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Abortion in America: a new perspective

Uploaded: Jul 20, 2021
I have never quite understood why the issue of abortion has suddenly erupted into a national issue across America, requiring politicians and presidents to state their views, and candidates to take their stands on whether they are pro-abortion or pro -choice.

For me, it has always seemed a personal decision, something a pregnant woman, or a couple, should decide for themselves. But now it is so different -- it has become a religious/political litmus test.

Why does a government, or state leaders, have the right to deny women access to abortion clinics, to determine what women do about a baby-to-be? Many state leaders are now competing with other state leaders to enact numerous rules on where, how and when a pregnant woman should have an abortion – if at all. Women can’t decide about their own bodies. I can’t think of any parallel rules that exist for men about their bodies – like banning a vasectomy or limiting the purchase of condoms or Viagra. Women had to get a prescription for birth control pills.

Given the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the United State has allowed abortions for years.

I recently read a fascinating and significant op-ed column in the NYT by Gary Wills, a prominent professor of history at Northwestern University, who discusses the current angst toward abortion. He is the author of 50 books on Catholicism, the history of Christianity, and American history and politics.

I will quote him at length, because he gave me an entirely new view on abortion I have never read before. Wills writes:

“What is the worst crime a society can commit? Some people (I among them) would say the Holocaust, the cold methodical murder of six million people just for being Jews.
“But some Catholics and evangelicals say they know of an even greater crime — the deliberate killing of untold millions of unborn babies by abortion. They have determined that a fetus is a person and abortion is therefore murder. This is a crime of such magnitude that some Catholic bishops are trying to deny the reception of Holy Communion by the president of the United States for not working to prevent it.

“No one told Dante that this was the worst crime, or he would have put abortionists, not Judas, in the deepest frozen depths of his Inferno. But in fact, he does not put abortionists anywhere in the eight fiery tiers above the deepest one of his Hell.

“This is not a singular omission. No one told “Matthew” or “Mark” or “Luke” or “John” or Paul, or any other New Testament author, that he should condemn this sin of all sins. Nor did any author of the Old Testament raise this alarm, with the result that we do not have Moses or Jesus on record as opposing abortion. Nor did any of the major definitive creeds.

“In 1930, Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Casti Connubii, forbade all ways to prevent procreation, lumping them together with the condemnation of Onan, who prevents his widowed sister-in-law from childbirth by coitus interruptus. But the Vatican was embarrassed by scholars who noted that what was attacked there was a violation of the duty of Levirate marriage, to continue his brother’s line. The Vatican has never again tried to connect abortion with Scripture. “

I, myself, went through a transitional thought period about abortion. In my younger years, I was very absolute, courtesy of the Catholic church. Abortion is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Then I decided my views should not predominate over others’ concerns, so I said I couldn’t have an abortion, but I understood why others may want or need one. And now I am out of my absolutist stage and think having an abortion is simply an individual’s or a couple’s right to decide.

One particular event in Phoenix, AZ, helped with my new decision. A woman with four kids had another pregnancy – an ectopic one. Doctors told her she and her baby could absolutely not survive. Either abort the baby, or, if she does not do that and comes to term, both will die.

The woman was in a Catholic hospital, run by nuns, and the nun CEO decided the doomed fetus can be removed. The doctors totally agreed and it occurred. The mother lived; the fetus died.

The local bishop was aghast that an “abortion” occurred, and not only removed the nun from her CEO job at the hospital, but excommunicated her.

Evidently, he thought abortion was such a sin that two people -- the unborn baby and the mother of four -- both should die, which, by the way, would result in four kids without a mother.

What kind of a moral decision is that?

It’s not. He wanted two to die because of h his church’s rules. I thought morality was trying to save lives, and not let some people die because of church rules. It was an absurd decision.

But this righteous feeling in America by some church groups, particularly the evangelicals and Catholics, that abortion is the greatest sin is plunging forward. Just think of the recent Catholic bishops’ conference whose majority members decided to draft a document that would result in denying communion to President Biden
because of his stand that an abortion is an individual decision.

If Wills is right, and I think he is, if neither Moses nor the Old nor New Testament, nor Jesus, nor other religions, mentioned abortion as a terrible wrong, then why are some of our churches and the anti-abortionists and pro-lifers imposing a new standard on our society today – one that proclaims abortion is the greatest evil?

