Response to Sylvia Sullivan’s “pro-choice dangerous descent” (Feb. 16, 2020)
By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
February 24, 2020 (San Diego) – Sylvia Sullivan’s Reader’s Editorial makes a number of points that reflect more a rigid ideology rather than valid arguments on abortion, from claims of violence at clinics to medical, social and economic considerations regarding abortion. As I make clear below her editorial ignores some compelling reasons for pro-choice. However, what I haven’t seen in her editorial is that abortion should be considered a 1st Amendment issue given that almost all pro-lifers base their position on the Bible.
Sullivan documents cases where pro-life activists have been assaulted and verbally attacked. In such cases those carrying out the assaults should be legally prosecuted and held accountable. However, Sullivan ignores the overwhelming evidence, which is that pro-lifers are responsible for the majority of such incidences and that it is pro-lifers only who have carried out murder, attempted murder, vandalism, arson, and assaulting women at Planned Parenthood centers, many there for prenatal care, that is, to further their pregnancies (see, for instance, National Abortion Federation, 2018).
Sullivan writes: "Pro-choice activists cheering a plane banner that proclaimed late term abortionist, George Tiller, a 'national treasure!'”
According to a Wikipedia article on George Tiller: “Tiller treated patients who discovered late in pregnancy that their fetuses had severe or fatal birth defects. He also aborted healthy late-term fetuses in cases where two doctors certified that carrying the fetus to term would cause the woman ‘substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.’ Tiller was murdered while in a pew attending church services. (Wikipedia. George Tiller) So, does Sullivan think aborting a fetus with severe or fatal birth defects was wrong or preventing a pregnant woman from suffering s “substantial and irreversible impairment”? And does she condone murder?
While I tend to avoid anecdotes, I think one says it all. A woman was forced to carry to term a baby without a skull, called anencephaly, a fatal birth defect that affects only 1,206 pregnancies a year in the US.(Cassella, 2019). None of the aforementioned had any chance of survival. So, why, once detected, put a woman through this?
Only about 1% of abortions in the United States occur during the third trimester. While the reasons very, many are due to severe fetal abnormalities or risks to the mother (Brown, 2016; Kacere, 2014; monado, 2009).
And another relevant anecdote, Angela Carder. Angela Carder and her husband desperately wanted to bring a child into this world. Angela had been successfully treated for cancer during her early teens. Unfortunately, during pregnancy, another cancer attacked. Her doctors advised her they could save her life with another round of chemotherapy; but the fetus would have to be aborted. Angela refused. Her sole goal was to stay alive long enough to give birth. Someone at the hospital got wind of her condition, petitioned the court and the judge ordered a Caesarian. Hospital doctors refused saying a Caesarian would kill her. Doctors were brought in from the outside and a Caesarian was forceably performed on Angela. She died and the fetus was stillborn. I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding of law is that if someone kills another, even if they have but hours to live, that is murder. I don’t believe one can even force a person to donate blood, donate bone marrow, etc. So, a judge decided Angela was but an incubator and ordered her murder. Is this what pro-life is about? (ACLU, 1997; The New York Times, 1990; Wikipedia. Angela Carder). Do pro-lifers consider women mainly incubators? What about a woman who doctors want to perform a Caesarian because of high risk of infection who insists on a normal delivery (Gorney, 1988)?
If pro-lifers are consistent, then victims of incest or rape have to carry the fetus to term, a constant reminder of the crime committed against them. If one makes an exception then a problem arises, namely, that the fetus, according to them, is a human being with rights. In fact, the “policing” of pregnant women may have resulted in fewer seeking prenatal care (e.g. ACLU, 2020). So, is the fetus more important than the mother? (Thornton, 1991).
Planned Parenthood provides quality prenatal care, wellness care, including pap smears, etc. to women who lack health insurance and/or can’t afford the deductibles and copays. Yes, about half of Planned Parenthood centers carry out abortions; but abortion represents a small percentage of the care they give. Pro-choicers fighting to end government funds to Planned Parenthood are actually depriving far more pregnant women who want to have a child of the prenatal and postnatal care they need (Butler, 2019; Wikipedia. Planned Parenthood).
Sullivan writes: “They professed to want abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.” This is a far cry from today’s pro-choice movement as whole and their shocking turn to abortion at any time, for any reason, and at taxpayers’ expense. It has become a proud celebration of abortion as a good thing!”
First, advocating for a woman having control over her own body, including abortion, is a far cry from seeing abortion as “a good thing!” Can one find some people who do take such a position? Perhaps, but it is wrong and unfair to find a few extremes as representative of the vast majority of those pro-choice.
