The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Abortion’

THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE

There is nothing more annoying to me than when a woman uses the phrase, “It’s my body and my right to choose.”  It’s as though dragging out that old bromide is the absolute, indisputable debate clincher and there is no response possible once it has been uttered.

If you don’t think about it very deeply, that phrase could be something that is part of the mantra and foundation of libertarianism.  It would appear to be something that we should endorse, living in a country which was founded with the proclamation that we have the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In entering into one of these conversations, I always ask the individual whether this is a right that inures only to women or do men get to play on that same level playing field?  Since it would be very un-PC and sexist to restrict that right to only one gender, naturally the response that I get (after some hemming and hawing) is that it applies to everyone.

My follow up to that answer normally runs along the lines of, “So, you’re saying that the man who is a rapist and acts to fulfill the commands his mind is issuing and his body is able to accomplish is justified in doing what he does?  Or it’s okay for the mayor of San Diego  to grab women’s butts or breasts because he finds that satisfying?”

Since they haven’t really thought about the logical conclusion to their statement, I always receive a horrified look and a gushy, “You’d have to be nuts to believe that,” kind of response.  Implicit in their answer is the key to this entire issue.  That is, there are certain things which society deems “proper behavior” and others which it does not condone.

With all the headlines that are coming out of the Obamacare debacle, I find myself having more or these conversations than formerly.  Many of the women I know who voted for his second term did so because of “women’s issues”.  And I find that, if you’ll pardon the pun, to be very fertile ground for debate.

When someone identifies herself as “pro choice” I normally offer the following scenario.

A woman goes to a restaurant which has an extensive menu.  She might select the Lobster Newburg or order a garden salad for dinner.  She has freely  made a choice.  No one has looked over her shoulder or coerced her into selecting one entrée over another.  But if she chose the Newburg her bill is going to be higher than what she would have spent on the salad and she should be prepared to pay the price for it.

The one word that I find most lacking in the vocabulary of those who are “pro choice” is the word “wisely”.  Yes, we all have the power to choose and we all exercise that every day.  But to choose wisely, well that takes some thought and an admission that our decisions have consequences not only for us but for our society as well.

There is a reason that the word wisely is not a part of the “pro choice” lexicon.  This is not meant as a condemnation of anyone who holds that view who has arrived at her position on the subject in a thoughtful way.  Although I disagree with their position, I can respect the fact that they made it in an informed manner.

My statement is based on my observation of people who have gravitated to that position without thinking about all of its implications or who have merely adopted their view because all of their friends think the same way.  It is predicated on my observation of how they deal with their acquaintance and friendships.  These are merely my empirical observations – and I would be the first to admit that those are limited in number.

But, based on what I’ve seen, looking at the anecdotal evidence of how almost all  of them conduct their lives, I cannot escape the conclusion that most of those who are “pro choice” have adopted their outlook for one simple reason.

They simply do not believe they should be held accountable for their actions.

Fortunately for them, the United States currently has a government that shares that viewpoint as it demonstrates the exact same behavior on a daily basis.  But when people and their governments lose sight of their moral perspective, history teaches, in countless examples, that the end is very near at hand.

Like the house built over a sink hole, the abyss that will swallow us all may arrive at any moment.  Then there will be no more choices to make as the sands of time sweep us under the roiling earth – perhaps to be replaced with something wiser and better.

ROBBING THE CRADLE; HASTENING THE GRAVE

For people of my generation, if someone spoke of a person’s “robbing the cradle” that phrase meant that a man or woman married someone who was significantly their junior in age.  That was before Roe v. Wade.

Words, phrases and attitudes have changed in the forty years since the Supreme Court declared abortion to be legal.  The thrust of this post is not going to be an examination of the morality, immorality or amorality of that decision and the consequences we have seen as a result of it.  There is more than sufficient material on that topic which has already been published.

