The Moral Minefield

Exodus 21: 22 "When there's a fight and in the fight a pregnant woman is hit so that she miscarries but is not otherwise hurt, the one responsible has to pay whatever the husband demands in compensation.” (The Message)

I must confess I’m one of those odd Christians who reads the Old Testament. Actually, I’m one of those really odd Christians who likes to read through the bible. All of it (except maybe for some of those genealogies... that’s a bit of a stretch. I don’t think skimming over those bits should be regarded as cheating).

I have been reminded of this passage over the past couple of days as debate has raged over the U.S. election on Alan Hirsch’s blog, a fascinating glimpse into the passionate and divisive world of American politics. I’ve been reminded of this passage because it is the closest thing to an abortion in the biblical record. (ripping babies out of the wombs of mothers would cause the death of mothers in a world without surgery or antibiotics, so I don’t think those passages count).

Alan noted that most of the world seems to be hoping for a Democrat victory. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (and subsequent political and military complications) seem to have alienated the entire Muslim world, and much of the Western world. Knowledge of and failure to regulate appalling bank lending practices is tipping the entire world into recession (for when the economic giant quakes the whole world trembles). This has alienated the “right” of the Western world (and it’s no mean feat to alienate both left and right so spectacularly in one term of government). Apparent approval of forms of torture from high levels of the administration; military contracts awarded to Cheney’s cronies and subsequent suspicion of nepotism; rhetoric like “axis of evil”, “great satan”, etc. that have fed into the alqaeda propaganda machine... these have not been high points in America’s standing in the international community. (In fact, the only international body I can think of calling for a Republican victory appears to be alqaeda itself... http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/5096057/alqaedalinked-website-backs-mccain although I can’t claim exhaustive research, or vouch for the veracity of this report!)

But none of this perception matters enough for large numbers of U.S. voters... because McCain is pro-life and Obama is pro-choice. The murder of innocent babies is the most pressing issue of the day... the standing of America in the global community is a secondary issue. I fully understand this view... and if abortion is murder, I endorse this view too.

But is abortion actually murder?

It is certainly the taking of human life. So you may think I’m being cute to question whether the taking of human life is murder. But we are all aware of situations where the context requires the equation taking life = murder breaks down.

A soldier who kills an enemy soldier has not committed murder. A nurse who gives an agonised dying patient a high dose of morphine might kill the patient, but she is not considered a murderer. A driver who runs over and kills a pedestrian has killed someone, but depending on context, this may be an accident, or it may be that negligence was involved... but they are not considered a murderer. A prison guard who kills a condemned prisoner under a court order has not murdered. A constable who shoots and kills in self-defence is not a murderer. And so on. Context matters. We all accept this.

Now I find abortion terrible... but I do not think it is always murder. What if an abortion is performed on a child with a non-viable medical condition detected by ultrasound? This does precipitate an unavoidable death... but I’m not convinced the unborn child was “murdered”. What if an abortion is performed for a mother who is deeply suicidal because of her pregnancy? What if an abortion is performed on a mother whose life is regarded at grave risk for medical reasons? Has not one life been saved, where two lives were at serious risk? The law has recognised for a significant period of time that there are some circumstances where abortion is permissible.

This reflects the vexing problem that abortion is also “more or less bad” depending on context. There are parts of India (and China) where ultrasounds are used to determine gender, and female children are aborted. I regard this as deplorable. Even in the West, abortions are sometimes performed on the basis of gender.

Where a mother regards they are completely unable to cope with having a child... where indeed, they may truly be unable to cope with a child (particularly where the thought of adoption has failed to enter their heads) abortion is more understandable. Tragic, but more understandable.

This is where the Exodus passage is interesting. The causation of a miscarriage is not treated as a murder under Mosaic law. Nor is it treated in the same way as manslaughter, so “intent” cannot be regarded as the sole cause for the difference. I think this is a difficult passage to understand, but the implication is that abortion is a bad thing... but not as bad as murder.

