Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

Rick Hogaboam pointed out a series of posts by Thabiti Anyabwile that reacted Brian Kemper’s defense of comparing abortion to slavery and the Holocaust.  Kemper believes that we must make the comparison because of the horrible reality of abortion that parallels slavery and the Holocaust and the denial of personhood that has taken place in defense of all three.  He believes that people take offense to these comparisons because “we have elevated what they consider to be a blob of tissue to personhood status.”

Rick posted a good quote from the first three posts.  Anyabwile’s consideration of this issue spanned four posts:

I wanted to focus on his first post, and you can read his others for his opinions on those topics.  Here are Anyabwile’s central objections to Kemper’s article:

Okay, the argument is basically fine.  But read Mr. Kemper’s opinion piece and tell me how many times he seems to deeply affirm the human pain and suffering African Americans endured in slavery.  He seems quite aware of the Jewish holocaust, referring to monuments and observances dedicated to never forgetting that human tragedy.  But how many such monuments and museums exist in honor of African people treated as chattel?  How many institutions work to ensure there is a deep, abiding recollection of those centuries of torture?  Not many.  Kemper certainly doesn’t mention many.  Now, here’s why some of us say “how dare you?”  Without demonstrating any genuine empathy, any continuing affirmation of the humanity of African people, the comparison simply seems to lack authenticity, familiarity, and empathy.  It merely sounds expedient.  Those who use the argument don’t really sound like they care about black people as such, but only about exploiting the pain of black people as a political expedient….

There’s one more element to this I’d like to highlight.  When I say, “How dare you make this comparison?” I’m also identifying someone who hasn’t shown up to support a lot of other causes I care about.  Not only have you not shown up to support, you really haven’t shown up to dialogue, understand, or persuade.  Most of your political and social positions lie across the river from my own, and though you own a boat you’ve never tried to row across.  Now you show up saying how much I ought to support your cause.  And you tell me how much this cause ought to mean to me, how I ought to care about the death of black babies.  You tell me this as if I don’t already care about the death of black babies.  But when I talk about the death of black babies due to crime, or poverty, or drugs, or slow death from a sub-par education, you tell me that’s my problem.  When you do that, you seem to care more about your political issue than you care about my black life.  You need to know that’s how we see you.  Your comparison reminds us of all of this.

So, yes, how dare you compare abortion to slavery?!  I love you.  But I’m afraid you don’t love me… at least not long enough to hear how your comparison affects me.  I’m in the trenches with you–at least I want to be–but the shrapnel from your rapid fire makes it hard for me to fire with you.

I think that these two objections both deserve attention.  From everything that I know, Anyabwile is first and foremost an evangelical Christian who doesn’t have a vested interest in racial politics and doesn’t subscribe to Afrocentric theology.  He wants to proclaim the gospel to all people, and knows that God is creating a new, multiracial people in Christ.  If he is right about how many black Christians will react to Kemper’s defense, then what he is pointing to is a fundamental mistrust and disconnect between white and black Christians.  I think that’s largely the case in American Christianity today; white and black Christians have such separate institutions and cultures that we often don’t register on each other’s radar.  Anyabwile’s thoughts here highlight the perils of white tonedeafness, but I think that both circles share some of the blame.

I also want to note something in Anyabwile’s article that I’m not so sure about.  We may not have monuments and museums about slavery, but I think that our educational system and the public presentation of history do pretty well with making people aware of slavery and the civil rights movement.  I think that it’s necessary sometimes to point out that America didn’t invent slavery, but that societies across history have had different forms of it.  This is not, of course, meant as a justification, but context is important.  We’ve got a long way to go in having a really just society or even agreeing exactly what that would look like here.  But to me this criticism, while it is surely sincere, does not describe the cultural reality. (more…)

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile offers a 3 post series on abortion, slavery, race relations, and more. I am providing links to each part with some quotes that I found insightful:

Part One “How Dare Compare Abortion to Slavery?!”

Thabiti offers a stinging analysis of Toby Mac’s “Blues” music:

Yesterday I went to a restaurant with a brother in the Lord.  While there a Toby Mac song began playing on the restaurant speakers.  There was something oddly familiar, yet clearly distant.  The particular song seemed to be an effort at playing the blues by someone who grew up pretty affluent and problem free.  There was the basic form and melody of the blues, but won’t no blues in it.  The way, the how, of this comparison lacks blues for slaves and descendants of slaves.  It lacks familiarity with the suffering, pays passing tribute to the humanity of slaves, and moves too quickly to the rhetorical and political comparison.  It’s all too expedient and neat for an experience whose icon is a lacerated, bleeding, whipped back.

