January 17, 2003
Time Outside the Walls
Reading the raging debate on abortion at Megan's site got me thinking about time I've spent in front of an abortion clinic. Having been in favor of abortion rights, and now against them, I know the arguments, and they are tiresome. How can we conclude that a mass of blastocysts is human. How can we pretend that the fetus, which has arms and legs and fingers by the time it is large enough to extract, isn't human. How can we assign women to back alleys. How can we sanction murder.
And so on. Most of these arguments dissipate when one stands on a street corner of an abortion clinic that contains its own incinerator, and watches the smoke drift lazily from a pipe atop the roof.
The facility belongs to George Tiller, who for a brief time was at the center of the famous "Summer of Mercy" over a decade ago, in Wichita, Kansas. Someone eventually shot him, and now he wears a bullet-proof vest. He provides partial-birth abortions for a significant fee; he is one of the few remaining abortionists who does so, and women from surrounding states flock to him. His facility takes up a good portion of a city block, nestled right on the edge of small homes on a highway access road. Across the street is a car dealership, and sometimes they wash the ash off their vehicles. I wonder if it occurs to them what they are doing.
The contingents are fairly small, other than during a small attempt to revive the Summer of Mercy a few years ago. Although there are plenty of people on both side of the debate, with different claims about faith and non-faith, at the abortion facility most of that disappears. The people in the fenced parking lot, who are there to make sure nobody trespasses, and to usher in cars carrying mothers, despise God. The people on the outside believe they are called by God to this place.
I can say this about the people on both sides because in the many days I spent there, I talked with most of them, or heard their conversations. The people inside the fence call themselves escorts, and they wear bright orange vests or shirts labeled such. They scream at the Christians who step up to the arriving cars in an effort to give the occupants literature, or to talk them out of entering.
The people outside the fence do three things. Some of the women have the job of approaching the cars, always on the mother's side, to make eye contact and to talk to them. Their job is to be gentle, never to cajole. They operate under the assumption that many mothers don't want to do this. Next door to Tiller's facility is a Christian medical clinic -- they offer free ultrasounds, counseling, medical help, and adoption support. The goal of the women is to convince the mothers to go next door. Sometimes they are successful, which infuriates the escorts. I cannot reconcile this fury with their aspiration to the title "pro-choice."
Others, including the men, take various places along the sidewalk beside the building and pray, or sing. A few walk back and forth on the sidewalk, timing their walks so that the entering cars have to wait the few seconds that give the women time to get the mothers' attention.
The last function entails a significant amount of verbal abuse and threats, but little real danger; only once was I nearly harmed while doing it, and that by Tiller, who purposely cut his Jeep sharply to clip me with his side mirror. He is a hero to those on one side, a demon to most on the other. He is at various times both to at least some of the women who have paid for his services.
I've never spoken a word with him, but I've been close enough to look into his eyes. I don't think many people realize how much you can tell about someone in those few unguarded seconds of visual confrontation. There are a handful of his escorts who have the same expression, which is of deep, abiding hatred. Occasionally there are people outside the fence who have the same expression. Each side has people, I suspect, who will be surprised to find themselves in Hell.
Some of Tiller's escorts have been active in this fight for years, migrating from facility to facility across the country, to wherever the opposition seems greatest. Likewise for some of the Christians on the outside. A few of them have known each other for years, and have relationships of odd familiarity.
The long-time servers on the escort side are also, at Tiller's, the most hateful, and so sometimes they dredge up bits of knowledge they have collected over the years about their opponents ("Hey Donna, too bad you couldn't hold down that job"). The long-time servers on the Christian side interact with the opponents they've known for years as high school teachers do with well-known juvenile delinquents ("Now, Susan, you know better than that").
It is too easy to get sucked into arguments there, and it took me a while to learn that some of the people inside the fence want exactly that. I learned simply not to talk to them unless necessary. Most of the people outside the fence have the same attitude, though occasionally someone new arrives, and feels compelled to convince the escorts that what they are doing is evil. Most of the escorts have heard all the arguments before, and they can usually make mincemeat out of someone like that.
What they hate is for the Bible to be read. So, we took to reading the Bible. I'll never forget the day I first saw this done -- dozens of people in unison read the same passages of Scripture.
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short
That it cannot save;
Nor is His ear so dull
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood . . .
The response was like something out of a vampire movie, the most hateful escorts literally writhed with fury. The rest made a few attempts to shout down the crowd, then to joke among themselves, and then they simply fell quiet.
It is appropriate for Christians who oppose abortion to simply rely on God's word. If they are right, then it is his word that persuades -- not logic, or even data, and certainly not recrimination, especially towards the mothers. They are the victims that live ("For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up," goes the psalm). The clinic next door to Tiller's also offers post-abortion counseling, which keeps its staff busy. This is not a service Tiller provides. It is not a need, in fact, that the self-anointed women's groups even recognize. But it exists, and to it, again, it is the Christians who are called.
I was by no means one of the stalwarts at Tiller's. My involvement was heavy for a time, then lighter and lighter. It is heartbreaking to be there, and I often felt the deepest sense of fear and foreboding while walking that sidewalk. Those who believe in the existence of God believe in the existence of spiritual warfare, and it is at its strongest in this place. It is a fearful place to be, mostly for the mothers.
I'm sure people reading this who favor abortion rights are thinking that this fear is a result of the activities of the Christians outside the gates. Having someone gently ask you not to harm your own child only creates fear if you know in your heart that this is exactly what you intend to do. Hearing someone read the Bible only creates fear if you suspect in your innermost being that the words are true. So in speaking truth, I suppose that the Christians do create fear.
