I respect the anti-abortion argument, I guess. I don't agree with it at all, and can't stand when people who support war, death penalties, and starvation are allowed to call themselves "pro-life," but I respect their argument. In theory anyway. So why do their actual arguments have to be so crackpottedly stupid?
In my last post, I wrote something about the abortion argument, as well as mentioning issues with the bible's ambiguity. And this may surprise you, but I often do more research on what I write about than what is included in my posts. Yes, I know that's a complete breach of blogger ethics, but I can't help it. I like to be right about stuff. And so I did research to make sure that I was correct about my claim that the bible doesn't actually prohibit abortion. And what I found was ridiculous.
Of the few anti-abortion websites I visited, I got a lot of huff and bother about why it's wrong to kill people, but they barely touched upon why it's wrong to kill an embryo or fetus. That just seemed to be one of the propositions that you already supported before reading the website, as they really did a piss-poor job of explaining it. And if you're going with the proposition that someone has to already accept your argument before they'll be willing to agree with it, it really doesn't make much sense to make one at all.
In fact, the best argument I found was from a website called The Bible and Abortion, which insisted that abortion is so completely abhorrent that they never even mentioned it in the bible.
As they say:
The very idea of intentionally killing an unborn child—or even worse, killing them by the hundreds and thousands,—is totally foreign to the lives of God's people in the Bible, and so it is never mentioned.
And that's why I never play football. Or cook sushi. Or drive an automobile. Because these practices are so horrible that they couldn't even be mentioned in the bible. But by no means could this be an issue of primitive people who didn't know what an embryo or fetus was, as we all know that the bible was really written by God and not the primitive people who thought they were writing it.
And what's sad is that they spent over 3600 words before they actually got to that pathetic argument. They went on and on tossing out bible passages about how sacred people are and how god loves us, but when it came time to protecting the unborn, that's the best they could do. Telling us that abortion is so evil that God didn't need to actually forbid it. We're talking about the god who went into so much detail as to warn us against eating screech owls and ospreys, yet he can't mention abortion? Really?
And let us not forget that God is supposedly so clever that he wrote secret passages that were only decipherable to future generations, and even then He, in all His greatest, couldn't bother to tell us to not kill embryos. Consider me unconvinced.
Abortion and the Bible
And if you really want to go down the anti-abortion rabbithole, I've got the site for you. This one's called Abortion and the Bible, which is written by a retired physician and current state senator of Tennessee named Raymond A. Finney, Jr., M.D.
And Dr. Finney is just crazy. And his problem is obvious: For how important the abortion issue supposedly is, the bible never really does mention abortion. And so again, he has to spend a lot of time messing around with irrelevant arguments because he doesn't have a specific rule he can cite which allows him to do what he wants to do; namely, insist that we outlaw abortion. If you've got a "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," you go with it. Otherwise, you waste everyone's time by taking passages out of context and hope that nobody's really paying attention.
And the worst part of all, as much as his arguments suggest that we help fetuses, his arguments work much better for helping the people who are already born. And that's just not really what Republicans are about. For as much as they want to help the innocent and the weak, as we've all noticed, that pretty much ends once the person is born. While they insist that fetuses get full rights as humans the moment they're conceived, those rights end for most people right after they pop out. After that, you're on your own.
Here are a few bible passages from that website of what I'm talking about:
Psalm 82:3-4 Defend the weak and the fatherless; maintain rights for the poor and oppressed; rescue the weak and needy, delivering them from the hand of wicked persons.
Proverbs 24:11-12. Rescue those being led to death and slaughter. If you claim ignorance of their deaths, God will know, and He will repay each person for what he or she has or has not done to help those in need.
Proverbs 31:8-9. Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, defend those who cannot defend themselves, and plead the cause of those in need.
Galatians 6:2. Bear each others' burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ.
Exodus 23:7: Do not put an innocent person to death, because God will not acquit the guilty.
Proverbs 6:16-17: There are seven things God hates, one of which is hands that shed innocent blood.