Part Two  “How I Would Talk About Abortion and Slavery to an African American Audience Were I a White Man”

Because the reality is this: There is among us another form of willful ignorance destroying life by the thousands every day.  There is another “looking the other way” by Americans who know better and should be better. There are significant numbers of people professing to be Christians either participating in, supporting, or playing blind bystander to untold human suffering.  These are the people living in our day who remain uninvolved in ending abortion the way some remained uninvolved in ending slavery.

Were a black man to remain uninvolved in ending slavery he would be called a “sell out.”  Were a white man to be uninvolved in ending slavery he would be worst than the slaveowner.  And my brothers and sisters, if a black man or woman remains uninvolved in the ending of abortion when abortion destroys more black babies than any other thing since slavery… that black man or woman is a “sell out” to his children before they see the light of life!  And if a white man or woman remains uninvolved in ending abortion… that white man or woman takes their place on the side of slave owners and slave merchants who were destroyers of life!

Ignoring suffering wasn’t right in 1830, and it’s not right in 2010.  Black life should have been valued and protected in 1830 and 1950, and it should be valued and protected now!

Part Three  “Now I’m African American and I’m Talking to African Americans about Abortion and Slavery”

In our short time tonight, we have not come to talk about slavery.  We’ve come to talk about its modern day step-child: abortion.  And I’ve come to tell you, beloved, my mama and daddy had a lot of things right.  But they were wrong when they told me that “abortion was a white person’s problem.”  It may have seemed that way to them watching the images on the TV in the 1970s.  It may seem that way to you and me when we see the images and protests on our TVs today.  But, beloved, you might be horrified to know the truth.

Since abortion became legal in 1973, over 13 million African American babies have been killed in the womb! Thirteen million!  That’s more than heart disease, cancer, accidents, violent crimes, and AIDS combined!  That’s more than some estimates of lives lost in 200 years of slavery!  In the 1980s, we labeled black males an “endangered species” because of the life-threatening effects of drugs, violence, and imprisonment.  But next to abortion, drugs, violent crime, and prison look like Spring break at Virginia Beach.  Write it down.  Make it plain.  The new slavery, the new force devastating black life, is abortion.

The Scope of Abortion Availability

Posted: July 29, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Abortion

This was another interesting section in Bazelon’ s article that I discussed in my last post:

SINCE BEFORE THE days of Roe v. Wade, a small number of doctors have quietly provided abortions in their offices (often only for patients with health insurance or who pay out of pocket). Their numbers have dwindled: in 2005, the Guttmacher Institute counted 367 abortion providers in doctors’ offices nationwide, down from more than 700 in 1982. Doctors’ offices now account for only 2 percent of the total number of procedures; hospitals account for barely 5 percent.

This highlights the challenge of making abortion truly mainstream — of moving beyond residency training and outside the haven of medical-school faculties, so that more doctors offer abortions when they join a regular OB-GYN or primary-care practice. As yet, all the success in training new doctors hasn’t translated into an increase in access. Abortion remains the most common surgical procedure for American women; one-third of them will have one by the age of 45. The number performed annually in the U.S. has largely held steady: 1.3 million in 1977 and 1.2 million three decades later. In metropolitan areas, women who want to go to their own doctor for an abortion can ask whether a practice offers abortion when they choose an OB-GYN or family physician. But in 87 percent of the counties in the U.S., where a third of women live, there is no known abortion provider.

That evidence reveals abortion as astonishingly common (1/3 of women by age 45!) but also quite geographically limited.  The push to mainstream abortion by offering it at more doctor’s offices is partly intended to break out of these limits:

Family physicians deliver babies, set broken arms, remove precancerous moles. Because they’re more likely than specialists to work in rural areas, they are for abortion-rights advocates the best hope of bringing more providers to the parts of the country where hundreds of miles roll by without one.

It’s hard and horrible to read that there can be a “best hope” to widen access to abortion.  Hope and abortion seem that they should be incompatible.