However, we don’t have choice in this nation. I lived in Sweden for almost 10 years where abortion is and has been legal. If, for instance, a university student becomes pregnant and decides to keep the child, she gets an array of support, including excellent free prenatal care, postnatal care, a monthly stipend (in U.S. we get tax deductions which benefit higher tax brackets more and those with little to no income not at all, in Sweden and many other nations, one receives a monthly child stipend, usually until the child becomes 18), if living in a single-room student flat, additional monthly stipend to move to a larger apartment and free quality day care. In fact, a friend of mine, a single woman back in the early 1970s had a child with celiac disease (gluten intolerance), somehow recognized in Sweden long before in the United States. In addition to her monthly child stipend she received an additional amount to pay for the costlier foods necessary.
While the Catholic Church does support universal health care (United States Catholic Conference, 1981) and other social supports (United States Catholic Bishops, 1986) , a large segment of Evangelical Christians against abortion support politicians involved in cutting funding to Medicaid, food stamps, etc., requiring poor women to take several buses to minimum wage jobs, women who can’t afford quality day care, so, often leaving the child under questionable care. So, pro-life in the United States often means deficient to no pre-natal care and post-natal care, poor nutrition, etc. Someone once said that the pro-life movement believes life ends at birth, not caring about health care to child and mother, decent housing, nutrition, and education. Wrong, to some extent they believe life ends at conception, not even in providing pre-natal care. Yes, there are a few small pro-life groups that supply room and board, prenatal care, and continue the room and board for a few months after birth to single mothers; but these are small groups and basically no follow-up.
As another example of the difference between so-called “pro-lifers” in the U.S. and those who really are pro-life, two friends in Sweden had a fourth child with Down Syndrome. From ultrasounds they knew what to expect and CHOSE to have the child. Down Syndrome children can reach low range of normal intelligence. They are often born with heart defects, hip dysplasia, etc. In Sweden they receive quality free care, including open-heart surgery. Five days per week the kids are picked up, taken to a special center where they receive the appropriate tailored education with the goal, when possible, of mainlining them into normal schools. And, once every three months, a trained government employee comes to the home at 5 pm Friday night and stays to 8 pm Sunday evening, respite care where the parents can go on holiday or just relax. I won’t go into the programs available when they reach adulthood.
When I returned from Sweden, receiving an NIH post-doctoral research fellowship in Houston, I met a couple who belonged to a group who promoted adopting special needs children. They adopted from a state agency a sweet little girl with Down Syndrome. The husband ran a small business and his health insurance premiums skyrocketed due to the almost certain need for complex surgeries. The Houston schools had no quality programs for special needs children. In 1986 the Federal government began funding such programs; but it took years before most school districts developed any. So, they had to pay for her private schooling. This was not a wealthy family. So, in Sweden, parents, knowing they will have a special needs child, often opt to have the child, knowing they will get the support they need. In the U.S. families are often on their own. Especially a family who intentionally adopts a special needs child should receive all the support we can give them; but doesn’t happen. So, a true choice doesn’t exist in this nation. We talk of family values; but bail out wealthy bankers and other corporations, etc. not families. We call compassion and caring for our fellow human beings socialism; but practice real socialism for the corporations.
Sullivan writes: “While mourning the deaths of over 61 million babies.”
While much of the abortion debate is about privacy and women’s rights, what is often missed is the elephant in the room, namely, the 1st Amendment. In 1803 President Jefferson sent a letter to the Danbury, CT, Baptist Church which contained the famous line: “There shall be a wall of separation between church and state.” What many Americans don’t realize is that prior to the 14th Amendment passed after the Civil War, the 1st Amendment only applied to the Federal government. Each state had its own official church, e.g., Connecticut, Episcopalian, Virginia, Anglican. Preachers from other denominations were often fined, imprisoned, run out of town on a rail and members often discriminated against, including not being eligible for government jobs. If one follows the pro-choice movement, almost all are seen praying to Jesus. Yet, many Christian denominations support the legality of abortion, which doesn’t mean they are promoting it. In Judaism, Reform and Conservative Jews mostly support choice; but among the Orthodox, usually not. One can argue till hell freezes over on whether the Bible allows or condemns abortion (e.g., Arthur, 2001; CBN News, 2018; Emerald, 20110; Lee, 2009; OpenBible, 2019; Rosner, 2019; The Christian Left, 2012). Part of the debate is when the fetus becomes “human”, partly determined when the soul enters the body (Wikipedia, 2019).
