A detour to St. Blogs Parish

August 10, 2004 | 124 comments
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St. Blog’s Parish, the all and sundry Catholosphere, and assorted RC hangers-on have missed the happy visitors from the Bloggernacle bus (7-day tour to Nauvoo, the Sacred Grove, and Nate Oman’s study! Bonus trip to the Holy Land!). So here goes (be sure to return to the bus in 3 hours, or you’ll be left behind. Take a travel buddy):

- I have been sitting on this first article for awhile: its about the beatification a Italian doctor who died a week after giving birth to a daughter. She had put off cancer treatments that would have saved her own life but taken her daughter’s. The story moved me so much that I haven’t been able to say anything worthy of it. (Here’s a more detailed version.)
- I’ve run across a a similar story, also a beatification. It’s the third article down).
- Last week in our new church the talk was all about a sister who had just given birth and survived. The birth had been risky and all were pleased that the mother and the baby survived. I was told that earlier in the pregnancy, at a time when the decision seemed necessary, the mother and the father had decided to let the mother die so the baby could live. I choked up like Brigham Young did when he heard about the three boys who carried the handcart pioneers across the frozen river. So I’ve decided to just post these three stories without more

An abortion gotcha!

A Catholic version of some of the same torture debates we had, with the added wrinkle of trying to find a definition of torture that excluded spanking.

Don’t vote for Frenchman and a Catholic.

Rick Garnett takes exception to the new dogma that legislators and voters cannot be guided by the teachings of traditional morality or religion unless a teaching has been sufficiently unbaptized in secular thought.

Mirror of Justice has a series of posts on that appalling person in New York who decided to get pregnant out of wedlock, concieved triplets, and then decided to abort two of them so that she wouldn’t have to shop at Costco. See here, here, here, here, here

First Things allows an author to muse on the necessity of decency for freedom, and then to toy with advocating censorship. Come, sir! Why so coy?
Speaking for myself, I commend to every youth the burning of a book. A whole mass of modern prejudices shucks off one.

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124 Responses to A detour to St. Blogs Parish

  1. Julie in Austin on August 10, 2004 at 2:48 pm

    There was a similar case a few months back of an LDS woman (in California?) who had eight or so kids and chose to hide her cancer from her family and not seek treatment to save her unborn baby.

    Now, when I hear stories like this, I assume that the woman had a personal revelation that this was the correct thing to do in her case. I am not going to sit in judgment on her choice.

    However, I am worried about the celebration of the women in these stories and the suggestion that they have done ‘the (one) right thing’ or best thing. I daresay that the obligation that I have to my two already-living children trumps the obligation to the one I am carrying, and I would do whatever necessary to save my life over his solely because of my obligations to my other two boys (unless, of course, I received a personal revelation to the contrary.)

  2. john fowles on August 10, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    Adam, thanks for that link to Mirror of Justice. I read about Amy Richards and her decision to abort two of three perfectly healthy triplets merely because of the added inconvenience they would cause at the time the story came out in the NYT. I was so outraged, saddened, and sickened that I couldn’t even bring myself to put it into one of my comments at the time.

    Here are some other bloggers who provided some good commentary on it at the time: Expendable Children over at A Small Victory and TERRIFYING on Michelle Malkin’s blog.

    When I read of this story, the first thing that crossed my mind is that Amy Richards, an admitted radical feminist who writes advice columns for young women(!), has inadvertently confirmed in the minds of many in the right-to-life camp what the true agenda behind “pro-choice” is. (Credit to Michelle Malkin for the Amy Richards links.) Just read Amy’s words on her reaction when her boyfriend dared suggest that maybe killing the babies was not the right thing (after all, they were his babies too) as she decided to kill two of the babies (the twins):

    On the subway, Peter asked, “Shouldn’t we consider having triplets?” And I had this adverse reaction: “This is why they say it’s the woman’s choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That’s easy for you to say, but I’d have to give up my life.”

    Right. Give up your life . . . b/c you would have to move out of Manhattan and shop at Costco for large jars of mayonnaise (her reasons for aborting two perfectly healthy babies).

    I think it is high time to start looking at the man’s rights in regards to a fetus that the man has created together with the woman. Even a married man generally has no right to exercise his will in letting the baby live because a state cannot require a woman to obtain her spouse’s consent before obtaining an abortion (it would be an “undue burden” on the woman’s “right” to extinguish the life of the baby in her womb).

    Also, her absolute callousness is striking. It is clear that she has been completely programmed with the propaganda that a fetus is really nothing but some kind of vague “reproductive matter,” just a pound of flesh stuck in her uterus, irritating her and waiting to be excised. It is of no more concern that ridding the body of fecal matter.

