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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In Certain Cases

Among the pro-life crowd there are some gradations. That's why Rand Paul is in trouble. It is, indeed, a very rare pro-lifer who would stand on "Never ever abort ever". There are, for most, exceptions. We all know the standard exceptions available. Pick one or more from the following list: rape, incest, threat to the health or life of the mother. Pro-lifers might agree to one, two, or more of those. "But we're pro-life," we will assure you.

The argument for the last one, the threat to the life of the mother, can potentially be made from a pro-life perspective. If the mother's life (not health, but life) is threatened, it can be argued that killing the threat to that life is self-defense, justifiable homicide, something like that. That is, if life is threatened, pro-life can consistently seek to protect that life. We're all pretty much agreed that a woman who shoots her would-be assassin is not a murderer. In the same way, killing a baby who would kill the mother might be a consistent pro-life position.

Now, if you're going with the health of the mother, you're no longer going to be able to stand solidly on the pro-life side. First, "health" is a nebulous concept. Physical health? Mental health? Emotional health? How about educational health? "If I have that baby, I won't be able to complete my education." And what constitutes a "threat"? A woman who feels like it is? And how does a health threat (as opposed to a threat to life) constitute pro-life? You might have to return your pro-life card if you're going to stand there.

The other two, rape and incest, don't fare any better. Indeed, do you know where they came from? The early cases of exceptions in cases of rape or incest were introduced by pro-abortion advocates prior to the Roe v. Wade ruling. It was their aim to undermine the "human being in the womb" position. And, in all honesty, a lot of pro-life folk have bought it.

It is an effective strategy. It is a no-win question. The pro-abortion side will hypothesize, "So, would you allow abortion in the case of a girl who was raped?" The pro-lifer would give an ardent, "No." "How heartless!!!" And it really sounds like it. "Oh, wait," the pro-lifer, recognizing how that sounds, will say, "let me answer again. Yes!" "Oh, I see," the pro-abortionist counters, "so it is a baby in the womb if it is consensual sex, but not if it is not consensual?" And the pro-lifer loses again.

Some pro-lifers, seeking to avoid this no-win, have opted for the, "You don't kill the victim of a crime to protect another victim." Yes, true, but it still sounds so ... heartless. "So, you would force your 15-year-old daughter to bear that rapist's child and raise it? And you call yourself compassionate?" Yes, it is necessary to couch these arguments in emotional terms because rape is a bad thing. No one disagrees. Bad. And, of course, the questions are always asked in odd forms like that. Because one easy response would be, "No! I'd have her bear the baby and then she could give it up for adoption." But that's still not satisfactory.

We need to be careful. If we are pro-life, we are in favor of human life. That means the life that might cause physical hardships (without death) and the life that might have resulted from rape or incest all need to be protected. But we need to be careful in that position that we don't come across as heartless. Rape, incest, and threats to health are all very bad things. We need to demonstrate compassion in those things. We just don't want to perpetuate the hardships by killing someone. That just doesn't make sense. And if you're one of those "pro-life" folk who favors killing babies in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the mother's health (not life), you may need to rethink your position, because it cannot be classified as pro-life.


Craig said...

I agree with you that life is life and that the situation that caused the life to begin does not negate the fact that there is a new life.

I would also suggest that the context of these "exceptions" is almost always in the political realm. As a purely political position I would have no problem with supporting a law that banned abortions in all cased except your three instances. While, I realize that this still allows for the taking of innocent life, I could live with the fact that such a law would ban 99+% of all abortions. From a political point of view that is satisfactory. It the same time, it would allow the pro-life folks to focus on how to best support those who are pregnant from rape and/or incest.

I'm not disagreeing with your broader point, just suggesting that in the political realm 99% of a loaf might be better than none.

Stan said...

