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Friday, November 04, 2011

What it's all about


It's the legal lynchpin of the Roe v. Wade decision.

The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid," adding that viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.

Some anti-abortion supporters maintain that personhood begins at conception, and should therefore be protected by the Constitution. The dissenting justices (White and Reinquist) in Roe instead wrote that decisions about abortion "should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs."

The majority opinion allowed states to protect "fetal life after viability" even though a fetus is not "a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment".

The "Mississippi Initiative 26" - the “personhood” amendment on the November 8th ballot - aims to sidestep existing legal battles, simply stating that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

It would effectively end access to reproductive health care in Mississippi — including banning all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest or the life of the woman; some forms of contraception; and in vitro fertilization.

It also offers the frightening possibility that doctors would not be able to provide life-saving medical treatment to a pregnant woman, for example, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy.

(Click image to enlarge)
The amendment has been endorsed by candidates for governor from both major parties, and it appears likely to pass, said W. Martin Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.

Legal challenges would surely follow, but even if the amendment is ultimately declared unconstitutional, it could disrupt vital care, critics say, and force years of costly court battles.

Traditional leaders of the fight, including National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic bishops, have refused to promote it, charging that the tactic is reckless and could backfire, leading to a Supreme Court defeat that would undermine progress in carving away at Roe v. Wade.

Conservative Christian groups including the American Family Association and the Family Research Council are firmly behind the proposal.

One of the most alarming things about this amendment is that it would also enact in law a specific religious view about “personhood” that is in conflict with views held by most religious denominations and many people of faith — a clear intrusion by government into decisions of conscience.

The Mississippi initiative - as well as similar initiatives in Florida, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states - seeks to declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.

Bad Science Makes Bad Medicine - and Bad Law
The executive director of Yes on 26, Brad Prewitt, has described the conceptual origin of personhood as being “the Bible, Genesis.”

He also says that “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”

The Christian Medical and Dental Associations, which reject the accepted medical definition of pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg, say the amendment is based on “undeniable scientific and medical evidence as well as on clear recognition that God is the creator of life.”

Mississippi’s largest Christian denomination, the Mississippi Baptist Convention, is backing the personhood proposal through its lobbying arm, the Christian Action Commission.

"For us, it has never been a political issue. It is a moral and spiritual issue," the commission’s executive director, Jimmy Porter, says in a video, adding, "The Lord expects us to value life, even as he does,”

There's a word for this debate over personhood. It's called "theocracy".

You know - the same dynamic which is central to Sharia Law which also has these 'good ole boys' in a tailspin because they don't want someone else's religious understandings and beliefs imposed on them.

Can you say, "hypocrisy"?

Okay then, how about "patriarchy"?

Make no mistake, kids, this is what it's all about.

Whether Sharia Law or the Mississippi Initiative 26, it's the pathetic, desperate attempt to assert the "natural law" of the supremacy of men. We know that something is "natural" and "the law", of course, because it's in the Jewish and Christian texts as well as in the Koran.

It's a total disrespect for the life - and intelligence - of women and their ability to determine what is "right" for their bodies, their lives, their families.

These same 'good ole boys' would also deny a woman's ability to care for her child after it is a 'person' by cutting programs like food stamps, WIC, access to affordable health care and education.

It's insanity, is what it is.

Then again, I've always said that prejudice is a social disease that destroys brain cells.

Once the Supreme Court determined that corporations are people, did we really expect anything else?

If you are really "pro-life" then why not join forces with others who are trying to deal with the undermining reasons for abortions:


The fact of the matter is that the Mississippi Initiative 26 - if it passes - will not stop abortion. Women of means will simply go to another state for that service.

It will not stop women of poverty from seeking abortions, either. It will make it more difficult and add one more danger to her already perilous life. 

Can you say, "coat hanger"?

Of all the scary things about this proposed amendment is the inherent theocracy of the movement.

The fact of the matter is that there is no consensus on the question of “when life begins” — often even within a particular faith tradition.

Most religions hold that the decision about contraception and abortion must be a woman’s.

Check out this webpage from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and see for yourself.

As long as there is no medical or religious consensus to the age old "chicken and egg" question - and, as long as this is still America where the foundational belief of freedom of religion prevails, allowing for the coexistence of other, equally valid religious views - the present law of the land protects everyone, no matter their belief or religious system.

And that, my friends, is what it's all about.


Dom said...

Excellent post!! I've never understood why the so-called "pro-life" people have no concern for the poor, the homeless, or the uninsured. (Especially uninsured children.) Guess the "pro-lifers" are only concerned with oppressing women, and not with promoting life.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

And, Dom, have you noticed that the 'pro-lifers' are also ardent supporters of the death penalty.

