Assessing where one stands and a long overdue statement whereof…

I have been blogging since the term started to become widely known. I recall the topic of my first blog post quite well – I wrote it the night President Bush addressed the nation to let us know he was sending troops into Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to go after the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda. I wished the troops success that night and, after giving it some thought, decided I had stuff to say on other matters. The blogging bug had bit me pretty hard and I’ve pretty much been doing this ever since. Across 5 different service mediums I’ve been posting on matters that interested me, winding up here at HoodaThunk? with all of the previous posts I could recover from those earlier days. Our archive here dates back to October of 2003.

Good blogging etiquette and ethics demands that once posted, an entry must remain. You can edit it for minor spelling mistakes, sure, so long as those don’t fundamentally change the message of the post. You can update it ad infinitum to clarify matters, correct mistakes, or whatever so long as the original text remains so that people can see what you said and gauge the updates accordingly. But you cannot, ethically, simply delete a post entirely and pretend you never said what you did. (Given the fact that the Internet never really forgets anything put into a resource connected to it, anyway, that tactic generally doesn’t work in any event.) When you’ve blogged as long as I have, you have the evidence of any shift in ideology or change in intensity on a given matter displayed before you in black and white. It’s a danger for those of us who write primarily on matters of opinion and personal analysis that your precedent stances are available for all to see. Looking at it differently, however, it’s a benefit in that it permits you to give some real thought to the positions you’ve taken and assess whether you really are or were on solid footing.

In short, you have the ability to actually read what you said and realize whether or not you were wrong.

This post has been a long time in coming. I’ve allowed a number of things to get in the way of addressing something truly basic to my worldview and I’ve decided that this has gone on long enough. This is a personal matter, yes, but it’s the nature of blogging that the matters discussed are personal. When one realizes that one’s position on a matter has changed – or that one’s previously-stated position was never well grounded in the first place – one who’s been blogging about it in the past owes it to oneself and one’s fellows to set the record straight.

This one’s about abortion, pro-choice, pro-life, and my stated thoughts on the matter. If this topic bores you or makes you uncomfortable to hear, feel free to head over to Facebook or your local news site and check back with HoodaThunk? later on. This won’t be my last post, not if I have anything to say about it. This is going to be a long post so I’m going to use the “page split” feature in WordPress. Click the page link below to see the rest of this.

Click me.

If you’ve been a long-time reader then you’ve seen me state emphatically which side of this debate I’ve been on: I have counted myself among the pro-choice adherents. I’ve had my reasons and I’ve not been shy about expressing them. Yes, I’m also a Catholic which would be a conflict if you know anything about the Church’s stance on the matter. I have made it perfectly clear that I don’t like abortion and I do not approve of its use as birth control, that I feel the decision regarding whether or not to have one belongs in the hands of the woman involved and not the government, and that the rhetoric used in the debate, specifically on the pro-life side of the issue, has wrongly attempted to create a strawman class of “pro-abortion” people or “abortionists.” I have contended repeatedly that there is no such thing.

For a few years now I’ve had occasion to really think about whether I was still on the right track. This was no middle-of-the-night epiphany or a sudden “conversion.” It was a matter of thinking about the issue from multiple angles and questioning the concept of what choice was being made and when. There was, however, a specific moment when a critical notion I’d held was challenged. Later on, there was a specific moment when that challenge was brought from theoretical supposition to flesh-and-blood reality. In the months leading to the 2008 presidential election I was researching the positions of the candidates of both parties. (Why yes, I do take the time to actually read what the Democratic candidates have said and done.) In that research I discovered something that then-Senator Obama had in his past. It turns out that, while in the Illinois State legislature, Barak Obama was presented the opportunity to vote on a bill that would have mandated medical and basic care for any infant born alive regardless of how far along in the pregnancy the birth had occurred or whether the birth had been the intention of any medical procedure or not. Cutting right through all of that flowery language, the Illinois legislator who had advanced the bill was attempting to address the situation where abortion clinics had basically botched an abortion and had wound up delivering a baby instead. This was no euphemistic “fetus” we’re talking about, this was a living, breathing, heart-beating, fully-separated-from-the-mother baby. In reported and confirmed cases, the clinic personnel had responded by removing the child from the room and either laying it on a table in another room and leaving the child to die or dumping the baby into a hazmat bag and throwing it into the medical garbage.

