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January 22, 2012

28

The Role of Faith in the Abortion Debate

by juju2112

I’ve often said that the pro-life position in the abortion debate is largely fueled by religion. I had my preconceptions cemented last Sunday when the church I went to presented a sermon on abortion. Did you know that 50 million babies have been killed under this terrible law? It’s a tragedy! Everyone has been affected by it! The church needs to stand up for biblical truth!

I particularly liked the pastor’s claim that:

“18% of all abortions are late-term abortions. Now you just stop and think about that for a second.”

Oh my god that’s terrible!!! We’ve got to do something! Hey, wait a minute. Should we google that first, or just take it on faith?

This is from Wikipedia, but the source is the Center for Disease Control:

image

Per the source, 1.4% of abortions occurred at 21 weeks or later. Does this picture look like the pastor had any clue what he was talking about? When people get their facts from the bible instead of from science, it’s no wonder their worldview becomes skewed.

Of course, laced throughout this sermon were the struts that supported the pastor’s argument: bible quotes. Including this one from Jeremiah 1:5:

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

And this one from Luke 1:5:

15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.

The only reason anyone could reasonably believe that life “begins at conception” is if they think that souls are real. That’s religion. The abortion debate is fueled by religion, a worldview based on faith, not facts.

The pastor then went on to present pictures similar to this:

3D ultrasound and newborn baby-771083

He’d declare, “According to the law, the one on the left is a baby, but the one on the right is just a fetus. Ridiculous, huh?? Har har har! The law says it’s okay to kill a fetus and not a baby. But they’re the same thing!” He then went on to show a bunch of different pictures of third-trimester fetuses in the womb. After every picture, he would ominously declare “This is not a life!”

Sir, I have some other pictures you might be interested in:

Sperm-egg

This is not a life.

sperm_egg

This is not a life!

human-embryo

Oh my god, it’s a life! Do you see the arms and little fingers!?!?!? Don’t you just want to give that clump of undifferentiated cells a big hug?

You know, I have no problem with people being against 3rd trimester abortion. I don’t even have a problem with people being against 2nd trimester abortion. But I think it’s time we stopped being dishonest and started defining our terms. Using pictures of 3rd-trimester babies to try to stop women from killing a clump of a few cells that have only been alive for a week is fundamentally dishonest. Just man up and say you think cells can have souls and your only source is the bible.

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 22 2012

    My only question is your first sentence…do you mean “pro-choice” in that sentence? I am adamantly pro-choice…and it’s nothing to do at all with any religious fueling. ;-)

    Beyond that minor mental edit, this is an outstanding post, and I have shared it. *nod* On this day of days, I also wrote about abortion…sort of. :-)

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Jan 22 2012

      Well, I think you’re right that the wording is a problem. It’s not enough to say you are “pro-choice”. There’s a substantial difference between being against first and third trimester abortions. We really need more clearly defined terms.

      Even within the first trimester, there’s a lot of grey area. Where you should define life is hard to say. But it’s completely ridiculous to say a single merged egg and sperm should have rights under the law.

    • Jan 22 2012

      I do see what you’re saying in this…but let me be very clear. *small, wry grin* When I say I am pro-choice — I mean that I am totally and completely, unequivocally, pro-choice. That is to include 3rd trimester abortion. That is to include right-to-die issues. “Agreement” or lack thereof with another person’s choice is not the issue, truly. My agreement or disagreement with another person’s choice does not take away their right to that choice – and they live (or die) with the consequences of their choice. People get all hung up on 3rd trimester abortion without really understanding the subject (and religious people really seem to have a hard-on for it to push emotional buttons with Gerber visuals)…the rarity of 3rd trimester abortions, and the reasons for keeping them legal have nothing to do with the “life” aspect, as promoted by the anti-choice establishment. That, of course, is a long conversation for another day…but to the matter of choice, I opt to keep it simple, because “pro-choice” goes well beyond the topic of abortion…by FAR. :-)

      I agree on the merged egg/sperm topic, definitely. What the anti-choicers would have you forget (conveniently) is that an acorn is “life”, too…but that not every acorn becomes a mighty oak. *nodding*

    • juju2112
      Jan 22 2012

      By gum, you’re right. I meant pro-life. I way overthought your comment.

    • Jan 22 2012

      *grinning* ;-)

    • juju2112
      Jan 22 2012

      I mean, a person who’s pro-choice may still be against third-trimester abortions. So, do the terms really mean anything?

    • Jan 22 2012

      Pro-choice doesn’t automatically equate to abortion. The topic of choice covers much, much more than just abortion…which is part of the hang-ups of the subject. I think, though, what I was saying about your first sentence is that it probably should read, “pro-life” — because that is the grouping that is religiously oriented…not the choice “side” of the debate.

    • juju2112
      Jan 22 2012

      Yeah, yeah. I fixed it. I feel dumb now!

