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To Be Or Not To Be

by on May 10, 2022

To Be Or Not To Be

by Marco M. Pardi

A woman’s right to choose an abortion is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity….And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a full adult human being responsible for her own choices.” Ruth Bader Ginsberg

The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.” Pope John Paul II

Terms:

Abort – To stop in the developmental stages.

Spontaneous abortion – (medical term). Commonly called Miscarriage. Occurs through various circumstances, not necessarily resulting from intentional human agency.

Induced abortion – an act of human agency.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Once again the United States is in the throes of debate over induced abortion. This time appears to be more inclusive and more likely to include societal violence. It is more inclusive as it appears to be a more pronounced conflict of political ideologies conflated with religious views and scientific realizations not known in the debates of fifty years ago. And, once again, the legally binding decision For or Against the validity of the long established Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision is in the hands of a few Supreme Court Justices, now numerically superior on the side of the ultra right wing group that rushed through their confirmation.

Fifty years ago, as a young college Anthropology instructor, I was asked to take part in a public debate on the Roe v. Wade case then being decided. I did so. Of course, I found an irony in the case: I was unfamiliar with the term roe as a human’s name; I had always thought of it as the eggs of a fish especially when still enclosed in the ovarian membrane. (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary). Although I saw certain parallels I realized no one else seemed to so I didn’t mention that. Nonetheless, I based my presentation on logic, as would anyone arguing a legal case. I will do so again here, with the proviso that logic properly done does not have a predetermined outcome. I will also say I will not attempt to present a full and comprehensive legal case for either side (You’re welcome).

Debates on topics such as this commonly circle around some entanglement of logic and emotion, often foundering on the latter as the former is less inflammatory and thereby loses strength. Thus, the outcome is often a hardening of pre-existent feelings more than a bridge to cognitive understanding.

Mindful of that, we should remember that the determinant legal issue of reproductive freedom is being debated in court, not just in private salons or other meeting places. Thus, as in any court case, assertions must be based upon and supported by evidence. Appeals to beliefs and feelings will be ruled inadmissible, even inflammatory. Nonetheless, we should at least look at those appeals as they are often introduced with the knowledge that even when ruled out they have found their way into a juror’s mind. We may begin by portraying a court interaction as A for assertion and R for rebuttal.

A: Life is a God given gift and must be protected and preserved.

R: The assertion claims as self-evident that there is a God and that this God gives gifts. According to honest theologians this is a compound conjecture; an If connected to a Maybe, and is inadmissible. There is no evidence for either.

A: Human life begins at: conception; or presence of a heartbeat; or detection of movement (“quickening in the womb”), and stopping the development is the taking of a human life.

R: The markers cited in the premise are arbitrary and apparently based on theological interpretation. The subordinate clause in the assertion is dependent upon the validity of the premise. Medical science stipulates to the potential for development of human life at those markers, not the factual actuality of its presence. The premise presupposes a developmental outcome and is therefore conjecture.

The reader is free to propose other such assertions, however it possibly now seems clear such assertions, based in theology, have no legal footing. It should be noted that at no time are the assertions cited above declared materially wrong; they are disqualified because there is zero supporting evidence and are based on faith. They may in fact be true, but the United States is a secular society, not a theocracy, and faith – belief in an assertion for which there is no evidence, has no standing.

Moving to the legal framework for debate:

A: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a “strict Constitutionalist”, asserted that there is no mention of abortion in the Constitution. The implication is that since abortion is not a federal issue it should be decided by States, and Roe V. Wade was improperly heard and decided.

R: Justice Alito conveniently ignored the fact that, to date, there have been 27 Amendments to the Constitution addressing issues not specified in the original Constitution.

A: The issue before the Supreme Court solely concerns the question of what legal venue is entitled to legislate and adjudicate issues of abortion.

R: False. As will be explained in Discussion, the implications flowing from the patchwork of State courts and legislatures include and affect far more than just abortion.

Discussion:

The efforts to remove the freedom of women to control their own bodies including reproductive functions and outcomes are by no means universally held among the dominant religions in the United States. Nearly twice as many evangelical Protestants (63%) oppose legal abortion compared to mainline Protestants (33%), according to the most recent survey of abortion views by faith performed by Pew Research Center. Three-quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses and nearly as many Mormons (70%) say abortion should be illegal. In contrast, 83% of American Jews and 55% of American Muslims say abortion should be legal.