I’m interested in the responses of others to this. Do you think I’m right? Or wrong? My views are not “locked in stone”, so I am genuinely interested in your views and rationale.

I’m of the view that regardless of who becomes the next president of the U.S., the horse has bolted in a legal sense. Abortions will continue happen... thus high quality sex education, and good support of single mothers to minimize the chance of childhood poverty, abuse and neglect seems the most pragmatic response. But the moral issues tick away behind this... and I’m bravely inviting an exploration of these here.

Comments

Matt Stone said…
I think its a complex issue and so shy away from simple answers. I find abortion deeply disturbing, particularly when opted for as a lifestyle choise. But I also doubt the effectiveness of criminalizing it, particularly when, as you've observed, there are other reasons why people opt for it that are far more tragic (which is largely academic anyway since I don't expect criminalization to come back any time soon, particularly since it hasn't even happened under Bush).

I think the bigger question for churches to grapple with is, if we don't support abortion, what are we doing practically to help women who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies? To help women who choose to forego abortion and raise their children in less than ideal circumstances? We must do more than say, we'll pray for you and wish you good luck! I think (we) the church would have more moral authority on this if it did more to help people in their messiness.
AbiSomeone said…
I didn't get into it much at Al's blog, and I'm not going to do it here, either ... but I do find much of the perceptions about American politics full of spin -- here in America and around the world. Sigh.... It is all very complex, indeed. We have worldview and ideological paradigms in conflict, and that makes it extra complex.
Janet Woodlock said…
Peggy... I actually see it as quite well developed indoctrination... you will see some posters (not so much at TFG but on some other US sites) that really pop out the interest group cliches with intense emotional passion... for them these intensely problematic issues are not complex at all. Abortion is always murder and always wrong and always illegal and any political who is pro-choice must be boycotted as the only Christian moral stance. (though as Matt has noted, politicians seem to have little power or little will to change the law, which probably won't change whoever is elected... it's more wishful thinking than anything IMO).

Propaganda eventually leads to closed minds, the incapacity to see nuance and complexity, and ultimately, inadequate responses to difficult social issues.

However... this conversation might best shift back to Matt's blog, who is attempting to focus on the politics of abortion, whereas I am attempting to consider the ethics of abortion. I am certainly no expert in this, but am interested in hearing from anyone who has given this some thought.

Matt... I agree. Those who would like to let fly on the politics of abortion should check out your blog!
Steve Hayes said…
I noticed that a lot of Americans who were anti abortion said they were going to vote Republican in the last couple of elections for that reason. It seems that they were conned by slick political rhetoric from politicians who were unable or unwilling to fulfil their "anti-abortion" promises. Has the number of abortions in the US diminished significantly over the last 8 years?

If I were American, I would regard abortion as a non-issue in the election. Regardless of what politicians may promise, you can rest assured that if elected, they are not going to do anything about it.

And as for wars, when one party was in power the US bombed Baghdad, and when the other party was in power the US bombed Belgrade. So both are bloodthirsty warmongering abortionists.

"Put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man, for there is no help in them" (Psalm 2)
Janet Woodlock said…
From my understand of international law the "intervention" in Kosovo and the invasion of Iraq have a quite different legal status... one was a result of a United Nations vote to intervene in a civil war, the other was an aggressive invasion on a pretext that did not have the sanction of an international body (as such it is considered an "illegal" invasion.) But I take your point that the two sides of U.S. politics share more in common than they like to admit!
Timothy Wright said…
Hi,

I am pro life, anti war, though we will never have peace in this world. The Iraq war was wrong, Obama voted against it, I think he was right to do so. The war in Afghanistan will continue for the next 30 -40 ears easily. Obama will pull all the troops out of Iraq in time and shift lots to Afghanistan. The Taliban are not going away, unless you deal with Pakistan.

I want McCain for president because I believe that he will put in Conservative justices in the Supreme Court, overturn Roe V Wade, and in time maybe kick it back to the States to decide.