  3. Renee on August 10, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    Julie, it’s celebrated because it is so unusual. How about the woman in Mexico who performed her own C-section because she didn’t want to lose another baby?

    In an age where the gross majority of abortions are due to convenience, not rape/incest/medical issues, it is amazing when women will forsake their life for potential life – a baby’s chance to live. This is a magnanimous choice versus aborting because 9 months of inconvenience is too much to ask a “liberated woman” with a legal choice.

  4. Kaimi on August 10, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    John,

    I also found Ms. Richards’ column disturbing. But “an admitted radical feminist”? Umm, she’s a feminist activist, if that’s what you mean. I didn’t see the word “radical” anywhere on the linked page, and she didn’t seem to be espousing any particularly “radical” views — plain-vanilla feminist activism, it looked like to me.

    Also, extrapolating from her story to “the true agenda behind ‘pro-choice’” is a little hyperbolic, don’t you think? I’m sure that I can find a pro-lifer who thinks that women should be barefoot and pregnant. Can I then reasonably suggest that “the true agenda” of the pro-life movement is keeping women barefoot and pregnant?

    There are a variety of views in the pro-choice camp, just as there are a variety of views in the pro-life camp. Let’s not start making rash characterizations.

  5. Jordan Fowles on August 10, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    Hey- speaking of fetuses and “fecal matter,” and completely unrelated to this post but a humorous aside nonetheless, check out what President Bush accidentally said at a speech in Florida (note that I respct President Bush, but still think I can have a laugh at things like this… tee-hee…):

    NEWSWEEK reports that President Bush, appearing before a right-to-life rally in Tampa, Florida on June 29, stated: “We must always remember that all human beings begin life as a feces. A feces is a living being in the eyes of God, who has endowed that feces with all of the rights and God-given blessings of any other human being.” The audience listened in disbelief as the President repeated his error at least a dozen times, before realizing that he had used the word “feces” when he meant to say “fetus.”

    Just to be sure you understand, I don’t think mistaking fece for fetus make Bush inept to hold office. But I do think it’s pretty funny :)

  6. Greg on August 10, 2004 at 3:37 pm

    When my wife and I read the piece about Amy Richards a couple weeks ago, we both thought it one of the strongest cases ever made for the pro-life position.

  7. Adam Greenwood on August 10, 2004 at 3:47 pm

    Julie in A.,
    I see the heroism involved in sacrificing one’s life for one’s child as tantamount to the heroism involved in going to war. I didn’t have any part in the recent fighting because I asked for a hardship discharge. I judged that with my daughter’s illness I was more needed at home, but my decision was in no way heroic. Those who served, and especially those who died, ought to receive full-throated public recognition without any thought for the tender sensibilities of such as I. A woman who through the grace of God has risen to the heights of Christian heroism ought not be met with a chorus of yes, but’s. I urge you to reconsider your position.

  8. Ryan Bell on August 10, 2004 at 4:14 pm

    The most amazing part of the Amy Richards arcticle was the part where she said she feared her decision would later come back to haunt her. What is this? The quiet tingling of a conscience? Is the monster starting to wonder what guilt she’ll suffer for killing these two fetuses? The article continues. . . she just wonders if maybe the remaining child will miscarry and deprive her of her hopes for raising a single kid. No, no signs of conscience, just more selfish fixation on having her own plans carried out exactly as she’s sketched them. The article gives no sign of her having given any thought to the decision at all, let alone experiencing any remorse or sadness for those two beatin hearts. This is tragic.

  9. Bryce I on August 10, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    Jordan — as humorous as I find your anecdote, and as much as I wish it were true, if only for entertainment value, it appears to be no more than a simple Internet rumor.

    I had tears of laughter streaming down my face as I tried to find a first-hand source for the quote.

  10. Eric James Stone on August 10, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    Jordan, Bush didn’t make that mistake; it’s just an internet rumor. See Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/politics/bush/fetal.asp

  11. Eric James Stone on August 10, 2004 at 4:46 pm

    Ah, that’s what I get for not refreshing the page before making a comment.

  12. Jordan Fowles on August 10, 2004 at 4:54 pm

    WEll, there you go. I try to be funny and end up perpetuating a lie.

    Sorry, folks. :-)

    I should have actually looked for the source too, rather than trusting my email…

  13. Adam Greenwood on August 10, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    Well, it is funny. Now if we can just get this story started as taking place in a testimony mtg.

  14. Melissa on August 10, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    I wept as I read the Amy Richards piece–wept for Ms. Richards’ poverty of soul.