I want to be clear: this isn’t an urban myth. There are investigated cases on record where this sequence of events occurred.

When confronted with the chance to vote for the bill mandating that such actions were unacceptable and punishable by law – that any baby born alive was to be treated as a human being, a patient deserving of medical and basic care, and not as medical waste – Obama voted “no.” This means that Obama stood for the concept that once an abortion was decided upon, an abortion was to be done; that no child would be permitted to survive the pregnancy regardless of how that result had to occur. I had said on many occasions that there was no such thing as an “abortionist” or a “pro-abortion” person. I was wrong. There is no other way to interpret the action of a person who had it within his power to protect a child born alive and voted in such a way as to permit the situation I’ve described above. He placed the concept of abortion above the life of an innocent child. That’s the very definition of “pro-abortion.”

That fact came crashing home to me again just a few months after Obama won the 2008 elections. In a story dated 5 February, 2009, a report of a lawsuit in Florida showed that Illinois wasn’t the only place this kind of atrocity was happening. An 18-year-old young woman who had decided that abortion was her best option came to a clinic near Miami when she was 23 weeks pregnant. In case you’d like to do the math, that’s 5.75 months, just under the 3rd trimester cutoff mostly agreed upon as the point at which an abortion is no longer justified by anything but a true life-threatening emergency. Perfectly legal under the existing state law. In preparation for the abortion the woman was given medicines that inadvertently induced labor and she delivered a premature baby girl. The woman reports that the clinic staff present proceeded to cut the umbilical cord, placed the baby into a plastic bag and put the bag in the trash. This, too, is not an urban myth but a documented case available in public record.

Very few, and not even most abortion-rights folks I know, will defend this kind of incident. It should not require a specific law to guide alleged medical professionals to the right decision on what to do, here, but apparently it does. That’s not the key point that stuck in my head. The point was that the abortion was perfectly legal under this time frame. Were it not for a delay in the arrival of the abortion doctor, this birth would have been an abortion instead. The live baby born would never have made it out of the womb. Which is what raises the critical question: was this baby any less a baby 60 seconds before the birth? This child, born premature by virtue of a medical screw-up (or grace of God, perhaps?), was perfectly able to breath on her own. Her heart was beating just fine. Her chances of survival weren’t near as good as those of a child carried to full term, no doubt, but she was making it. Proper natal care and vigilant medical staff could have pulled her through and she might have been able to overcome whatever difficulties the timing of her birth would present. The point is, there’s no doubt whatsoever that in every definition of the term, she was a person. She was a person when she was born. Can anyone really assert that she wasn’t a person 1 minute before? An hour? A day? Had her mother come to the clinic the month before, was this baby less than human at that point? We have allowed a decision to be made that an abortion is OK up to this moment in time but no further. Clearly, that moment in time is well past the point it should be. This girl – and yes, I’m calling her what she was: a girl – was killed. At the very least, it was a matter of negligent manslaughter.

But if it’s true that this incident and others like it show that we’re permitting abortions well past the point where it’s “OK”, then where is that point? Would it have been OK to have that abortion the week before? The month before? And how many innocent kids – fellow Americans, these – are we OK with killing while we dial in the range? I’ll tell you the number I’m OK with, now that I’m seeing this for what it is. Zero. The only safe move, here… the only truly safe choice to make to avoid killing an innocent to allow another citizen to maintain their current lifestyle, or self-esteem, or whatever is to say we won’t permit that at all. No rule that Man can produce will ever be perfect or ever cover every contingency and I’m not suggesting that no pregnancy ever be aborted regardless of the circumstance but I am absolutely drawing a line that says unless the physical life of the mother is under serious, credible threat, it is not justifiable to kill an innocent child.

