Jesurgislac’s Journal

June 1, 2010

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.

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March 2, 2010

Catholic Charities reminds employees that promoting homophobia more important than caring for the sick

CEO of Catholic Charities to staff: “I am writing to you to inform you of an important change to our group health care benefit plan that will take effect on March 2, 2010 due to a change in the law of the District of Columbia. It is important to note that the existing health coverage of current employees will not be affected by the change. New employees and current employees requesting revisions in benefit coverage will be affected by this change.” – Letter from Catholic Charities president and CEO to staff

Because same-sex couples will be able to get married, and because Catholic Charities are not allowed to offer health care coverage to spouses in mixed-sex marriages only, they have the choice of denying health care to all spouses who become eligible to join the plan after 2nd March – which will bar all couples in same-sex marriages, as they won’t be able to get married until after that date – or continue to offer health-care coverage to all spouses, even if that means some lurking closety gay spouse of an employee of Catholic Charities finds himself the recipient of health care that the Catholic Church believes he does not deserve.

Which are the two great precepts of Charity and the seven Corporal Works of Mercy?
1. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God hate gay people with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength’.
2. ‘Thou shalt love promote homophobia to thy neighbour as to thyself’.

1. To feed the hungry except for queers;
2. To give drink to the thirsty except for queers;
3. To clothe the naked except for queers;
4. To harbour the harbourless except for queers;
5. To care for the sick promote homophobia;
6. To visit the imprisoned except for queers;
7. To bury the dead except for queers.

This isn’t even their first-response reaction to finding out they’d have to act like they thought gay people deserved health care as much as straights do: on 17th February the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington formally announced that they believe promoting homophobia is more important than caring for children, too.

You have to wonder: how long can the Catholic Church go on promoting the idea that for Catholics homophobia is a core value which comes before everything else? Mormons got away with promoting the idea that racism is a core value for their faith for well over a century: does this mean Catholicism will be able to push homophobia as a required doctrine into the 2080s?

I hope not, but there is a positive side here: prior beliefs claimed by Catholics that corporeal works of mercy mattered led to Catholic charities becoming heavily involved in social services, with their own pro-lifer tweaks and biases helping to promote pro-life beliefs among the helpless. If the Catholic Church is now taking the position that promotion of homophobia comes before everything else, and therefore it must refuse to provide social services where it is not allowed to promote homophobia, maybe this will mean a gradual drawing away of the power of the Catholic Church to affect society negatively?

It’s ugly, though. There isn’t really an upside. The power of a strong Church determined that its followers shall promote bigotry as a core value of their faith is just… ugly.

April 26, 2009

Dominican Republic passes constitutional amendment against women

This amendment is billed by the Catholic News Agency as a “pro-life triumph”, in the odd kind of way the Catholic Church regards “life” as not including women. (Or girls. Catholic doctrine, if you recall, is that an 11-year-old girl made pregnant by rape who will die from a ruptured uterus if the pregnancy is allowed to continue to develop, ought to be let die by this natural course: her mother was excommunicated for saving her daughters life by authorising an abortion.)

This new amendment says that when a woman is dying of an ectopic pregnancy, or eclampsia, or any of the other causes of maternal mortality or morbidity, the law of the Dominican Republic is that the doctors must let the woman die.

The fetus she is carrying will die too, but for all the talk of how “life” must be protected, the fact is: these people do not care if women die, or fetuses die, or babies die. They care only about forced pregnancy. This amendment makes forced pregnancy the law of the land in the Dominican Republic, and as a direct result, more women will die.

Some forced pregnancies may be brought to term. The government of the Dominican Republic does not appear to have considered how to care for the unwanted babies and the orphans who lose their mothers – there is insufficient provision made already for the street children who have no families at all. Even the detention centers are not safe places. But then, caring for children once they’re born isn’t as important as forcing a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will.

Amnesty International has more.