Call me crazy, but I suspect that any Democratic politician who said these things would be enemy #1 to most Republicans. Bearing other people's burdens just doesn't belong in their "ownership" society. Nor do they seem particularly worried about innocent people receiving the death penalty. And unless they'll argue that every person in Iraq deserved to die, they've probably got quite a bit of innocent blood on their hands. That's the thing, it wasn't just Jesus who was a liberal. The Old Testament has some of that stuff too.
The Meaning of Life
And his whole website is just a futile attempt to rationalize his opinion. Like his argument that one feature of an unborn baby is that they are "COMPLETELY FORMED: The entire genetic information this new person will ever receive is present at the moment of conception (egg fertilization). No new life codes will ever be given to this new person."
Completely formed? Is he kidding me? As a parent, I'll tell you straight up that born children are not fully formed. Those suckers pop out and they look like greasy little aliens who are very pissed-off. Even as teenagers, they've got a lot of formation to do and are still pissed off. I'm not sure if Dr. Finney knows what humans are supposed to look like, but childhood is obviously just one of the stages they go through to gain their full functionality. And what is that function? Making more humans. Everything else is just icing.
And the way it works is that we start forming inside the mommies until we get to the point that we're too big to be in there (and it's obvious to anyone who's witnessed childbirth that human heads have clearly gotten too big for the place they're expected to come out of), and then they keep forming on the outside until they're done...and then they start dying. And with any luck, they had a few kids before they're done and those kids aren't too stupid. That's just what it's all about. And again, everything else is just icing.
As a clarifier, I am by no means suggesting that babies or teens be killed because they're not fully formed. I'm just saying that fertilization is just the start of the formation process and not the end. And I'm not sure why anti-abortion folks insist on denying our argument that embryos are not the equivalent of full human beings. There's a point at which they're less than that, and a point at which they become human. And while I can't say exactly where that point is, that doesn't negate my position that there is more to being human than conception. After all, it's my understanding that quite a few eggs get fertilized, but never get implanted; yet no one considers this to be the death of a baby, as they generally don't find out that this happened.
I believe that human life is more than just a collection of cells or mindless life. Most of these people clearly agree with that, as they don't believe that women who have abortions should be prosecuted as murderers. They know that a human life is far more important than that of an embryo or fetus. It's only their rhetoric that suggests these are equivalent, as their position is groundless otherwise.
Knowing God's Will
One of my favorite parts is his section entitled: "Is Abortion God's Will?" Because I thought this was an intriguing question. I mean, how do we know that God doesn't want us to abort babies? Isn't he the omniscient dude who set this all into motion and has some great plan that we're all too stupid to comprehend? Then how are we so sure that the aborted babies aren't supposed to be aborted? Who the hell are we to question what happens? Surely God must know which fetuses are going to be aborted, so perhaps he just doesn't put souls in those. That's how I'd do things, anyway.
And if abortions are a monkey-wrench in God's plan, I can't imagine how this plan could still be operative, as there have been quite a few abortions. In fact, if all wrongful deaths screw-up God's plan, then the plan must have been upset going as far back as the days of Cain and Abel. But if God took these wrongful deaths into consideration, then they must clearly be part of the plan. I fail to see how this can be otherwise.
And what's Finney's answer? I haven't a damn clue. The best I can figure, he just restated the question a few times until he reformed it into the question: "Does abortion please or displease God?" And he doesn't even get around to answering that one. And it is a separate question. Because it's quite possible that God's plan includes things that displease him. After all, it's my understanding that it saddens him when we reject him and go to Hell, yet that's clearly part of his plan as he's the one who set up this system. Even in my own life, it displeases me to have to punish my kids for breaking the rules, but it's part of my plan all the same.
And so Finney completely flubbed the section I was really interested in reading. He really shouldn't even have mentioned it. I mean, this guy insists that "God has a plan for each person's life." And if that's the case, then I can't imagine how that plan couldn't include a few abortions. Again, if God's plan gets screwed up by one abortion, then it really wasn't much of a plan to begin with. But this is clearly an issue that bewilders the doctor, so he just made some noise and moved on.