The Iraq war is closing down , but Obama will still have troops in Afghanistan. So he is not pro peace at any cost.

Here is my question:

What govt policies that McCain would have that would stop Christians in North America from following Jesus command to take care of the poor in the USA? Or in that fact the world?

What Govt policies would Obama bring in that would help us take care of the poor that McCain would be opposed to?


Tim
Janet Woodlock said…
Hi Tim.

Well, I'm not an expert on U.S. politics... I was interested in teasing out the ethics of abortion... but I think it's all so interlinked one can't seperate them. (I think I've just officially given up).

Question 1. Nothing. Although I have the impression they're not terribly good at it... I've never been to the States, but I know people who have, and they've been quite shocked at the sight of visible poverty in the richest nation on earth.

I've sensed the sentiment on Al's blog that governments shouldn't support poor citizens: that this is the job of the church alone. I cannot think of one other Western democracy where this idea has any traction. Western governments recognise responsibilty to care for their citizens... this is why they have defence forces, run schools for children unable to afford private education, provide old age pensions, provide some government run hospitals and medical services, disability support pensions, unemployment support benefits, etc. etc. This reduces crime, helps people to avoid homelessness and a chronic spiral of extreme disadvantage... it's good for society overall. I have the impression some Americans regard this "norm" of the developed world as a bad thing. Is this right or not? (I'm not an expert on U.S. politics as noted... Alan's blog has been a learning experience.) If so... I don't get it. (although it's a convenient piece of propaganda for the rich who'd like to keep their taxes as low as possible).

Question 2. McCain is claiming Obama will "redistribute wealth". I guess that means tax the rich and assist the poor. I think he's opposed to the "taxing the rich" part of this equation.

Interesting questions Tim... I'd appreciate your clarification.
Steve Hayes said…
There's an interesting article Kid killers are barbarians.

"People who kill kids, for whatever reason and no matter in what manner, are disgusting, murderous, cowardly barbarians."

I take that to include aerial bombing, suicide bombing and abortion.
Janet Woodlock said…
Hi Steve... I'm bolting out the door this morning, so I'll read the article later in the day... but I'm wondering whether you really think a surgeon who performs an abortion to save the life of a mother is a "disgusting, murderous, cowardly barbarian". As I explored in my initial post, in a fallen world there are real moral dilemmas and shades of grey in decision-making.

I'd be interested in responses to the scripture (which I'm sure is a difficult passage to interpret) and also to the various scenarios of my initial post.

Gotta fly....
Shift Worker said…
You draw a great point from the Old Testament. Eye for an eye justice would demand that action resulting in the loss of an unborn be punished with death. Instead, it's punishment is a monetary fine. They are clearly unequal!

That said, isn't the real crime that we have a society in which a woman would consider abortion the best choice? The church has been part of the problem here - labelling "unwed mothers" and "bastards" and even in this thread unplanned pregnancy is called "messiness!"

If we truly believe children are a gift of God, and we truly wish every woman to not consider abortion, we need a radical change of mind. I suggest we start by treating the announcement of unplanned pregnancies the same way as we do others, by saying Congratulations! to the mothers, fathers, & grandparents.

Perhaps then our hearts will know what to do next.
Janet Woodlock said…
This is a powerful article Steve (just home and have had time to read it)... but it is not an article about abortion per se.

I would be interested in your thoughts on whether there is some kind of "sliding scale" of moral seriousness.

Shift worker... I agree completely. I've spoken with a couple of Christian mothers who have turned up to church and been treated like pariahs. (In one case, her husband is not a Christian, in another case, her husband ran off with another woman). How terrible... should we not treat single mums with especial kindness, as those who need extra support and love in their solo parenting efforts.