September 12, 2008

Pro-lifers support rapists

Hilzoy on Obsidian Wings:

One Vice Presidential nominee turned her back on past and future rape victims. Another was looking out for them. Read the rest

It’s one of the examples of how feminism has worked its way into general acceptance since the revolutionary movement began: it’s now accepted in most modern jurisdictions that rape is a crime committed by the rapist, for which the rapist is prosecuted by the state: it is not a crime that the rape victim claims is done to her for which she personally must seek redress. (I use gendered language in the last part of that sentence because the legal acceptance that men too are raped is another by-product of feminism.)

Old-fashioned legal language used the term “prosecutrix” to describe the rape victim if charges were brought against the rapist in court, blandly presenting the idea that the rapist’s victim was pressing the charges, rather than being the key witness. It is a source of the blame-the-victim attitude – “being raped” was something that happened to the victim, not something that someone else did.

For example, explicitly for “pro-life” reasons, the Catholic Church recently withdrew all support for Amnesty International, because AI had decided that they would support the right of a raped woman to have an abortion and to get medical treatment for problems caused by an illegal abortion – a decision caused by AI’s work with women gang-raped by soldiers in the Congo. At the other end of the scale, Catholic hospitals routinely deny emergency contraception to rape victims – a procedure which in a civilised country leads to more abortions than would otherwise occur.

Although Hilzoy doesn’t mention it, this belief usually runs in parallel with the belief that a woman made pregnant by rape ought to be forced through pregnancy and childbirth – no matter the age of the victim, her being raped has removed her status as “innocent”: the fetus she may carry has that status, but a raped child does not. (The recent example of an 11-year-old girl in Romania, who had been raped – allegedly by her uncle, who fled when his niece’s pregnancy was discovered – but who was denied an abortion by the pro-lifer authorities in her country, “to protect the innocent child”. The girl, you see, was no longer an innocent child – she had been raped.)

Sarah Palin famously said, in response to a question about whether she supported abortion, not even if her own daughter was raped.

(That she reneged on that decision, and has since declared herself to be pro-choice, makes her a better human being, but her principles at the time she was Mayor of Wasilla were apparently, explicitly, for forced pregnancy.)

It doesn’t surprise me that, just as Palin regards a raped woman as an incubator for the rapist’s seed, Palin also regards evidence for prosecuting the rapist for his crime as a matter for the rape victim to pay for.

June 18, 2008

Maggie Gallagher redefines marriage

Unsurprisingly, Maggie Gallagher (Redefinition Revolution, National Review Online) is spouting off about how awful it is that two men can now go to California and get married. (Though the first marriage in California was between two women who had been partners for 55 years, Maggie makes no reference to this: it doesn’t fit her paradigm of “gay marriage”, and as her meltdown on The Volokh Conspiracy three years ago demonstrated, she is simply not capable of fact-based arguments for or against same-sex marriage.)

Let’s be clear; opponents of same-sex marriage are homophobic. There’s no reason to oppose lesbian and gays having the legal right to marry, but the belief that it’s wrong for LGBT people to have the same civil rights as heterosexuals: and that is a homophobic belief.

The justifications for why it’s “wrong” are all illogical. Maggie begins her argument with “Gay men are promiscuous!” (Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon points out that if consensual promiscuity were a reason for banning marriage for all, straight marriage has to be banned too.) In part of course Maggie is just presenting a naively homophobic argument – it’s okay for straights to get married even though some of them will be openly polyamorous within marriage, but gays have all got to behave far better than straights if they want to be “permitted” the right. But mostly, I think Maggie begins her argument with this because she wants to summon the familiar prejudices against gay men, and “they’re all promiscuous!” is certainly one of them.

Moving on to Maggie’s next “point”, she mentions:

Same-sex marriages are tailing off rapidly, after what the New York Times describes as “an initial euphoric rush to the altar.” In Massachusetts, that rush included residents of other states — as indicated by the New York Times headline of May 18, 2004: “Despite Uncertainties, Out-of-Staters Line Up to Marry.” The latest data indicate that 867 gay weddings took place in Massachusetts in the first eight months of 2007, down from 6,121 gay weddings in the first six months of 2004.

This is the same pattern seen in other jurisdictions where same-sex marriage has been allowed.

Yes, Maggie, it is. And a little thought – or even a little examination of the marriages taking place in the first few months – would tell you why this pattern is common to all countries and states where same-sex marriage, or civil union equal to marriage. Because couples who have been together for decades, who have committed their lives to each other, who are given the chance to marry, will do so. Immediately.