    One of my closest friends from high school struggled with infertility for years and then ended up with three babies at once. Her two daughters were healthy in every way. Her son, however, was born blind and deaf with several other severe health-related problems which prevented normal muscle development. I’ll never forget her reaction to this event. She literally beamed with love for her children–especially her son. The demanding physical care he required from her on a daily basis dramatically altered her life, but I never heard her complain or regret having him in their home–but rather express gratitude for him despite the challenges.

    I don’t disagree with Julie’s comments, however. I think the problem with the post is the juxtaposition of Ms. Richards story with the stories of women who sacrificed their own life for their unborn children. It turns a complex issue into a simple one by comparison–this one wouldn’t sacrifice her convenience for children while these women sacrificed their very lives.

    But, the latter cases are more complicated. Is it morally praiseworthy to die, leaving dependent little children if you could have lived? Don’t women with little children have a moral responsible to take care of them? Of course, these questions are further complicated by how likely the possibility of effective treatment for the mother might be, how long she has been pregnant, and so forth. Part of what makes this question complicated is that motivation plays a role, and motivation is notoriously hard to measure. It seems to me that if a woman would sacrifice her unborn child because she personally doesn’t want to die then she would be culpable. If, however, she has the well-being of her other children in mind then one cannot call into question her choice—it may even be the more noble decision, depending on the situation.

  15. Julie in Austin on August 10, 2004 at 9:17 pm

    Melissa said most of what I felt needed to be said to Renee and Adam, and more eloquently than I.

    But a few more thoughts:

    (1) we cannot celebrate the ‘selflessness’ of someone who *chose* to burden husband, children, and community through her own absense. In a very real way, she has chosen to abandon her children if she chooses *not* to preserve her own life.

    (2) although I am sure this was not intentional on Adam’s part, taking this position is a huge slap in the face to mothers everywhere, because it vaunts the physical act of giving birth (something that, to by frank, almost any woman on the street can manage) over the actual mothering done later. If I die to save the potential life within me, who precisely is going to be there 24/7 to mold, shape, educate, and train the 3 children than I would leave behind?

    (3) Adam, I am stunned that you don’t realize the hypocrisy of your position. Based on what you wrote, it seems that you see your obligation to your child as trumping another (admittedly noble) obligation and chose to be there for her when you might have left. Why would you not expect a pregnant woman to do precisely the same thing? I urge you to reconsider your position.

    Instead of comparing these chose-to-die women to those who get abortions the way they might get haircuts, a more interesting comparison is to this story (http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews/archives/a01quints.htm)

    where an LDS father chose *not* to get a hardship release and is off to Iraq while his wife is expecting QUINTS.

    I am going to assume that he has had a personal revelation that this is what he should do in this case, but *in general* I think this is an awful decision, to burden his family, community, and ward when he could have chosen to be there.

  16. Dr. Tarr on August 10, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    “I see the heroism involved in sacrificing one’s life for one’s child as tantamount to the heroism involved in going to war.”

    Yes, so do I: Both being avoidable tragedies that happen when people get their priorities screwed up.

  17. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 10, 2004 at 9:39 pm

    I am going to assume that he has had a personal revelation that this is what he should do in this case, but *in general* I think this is an awful decision, to burden his family, community, and ward when he could have chosen to be there.

    You know, as a kid, living in Alaska when my dad got sent to Viet Nam, we got a lot of grief from people who felt that way. Of course my dad couldn’t get out of the assignment, but that didn’t stop people, including our home teacher, from feeling that he could have and that we deserved all the grief and harassment they could give us in the hopes that we would go away and not be a burden.

    Was a rough year for all of us, including him.

  18. Julie in Austin on August 10, 2004 at 10:48 pm

    Ethesis–

    Your comment leads me to believe that I did not make myself clear. If your dad or this father-of-quints guy were in my ward, I would assume that their actions were inspired, and offer the family all the help that I could with no hint of judgment in my heart, actions, or words.

    When I talk about these cases, I am thinking of them not as real individuals (who I would assume were inspired and treat accordingly), but rather as case studies:

    Study #1: “You are the father of quints to be born in half a year–the gov’t offers to let you off the hook of military service–what do you do?”

    etc.

    My concern is that we might draw general moral conclusions from these women and men (i.e., ‘It is acceptable to abandon your family when you don’t have to’) instead of seeing them as inspired to do something unusual but appropriate for their situation. Kinda like concluding that beheading irritating people is OK based on the Nephi incident.

  19. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 11, 2004 at 8:56 am

    My concern is that we might draw general moral conclusions from these women and men (i.e., ‘It is acceptable to abandon your family when you don’t have to’) instead of seeing them as inspired to do something unusual but appropriate for their situation. Kinda like concluding that beheading irritating people is OK based on the Nephi incident.