But, whether the Bible is for or against, by basing ones main argument on the Bible it is clearly a 1st Amendment issue. Especially given the very fact that various denominations are either pro-choice or pro-life, differing in their interpretation of the Bible. In addition, as mentioned above, we can’t even force someone to donate blood nor give a bone marrow transplant; yet, regardless of the circumstances, rape, incest, a severely damaged fetus, risk to mother’s life, and a nation that provides little to no medical and social support, some religious groups want to force their religion on others.
As for “at taxpayers’ expense,” I am against the Death Penalty (Harrison, 2019), but can’t withhold a portion of my taxes that support it. Quakers are pacifists, but can’t withhold a portion of taxes that support our military-industrial complex. Does Sullivan support our taxes paying for prenatal care, paying women forced to carry anencephalic fetus to term, forcing victims of rape and incest to relive such a terrible violation for nine months? We pay taxes as citizens of a nation. On some issues, such as the death penalty and military-industrial complex we can vote to change policy, but until it is changed, we have to pay taxes. I certainly didn’t support bailing out the criminal bankers who almost brought on a severe depression in 2008. However, when the issue is clearly 1st Amendment, different religious beliefs do NOT exempt us from taxes.
Sullivan mentions the “61 million babies” aborted. In a society that doesn’t guarantee quality pre-natal care, nor post-natal health care, nor decent housing and food and education, what would have become of the majority of these “babies”? I put “babies” in quotes because it is a religious classification whether the fetus is “human” or a potential human. In a society that is in tax revolt where already masses of infants suffer from poor housing, malnutrition, lack of decent medical care, and poorly funded schooling, what would have happened to many of the 61 million?
Personally, I’d love to see the number of abortions plummet. Making birth control easily available would help (Harrison, 2013). Giving single-women and families doing their best to provide for children they already have quality prenatal and postnatal care, decent housing, food, etc. would provide a true choice; but, in the end, it is up to the woman, based on her own conscience and situation, not having someone else’s religious beliefs forced on her.
As for Sullivan’s “For years those who defended a woman’s right to abort her baby were thought to be merely confused or misinformed,” this is an absurd claim at best, especially given the enormous literature, e.g., books, magazine articles, blogs, etc. for pro-choice, especially given that the pro-life movement often resorts to quoting the Bible, at least, their interpretation of it.
I should also add that many pro-lifers among Evangelicals support the death penalty, though, in all fairness, the Catholic Church’s position is against abortion and against the death penalty.
Sulllivan’s Reader’ Editorial basically reflects her own beliefs, not reality. She plays up violence against pro-lifers, ignoring the much more serious violence against pro-choice advocates. She ignores that only about 1% of abortions are third trimester and many are because of serious birth defects discovered in the fetus or risk to the pregnant women. Some abortions are because the woman realizes she will not have any social support. Sullivan doesn’t offer programs, e.g., quality health care, housing, and food stamps, etc. For her, being born is all that matters. And Sullivan makes claims that are ludicrous, e.g., that pro-choice really just wants abortions, not supporting a woman’s right to her own body, and that pro-choice don’t understand their position. What an absurd claim. When pro-life Evangelicals support quality health care for all (Harrison, 2008; 2018), decent housing, food, education, etc. and come out against the Death Penalty, I will have much more respect for them, though I will still see this as a woman’s right to her own body and a 1st Amendment issue.
Postscript: A Brief History of the Modern Pro-Life/Anti-Abortion Movement
Note. the following contains extensive quotes from one article (Balmer, 2014; however, I give additional supporting references: Eagan, 2018 and Halpern, 2018. I highly recommend reading the entire article. As the article clearly documents, Roe v Wade 1973 did NOT result in a mass movement of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Balmer (2014):
In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism. Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn’t always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.
When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.
How does this make sense? In 1954 the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools in Brown v. Board of Education. White flight began, often using state funds for private schools, including schools run by conservative Christians. Not until the 1970s did the federal government actively begin enforcing the law, e.g., clamping down on state funding of private segregated schools, removing IRS non-profit status, etc. Many have read of the “Southern Strategy” whereby the Republican Party, anathema to the South since the Civil War, used covert racism as part of its strategy to regain the South (e.g. Wikipedia. Southern Strategy).
Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter’s term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House. But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale. By the late 1970s, many Americans—not just Roman Catholics—were beginning to feel uneasy about the spike in legal abortions following the 1973 Roe decision.
So, yes, people were feeling uneasy about the increase in legal abortions, but the main underlying push was by racists needing a non-racial issue. The result is that today’s Evangelicals mainly support the Republican Party because of its “overt” stand against abortion, ignoring that the same Republican Party works to undermine any medical and social supports, supports that, according to my reading of the New Testament, are the foundations of Christianity, i.e., food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick (Matthew 25:31-40). And we are told not to be judgmental, compassion and caring for our fellow man should be a priority. Instead they look for excuses NOT to help others.