Nothing I write here will convince anyone that his views are wrong. Much of it runs counter to the accounts of people on the other side, who portray abortion opponents as violent, argumentative, threatening. Some of them are. I can only speak to what I saw in one place, a place where I believe evil is done. And that is why the Christian opposes abortion, because he believes that it is evil. It is a version of passing one's children through fire in service of the modern idols -- career, convenience, sexual freedom.
There are Christians, to be sure, who believe that abortion is not evil. The pastor of a local church offered the service, upon request of the parents, of baptizing the corpses of infants killed via partial birth abortion inside Tiller's facility. He was a strong supporter of Tiller for years, and remains one, though his church has since defrocked him, not for sanctioning murder, but for committing adultery. Some taboos still remain, it seems, even in the Methodist church.
Likewise, there are a handful of liberal pastors who support Tiller. Their theology is that of liberation, not the risen Christ. Those words make the irreligious uncomfortable, which is fine. One need not accept the doctrine of Christianity to recognize that calling oneself a Christian is not equivalent to holding to the tenets of Christianity. So while there is a minority of self-professed Christian leaders who support what happens behind Tiller's walls, the majority, presumably, does not.
I say "presumably" because the majority of Christian leaders remains shamefully and wickedly silent. Their own reading of Scriptures makes clear that Tiller commits murder, yet they remain silent, for fear of drawing the ire from their country club parishioners. Who wants to organize prayer at the abortion facility when there is a youth soccer league to be organized? And so goes the bulk of modern Christian institutions into irrelevance.
But there are the steadfast few, God bless them. They go to that place every day, with their Bibles and their water bottles. They stand or kneel and pray outside those gates, faithful that one day God will eliminate that blight from their city. I am a pessimist by nature, so I believe they are wrong to expect this. But I have seen them rescue some children and their mothers from that place, and I have seen their faithfulness in the face of verbal abuse and police harassment and general disdain from fellow Christians who prefer not to soil themselves by associating with fanatics.
More important, God has seen it too, just as he sees what goes on inside those walls, and those of us who do and say nothing.
Posted by Woodlief on January 17, 2003 at 11:40 AM
"God" is a crutch, and you have been deleted.
Posted by: Jon at January 17, 2003 1:25 PM
I have no doubt that many "good Germans" who "didn't know" what was going on also wiped the same type ash from their vehicles and furniture...
Posted by: Davey at January 17, 2003 1:34 PM
If God is a crutch, then give me two and a wheelchair.
This abortion debate will unfortunately go on past the time we are reduced to ash. Thank you for your eloquent words to defend and lift up the choice of life.
"It is appropriate for Christians who oppose abortion to simply rely on God's word." Amen and amen.
I am listening to Allison Kraus' "Jewels" now, and I believe the jewels that Tiller throws into the fire will be bright jewels for His crown. May God be merciful to us as we are judged for this slaughter of 1.3+ million/year.
Posted by: MarcV at January 17, 2003 2:05 PM
This is one of those posts that really make you think about your views. I was in Wichita for two years and had no idea of what was going on. I've forwarded this piece to my friends still there.
Posted by: SWL at January 17, 2003 3:15 PM
Abortion is rarely if ever taken lightly by the women who get one. The doctor performing the abortion isn't the center of the debate, but merely a participant; same with the people on either side of the fence. The center of the debate is the relationship between the woman and the not-yet-a-child.
With authority comes responsibility. If you wish to assert authority over this decision, then you must necessarily bear part of the responsibility. And no, walking her over to the baby salesman doesn't actually amount to support. Offer her a bedroom in your house, money for living and child support, babysitting services, and a shoulder to cry on every time she realizes that she wasn't ready to take care of the child and she's irrevocably lost the life she otherwise would have had. Then, offer the child food, clothing, shelter, love, guidance, approval, attention, and toys. Make sure you don't slight either of them in favor of your own children/grandchildren either, because pity is remarkably easy to detect when it's aimed at you and it tends to engender resentment in the recipient.
Now do that for all the other women and kids, too.
When the woman is ready to be a mother, then she won't be there to be preached at by you. If she's at the clinic then she's already eliminated all the other options because they don't work for her situation. You're too late for anything but heroic measures.
Posted by: Mitchell Morris at January 17, 2003 3:18 PM
Abortion may or may not not be taken lightly by the mothers, but over 90% of abortions are performed for convenience sake. Not rape. Not incest. Not any of the other heart wrenching reasons that pro-choicers like to bring up - but convenience. I can't afford this now. I am not ready. I...(fill in the blank). That's convenience.
I'd be willing to bet that many of those "baby salesmen" next door would be more than willing to do all those things you just mentioned. I've met the willing - I'm guessing you haven't. Am I wrong about that? Perhaps. I doubt those "inside the fence" would be willing to do that for her if she asserted her "choice" to keep the child. Where are the homes for single women who have "chosen" to keep their babies - that are funded by the "pro-choice" crowd? I've never seen one. Anyone know of a single place like that? If so, please enlighten me. Also, you seem to forget the massive lines and multi-year-long waiting lists to adopt children. Talk to someone trying to adopt. You will see - they have better luck going to Russia.
The real heart of this is your comment "If you wish to assert authority over this decision, then you must necessarily bear part of the responsibility." This screams the expected rant - "don't judge!". And that's what this is really about. People want to do as they please without anyone daring to judge the morality of their decisions.
It's the same thing I saw during the Van Dam murder trial. People were angry with the murderer. But if you really wanted to see fury - you only needed to suggest that the parent's swingin' lifestyle might have contributed in some way. That's when the HOT anger was introduced. You might even say "hate fueled" anger.
That's the religion of our times: A misunderstood and misquoted version of "judge not lest ye be judged".