I understand your position ("99% of a loaf might be better than none") and agree that some is better than none. It does, however, undercut any argument that would lead to the 100% we'd be hoping for. Indeed, if we are to defeat Roe v. Wade, it will need to be done in the same way that the Dred Scott ruling was done -- by Constitutional Amendment. But if we cannot provide a coherent argument for such an amendment, I don't see how we can get such an amendment.

It is, however, a tough question.

Craig said...


I agree, that in terms of the goal to eliminate abortions, this does not get there. I'm not sure that making abortion illegal in those few cases is the best answer either. I think that if the 99% are eliminated then we have room to effectively minister to the 1% who actually are in the situation. I'd venture to guess that by ministering to the few women who are actually pregnant through rape/incest that loving supportive persuasion might be more effective than simply passing a law.

Stan said...

But, as you seem to agree, that's not pro-life.

I'm not sure I agree, either, about ministering. As it turns out, most who have abortions are not as interested in terminating the pregnancy, but in terminating the baby. For instance, offer them free prenatal care and a home for the baby afterwards, and they'll refuse. I suspect that if you offered a method whereby the pregnancy could be terminated but the baby kept alive and given away for adoption, that, too, would be refused. When they want it terminated, they want it dead. Or they'd give the baby up for adoption. Ministering to them, then, is unlikely to help in most cases. (That is, a change of heart, not laws or circumstances, would be required.)

Craig said...

I guess I'd agree that it's not 100% pro life. I'm not arguing that everyone would be receptive to options beyond abortion, I'm suggesting that it might be more effective to (in the very limited circumstances we're talking about) focus on other methods rather than simply making it illegal.

We do seem to agree that from a purely political standpoint a ban for everything except rape, incest, and the life of the mother would be significant step in the right direction.

Stan said...

Craig, I understand that you're looking for the "best scenario" here. So I'm not really arguing with you. But I will point out that the position -- "Decrease it as much as we can" -- is not pro-life, but anti-abortion. I am pro-life. If they were able to terminate a pregnancy without killing a child, I'd have nothing more to say on the subject because I'm pro-life, not anti-abortion.

That being said, with or without an amendment to save the children or laws to ban abortion, ministering to the victims of rape, incest, and other injuries and crimes is essential and necessary. I would hope that no Christians would withhold from victims that ministry because "I'm pro-life" because the two are not connected.

Dan Trabue said...

Your "side" might be right IF you were the one and only ones who got to determine the meaning of "pro-life." But, like "marriage," the meaning of the term does not belong to one set of ideologues.

Stan said...

It's abundantly clear that "pro-life" can mean all sorts of things. I, for instance, am ardently "pro-life" meaning I like pancakes a lot.

Thank you, Humpty Dumpty.

David said...

You see, Dan T, that was part of Stan's point. Pro-life HAS a meaning, and just because someone calls themselves "pro-life" doesn't mean they really are. Just because someone claims they are something doesn't mean they truly are. There are "Christians" out there that don't believe God is real, or that Christ was anything more than either a good story or a good man. Christian has a definition. Anything outside of that definition is not Christian, despite what they may want to say. They may even truly think they are. It is like identity theft, there is only one of you, but someone can claim they are you (changing the definition of you), but they aren't really you. And there are those like Craig, who are pro-life ideologically and anti-abortion politically. Unfortunately the two can get intermingled over time and one can go from pro-life to anti-abortion and not realize it. If any word can have any meaning we wish to apply to it, discussion, debate, and argumentation are all useless.

Stan said...

Thanks, David. You understood.

It's interesting, in thinking over Dan's suggestion that "pro-life" may have a variety of meanings, that this is exactly the approach that Sarah Weddington (the pro-abortion lawyer) took in Roe v. Wade. "You know," she told the court, "no one is exactly sure when life began and life has been a continuum until now, so we can't say when life begins." It is a classic logical fallacy -- equivocation. "Life" can mean "all that lives" or it can mean something more specific. Most normal people who say they are "pro-life" are, in fact, being very specific. It is not "pro-all-life" as in "from the beginning of time" or "plants and animals and everything that lives." It is pro-human-life. Weddington took "life" as in all that lives and then, with the same word, indicated "life" as in human beings. Equivocation. Logical fallacy.

