Whose Life?

By Judy Andreas

During the winter months, I keep my radio dial set to the local station. I like to stay on top of the snow, if you get my drift.
The morning radio show is a potpourri of news, weather, traffic and calls from listeners. Recently, an upcoming "snow event" was obscured by a virtual blizzard of callers discussing "The Annual March For Life." I must admit I was ignorant about the topic but there was definitely something appealing about a march for life. It was certainly preferable to a "march for death."
During the days of the Vietnam War, I had been possessed of a touch of "march madness" and had joined many a protest in my small effort to stand up and be counted. And, when the war ended, I felt that we had had an impact on ending an abomination.
Last year, as the drums of war began beating once more, I attended a huge march in New York City. It was part of a worldwide demonstration against the pending invasion of Iraq. And yet, despite the vast sea of faces in many cities across the world, Bush and Company began another abomination.
Cynicism encountered helplessness and I questioned "what's the point? And so, even though more demonstrations followed, I stayed home, the words of an old Phil Ochs song "I Ain't Marching Anymore," spinning on my mental turntable. I put away my fife and drum and hung up my marching shoes.
However, on this frigid winter day in January of 2005, the "March for Life" had aroused my curiosity. I tuned my attention to the flurry of radio callers.
The Annual March For Life is an event in which people protest the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe V Wade decision.....a decision which recognized abortion as a constitutional right. And when that decision was made, a raging controversy was born. On one side of the issue was the Pro Life faction who felt that abortion was murder and that it was their duty to stop the slaughter. In opposition, was the Pro Choice crowd who argued that the ultimate decision about childbirth should rest with the mother who housed the baby for nine months. And, if Mom decided to keep the child, the attachment would not be severed with the cutting of the umbilical cord.
Which position was correct? Is abortion murder? When does life begin?
Unfortunately, there is no consensus of when human personhood starts. Even if there were, there is no agreement on the conditions under which an abortion should be allowed.
Science can tell us, with increasing detail, the processes that start with a sperm and ovum and end up with a newborn baby. However, science cannot tell us if the fetus has a soul. Science cannot tell us when the products of conception becomes a person. Science cannot inform us as to whether a zygote should be given a full set of human rights. These are questions with philosophical, religious and political aspects. Science cannot contribute much towards resolving them.
The callers on the radio show had expressed anger at Planned Parenthood for their role in terminating pregnancies. I was surprised, however, to learn that Margaret Sanger, founder of the American Birth Control League (now Planned Parenthood), opposed abortion. She lamented the resort of poor people to "the most barbaric method" of family planning, "the killing of babies -- infanticide â¤" abortion." (My Fight for Birth Control, 1931) Sanger told clients in her first clinic that "abortion was the wrong way -- no matter how early it was performed it was taking a life." (An Autobiography, 1938)
Another issue that further muddied the waters of clarity was the effect of abortion on the mother. What was the psychological impact of such an experience?
Simone de Beauvoir, the French Existentialist writer and social essayist supported the legalization of abortion, although she vividly described its emotional damage and injustice to women: "Men tend to take abortion lightly; to realize the values involved. The woman who has recourse to abortion is disowning feminine values, her values...Women learn to believe no longer in what men say...the one thing they are sure of is this rifled and bleeding womb, these shreds of crimson life, this child that is not there." (The Second Sex, 1952)
Although the heated and sometimes violent debate rages on, one thing is obviously clear. What starts as a friendly encounter between a sperm and an egg, over a nine month period wondrously develops into a person. And usually, sometime during the ninth month, nature evicts a living, breathing baby from Hotel Mom. Will there be a loving, happy family to welcome the new arrival or will it find itself sliding into the abyss of the unwanted and unloved?
The issue grew more perplexing. My position as a "fence sitter" had been uncomfortably assumed. And as I sat perched on the spokes of indecision, I listened to the arguments coming from both sides. People recalled the days of illegal abortions which fell disproportionately on the rich and the poor. Those with money would leave the country, if need be, to terminate a pregnancy. The poor, on the other hand, were often subjected to back alley butchers.
Speaking by telephone, as the protesters gathered in the biting cold for their 2005 anti- abortion rally, President Bush said that although outlawing abortion remains a distant goal, it is one that seems to be moving slowly into view. "The America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed . . . in life and protected in law, may still be some ways away," Bush said. "But even from the far side of the river . . . we can see its glimmerings." <snip> "In our time, respect for the right to life calls us to defend the sick and the dying, persons with disabilities and birth defects, and all who are weak and vulnerable. And this self-evident truth calls us to value and to protect the lives of innocent children waiting to be born."
I read his words with shock and awe. Respect for life? What about the trail of corpses we are leaving in the Middle East? Didn't they have a right to life? What about the adults and the children savagely and needlessly murdered? Didn't they have a right to life? What about the babies who are being born with birth defects and no quality of life for however long they do survive? Didn't they have a right to life? For those who have ears to hear, reports are available of Iraqi babies being born with hideous deformities; deformities caused by the depleted uranium that was once called air. Babies are being born with one eye.....babies are being born with half a brain. Didn't they have a right to life?
Perhaps it is our duty to protect the unborn....but shouldn't we have some allegiance to the already born? How can people, who profess a reverence for life, justify killing innocent people in other countries? Aren't they also entitled to the right to life? Perhaps you can shine the flashlight of understanding on my confusion. Perhaps you can explain to me why, at the March for Life in 2005, a telephone call from the bomber of Afghanistan and Iraq pleaded for the sanctity of life.
If we are going to talk about protecting life, we cannot limit that protection to the fetus in utero. We must extend that protection across the boundaries of race, religion and geography as well. If we are going to talk about the sacredness of must be for ALL life.
Copyright 2005 Judy Andreas



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