And I get sick and tired of labeling health care, welfare, etc. as socialism. Socialism is the government controlling the means of production, e.g., factories, farms, etc. We have public schools, not socialist schools, public universities, not socialist universities, police and fire departments, not called socialist, at least as far as I’m aware. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of many pro-lifers, I question their narrow perspective, ignoring the needs of children, and their ignoring that the Evangelical movement originated mainly from Baptists (Heyrman, 1997) who welcomed Jefferson’s “wall of separation between Church and State.”
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I made your point? So, according to you all biologist are liberals? Are all chemists also liberals? Actually, are all scientists liberals? What that tells me is that you reject science and rely on whatever your religious beliefs are? And that confirms my point that "abortion is a 1st amendment issue." So, thank you.
So, aborting a fetus is murder? How about destroying a nation's infrastructure, e.g., water treatment plants, resulting in literally 10s of thousands of children dying from waterborne infections. Is that murder? I think it is and that is what we did in Iraq. By the way, under international law attacking civilian infrastructure is a war crime.
@ 8East Sentience vs Self-Awareness
First, describing bacteria as life is ridiculous. Of course it meets the criteria of life, it moves, it reproduces, it takes in sustenance and excretes waste; but please define "sentient being". One definition of sentient being is "capable of sensation or of sense-perception; having the power of feeling." But is a fetus in first trimester aware of self and surroundings?. And if you consider a fetus a sentient being and killing a sentient being is murder, I assure you that animals such as pigs which are highly intelligent can also be considered sentient beings, much more so that fetus, because they not only feel things but are aware of their environment, of their fellow pigs, etc., so killing pigs is murder?
You confuse your belief system with some objective standard. Biology shows us that a fetus is a potential human being. In fact, if you look at a zygote or first weeks of a human fetus you can't distinguish it from the early fetus of many other mammals.
Do you belong to any particular church?
Liberalism is rife with hypocrisy
@ Don Bacon
I don’t disagree that the Constitution “was written by a few rich white guys, many of them slave-holders who didn’t care about human rights;” but they did care about their rights, thus, the Bill of Rights. The 1st Amendment protects free speech; yet our Federal Courts have ruled that the gag order where medical personnel, including WHITE MALE DOCTORS, can’t even tell a woman that her fetus is anencephalic and/or her life is at risk and suggest another clinic. And some of the Founding Fathers didn’t belong to the majority religion in their respective states, so, again, 1st Amendment to protect against forcing one religion on everyone, at the time, wealthy white males. Did you know that Pennsylvania, founded by Quakers who welcomed all, when they became a minority for decades weren’t allowed to hold political offices nor serve on juries because their reading of the Bible forbade taking oaths? As I wrote, Bill of Rights only applied to the Federal government until 14th Amendment and the Supreme Court ignored mostly even the 14th Amendment for decades.
So, the Constitution includes three branches of government and the 3rd Branch, as I discussed earlier, historically has ignored the Bill of Rights, including the 14th Amendment, many more times than it has upheld it.
If we were to elect a President, Senate (enough to stop a filibuster), and House of Representatives that then pass a strong pro-choice bill, immediately there will be lawsuits and how do you think our Federal Courts will rule, especially given the Supreme Court now has a majority of far-right justices and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in failing health, so if she goes, Trump will get another anti-choice, anti-Bill of Rights Justice appointed? The only guarantee, well maybe, is to pass the ERA, which may happen, then even the Supreme Court will not be able to rule against. Well, maybe, as the ERA doesn’t specifically include abortion, so, the only full guarantee would be an Abortion/Pro-Choice Amendment which will NEVER happen.
You continue to claim the 1st Amendment has nothing to do with abortion; but ignore the free speech, i.e., gag clause, and that it is one minority group trying to impose their religion on others. Obviously, you don’t understand this. Yep, our Courts ignore this; but it is written. So, it is BOTH a human right and a Constitutional issue. The fact that our Courts, created by the Constitution, ignore the Bill of Rights, doesn’t change that. Years ago, I got a copy of the Constitution of the Soviet Union. It stated quite clearly that each Republic was free to leave at any time. Of course, not true.