Rather, I thought I would examine one possible outcome for our society as our attitudes toward human life and death have evolved as a result of the decision.  But before we peer into a possible future, it might be useful if we used the guidance of history to review how we have gotten to our present state of mind.

With Roe v. Wade we redefined human life.  We declared pregnancy to be a “sickness” and insurance companies were mandated to cover pregnant women for the condition as they would “any other illness”.  Thus, a woman was empowered to “take control of her body” in the matter of her pregnancy in much the same way that she was able to purchase aspirin for a headache.

Gone were the days when an unwed, pregnant mother-to-be was whisked off to a geographically distant relative on some pretext of helping an “aging family member” until the time of her giving birth to her offspring.  Now science and society had created an alternative to deal with the problem or, should I say, the “illness”.

We had, by legally defining a fetus as a “non-person,” been able to hold our heads high and repeat those famous words that “All Men are created equal.”  Since a fetus was not a man (or woman) it was not entitled to those rights or privileges any more than your ordinary house cockroach.

In the ensuing years, having started down the path that says that the ultimate concern should be for the potential mother’s health, (that is both a physical and mental matter), we have gradually been able to extend our original definition of non-humanness through the advances which science has made.

Now a fetus who may have Downs Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis or may simply be the wrong gender can be identified.  In the interest of the mother’s mental health, this unwanted child may be terminated because it doesn’t fit into either its parent’s view of what is best for her or what society deems best for itself.

It should be clear from our history that mankind is a “discriminating” lot.  If it were otherwise, we would not have felt the necessity to  create an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to cite one obvious example, nor would the KKK ever have had any membership.

So given our history of discriminating against others, now that we have the ability to discriminate against “non-others” as many think of human embryos, let’s picture how this attitude might play out were a despotic government to come to power.

In this future, women who rejoiced in having the “right to choose” might no longer have that right if the State didn’t consider them to be suitable breeding material.  Those who were required to donate sperm would be carefully screened for the physical and mental characteristics that the State deemed desirable.  Those of both sexes who did not meet the State’s defined criteria would be sterilized to limit population.

The State and the State alone would determine what and who was of value.  All those who did not contribute to its own well-being would be eradicated.  This, of course, would be most noticeable among the population of the elderly as they were systematically decimated either through neglect or by means of euthanasia.  End Of Life Panels would have the final word on who would receive and who would be denied medical treatment – all in an effort to make ours a beneficent and utopian society.

This is, of course, an imaginary future and could never actually happen – at least not in America.  We are a noble people dedicated to a great purpose.

I wonder if that was what the guards said to themselves as they pulled the lever, releasing the gas in the showers of the death camps as they purged their society of several hundred more whom the State had declared undesirables.

LET’S GET EQUAL

Several friends and acquaintances have made the decision to try to elect the President for yet another four years.  Although none of them has been able to identify a specific item in President Obama’s first four years making him worthy of reassignment as CIC, it happens that all of these folks are women and their reason for voting for him has to do with “women’s issues”.

So I began thinking about this.  Several of them have identified pay inequality in the workplace as something that they feel would be better addressed by the incumbent than by a President Romney.  On this point I agree – not that Obama would do a better job handling it – but that differentiating payment and offering women lower wages for performing the same work is unethical, immoral – and most importantly, just plain stupid.

If you’ve ever worked in an office environment you know that the every office has a “grapevine”.  In fact, the intelligent manager, realizing this, will use the grapevine to transmit information she wants disseminated without the need to write memos or hold staff meetings.  And, of course, one of the items that is always on the grapevine’s agenda is, “How much are you making?”

Paying different amounts to people who perform the same job, whether it is because of gender, age or race, is just plain bad business and will always engender bitterness, jealousy and (in today’s age) lawsuits.  Mitt Romney, as a businessman, knows this and if those who admire (or are envious) of his success really think about it, he would most likely not have pursued that sort of policy in his personal endeavors – or he wouldn’t have gotten where he did.

On the other hand, the President has never held a real job (although arguably being President of the United States is one) – but if so, this is his first.