But in today's post-modern loose use of language, there are those that will subvert the clear and normal understanding and take it to mean "all life" or even "quality of life" when no one intends such aberrations. It is precisely why it ends up impossible to discuss things with people who insist on using multiple meanings of common terms.

Dan Trabue said...

Okay, I'll play:

What is the ONE APPROVED BY GOD definition of "pro-life"?

And where do you get that ONE definition from?

Stan said...

Interesting approach, Dan. I have not interjected religious views in any of my posts on abortion. Not once. I've simply offered science and reason. And I'm using the standard and only definition of "pro-life" that I've heard anyone else use on the subject. So when did it become "the ONE APPROVED BY GOD definition"?

And since terms can mean whatever you want them to mean, on what possible basis can any meaningful dialog take place?

"Pro-life" in the common vernacular means that there is a fundamental belief that human life intrinsically has value. I was not aware that this common understanding of the term was either religious in nature or even in contention. But I suppose you're welcome to have it mean whatever you want.

Dan Trabue said...

Okay, fair enough, set aside God if you want...

Then where is the support that your definition is the one and only one approved definition?

That is, where is the support that "pro-life" which you define as the "fundamental belief that human life intrinsically has value..." must by definition INCLUDE the tagline "...and thus, MUST exclude all possibilities of using the medical procedure known as abortion" and that it includes "...but taking human life in wartime or of murderers is an acceptable exception of finding intrinsic value in human life..."?

Do you see how you're defining it in one specific way and then claiming that your definition is the one and only acceptable one? On what basis would you make such a claim, because it seems to be based on human arrogance, rather than rational consideration. But you tell me.

Stan said...

As I said, you're welcome to have it mean whatever you want. I didn't make up the definition. I didn't manufacture the science that indicates that the starting phase of human life is the embryo and everything that follows is simply various stages of human life. I didn't decide that human life has value. Indeed, I never said that valuing human life must necessarily exclude all possibilities of the procedure known as "abortion" (because I think I made it clear that a pro-life position could allow for the killing of a pre-born baby in the case of the threat to the mother's life). Nor was I even beginning to take on the question of wartime or capital punishment. (Note the subject: abortion.)

You've managed to redefine "marriage" as you see fit. You've now managed to define "pro-life" as you see fit, standing staunchly in favor of "a woman's right to choose" while opposing defending one's country with force (while also defending one's right to defend one's family with lethal force). You've even managed to redefine the point of the topic (abortion) and the point of the discussion (correlating "pro-life" with exceptions to abortion). All of this without offering a single reasonable alternative (or rational defense of your insane position of "it's immoral to defend a nation with lethal force but acceptable to defend my home with the same"). And we haven't even started into anything approaching religious views (because then you'd have to explain how God could morally ordain the death penalty for murderers which you can't do with your two-sided position).

If it is arrogant to take a position, you are supremely humble because you choose to pick at opinions with which you disagree without offering a reason or alternative or even taking a position. All we get from you is, "Stan is wrong" and I guess that must be humble and not arrogant in your view because that is not the only acceptable opinion to have, right?

No, I don't see how defining "pro-life" as everyone defines it is wrong, confusing, or even ill-advised. And you haven't offered an alternative, so neither do you.

Dan, you've demonstrated my point. Dialog with someone who will not and apparently cannot define terms in any rational manner or allow that someone may have an opinion different from yours without being classified as arrogant is impossible. I posted your comments because you were making my point. Thanks. Go away.

Dan Trabue said...

You're not answering the question I asked.

I asked, "where is the support that your definition is the one and only one approved definition?"

It appears that perhaps you're backing off from saying that you hold the One True Definition, is that right?

You say...