We are NOT a democracy. We have the electoral college created mainly to protect the slave states. We have gerrymandering. And we have huge voter suppression. And we have had butterfly ballots, hanging chads, and our Supreme Court ruled 5 - 4 to end recount in Florida. Two of the Justices had family working in Bush campaign, so they should have recused themselves. And Bush v. Gore is, as far as I have discovered, the only Supreme Court ruling that did NOT become the law of the land; but specifically states that it only applies to the one case. And we have an electorate, at least some, influenced by masses of money paying for 30 second soundbites, lying and distorting rivals records. And we have one of the lowest voter turnouts among Western democracies.
I don’t disagree that the real issue is HUMAN RIGHTS; but our Constitution, given our courts stand often in contradiction to our Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. And, despite what you choose to believe, our Constitution was written to form a government based on how that government, at the time, affected the RIGHTS of white males and those rights included free speech and freedom of and from religion.
I don’t know anything about you; but when younger I was active supporting both ERA, Civil Rights, and Pro-Choice. Even met and had nice half hour discussion with Cecil Richard, former President of NOW, 30 years ago at a pro-choice rally where I spoke because several women who knew me asked me to. And I lived in Sweden for almost 10 years where women have equality, abortion is legal, etc. In fact, I would have stayed in Sweden; but my maternal grandfather died because of for-profit medicine, won’t go into the details but accurate, my mother and grandmother cried during phone call, I loved my family, so sacrificed to some extent my future by returning to states as soon as finished my doctorate. One of the things I really liked about Sweden was quality national health care, so returned to states because of one of the reasons I didn’t want to live in states, only health care system in world paid for by taxpayers but designed for profit not for people. And little Sweden has taken in close to one million refugees from Middle East and Africa. While not perfect, they give them quality health care, housing, and education. Compare that with U.S. I really think we should remove Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” What a lie. The U.S. is dominated by a narrative myth that doesn’t even come close to reflecting the reality of our sordid racist, violent, brutal history. Read, for example, Ronald Takaki’s “A Different Mirror (2nd Edition).”
By the time my family was gone I was too old to return to Sweden. I actually moved home, spent over a year taking care of my mother when she was dying of cancer.
You write: “Depend on the Constitution for human rights? No way, José. Only an anti-woman would claim that. . . And you write: "Women are being dumped on, and waving the irrelevant Constitution is not helpful when one considers the intentional damage it does to women as it distracts from the real issue: HUMAN RIGHTS.”
I’m supposed to keep comments civil; so I’ll do my best. I don’t depend on the Constitution for anything; but simply pointed out that it does claim to protect free speech and a separation of church and state, even if originally only for white males. My good friends over the years have included many brilliant highly successful women, doctors, lawyers, university professors, etc. I didn’t judge them by their sexual organs; but by their intelligence, creativity, integrity, and decency. A good sense of humor helped.
Your problem is rigidly seeing the world in black and white. It is either human rights or the Constitution. In addition, you display the same flawed reasoning of many Americans, i.e., focus on one or, perhaps, two issues. You ignore that I also wrote that, as a nation, we don’t really care about children and people, e.g., a health care system designed for profit, often no quality prenatal care, homeless, even children, poor housing, poor nutrition, poor education, and a brutal police force and criminal justice system that targets minorities and, sometimes even poor whites. All of these I consider human rights. I try to live in the real world, seeing things as complex, involving many issues. So implying that because I don’t agree with you 100% that I am “antiwoman” is just plain despicable. A world of black and white extremes.
I should also point out that, for some reason some of my comments weren’t posted, just the “titles”. You contacted East County Magazine who explained they were working on it, so you posted additional comments, allowing for a one-sided argument. I think that says a lot about what type of person you are! ! !
And how do you think, given our Constitution and Courts, that we get human rights in this country? We certainly can’t appeal to the World Court. Would be ignored. All we have is our Constitution. Perhaps, you don’t believe the 1st Amendment’s Free Speech and Freedom of and from Religion are human rights???
Please explain how one implements/protects human rights without a government, which, in our case is based on the Constitution? And I totally agree with the failings of our Constitution; but without Amendments, our Courts as they stand will continue to deny us more times than nought. Human Rights aren’t something that exist and are carried out automatically. It is through politics and our politics involve the Constitution, including the Courts decision in Citizen’s United, making corporations, artificial entities, equal to people and money also, so that the wealthy override the concept of one person, one vote.
