Friday, October 21, 2011

Does Romney Understand?

Earlier this month Mitt Romney stated that he is in favor of a constitutional amendment stating that human life begins at conception.  I can only hope that it is a position he doesn't understand or hasn't really thought about.  It is a statement that could be made only by three categories of people... 1. the ignorant,  2. the political opportunist who doesn't really believe it but is hoping for votes, and 3. the insanely anti-abortion folk.  Here's why.

Conception happens when an egg and a sperm connect.  If at that point we have a human being, we have a number of issues to face.  Many fertilized eggs naturally do not implant themselves on the uterine wall.  If a human life begins at conception, every time that happens, we have had the death of a human being with all of the attending legal ramifications regardless of the cause.  Some women experience ectopic pregnancies where the egg implants somewhere other than the uterine wall, most often in the fallopian tubes.  This is extremely dangerous for the woman.  If the fertilized egg is not removed, she will die.  If the fertilized egg is a human being, we're talking about murder here... even though there is no chance that the fertilized egg would remain viable through an entire pregnancy.  A number of the most popular birth control methods do not stop the egg from being fertilized but rather from implanting in the uterine wall.  This would amount to murder.   Many couples find themselves unable to conceive in the normal ways and use in vitro fertilization which typically results in numerous fertilized eggs, some of which are discarded at one time or another.  Again, we're talking about murder if human life begins at conception.  We haven't mentioned instances of rape or incest where the morning after pill - which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting - would no longer be an option.   We also have raised other issues such as the mother's life, the health of the fetus, etc. etc. etc.  Regardless of how one feels in general about abortion, this stance is as radical as it can possibly be.

So either Mitt Romney doesn't understand how conception works and how it relates to pregnancy and birth control, he does know all of this and is just trying to get votes, or he actually believes what he said... in each case, the possibility that he could become president is just frightening to me and should be doubly so to any woman of child bearing age.


Michael Mahoney said...

Leaving the moral issues aside for the moment -

The "big three" reasons people who support abortion hang their hats on - health of the mother, health of the fetus, rape/incest - account for about 7% of all US abortions. I think most pro-life advocates would gladly walk away from those issues to save the 93%. Those numbers are from a recent Planned Parenthood- sponsored study, but the numbers have been the same since I was in high school.

What's missing - and I'm stunned you ignore this - is that abortion is inherently classist and racist. A black woman is three times more likely to get an abortion than a white woman, and a Hispanic woman twice as likely. Women (of all races) in households earning over $60,000 get less than 14% of all abortions. Abortion clinics target minorities and poor women, and they are literally gutting the African American community from the inside out. Abortion kills more black Americans than the next seven leading causes combined. The word "genocide" comes to mind.

Anyone who stands on the "health of the mother" issue doesn't understand what abortion is doing in this country. I take it you've never stood outside an abortion mill and seen the faces of the women who come out - empty, hollow, desolate. I take it you've never seen what this disgrace does to a woman, emotionally and mentally.

I love and respect you, Roy, even when we disagree. But I simply cannot reconcile preaching the Gospel with supporting abortion. If these children are not the "least of these," then who is?

roy said...

the issue here, though Michael, is not abortion. It is birth control and more than that... the idea that human personhood begins at conceptions strikes me as just silly. The implications of that idea are just so far reaching as to be ridiculous.

When does it begin... that question is much more difficult. I'm not sure... but I am sure that is is not at the moment that a sperm cell unites with an egg.

FWIW, in my best possible world there would be no abortions. I do not believe it is a simple act nor is it the equivalent of getting a hair cut or even a tummy tuck. Still, I also believe that God gives us both the right and responsibility to make moral decisions, as difficult as they might be. Here's where I'm sure we can agree... let's do whatever we can to remove that issue from the table. Let's endorse policies that make wanted pregnancies and stop unwanted ones...

Salome Ellen said...

You are missing the point of the legal term "person." It simply means an entity with specific legal rights. (Corporations can be "persons" for protection under the law.) Romney understands that if we define human personhood as beginning at any point after fertilization -- since some now define "conception" as equivalent to "implantation" -- there are no good grounds for deciding WHEN that should be. "Ethicist" Peter Singer argues for the end of the first month after birth! As the grandmother of identical twins, which divide after fertilization but before implantation, I understand that WHEN they became separate individuals -- what we normally think of as "persons" -- is not fully definable. But before or after the split, he/they were living human beings.

And yes, Romney and other pro-life people would like to be able to ban abortifacient/implantation-preventing contraceptives. Because we really DO believe deliberately choosing to end a human life is murder. Even Planned Parenthood used to admit in its literature "Abortion ends the life of a baby after it has begun." It is this cultural blindness and deification of radical autonomy/"choice" that I fear, probably far more than you fear Mitt Romney.

On a side note, the ectopic pregnancies you mentioned are indeed a "hard case". But the decision to remove an ectopic is a choice to save as many lives as possible, rather than to end a human life for the convenience/protection of another human being.

I won't hijack your comments box further, but I'd like to reason with you on this if you are interested. You can email or Facebook me (or not).

