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Life: “The Little Shadow Which Runs Across The Grass”
We have reached the point where our species creates as much intellectual, scientific, and technical information in two days as we created from the first cave paintings 30,000 years ago to the year 2003. Somebody at Reuters found out about this development and reported it. They also estimated that in ten years the same amount of information will be generated in less than one hour. OK. OK. So they might be off a few years. It still makes sense.
Who would have thought just 20 years ago that in Catholic Poland the newest elected parliament would swear in a transsexual lawyer, Anna Grodska, as a member. At the same swearing-in the parliament elected its first female speaker and its first gay lawmaker. All this in Poland, the home of the most conservative Pope John Paul II?
Before she became Anna, he was Krzysztof Begowski, who fathered one child with his wife before his-her sex change operation. Anna was greeted enthusiastically by her legislative colleagues when she entered the chamber the first time. In Poland? My God! What is this world coming to? Anna says, “The people of Poland wanted a modern Poland, a Poland open to variety, a Poland where all people would feel good regardless of their differences.”
Maybe our enterprising society is moving at warp speed. Perhaps Kim Kardashian’s marriage of 1,728 hours is symbolic of that speed. But then we have to remember that Brittany Spears’s 55-hour marriage in 2004 might hold the celebrity record.
Does Religion Make The United States Dysfunctional?
A fascinating study in 2005 by Gregory S. Paul in the Journal of Religion and Society found that countries with higher “religiosity” (belief in God, biblical literalism, frequency of prayer and church attendance) had the poorest “societal health.” Why does the U.S. lead in religiosity while having higher rates of homicide, juvenile and adult crime and mortality, higher STD (sexually transmitted diseases), teen pregnancy, and abortion rates? Why do religions, the “teachers” of moral behavior, fail to deliver such morality to the society they seem to prosper in?
The Republican House recently reaffirmed as our national motto “In God We Trust.” Do we? Does belief in God and faith create social “goods,” or does the rule of law, property rights, and economic stability do a better job? Many South American countries have higher rates of faith in God and religion than the U.S. but have extremely low rates of trust between citizens and government. In Europe the opposite is true. Europeans have low rates of religiosity but high rates of trust in government.
The Volatile World Of Abortion Politics
Advances in scientific areas will certainly change societal attitudes unless religions change “beliefs” as science knocks them down. As an example, the attitudes of the general public about homosexuality and gay marriage have changed at warp speed over the last decade. Even Focus on the Family leadership has given up on the battle against gay marriage.
The abortion wars have intensified only because the Republicans decided to use abortion as a wedge issue to win elections. State legislatures dominated by evangelical Bible-Thumpers and right-wing Catholic bishops come up with roadblocks, speed bumps, and barriers for poor and desperate women seeking abortions. I would think religions might think of the fact that 37 percent of the women obtaining abortions call themselves Protestant and 27 percent are Roman Catholic. The Republican Majority for Choice polled Republicans on the abortion issue. Seventy-eight percent said the issue of abortion should be decided by a woman, not the government. Even 66 percent of “pro-life” voters believe abortion should be decided by a woman. It’s clear the National Republican Party is using abortion to win elections today by picking off born-again evangelicals covered with Biblical navels and Roman Catholics in the small towns of America.
1. Who made this statement about abortion in 1959? “I cannot imagine anything more emphatically a subject that is not a proper political or governmental activity or function or responsibility. That’s not our business.”
2. Who made this statement about abortion and family planning in 1969? “No American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.”
3. Who made this statement while in the House of Representatives? “We need to make family planning a household word. We need to take the sensationalism out of the topic so it can no longer be used by militants who have no knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program, but rather are using it as a political stepping stone.”
1. Dwight D. Eisenhower 2. Richard Nixon 3. George H. W. Bush
Abortion Clinics: Little Islands Of Violence
The New Yorker magazines of October 24 and November 14 have important articles concerning the abortion wars. “A Child In Time” covers the advancement in the treatment of premature babies born about the 24th week of pregnancy. The November 14th article “Birthright” is a fascinating history of Planned Parenthood, the target of the new Republican majority in the House. Whether Eve ever had an abortion is in question because experts tell us there is either nothing or very little about abortion in the Bible. Jesus Christ never mentions it.
But the rantings of the politicians have provoked Bible-Thumpers and Catholic bishops to preach so loudly against abortion and cry “murder most foul” that violence by fanatical nutcases has turned abortion clinics into fortified frontline female MASH units. Just between 1977 and 2001 the following attacks are recorded: Three doctors, two clinic employees, one clinic escort, and one security guard were murdered. There were 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 165 arson attacks, 82 attempted bombings or arson attacks, and 372 clinic break-ins. Metal detectors, bulletproof glass, and security guards are necessary permanent clinic fixtures.