And a confession. I was active in Civil Rights protest; but dare not journey to the South. Also I was in high school at time. I valued my life and limb, perhaps, too much. My roommate at college was President of local chapter of SDS and we were visited by FBI. Protested war in Vietnam. When one professor was denied tenure, despite department and university approving, Board of Regents didn’t like that he was advisor to SDS, so he was denied tenure, administration building was occupied. I wasn’t among occupiers; but daily outside with placards. When police arresting them, we bailed them out. Protested against second Iraq War. In Sweden, protested to decommission nuclear power plants and against war in Vietnam. And in Israel, had Palestinian friends and attended meetings calling for a democratic Palestine, separation of church and state. Later told Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI) took down names. So, I’m probably in FBI archives and Shin Bet as well. I’m not super brave, so avoid confrontations with brutal American police forces. Swedish police far less brutal. But, throughout my life have been involved, sometimes quite active other times less so, in various movements for human rights, against war, for ERA, for pro-choice, against racism, including in Israel, and I am Jewish. As far as I’m concerned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and other non-Jews is a betrayal of the Covenant, a betrayal of what Judaism stands for, e.g., “be kind to the stranger in your midst for were you not once strangers in the land of Egypt.” For instance: Rabbi Reuven Hammer (2016 Apr 21). “The Status of Non-Jews in Jewish Law and Are Today”. Available at:
So, besides seeing the world in extremes of black and white, what have you actually done?
The US Constitution was written
@ Joel Harrison
@ Don Bacon
AS POSTED: "And (for a simile) how about vaccinations of children before age 2, is that a Constitutional Issue or just a good human rights idea?"
Every society on the face of the Earth has to balance individual rights with social responsibilities. We live in COMMUNITIES. When it comes to vaccinations, they "promote the general welfare" by protecting those kids who can’t be vaccinated, e.g., autoimmune disorder or undergoing chemotherapy and whose immune system didn’t respond to vaccines, in other words, PUBLIC HEALTH. And despite the unscientific ideological reasoning of antivaccinationists, vaccines overwhelmingly protect kids with rare risks of serious adverse events. The benefits to cost ratio is exponential. In addition, if a kid has a genetic predisposition to react to a vaccine odds are they will also react to the live full strength microbe. If we don’t protect our kids then they risk a less than fulfilling life and a burden on society. Every society has PUBLIC HEALTH. Quarantine is not in the Constitution; but every society I know of has used it since the Middle Ages.
I am, of course, speaking of kids, not fetus; but have to mention that, for instance, rubella, a usually mild case in kids, if a pregnant woman is exposed to it, usually by kids, the risk to the fetus is enormous, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and congenital rubella syndrome (one or more of: blindness, deafness, seizure disorder, mental retardation) and small risk of microcephaly, a shrunken brain with guaranteed death. So vaccinating kids for rubella protects the fetus. Keep in mind that rubella has an incubation time of 12 - 14 days, so if woman exposed to, then becomes pregnant, same outcome. Pregnant women have higher death rates for flu, etc. And the risk to the fetus is there as well.
So, if one includes the Preamble to the Constitution, "to promote the general welfare", yes, a Constitutional issue. If one simply looks at public health as being part of any society, also, yes. And if one considers that sometimes society, that is overwhelming science, knows better than parents, yes. And every society I know of can intervene to protect a child. Ever heard of Child Protection Services? Whether they overdo it or not is a separate question. And parents have been prosecuted for withholding medical care to a gravely ill child
Abortion is a human rights issue, not
@ Don Bacon - WRONG - Abortion is a Constitutional Issue
First, there was something wrong with website as I posted several comments; but all that showed was the title. Now fixed
I like your suggestion for a “conception certificate”.
However, you are wrong agreeing with Chief Justice Roberts declaring there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. You cite the Ninth Amendment, which, to the best of my knowledge is part of the Constitution. So, if not forbidden by the Constitution certainly implies individual rights.And historically abortion in this nation was legal. In addition, as I’ve already stated several times, the 1st Amendment certainly applies, both separation of church and state (one religious group denied right to impose their religion on others) and free speech (gag rule not allowing medical personnel to even tell a woman that her fetus is severely damaged and/or her life and health is at risk and suggesting they seek help elsewhere). Or, perhaps you don’t consider Amendments part of the Constitution?
As for the Constitution being a “moral compass” what does that have to do with 1st Amendment and IXth Amendment? If protecting us against tyranny of the majority or a minority is not based on a moral belief of the individual, then what is? Morals is basically what is considered right and wrong. And protecting us against tyranny of majority or minority, in my opinion, certainly is making a statement of what is right and wrong with government powers.
And you cited the Declaration of Independence; but left out a bit: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” [my emphasis] “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Constitutions are to establish governments; but what is the purpose of governments? Obviously government actions affect people, unless you believe that somehow our government just sits there and does things that do not affect us??? Exactly what the Declaration of Independence states. Also, isn’t claims of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” taking a moral position? Perhaps your definition of morality is different from mine???