He has also the obligatory section on "The Power of Language." You know how this one works: Anti-abortion people are the word police and get to decide which words people are allowed to use when discussing the issue. And somehow, it always works out that the words they choose are the ones that make their position sound better. He even skips the "pro-abortion" absurdity and insists that because his position is "pro-life" that we must be "pro-death." I guess I'll just call our side the "pro-intelligence" group and let him decide which group that puts him in.
And then there's the part where he says we should refer to fetuses as babies, even though he admits that fetus is the proper term. Why? Because he knows that "baby" is a loaded term which makes his argument sound better. That's why the term "fetus" only appears five times on his site, two of which were quotes from somebody else, and the other three times when he was telling us to not use the word. In fact, his entire page doesn't mention the words "embryo" or "embryonic" once, despite that a medical doctor like him must know that many abortions are performed during this stage (it's the first two months of development). In contrast, I lost track of how many times he used the word "baby" after I got past twenty.
So he's admitting that this isn't about proper labels, but rather stacking the debate in his favor. Yet he dares to suggest that we're the ones hiding the nature of what we're doing. He even insists that people should say that we're "committing" abortion, rather than "performing" one, because it sounds more like murder that way. He doesn't even care if our language makes sense, he just wants to score a few cheap points by changing the meaning of words.
Oddly, he rails repeatedly against the term "pro-choice," saying "Whose choice is it?" But later on has a whole section on whether a woman should choose to have an abortion, saying "only you can make the decision whether to have an abortion." So maybe I'm the dope here, but it sure does look like the term "pro-choice" is valid for this discussion. We believe that women should have this choice and he doesn't. Anything short of that are just word games.
More Than Birth
In that same section, he gives us the pros and cons of having an abortion. And the three pros consist of: No childbirth pains, less expensive than childbirth, and you don't have to decide to give it up for adoption. Now, perhaps he just thought it didn't need to be said, but isn't the main reason people choose to have an abortion because they're not ready to have kids (or more kids) and don't want to be responsible for raising another human being for the rest of their lives?
And that's the whole point. As I mentioned before, having a kid doesn't end once the kid pops out. That's just the beginning. Once you've had that kid, you're expected to be responsible for them for the rest of your life. And if someone's in such a bad position that they don't think they should be doing that, I'm of the opinion that they're probably right. As it is, I think many people don't do a great job raising their kids, as evidenced by all the crime and bad things that go on in this world. So if someone is of the opinion they're not in the best position to raise a child, we might want to take their opinion into consideration.
And even adoption isn't the great option they make it out to be. I've never done anything that needed to be handled with an abortion, but I'd much rather do that than give one up for adoption. If you disagree, that's fine, but I just couldn't allow one of my offspring to be raised by someone else. This world is a screwed-up place, and I already feel overwhelmed by all the problems that might befall my kids. I could never allow one of my kids to be raised without my guidance. Hell, I don't even want you, my loyal readers, to get through life without my guidance; and I don't even know you. (For the record, I have two step-kids and think I've done a decent job raising them. But it's everyone else's abilities I'm in serious doubt of.)
And I'm sure many other people think the same way and consider adoption to be right out of the question. I'm not sure why conservatives consider abortion to be this great regrettable event, while adoption is a win-win, but it's not. Many people have regretted giving their child up for adoption, and I'm sure there are many adoptees who wish they hadn't been adopted by the people they got stuck with. And again, it's quite possible that God recycles the unused souls of aborted babies, so adoption might not be the grand salvation these people consider it to be.
But again, conservatives don't care about any of this. All they're concerned with is getting those suckers born, and anything that happens after that is none of their concern.
Lost in Translation
And finally, I'd like to get on the only bible passage I've seen which even remotely addresses the abortion question. Because if the bible doesn't actually consider fetuses to be sacred, or forbid abortion, then their entire argument is left without any foundation at all. And guess what: There is no foundation. If anything, I'd chalk this up to a mistranslation that two of my bibles seem settled on.
