February 21, 1992

Pro Life?

If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

Florynce Kennedy, 1973

I know no one who considers abortion an acceptable means of birth control. To most people who favor allowing abortion, it is a procedure of last resort, when other methods have failed: in unwanted accidental pregnancy, when the fetus being carried has a severely debilitating or lethal condition, or when the life of the mother is jeopardized.

The only method of birth control that is 100% effective is abstinence. Historically, even that has been thought to have failed on occasion. When birth control fails, abortion or carrying the pregnancy to completion are the only options. For some women, carrying the pregnancy to completion is the only option. For others, abortion is preferred.

It is the rare woman who, knowing that she was carrying a severely deformed fetus or one that is destined to die in infancy, would choose not to have an abortion; particularly since she can then have another chance at having a normal child. Nor would a woman give up her life for a child she would never see.

Abstinence, as a way of life, is not very popular. Remy de Gourment(1858-1913) said that "Of all the sexual aberrations, perhaps the most peculiar is chastity." We can, therefore, expect accidental pregnancy to occur fairly often. As with all accidents, preventing them is better than trying to fix things later; but carelessness is a very human characteristic.

The implication of the term "pro life" is that the people who are members of that movement favor life, while those on the other side of the debate are murderers who wish to destroy infants. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The people who run birth control clinics are good people who are trying to help women in trouble.

What some members of the Pro Life movement want is to force their religious and ethical values on the entire population. The Crusade to end a woman's right to an abortion is a true Crusade. It is a militant effort to get everyone to conform to the values of Roman Catholicism and Fundamentalist Christianity. Like the original Crusades, it is often characterized by fanaticism.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop is militantly opposed to abortion. His split with the pro-life movement came when he realized that the people leading that group were not only opposed to abortion, but were also opposed to birth control and to sex education that included birth control information. In short, they were opposed to almost anything that might reduce the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, the root cause of abortion.

Militant anti-abortion advocates sometimes compare their efforts to the civil rights struggle and speak of their efforts as "civil disobedience". There is no resemblance between the civil rights struggle and the anti-abortion-and-birth-control movement, other than the fact that there were clergymen in the ranks of both movements --and they are not the same clergymen.

Civil disobedience is the refusal to obey what some may consider an unjust law, even if it means going to jail for it. When black people refused to sit in segregated busses or sat in segregated restaurants, that was civil disobedience. When people refused to register for the draft or refused to serve in the armed forces, that was civil disobedience. When people blockade a building, or a birth control clinic, or vandalize property, it is is no longer civil disobedience; it is war. It is the violent imposition of the opinions and practices of one element of our citizenry on another. The rights of a woman who wants either birth control information or an abortion are being violated by force. Not only is it illegal, but it is morally indefensible in a free country. People who assault other people or destroy property, no matter what their motives, are criminals and deserve to be treated as such.

There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of people do not favor abortion. They also don't favor mastectomy or amputation. People threatened with an unwanted pregnancy or a child with Tay-Sach's disease who will certainly die within 6 years, want an abortion just as someone with breast cancer or bone cancer would want a mastectomy or amputation. Most women who have an abortion find it an unpleasant experience and would have avoided it if they could turn back the clock. If asked, however, many would do it again to avoid having an unwanted child. Many women who go the delivery-and-adoption route find it more traumatic, physically and emotionally, than abortion.

There are women who use abortion as a means of birth control. It would be desirable to educate those women to less traumatic methods of birth control --if they are educable. If they are not educable, perhaps the world might be better off without their offspring; particularly if the infants are impaired because they were conceived under the influence of drugs.

In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Rev. James Burtchaell claims that the media is biased against Operation Rescue. He deplores the fact that people who blockade clinics are jailed and heavily fined.

I am not surprised that many newspeople find Operation Rescue repugnant. Most believe in verbal, not physical, confrontation. While it is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and violence tends to appear on the TV screens more than peaceful protest does, newspeople get a bit tired of the lunatic fringe, even though they do make news. I would like to point out to Rev. Burtchaell that there are many good people who do not attend churches and there are wicked people who do. While a few people have gone to prison for good causes, the vast majority are criminals who belong there as enemies of a free society. Persistent law violators should be kept in jail for a long time, to protect the rest of us.

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