    I’ve got to admit that leaving home when quints are on the way sure looks like cowardice to me … but the whole thread did trigger some memories, thought I’d share them.

  20. Adam Greenwood on August 11, 2004 at 12:23 pm

    I disagree wholeheartedly, thoroughly, and unequivocally that dying to give a child life or leaving one’s family to fulfill military obligations is only acceptable when one recieves a personal revelation. Bunk. I am not willing to state a general rule or even a presumption one way or the other. Conflicting duties and obligations get messy enough to defy an abstract analysis. But I am willing to state that dying to save a child is heroic, dying in battle is heroic, in a way alternative reasonable and good choices are not. If every decent choice is to be held up to public esteem than none are.

    And I object in the strongest terms to your characterization of dying to give a child life as ‘abandonment.’ Abandonment is a kind of rejection. It’s an end to relationship. Did anyone ever write, “I would love you less loved I not my whims more?” But it has been said about duty and absence through duty.

    Indeed, sacrificing one’s life is a kind of apotheosis not just of the self but of one’s family. Why? Precisely because hardships for the family left behind are unavoidable. So is sadness. And so the parent’s sacrifice becomes the children’s sacrifice and the spouse’s sacrifice as they see their brother or sister, or their flag, and reflect that they themselves are suffering for the sake of that sibling or that flag. In so reflecting they are drawn closer to their parent or spouse, whose act they now find themselves imitating and participating in. And in the kingdom of heaven, the children and the spouse will recieve their share of grateful praise. The death then and the hardship now will conjoin together in bright memory.

  21. Kaimi on August 11, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Adam,

    I’m with Julie. You write:

    “I see the heroism involved in sacrificing one’s life for one’s child as tantamount to the heroism involved in going to war. I didn’t have any part in the recent fighting because I asked for a hardship discharge. I judged that with my daughter’s illness I was more needed at home, but my decision was in no way heroic.”

    You seem to be categorizing choices into at least three groups: Heroic, acceptable (but not heroic), and unacceptable. You yourself had the choice between what you’ve characterized as heroic (go to war) and acceptable (stay home)choices, and you went with the acceptable. Yet you urge Julie to reconsider her similar choice of the acceptable (preserve her own life if needed) over the heroic (die in childbirth). That appears to be a hypocritical position: Do as I say, not as I do.

  22. Nate Oman on August 11, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    Kaimi: Let me put some words in Adam’s mouth. I don’t think that Adam is criticizing Julie’s choice but her rhetoric. It seems that the point is not the one course of conduct is legitimate while the other is illegitimate, or even (necessarily) that one is inherently superior to another. Rather, it is that one choice is heroic while the other is not. Adam isn’t saying that the only acceptable choice is for a mother to sacrifice her life for an unborn child. Rather, he is saying that such a sacrifice is genuinely heroic and that the self-conscious problematization of our valorization of that heroism detracts from it in an unseemly way. It seems to me that he is making an interesting and potentially important point about the virtues of pre-critical discourse. (Shutters of horror among we educated types. Isn’t critical and self-reflective discourse always better?! Doesn’t any criticism of the critical amount to calls for censorship or anti-intellectualism?! See why Adam’s point becomes interesting?) He isn’t being hypocritical. Rather, I take him to as trying to be Homeric.

  23. Josiah on August 11, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    Julie,

    What would you say about the fire fighters who ran into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Many of them, I suspect, had children or even pregnant wives. Should we say that, absent a personal revelation from God, they made an awful decision?

  24. Julie in Austin on August 11, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    That’s a good one, Josiah. I would say that they were saving actual lives (as opposed to potential lives) of people who also had obligations to their own families, and if you will excuse the language, they were under a special covenant given their chosen line of work. Definitely heroic.

    Let’s remember that a fetus is not life but potential life. I am basing this position on the fact that (1) temple work is not done for miscarried or stillborn fetuses and (2) abortion is, according to Church doctrine, sometimes justifiable.

    Note: This in no way suggests that I condone abortions of convenience, which I don’t. I am concerned, however, that some people (possibly Adam, but I don’t know his thinking well enough to say) overreach with their opposition to immoral abortions by suggesting that all abortions are wrong, or less-than-heroic, or tainted, or whatever you want to call it. I think this clearly misses the mark of Church policy.

    And as the only person in this conversation besides Melissa (and Renee, back there) who could actually, heaven forbid, end up with a pregnancy the result of rape or that threatens my life, and having now been through 2.5 pregnancies, I can’t resist the urge to tell some of you males to take a hike because you have no real idea what the ramifications of pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering actually are. Some of you have no clue what it means to be the PRIMARY caregiver. Mothers are irreplacable.