Make us more like Jesus....
Matt Stone said…
Shift Worker, I speak of 'messiness' because my wife and I have been involved with a number of single mums over the years who would be the first to describe their lives as messy. One in particular, who we are trying to help find housing for at the moment, has five children to five fathers and is currently living with another guy. Her life is many things, but 'simple' ain't one of them. I do not say messy out of disrespect but out of simple acknowledgement of the situation. There are many feelings of ambivalence. She loves her children but life is really, really hard. It's not something she can always celebrate despite the fact she loves them. If she had another I would say congratulations, but my heart would ache too. Because it's joy and pain messily mixed in together.
AbiSomeone said…
I feel some obligation, as an American, to weigh in somewhat ... the spirit is willing, the flesh doesn't have much time! :^(

The United States of America is not a simple Republic to understand. Our 50 states cannot be easily lumped together and result in a clear, singular picture, on all topics.

At the heart of the tax and redistribution of wealth issue is the fact that one of the things that makes America unique is the whole "American Dream" thing. Now, I don't buy into the greed aspect some focus on, but to the opportunity aspect. Freedom in America allows folks from anywhere in the world to actually take their dream and, with lots of hard work and sacrifice, see it come to pass. Listen to Governor Schwarzenegger talk about it....

The problem with taxing the entrepreneurial base is that it is an attack on the real source of the American Dream: having your own business, providing employment opportunities and making a difference in your neighborhood.

When you remove the freedom of that base with higher taxes, you basically kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Take that light out of the American Dream and the whole story changes.

This part of our Republic is very much misunderstood ... and many unfortunate abuses have happened under its guise ... but much more good comes from empowering people to work hard to bring their dream to reality.

Nobody flame me for the excesses and abuses. I'm a counter-cultural, reject rampant consumerism, neo-monastic little abbess, now....

On the topic at hand, Janet ... there are so many faith-based ministries and community groups that support women who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies. The amount of vitriol they get from those who want abortion to be a blase convenience is utterly amazing.

So many times they are desperately trying to keep women from even considering the morality of the "choice" they are making. This is not "pro-choice" -- this is a form of moral slavery by keeping folks in "intellectual" ignorance even when their conscience is smoldering.

I appreciate Govenor Palin's family's response to the news of their daughter's pregnancy and support for her keeping the baby and marrying the father. They are coming together and helping these two young people understand and face up to the consequences of their actions. This is the moral issue I see being addressed by those who are "pro-life".

I have great compassion for those who find themselves in horrific situations where there seems no choice but to sacrifice the unborn life. Those situations are challenging and heartbreaking and in need of much grace and mercy.

These are not the problem, IMO. Rather, it is the use of abortion on demand as a common form of contraceptive that goes over the edge morally.

As I always say, I am so tired of the name calling between the extremists on both sides -- of all these kinds of issues.

We could use a lot more practice "listening one another into free speech" on this issue (as my friends from Allelon have taught me to say). But you have to be willing to do the hard work of listening to truly understand.

Blessings...gotta run.
Janet Woodlock said…
Thank you so much for sharing this wise and wonderful Peggy... I find it truly enlightening.

I have the sense that Americans are very idealistic and passionate (which is a wonderful thing)... Australians tend toward pragmatism and a laid-back attitude. Speculating a little... it's almost like "is it right?" (ideology) has strong resonance in the U.S... whereas "does it work?" probably gets more traction here.

To give a past example... when the public became aware of AIDS, the Australian government almost immediately launched a huge advertising and education campaign, introduced free "no questions asked" needle exchange programs for addicts, encouraged the installation of condom vending machines... ie public health was paramount, and the rights and wrongs of drug addiction and promiscuity were secondary. So a potential epidemic was nipped in the bud VERY quickly. I had the impression the US governments responded more slowly because of moral concerns.

In relation to abortion, I think Australians also tend to the pragmatic (to quote Matt: "I also doubt the effectiveness of criminalizing it")... there's actually reasonable levels of financial support for single mothers from the government here, and most schools do an OK job with sex ed. (although there's a lot of room for improvement IMO).

