Monday, March 06, 2006

Abortion outlawed in S Dakota

Abortion was made illegal in South Dakota today. this is pretty amazing. click to see the cbc take on it. It will be a long fight, but its a challenge to the Roe V Wade case back in the day.
It is now illegal in south dakota unless the mother is going to die.


Matthew Francis said...

Thank you for mentioning this, Dave. Until very recently I have not thought in any sort depth about abortion. Naturally, I recoiled at the idea of it simply on a philosophical level since I have always believed that life begins at the moment of conception. That said, I have been pretty ignorant of most of the debate. I didn't even know what technically takes place during an abortion.

Then, last week, a good friend and colleague of mine mentioned this CBC Viewpoint article to me.
The piece argues for the importance of having compassion on the woman who choose to terminate their pregnancies because of the discovery of serious fetal abnormalities.

Anyway, my friend is a rather smart and serious Catholic, and had written in a letter to Viewpoint in response to the article. He also gave me a copy of Cynthia Gorney's excellent story from last year in Harper's magazine on the debate in the US concerning the "Partial-Birth Abortions Ban Act." Anyone wanting to understand this whole issue would find a good starting point there. I read it on the bus coming home. Included in the piece were clinical descriptions of what routinely occurs during what is called a "dilation and evacuation" or "dilation and extraction" procedure. I have to say that I have never been so traumatized by reading anything before in my life (perhaps just a sign of my naivete). It is shocking to me that this procedure even exists and is considered legitimate for physicians in our day and age to perform. What about the Hippocratic oath? Over 80% of the late-term pregnancies that are terminated in North America (including Canada!) use this absolutely inhuman and barbaric violence. I am now convinced that this is one of the major ethical issues of our time.

The Harper's article shows how when the procedure is actually described (as happened recently in the trials surrounding the recent US legislation - I will not go into it here), even people long supportive of the pro-choice side begin to have second thoughts. That is why supporters of "a woman's right to choose" fight tooth and nail for these procedures to NOT be described.

Tellingly, the CBC originally posted a grossly edited version of my friend's letter (essentially taking sides) only to publish the whole thing after he wrote to the CBC Ombudsman.

I am reminded how the early Christians (in letters like the Epistle to Diognetus and others) were known as people who took in children subject to infanticide - rescuing girls in particular that had been abandoned. Currently,
all I can say is "Lord have mercy!"

Fr. Justin (Edward) said...

Do you perhaps want to say "amazing" or "surprising", rather than "crazy", Dave? Using the word "crazy" makes it sound as though you think there is something wrong with outlawing abortion.

Matthew Francis said...

With the shifts currently occuring in the US Supreme Court, South Dakota might just have a chance for their new law to be upheld.

Matthew Francis said...

... essentially overturning Roe v. Wade.

Magdalen said...

Wow, Glory to God, that's amazing! I never thought this would happen. I mean, I still highly doubt it would ever happen in Canada, we're too PC and fluffy, too tolerant of the intolerable. It's encouraging though, to think that somewhere in NA, our unborn brothers and sisters are safe from abortion.

biss said...

This is good news.
I really hope that they will take extra care to support women who would otherwise have abortions, so that they are encouraged and cared for in their pregnancies and child-rearing and not left to face difficult situations on their own or make unsafe decisions.

Peter T Chattaway said...

Naturally, I recoiled at the idea of it simply on a philosophical level since I have always believed that life begins at the moment of conception.

FWIW, I don't quite follow this particular philosophical line of thought.

On a physical level, life does not "begin" at conception; it merely assumes a new form as it is converted from the life of gametes to the life of a zygote and then the life of various other stages as well.

And on a spiritual level ... well, I am not quite sure what it would mean to say that life "begins" at conception. What about zygotes which divide into separate embryos, thus producing identical twins? Did both souls "begin" in that zygote at the moment of conception, or did one soul split into two, or was a second soul created when the zygote or embryo divided into two embryos? And what about "chimeras", i.e. people who have two different sets of DNA because they are the product of two non-identical embryos merging together? (Presumably identical embryos merge, too, but we would not be able to detect it.) Do they have two souls each, or did the two souls merge into one, or was one soul eliminated so that the other soul could take over the newly merged body?

For some time now, I have appealed to the Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist as a parallel to my understanding of the creation of new life. As I understand it, the Orthodox do not pinpoint the exact moment when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, the way that some Catholics have been known to do (I think Aquinas said it happens between two particular syllables in Latin). Instead, we believe that God works his mysteries over the course of the entire liturgy.