Sure, there are other passages which mention that God knew who we were before we were born, but I think those were specific references and weren't meant to indicate that all of us are full humans upon conception. Besides, if God knew us before we were born and really wanted us to be born, I'm sure he could just find another belly to put us in; assuming the term "omnipotent" has any meaning, anyway. And if aborted babies don't go to Heaven, then that's God's fault, not ours.
The only passage mentioned that he says explicitly forbids abortion is Exodus 21: 22-23, which Dr. Finney says is "The penalty under the law of Moses was to put to death a person who caused even the accidental death of an unborn baby (as by two men fighting)." But I've read the bible and didn't think that was particularly bible-sounding, and suspect that Dr. Finney was paraphrasing. And as I've learned, the bible is already vague enough that paraphrasing is right out of the question. He also gives a more direct quote of "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman... (23) [and] there is serious injury, you are to take life for life...." but that ellipsis in the middle look a little suspicious to me.
And so I found that other website I mentioned above, which quotes it as "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
Now that sounds bibley. But it also sounds vague. I mean, "mischief"? What does that mean? That website hung everything on the term and insisted that it referred to either the mother or baby dying. But I really wasn't so sure about that, so I checked the two bibles I have here in my house, which are written in regular language; meaning that they sound bibley, but aren't so vague.
And sure enough, both bibles contradicted that website's interpretation. I'll quote here from my Catholic Living Bible, which I received as a Confirmation present and has my name on it. It says: "If two men are fighting, and in the process hurt a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage, but she lives, then the man who injured her shall be fined whatever amount the woman's husband shall demand, and as the judges approve. But if any harm comes to the woman and she dies, he shall be executed."
Could that be any clearer? Unborn babies are obviously not considered the equivalent of regular people. So not only does this passage not say what they think it says, it completely undermines their argument. Yet this is the best they've got. Somehow, their all-knowing God who wrote this magnificent book which was intended to guide mankind for thousands of years forgot to include anything specific regarding an issue that many conservatives consider to be the most important issue of our day.
As an agnostic, it really isn't my place to deride any creator's abilities, so I can only assume that God disagrees with these people on this particular issue. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that God wasn't able to predict the predicament we'd find ourselves in. But if that's what these Christians want to go with, I guess that's between them and their god.
Pokemon V. Reality
And so that's it. I could have written more about those two websites, but I think I did enough damage for today. If you want to see a glimpse into crazytown, that second website will give you plenty to look at.
Sure, he's not wacko, shoot people crazy. But that's all the more damning. This is a man who made it through medical school, practiced medicine for several decades, and then won an important political office. According to Wikipedia, he is currently Assistant Floor Leader for the Senate Republican Caucus in Tennessee, as well as Vice-Chair of Senate Government Operations. Additionally, he serves on the Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee and the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee. So this isn't just some unlearned whackjob tossing out garbage on a website. This is a powerful unlearned whackjob tossing out garbage on a website, which is all the scarier.
Yet his arguments are entirely laughable. So much so that I'm half inclined to email him a link to this piece, just so he can see how much I tore him to shreds. But I know that he wouldn't agree and then I'd be stuck fighting a pointless battle with a guy willing to use over 25,000 words without having made his point. And that's just not the kind of battle I'm interested in waging. What's the point? If he can cite bible passages in his favor that my bible says are the exact opposite of what he says they are, then there can be no common ground between us.
And that's assuming that I'd accept the bible as an authority on the issue, which I most certainly do not. For as much as he futilely attempted to convince us that the bible forbids believers from having abortions, he never made one point that would suggest that non-believers should be subjected to his god's laws. Nor have I seen anything in the bible that says they need to do that. It's as if some kid playing Pokemon thinks he can use his Jigglypuff card to defeat me in a fistfight. That stuff's fine for people who are playing the game, but the rest of us are bound to a different set of rules.
So I'm perfectly fine with Christians who think the bible limits their ability to have an abortion, but see no reason why I'm expected to obey that rule. And again, the best argument for suggesting that the bible forbids abortion is simply that it never mentions it at all. If only these people would do the same...