Friday, November 20, 2009

Abortion, "Health Care," "Life of the Mother," and a Story About Two Guys

A very familiar phrase showed up in an AP article about the "health care" bill that Congress is discussing:
"...The bill would forbid including abortion coverage as a required medical benefit. However, it would allow a new government insurance plan to cover abortions and let private insurers that receive federal subsidies offer plans that include abortion coverage.

"In all cases, the money to pay for abortions would have to come from premiums paid by beneficiaries themselves, kept strictly separate from federal subsidy dollars. Government funds could be used for abortions only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother - reflecting a current law known as the Hyde amendment...."
(AP, via The Washington Post) [emphasis mine]
Saying it's okay to kill a baby, if he or she was conceived in an act of rape or incest - or if the mother's life is in peril - feels sort of reasonable. Quite a few Americans think it is:
"A nationwide survey commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has found that four out of five U.S. adults (82 percent) think abortion should either be illegal under all circumstances (11 percent) or would limit its legality. Thirty-eight (38) percent would limit abortion to the narrow circumstances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother; and an additional 33 percent would limit abortion to either the first three or first six months. Only 9 percent said abortion should be legal for any reason at any time during pregnancy...."
I'm glad - and a bit surprised - to learn that so many Americans show so much ambivalence toward killing babies. The dominant culture in this country has been quite determined to 'normalize' the idea that women should feel that 'it's my body, and I can do what I want.'

It wasn't all that long ago that some "intelligent" and "sophisticated" people said that they saw babies as a sort of loathsome parasite, interfering with the careers and self-actualization of women. Sort of like the title character from "Alien," except that instead of eating people, it demands 3:00 a.m. feedings and frequent changing of diapers.

Rape or Incest: Killing the Child for the Father's Sin

Back in the "good old days," when a warlord defeated a territory's existing leader (king, whatever), one of the first items on the agenda was generally to hunt down and kill every relative of the defeated leader. After all, you wouldn't want a revolt starting, with people intent on putting "the true heir" back on the throne.

And, among people whose socio-economic status was closer to that of my forebears, it hasn't been all that uncommon to extend the guilt of an individual to all members of the erring person's family. ("There's bad blood there," and similar expressions reflect this.)

These days, it's not uncommon for relatives - particularly parents - to get hate mail if a near relation did something very bad.

But these days, in America, I hope that not too many people would consider slaughtering the children of someone who committed a serious crime.

Except for two particular crimes: rape and incest.

I had a quite interesting conversation with someone who said he was pro-life: and believed, firmly, that children conceived in an act of rape or incest should be killed. He had a very good reason, he said: the woman, who was a victim of a deplorable crime (not his phrase), would feel bad about having a baby whose father had committed the crime - and would feel better if the child was killed before birth.

He was, I think, quite "compassionate" - but his own standards.

That fellow didn't back his feeling with 'Bible truths' - but he could have. Sort of:
"...For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation;"
(Exodus 20:5)
...which is, of course, taking the Word of God out of context. Not, in general, the best idea. One more thing. That word that comes into English as "jealous" - There's a footnote about it: "Jealous: demanding exclusive allegiance, such as a wife must have for her husband."

Now, I don't believe this, but a person could, I think, twist that passage and a few others into saying that children - including babies who haven't been born yet - should suffer the same consequences for crimes that their parents, grand-parents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents committed.

"It says so in the Bible." (With a little creative editing.)

No: I do not believe that's true.

I do, though, think that babies are people. Even though they're small, inarticulate, and clumsy.

And I do not think a baby should be killed because of something the baby's father did

"Life of the Mother" - That Sounds So Compassionate

A few years ago, my wife and I were discussing 'life issues,' including abortion. I brought up the sensible-sounding notion that the "life of the mother" exception made sense.

What she said made sense. First of all, doctors aren't all-knowing. They've been known to make mistakes. How often have you heard of - or known - someone who had months to live - years ago? I think that the medical profession is starting to come to grips with their lack of omniscience and omnipotence: but that's another topic.

And I don't think it's beyond the bounds of reason to think that a doctor could think that a woman's baby would kill her - and turn out to be wrong.

Then there's the idea of "mother love" that's been the subject of sloppy sentimentality and bitter derision. The way my wife put it, in connection with the idea of a woman putting out a contract on her baby, to improve her chances of survival, "a lot of moms would say, 'I want my baby to live.' "

Life, Choice, and Two Guys

Instead of a mother and her baby, let's say it's two guys: Charlie and Fred.

Charlie's got serious heart problems. The doctors told him that if he didn't get a heart transplant, he'd die.

Problem is, it's really hard to find a suitable donor for Charlie: Other than Fred.

Fred's heart would suit Charlie just fine. But Fred's in excellent health and isn't involved in a high-risk job.

Now, if Charlie knew Fred, and sort of liked him - or if Fred owed Charlie money - maybe Charlie would feel sort of funny, having Fred killed and broken down for parts.

But otherwise: why not kill Fred? After all, Charlie will die if he doesn't get Fred's heart.

Sounds "compassionate," doesn't it?

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