Dave Miller said...

Roy, defining personhood as whatever we have "at the moment of conception" is a dangerous precedent.

Think of how many people who otherwise might never have gotten pregnant will now seek abortions in somewhat more liberal states if propositions like #26 in Mississippi become the law and make contraceptives illegal for the very reasons you mentioned.

Michael, this is the goal of a many pro-life people, to make even IUD's and "the pill" against the law.

in their misguided effort to scare people into not having sex, I believe they will increase the number of abortions we will see, and yes, minorities and those from lower socioeconomic groups will suffer most.

roy said...

Dave & Ellen,

Thanks for entering the discussion.

Ellen, if we're using "person" in a way similar to the way it is used when referring to corporations, then that opens significant problems. First, I don't think any lay person reads that as "artificial person" as it is meant when referring to corporations. Second, if the word is not used in the common sense way but is used as a technical/legal term, it is meaningless until the specific rights are described. For example, a corporation is a legal person, but has no right to existence and can be "terminated" at any moment by the owners or sold. I'm sure that most of the folk arguing for this amendment would not allow for this interpretation.

As for what Romney actually believes or understands regarding the issue, I don't know. When questioned the other day, he didn't seem to understand the implications of his stance. My gut tells me that the stance of the Republican party has never really been about ending abortion as much as it has been about using that issue to motivate a constituency that may not vote their way otherwise.

Dave, I think you're right on target, that such a move would likely lead to more abortions or at least more back room, dangerous ones for the poor while wealthy folk would travel to another state or country. I would guess that Ellen (excuse me for speaking for you here), would likely see that as a separate issue and would argue that if abortion is murder, and she would say it is, then there is no justification for it under any circumstances.

Back to Ellen, I guess the real issue is the one you raised, how do we decide when "personhood" begins, especially when medical science has significantly moved viability earlier and earlier in pregnancy. I'm not sure that the easy answer is always the best...

And again to Michael, Ellen has reminded me that this issue may indeed be about abortion if one truly believes that personhood happens at the moment of conception. Then, many of the very common forms of birth control used today would move from that category into the category of abortion. Again, I can't go there... and I don't know whether that is actually what Romney meant or not.

Salome Ellen said...

Roy, thanks for taking the issue seriously. My personal objection to abortion was actually formed pre-Roe v. Wade, when a reading for a class at Juniata (I think it was "The Judeo-Christian Heritage", which wasn't part of the core classes by the time you got there) mentioned the possibility of genetic manipulation on embryos/fetuses to make them "better". I was so revolted by that -- likening it to Hitler's "experiments" -- that I realized that there was no reasonable "beginning" for an individual human other than at conception. 40 years of study and involvement with the issue have only confirmed that for me. And I also find "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..." pretty convincing.
I know this won't settle the issue, for anybody, but it's always better to seriously study and reason than to apply slogans, and both sides fall into that trap!

I will keep praying for clarity and the mind of the Spirit for you, me, and the whole country.

roy said...

Yes, Ellen, it is always better to seriously study, reason, and discuss. It is critical to truly understand all sides of important issues and to always be ready to learn and grow.

Michael Mahoney said...

Roy, to say that the question is not about abortion is being disingenuous at best... of course it's about abortion. I'm glad you acknowledge the possibility. There are people today who use abortion as a form of "contraception." Maybe not contraception per se, but as having the same end result - no pesky children to raise.

For the record, I do not support a ban on contraception in it's literal form - a device or drug to prevent conception. Health of the mother, rape, incest, fetal development, "morning after" pill... none of those are where the main battle lines are.

All that aside, I have a difficult time not believing that life begins at conception. I don't want to get all theological here, but I don't see a scriptural basis for believing otherwise.

The good news is that the number of abortions has declined steadily for the last thirty years. Over here on the right coast, many clinics have closed as economic forces come to bear. People seem to slowly be waking up to the fact that there are many, better, alternatives. Any alternative that doesn't involve death is probably a good thing.

Dave Miller said...

Michael, but here is the problem with the "life begins at conception" argument.

If we accept that, what do we do with the forms of contraception that dislodge that egg after conception?

That is in fact how many pills and other forms of contraceptives work.

How does someone maintain consistency, support these types of contraceptives, and believe life begins at conception?

Of course this very issue is one of the keys to the Catholic position vis a vis birth control, something Protestants have stood against for years.

Michael Mahoney said...

Dave, I hear you. But let's look at the thought process here.

Your response, and Roy's original post, both take the tone that the answer must be "B" because we don't like the implications of "A." That's a logical flaw.

We must determine (within our ability) to discover the truth, and then, and only then, deal with the implications of that truth. In other words, we have to come to the understanding of when life begins pretty much in a vacuum. The truth doesn't care if it's politcally correct or economically feasable.

Personally, I don't support those types of birth control, which actually are not "contraceptives." They are more properly called "contragestationals," and those that act after implantation are "abortificants." And they each have their own ramifications. I understand that's an unpopular viewpoint.