However, Roberts is in a long line of Supreme Court justices that have ignored or bent the Constitution to support corporations, wealthy individuals, and the government against the rest of us. Besides having taken three undergraduate courses in Constitutional Law, though not my profession, I have read dozens of books and hundreds of articles that make it clear that from the gitgo the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the aforementioned 95% of the time. Even when it comes to a man’s life, in one case, an appeal to the Supreme Court by someone innocent who had already spent over 15 years in prison took the Court three years to issue one-sentence overturning his conviction. What contempt for a human being.
And what about Citizen’s United, giving Constitutional protections to corporations?
And thanks to Trump and Mitch McConnell judicial appointments, our Federal courts, especially Supreme Court, will continue supporting corporations, wealthy individuals, government, and ignoring the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights. Yep, now and then they will rule in support; but even a broken clock gets the time right twice daily.
Think about it, five political appointees can determine what is legal for a nation of 320 million. Yep, if the Court did its job, protecting us against power, OK; but it usually does the opposite.
Some suggested readings:
Erwin Chemerinsky (2014). The Case Against the Supreme Court. Viking Press.
Peter Irons (1999). A Peoples’ History of the Supreme Court. Viking Press.
Geoffrey R Stone (2004). Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. Norton.
As for the Declaration of Independence, read the history leading up to the Constitution which was an intentional repudiation of the Declaration. In fact, most at the Constitutional Convention were against democracy, seen by them as the rule of the mob. However, the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution re-established to some extent what was in the Declaration of Independence and scholars claim that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address re-established the Declaration and Constitution as equal.
And you ignore what I wrote that one can find verses in the Bible that can be interpreted as against abortion and others not. And that no where in the Bible does it specifically condemn abortion. Regardless, as I wrote, the pro-lifers, I think better called pro-birthers since the vast majority could care less what happens after birth, base their position on their reading of the Bible and that makes it clearly a 1st Amendment issue. And the fact that they literally support the gag rule, even if the fetus will be stillborn or woman die, says clearly their narrow meaning of “life”.
Why is abortion a constitutional issue?
Argentina gets it.
@ Don Bacon - WRONG - Abortion is a Constitutional Issue
@ Don Bacon - Abortion is a Constitutional Issue
@ Joel Harrison
I've explained why this is wrong,
Glad you brought up "Sharia law". Fascinating how some Americans are outraged when in other countries one religious group forces its interpretation of and religion on others. What hypocrites to then turn around and want to force their interpretation and religion on others. However, I put in parenthesis "Shariah law" because as used by Isis, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, etc. is a perversion of what Mohammed taught. I'm not a Moslem; but like learning about other cultures and religions, so have read several biographies of Mohammed and several books on Islam. For instance, it is forbidden to kill or harm non-combatants, e.g. women, children. And even combattants if they "lay down their swords" then "let them go in peace." During Crusades the Crusaders slaughtered Moslems and Jews; but when the Moslems retook Jerusalem they didn't harm anyone nor destroyed Churches and Temples. And women were treated better under Mohammed and early history of Islam that Judaism and Christianity. They could be educated, own property, and divorce. Yep, they were supposed to dress modestly, e.g. hijabs, a head scarf; but not the extreme Niqabs and Burqas we see in some lands. Actually, the modest headscarf is still worn by Orthodox Jewish women, Amish women, and historically by many Christian women.
I also have numerous articles documenting that where modern abortion was allowed that fatalities among pregnant women decreased significantly. How could allowing a woman to die be "pro-life?"
As for the Bible being "written down by men," yep; but scholars also note that the Old Testament has three distinctly different vocabularies and grammars, clearly indicating parts were written at different times, literally centuries apart and we know that books of the New Testament were not only written by different people at different times; but at Council of Nicea and others they literally voted on which books to include and which to exclude. The Catholic Bible differs in books included from the Protestant Bible.
And if one wants to read a fascinating book that documents the current attempts to analyze the Bible to find the "exact" meanings, etc. did not develop until the Renaissance. Prior to that, the Bible was mainly seen as a guidance, moral guidance. The Torah, five books of Moses, uses language meant to be spoken. See Karen Armstrong's "The Battle for God."
@ Don Bacon
As you write, “pro-lifers and Christians in general believe in the Bible”; however, you are wrong about “The Christian Bible is crystal clear on the subject.”
Yep, many people believe in the Bible; but as I wrote, various denominations support choice and others don’t. Despite what fundamentalists and evangelicals choose to believe, the Bible isn’t always clear about all issues, even sometimes having verses that contradict others. This isn’t the place to get into a theological discussion; but the point is that different groups, each including devout believers, disagree on what the Bible says in certain circumstances. But, more importantly, the very groups that welcomed Jefferson’s “wall of separation” now wish to ignore the 1st Amendment and force their religion on others. And they also don’t believe in another part of the 1st Amendment, “free speech”, supporting gag rules of medical personnel who even suggest a woman, even if the fetus is severely damaged or her health/life at risk, check out another clinic.
