Women in eight U.S. states have now been told that they have value only as wombs and child-care workers. Eight states have now effectively banned abortion, in what appears to be a coordinated attack on the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right.
Arkansas and Utah moved the permissible date up to 18 weeks of pregnancy. Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri moved it up to six weeks, when the embryo’s heartbeat can be first detected -- before many women even know they’re pregnant.
Alabama enacted the most stringent restrictions, banning abortion entirely. At any stage.
After the Alabama votes, gloating representatives declared their legislation a triumph for human rights. For protecting the most vulnerable members of society.
But the smirk on the face of those representatives as they faced the media’s cameras told the real story. It said, “Ha! Gotcha, you bitches!”
And after the birth…?
This is not “pro-life” legislation. It is “anti-abortion,” pure and simple.
If it were genuinely pro-life, it would also ensure that any babies born -- any babies, regardless of race or economic status -- had medical care available to them. Adoption, and fostering. Universal child-care. Education. And eventually worthwhile employment.
But those are exactly the public services that governments across the U.S. are now slashing. Based on current budget patterns, I’d have to assume that the only options legislators are prepared to offer to all those babies they saved are military service and/or prison.
As lifelong Roman Catholic author and speaker Joan Chittister commented, after examining the abortion issue, these legislators are not pro-life. They’re pro-baby.
Once the baby is born, God help it. Because they won’t.
Seeing women as property
It’s no coincidence, I believe, that this anti-abortion move comes primarily from the former slave-states of the Confederacy. They view women as slaves.
Like slaves, women do not own their own bodies. Men -- especially older white men -- have the right to decide what women may or may not with their bodies. They’re welcome to procreate. But if a random sperm should actually fertilize a random ovum in a woman’s uterus, men, other men, now claim authority over that developing fetus.
Like slaves, women are seen as inferior creatures. They cannot be trusted to make decisions for themselves.
The United Church of Canada -- my church -- tackled this issue back in 1971. Dr. Bruce Hatfield of Calgary led the argument that “abortion should be a matter between a woman and her doctor.”
The members of the church’s General Council raised all the predictable arguments against abortion. That women were emotional creatures unfit to make these decisions for themselves -- especially when pregnancy affected their hormonal balance. That ending a life, at any stage, was murder. That a fetus required two persons’ genetic material, and therefore an abortion needed the father’s consent -- even if he wanted no continuing relationship or responsibility. Some insisted that abortion was moral issue; therefore the woman’s minister must be consulted.
In the end, Hatfield and his supporters carried the vote.
But it hasn’t gone away. Not even in the supposedly “liberal” United Church.
Not biblically based
Although the anti-abortion movement is strongest at both ends of the Christian spectrum -- the Roman Catholic and evangelical churches -- there is in fact no reference to abortion in the Bible. Not one. Look it up for yourself.
There are implications in several verses that an unborn fetus may have feelings and awareness. But no prohibition of abortion.
The closest reference, in Exodus, states that if a pregnant woman is injured during a fight between two man, and suffers a miscarriage, the woman’s husband is entitled to compensation. Her husband -- not her. Which makes it a rule about property and ownership, not about the sacredness of fetal life.
The primary injunction basis for opposition is, of course, the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Which can be conveniently ignored in war. But not, apparently, in sex.
Don’t accuse me of supporting abortion on demand. I don’t. I’m against abortion in principle. But I would never deny an abortion on principle. Because I’m also against bringing unwanted babies into this world. And the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is contraception.
Face it, people are going to have sex. They will not be stopped by legislation, religious teaching, or biblical commands. And certainly not by banning abortions that might be needed later.
Free contraception would reduce unwanted pregnancies. Condoms, pills, IUds, diaphragms, and morning-after pills should be freely available. To anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.
But you won’t catch the good ol’ boys in Alabama and Missouri voting for anything that sensible.
Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Not much mail about last week’s column about bush planes, bush flying, and crashes in the news. But I was pleased to get some letters from former bush pilots, mostly confirming my observations.
Gordon Seiter, one of those former bush pilots, corrected me on one matter: “Loved the column, just one point to nitpick. All of North America sets altitude in feet and visibility in miles. [That is, is doesn’t use metric measure.] Temperatures are Celcius, everywhere. Everybody around the world speaks English.
“The east bloc sets altitude in meters so some aircraft had to be set up with dual instruments, but I suppose today they just throw a switch in the flying computers and you can get it either way.
“In Canada we learned a lesson with the Gimli Glider when Ottawa decided our newly metric country would order its new planes with metric gas gauges. Problem was the fueling trucks pumped Gallons. Predictable results.
“Today the big boys could easily convert to metric, but the analog fleet, private and bush, would need so many changes you'd ground them.”
Regular contributor Clare Neufeld also wrote “as a former (part-time) bush pilot, in Saskatchewan, I feel compelled to mention something about the safety matters regarding the Alaskan crash.
“While flying in any area known to have more than one or two aircraft providing sight-seeing flights in ‘congested’ (relatively speaking) airspace, it would normally be a matter of safety, and often by way of agreement between companies (or a company’s) pilots and their policies, to be in constant contact with one another, so as to be, (effectively), acting as their own air traffic controllers, operating by the standard VFR rules of ‘see & be seen’.
“I expect that ‘normally’ they would make no changes in speed, direction, (climb, descend, turns), etc., without double checking, visually, &/or announcing their intentions, seeking feedback from other traffic in the area.
“It’s a sad day, when this [voluntary] system fails us. I look forward to learning more, as the details surrounding this unusual event are pieced together, and we gain a better understanding of what most likely transpired.”
Wilma Davidson passed along information from her “neighbor, Harry Hanlan, who was a bush pilot for many years operating in the far north and both poles. His book ‘From Pole to Pole’ outlines the incredible skills that their occupation requires, not the least of which is being acutely aware of each different flight and its challenges. They have to rely on acute wit to avoid a watery or snowy grave, not to mention [having] duct tape and enough fuel to get them and their passengers back to base. We, who sit in the comfort of luxury, are not really aware of the importanceof an occupation serving those folks who also live by their wits in our north areas.”
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Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8
Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. The website for this project has closed but you can continue to order the DVDs by writing info@woodlake,com
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet
And the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive