Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Warped Plank

I'm not sure when I was arrested by the fundamental oddity of a Party which fetishizes the transcendent Goodness of the Individual (or groups of Individuals such as "families") over the collective wrongness of "Government" should spend such a vast amount of time and energy castigating a medical procedure.

But certainly, the nomination of Sarah Palin for VP made me think about it. Again.

Just to be clear; here's the Clif's Notes version of the 2008 GOP Platform:
"We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.
We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it.
We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.
We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement.
We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives."
Pretty stock company GOP stuff, and yet...

Deciding to have a child...or not; to end a pregnancy by aborting the baby might just be the most personal and intimate decision a man and woman, or a woman herself, can make. A sit-up-nights, wrenchingly emotional decision that will determine the course of those two or three lives. One could imagine that a Party whose bedrock philosophy is supposed to be that "you and I" know better than some faceless "government" what to do with everything from our money to our land would feel the same way about our bodies and our lives. So surely, at most, the furthest such a Party that felt strongly about "innocent human life" would intrude into our lives would be the second of the points above - no public funding for abortions. That removes the "government" from the issue altogether.

So no public support...and no public condemnation, either. Mojo and I get to be the ones to decide whether to bear - and, possibly, spend the rest of our lives caring for - that profoundly compromised Down's Syndrome kid.

Or not.

But the GOP doesn't stop there. What's all this the other stuff, say, the Constitutional amendment about "human life"? Huh? What about human life? That it's complicated? That sometimes it's lemons, sometimes lemonade? Or...could it be that the GOP desires the federal government, the government they claim elsewhere is best off as far out of my business as possible, to define the biological moment of citizenship? At, say, "conception"? the first cell division? Zygote implantation?

This is where I think the GOP stops being just a political party and becomes the American version of a European Christian Democratic party, the political wing of conservative religion. There's no real NEED for this biotheology. The simplest answer, the best shave of Occam's Razor, was the first: no tax dollars for abortion but no public interference until viability. After all, the GOP version of government isn't going to offer to help us raise this child, right? No preschool funding, no S-CHIP, no "socialized medicine"?

So when you can lift a baby out of Mojo's belly that can breathe on its own (with, of course, the usual 18 years of feeding, diapering, bedtime stories, soccer practice (see, Charles, we DID discuss soccer!) prom dresses, teen pregnancies (right, Sarah Palin?), car keys and groundings) then its a citizen. Until then, its as much a "person" as my foot. Important? Sure! Part of me, part of Mojo, part of our lives? No question! The business of the federal, state or local government if I want my doctor to amputate it because, say, it's cancerous or gangrenous?


This would really be a silly issue if it wasn't for the emotion that is inextricably bound to every human birth, human death and human life. A moment in time when the decent action of anyone NOT connected by ties of blood or love to the three beings involved would be a deeply respectful silence and patience, a patient wait to discover if the couple will return to their lives as two...or three.

This is where by loudly jumping about waving at us and shoving its busybody concerns for "the sanctity of innocent human life" into our lives - on the tendentious grounds that "life begins at conception" - the GOP chooses to place the religious beliefs of others before our own.

And that's theocracy. In the U.S., that's both pointless and mistaken.

Tonight - the Other Big God Plank: Homos!


sheerahkahn said...

"So no public support...and no public condemnation, either."

I think at best, this is the most reasonable position to take, legally.

As for me, I'm an opponent of abortion, mainly because of both my upbringing, and my faith. However, that said, I'm not going to waste my energy supporting legislation to overturn roe v wade.

I've learned a few things while studying history...

I've come to realize that abortion...believe it or not, has been around for about...well, lets see...2500 years, that I know of...so hmm, yeah, don't think a "law" is going to change that historical trend amongst the human population no matter how "enlightened" they view themselves, period.

As to what to do, I found this little piece of information interesting...and unfortunately, I don't have the web link or else I would link it...but a study found that under Bill Clintons Presidency, the number of abortions dropped through the floor, while under George W. Bush's Presidency, it has climbed through the roof.
Which leads me, just on a purely empirical level, that economics has a lot to do with with couples or womens decision to abort.
So, it stands to reason, that if the Republicans and their evangelical support wanted to reduce the number of abortions in the United States, then the best way is to improve the economy of the nation.
But thats just me.

FDChief said...

Sheerah: In the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that early in my first marriage, when I was a grunt just out of the service working as a mechanic's assistant in a tractor shop and my then-wife was in school for a variety of stupid reasons she got pregnant.

That she was working on her certification in a technical field that involved exposure to radiation meant that pregnancy would mean an immediate halt to her studies, a nine-month wait until she could begin - again - and more than a year delay until we could be financially secure meant that the pregnancy was a terrible choice for us. We spent a lot of time and energy in deciding what to do; in the end, she had an abortion.

As long as there are couples, as long as couples are human, couples will be faced with this dilemma. Having a bunch of strangers flapping and honking about "the sanctity of life" and "the rights of the unborn" wouldn't have helped us.

Things like universal medical coverage, and subsidized child care or an "adoption stipend" that would have covered our costs while my ex carried that "sacred" life to term would have helped and would have broadened our "choices".

But to simply wave a law at us that says: bear this child...or else! would have just added another fear and worry on top of all the rest.

And of course, you're right. Humans have been "family planning" since the Paleolithic. We now just have more options than they did then. This disturbs some people, but one wonders how disturbed they would have been at "traditional" customs like infanticide by exposure...

FDChief said...

Oh - and just in case of misapprehension, when I say "stupid reasons" the stupidity was mutual. We were shooting craps with contraception and rolled snake-eyes...

Which brings up the subject of birth control. This, I think, is the car bomb in the parking garage of the GOP's antiabortion rhetoric. A LOT of the same people who want to recriminalize abortion would like to do the same to contraception, and the Repubs grovelling to the antiabortion crowd has always made me nervous about this...slippery slope..?

Meghan H said...

So, maybe it's not enshrined in the official platform, but as you say, contraception is the next target. Many in the far-far-far-right wing of the Repub party want to (apparently) return to the Dark-Age notion that woman is just the vessel for a child, and has no real power or value in and of herself.

We've already seen the cost of birth control go through the roof this year (my personal prescription has gone from $30 to $50 per month in just the past year.)

Also, evidence I've seen from Bush's Dept. of Health & Human Svcs. indicates that making it harder for women to get contraception is what these nutjobs are currently pushing. They're saying they want to honor the wishes of "pharmacists who don't believe in birth control", but I think that's just a smokescreen for wanting to send women back to the 1950s.

My father-in-law was a pharmacist for about 35 years, and he's a Catholic. Although now retired, I'm 99.9% sure he never turned any woman with a birth control prescription away. Because he had a job to do, and he did it. If you can't dispense a legal, life-saving drug, maybe you should find another line of work.

FDChief said...

Meghan: And as I said in the main post - the really irritating thing is the pointlessness of all of this.

If you don't like abortions, don't have one. If you don't like contraception, don't use any. And then stay the hell out of my and/or my spouse's business!

ISTM that the GOP can't have it both ways. Either they're the Grown-up Daddy Party that really believes and acts like they believe that Americans need to be left alone by government to make their own decisions OR we're just sheeple that need a thicket of moral fences and signs telling us where to go and what to do.

But, as I say, I think that on this issue and the gays is where the GOP jumps the shark and becomes the above-board "Party of Conservative Morality" or "Party of Conservative Religion". Any attempt to portray this as anything else is misleading...

Ael said...

In a real sense, choosing when a (egg/fetus/child) becomes a person is arbitrary. Arguments can be made ranging from the time of conception to the time the kid starts paying taxes)

However, that choice has to be made by a society, not an individual.

Alas, different individuals (of good conscience) will draw the line in different places.
(And no, it isn't obvious that "birth" or "viability" is the defining moment).

If you believe in a soul, then the obvious answer to when a person becomes a person, is when the soul shows up. It turns out that it isn't obvious exactly when a soul enters a fetus. So what does a good faith religious person do when they don't know? (Divine scripture isn't much help here.)

The *safe* answer is conception, because it is clear that there is no body (and therefore no soul attached to said) before conception.

Clearly, the more the fetus develops, the more likely it has a soul. (and therefore, aborting it at that point would be "killing a person")

Since society has to draw the line at *some* point (because you can't have one neighbor allowed to shoot their kids before they have names and another one not) you will *always* have a conflict here.

Furthermore by definition, this conflict will always be in deadly earnest. It is one of the prices we pay for religious toleration.

FDChief said...

Furthermore by definition, this conflict will always be in deadly earnest. It is one of the prices we pay for religious toleration.

Absolutely. Which is why, generally, I distrust religions since the first thing a religion does (if it's a really genuine religion) is start a fight with the unbelievers.

But my point here is that the U.S. government was and is supposed to be free of sectarian bias. And government in general is a poor forum for deciding questions about things like "souls". The only issue for governments is "what is the public good"?

Again, I see the validity in arguing against tax monies for abortions. If you think it's wrong you shouldn't have to pay for it (although, in effect, what you're saying isn't "people shouldn't kill their babies" but "POOR people shouldn't kill their babies."). But using government and the law to decide when a fetus becomes a baby, when a person has a soul?


I stand by my first formulation: when you can take it out of a woman's womb and it lives, its a baby, a person that can't be deprived of life without due process. Before - or after, as in the case of comatose grandma whose kids decide when to turn off the respirator - you're a kind of legal and social appendage.

That may be morally uappetizing but I think it's on sounder governmental grounds than writing souls into law. That's the business of priests and people, not governments. And the infuriating thing about the GOP is that they know that, and yet waste a ton of time barkering this issue to bring in the rubes.

Ael said...

Sorry, if you take a baby out and put it on the counter it will die.

They are helpless.
You have to wrap in in a blanket and feed it and do all sorts of stuff.

In a few short years, you will be able take a fertilized egg out and put it into a machine. The machine will keep it warm and feed it and stuff.

By your argument, when that day comes, the fertilized egg will be a person.

FDChief said...

"By your argument, when that day comes, the fertilized egg will be a person."

No, that's the antiabortion argument NOW. My argument is that legal personhood depends on unaided viability. Forget the blankets and the bottle - if you can live without a heart-lung machine or a respirator and four IVs and a dialyzer etc etc then you've got a case. If you're a wholly-owned subsidiary of your mommy, you're still an appendage. You may be a concious appendage, but your mom still has the rights of life-and-death over you. Hopefully your dad gets a vote, too, but the mom is judge, jury and excecutioner (if it comes to that).

If everything was equal we'd never need to have this discussion. Birth control would never fail, parents would always be loving partners able to raise their kids or, at worst, find other loving parents to adopt them. But everything's not equal, and I don't see how trying to punish anyone by trying to pretend they are helps any of us. Look at how much energy we've expended debating this fundamentally unwinnable, deeply individual argument.

I hold no brief for or against abortion: I don't like it, but having resorted to it I'd be a hypocrite to pretend to condemn it or want to ban it. I simply believe that the best position for a democratic, nonsectarian government is OUT of the discussion altogether. We have too much else we're ignoring to spend time fighting over this...

Lisa said...


Really, if you put any of us on the counter, deprived of food, warmth and fluid, we will die. The future embryo machine is not a good argument as that is extreme intervention.

As Chief says, this decision is a strictly personal one, as it always has been. As it stands, matters such as abortion have been constitutionally decided; prior to Roe, the wealthy would take abortion vacations to France, while the poor resorted to self-induced ones, or other butcheries.

The republicans use emotional issues (right-to-die, same-sex marriage, etc.) as distractions from actual political issues.

Ael said...

Sorry folks, the difference between a blanket and the uterine replicator is simply a matter of degree.

Simply because you draw your personal line somewhere doesn't make it "right" or even "obvious" to someone else.

And no, it can't be strictly personal because the state has to decide if a nose exists when you start swinging your fist.