I haven't noticed the "hard" reaction you've described in Australia anywhere (ie vitriol toward pro choice groups that support women)... in fact I find this kind of response appalling. But again it reflects a tendency to have a "hard idealistic" response one way or the other. Perhaps. (Ideology is so polarising!)

As for the tax issue you raise... I'm ALL for having low taxes on small business for precisely the reason you describe... promoting business enterprise generates prosperity and employment so effectively. When I said "taxing the rich" I was referring to scales for income tax... not business tax. My husbands in a higher tax bracket and we pay a lot of income tax... I do so happily because I'm a believer in the "to those who much is given, much is required" principle.

Even then... if an Australian government floated an increase to business taxes, the counter-attack would be pragmatic here... statistics about employment and economic growth. I get the feeling ideology would be used as a counter-attack on this US: "ie this tax is an attack on our American way of life".

I've felt that some TFG posters are saying abortion is the only issue that really matters (idealism) without considering whether a vote one way or the other will actually lead to fewer abortions (pragmatism). Nothing wrong with idealism of course, and I'm all for people following their conscience. But I'm speculating that this cultural difference had coloured the TFW discussion considerably.

I'm glad you "weighed in"... thank you!
Janet Woodlock said…
Oh... and another thing... I fully commend Sarah's support of her daughter too. But I'm going to confess something really, really politically incorrect... I feel really sorry for her own baby. She would be utterly run off her feet, and it sounds like her husband is busy in her own right, and even if they can afford a carer, babies deserve love... special needs children need extra love and care.

Infancy is a critical developmental stage... I believe lots of touching and skin contact and gazing into your baby's eyes is the best gift a person can give. It's not about "care"... it's about love. (who knows... maybe there's another loving relative who has dropped everything to care for the baby).

But I feel bad confessing that, because I wonder if I'd judge a man in the same way. I hope I would... but maybe I wouldn't.
Andries said…
Hi Janet, your post (and a few others) have prompted my first post on my blog. Thanks for your stimulating thoughts! Andries Louw (South Africa).
AbiSomeone said…
Janet...you'll see I've been busy over at Matt's today ... yikes!

Yes, Americans are very idealistic -- America is an Ideal. And that makes it not a very far walk to it being an idol, eh?

Being right is very important, but (as I was saying over at Matt's) being right is not enough if that doesn't translate to doing right!

We do have our pragmatists, however. The challenge comes down to making sure that the ends fit the ideals and means are consistent with those ends. Pragmatics only work at the implementation level.

It is the pragmatists that let "pork" corruption into our legislative branches ... and they are the ones McCain/Palin are after. Civic service is to be citizen focused and not self-serving.

How to focus on the citizens is the difference between Democrat and Republican. In a very over-simplistic way, I perceive Democrats' focus as encouraging dependence and stunting maturity in the citizens, resulting in the outrageous entitlement mentality that is so overwhelming to our society. To me it is outrageously irresponsible!

In the same over-simplistic manner, I perceive the Republicans protecting and enabling the opportunity for citizens to move first toward independence and then toward interdependence -- taking responsibility for one's own actions and working hard to contribute to society's success along with personal success.

It is interesting that I read the other day that of the millionaires supporting politicians, those who are in the $1-10 million range support McCain, but the $11-30 million range support Obama.

Already 5% of Americans bear 95% of the federal tax burden, with 40% not being taxed at all. This is an important context to have in mind when you add the entitlement mentality and the "spreading the wealth around" pragmatism (actually, it is also idealistic, and the kind most American's aren't too keen for).

Americans are very generous people, by and large. But they tend to think that they can make better choices about how to give than the government. And I tend to agree.

Not that it isn't good to have a strong social safety net. We just don't think the government has a good track record about being efficient or effective. That's where Republican pragmatism comes to light.

Okay...that's your daily dose of American perspective from this wee radical abbess! ;^)

Bless you for hosting the conversation and being willing to listen.