    • Jan 22 2012

      LOL ~ no need. I totally enjoy reading your thoughts…and I don’t know a single person who ever signed a contract stating they’d never make mistakes. We’re all merely human. :-)

  2. Jan 22 2012

    I find it most useful to take this debate to common ground. I don’t know anyone who would disagree that it’s best if we have fewer abortions, and those that do occur are as early as possible in term. Preventing conception if possible even.

    Now, how do we best accomplish this? By making abortion difficult, so women end up waiting longer? Or illegal so they end up with coat hangers?

    Or maybe making birth control and education readily available? And maybe providing better community support for young parents and adoption?

    Reply
    • Jan 22 2012

      First, I completely agree that common ground exists. Fewer abortions are preferable, of course. And we have existent models (both here in the United States and internationally) that answer the questions of *how* to accomplish fewer abortions.

      Second, the answer (and I’m grossly oversimplifying this) is complete education and access to contraception. The United States leads the industrialized world in unplanned pregnancies and STI transmission. We also have some of the most backwards, draconian laws related to sex and sex education. The countries with the lowest rates of STI transmission and unplanned pregnancies (and by extension, abortion) also have the most comprehensive sex education available starting very young, and liberal, secularized healthcare laws.

  3. Jan 22 2012

    The only person being fundamentally dishonest and appealing to emotion and personal feelings rather than objective facts is you.

    This isn’t merely a clump of cells that happen to reside in the mother’s body; it’s a completely unique and distinct entity that has things true of it that are not true of the mother. The fact remains that this “clump of cells” is in a state of development that was once true of all of us as well. Take a petri dish and scrape a clump of cells from your mouth, head, arms, or wherever you please and wait a couple of months. No human is going to develop, and this is because the entity in the womb is not a clump of cells, it has attributes true of it that are not true of the cells that make up the rest of your body. This is why people get abortions–it’s not just a clump of cells, it’s a living human being. The clump of cells that make up the child are not merely a clump of cells much like cancer is not merely just another clump of cells. It’s something radically different.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Jan 22 2012

      Lots of things are unique, distinct, and different from mothers. That doesn’t make them people. The fact that it will be a person eventually doesn’t make it a person when it’s only a few cells.

      It seems to me the only reasonable criteria for whether we should abort or not is if the fetus can feel pain. If it has no brain, no nervous system, and no thoughts, then who cares?

      You need to think about what it is you’re valuing. If you value potential lives above all else, then women should not go a single month without being pregnant. Otherwise, they would lose an egg down the toilet. Another potential life lost due to menstration! Also, never masturbate again — that’s mass murder. Nevermind the fact that many of the children will eventually starve to death due to overpopulation at a point in time when the actually can feel pain.

      I don’t understand where you’re saying I’m dishonest. The fact that a clump of cells may one day be a human doesn’t make it a human currently. It has none of the properties of a human except for DNA.

    • Jan 22 2012

      Humanness or “personhood” if you want to call it that, doesn’t depend on if we can feel pain. A person with the condition congenital analgesia (insensitivity to pain) isn’t any less human than a person who can feel pain. Do we have a right to kill people who will not feel pain? If someone is put under by anesthesia does it give us the right to kill them? If you are going to object to this with anything else than the qualification of pain then you concede to the point. It’s not the ability to feel pain that makes us human persons.

      Potential lives do not actualize themselves. Logs have the potential to become a cabin, but logs will never become a cabin unless something else actualizes them to become some. The unborn in the womb only needs a shelter, food, time to continue to exist (which is true of all of us as well). It’s not potential life, it’s actual life. Our reproductive organs carry the potential for life, but they have to be actualized from without, the unborn grows on its own. It’s actual. It’s here.

      Eggs are the potential for life, eggs are not unique persons, they are merely what can make a person if actualized from without. The two are not the same. Eggs do not have gender, fertilized eggs do. Eggs do not have a genetic code that determine everything about them on a physiological level, fertilized eggs do. This is a scientific fact. Eggs are not the same before and after conception. They are radically different.

      Children starving to death after being born isn’t grounds for abortion. In fact, let’s just nuke Africa and any third world areas of the world now to prevent any children from starving. If I knew that one day my son would starve to death it wouldn’t be moral grounds for me killing him.

    • Jan 22 2012

      Ain’t choice great? If your choice is to never have an abortion, then terrific. Never have one. Simple.

      However, your right to choice is limited to ONE person. You. You do not have the authority to determine another person’s choice, however you define “unique life”…nor do you live with the consequences of another’s choice.

    • Jan 22 2012

      If the unborn is a living human person, then your response makes no sense. “If your choice is never to murder someone, then terrific, never murder anyone” isn’t a morally conscionable position. You may believe that abortion isn’t murder, but that’s the question at hand.