If these women have "already eliminated all the other options because they don't work for her situation", then why the fanatical hatred for people passing out literature on the sidewalk? They should be irrelevant. We hear it's because they harass, but that seems to be a small minority of those who actually show up - if they do. The majority are normal, respectful and there to speak with the women - not scream at them. Go watch one of these groups sometime and learn from observation. Fact is, a little information and genuine concern can actually influence a woman to change her mind about something she may be harboring doubts about. If she's so sure and there's no moral issue at stake, then why have such a massive problem with a few "nuts" reading Bible verses?
Posted by: Davey at January 17, 2003 4:22 PM
Once again you have said what needed to be said. Sadly most of us are unwilling to do that, and of those who are willing, few have the ability to match your eloquence. Thanks for sharing your heart and your mind with us.
Posted by: Lynne at January 17, 2003 5:25 PM
I don't think it makes any sense to say we can't point out problems to someone unless we are in a position to personally solve them all for her.
Say I know a woman who keeps getting passed over for promotions, and has in desperation resorted to backing stabbing her colleagues and generally playing nasty office politics. Am I obligated to say nothing unless I happen to own a business and can personally offer her a better job myself? Or would it be okay for me to say to her "Look what you're doing, is this really the person you want to be?" and, say, give her some brochures for a night class at the community college where she can brush up her computer skills and get herself a better job?
Posted by: Anne at January 17, 2003 6:19 PM
Tony, thank you for writing this.
Posted by: Patty at January 17, 2003 7:34 PM
Since you appear to do little or nothing, are you condemned to Hell? If one of the people on the outside have an expression of "deep abiding hatred" on a Friday, but go to church on Sunday and "believe" that their sins have been forgiven, aren't they saved?
Having been a clinic defender for about 3 years when Op. Rescue was at its most active in L.A. (late 80s to early 90s), I can tell you that every women who got an abortion felt a tremendous emotional burden, probably guilt. But each of them had the choice not to walk thru those doors; I only allowed them to exercise that choice. Why am I condemned to your Hell, while you make no mention of the mothers?
I can also tell you that the gentle whisperers, woman-to-woman, at least here in LA, were telling these young women that they were dooming themselves to hell, and they usually used evocative fire-and-brimstone language. Not exactly the words a scared young woman needs to hear, at least in my view.
Also, why is your God so focused on the number of souls, and not the quality of their lives? Why is it that the same group (largely Christian conservatives) who believe that abortion is a sin vote Republican? Why are so many of these people tough on crime, committing the same souls whose lives they fought so hard to be born to be then locked away? Yes, many christian charities do a tremendous amount of good work for the underprivileged. But if God is to play a role in politics, then I don't think you can ask him to step aside once the question comes up of how to treat the underprivileged in our political system.
Yet, the silence is stunning.
More fundamentally, why should we abandon reason based solely on a single visual? Should we not go to war with Iraq based on the visuals of the burned and buried Iraqi dead from Gulf War I?
But your post is not about reason. After all, the arguments are "tiresome". Your Faith condemns us all to your Hell. Thanks for the foregiveness of your supposedly-forgiving God.
And on the topic of your Faith, I see a remarkable lack of christian compassion in your view of the escorts, and a certain amount of wish-fulfillment. I had the Bible read to me for hours; if I raged at the readers it was because i was bored. I heard the same passages over and over and over again. But why do you hate the escorts so? If they are christian, then they simply are misled, and need only to hear the word of God. And if they are not, why do you care?
If in speaking truth christians create fear, then i have no use for christianity. I was told that christ loved us all, and foregave us all our sins. But never once in all the clinic defenses I went to did I hear prayers about god's mercy, only about the terrible justice he would wreak on my soul. There and then, once and for all, I learned that nobody, but nobody, can hate like a christian. thanks for reminding me.
Posted by: FDL at January 17, 2003 9:45 PM
FDL said, "I was told that christ loved us all, and foregave us all our sins."
Someone told you wrong. Christ does love us all, but that's only half the story. He does not forgive our sins unless we seek Him and repent of those sins. And keep His commandments. God has rules, and our selfish ideas about living often conflict with those rules. That goes for everyone, irregardless. If we accept Him, then we live by His rules - we don't just attain a "blanket covering" and get to live as we please. Sure, people screw up - but that's where God's mercy comes in. True Christians will strive to live like Christ, though. I doubt a true Christian is going to shoot and abortion doctor or scream venom at escorts.
It's astonishing that this post is seen as full of "hate", but Tony should expect that. A Christian world-view is increasingly seen as "intolerant" and "hateful".
Posted by: Davey at January 17, 2003 10:51 PM
It is unfortunate but true that most women who have abortions do not think clearly about other options. When I first graduated from school, I worked on a unit in the hospital where women were given abortions. These women were supposed to receive counseling prior to the procedure. This "counseling" turned out to be a signature from one of the shrinks on the hospital staff who had only met the patient a couple of hours ago. Many of these patients could be heard screaming things like "nobody told me it would be like this!", etc. I still worry about many of them. I wonder if some of them could have been better off to give the baby up for adoption. Or maybe they could have kept their baby. It is not easy to raise a child "alone". But that child can be a blessing in more ways than one.
Posted by: Llana at January 18, 2003 9:30 AM
Such an eloquent post, although heavy for early on a Saturday morning, was a fabulous read.
And to Davey:
It's the same thing I saw during the Van Dam murder trial. People were angry with the murderer. But if you really wanted to see fury - you only needed to suggest that the parent's swingin' lifestyle might have contributed in some way. That's when the HOT anger was introduced. You might even say "hate fueled" anger.