American Catholics are largely split, with 56% supportive of legal abortion and 42% opposed, a 2019 Pew Research Center survey found.

As of this writing there are 26 of 50 States which have either passed prohibitive “trigger” laws, designed to go into effect should the Supreme Court strike down Roe V. Wade, or are currently developing such laws. In several cases the laws are such that, before a woman even knows she is pregnant she is subject to a heavy monetary fine and lengthy prison sentence if convicted of taking an action which terminated her pregnancy even if resulting from rape or incest. In addition, personnel ranging from her doctor to her driver, should she obtain transportation to a health clinic for purposes of abortion, also face heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment. The same applies to her if she obtains a medically prescribed pill, even by mail, which might terminate her pregnancy. The root of these laws is the pronouncement that the fertilized egg; or the small collection of cells emitting a nerve action (called “heartbeat”); or the fetus long before viability outside the womb is “a person”. In short, Where does life begin? Yet, medical science is far from agreed on any answer to that. Certainly the potential for life, under the right circumstances, is there, but the actuality is debatable. The same (potential) could be said of the gametes carried by either sex. If prevented from uniting under the “right circumstances” they are expelled and die, through menstruation, nocturnal emission, or other means. Are these processes then homicide? Surgeons operating to remove cancerous tumors strive to achieve “clean margins”, meaning removal of neighboring healthy cells. But we have long had the ability to clone individuals from such healthy cells, though ethical considerations have stopped – for now – cloning of humans. Should these surgeons be convicted of murder?

Several States are also considering the banning of certain forms of contraception. Some forms, such as barrier methods, prevent conception. And, yes, some allow conception but prevent implantation of the fertilized egg. What appears overlooked is that some of the latter forms of contraception are prescribed for serious medical conditions unrelated to prevention of pregnancy. Banning those forms would effectively doom females afflicted with those conditions to serious and perhaps fatal consequences.

The Declaration of Independence strongly declares the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But whose life? A fertilized cell? A collection of cells? Or a female capable of child bearing, albeit if she herself is a child? Unwanted pregnancy can and often does produce a cascade effect including but not limited to fear, shame, depression, shunning by family and friends, failure to complete school, loss of or inability to obtain gainful employment (a recently completed study by a consortium of economists found that pregnancy reduces a woman’s income potential by 30% while increasing her costs dramatically), a child or children raised in dramatically sub-optimal familial, social, medical, and educational conditions, and greatly reduced lifelong potential for the child. “Life”? Check. “Liberty”? Liberty was taken from the mother and therefore from the child. “Pursuit of happiness”? You’re kidding, right?

A corollary phenomenon overlooked by so many “Pro Life” people (actually, Pro Birth) is the almost complete overlap they share with those strongly advocating for reduction of “welfare” such as the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) program, free school meals, housing assistance, Medicaid and other programs addressing the poverty caused largely by inadequate opportunities for family planning.

I have written elsewhere of what I see as reasoning behind the “big money”, especially as funneled through the titular Republican Party to support the denial of freedom and the subjugation of women. A desperate labor pool will accept low wages, third world working conditions, no retirement funds, and job termination due to outsourcing or automation. A desperate labor pool will gladly volunteer for the “three hots and a cot” life in a military which can be summoned at any moment for wars of profit they will never share in. Not shareholders in the “defense industries”, they will reap only a meager separation pay, or retirement pay, and maybe a chance to get on the waiting list for Veterans Administration health care.

Regular readers of this site know I have often applied a name to this “reasoning”. But go ahead, apply one of your own. And while you are devising that name I would ask you to ask yourself if you want To Be that or do you choose Not To Be that.

From → Uncategorized

23 Comments
  1. mkdohle permalink

    Today, on the phone with a someone in my family, a 1st cousin, with whom I am very close, let me know in trepidation that she had an abortion when young. It was a sad discussion, and no, I was not angry. Abortion happens within each group, religious, or not.

    I hate abortion, but feel for the women who get them. Society has to change on many levels before abortion can be lessened significantly.

    We are not logical in our beliefs, no matter what they are, and logic is seldom used, or if it is, it is to bolster one point over another. A good debater, thought the use of logic can win an argument taking both sides to defend.

    Yes, we live in a secular society, and we Christian need to make a difference in ways that are other than creating laws that only make things worse. Life is sacred, and I do believe that the whole process should be protected, from conception until natural death. However, that will not happen, but those who profess Christ need to live it, and not condemn others.