Another item under the category of “women’s issues” which my friends described is accessibility to various preventative medical tests such as mammograms and cervical examinations.

On this subject, I couldn’t possibly agree more.  Preventive diagnostic tests would greatly reduce the number of female medical conditions which we often do not address until we need to employ radical approaches to treatment.  (The same thing applies to men, by the way).

Once again, as with the case of discriminatory pay, common sense dictates that an enlightened populace would actively campaign for just exactly that sort of early detection.  But then again, common sense would also dictate that we would each of us make an effort to do everything in our power to ensure our personal well-being.  The explosion in cardiovascular disease and diabetes suggests that is simply not the case for the average American.

If we are ever to rein in the burgeoning costs of our “disease maintenance system” we must begin by starting to educate our children on the importance of a good diet and proper exercise so that they do not succumb to the same illnesses in the same quantities as their parents.  The explosion in the obesity levels of young children suggests that we have not seriously, or at least not effectively, addressed this matter, notwithstanding the 2,600 pages of the Affordable Care Act.

I believe, setting aside any of the allegations about Mr. Romney’s personal disdain for the average Joe or Jane, as a businessman he is far more likely to develop cost-effective common sense ways to rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare.  And irrespective of the media’s portrayal of him, if for no other reason than that it makes sound business sense, is much more likely than the incumbent to develop positive solutions which not only save costs but save lives.

Then, of course, we have the question of whether women should be allowed to get birth control pills as part of their coverage under medical insurance contracts.  In the interest of equality, I think that if that is the case, then men should equally be allowed to charge the cost of prophylactics to those same insurers.  I mean, fair is fair, after all.

I have never quite understood why our sisters even want to expose themselves to the risks inherent in birth control medicines.  Virtually all of them have side effects and some have been taken off the market for the danger they posed.  Yaz and Yazmin come to mind as recent examples  Wanting to expose yourself voluntarily to that sort of risk is beyond my understanding.  But McDonald’s has tens of thousands of outlets throughout the world, serving some of the most unhealthful food that humankind has yet invented – and they all seem to be doing quite well.  So it’s obvious that people hold different opinions.

While I would advocate that the best birth control available to members of either sex is, “Just Say No,” there are some of us who have found ourselves in a weak moment and offering birth control pills is a far better alternative to having an abortion.

If we do decide to be really equal and allow men the same latitude as our women, then I have a solution (no this is not facetious) about how we could make condoms acceptable even to those who hold a religious belief that this is interfering with God’s plan and the purpose of sexual engagement.  In fact, I think I could make what would be a theologically sound argument supporting my idea.

All we have to do is make prophylactics that have one or two of the tiniest pinholes in them.  This would allow those really aggressive sperm that happen to be in the right place during intercourse to escape their encasement.  Then, if it were God’s plan that the couple should conceive, they would be able to go out and swim and do their duty.  If we consider a God who can divide the Red Sea, getting some of these little guys out to fulfill their mission should be a matter of little difficulty.

Considering the obviously superior genetic material of a sperm that could overcome the obstacles involved in this challenging environment, we might, as a by-product, even elevate the quality of the offspring so conceived, thus improving the gene pool.  That would be something we could all welcome.

Of course, with this whole issue of birth control, as with the question of abortion, we are dealing with an inherent inequality.  More female children than male are conceived, so we are preventing a disproportionate number of girls from being born than boys.

Again on the issue of equality, statistically there are proportionately more female and minority embryos that are aborted than Caucasian male children.  I am sure that the reasons for this are numerous and beyond the scope of this post.  But it should give a person who is considering the question of “women’s issues” pause, why this should be and how their support of a woman’s “right to choose” impacts the disproportionate number of female embryos that meet an untimely end.