You're exactly right. I live close to the Van Dam neighborhood, and at the beginning when the subject of the case came up, my husband and I would end up in a hella argument because I took exactly that stance: the parents lifestyle put their children's innocence at risk. We finally had to agree not to discuss the case, mostly because rationality went right out the window (not on MY side, of course).
Posted by: Debi at January 18, 2003 11:22 AM
I don't hate the escorts. In my essay I simply described their behavior. I have prayed for them, as I have prayed for the so-called Christians who occasionally arrive at that place to condemn everyone to Hell.
Regarding your question about why people who oppose abortion vote Republican, I think the answer lies in the fact that the Democratic party has proven intolerant towards pro-lifers, and militantly pro-abortion in its refusal to condemn even partial-birth abortion.
You will also find that the largest ministry to prisoners, Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries, is probably largely Republican. But don't let that get in the way of your Christian=Republican=Uncaring Hypothesis.
Regarding Christ, you have forgotten an important detail: forgiveness requires confession of sin, and repentance.
I am sure you have encountered many people who call themselves Christians who condemn you, and show no mercy. But I suspect that you have encountered Christians who are full of mercy, and who bear you no ill will. The fact that you lump them all into the first category tells me that you see them as you wish to see them, which makes you no better than the people you condemn.
Posted by: Tony Woodlief at January 18, 2003 8:43 PM
As one who has faced the choice of abortion squarely, I cannot put into words the immense relief I feel when I look into my baby daughter's face--even when she's crying in the middle of the night, it's sweet music when I consider she could be crying to me from the grave.
It used to astonish me that women would resort to terminating their pregnancies so "easily." But when I had to make the decision myself, I knew the mental agony so many millions of women have felt before me and since.
By the mercy of God only did I choose to carry the babe: I didn't know if I'd marry, where I'd go, when I'd finish my degree, or if I even wanted to be a mom. But after I felt her move within me--at five months pregnant, let alone nine--it made me ill to think of killing that which lived, whether it depended on my body or not.
My daughter is now nine months old. I still don't know when I'll go back to college. I married and moved hundreds of miles from my home. The past eighteen months have been a sacrifice; but I can live without the regret of having sacrificed my daughter for my own plans, which may have fallen immeasurably short of their lofty aspirations, as human plans so often do.
Thanks, Tony, for supporting me and the countless others who have chosen not to terminate their pregnancies. It means a lot to us.
Posted by: mpunkie at January 18, 2003 11:51 PM
Your critics who don't want any part of your Christianity because it is too judgmental seem unable to comprehend traditional religious sensibility, chiefly the idea of a transcendent God who informs rather than contaminates political discourse. This is not to advocate an established religion, as your sensitive readers will undoubtedly understand. It is merely to place the origin of whatever morality we imperfect human beings possess in the hands of a Supreme Being rather than in man himself. This is a subject of unresolvable philosophical debate, of course. But your critics seem to believe that what you believe is just another political agenda. Rather than witnessing to what you believe is the higher truth, you are regarded as attempting to impose your political will upon others for reasons that can only be bad. (Funny that they don't seem to regard the beliefs of murderous jihadists in the same way.)
Instead of saying that they reject "your Christianity" and "your God" they might preface their remarks by saying that they reject the idea of revealed religion. Then they might proceed to tell you what their man-made, time-bound, subjective, and self-centered morality consists of (this week's dogma: abortion a benign medical procedure unfairly stigmatized by Christian Republican conservative nuts) Then they might explain the ultimate origins of their morality (Darwinian altruism is currently fashionable. What happened to Darwinian struggle?)and why their values are somehow intrinsically higher than yours.
So many of our fellow citizens, for all their protestations of sensitivity and tolerance (the highest values, by their lights), show themselves to be about as tolerant as Stalinists when it comes to a Christian viewpoint. Nowadays, it is fashionable to heap scorn and disrespect upon Christianity and to desecrate its symbols (crucifixes immersed in urine as "art" or worn around the necks of strippers and porn actresses as fashion statements come immediately to mind) The sensibility of devout Christians is not irrelevant; it is something to be positively exploited. These slaps in the face receive approbation for being "subversive".
Tony, to get respect for your religious views you would need to get on NPR and say that you are from an aboriginal tribe that believes the Corn-god rises from the field when the moon is full and tells the head shaman that we must quit using the petroleum reserves in the womb of the sacred Earth Mother. Or somesuch. That is the religious stuff that our fashionably sensitive multiculturalists respect, especially if it comes with a CD from Micky Hart or David Byrne.
Posted by: jim at January 19, 2003 2:08 PM
Tony's article was referenced under the "Click Here For What's New" section at this website:
For those who enjoy religious reading, it's a pretty good one to check out.
Posted by: Davey at January 19, 2003 6:26 PM
To Jim, Thank you for your comments. When I read Tony's post, something told me not to read the comments. I did not listen to that "still small voice" and read them, anyway. I had felt awful since then. Thank you for lifting my spirits. I think I will get up and face the day tomorrow. Have a good week!!! And to Tony, as usual, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!
Posted by: Llana at January 19, 2003 7:16 PM
I spent many hours on the same sidewalk Tony did, often at the same time. And although there were some irritating pro-lifers who seemed to want to egg on the escorts, there are other stories worth telling.
There was the woman who would stand about halfway down the sidewalk talking to the wall crying and saying, "Please don't do what I did! I can't have any children. I wake up every night."
There was the tall skinny fellow who met and married a post-abortive woman who could see over the fence. He would shout to fathers who brought their crying daughters in "Think about what you are doing! She is crying for a reason!"