    There are many Christians who do live out their faith that way, and help, but do not force. Also not all Christians want this to be implemented, since it could cause more problems, suffering, and even death.

    Thank you Marco, well presented point of view.

    Peace
    Mark

    Like

  2. Thank you, Mark. I’ve known several women who have had abortions. In most cases I, like you, considered it a bad answer to an avoidable problem. But then, in the case of the mother’s life, rape or incest (which often is rape to some degree) I feel it must be available.

    I do not know where “life” begins. Attempting to define that can lead us down the road to population eugenics not much different from that practiced by the Nazis in Germany and Austria. On the other hand, serious study of neurology calls many of the easy answers into serious question.

    Like

    • mkdohle permalink

      If I was an atheist, I have no doubt that my thoughts on this matter would be quite different. I just wish there was more listening and less bellowing at each other.

      I do not think overthrowing Roe and Wade is a good idea, and may in fact lead to deeper problems. Not all Christians who are pro-life agree that change would be for the better. If overthrown, it could lead to a split that could lead to actual bloodshed.

      Other deeper issues need to be addressed before true change, and lessening for the need for abortions can happen. I do not see that happening.

      In fact the free fall we are in could lead to a crash landing we may not be able to recover from and still stay a Republic.

      Peace
      Mark

      Like

      • I entirely agree. Sadly, I suspect there will be serious chaos either way. The last administration not only gave voice to the extremists, it encouraged them.

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  3. Dana permalink

    Marco, you have presented excellent arguments here that would be impossible to refute.

    “…the United States is a secular society, not a theocracy, and faith – belief in an assertion for which there is no evidence, has no standing.”

    I would like to add a quote by Benjamin Franklin from franklinpapers.org:

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” (Poor Richard Improved, 1758)

    I have long insisted it is doubtful most women or girls want to subject themselves to an induced abortion. Of course in the “pro-life” circles there are claims about the “will of god” when the abortion is spontaneous.

    Many of us have probably heard someone say, “She was using abortion as birth control” or “I think abortion should be legal, but it shouldn’t be used as birth control.”

    That’s some terribly expensive, painful, and distressing birth control, isn’t it?

    Then there is the emotional and psychological hassle of mandatory counseling prior to the procedure. If someone has already made her decision, I feel forcing them into a counseling session is unfair and perhaps even cruel. Are there any male medical procedures where counseling is enforced before surgery is permitted? Or where other options are presented in an emotional manner, such as adoption? Seems doubtful.

    Some time ago I knew a woman who unexpectedly became pregnant. She was newly married, and she and her husband both had procedures rendering a pregnancy highly improbable. Yet just a few months into the marriage that did happen. They decided to retain the pregnancy despite never having planned an addition to the existing family.

    The pregnancy was terminated spontaneously around six weeks. Was that “god’s will” as many might claim? They had already told family and friends about the unexpected pregnancy. After the spontaneous abortion the woman found out she had a fairly serious pre-existing medical condition. She was warned any future pregnancy would not only endanger both her and a developing fetus, but could also be potentially fatal for both. She immediately began taking oral contraceptives and was careful never to miss any.

    Then she found herself pregnant again despite precautions. According to their physicians, the probability of this happening had been practically miraculous. Oh, is that “god’s will” again? A miracle “baby?” Hardly. The pre-existing medical issue worsened and her OB-GYN strongly advised an induced abortion. The choices were to deliver a stillborn fetus at a later stage, place her own life at serious risk, or elect to terminate the pregnancy. She chose the latter, which was the best, safest, most reasonable, and least expensive decision.

    This is just one example of countless where the decision to retain an unexpected pregnancy is not the best. I can’t imagine the outcome had abortion been unlawful.

    Like

    • Thank you, Dana. Indeed, the United States ranks with several developing countries in maternal and infant mortality. The vast bulk of those deaths are among minority groups, essentially because of poor access to decent health care. In fact, the largest portions of abortion are sought and received by minority groups – the very groups which would suffer the most from cancellation of pre-natal care and post delivery assistance to the mother and child. This is hard to figure out, unless we want to ascribe it to a certain very ugly attitude toward minority groups.

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      • Dana permalink

        Thank you Marco. And in the example I shared of the young woman I worked with, the unexpected pregnancy would have caused an economic hardship. The rest of the family would have suffered. There were also existing children and their three bedroom home would have been seriously overcrowded. There are numerous consequences that come to mind.