There are countries in which “gendercide” is routine and common.  We think of those countries as primitive and not yet ready to enter the 19th century, let alone the 21st.  Their attitude on the worthlessness of women has not advanced much, if at all, from countries who in ancient history viewed a female child’s birth as an unwelcome event and set the newborn out to be devoured by wild animals.  In those more compassionate societies, the girl would merely be sold into a life of prostitution or servitude.

In view of the historical evidence and what is happening today, I have to believe that Mr. Romney’s business acumen must be in direct conflict with his social views and moral beliefs.  His position on the “right to life” makes bad economic sense – and the President’s “Pro-Choice” posture makes good sense (possibly the only thing about the President’s economic policies which does).

Consider the cost of an abortion versus the cost of raising a child.  There is simply no question that getting rid of an unwanted fetus is far more cost-efficient than bringing a child to term; then having to feed and clothe this infant; getting her ready to enter an already over-crowded and under-productive school system; and since a greater number of our poor than our middle class or wealthy choose the abortion option, having to spend taxpayers’ money to support this child, adding further to the out of control costs of our badly broken welfare programs.

Clearly, abortion is the economically sensible option.  And I cannot but wonder why a heartless, out-of-touch businessman like Mitt Romney doesn’t automatically gravitate to it – unless it’s a matter of conscience.

On the other hand, my friends glowingly endorse a President who advocates a policy which wreaks the most havoc on the unborn of minorities and female babies and consider him to be a man who is in touch with the people.

Perhaps he is.  And perhaps that says something about those who support him – that is, that he directly reflects their own attitudes.

Equality sounds like a good thing.  I’m in favor of it.  Of course, the fact that I’m here writing this and you’re there reading it means that we aren’t two of its victims.

“WHO YOU GONNA BELIEVE?”

With the Vice Presidential debate on Thursday evening now a part of history I found it interesting that the President’s latest ad asks the question, “Who you gonna believe?”

The thrust of the ad is that Mitt Romney, that insidious successful millionaire, is planning on slashing the taxes of his fellow successful millionaires.   He will pass on the cost of the money this saves them to the remaining middle class who have survived four years of Obamanomics, by increasing their taxes $2500 per household.

This is fear in advertising at its absolute worst.

Let’s think about the scenario that the President paints in his ad.  You are already a multi-millionaire and this year you have another decent year.  You earn $10 million for your efforts and on your investments.   Depending on the sources of your income, that should leave you with about $7 million or so in pocket change.  Does any one of my readers know how they would possibly spend $7 million if they were given the opportunity?  And, of course, our multi-millionaire has already accumulated a great deal of wealth that goes beyond this year’s income.

So ask yourself the question.  If you would be hard pressed to spend $7 million on things that you really want, how would you spend the $7.2 million that the ad suggests you would have under the “Romney tax plan?”

Well, that’s all theoretical.  But let’s look at some numbers which are suggested by the ad and which Vice President Biden offered in the debate.

The Veep says that this scheme is designed to benefit 110,000 wealthy tax payers at the expense of all middle class tax payers.  Each of the wealthy would get a $200,000 tax cut – and every middle class family will get a $2500 tax increase.

If you do the math which underlies this statement, here’s what you will find.  According to Vice President Biden, the United States of America, out of our population of 310,000,000, has a mere 8.8 million families who are “middle class”.

I realize that things have been tough for everyone under President Obama but is the Vice President suggesting that is the totality of the middle class that is left in this country?  If that is true, that is sufficient enough indictment to throw the two of them out of office.

Let’ return to the debate for a minute.  Frankly, I was uninspired by both participants for different reasons.

I have heard Rep. Ryan speak on many occasions and have been impressed with the sincere manner in which he delivers his information.  By contrast, I thought he seemed very “mechanical” in the debate.  Perhaps that is because it was his first experience or perhaps because the main focus was on foreign policy.  I am not making excuses for him because “it is what it is”.  I have heard him do far better and was a little disappointed.