Where do this people come from?

it's margaret said...

As a survivor of four ectopic pregnancies and the resulting surgeries, I can only think of a cascade of expletives to go with this proposed oppression called 'law'....

wv: bulatied

Paul (A.) said...

"When life begins" is not in question: It was about 3.5 billion years ago. Everything since then is just consequences.

People who are convinced that "3.5 billion" is a typographical error for "6,014" (many of whom doubtless could support this kind of legislation) should not be wandering about in public.

Turtle Woman said...

Hey, hetero society has been taking up time with this stupid debate for almost my entire life, and my entire adult life. Conservative men, stop having procreative sex with women, women stop having sex with men in that way, and you won't ever have an "unwanted" pregnancy to begin with. PIV (het sex???) is something that should be preached from conservative pulpits. Hets should only have this sex when they really want kids, and it should only be the choice of women to have this kind of sex act. Let's get that message out there.
Let's challenge the het male establishment on this point, because it is all THEIR fault when women have abortions, MEN started it, men coerced women into these unwanted sex acts, men define sex by this act. Sharia, male het law, christianity, all the male religions on earth... hey it's all about owning and bosses around females. That's all this has ever been about for het men, and log cabin republican gay men.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret - It's just unbelievable to me that this kind of stuff is happening in 2011. I'm so sorry for your losses and your pain.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Paul A - I couldn't agree more.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Turtle Woman - You know, the RC church of my youth preached exactly that message: no sex unless you wanted to get pregnant. Period. It wasn't effective then. It isn't effective now. In fact, it's pretty narrow minded - no matter the source.

Anonymous said...

Yes,a nice post. It reminds me of the Rabbi that taught Modern Jewish Thought in my college. He cited Exodus 21:22-25 in support of the Conservative Jewish Churches' position on abortion.

22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

His point was that only a live life was referred to in this section-the life of the woman. It does not refer to two lives.

I think the Rabbi makes a good point.

I have never understood how someone can say they defend life but favor the death penalty.


JCF said...

Not only that, Maria, but (Caveat, I'm doing this from memory) there's something in the Torah to the effect that, if a pregnant woman is suspected of adultery, she should be given a certain poison (w/ the idea that an illicit pregnancy would be terminated, but a legit pregnancy would divinely protected). So much for the sacrosanct life of the fetus! :-0

I love that graphic up top, Elizabeth. I discovered it a few months ago, and have used it several times since! [The "This is Not a Dress" frame cracks me up!]

Turtle Woman said...

It's not narrow minded for women to stand up and tell men... and for conservative men to tell other men not to stick a penis in a place that creates a child. The RC church says that NO SEX should ever occur outside marriage number one, and no sex without procreation as the intent. That is not what I am saying. I'm saying that all men who are against abortion should stop PIV, and all women should be 100% in control of where and when this type of sex should occur. And also, PIV is the definition of sex as far as men are concerned... it's why Bill Clinton thought he didn't have sex with that woman.
So if the male view of this sex act gets challenged 24/7, you'd cause a change wouldn't you. So no, it is not the same position as the RC church at all. It is a radical feminist critique of male sexuality, and it has been talked about for 40 some years now. Elizabeth, you are just too conformist and male pleasing sometimes for words....

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Turtle Woman, when I was born, I didn't get the memo that I was supposed to live up to your expectations. I'm a feminist and a Christian and I'm ordained. You know that about me. I know that you are a radical feminist. I adjust my expectations accordingly. I suggest you do the same.

Nurse Philosopher said...

"He also says that “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”"

An opportunity, yes; opportunity for imposing power over people who are unable to fight a zealot movement, with plenty of chaos to cover up the deed. It has nothing to do with saying we are made in God's image. To do so would probably involve loving our neighbors as ourselves, which sort of rules out placing heavy burdens on them.

In my view, the "opportunity" is heavily weighted in his favor. He's "convicted;" but his "convictions" impinge almost exclusively on others. Without knowing another thing about them, he is only too glad to impose his views on them. How convenient. He gets the glory and women get the weary load.

Doesn't even make good religion, let alone black-letter law. I expect the MS law will pass, after which it will prove a bigger disaster than Prohibition. Yecch.

Anonymous said...

I see the man-hating atheist is among us again. Hello TW!

Host, your statement
"The fact of the matter is that there is no consensus on the question of “when life begins” — often even within a particular faith tradition."

forgets the status quo which is there is even less of a consensus in our society that human life begins at birth, which is the governing model dictated by fiat by the federal judiciary in terms of abortion. At least the initiative in Mississippi seeks the basis of majority rule. On the contrary Roe v. Wade was an exercise in legal fiction, made up of nothing more substantial than the biases of the Justices of the time and a bizarre appeal to ancient Greek biology.