    (Note: the above rant does not apply to the majority of men commenting on this thread. My hope was to preempt anyone who wants to steady the ark of Church abortion policy by suggesting that since abortions of convenience are evil, other abortions are as well.)

  25. Josiah on August 11, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    Julie,

    Your comments weren’t limited to cases of pregnancy. If you’ll recall, you said that the same would apply to a husband who left a pregnant wife to go to war.

  26. Kaimi on August 11, 2004 at 4:07 pm

    Josiah,

    I believe that Julie’s critique was in the leaving, not in the possible harm involved to the father.

    If a firefighter decided to pack up and fight oil fires on platforms at sea for a two-year period, a similar analysis could be applied.

    The WTC firefighters did not choose to abandon pregnant wives for a two-year period. They didn’t run into the building knowing that they would perish. They went in believing that they would come back out alive. It’s easy to say, ex post, that they went into a doomed building. I don’t believe any of them thought this ex ante.

    Firefighting is dangerous work, and like all dangerous jobs (coal miner, timber cutter) the families of such workers make sacrifices. I don’t think that Julie’s critique is so broad as to attach to all workers at dangerous jobs.

  27. Matt Jacobsen on August 11, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    It sounds like Adam is very determined to make heroic anyone who dies thinking that their death benefits someone else, in particular if it saves the life of someone else. I tend to agree that the act of dying for the sake of someone else’s life can be heroic — “Greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” However, I don’t think such acts can be contained in a vacuum, nor should we try. Every death has ramifications beyond just the person who dies and the beneficiaries of the sacrifice. It is not too difficult to imagine situations where sacrificing ones’ life is heroic, tragic, reckless, or even downright evil. Some people like to glamourize sacrificial death as the ultimate heroic act — that’s how we get our war heroes and that’s also how we get kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers. Ignoring the context leads to a culture where sacrificing our lives by dying rather than living is more desirable.

    I don’t think for a second that a mother sacrificing her life for an unborn baby is even remotely morally equivalent to a suicide bomber. However, in both cases we have someone perfectly willing to lay down their life for others. The suicide bomber also has a family and society that he is trying to save. Saying that the suicide bomber’s sacrifice is evil demands that there must be something more than just dying for others to make an act heroic.

  28. Josiah on August 11, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    Kami,

    Nelson Mandela went to prison for more than twenty years. He had a wife, and if he had kept quiet he could have stayed free. Should we say that Mandela made an awful decision?

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn endured prison, police harassment, loss of employment, and eventual exile. He had a wife, and if he had kept quiet he could have stayed free. Should we say that Solzhenitsyn made an awful decision?

    What about Martin Luther King? Or Vaclav Haval? Or Lech Walesa? Or Gandhi? Or any of the countless others who underwent many trials, including seperation from their families? Should we say that, absent personal inspiration from God, they made awful decisions?

    If these men are not heroes, then I confess I don’t know what a hero is.

  29. Adam Greenwood on August 11, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    From now on I will only speak with Nate present as a translator. Please read what I say through the lens of his comment.

    Now, to the point.
    Julie, say what you like, but the truth is that there are some actual mothers, who presumably know as much about childbirth as you, who you are disparaging. They were the one’s who chose to risk death for their child’s life, not I. And you persist in claiming that their actions are some kind of oddity that makes no sense outside some personal revelation, as with Nephi’s murder of Laban. Nem, nem, soha.

    These women were perfectly right to proceed as they did, and perfectly sensible to assume that it was a child, not just a potential child, that they were saving, and we are perfectly right to praise these women. The stones would cry out if we didn’t.

    As for the mentality that can compare heroine mothers to suicide bombers, all the while disclaiming the comparison, I do not trust myself to speak.

    -
    Come, brothers. Come, sisters. Are we so determined never to admire?

  30. Ashleigh on August 11, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    As a mother of three small babies (ages 3, 2, and 5 months), I have to tell you that I honestly feel that there are forces in a mothers life that a man can never understand. Wonderful a gender as maleness is, you just can’t get it.

    Sorry.

    But you can try, so I’ll do my sorry best to explain.

    Your talk of heroism, sacrifice, morality it seems to me to be based in a male-centric value judgement.

    I could be wrong, but the whole discussion feels slightly off beam to me. Perhaps it is because the way this whole debate is framed makes it difficult for a mother’s value system to be fully seen.

    Heroism is really niffy. Debates about the morality of abortion are important. But when a small child needs me to feed it, keep it healthy, wipe it’s cute stinky bum, make it feel safe, love it, teach it to say thank you. I am compelled biologically, spiritually, emotionally to believe that *I* am the person best suited to do this. This child’s whole life, whole future revolves around me and my ability to be there.

    Motherhood is all-consuming. Fatherhood; not so much.