And yes ... the pro-choice folks don't want the pro-life folks using ultrasound technology to show young women the human being growing with fingers and toes sucking a thumb ... because they want them to believe its just a mass of cells to be scraped out. No. Big. Deal. They accuse us of "guilt" ... and we respond that we want them to be able to make a truly informed decision. :^(

Off to light the candles in the pumpkins we carved today. My middle son's birthday is October 31st, and that makes him a big of a Pumpkin fan! :^)
Janet Woodlock said…
Ah Peggy... yes, I read your responses at Matt's blog... you have been a busy blogger today!

Thanks for all the info... I'm particularly gobsmacked that 5% of Americans pay 95% federal tax... that is staggering. We've got this mad system where you start paying tax when you earn more than $10 k per annum... although people earning that little get lots of assistance in other ways (rent assistance, parenting payments etc.) All absurdly complex, really. But I am really interested in your perspectives.

My eldest's birthday is on the 1st of November (turning 12)... how old will your middle son be?

I've been blogging WAAAAAYYYY too much myself... I've had sick kids off school so I've had time off work... I'm sure I could have used the time much better though!

Speaking of which... better finish those dishes!

Love Janet
AbiSomeone said…
My little pumpkin will be 10 years old Friday! Hard to believe... ;^)

* * * *

Yeah, when you keep going back to that 5% and upping their taxes again and again, it really kills the expansion of our economy and shoots the little guys in the foot...

There is a great story about this I've heard; if I can find it, I'll share. Very telling, indeed.

* * *

House full of sick and cranky folks, here ... seems you can relate down under!

Love you,

Peggy
Janet Woodlock said…
Mmm, yes... my nearly 12 year old announced his teacher said he should have the day off to rest tomorrow as I picked him up. (She wasn't by her desk to verify the veracity of this claim!) I'm getting slightly desperate to get to work, so I'll have to wait and see how convincing a con job he can manage by tomorrow morning!

Taxing the same 5% more and more seems mad. The way our government manages to get more tax without causing a public outcry is called "bracket creep". Income tax scales are set at a certain level (say 10 - 30 K you pay 15%, 30 - 40 K you pay 20 % etc... I can't be bothered looking up the exact figures.) As inflation occurs over time, more and more people hit the higher tax brackets... but people don't complain (too much!) because they pay extra tax in the context of pay rises.

It seems to work more or less happily enough here that we have a broad tax base and good social services... eg a pretty good health system, bonus payments for people with children etc., support for people looking for work or with disabilities etc. Although no system is perfect of course, and whatever you do is fraught with problems. And we really do badly with indigenous people in remote communities... noone really seems to know how to fix the social and medical problems that are part of the legacy of the European invasion.

It's always tricky to get elected under the platform of higher taxes for all!!!!

Anyway... I hope your pumpkin has a lovely birthday. Don't the years fly by?
AbiSomeone said…
Everyone survived the birthday and Halloween festivities. Now I have to be the big bad candy gate keeper! :^)

Everyone on the mend...just a few more days until the election. But the funny thing is that the votes take weeks to certify. We'll have to listen to the polls and spin about who has won, etc. Sigh....

Great quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over at Eugene Cho's blog (in a comment found here: http://eugenecho.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/the-abortion-conversation/#comment-18907)

I’m sure all you folks mean well. But none of you has lost your life in the struggle for equal treatment under the law. Since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did lose his life, I’m going to grant him more street creds than I’m granting you. Sorry. That’s just the way it goes.

So, then, what did Dr. King say about the idea of surrendering the constant press for changes in legal decisions, the constant press for legislation, the constant press for regulation.

No dummy, he understood that morality can be an ineffective subject of legislation. That is, it doesn’t transform hearts simply to impose laws. But he also understood that underneath it all, when nothing else would constrain the darkened heart, the fear of criminal prosecution and civil litigation could do good work.

