is the same thing as us being good.

Hating abortion is a political tool to get people to vote against their own economic self-interests: as Avedon at the Sideshow summarises succinctly: “the lie that the anti-abortion movement was an organic reaction to Roe v Wade, but of course that’s not true – like everything else, it was orchestrated by rich right-wingers as part of their ongoing program to polarize society.”

In the US in the 1970s, racism was becoming less and less acceptable as a means by which right-wing politicians could convince working-class white Americans to vote and even campaign against their own economic interests. (As an example: By the end of that decade,even the Mormon Church had had to receive a revelation from God that it was unacceptable to ban black men from the priesthood. But in the 21st century, the Mormon Church actively campaigns for discrimination against lesbians and gays.) In 2002, the then-Senate Majority leader, Trent Lott, had to apologize for saying that the United States would have avoided all these problems if the racist Strom Thurmond had been elected President in 1948: in 2004, George W. Bush could endorse a national campaign for homophobic bigotry and inequality.

But if you can’t, any more, use racism as a trigger to get people to vote against their own economic self-interest, what can you use to drum up hatred? In the 1970s, the LGBT equality movement wasn’t widespread enough for gay-hating to work as a national trigger – too many parts of the US where LGBT people just kept their heads down and tried to be invisible and inaudible – but women, everywhere, need access to abortion and contraception. Turn this natural human need into a hate campaign and you’re off to a winner.

Abortion is like setting fire to kittens not because human fetuses are like kittens (there is no lolfetuses website) but because pro-lifers get their buzz out of believing themselves to be better than others. The opposition of pro-lifers to intact dilation and extraction, and their invention of the non-medical term “partial birth abortion”, is otherwise inexplicable: IDX is an abortion technique, one which can be safer for a woman who needs an abortion in late pregnancy, but banning IDX will not prevent any abortions: it merely ensures that a method which may be less safe for the woman must be used. Many pro-lifers have reacted with anger and rejection when asked if their opposition to IDX is because they want women to be hurt or permanently damaged: apparently what they want is a return to the pre-IDX days when the only way to remove a dead or dying fetus from the uterus was piecemeal. This belief that IDX in particular is bad makes no sense to many people, but if what pro-lifers want is the reassurance that they’re better than people who support a woman’s right to choose, thus letting them tell themselves that this is the same thing as “being good”, then it makes sense that they want abortion to appear “extravagantly cruel“. Performing IDX means the fetus can be removed intact, allowing the parents to hold the body as they mourn their loss: to pro-lifers this is as unacceptable as legislation for social justice is to Trotskyites who believe in a worker’s revolution.

I was 27 weeks by this point. I was terrified. The moment I met the doctor, all of that ended. He was a wonderful and loving man. I came in on Monday and gave birth to our baby girl on Friday. We were able to hold her after, and say our goodbyes. That doctor will always be in my heart. (From A Heartbreaking Choice, the website set up to commemorate Doctor George Tiller’s work.)

Pro-lifers are the movement for setting fire to kittens. They are not interested in preventing abortions: they are not interested in protecting women from harm. They are not interested in saving fetal lives. What they want is to compare access to abortion with the holocaust, with slavery, with torture – they want abortion to be performed as dangerously as possible: they want to claim that abortion is dangerous and performed by uncaring people; they want to campaign against evil like brave, brave, brave Sir Robin without actually running any risks because the evil empire they tourney against is entirely of their own invention.

Unfortunately, the women condemned to suffer and die from their tourneying are not.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

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.)

February 17, 2010

Pro-life terrorists: eight murders haven’t been enough

Pro-life terrorists in the US have already murdered eight people for working in clinics that perform abortions, and have attempted to murder 17 more. (cite) Now that the pro-life murderer of George Tiller has been convicted, pro-life terrorists and their supporters are working elsewhere to get more clinic staff killed:

A gynecologist who performs abortions in Tarrant County is the target of a vicious postcard campaign which lists his home and work addresses along with names of five of his staff members.

The postcard is printed in black-and-white and it is unsigned.

On the front is a picture of Dr. Michael S. Phillips next to the question: “Have you seen this person?”

When it’s flipped over, the postcard lists the doctor’s name, and three addresses — including his home.

It goes on to reveal names of five staff members.