I felt insulted by the demeanor which the Vice President projected.  I thought he was rude, condescending and generally obnoxious.  He obviously has a wealth of experience, (he told us that several times) and I felt he would have better served his cause by simply delivering his message in a forthright and factual manner.  I half expected him at some point to turn to Ryan and say, “Listen, Sonny …”

He also had the annoying habit of starting to answer a question and then, without finishing his statement, change the subject.  This is the typical tactic of the veteran politician who either doesn’t know the answer or doesn’t want to offer an answer to a question.   If you taped the debate, I suggest you watch it again to see what I mean.  I counted six separate instances of it in the 45 minutes that the Vice President held the floor.

Well, according to those who are politically smarter than I, Ryan slightly edged out the Vice President – but it was, in essence, a draw.  But there was one part of the debate that I thought was most interesting and that was the discussion about abortion.

For the first time in U. S. history we have Vice Presidential candidates on both tickets who are Roman Catholic.  It’s common knowledge that the official view of the Roman Catholic Church is that abortion constitutes murder of the unborn.  Both the Vice President and Rep. Ryan are aware of that.

Ryan offered his explanation of why he is opposed to abortion from a personal standpoint.  He referred to his unborn first child’s ultrasound when she was only the size of a bean – but he could see her heart beat.  He went on to explain that because of this experience, he and his wife had nicknamed her, “Bean”.

The Vice President approached his support for abortion in what could easily have been misinterpreted as an almost statesmanlike way.  While he would never personally have a child aborted, he explained that other people did not accept his Catholic theology of life beginning at conception.  Therefore, it would be wrong for him to impose his personal beliefs on them.

There is a problem inherent with that statement.

Some people believe that murdering another adult – if it suits their purpose and is the way for them to attain their personal ends – is perfectly acceptable behavior.  You have only to read a newspaper on any given day to know that is true.  Thumb to the section covering the ongoing violence among members of the Mexican drug cartels.

Civilized societies dating back thousands of years have generally frowned on that behavior.  The Roman Catholic church considers murder to be so serious that it is classified as a “mortal sin”.

But if we take the Vice President at his word, I can only presume that he similarly is opposed to all the laws on the books, in every state and every jurisdiction, which punish adults who commit murder.  Even though  his Catholic upbringing informs him that it is wrong for him to murder someone, he shouldn’t impose that belief on others who hold a different view on the subject, just  as he refuses to do in the case of abortion.  Or is imposing his Catholic beliefs something which he only selectively declines to do?

Of course, the Vice President’s quasi-libertarian view on the subject of abortion introduces an obvious corollary issue.  If it is wrong for those who oppose abortion to impose their will on others, is it not equally wrong for those who favor abortion to require those who find it immoral to pay for it with their tax dollars in contravention to their conscience and right to Freedom of Religion?

Politicians promise a lot of things.  If you’re in your thirties or older and are the least observant, you will have noticed that those promises are very often empty.  While they sound good and encourage us to vote for them, hoping that they are sincere in their statements, the sad truth is that seldom is the case.

We have seen how “Hope and Change” have played out for four years of this administration.  In their ad, Obama/Biden asks the question, “Who you gonna believe?”

And we should all be asking, “Who do you think has the ability, understanding and committment to deliver?”

 

BODY PARTS

Some of my religious friends who characterize themselves as “conservatives” view this fall’s presidential election as being a referendum on the question of religious liberty and specifically on abortion.  I beg to differ with them.

I view the matters about which they are concerned not as being the issue but merely the symptoms of the real issue.  That issue is the right of a thoughtful, law abiding individual to make choices for himself or herself, free of government intervention or jurisdiction or coercion.

That statement might lead you to believe that I am what is termed “Pro Choice.”  You are wrong.

For the moment, at least, America is still a country whose principles stem from the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition.  Since the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution we have now advanced scientifically and science plays an important role in this conversation.

The Jews believe that until a baby takes its first breath on its own outside its mother’s womb it is not a person.  Most mainstream Christians believe that the child is a person from the moment of conception.  There is an obvious difference of opinion in these two views.  Science confirms that, in most cases, these embryos would develop into little healthy human beings after a full term gestation.