Once all the couples who have been waiting for ten, twenty, forty years to be able to marry are married, of course there’s an apparent fall in the marriage rate. There is no more backlog, so the marriage rate steadies to a normal rate.

(more…)

April 15, 2008

Who has “betrayed their mission”?

Inspired by Melissa McEwan’s post here on the film about rape in the Congo. The post and the film are good, bu there’s a big silence around the Congolese government’s stance on women’s reproductive rights. Abortion is illegal in the Congo, and health care following illegal abortion is frequently denied.

Amnesty’s international council voted in August 2006 to end the organisation’s former policy of “neutrality” on abortion in favor of supporting access to the procedure for women who have been raped, or whose health will be damaged if they are not allowed to terminate: and to decriminalize abortion so that a woman who has an abortion won’t be prosecuted for it: and to support access to post-abortion healthcare for women who get abortions in countries where they’re illegal. The change was address issues including the widespread use of rape in war zones like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since then, eight schools in Northern Ireland have closed or suspended their Amnesty groups and more than two thousand Catholic schools in England and Wales were also – in autumn 2007 – advised to sever their links with Amnesty, following instructions from their bishops. November 2007

Amnesty groups in UK schools write to prisoners of conscience in countries round the world. The adult responsible for the group will usually choose a country or a specific prisoner for the group to write to. These bishops evidently feel that Matthew 25:40-45 is one of those awkward bits of the Bible that Jesus didn’t really mean.

What Jesus really wanted, these bishops think, was for Christians to listen to these stories and wash their hands:

F: That day we were coming from Bukavu. When we reached N., some soldiers stopped the vehicle and made us get out. When soldiers stop vehicles like that, it’s to rob the passengers, but they often take the opportunity to rape the women too. I was with five other women, and we were all raped, there at the side of the road. Then they gathered us together again and told us that they were taking us to their commander. So, like that, we were led off to their camp in the forest. Since there were six of us, when we were presented to the commander, he made the first choice of which woman he would take. Then the other officers made their choice: each officer took a woman. When it’s the commander who chose you, the others can’t touch you. But when he’s had enough of you, he hands you on to others to rape you.

E: One day I went to the fields to gather some manioc leaves. I saw a man dressed in camouflage, the uniform that soldiers wear. That man chased after us. We ran away, but I fell and he raped me. … There were two other girls with me. … I fell over. I cried out and my friends ran off. No-one came to help me. … He hurt me. It was bad. … After he’d raped me he left me there. I got up and went back home. … I’ve only got my mum. My father isn’t with us anymore. … During the war my father fled. He hasn’t come back. …
My mother asked me, “Why didn’t you bring back the vegetables?” I burst out crying and I told her what had happened. Afterwards she said, “Come on, we’re going to see the doctor”. … The doctor said that since this man had raped me, I was no longer normal like the other girls.

Aid worker:

We listen to the women, try to help them psychologically, help them to get medical care, and we try to give them a small amount of money, because typically the soldiers who rape the women will also take everything they own, even down to their clothes and cooking pots. And many women have been rejected by their husbands and are left on their own to look after the children, to find shelter and food for them. Many of the children are badly undernourished. So we try to give them something, when we have it, so they can start up again on their own: a small amount so they can buy and sell food at the markets and make a little profit, or some seed or a hoe.

But there are many problems. Even though they say the war is over, I can tell you it is still here. There are many villages where the women are not assisted, are abandoned to themselves. And the women are scared. Our own workers receive threats too. Two weeks ago, as I was on my way to K., I was threatened by three soldiers who said that we exaggerate the rapes and tried to take the documents I was carrying. They are worried that we are divulging all their secrets. We are regularly called in for questioning. We don’t keep our files here. We send them to G., for security.

From Catholic News:

Kate Gilmore, exec of AI: “Amnesty International’s position is not for abortion as a right but for women’s human rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations.”

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:

To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed. How can we say that killing a child in some cases is good and in other cases it is evil?

I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission.

Who has betrayed their mission?

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Who?

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