Likewise, I am content to say that the origin of life is a mystery, and I for one don't ever intend to interfere with the process.

That may not be a very useful position in secular legal terms, but that's more or less where I'm starting from. And I'd be happy if we could just get the courts to agree that, if "brain death" equals legal death, then "brain life" should equal legal life.

Incidentally, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, a Catholic priest who has a column in the National Post, recently observed:

"Our public policy -- no restriction on taxpayer-funded abortion at any time during gestation -- is unmatched by any other democracy. Save for Chinese-style mandatory abortions, it would not be possible for Canada to be more extreme in its abortion license. So extreme in fact that even our polar neighbours, Sweden and Norway, would blanch at our permissiveness. Both countries prohibit abortion in most cases after 18 weeks gestation. In Britain, it is 24 weeks. In Italy, 13 weeks. In France, Germany and Belgium it is 12 weeks. Only the United States matches our abortion-on-demand policy. Even so, Americans have parental notification statutes, a prohibition on federal funding and a federal ban on partial-birth abortion -- soon to be under review by the Supreme Court. The moderate Canadian position is, in fact, American-style absolutism taken to the extreme."

I write all this, BTW, as one who has tried, at various points in the writing of this message, to hold a baby in one arm while typing with the other -- and as one who is acutely aware of how stupid it is that, if my twins were still inside the womb (they were not officially "due" until March 19), they would have none of the legal rights that they do have now just because they happen to be outside the womb.

pasivirta said...

ah yes Fr. Justin, I think that makes sense. I was mostly exclaiming the importance at this point, but do agree and mean 'amazing' although perhaps only amazing to us. the culture of christianity in the US is so different than up here. I heard airport security staff discussing the 700 club as if it were a normal thing. I think to them it was.

Matthew Francis said...

Thank you, Peter, for mentioning several important considerations I hadn't gone into. Obviously - as you understand very personally - the beginnings of life are cloaked in mystery that cannot be diminished even with our physiological knowledge. What I was getting at by saying that I believed that "life begins at the moment of conception," was just to say that there is definitely life at that point of the creation of of the zygote. Is that the moment of the creation of the soul, and the whole being in the image of God, I do not know. My point is just that I disagree with those, for instance, who say that life begins with the implantation of the embryo in the lining of the endometrium, or, with the baby's first breath of air outside the womb, for instance. I think that 'life' has for them already begun. So that's what I meant.

Your own concluding point, and Fr. de Souza's as well, are well taken! Anyone who has had children - or knows children - born prematurely will realize the total sanity and civilizing character of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in the U.S. And we as Canadians, call ourselves civilized!

katrinka said...

I currently find myself residing in my home state of Minnesota which is right next to South Dakota. And yes it is very true that this decision has a very different meaning than if it were to occur in Canada. I find this past week's decision troubling on many levels.

Mostly, I find that this decision will only further drive a wedge between the already heated debate on abortion in the US. I fear that this comes at a time where unity is needed and not extreme action.

It is very true that part of the intent of the advocates of this law is to bring the issue all the way to the Supreme Court and eventually re-examine the orginal Roe v. Wade decision. I am not hear to open a debate about whether or not abortion is a horrible thing. What I would like to comment on is that I fear that this country IS NOT, I repeat IS NOT ready for a discussion on abortion/morality/"family values"/etc. I fear we are at a point where we are fighting and most of us have forgot why we began fighting in the first place. With the current cultural tensions, political polarization, and divisions in this country I am reminded of the simple message of the gospel: to love. And, I am afraid, the action of loving can't always occur through policy-making decisions.

MatJenny said...

I'm not sure I understand how any country can 'not be ready for a discussion on abortion, etc.' -- it seems to me the discussion has been going on for years, except that one side has been constantly silenced, to the detriment of us all, not least millions of children. I agree that there is something to be concerned about re the political climate in the US and its relations with, oh, the rest of the world, but I think we (myself included) need to recapture the proper abhorrence of a practice which is hateful to God but which we have nonetheless become so used to that it barely troubles us any more-- even, as Matthew attested, when we are fervent Christians. But we are talking about shredding babies here! Of /course/ it should be illegal! It is a scary sign of our having bought into the depravity of the world that we even hesitate on this one. I'm not talking about you personally; I hesitate about it too, but then I have to shake my head and say "Wait a minute! Who's setting the agenda here!"

Defending the interests of children doesn't, let's remember, mean siding with Shrub. He didnt invent human rights, that's for damn sure.