    • Jan 23 2012

      Unborn does not equal person…which is part of the very core of this debate. You are clearly quite unfamiliar with the long-standing history of abortion, which has existed as long as pregnancy has existed. Prior to 1869, even the Catholic church held that women had jus prius over their body up until the “quickening”. There were a few states that had passed laws (Connecticut being the first in 1821) criminalizing abortion, but it wasn’t considered a sweeping political or religious issue until 1829, when Pope Piux IX declared that there was no difference between the “unformed” and the “formed” fetus. Before that, it was simply understood that pregnancy and ALL that is entailed with pregnancy was between a woman and her midwife.

      I have no desire to get into all of the complex political aspects of this topic, but you clearly also do not know that in 1965, the year that the birth control pill became legal and widely available in the United States, in hospitals in metropolitan cities around the United States, just as many women were dying or being treated for botched abortions as were delivering babies. If the women lived, they were immediately taken to jail for having gotten an abortion…as were the people who assisted them in obtaining one (most often, clergy and nuns etc). Women were dying. People who demand that abortion be classified as murder and made illegal –ultimately– hate women, because the non-viable life of a fetus outside the uterus is given greater value than the actual living host that is the woman. However, the problem is that not all killing is murder.

      Placing a religious value judgment on killing is your business, and only applies to your personal moral compass and religious belief. To attempt to impose that religious belief onto people who do not share your faith is what is morally reprehensible…AND an affront to Constitutional law, as described in the 1st Amendment, as is applicable with respect to the subject of law. Furthermore, women’s right to medical privacy is protected by the 14th Amendment. You are more than free and have every right to your opinion and religious belief, and I would defend to the death your continued freedom to that right. However, you apparently lack reciprocity and understanding of precisely what that means if you would insist that your religious belief would be sufficient to impose it on people all around you who do not share your belief system.

      Murder is a legal term, not a religious one. Murder is not synonymous with killing. If that were true, most people who claim to be “pro-life” would be opposed to the death penalty, opposed to illegal and unethical wars, heck…they’d be vegans, come to that. Killing is something that happens each and every day, in large and small ways. Taking away life, however, is not the same thing as murder, which is a very specific legal term. That is where the fact resides that you forcibly ignore in favor of a religiously defined morality that ultimately is your business…but not your right to attempt to ascribe to everyone. To put that in perspective: if you believe abortion is a sin, then you believe that people will answer to your god for that sin. Which even from a religious perspective takes it out of your hands and makes your judgment call equally irrelevant. If abortion is a crime, then the person involved answer to the state, not you. If abortion is a sin, then the person involved answers to god, not you. Either way, another person’s choice is not YOUR business, ergo your opinions and definitions are moot.

      My opinion about right and wrong is irrelevant to the facts, as is your opinion. Abortion is legal, and therefore not murder, under the eyes of the law. I have never had an abortion, and am grateful daily that I’ve never had to make that particular choice. But if I ever did have to make that choice, your opinion about morality would have precisely zero to do with it. The choice and consequence would be mine, and would have no bearing on you, your life, or your irrelevant opinion. Believe what you will, live by what you believe…and remember, you’re the only person accountable for that.

      THAT is why choice is most certainly TERRIFIC, because my choices don’t rely on your opinion to remain my choices.

    • Jan 23 2012

      I will respond to what I find relevant. First, whether or not women die from performing abortions before they were legal is irrelevant. If abortion is murder, then we should not make it so that it’s safe. Building bombs illegally is not safe, but we should not pass laws to protect the people doing such.

      That’s really all I find relevant. The question of abortion stands on the nature of the unborn entity in the womb. Your response doesn’t address any of that. This will be my last comment on this blog because the format of the comments drives me nuts. You may have the last word and thank you for the conversation.

    • Jan 23 2012

      The only thing relevant that you said is “if abortion is murder”.

      It isn’t. Therefore, the rest of your commentary is utterly moot and irrelevant. Abortion is not murder because abortion is legal. Bombing clinics is terrorism, which is illegal, and terrorists do not get protection from committing acts of terrorism.

      One is legal; the other is a crime. You obviously are unable to respond to what abortion actually is without inserting ideologically-driven, faith-based rhetoric into the conversation, conveniently ignoring the medical science surrounding abortion, which goes far and beyond your non-argument surrounding when viable life begins. So yeah, we’re done…since you have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the discussion.

    • Jan 23 2012

      Oh…and to borrow a quote from elsewhere:

      “What a load of crap, pardon my French. The “pro-life” movement has done nothing to protect the weakest and most vulnerable, because they do nothing to educate mothers, they do nothing to raise the circumstances of these babies they demand must be born, they offer nothing to help the family. They hold the fetus in higher regard than the mother and ignore the child once it’s born.