So here’s what he said, and when you read his words you will know why he would reject your arguments for Obama:

“In our nation today a mighty struggle is taking place. It is a struggle to conquer the reign of an evil monster called segregation and its inseparable twin called discrimination–a monster that has wandered through this land for well-nigh one hundred years, stripping millions of Negro people of their sense of dignity and robbing them of their birthright of freedom.”

“Let us never succumb to the temptation of believing that legislation and judicial decrees play only minor roles in solving this problem. Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless. The law cannot make an employer love an employee, but it can prevent him from refusing to hire me because of the color of the skin. The habits, if not the hearts, of people have been and are being altered every day by legislative acts, judicial decisions, and executive orders. Let us not be misled by those who argue that segregation cannot be ended by the force of law.”

...just adding a bit more perspective to the fire ;^)
AbiSomeone said…
Well, sister ... it seems to be a done deal. Time will tell whether Obama is another Carter or whether he truly picks up the mantle of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Regardless of my opinion of his political views, I am proud for an African-American president from Illinois to preside over the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. That is really something! America, for all its faults, is really an amazing place....
Janet Woodlock said…
I think there is so much to celebrate, regardless of where anyone sits on the political spectrum.

To have a free and fair election without coersion or violence is a glorious thing... the voice of the people at work. To have freedom of speech, to have a free press and an independent legal system... these are wonderful things to celebrate.

I listened to the speeches of both McCain and Obama and was impressed by the statesmanship of both. To have two candidates for presidency demonstrating grace and kindness and a call for unity and a celebration of democracy... you guys can be proud to have two candidates who can rise to the occasion so beautifully.

Another thing I thought was beautiful... (entirely symbolic, but as Christians we know that's not always a bad thing!)... was how much Obama's victory meant to the African-Americans interviewed. It is a victory that is a powerful symbol of a racist legacy... the dream that anyone can be president was embodied for African-Americans.

So well done... America is a wonderful country!

Incidently... I wasn't really trying to argue "for Obama" in my posts... I was actually trying to get my head around the issue of abortion.

I love the quote of Dr. King. I find it highly relevant for overcoming discrimination... there could be no good reason to sack someone based on their skin colour alone. However, I don't think it is a quote that can be universally applied to every moral issue.

It is moral to love and to worship God. But I do not believe it is something that is appropriate to "legislate"... this just forces people to act against their conscience (although there were a lot of "heretics" burned at the stake until the idea of freedom of religion was developed in the enlightenment.)

Adultery is always immoral, and it is not only a private matter between a person, their conscience, and God. It is also a painful betrayal of the wronged partner... it often leads to marriage breakdown and grieving, distressed children. Where marriage breakdown does occur, it often costs the taxpayer in single parents benefits, and tangles up the court system in divorce. It's often a "public" sin, and always an immoral one. But I do not believe it should be an illegal act... this would clog up the court system, the police force, the jails etc. with otherwise law abiding citizens with a sexual weakness.

As for abortion....

I feel like any way you turn is problematic. If you ban abortion in all circumstances, you run the risk of "backyard" and self-administered abortions and their terrible consequences, attempted suicides, infanticide, child abuse and neglect, immense distress for mothers carrying children with terminal conditions, doctors who have made a conscience decision to abort based on the mental health of a mother facing criminal prosecution... it has a lot of highly undesirable consequences in a fallen world.

If you allow abortion on demand, you face the possibility of a huge loss of life, and the risk of abortion for fairly trivial reasons.

If you allow abortion in some circumstances but not others, there may be potentially very little difference to the outcomes compared to abortion on demand... the doctors that interpret the laws more liberally will get known. Or potentially cases will end up in court clogging up the system where speed is desirable for medical reasons.

If you make abortion illegal in one spot but not others, people will move to another spot if they really want an abortion. You'd have to ban it everywhere.

So I see this as truly a minefield... both practically and morally. I don't think I can see a good option public-health-wise. But I am open to the idea of changing my mind... I'm not "locked in stone" on any of this. And I fully respect your own conscience decision... I may come around to your point of view too!
Janet Woodlock said…
Just thought a bit more about this... I guess the intent of this post was not "arguments for Obama". But I am truly cynical that whoever is (was) elected would actually result in abortion becoming illegal.