    (DISCLAIMER: This (of course) all depends on the character and values of the individuals involved and is a gross generalization, but by-in-large I think, a true one. There are detached mothers and all-consumed fathers a plenty. )

    To me “heroism” takes a distant back seat to the safty and security of my babies. And my moral decisions are directly pragmatically linked to what is best for my children. In my life I could see nothing “heroic” about choosing death so that an unborn baby would join my children in having no mother to care for them. In my life.

    I am perfectly willing to admit that for some other mother that could be the “heroic” choice. But still, the heroism of it is almost beside the point.

  31. Chad too on August 11, 2004 at 6:39 pm

    I think Julie’s comments are right on the mark. If I were placed in that situation, I would vote to save the mother of my children and begin the chemo. Yet I’m perfectly fine with the choice the mother in question made in her situation. Though it wouldn’t be my choice, I can see how she came to hers.

    Is there a false dichotomy at work here? Is it possible that both these choices are holy depending on individual context? Would the Lord inspire one family in one direction but a different family (under different circumstances)in another?

  32. Adam Greenwood on August 11, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    It seem’s you are defining ‘a mother’s value system’ in a way that excludes the three women I’m talking about. They were mothers too.

    I fail to see how heroism is beside the point. True, aspirations of ‘Being a hero’ likely contributed very little to these mothers’ decisions to die for their children. So what? We’re not arguing whether they thought they were heroes, we’re arguing whether we think they are. We do, and we ought to.

  33. Matt Jacobsen on August 11, 2004 at 7:17 pm

    Thanks for your restraint in replying to my comments about suicide bombers above, Adam. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t the most pleasant comparison to make, but I wasn’t trying to disclaim it at all.

    You started the comparison of heroine mothers to dying soldiers:

    “I am willing to state that dying to save a child is heroic, dying in battle is heroic.”

    I thought, not all battle deaths are heroic. So what is it besides dying for something one believes in that makes a heroic act? I think ‘heroic’ is a bit subjective because it implies an act or person that we want to emulate. It is easy to see the courage and selflessness in a mother willing to die for an unborn baby. Perhaps others can praise and learn from that courage but can’t call it heroic because they don’t aspire to be able to make the same decision.

  34. Ashleigh on August 11, 2004 at 7:58 pm

    Beside the point because as I read those stories *my* whole focus was who will take care of this baby, who will take care of these children? I felt profound sadness and even anxiety about it. It never occurred to me to think heroic.

    And your charge that my definition of “a mother’s value system” is exclusive is just wrong. I said is that my judgments are linked to what is best for my children. And “what’s best” will be different in every life, for every child, for every mother. A very inclusive thing to say IMO.

    It’s just that from my perspective, there are very few mothers who can or will come to the conclusion that their children will be okay without them. But I do not condemn those women who do. How could I, it’s not my life, it’s not my baby, it’s not my family, my husband, my children.

    But I hesitate to attach the Heroic to women who do make that choice. Not because the choice they made is wrong, but because there are a lot of women who made the opposite choice. Who choose to live and care for their children. Women who probably think about the child they aborted with pain and great sadness and wonder every day if they made the right choice. And these emotions are so profound, having life growing inside you and making the decision to end it, so hard. So very painful. Do we have to add to that pain the label “unheroic”?

    This isn’t a battle with the causes of truth and justice on the line. These are peoples lives, difficult choices, dire consequences. Do I admire them? I don’t know, maybe if I knew more about them I could make that judgement. I certainly don’t envy them the choice they were forced to make.

  35. Adam Greenwood on August 11, 2004 at 9:08 pm

    I think you’ve made our differences clear. Some women are childless but I still think having children should be celebrated. Some men can’t find a wife, but marriage should still be held up as the ideal state. Some women abort a child to save their own life, for the sake of their children, but the life they sacrificed wasn’t their own, and they are not heroes. Praising women who were able to make the different choice in no way diminishes their accomplishment; just as praising men who went to war doesn’t demean me, who decided to stay home with my children. Far from it. I am demeaned if heroes can’t be praised.

  36. Josiah on August 11, 2004 at 9:40 pm

    I accept the possibility that, since I can never be a mother, my perspective might be lacking. So let me ask you, suppose the government came an offered you a choice: either they would kill you, or they would kill one of your children. What would you say? According to the reasoning given on this blog, it would seem that she should let them kill the child. In fact, according to the comments of some, it seems like she should let them kill the child even if the alternative is that she spends two years in jail, because it’s important that children be with their mother. Am I correct in thinking this, or am I missing something?