And lastly, I remember this scene. A cab slowed at the entrance due to another car trying to exit. It was a warm morning and the windows of the cab were open. In the backseat was a middle aged woman and her (probable) daughter. The daughter was crying - holding onto her mother desperately. A woman standing on the sidewalk looked in the car and began to sob, "Please don't go in. I'll raise your baby." The car went on in, but the woman was inconsolable and I never saw her again.
Debating how God sees us doesn't seem to work because neither side thinks the other is right. Just go watch the faces of the women and girls going in. FDL, you noted in your post that you think some feel guilt. I think that anguish comes from God, and I pray that each woman listens to that voice and that no man persuades her to shush it.
Posted by: Steve at January 20, 2003 9:57 AM
In response to the post by Davey.
"Abortion may or may not not be taken lightly by the mothers"
MAY *NOT* BE TAKEN LIGHTLY. Is that really what you said ?
You followed it with the complete bunkum
"90% of abortions are performed for convenience sake"
CONVENIENCE SAKE !!!!!
Man, what planet do you live on ? It must be a really lovely one, where nothing ever goes wrong, and everyone lives in peace and harmnony, and exactly shares your views, with no dissent at all.
The choice for/against getting an abortion must be an incredably hard one for those involved. And I for one am happy I've never been faced with it.
After making the hard decision to go ahead with an abortion, the last thing these people need is the bunch of God Squadders giving them grief.
Has it ever occured to you that it has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. *NOTHING*. Are you the father, the mother, a member of their family? No. Then leave these people alone.
If you wish to keep your child, then by all means do so. And you have my very best wishes for your family. If you don't want to keep your pregnancy, then you too also have by best wishes, I hope your future turns out well.
The use of religion in this debate screws everything up. You may be saying "I'll pray for you", but what you mean is "God says *I'M* right, and you're not".
Posted by: Anonymous at January 20, 2003 11:40 AM
I was raped. I had an abortion. It was still wrong.
I remember hoping that there would be no protestors at the clinic before I went in, since I knew they were right, and I probably wouldn't have been able to go through with it.
I sometimes still wonder what would have happened if there had been someone there to give me a final chance to change my mind.
Posted by: Anonymous at January 20, 2003 1:01 PM
There is a marvelous book by Frederica Mathewes-Green entitiled Real Choices which was written several years ago but has yet to be surpassed in its insights and clarity. The cultural tide that tolerates (and/or supports!) abortion may yet turn as we gain perspective on the destructive tidal wave which is the so-called sexual revolution. From FM-G (p.129): "If there is a recurrnet flaw in feminist ideology, it had been the tendency to assume that whatever men had was what women wanted, a tendency to be deaf to unique feminine needs. Feminist doctrine scoffed at the notion that women wanted commitment in return for sex, and now does not know what to do with male opportunism ... That codes deeply written into our genes should dosobey feminist dcoloine never fails to surprise movement leaders."
Posted by: sjd at January 20, 2003 1:10 PM
Dear no name:
Yes, that is what I said. I talked to a woman who had an abortion (so I am sure there are others), who seemed to think it was no big deal whatsoever. That's how NARAL plays it isn't it? It's nothing more than a choice to be made. That is, until you bring up the fact that you felt it was murder...then the indignant rage and screaming begins - much like your own. I learned a hard lesson about approach, but this is a post, so...
My definition of convenience:
- I don't have the money
- I'm too young
- I'm too old
- I'm not ready
- I'm still trying to achieve my career goals
I don't know if you noticed a common theme, but those are excuses, not hard facts. I suppose we have very different ideas as to what constitutes convenience. THINKING you can't do something isn't the same as not really being able to do it. Plenty of women think they can't do it - and I'm not saying it's not going to be tough - but it can be done. You can raise that child. Sorry it doesn't mesh with the "quality of life" issue brough up earlier - which takes us back to convenience.
I'm also sorry religion "screws everything up", but if it weren't for "religion" most of us would agree with you. It's just that little "thou shalt not kill..." bit we keep getting hung up on.
Also Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you..."
Not really sure how you even have a debate about this without the religious aspect.
You say "Has it ever occured to you that it has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. *NOTHING*."
What's the number now? Something like 40 million abortions since Roe vs. Wade? Kind of makes me feel like it has something to do with everyone in this country...
Posted by: Davey at January 20, 2003 5:42 PM
When the issue of abortion is raised I rarely join in on the debate anymore. It seems so hopeless. I say this with no little shame since I am a Christian, and my trust should be in God's ability to fulfill his will rather than in my ability to sway anyone with my logic. So, here's my story:
A month or two after I broke off my engagement with my first fiancee (as opposed to my second, the woman I married and who has born 3 of my children and is pregnant with the fourth) she came to me saying she was pregnant. She asked for money for an abortion. I tried to convince her to keep the baby, that I would raise it if she felt unable. She claimed that the doctor had told her there were complications and she had little chance of surviving the birth. She swore the baby was mine despite the fact that she was already dating someone else. At the time I was "personally opposed" to abortion while believing that it was ultimately the mother's decision since it was her body. I so wish I had been wiser. I agreed to pay for the abortion of my child, and borrowed money from a family member to do it.
To this day I hold out one small hope. My ex-fiancee was not showing yet, and she was already planning to marry her new boyfriend. I met her and her boyfriend at the clinic where I paid the receptionist and left. It's possible that she and her new man were simply trying to con some money out of me, and I pray that it is so. Though I would be the dupe, I hope that she simply waited a few moments for me to leave, claimed a change of heart, took the money and left right after me. The reason I hope I played the fool for them is simply this; I don't want my child's murder on my hands.
As many times as people said it to me I never really considered abortion to be murder. To me it was just a medical procedure with a few unpleasant connotations. So, I paid my thirty pieces of silver and walked out, betraying my unborn child into the hands of clinical killers.