When reached at his home, Dr. Phillips said he wouldn’t talk about it. “I’ve been dealing with it for 35 years, that’s all I can say.” (Texas, WFAA)

The card uses familiar pro-life hate rhetoric, calling the clinic staff named on the card “heart-stoppers” and promoting the usual pro-life lie that that the doctor and the clinic staff practice infanticide, claiming “They kill ‘em cheap and stack ‘em deep.”

Chuck Pelletier, apparently the clean face for the pro-lifer movement in Texas, claims that he has nothing to do with producing or passing out this card, but that everything on it is true. (He and his wife run the “Mother & Unborn Baby Care” crisis pregnancy center in Fort Worth: I have no idea what links this particular crisis pregnancy center may have to the coercive adoption industry, but “follow the money” is a good rule anywhere – and the adoption industry in the US is huge and has nothing to do with respecting women as mothers.)

It is, as always, ironic and worth noting that not only is the pro-life movement a terrorist anti-life movement… it is also deeply against provision of services which prevent abortions.

January 12, 2010

Teenagers having babies: Just Not A Good Idea

I’m pro-choice. That doesn’t necessarily mean pro-abortion, as discussed earlier: it means I think that the woman who is pregnant is the one who gets to make the decisions.

But with regard to teenagers who get pregnant: I’d counsel very strongly towards having an abortion, and the younger the teenager, the more strongly.

Reason one, and the single most important one: Getting pregnant too young is bad for your long-term health. There are no circumstances under which an early abortion wouldn’t be far better for the teenager’s health than carrying a pregnancy to term.

Reason two: None of the options for a teenage mother – especially one too young to have a legal full-time job – are good. The pro-lifers who think teenage girls can be used as surrogates to produce healthy babies for their adoption industry, are the most callously damaging, but none of the other prospects are particularly good either – a teenager who has a strong supportive family behind her, willing to provide free childcare and financial support, may still manage to get the education she needs to get a job to be able to support her child, but the odds are against her.

So: a teenager who’s pregnant, ought to be told her first, best choice would be to have an early abortion. (And yes: there are circumstances under which I’d say that a parent is justified in ignoring a 13-year-old girl’s arguments that ABORTION IS MURDER, supposing she comes up with them, and saying firmly “We’re going to the clinic, you’re talking to the counselor” – the doctor shouldn’t perform the abortion against the girl’s will, but the parents should absolutely be doing everything possible to encourage the girl to do the right thing and agree to terminate. Including finding this 13-year-old an afternoon job in a baby nursery wiping up vomit, shit, and other baby messes.)

What if the teenager has unsupportive, abusive parents who think she should have the baby whether or not she wants to do that, and plan to force her to abandon the baby to the adoption industry?

Well, then the teenager should be supported by the law, medical ethics, and humanity, against her abusive parents: she should be able to have an abortion without her parents knowing about it. (Most of the time, I think, most parents would do the right thing even if initially they got mad at their daughter: but a child who says firmly that she doesn’t want her parents to know, may well have good reason to think her parents would be abusive.) Laws that force the government into the parent-child relationship, that require parental consent before medical staff can provide a pregnant teenager with the abortion she needs, are vile and inethical.

As Harriet Jacobs at Fugitivus says, the thunderous conclusion of a fantastic post that outlines how parental notification laws actually work to harm children by denying them essential medical services:

So, welcome to the reality of legal restrictions on medical services to teenagers! This is a thing to keep in mind whenever you read about a new law taking shape or being passed. If the new law does not explicitly identify standards and procedures, and if it does not explicitly identify service providers, and if those service providers do not actually exist in your community, you now have a pretty good idea of the intentions of the lawmakers. Passing a law that is undefined and inaccessible is passing a law you don’t want to see enforced. When lawmakers passed this notification law, they didn’t want girls to actually be able to acquire bypasses. They didn’t even care if girls notified their parents. If they had cared about these things, the law would have actually addressed what “notification” means, what “parents” mean, and who provides bypasses. It did not address these things, because these were not the things lawmakers actually wanted to see happen. The lawmakers purposefully made a law where it is impossible to ensure compliance, but is entirely possible to be punished for non-compliance. They made it this way because they did not want to see compliance. They wanted to see a full stop.

They wanted to see teenagers forced into either having illegal abortions or having babies they did not want and could not support, to provide products for an industry valued at $1.4 billion.

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