Abortion Providers and the Medical Profession

Posted: July 29, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Abortion

At Embracing the Risk, Douglas linked to a New York Times Magazine story by Emily Bazelon that described changes that she and others hope for in the way that abortions are provided.  He has some good comments on the article, which is quite long but worth reading as a way to understand where abortions are performed and also offers insight into the culture of abortion provision.  Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president Albert Mohler also has some good comments.

Bazelon writes that abortion and abortionists are often not integrated into or respected in the medical profession.  Doctors and hospitals rarely perform abortions, meaning that clinics do the vast majority of them.  The main thrust of the article is to chronicle how some are trying to change that and provide more linkage between abortion providers and the medical profession by impacting medical school training and encouraging the provision of abortion in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  It was especially interesting to read this in light of James D. Hunter’s theory of cultural change, which essentially states that cultures are changed more by elites and institutions than by ordinary individuals because of the importance of cultural power in shaping culture.  This institution-building aspect of the article is what I want to focus on.

Bazelon writes that an important step for the push to integrate abortion into medical curricula was the founding of Medical Students for Choice in the 1990s.  After that,

The next important moment came in 1995. With new studies showing how low the training rates for residents had fallen, the National Abortion Federation, with M.S.F.C. as an ally, began pushing for change. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education — which represents the medical establishment — decided, for the first time, to make abortion training a requirement for all OB-GYN residency programs seeking its accreditation. The anti-abortion movement tried to smother the new mandate. The following year, Congress passed the Coats Amendment, which declared that any residency program that failed to obey the Accreditation Council’s mandate could still be deemed accredited by the federal government. But the council had spoken, and medical schools and teaching hospitals listened. Today, about half of the more than 200 OB-GYN residency programs integrate abortion into their residents’ regular rotations. Another 40 percent of them offer only elective training.

To establish a secure foothold in academic medicine, abortion-rights supporters knew that along with residency programs they needed the kind of advanced training that attracts the best doctors and those who want to join medical-school faculties. A physician at the U.C.S.F. medical school set up the Family Planning Fellowship, a two-year stint following residency that pays doctors to sharpen their skills in abortion and contraception, to venture into research and to do international work. In recent years, the fellowship has expanded to 21 universities, including the usual liberal-turf suspects — Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, U.C.L.A. — but also schools in more conservative states, like the University of Utah, the University of Colorado and Emory University in Georgia.

When Salt Lake City and Atlanta are home to programs that train doctors to be expert in abortion and contraception, the profession sends a signal that family-planning practices are an accepted, not just tolerated, part of what doctors do. That helps draw young physicians. The first generation of providers after Roe took on abortion as a crusade, driven by the urgent memory of seeing women become sick or die because they tried to induce an abortion on their own, in the days before legalization. Out of necessity, the doctors pushed ahead with little training or support. “We did it by the seat of our pants,” says Philip Ferro, an 82-year-old OB-GYN at the S.U.N.Y Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. “There was no formal source of knowledge.”

As Ferro wryly puts it, “That would not stand today.” Abortion and contraception have become the subjects of rigorous, evidence-based research. The younger doctors who are coming through the residency training programs and the Family Planning Fellowship “have invigorated this field beyond my greatest expectations,” Grimes, the researcher and abortion provider, says. “We are cranking out highly qualified, dedicated physicians who are doing world-class research. There is a whole cadre of people. I helped train some of them, and I’m very proud of that. In the 1980s, I wasn’t sure who would fill in behind me when I retired. I’m much more optimistic now.”

Many of the protégées Grimes is talking about are women. In the first generation after Roe, abortion providers were mostly men because doctors were mostly men. Since then, women have streamed into the ranks of OB-GYN and family medicine. They are now the main force behind providing abortion.

As Mohler’s post reminded me, there are also some wealthy elites interested in this movement, including Warren Buffett.  If Hunter is right about the way that culture changes, this new movement could make an impact.  There are still many challenges facing the abortion-rights movement, since many of the doctors impacted by this initiative do not end up providing abortions, even if they want to.  But it seems like the kind of strategy that could have an impact over time.  What will our response be?