And “Throughout much of Western history, abortion was not considered a criminal act as long as it was performed before “quickening” (the first detectable movement of the fetus, which can occur between 13-25 weeks of pregnancy). American states derived their initial abortion statutes from British common law, which followed this principle. Until at least the early-1800s, abortion procedures and methods were legal and openly advertised throughout the United States. Abortion was unregulated, however, and often unsafe” (ProCon, 2019; see also Politt, 1997)
And, as I mentioned in my Editorial: In 1973, Wallie Amos ‘W. A.ʼ Criswell, President of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1968 to 1970, said this: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”
Given that many Evangelical pro-lifers support politics that limit availability of pre-natal care, post-natal care, decent housing and nutrition, decent education and support the death penalty, I think one should stop calling them “pro-life” and call them “pro-birth” since that is all many of them seem to care about.
I should point out that several historians of religion have discussed why the U.S. has so many more Church goers that many other nations being because we DON’T have an established state religion.
In any case, below are just a few phrases from the Bible that pro-choice groups refer to.
For instance: “Exodus 21G22-25 describes a case where a pregnant woman jumps into a fight between her husband and another man and suffers injuries that cause her to miscarry. Injuries to the woman prompt the normal penalties for harming another human being: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. Killing the woman is murder, a capital crime. The miscarriage is treated differently, however — as property loss, not murder. The assailant must pay a fine to the husband. The law of a life for a life does not apply. The fetus is important, but itʼs not human life in the same way the pregnant woman is (Lowery, 2012).
From the Christian Left Blog (2012)
“After God formed man in Genesis 2:7, He ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being’. Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath.
In Job 33:4, it states: ‘The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.’
Again, to quote Ezekiel 37:5&6, ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’”
From Emerald (2011):
“while the Law of Moses outlines penalties and conditions for various types of killing (neighbors, foreigners, intentional, etc.), along with various types of permissible and forbidden killing (self-defense, executions, wartime vs. homicides), there is not a single place in the Bible where abortion is condemned, forbidden or even frowned upon. In fact, the Bible on several occasions discusses fetal life and existence. These would have been perfect opportunities to include a prohibition against abortion, if such had been intended (or was God guilty of a sin of omission?). But they didnʼt. Since abortion was well known at the time the Bible was written, but not forbidden in it, the Bibleʼs silence reveals much. . . It is amazing that the Biblical authority is claimed for so many subjects where the Bible is actually silent or ambiguous (or even contradictory), while they completely ignore other parts of the Bible such as archaic commands in the Law of Moses (in the Biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy) in which the Bible is very clear, such as prohibiting tattoos or the eating of shrimp, pork or ham or demanding animal sacrifice or many aspects of religious observance and practice that seem prohibitively intrusive today. Yet today these inconvenient commandments that actually are in the Bible simply ignored by all but the most orthodox, while the same people who ignore what is actually in the Bible claim biblical authority in matters where the Bible is completely silent.”
Christian Left Blog (2012 Oct 31). The Bible Tells Us When A Fetus Becomes A Living Being. Available at: http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/the-bible-tells-us-when-a-...
Emerald (2011 May 22). Abortion and Judeo-Christian Religion. Available at: https://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/abortion-and-judeo-christia...
Lowery R (2012 Nov 14). Abortion: What the Bible Says (and Doesn’t Say). Huffington Post. Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/abortion-what-the-bible-says-and-doesnt-s...
Politt K (1997 May). Abortion in American History. The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/abortion-in-america...
ProCon.org (2019 May 21). History of Abortion. Available at:
Suggesting that there is any Constitutional basis
But many people are not Christian and don't believe that.
Don Bacon -- For Christians to force women to be "incubators" ruled by their husbands on reproductive rights and everything else, as you suggest, if the women don't share that belief, is just as bad as allowing Muslim extremists to impose Sharia Law over non-Muslims.
America has people of many faiths including Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists (no faith), and a wide range of Christian sects, not all of which take such harsh views.
Of course the Bible was written down by men, so even Christians can't be certain that's truly the words of God.
"Pro-life" bans on all abortion, of course, also take away a husband's rights, too. What if a man wants to save his wife's life and supports ending a risky pregnancy? By your logic he should have the power to do so, but would not have that right under the extreme laws proposed.
Of course it's wrong
"Do pro-lifers consider women mainly incubators?"