The Reality Of Numbers
There were 10,650 live births per day in the U.S. last year, and using percentages of miscarriages and numbers of abortions we can figure that there are about 6,100,000 U.S. pregnancies a year. Medical experts estimate that about 20 percent of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), many unnoticed by the pregnant mother. There were about 1,200,000 abortions performed in the country last year. So in adding up those figures we had 3,869,250 live births for the year based on the live birth per day statistic.
Most of the evangelicals and at least the Roman Catholic hierarchy believe that “life” begins at conception. As a fallen away Catholic swayed by Martin Luther, a part-time agnostic and pantheist, and an admirer of The Great Spirit worshiped by most of the American Indian tribes, I can believe there is a promise of future life at conception. But life as we know it?
The Jews and Muslims have generally stuck to the idea that” something” conceived when sperm violates the egg assumes a kind of life after 80 days. That idea is as good as any. As a young farm boy I saw life and death constantly. I cleaned up cows and sows who had late spontaneous abortions. I helped my father when he midwived cows having problems with birthing twisted calves and twins. I pulled on the rope tied around the feet of the calf he found in the birth canal. I consider myself an informed pragmatist in this “life” business.
If religions would just stop telling tall tales about abortion we might believe them in crunch time. In an article titled “How Long Has The Church Been Against Abortion?” Father William Saunders states that Catholics have always believed that all life is sacred from conception to natural death. Did the good father forget about Peter of Spain who was elected Pope John XXI in 1276? He wrote one of the most comprehensive recipe books for pre-and post-coital contraception ever written. He offered advice on the use of herbs, used for family planning all over the world. His recipes also suggested ways to provoke menstruation. Some are still effective contraceptives according to recent research.
Is A Fertilized Egg One Second Old A “Person?”
The supporters of “Personhood” are pushing the idea that a fertilized egg one-second old is a person. If you accept that premise, then we killed or miscarried over 4,300,000 “persons” last year. Bible-Thumpers will point out Psalm 139: “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” Population experts estimate that the total number of humans who have been on earth exceeds 100 billion. If that is halfway accurate, then we must assume that 25 to 30 billion fetuses have been miscarried in human history. Evidently God’s “knitting” has had a lot of dropped stitches over the centuries.
The Republican Party has been using God, gays, guns, and abortion as great political wedge issues for years. They have always opposed universal health care, nutrition programs for women and children, extended unemployment insurance, food stamps, public housing, and many other kinds of assistance for the poor and middle class. Their campaign to defund Planned Parenthood and its women’s health programs has been a good votegetter in Congress. If the Republicans were serious about reducing abortions instead of just gaining political power they would be voting for the programs listed above--and adding pre-natal and post-natal care to reduce spontaneous abortions because of redeemable health issues.
About 40 percent of the pregnancies in this country are unplanned. We lead all developed countries. In nearly every state 65 to 75 percent of unintended pregnancies are considered mistimed and 25 to 35 percent unwanted. The Brookings Institution has figured that each unintended pregnancy costs the government over $9,000.
Now that some evangelical churches are preaching the rewards of “hot Christian sex” one could assume unintended pregnancies will rise. With the Vatican’s “Brave Old World” 14th century approach to sex, contraceptives, and abortion led by Grand Inquisitor-inspired bishops, cardinals, and popes the abortion wars will likely continue. But a woman who discovers her 28th week fetus has no brain still needs an abortion. What if a Catholic woman’s water breaks at 22 weeks? What will her local bishop say? Try to drivel and blather that solution away. In 2009 a mother of four children in her third month of pregnancy entered St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in Phoenix and was diagnosed as having pulmonary hypertension, a condition that might kill her if the pregnancy was continued. She had an abortion. What the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did in this situation is worth reading in its entirety. Look it up on Google. I warn you. Einstein’s theory that genius is limited, stupidity is not, works to perfection in this case.
The United Nations Population Fund states that contraception prevents 112 million abortions in the world each year. It is not problematic that sex will not only continue, it seems to be here to stay. Shouldn’t we trade abortions for contraceptives? In 1965 Mexican women averaged more than seven children. Now it is 2.2. How did Catholic woman in Catholic Mexico ever get that figure down to population sustainability? In poll after poll Catholic women now use contraceptives at the same rate as non-Catholic.
Life is fleeting–but we must be pragmatic about it. Over a million miscarriages a year in a country of over 300 million tells us something can go wrong with “life.” I like the definition of life by Crowfoot, a Blackfoot warrior: “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the light. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”