Trying to look at this objectively, I would say that science leans more to the orthodox Christian view on this matter.  The truth is we don’t know when an embryo is a human – but we do know that letting nature take it’s course will almost inevitably result in the birth of one.

It is our judicial tradition to presume innocence until guilt is proven.  Therefore, from the standpoint of American tradition, I prefer the position that we treat the embryo as a human from the earliest seconds of its existence.  That is not based on a religious philosophy – merely an American one.

Legally, with Roe v. Wade, we view an embryo as an appendage of the mother who is carrying it.  It is simply a body part that, like a hangnail can be clipped and removed.  It is something that has no value other than a certain nuisance value.  Apparently, we view body parts, in the context of a woman’s right to abort one of hers as a fundamental right belonging to the individual.

But our thinking on this issue is far from consistent.

Consider the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 which makes it illegal for an individual either to buy, sell or receive a human organ in exchange for money or any other sort of consideration.  If body parts are disposable items, why should a man or woman with a healthy kidney not be able to sell one If they choose to do so?

If we regard, as in the case of abortion, the mother’s supreme right to determine what she can do with the body part that is growing inside her, why should a person who is willing to sell an organ not have that right as well?  Is a kidney or a cornea so much more worthy of protection than something which will turn into a human being?

One of the arguments on abortion which I frequently encounter is that approximately fifty percent of our society should have no say in this discussion.  They are called men.  That argument is so intellectually unsound as to be almost ludicrous.  It is based on the assumption that men, who never have and never will go through the experience of pregnancy and child-bearing are unqualified to voice an opinion on the matter.

If we follow this sort of “logic”, the only people who would be able to serve on the jury of a person accused of bank robbing would be people convicted themselves of bank robbery.  And a serial killer could only get a jury of his peers if we drafted twelve fellow serial killers to be on the panel.

But let’s return to my opening remarks about the real and far more serious problem of which our discussion on abortion is only a symptom –  the right of people to make decisions for themselves without government intervention.

If we trivialize life, it will be a natural thing for us to feel comfortable electing people who share our attitude.  But what if those people whom we believe share our philosophy have a different and more extreme agenda?

In the civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China, female children were considered less desirable than male offspring.  On seeing the birth of a female, these children were often set out in the wild either to starve or be eaten by wild animals.  The legendary twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were left to this fate but were ironically nurtured by wolves and grew to manhood.

Today we do not have to wait until birth to bring the embryo to this end.  We know the sex and a good deal about its characteristics during the early stages of pregnancy – and there are some, not liking what they see, who make the decision to abort the fetus based on this information.

Some of these decisions which I’m sure are heart-rending for the parents may involve medical conditions – Down or Tourette Syndrome for example.  It is neither my role or my goal to pass judgment on these future parents.  They have enough of an emotional and moral struggle on their own without me.

But what if that decision is not up to them?  What if, despite the fact that they have decided that they will keep and love and rear that child who will be born with Down Syndrome they are told by government that they cannot?

How could our government ever assume such a role?  It will justify it’s authority by saying, “Your child will require more care and money than we are willing to pay in support.  You will be placing an unnecessary burden on the rest of the taxpayers and therefore, for the common good, we are going to abort the fetus.”

And from there it’s an even smaller step to making that decision based on sex or race or any other physical characteristic which the bureaucracy deems undesirable.  If you think this is an impossible scenario please refer to the eugenics programs which Adolph Hitler established in Nazi Germany.

You might think that can’t happen in the United States – and, today you would be correct.  But as we willingly allow government to take greater control over our lives, we are well on our way to permitting just such a scenario.  In fact, it is the abdication of our personal responsibility which will ensure it.  And that is the real issue about which every thinking American should be concerned.

As for me, I’m planning on hanging on to each of my body parts as long as I can.

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