Ah, but what the choice of the woman in question? I’ve argued very successfully, remember, over the past several years about just this very point. Government, I’ve said, should leave that decision to the woman in question. It is between her and… well, I always used to say “her conscience.” Of course, I meant God, but I sure couldn’t come right out and say that. Most of the folks on the pro-choice side of the debate would prefer to leave God out of it. So did I – I had a feeling I knew what He’d say. But the matter of choice need not rely on religion or adherence to God’s laws. What it requires is a serious look and an honest assessment of what choice we’re talking about.

In any reputable firearms training course, the instructors are going to hammer into place the concept that you are responsible for what happens to the bullets you fire. In a defensive situation, it’s on you to be aware of what lies beyond the target you’re aiming at at the moment. If the guy who just popped up out of the bushes armed with a machete is approaching you in a menacing fashion and is inside 20 feet, virtually no one is going to denounce your decision to draw your weapon and fire at his center mass. But if the bushes he came out of are the ones that surrounded the public pool, that means your shot into him is likely to go into the crowd of swimmers when it’s done wrecking the bad guy. A good situational awareness is called for to guide you into moving so your line of fire extends in a safe direction. Once the decision is made and your finger pulls the trigger, the bullet is fired and is on the way. Whatever consequences now accrue, they do so because you made the decision to fire. The bullet will launch as you knew it would and will cause whatever damage happens when it hits the target. The responsibility is yours.

A more familiar example might be seeing someone pick up a fragile crystal goblet and hold it out at shoulder height above a stone tile floor. Is there any doubt that if he lets go of the goblet (no, nothing’s between it and the floor) it’ll fall to the floor and shatter? None. So if he does this, is he responsible if the goblet breaks? Of course. He knew full well what would happen and made the choice to let go.

At what point does a woman decide to have a baby? At what point does she decide to carry that innocent child that starts as a mere spark of life? The term “choice” in “pro-choice” seems to focus on the moment just before birth but that’s like the shooter I mentioned wanting to be able to make the decision as to whether the bullet will impact a target after he fires but just before it actually hits. Or the guy dropping the goblet wanting to decide to not have the glass break just an inch above the floor. In both of these circumstances, it’s the decision on the part of the person holding the object (firearm, goblet) to act upon that object that sets into motion the sequence of events. It is at the moment the decision is made to implement that action that the choice is made to incur the consequences, not at the instant before those consequences are realized.

That said, I guess I’m still pro-choice. It’s just that I want the emphasis to be on the choice that matters, where the decision of the woman in question can be made without impacting the life of a child. Or, rather, ending it.

Before anyone gets all twisted up, I know full well there are situations where a woman becomes pregnant outside of any choice of control. Rape is a crime and it’s not excused by anyone (reasonable) I know for any reason. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about choice. I’d love to be able to tell you what percentage of women who come in for abortions are coming in due to a rape or not. We don’t have those statistics. We don’t have them because the pro-choice side of this debate has done everything in their power to make damned sure we don’t have them. Because of this, it’s perfectly reasonable to assert that at least half of them are performed for reasons that have nothing to do with rape or threat to the mother’s life. I suspect it’s even higher than 50%, personally, but I’ll have to go with that figure. Should the day come when real stats get collected and reported, I’ll revisit the notion.

In summation, my stance on the matter of abortion is now far more closely aligned with the pro-life camp. So be it. I’m not going to pass the opportunity to say explicitly, however, that the militant, loud-mouthed contingent of the pro-life side of this debate hasn’t made it easy. For years I’ve ground my teeth over the insufferable arrogance of the loudest of these jackasses and, I confess, my distaste for their antics has colored my perception of this debate. I firmly believe that their truly classless and vindictive speech and behavior has done far more damage to the debate and fueled far more opposition than anything the pro-choice side of the debate has done. I am unconvinced that the best approach to ending any and all elective abortion is to outlaw it and we should be examining other methods. That’s not going to happen with people screaming to jail or shoot abortion doctors and otherwise sucking all of the oxygen out of the debate.

For my fellow northern Virginians, I’d like to point to a local office of an organization called Birthright. This is an organization that helps women have their babies and they can always use the help.