  37. john fowles on August 11, 2004 at 10:14 pm

    Ashleigh wrote: As a mother of three small babies (ages 3, 2, and 5 months), I have to tell you that I honestly feel that there are forces in a mothers life that a man can never understand. Wonderful a gender as maleness is, you just can’t get it.

    If I were to write that there are just some forces in a man’s life (or a father’s life, for that matter) that a woman can never understand, then I will be decried as a sexist trying to keep women down and deny that they can do every little thing just as a good as a man etc.

    And yet, who would deny your statement Ashleigh? Not I, for I firmly believe that you are right. . . . Strange imbalances in our society–when women are only considered biologically different when it supports their arguments against men who want to take away their “freedom of choice”; but then insist that they are no different than men in every other respect or context.

    I speak from unfortunate experience in a grad seminar where a group of women studies master’s students raised an outcry at a comment I made while discussing some of Ruth Kluger’s literature. In response to something in our reading material, I had asserted that even though females have perhaps equal capability to succeed in most tasks as males, females and males were still different. It was an immediate and very loud response. I clarified that I meant biologically different (with which I meant physiologically, an assertion I thought absolutely uncontroversial) but that didn’t help. I was just accused (in front of my supervisor) of being chauvanist, sexist, patriarchal and oppressive male of the “old school.” They didn’t actually use the word “pig,” but I think one of them threw in racist, as if being deemed sexist was enough to infer racism too.

  38. john fowles on August 11, 2004 at 10:27 pm

    Sorry, that should have been “Ruth Klüger.”

  39. Renee on August 11, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    I am utterly stunned yet at the same time not surprised that anyone would state that it is abandonment to allow children (including a new baby) to have a shot at life with a widowed dad.

    I would favor a single mom keeping her child over her aborting if she didn’t want to give it up for adoption.

    Someone said that women who didn’t make that choice would be labeled “unheroic”. That is senseless. Are all the people in the military who don’t do something above and beyond “unheroic”? I think not. It’s not like you are heroic or you’re not. Hero is a label to something exceptional. Don’t deny those who DO something amazing kudos for doing it.

  40. diogenes on August 11, 2004 at 11:00 pm

    John Fowles writes: “If I were to write that there are just some forces in a man’s life (or a father’s life, for that matter) that a woman can never understand, then I will be decried as a sexist trying to keep women down and deny that they can do every little thing just as a good as a man etc.”

    The rather obvious difference being that there is no long and oppressive history of women trying to dicate — by law, by coercion, by outright physical force — how men must regard or deal with whatever masculine differences that women might not fully understand. The observations are simply not similarly situated.

  41. Renee on August 11, 2004 at 11:16 pm

    Diogenes, it sounds as though you are saying men cannot say word one about differences in gender simply because they have not been on the receiving end of oppression throughout history.

    Well, men are certainly on the receiving end over the last couple decades. Does that count? There’s plenty said about men that would not be tolerated if said about women. Exactly how many years should men endure retribution in treatment before they are allowed to speak without being tagged sexist?

  42. diogenes on August 11, 2004 at 11:18 pm

    Josiah writes: “So let me ask you, suppose the government came an offered you a choice: either they would kill you, or they would kill one of your children. What would you say? According to the reasoning given on this blog, it would seem that she should let them kill the child. In fact, according to the comments of some, it seems like she should let them kill the child even if the alternative is that she spends two years in jail, because it’s important that children be with their mother. Am I correct in thinking this, or am I missing something?”

    You’re missing something. You’ve accepted Adam’s rhetorical sleight-of-hand of equating “child” with “fetus.” As Julie has already pointed out, they are not the same thing, at least not in LDS practice and theology.

  43. Julie in Austin on August 11, 2004 at 11:20 pm

    John Fowles writes: “If I were to write that there are just some forces in a man’s life (or a father’s life, for that matter) that a woman can never understand, then I will be decried as a sexist trying to keep women down and deny that they can do every little thing just as a good as a man etc.”

    Give it a shot, John. I’ve listed pregnancy, birthing, nursing, and 24/7 primary caregiving as things that men just can’t totally understand (altho a rare few will have some experience with 24/7 caregiving and, no, your wife going out of town for 2 days doesn’t count). What might make a similar list for men? Perhaps the reason that your statement would be met with such vitriol is that there are no comparable experiences.

  44. diogenes on August 11, 2004 at 11:27 pm

    Renee writes: “Diogenes, it sounds as though you are saying men cannot say word one about differences in gender simply because they have not been on the receiving end of oppression throughout history.”

    No, I am simply saying that the claims “men do not understand women’s reproducive experiences” and “women do not understand men’s reproductive experiences” are not similarly situated claims. The first claim carries a good deal more baggage.

    And: “Well, men are certainly on the receiving end over the last couple decades. Does that count?”