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  4. Dana permalink

    Marco, this insightful comment is from Tilly in Canada:

    Thank you Marco for this post regarding the recent revelation of the strong possibility that Roe vs Wade may be overturned by the current Conservative US Supreme Court. Just as disturbing is that the machinations to bring this plan to fruition have been ongoing for many years. I believe that a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her own person is a fundamental right. Throughout history a large family and constant stream of children is just one of the ways that women are subjugated, and left to remain in living situations that are impossible to change or escape from, and of course many times this is further complicated by poverty, lack of education and lack access to basic resources.

    I think an overturning of Roe vs Wade would be disastrous. The resulting protests would, I believe, be seen not only in the United States but worldwide. I can say with conviction that I would march in my own city in protest of this decision.

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  5. Thank you, Tilly. Your insights are clear and accurate. Many readers of this site are, like you, in other countries. I hope they offer their views as well because, as you truly point out, it is a war on women that knows no borders.

    Yes, it has gone on for many years. I have often written about the flagrant support for the German Nazi party, exemplified by the massive rallies held in New York’s Madison Square Gardens in the 1930’s, complete with swastika flags and banners and BrownShirt uniforms. The architects of this movement, and their followers did not simply change their minds, they went on to form the backbone of the so-called Republican party. Since that time they have worked hard to abolish or privatize Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, the U.S. Postal Service, public school education, and any other government function serving the general public. In recent years we see the outcome of these same efforts in Russia, where State owned services and utilities were sold off for pennies on the dollar to insider cronies including Putin. The result is the rise of the oligarchs. The very same model is being used here, starting with the disenfranchisement of voters, the redrawing of political districts to negate opposition seats, the banning of books in school libraries, and now the confiscation of library indexes – used to enable inter-library loans when a library does not have a requested book and seeks it from another library. The subjugation of women to the status of baby factories is only the first step in the negation of equal rights, same-sex marriage, and a variety of other social gains and efforts.

    I have often referenced the fact of being born into a Fascist dictatorship and having no desire to end my life in another one. But that is only a selfish whim. I have very deep concerns for the futures of my daughter, holder of three Magna Cum Laude medical degrees, whose career may be at risk if she slips and mentions sound medical advice to a patient. I’m also deeply concerned for the futures of my grandchildren, two of whom are females with brilliant careers ahead of them if they are allowed to be free.

    Inflation, largely caused by former president Trump’s mentor Putin’s war on Ukraine but significantly also due to price gouging, may well drive the public back toward the dictatorship that was developing in the previous administration. There is no doubt that were that to happen it is game over for the American experiment with Democracy.

    Like

  6. Ray Rivers permalink

    Well said – it’s hard to believe these United States are still talking about abortion. We’ve just come through/still in a pandemic in which over 15 million people died world wide, many because they thought wearing a mask violated their freedom – yet here mostly the same people want to strip a woman’s freedom to have a family of her choosing.

    Like

    • Thank you, Ray. As you well know, even the use of the name Republican is an outright lie. A portmanteau of (Latin) Rei – things, concerns; and Publica – of the people. The Republican party holds the concerns only of a small group of would-be oligarchs while duping the masses into supporting a cabal which would condemn them to servitude.

      Now they have created an unavoidable crisis: either way the “Supreme Court” rules on Roe V. Wade there will be an uprising, and violence will come from the Right Wing either protesting the outcome or trying to suppress peaceful protests from the Left Wing. This may be larger and more serious than anything we have seen before.

      Like

  7. THIS JUST IN:

    One of the world’s oldest and most well-known medical journals published an editorial on Thursday warning that if the U.S. Supreme Court were to confirm Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, “women will die.”
    “The fact is that if the U.S. Supreme Court confirms its draft decision, women will die,” the Lancet said in its editorial. “The Justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion, they will only succeed in ending safe abortion. Alito and his supporters will have women’s blood on their hands.”
    The 199-year-old journal argues that Alito’s “shocking, inhuman, and irrational” draft opinion “utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion.”
    “Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually,” the editorial stated. “Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe — that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.”
    In the United States, the Lancet notes, Black women have an unintended pregnancy rate double that of non-Hispanic white women and a maternal mortality rate almost three times higher than for white women.
    “These sharp racial and class disparities need urgent solutions, not more legal barriers,” the editorial said.
    “If the Court denies women the right to safe abortion,” the Lancet concluded, “it will be a judicial endorsement of state control over women — a breathtaking setback for the health and rights of women, one that will have global reverberations.”
    Demonstrators in support of reproductive rights march following a protest vigil outside Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s home in Alexandria, Va., on May 9. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)
    The publication of the editorial comes amid nationwide protests by abortion rights advocates over the initial draft majority opinion, which was published by Politico earlier this month. The report suggested that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
    Polls show that most Americans would object to such a move.
    According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, just 31% of U.S. adults say Roe should be overturned. In contrast, nearly twice as many Americans see abortion as “a constitutional right that women in all states should have some access to” (56%) and say the procedure should be legal in all or most cases (55%).
    Hundreds of thousands of advocates for reproductive rights are expected to take part in demonstrations in dozens of U.S. cities on Saturday.