You've now managed to define "pro-life" as you see fit, standing staunchly in favor of "a woman's right to choose" while opposing defending one's country with force

Where have I done this? In fact, is it not the real world case that I have NOT done this? I have not defined Pro-Life at all, have I? You want to back off that false statement, Stan, so dialog can continue in an honest manner?

In truth, "pro-life" is a political term that has been malleable. MW defines it simply as "anti-abortion," but that's only because that's how the Right has defined it and they've accepted that definition.

But then, I'm "anti-abortion," as a general rule. I'm certainly anti-gov't-imposed abortion. I'm anti-you-deciding-for-me abortion. But I'm not opposed to all abortions in all circumstances, nor are the vast majority of conservatives. Why do you get to decide for everyone else the One and Only Way to define this political term?

That is my question to you.

Given your response, I guess you are backing away and you're saying that you DON'T get to choose for everyone else the One and Only Way to define it?

Stan said...

You're amazing, Dan. You get to come in here and bully your way across the Internet all the while posturing yourself as the "more tolerant", "more reasonable" one. In this example, I'm using the only known definition of "pro-life" that I've heard anyone use anywhere and you're accusing me of "not answering the question".

No, I'm not backing off. It's the only definition I know. It's the only definition I've heard. And you've offered no alternatives, suggesting that it's the only definition you have. I know of only one definition. Am I saying it's the "one and only one approved definition"? It's the only one I know, the only one I've heard, the only one I'm aware of. Who "approves" it? What authority determines, "Yes, that definition aligns with our official position"? MW? I don't even know who that is.

But, you're right. You haven't defined "pro-life". You do not defend life, arguing instead that a woman should be free to murder the child in her womb if she and her physician so choose, so I can say you're not.

Look, Dan, this is a blog. As in your blog and anyone else who has a blog, it is the forum in which I declare my opinion. I back it up as best I can with reason and logic here or with Scripture elsewhere, but it is my blog, my opinion. No one is arriving at my blog and saying, "Speak, O Lord, and tell me what to believe." I don't actually know a single person who agrees with everything I've written. It's my opinion. That's the nature of a blog. I'm not telling you what to believe. If you want to define "pro-life" as "It means it's wrong to kill unless it's in defense of my own family or a wish of a mother with her physician's approval," you can. I will point out that it's irrational, but that's merely my opinion. I am deciding for no one else what the term ("pro-life", "marriage", "Christian", etc.) means. I am telling readers what I think it means or what I mean when I use them. If you really can't understand that (and clearly you never have), I would recommend for your own sake that you stop visiting the Internet because, if you're going to retain your strange view of what it means to state one's opinion, there are a lot of demagogues out there ... you included.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


There is one major theological area where you and I will disagree (that Calvinist thing), but otherwise I have found your commentaries to always be well thought out, logical, rational, and sometimes downright brilliant - and I wish I had the brain which came up with those ideas!

I am impressed with the patience with which you deal with trolling Trabue. Your responses were again rational, logical, kind, and understandable by all but the most closed-minded arrogant trolls.

You are right - Trabue is a bully. And there is certainly nothing humble about him, as he demands everyone agree with him or it is THEY who are in error!

Which is why I banned him long ago. He was wasting way too much of my time.

Stan said...

Glenn, thank you for the kind words. I told Dan "I don't actually know a single person who agrees with everything I've written." Your caveat, "one major theological area where you and I will disagree," demonstrates it. I have relatives that read this blog and even they don't arrive at 100%. Conversely, I have preachers, theologians, and ministers that I respect immensely, but none of which I agree with 100%. I don't think it's expected since no human is "God-breathed", just Scripture.

I have a spectrum of readers, some of which agree with me rarely and some of which agree with me almost entirely, but none all the time. As it should be. That's okay with me. I'll keep doing the best I can presenting things as I see them and edifying whom I can while upsetting those who disagree. What more can we expect, eh?

David said...

Even your own sons don't 100% agree with you, maybe 99%, but certainly not 100%. :)

Stan said...

I'm pretty sure if you asked my youngest son, it wouldn't be close to 99%. :)