      That is the very opposite of being pro-life. I wonder if any of these ['pro-life' hypocrites] have learned the lessons of what happened in Romania after Nicholas Ceausescu outlawed abortion and all forms of contraception and sex education. Hint: it didn’t turn out too well for him.”

    • juju2112
      Jan 23 2012

      Thanks for pointing out the nested comments bug. I changed it up so it looks a bit better. I was annoyed by it, too, but I found myself just reading people’s comments via email instead. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea.

    • juju2112
      Jan 23 2012

      The point I was trying to get at is that it’s dishonest to color the debate as “3rd trimester babies are being killed” when it’s actually completely different. I’m still not clear on where you think I was being dishonest.

      I guess you’re right about the pain thing. But you really don’t see the difference between a person who can’t feel pain and a clump of cells? One can walk into a restaurant and order a pizza. The other can’t even think because it doesn’t have a brain. It has nothing in common with a person except for its DNA.

      How is potential life = life? How are you even defining life? Because it could be life one day, suddenly it’s life? I don’t follow.

    • juju2112
      Jan 23 2012

      Prosey,

      Your “choice” argument doesn’t make any sense given his position. He thinks that a merged egg and sperm are a real live human being. You’re saying it’s your personal choice to kill people. You don’t have a personal choice to commit murder. That infringes on another person’s rights. You have to argue whether a fetus is or isn’t a person.

      Whether it’s legal or not isn’t really relevant. The whole debate is about the morality of it. That’s why Christians are trying to get the law changed. Our society’s opinions on this subject will eventually affect abortion’s legality.

      As far as applying his religious belief to other people, I kind of agree, but what is he supposed to do? This is his worldview. If he thinks it’s murder, it’s his moral obligation to stop it.

    • Jan 23 2012

      Actually, no…that isn’t what I suggested in the least. What I was pointing out is that killing (or creating death in some form) is not synonymous with murder. By the same logic, we slaughter chickens/pigs/cows etc and don’t call it murder. We use aborted fetal pigs…deliberately aborted fetal pigs, not just randomly dead ones…for the sake of medical research. It most certainly is a personal choice to kill *life* (not people, because people implies fully viable, independently sustainable human beings…not *life*) so it is most fitting with the discussion. It depends on how we’re looking at *killing*. Morality is a completely subjective matter (as opposed to ethics, where the law resides), which is why the religious right will continue to fail in their overarching goal (upending RvW) but may have ever-continuing successes on a smaller scale that chip away at *access* based on legal loopholes…eventually having the same basic effect. Ignoring that is to ignore the very same morality they defend by impacting actualized, existent human beings, and to ignore the very teachings of the person whose name their belief is named after. I’m not arguing his worldview. I understand his worldview intimately, having been born into it, baptized and raised by it, and even married to it at one point.

      Then I grew up.

      I generally take few issues with anti-choice people, at least those with whom common ground can be found, because the simplest reality is that even we pro-choice people intensely dislike abortion, while understanding the MULTIPLE reasons for its necessity beyond what people like him consider a form of “contraception” while ignoring all the possible reasons the choice might otherwise be made. See, with comprehensive sex education and access to contraception, the number of abortions decreased…but they don’t want THAT either. They want to criminalize abortion in all cases, as well as eliminating access to any form of proper preventive sex education and contraception. I am –by virtue of my research and personal background– WAY too familiar with this mode of thinking…and I fight it in other ways than debate usually.

    • juju2112
      Jan 23 2012

      I know it’s not what you meant. I’m just saying that’s how he’s going to take it.

      I should probably quit while I’m ahead. Truth be told, this isn’t a subject I’ve really ever argued about before. So, I don’t know any of the arguments or counter-arguments (if those exist for this). I just know religious thinking.

    • Jan 23 2012

      *big warm hug* It takes a LOT of courage to tackle this subject…which is why it is *not* the specific subject of my independent research (which is actually sex education and STIs). Not because I’m afraid of it; rather, there are plenty of people BY FAR more qualified than I could ever hope to be. That said, because of my independent research subject, abortion is…almost necessarily…an obliquely connected subject. Because I understand intimately the religious mindset from whence he comes, I know the variety “anti” arguments, probably as well as I know the “pro” arguments…and that is probably why I cut past the otherwise “seemingly logical/reasonable” discussion points. They’re all moot. When the foundation is flawed, the entirety of the rest of the argument is irrelevant. That is why I cut past all that, straight to the point where they don’t want to go: THE TRUTH. :-) It really is that simple. On the other hand, the moment I sense that there is a glimmer of willingness to listen to genuine reason, then I seek the obvious common ground, which is education.

  4. Phlegon
    Jan 25 2012

    You should read “The Bible Now” – by Richard Friedman, it provides interesting analysis of the Old Testament with five ‘modern issues’.

    It’s very interesting and might provide you some insight into how the ancients might have seen these issues, and how they might have seen it is not the same way we modern people do.

    Reply

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