I don’t buy it.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Common sense, a resident of another community,
on Jul 20, 2021 at 4:04 pm

Common sense is a registered user.

[Post removed; post links to reliable sources that support your assertion.]

Posted by Common sense, a resident of another community,
on Jul 20, 2021 at 7:01 pm

Common sense is a registered user.

Recent state laws broadening grounds for legal abortion include so-called late-term options, extending to third trimester [JAMA: Web Link New York Times: Web Link Wikipedia also has extensive bibliography of the *medical* literature under "Late termination of pregnancy"]. These changes became a focal point for conservative critics, particularly since 2019 (the NYT article addresses that; other examples are many, your site allows only one more link: Web Link ).

These developments seem to me to be a factor in "the issue of abortion suddenly erupt[ing] into a national issue" so I wondered why your essay didn't touch on them.

Posted by Novelera, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 20, 2021 at 7:54 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

My view has always been: If you don't like abortion, don't have one. If you are a man who doesn't like abortion, convince your partner and/or wife not to have one with moral arguments. That's it. Pro-Choice groups are NOT out in the streets demanding that Catholic women have abortions. The Pregnancy Crisis Centers are readily available to convince any young woman who shows up NOT to have an abortion. If she's convinced, then she's made HER choice to carry the pregnancy to term.

For other women who don't want to have a child at this stage in their lives, or during any stage of life at all, abortion should be legal and readily available.

Posted by Terrence MacCafrey, a resident of Community Center,
on Jul 21, 2021 at 8:51 am

Terrence MacCafrey is a registered user.

"Be fruitfuit and MULITPLY" for there is omnipotence and more potential incoming revenue for the Church by adopting this position. In other words, join the club and help perpetuate the dogma.

Men also need to take responsibility for birth control as the burden should not rest fully with the woman.

It has been mentioned that, "children are god's curse for having sex"...I believe it was Al Bundy.

So speaking for myself, I chose to get a vasectomy at 28 as I also believe in another adage, "children are great, as long as they are someone else's".

Besides...there are enough people in this world already and I have no delusions of ancestral legacy or adding another branch to a nondescript family tree.

Lastly, there is also nothing in the Bible about men getting 'clipped' and it being sinful.

Posted by StarSpring, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jul 21, 2021 at 8:41 pm

StarSpring is a registered user.

Nobody cared about abortion until the conservatives hit upon it as being yet another way to market themselves. There are -far- more miscarriages and the conservatives are strangely silent on the issue. All those unbaptized babies...

Posted by StarSpring, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jul 21, 2021 at 8:48 pm

StarSpring is a registered user.

@Common sense,

Please address recent legislation denying women access to abortions' before they even know they are pregnant. Do you have a middle ground?

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 22, 2021 at 11:35 am

Bystander is a registered user.

We all know that it takes two to make a baby. As a result this is not just a "women's" issue but a people issue.

We all know that reducing the number of abortions should be done through prevention and education. Unfortunately there is a big gap in education. The idea that teaching the act of intercourse can produce a pregnancy and therefore contraception needs to be taught is done reasonably well. What is not done well is teaching what happens after conception. The numbers of women who get pregnant even when wanting a child who claim they do not know what is happening inside their bodies is amazing. The idea that a fetus is not a life until after birth and suddenly becomes one through the birth canal is commonplace.

I would strongly suggest that our high school biology courses and sex ed courses taught baby/fetus development. Learning that a heartbeat can be heard at 6 weeks, genitals and finger/toe nails are developed at 10 weeks, that a woman can feel the baby kick at 16 weeks and that with modern medicine a baby/fetus can be operated on in utero at 20 weeks, and it is possible to survive at 24 weeks, should be common knowledge.

We are failing all people, men and women, when these facts are not taught in school. Making informed decisions before sexual intercourse is not happening. Making informed decisions before abortion is not happening. Explaining that an abortion is removing pregnancy tissue is taking away the dignity that all of us have had before birth.

If the facts were known better, the arguments for and against would be better understood and the politics would not be so divisive.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Jul 22, 2021 at 1:19 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

A very difficult, personal decision.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jul 22, 2021 at 11:51 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"He wanted two to die because of h his church's rules. I thought morality was trying to save lives, and not let some people die because of church rules. It was an absurd decision."

The Catholic Church is all about its rules in their myriad rigid forms. It sadly has nothing else to offer.

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