In hopes that any mother or father reading this will learn from my blind ignorance I would like to ask two questions that you've probably heard before in some form or another, but I ask you to really think about them without the typical self-righteous condescension that so many pro-choicers (including myself, once) bring to this argument. How outraged would you be if you saw me walk up to a bassinet with a straight-razor and slit a newborn's throat? Other than the location of the victim, what is the difference between that and abortion? They are both the cold blooded taking of human life.
Posted by: Gary at January 20, 2003 8:30 PM
"The fact that you lump them all into the first category tells me that you see them as you wish to see them, which makes you no better than the people you condemn."
I NEVER said that ALL christians were haters. But the quality of people I have met has never had anything to do with religion: both good and bad divide about equally between a professed religion and no professed religion.
But Tony, you were quick to judge there. I condemn only those who profess to damn young women to hell. I have never done such a thing. Yet I am no better than them? Who are you to judge?
As expected, I also get called a stalinist, in the context of my "man-made, time-bound, subjective, and self-centered morality". What is the Bible? If any readers believe it is the autobiography of God, please skip the rest of the post and try free republic instead. The rest of us recognize that it is a series of stories about the human condition in ancient Israel and Eygpt. The morality reflected in those pages is precisely a man-made, time-bound, subjective, and self-centered morality. So why does the Bible provide a morality that is greater than my own agnostic morality?
After all, people say that the Devil himself can quote Scripture to his advantage (or something along those lines). This would suggest that Scripture is, much like the U.S. Constitution, subject to multiple interpretations. So perhaps more than one morality can be drawn from its pages.
I have no objection to anyone believing in any God they choose, nor in holding whatever whacky morality that their God dictates to them, SO LONG AS that individual's behavior falls within the code of societal conduct. If you want to protest at an abortion clinic, fine. But understand that there are those who fundamentally (pun intended) reject the morality of those who would insert themselves into the reproductive decision of people that they don't know, and will counter-protest.
Frankly, I think that the time and energy invested at protesting at abortion clinics would be far better spent on outreach into the communities and families that end up going into the clinics. In most communities there is little shame in pre-marital pregnancy and adoption. But too few girls understand their options, and telling them, just before they have the abortion, that they will go to hell is hardly the best way to change their mind.
One final point: to those who oppose abortion, what kind of country would this become if you had your way? Would sex education be taught in public school? Would abortions be available only overseas for those rich enough to travel, and in underground clinics for those who are not?
This is not meant as a rhetorical question. One reason I support abortion being safe and legal is that it appears to me to be the better alternative for public health. Given that there are about 150 million women currently alive in the US now, and (averaging 40 million procedures over 30 years) that there are about 1.3 million procedures a year, almost 1 percent of all women have an abortion every year! (Actually, the rates used to be much higher, and are declining as better sex ed. and birth control is made available to young women.) If you honestly believe that you can stop all young pre-marital women from having sex, and a percentage of them desparately wanting abortions, then you are hopelessly naive. But if you're not naive, what kind of country do you want?
Tony, so you close the clinic. The demand will remain. What happens next?
Posted by: FDL at January 20, 2003 11:31 PM
Let's revisit what you said, and what I said.
"But never once in all the clinic defenses I went to did I hear prayers about god's mercy, only about the terrible justice he would wreak on my soul. There and then, once and for all, I learned that nobody, but nobody, can hate like a christian."
"I am sure you have encountered many people who call themselves Christians who condemn you, and show no mercy. But I suspect that you have encountered Christians who are full of mercy, and who bear you no ill will. The fact that you lump them all into the first category tells me that you see them as you wish to see them..."
You translated that into an accusation that you said all Christians are haters. In no way do the words I wrote mean that. I was responding to your claim that in all your time at the clinic you heard no word about God's mercy.
I'm not sure what the lecture about time-bound philosophy and socially-approved conduct is about. You have re-observed the point I made originally, that for Christians this issue is about faith in the word of God, and offer it up as some sort of rebuttal. Nobody questions your right to counter-protest.
"Frankly, I think that the time and energy invested at protesting at abortion clinics would be far better spent on outreach into the communities and families that end up going into the clinics. In most communities there is little shame in pre-marital pregnancy and adoption. But too few girls understand their options, and telling them, just before they have the abortion, that they will go to hell is hardly the best way to change their mind."
You are operating from mistaken premises again, that a) this is even a majority of what pro-lifers do on behalf of their cause; and b) clinic rescuers condemn mothers to hell. Neither is the case in Wichita.
"Tony, so you close the clinic. The demand will remain. What happens next?"
The first thing that crosses my mind when I hear this argument is to offer a parallel:
"So," asks an earnest young Nazi, "if we shut down the ovens, what in the world will we do with all these trouble-making Jews?"
But of course the moral argument doesn't work with you, so let's suffice to say that a country with a $9 trillion GDP can afford to stop sanctioning the murder of infants without notable consequence for its standard of living.
Posted by: Tony at January 21, 2003 8:58 AM
Posted by: Davey at January 21, 2003 9:14 AM
First, a few specifics.
Well over 90% of abortions are for convenience. It’s actually more like 99+%.
The things that are not "convenience":
Threat to mother’s life.
Uh, that’s the only one everybody endorses. Others that are commonly included:
"Non-viable" fetus. (Some people go so far as to include Down’s and other lesser things as "non-viable".)
Anything else is convenience, no matter how much convenience or inconvenience that might be. And even including those, abortions are still performed WELL over 90% for convenience (still closer to 99+%).
"Has it ever occured to you that it has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU."