    Like

    • Dana permalink

      Thanks for this update, Marco. It is critical to remember the statement you included from the Lancet, “The Justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion, they will only succeed in ending safe abortion….”

      Like

    • Dana permalink

      From Tilly in Canada:

      “This is absolutely right Marco! Not only will the striking down of Roe vs Wade NOT end abortion, as you stated, it will just cause women to be forced to seek unsafe alternatives. Not only that, if they need medical attention because the procedure has gone wrong, they will be hesitant or unlikely to seek treatment at an ER because not only could they be refused treatment, but they could also be criminally charged. It is insanity!”

      Like

      • Thank you, Tilly. I must first mention that the piece I added as Just In is a news release from Yahoo News. I thought it specified that in the copy, but perhaps not. But you are right; it is insanity, at least on the part of the mob. Worse yet, I suspect this may be a concerted effort to stir up violent chaos before the upcoming elections in order to show Biden and the Democratic administration incompetent to manage social order. This would hand the House of Representatives and the Senate to the Republicans, and likely the Presidency in a couple of years. In short, it would be the end of democracy and a descent into the most powerful dictatorship the world has yet seen.

        Like

        • Dana permalink

          That is a chilling outlook Marco, and I have no doubt it can and may happen. Most of the time I feel powerless and helpless against it.

          Like

          • Thank you, Dana. Sadly, that’s exactly how the cabal wants you to feel. I expect we will see an increase in “civil disobedience” cases. In the meantime, I’ll just go back to reading my banned book.

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  8. Thanks, Dana. Of the medical journals I read regularly The Lancet is at the top of my list. The Republicans are acting as if they WANT to cause mass chaos, so they can depict Biden and the Democrats as ineffective leading up to the coming elections. If this is the plan, they are engaging in a violently criminal tactic and they should be disbanded and outlawed.

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  9. After many days of reading and thinking about this, I am still not sure I can express myself adequately on what is a very complex subject. The bottom line is that I consider myself to be Pro-choice, and that choice is not mine to make for other people. Ideally, pregnancy should be a joyous occasion, but we do not live in a perfect world, and there are many times in which abortion (while the idea is rarely ideal) is a viable and appropriate decision. You have clearly defined these situations, and while abortion is not always the only solution to the problems, none of us has the right to judge those who choose it. I can’t imagine it is ever a decision which is come to lightly. I do believe that counselling should be an option for those who need or desire it, but it should never be mandatory; to make it so would add to the emotional burden of what is already a terrible situation.

    The political ramifications of the current Supreme Court attack on Roe v Wade cannot be overstated. Whether or not they are successful in their efforts, the timing of such is bound to have some effect on the upcoming mid-term elections. If the court wins, not only will women lose what is and should remain a right, but it will demonstrate the strength of the conservative (nee Republican/Fascist) faction of those in power. If they are stopped in their efforts, I can only imagine how they will portray those whose efforts brought theirs to an end. The truth is, I can’t bring myself to express it for fear that the universe will hear my fears and think them my desires.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. It is evident that you devoted serious and balanced thought to this topic, and have done so long before now. I have a sense that the feelings you express are indeed held by many. Unfortunately, our society has become one in which expression of these feelings is considered dangerous. This seems to be one of those times when it is evident that the placement of power over many in the hands of a few has become an existential threat. I would say that knowing the area where you reside inspires caution in me for your safety, but that concern is too focused in light of the violence which appears so readily distributed throughout the country.

      Like

      • I was raised to think and act conservatively until life taught me better. I am more worried for you than I believe you have reason to fear for my safety. I am surrounded by those whose beliefs do not echo my own, but I’ve learned what to say and how to say it to make my point without putting myself in danger. You and I share the tendency to keep our enemies closer, but you are far more vocal and more visible. Take care my friend. Rose

        Like

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