The Abortion Debate

Posted: June 16, 2010 by joelmartin in Abortion
Tags: ,

Thomas Fleming has an ongoing series of important posts up at Chronicles on the abortion debate. So far there are:

Part I, II, III

Often, the comments after the posts are as insightful as the posts themselves. Here is a snippet from his first column:

There is really no good Scriptural text on abortion, and the common pro-life bumper sticker “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” assumes a knowledge of embryology on Jeremiah’s part (and an intention) that is quite out of the question.  The various fundamentalist/evangelical attempts to find a secure Scriptural basis for outlawing abortion are as futile as most of their theology.   Exodus 21, the most frequently cited text, merely states the penalty for causing the death of the fetus, though it is quite true that rabbinical commentators used this to support their condemnation of abortion.

Despite rabbinical prohibitions, there is no reason to believe that Jews did not behave more or less like other Mediterranean peoples.  This has no bearing on the undoubted fact that Christians were early on distinguished for their rejection of infanticide and abortion.

There is no need for Scriptural authority in this case.  Man is made in the image of the God who sent his Son in human form to take upon Himself the sins of the world, to die for us, and in rising from the dead to give us the promise of life everlasting.  The Christian vision, then, could give no support to infanticide or abortion, except in the difficult case where a mother’s life is at stake.  (I do not intend to take any position on this since it is of almost no significance today.  We shall stick to the main road.)

Like other ancient texts, the Old Testament says nothing nothing about the rights of children and very little about parental duties:  What matters most is the child’s duty to the parent and not the reverse.  Nonetheless, the OT texts, like the literatures of the Greeks and Romans, gives a very positive portrayal, generally, of parents. There is no need, I think, to speak of Abraham and Isaac, or  Jacob and Joseph, when we have the portrait of Mary and Joseph’s very tender regard for Jesus.  Mary’s outburst, on finding her son teaching in the temple, is almost amusing, it is so like what any normal mother would say when realizing that her son is safe–and not through any effort of his own!  I can hear my own mother’s “Where have you been? Do you realize your father and and I have been waiting up all night long…?

In the Christian tradition, then, there is no talk of a child’s universal human life to be guaranteed by a government or legal system, only the parents’ duty to love and care for their children.  This is not a universal or convertible obligation:  I have to take care of my children but not your children much less everybody’s children.  Of course, a Christian society will want to enforce up to a point Christian moral law and might even institutionalize some forms of charity, but in an anti-Christian society it is incumbent upon us to return to a more traditional Christian way of thinking about matters such as abortion, divorce, and charity, lest we find ourselves sacrificing the moral authority of family’s to the power of an anti-Christian state that makes war upon the family.

There is really no good Scriptural text on abortion, and the common pro-life bumper sticker “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” assumes a knowledge of embryology on Jeremiah’s part (and an intention) that is quite out of the question.  The various fundamentalist/evangelical attempts to find a secure Scriptural basis for outlawing abortion are as futile as most of their theology.   Exodus 21, the most frequently cited text, merely states the penalty for causing the death of the fetus, though it is quite true that rabbinical commentators used this to support their condemnation of abortion.

Florida Governor and Independent Senatorial candidate Charlie Crist was once “pro-life” and featured such a commitment on his website…that was when he was a pronounced Republican. Now that he is an independent, we see his true colors as he has vetoed Pro-life legislation. See article here.

He is either pandering to fiscally conservative Democrats, conceding that the social conservatives are already committed to Rubio OR Crist was never really pro-life. It looks to me like it is both: political expediency and not being pro-life. Makes me wonder, how many more “pro-life” politicians really aren’t pro-life and are simply pandering to the Evangelical wing? Sadly, I don’t think Crist is alone.

Abortion and Disability

Posted: March 13, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Abortion, Ethics, Politics
Tags: , ,

John Piper’s yearly Sanctity of Life Sunday sermon, “Born Blind for the Glory of God,” contained this powerful quote from The Weekly Standard:

With the development of prenatal genetic diagnosis, the drive toward eugenics has returned with a vengeance. Americans may heartily cheer participants in the Special Olympics, but we abort some 90 percent of all gestating infants diagnosed with genetic disabilities such as Down Syndrome, dwarfism, and spina bifida.

It’s obviously not a new fact, but it’s a contrast that can’t be made often enough.  I saw a little girl with Down Syndrome singing in the children’s choir at church this morning, and I have good friends whose beloved son is a teenager with Down Syndrome.  It’s terrifying to think that in many families, they simply would not have been allowed to be  born.

The article by Wesley Smith that Piper quotes can be found here.