A great many things that society regulates have nothing to do with anybody else. In fact, anything that does not happen directly to you has nothing to do with you. The murder of someone else? That has nothing to do with you. Enron? That has nothing to do with you (unless you were a stockholder). That is not an "argument"; that is a tantrum.
Icky example: necrophilia and bestiality are illegal. Neither one has anything to do with you.
Now my main point.
I am a Christian. The media might call me "extreme right-wing".
I do not consider abortion, in and of itself, to be wrong. Read that carefully - the medical procedure of removing tissue from the womb is not wrong. Abortion hinges on what that tissue is.
I only consider abortion wrong because I consider it to be murder, and I consider murder wrong. The reason I consider it murder is also NOT RELIGIOUS - it is logical.
I consider something that will grow up to be human human already.
That is, why is a fetus not human? If it is human, killing it in cold blood is murder. If it's not human, it's just tissue to be removed.
Sperm or ovum alone will not grow up to human. No animal will be human later. A fetus is the only thing in the world not considered to be human now that will be considered human later.
All that being said, the best solution I can think of is a "bright line" ruling on when a fetus becomes human. Currently, several states (maybe most? can’t remember now) outlaw abortion after the first trimester. The "bright line" ruling is that a fetus becomes human at that point. Before, it is tissue that can be removed. After, it is a person with full rights.
At least it is somewhat sensible - partial birth abortion is silly. As someone above questioned - what’s the difference between one location and another? Here, I can kill you with no penalty, but there I can’t.
Admittedly, with modern technologies of embryo creation, cloning, etc., it’s getting difficult to say exactly when "human" life begins - is it one cell? What about a clone? What if one of the clones is allowed to live? Is the other just extra tissue from that person?
I don’t have answers to those questions. As I said, a "bright line" solution really seems best to me.
One last thing - I've been around pro-life material most of my life. Obviously, I didn't accept what they said without question, as my position is significantly different. The point is, I knew all the stuff already, but that article Davey linked to still had a major impact on me.
They were ready to arrest a guy for the heinous murder of an infant based on a few pictures - but it was only an abortion, so that's OK; it's Constitutionally protected. Wow.
Posted by: Deoxy at January 21, 2003 11:26 AM
Can we skip the Nazi parallels? They are utterly offensive and completely inaccurate. If you can't make your argument on its own merits, admit it, so we can avoid invocation of Godwin's Law.
To reiterate, even if you close that Wichita clinic today, the demand remains. What happens next? Do you see all those young women spontaneously seeing the world your way, bearing the fetus to term and giving up the infant for adoption? Do you see NARAL organizing abortion buses, carrying women who wish to abort to those states or countries that allow abortion? Do you see the clinic doctor going underground, providing abortions in less-safe conditions? Do you see the same energy currently directed at closing clinics aimed at sex education, pre- and post-natal health care, low-cost housing and day care for single mothers? What about foster care for all the kids whose mothers decide not to give the newborns up for adoption, but then turn out to be lousy at the job? And speaking of foster parents, are you a foster parent? Is each protester out front a foster parent? Why not? Isn't it screamingly hypocritical for people to fight desperately hard to have more children born than are wanted, but then not to do their utmost for each unwanted child?
After surviving three years in the abortion wars, I am not "pro-abortion". But I am pro-public health. How do YOU address the public health crisis you cause by preventing women from having abortions? (btw, you have noticed, i hope, that around the country we are already in a public health crisis. and you want to make it worse?)
When I see the same commitment to the public health crisis that ending abortion will cause, then I'll abandon my "Christian=Republican=Uncaring Hypothesis" (and if you want more evidence about the "compassion" of our compassionate conservative president, try reading "Body and Soul" blog or "Mars or Bust" both available at the links at atrios.blogspot.) Until then, I've got damned good evidence.
Posted by: FDL at January 21, 2003 12:41 PM
The Nazi example is strikingly appropriate. A band of fanatics subverted the democratic process to secure a ruling by the state that a class of human beings are sub-human, and eligible for extermination. While most of their fellow citizens are not willing accomplices, they turn their heads to avoid contemplating what goes on in their midst.
You bring up an excellent point, which is that too many Christians are conveniently pro-life, meaning we want abortion outlawed, but don't want to bother with the ministries this would entail. Let me extend your critique: every abortion in this country is an indictment of the church.
If the church were doing its job, every person in America would understand the message of God's grace. Not all would accept it, but they would see arrayed before them a host of services -- adoption, medical care, counseling, income support, etc. -- that would serve as viable alternatives to abortion.
The reality is that many such services already exist, but not nearly in the quantity, quality, or comprehensiveness that is necessary for women on the fence to see beyond the abortion option. Every self-professing Christian should think about that before joining a church that puts athletics and social events above, beside, or even a distant second to these kinds of ministries.
As to your specific argument about a public health crisis, the data suggest quite clearly that you are wrong. First, there are people on waiting lists to adopt infants. I can promise you that any one of the people I knew outside that gate would have taken any of those children if the only thing driving their mothers to abortion was lack of prospective adoptive parents. (The reality, of course, is that there are plenty of prospective adopters.) Some of them have adopted children, many have taken in single mothers, and probably all, given what I know of their churches, support abortion alternatives including group homes for single mothers, adoption services, medical care, etc.
Second, a JAMA study several years ago found statistically significant differences in pre- and post-natal health among Latino populations when controlling for income and geography, i.e., they found that the strongest determinant of fetal health was not income or differentials in access to public health care, but the diligence of the mothers in pursuing care.
In other words, the crisis of fetal health in America is one of ignorance, not availability of resources. Your point still stands -- we would need to devote more energy/resources to getting pregnant mothers to care for their unborn children, but I think characterizing the problem as one of public health is erroneous, and leads to poor solutions (e.g., more health clinics, as opposed to faith-based programs that focus on changing one's outlook and lifestyle).