"Most religions hold that the decision about contraception and abortion must be a woman’s."

Most Christian religions, which all that really matters here, do not hold that position. Certain small Christian groups like TEC hold otherwise, but you are a distinct and dying minority. The large majority of Christian churches in the US and worldwide hold abortion as murder.


walter said...

I choose to concentrate my Energy in aggressively pursuing what I believe unjust. Every government decision that is a clear intrusion into determining personal decisions of conscience. I do believe the first priority should be given to decisions of conscience and this is what motivates me in further evolving a theology that may help a decision of conscience that may be motivated by the clear and empowering distinction of free choice-freedom of choice versus Freedom with capital F. The capitalization has the same weight of the Q capitalization in the case of queer and Queer which is at the base of my Queerful Christian Community’ experience. I do not believe that Elizabeth is too male pleasing but I do believe that Elizabeth is too God pleasing whereby "too” simply mean that we do not deserve it, that we have not done anything that logically would support Elizabeth being too God pleasing. In the name of One God.

Walter Vitale.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Nurse Philosopher - I agree with you. I think it will pass in MS and then we'll spend years repealing it and it will be worse for the anti-abortion folks than they think they have it now. Justice requires constant vigilance and persistence. Always has. Always will.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael - (I call no man 'Father' as Jesus commanded) First, shame on you for beginning your post with an ad hominem attack on one of my guests. I almost didn't publish your post because of your rude, intolerant, unChristian behavior, but I thought I'd give you one fair warning. Do that again and I'll ban you from posting here. I don't care if you embarrass yourself as an intolerant clergy person, but I'll give you this one pass because I know your mother brought you up better than that.

To your point: I know "truth by blatant assertion" is your theological methodology but your claim that "The large majority of Christian churches in the US and worldwide hold abortion as murder" is a bold-faced lie.

Please refer to the link in the article to RCRC which gives you statements from "the large majority of Christian churches in the US" about abortion.

You also seem to be following one of the dictums of patriarchy: "Never let the truth get in the way of your ambition".

And you! A man of the cloth! Shame on you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay, Walter.

Grace-WorkinProgress said...

It seems the egg and the sperm will need to hire a lawyer once they hook up.

Why is it this stuff always surfaces just before an election?

Matthew said...

Well South Dakota refused to pass their hateful referenda when it came up. Here's hoping MS will do the same but the electorate in MS is not the same as South Dakota. BTW, there is a great documentary about the referendum in South Dakota titled "Unplanned Democracy" which exposed some of the shenanigans. I bet there will be another one after MS so we all have a blow by blow run down of how it happened. Sigh. Then again, I think these documentaries are important as they preserve the historical record for future generations.

Anonymous said...

I spent about 45 minutes looking up major American denominations with explicit pro-choice or pro-life statements. I also included some denominations with no apparent formal position, but very apparent implied position (eg. COGIC). Here is the breakdown:

Pro-choice: PCUSA, TEC, UCC, UMC, American Baptists, Disciples of Christ, ELCA, Quakers, and COGIC: 29 million Americans.

Pro-life: RCC, SBC, Assembly of God, LCMS, PCA, and the Eastern Orthodox: 89 million Americans.

So I guess one could say the pro-choice position wins 9 to 6 by a simple head count of denominations, even though their total number of adherents is significantly smaller than the pro-life churches.

Much more difficult to research are the thousands of non-denominational churches. But clearly the larger non-denominational churches (the "mega churches"), to the extent that they have explicit positions on abortion, would fall heavily pro-life.

So I will amend my remarks to state, "The Christian churches representing the large majority of Christians in the US and worldwide hold abortion as murder."


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

grace w-p: Oye!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - From your lips to God's ear.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael - well, well, well. No apologies to TW but you have been working very hard to prove your point, haven't you?

First of all, do you know about the organization "Catholics for Choice?" They were started in 1973 and have a $3 Million budget. I suspect that a few of the folks you've counted in as RC's are not included in your calculations.

Oh, and the Greek, Armenian and Russian Orthodox folks I know are very supportive of a woman's right to choose, even as they lament the tragedy of abortion. Very much like the position of The Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations. They just aren't willing to go "on the record" about it.

Besides, your point was that "most Christian religions" do not support abortion. Population does not factor into that. If you want to count population, then, unfortunately for you, the figures remain overwhelmingly supportive of a woman's right to choose. I suspect these cross all denominational lines.

Oh, and in case you haven't heard: Abortion is a medical procedure which is completely legal. Murder is the intentional death of a person by another person. It is not legal. See also: capital punishment - which is legalized government murder. See also: Texas. Which is decidedly not pro-choice.