Perhaps I've misunderstood your constitution, but in my understanding when there was a republican majority in the senate and George W Bush as president, a law could have been enacted by congress (endorsed by the President) to make abortion illegal. So my cynical assessment is that the Republicans don't REALLY want to make abortion illegal... they instead want to shore up the anti-abortion vote by suggesting that eventually enough conservative supreme court judges will be appointed to change the law... but political cycles being what they are, this is highly unlikely.

This somewhat "neutralises" abortion for me as an election issue. I'm cynical that this law will change... and think education around sexuality and contraception, plus good emotional and physical support for mothers, is the most pragmatic way to reduce the rate of abortion.
AbiSomeone said…
Janet, it is very complex, as you say. It is very interesting to me that the US press, in the tank for Obama all along, has begun already saying things like "the president really doesn't have that much influence, really." Astounding that they would hammer Bush as responsible for every possible thing, but give Obama a pass before he's even sworn into office. Sigh....

The reality is, though, that the president has some opportunity to set tone and influence how things progress, but our government does not run on a single person.

I have said, and notice many others also saying, that Obama has a small window of opportunity in which to actualize his desire to be the president of all Americans and to bring the brightest and best thinkers into his government, regardless of their political background. If he is truly one to listen to all and strive to make the right decision for the country, not himself or his friends, then there is a better chance.

But if he and the other Dems try to shove a "mandate" down the Reps throats (like the Reps did with Bush), they will get snapped back just like the Reps were.

...we'll just have to wait and see ;^)
christy said…
Hi Janet -

I found your post interesting - it's difficult to have a reasoned discussion here in the U.S. abut abortion. I did a series of posts on abortion recently - http://drybonesdance.typepad.com -more to sort through my own thoughts on the issue than for any other reason, and I would love to hear your thoughts - although it may be FAR more information about American politics and abortion statistics than you wanted to know. I'm a social policy geek.

(And I would radically disagree with abisomeone's characterization of the two parties, but I'll let that lie for now. The election is finally over and we could all use a break from politics.)

It is interesting to note that while we're busy arguing over abortion in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and every single country in Western Europe have a lower abortion rate than we do. The Netherlands - with their government funded abortions and the most liberal abortion laws in Europe - have an abortion rate about 1/4 of ours. Maybe there's something to be said for pragmatism over idealism....
Janet Woodlock said…
Thanks for commenting Christy!

I've been quiet here for a while... my antivirus software has been blocking me from my own blog recently, but it seems to have corrected itself!

I'll have a look at your blog now and see if I have anything else sensible to say!
Crazy Seraph said…
I think that we are looking at the issue of abortion the wrong way. I think it is safe to conclude that abortion is killing, but whether it is murder is difficult to say.
However, it would seem that in a better world, abortions would be unnecessary and unwanted. (I know the world isn't perfect, but I'm a bit of a dreamer.) I think that instead of trying to legislate one way or another about abortion, we should remove the social structures that drive women to seek abortions. Why should a pregnancy be cause for dispair? If a woman is in financial difficulty, the onus should be on society (not just the church) to provide financial assistance. If the mother is very young, she should be provided with support, so that she may complete her studies etc. If there is a social stigma, then that should be removed...and so on.
If society in general is opposed to abortion, then there is a responsibility to provide alternatives, without judgement or condemnation. Childbearing should not be used as a tool to oppress women, but to honor them. I think if this was the case, there would be a lot less demand for abortions.
Janet Woodlock said…
I absolutely agree Crazy Seraph... children (and mothers) aren't valued and supported nearly enough, and I think the focus of our efforts needs to lie in this direction.

I think this is the battlefront (rather than the "banning" front) to dig in and fight. It's a harder and more nebulous battle than opposing law though. Sigh... no easy answers.

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