The reality is that every alternative to abortion of any significance is offered by and funded by Christians, once we set aside for-profit adoptions services (the existence of which belies your notion that banning abortion would lead to thousands of infants going uncared for). The same can be said of nearly all post-abortion counseling services. Christians disproportionately fund relief funds and anti-poverty programs for children overseas as well.
In short, the data are staring you plain in the face -- serious Christians opposed to abortion do much more than protest outside clinics. In other words, there is a strong correlation between protesting outside a clinic and doing the things necessary to care for women who choose not to kill their unborn children. The real problem is that far too many people who claim to be both Christian and pro-life behave as if they are neither. You are correct to attack the hypocrisy of this group, but incorrect to lump them together with the committed few who actually show up every day at these clinics to pray, sing, and offer alternatives to the mothers going inside.
Posted by: Tony at January 21, 2003 1:44 PM
The truly sad thing about the abortion debate is how much talking past each other everyone seems to engage in. The vast majority of people in this country seem to fall into the camp of: abortion is horrible, but sometimes necessary. There are outliers who claim that abortions are no big deal and outliers who claim that it's better for the mother and baby to both die, as long as there's at least a theoretical chance of the baby living, of complications of a pregnancy than to get an abortion. Both of those outlying wings are the ones who get the press attention, and who make the most fallible and impassioned arguments. I despise the extremists at both ends. They are generally morally repugnant, regardless of which side that they are on, and intellectually dishonest.
The reality is that abortion must not be regulated by the Federal government. While Roe v. Wade certainly prevents that, it also prevents reasonable regulations by the States. The nice thing about a Federal system is that you can decide to leave a State whose policies and laws you disagree with, whilst retaining your citizenship and the freedoms that come with it. Sadly, the anti-abortion protestors have made it impossible for the States to regulate abortion reasonably and unevenly, because any opening given would be taken to the Federal, not State level. Thus, in order to protect a truly necessary (though horrible) act, it is necessary to support Roe v. Wade, which allows for horrible things which are not necessary.
Both sides can take a leap, as far as I'm concerned.
Posted by: Jeff Medcalf at January 21, 2003 2:17 PM
I'm afraid you are incorrect to state that Roe v Wade prevents federal regulation of abortion. The Supreme Court is an arm of the federal government, its dicta enforced by federal authorities.
You are also incorrect to claim that "the anti-abortion protestors have made it impossible for the States to regulate abortion reasonably and unevenly, because any opening given would be taken to the Federal, not State level." These "openings" are inevitably relaxations of the Supreme Court tea-leaf reading that enable states to regulate abortion.
So much for intellectual honesty and intelligence (as opposed to "fallible and intellectually dishonest extremists") from the sound-thinking middle, eh?
Posted by: Tony at January 21, 2003 3:52 PM
Posted by: Davey at January 21, 2003 5:49 PM
As a pro (for) - choice (one option selected)advocate have you ever helped (housed, clothed, fed, etc.) a mother who "chose" to walk away from your clinic?
Why would you assume we haven't?
Posted by: child of God,wife, mother at January 21, 2003 11:25 PM
FDL says: "Can we skip the Nazi parallels? They are utterly offensive and completely inaccurate."
Innaccurate? They are more accurate than you might imagine as you compare the works of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sangler to the writings of Hitler and other Nazis:
If you don't want to be bothered with reading all of this link here's a quote:
***The founders of Planned Parenthood had more ties to Hitler than just a shared vision. Their board of directors included avowed Nazi supporters like Dr. Lothrop Stoddard (who authored The Rising Tide of Color Against White Supremacy and another praising the Nazi sterilization law). They used their official publication to spread Nazi propaganda. In April of 1933, Birth Control Review published an article by Dr. Ernst Rubin, who was Hitler's director of genetic sterilization and a founder of the Nazi Society for Racial Hygiene. In this article Dr. Rubin wrote:
The danger to the community of the unsegregated feeble-minded woman is more evident. Most dangerous are the middle and high grades living at large who, despite the fact that their defect is not easily recognizable, should nevertheless be prevented from procreation... In my view we should act without delay. Prof. Dr. Ernst Rudin, "Eugenics Sterlization: An Urgent Need." - Birth Control Review, Volume XVII, Number 4 (April 1933), pp. 102-4.
Both Sanger and the Nazi Rudin believe it was imperative that the "middle and high grades" also be "prevented from procreation." Compare Dr. Rudin's quote to this one from Sanger:
...there is sufficient evidence to lead us to believe that the so-called 'borderline cases' are a greater menace than the out-and-out "defective delinquents" who can be supervised, controlled and prevented from procreating their kind. Margaret Sanger. The Pivot of Civilization. Brentano's Press, NY, 1922, p. 91***
Think it's not so? Read her book for yourself. It's available online here:
Even without getting into the whole other debate as to whether Sanger was a racist or not - you need to ask 2 questions:
1. Why are pro-choice advocates seemingly not disturbed by Margaret Sanger's position on eugenics? And how closely that position relates to what Hitler and his henchmen proposed and then carried out...her position clearly smacks against the supposed "concern" for the poor and oppressed lower class that liberals say they represent.
and most telling...
2. Why is "The Pivot of Civilization" no longer in print?! This is by far the greatest indictment. To find a copy you have to scour rare book shops. The CHEAPEST copy I found is over $400.00! One would think that a book written by the esteemed founder of Planned Parenthood would not only be easily found, but proudly displayed and offered for sale - especially on the Planned Parenthood website. Instead you only find lies about Ms. Sangler.
Posted by: Davey at January 22, 2003 11:12 AM