You are smarter than to have an argument/debate on this level, Michael. Then again, I've always said that prejudice is a social disease that destroys brain cells.

Bottom line: If you, Michael, don't want or need an abortion, don't have one. Leave the folks who want or need an abortion to tend to their own personal affairs.

IT said...

Andrew Sullivan ran a series of a while back of women who had had abortions telling their stories. They were heartbreaking tales of medical necessity.

But most abortion opponents ignore this. Frankly, they would rather see a woman die. They have very low opinions of women.

And most of them are also opposed to sex ed and contraception.

And they lose all interest in the infant once it's born. The number of children living in poverty in this country is obscene. BUt hardly a peep do we hear from the "pro-lifers".

As for Fr Michael, why he trolls around liberal Episcopal blogs to harangue us about abortion and gays is a mystery to me. He represents the worst of Roman Catholic authoritarianism.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - If I needed any evidence that this is just about male domination and control and not a deep commitment to the preciousness of life, it would be that most of these prolife folks - like Michael - would be the most ardent supporters of Medicare for children until the age of 18, food stamps and programs of educational excellence. They would also work to eradicate poverty which is the highest contributing factor in cases of abortion.

As for Michael, Michael, Michel - I don't read too many of the comment sections in too many other blogs so I've only known him from his visits here. This is the first time he's gotten close to snarky. It will be his last. I don't mind a disagreement or a good argument but if his purpose is to harass and harangue, then he will find himself blocked from my blog.

Fair warning, Michael.

AVH said...

Fortunately for the world, people don't just fall into two camps - left and right. So don't let your biases blind you to the spectrum of belief out there.

Many "pro-lifers," myself included, believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and so are pacifists, and anti-death penalty, and support and vote for the kind of programs that support the young, the vulnerable, the poor, the single mother, the under-insured, and the disenfranchised.

I have a child with down syndrome and my wife and I refused in-utero testing on our subsequent children to see if they carried trisomy 21 because we knew we would not abort a child because of a disability. This shocked and angered our doctors, but the stats say the testing is as likely to cause damage to the unborn child as they are likely to have down syndrome.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

AVH - I also consider myself 'pro life'. We adopted a Down's Syndrome child that no one else wanted or could care for. I am pro life because I respect the wife of the woman who will have to care for her child - handicapped or not - and I believe in her ability to make a choice for herself - just as you and your wife did.

All I'm asking is for you not to be blinded by your own biases. For example, I don't know where you got your stats about "damage" to the fetus being done during intrauterine testing being the same as the chances of Trisomy-21. That's just flat wrong. I know. I looked them up.

AVH said...

Kids with downs are fun aren't they!


The risks of miscarriage are 1%.

Additionally, there is also mild risk of Limb Reduction Defects associated with CVS, especially if the procedure is carried out in earlier terms (before 12th week of pregnancy).

The risks of having a second child with down syndrome are 1% (

Weighing up the odds we refused the test, since we were willing to carry the child to full term no matter what the "diagnosis" (which can also be wrong)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, for Pete's sake! A 1% risk factor in medicine is hardly a "risk". If that were the case, people wouldn't be having open heart surgery or cancerous tumors removed.

The reason most parents opt out of amnio is that, once you have information that something is wrong, you feel compelled to do something. No information, not compulsion. You take what you get.

Which is fine. Really. Your choice. Absolutely.

All I'm asking is for the same privilege of choice for ALL women at the other end of the choice spectrum.

Boils down to this: Don't want an abortion? Don't have one.

AVH said...

On risk: well the "risk" of downs repeating itself was considered large enough for the genetic counselor to have a "serious talk" with us about having the CV and amnio test to see if the next child would have downs. She didn't mention that the "risk" of miscarriage was statistically the same with the testing. We had to do some research and find that out for ourselves.

When we refused the teat she was quite angry: apparently we weren't using commonsense. We thought our choice was very logical.

Regarding choice: I agree to a point. However, the problem is when you believe, as I do, that there is a human life involved in the decision that doesn't get a choice.

BTW what angered me beyond belief was when the pediatrician had quite word with me alone. He explained how tough it was going to be having a child with downs, and asked if I wanted my child fed on demand. He explained that the staff would keep him sedated so that he wouldn't demand feeding, and soon our problem would be gone, "there would be no suffering" and we could start again having a family. I politely declined - later I was to become less polite with the medical profession.

That was the defining moment for me, when I chose life for my child, and realized that having had done that I couldn't arbitrarily decide when life begins, ends, or when it is precious and valued or not.

Anyway, thanks for letting me be a guest here. I have a different world view and don't want to hog your attention with my pov