    I’m sorry, but if over the past couple of decades men have been denied the right to enter into contracts, to vote, or to inherit or own property; have been routinely beaten and raped by their spouses without recourse to state invtervention; have been forced to wear veils; have denied entry into the majority of professions; have been systematically undercompensated when they did work — I guess I must have missed it.

  45. john fowles on August 11, 2004 at 11:47 pm

    Julie in Austin wrote What might make a similar list for men? Perhaps the reason that your statement would be met with such vitriol is that there are no comparable experiences.

    I demur on that list of alleged differences because that is only a side issue: my real point you have made beautifully in the quoted material above. Men and women are different, both biologically and. . . what? Emotionally? In how they are equipped to be primary caregivers? In what else are they different? If only you could have been in that grad. seminar to argue that men and women are different. Whereas I have no voice because if I try to point out the obvious (that men and women are different) then because I am a male, it makes me sexist to suggest that. But as a woman you could have had some credibility in making that assertion, although I suspect you would have received your fair share as well. . . .

    By the way, the suggestion I made in the grad seminar wasn’t that which I made for rhetorical purposes here, in other words, that there are some things in a man’s life that a woman just can’t understand. That was a response using the same wording as Ashleigh in her post. The comment that provoked vitriol in the grad seminar was much more basic: “there are differences between men and women.” It was that simple. These people weren’t even ready to concede something that is black and white fact: that men and women are physiologically different.

  46. Renee on August 12, 2004 at 2:11 am

    diogenes: I guess I must have missed it

    I guess you did if you think those are the only ways to denigrate someone. If you don’t believe that men’s rights, men’s roles, and men’s emotions haven’t been marginalized then no one can say anything to convince you otherwise. At least you have plenty of company.

    Something to consider though, just as men and women are different, they have been oppressed in different ways. I, for one, will always have a good male friend’s tears etched in my memory when it was demanded of him to pay for an abortion of his child. He begged and pleaded her to consider other options. He offered every other alternative under the sun. It didn’t matter. His desires for his child weren’t valued or respected in any way, shape or form. Of course, if the child would have been born, his signature would have been required for adoption. Interesting thing, at what point HE would have had a right to choose. The tears I witnessed were fresh even 2 years after the fact.

    So, yeah, diogenes, I guess you missed it and you’re awfully lucky for that. If you are a male, I hope you never are the butt of jokes about your stupidity, your lack of parenting skills, your lack of rights in making decisions about your unborn children, your lack of rights in getting a job, your caveman intellect, generalizations about your sexuality driving your behavior, your disposability in raising children, etc. etc. etc.

    Oppression comes in many forms.

  47. Jordan Fowles on August 12, 2004 at 2:15 am

    Thank you, Renee!

  48. Little Hans on August 12, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    Yes, indeed, thank you Renee! It’s liberating to learn that I needn’t feel badly about all the horrible atrocities committed against women because I, too, am now a victim! In fact, I think it’s high time we started a movement and did a little lobbying on behalf of all us victimized men who are the butt of sexist jokes about our libido and intelligence! Brothers unite!

  49. Adam Greenwood on August 12, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    In re the ‘rhetorical sleight-of-hand’: I will not comment on the imputation of bad faith and tricksiness contained in that phrase.

    I will say that I _do_ believe the fetus is a child, I do not believe the church has taken a position to the contrary for reasons I have explored at length elsewhere on this blog, and, most importantly to this debate, I do think the women who made the sacrifice thought that their unborn child was a child still.

    It’s horrid that in the face of great and noble acts (by women, Julie S.) our first response is to imply they abandoned their children and our second is to suggest they were fools for thinking they saved a life.

  50. john fowles on August 12, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    I don’t think that Renee’s sincere and thoughtful position about the situation on the ground warranted “Little Hans’s” sarcastic and insulting reply.

  51. Adam Greenwood on August 12, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    I note that the discussion here has tended to imply that having other children is the only acceptable reason to let an unborn child die if the mother’s life will otherwise end. Let me put to rest that implication. Though dying to save one’s only child is certainly no less heroic than dying to save a second or third, saving one’s own life is an acceptable choice. The human clay is not strong enough for us to demand that kind of self-sacrifice or to in the least condemn its absence.

  52. Little Hans on August 12, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Yes, Renee, I feel for your friend — whatever happened to the good old days when women were good for one thing, and when you got ‘em pregnant, they behaved themselves and stayed that way?

    Actually, if your friend is looking for that kind of society, I understand he can still find it in the some of the more backward regions of Africa and the Mideast. You might suggest he try there.

  53. Renee on August 12, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    >The human clay is not strong enough for us to demand that kind of self-sacrifice or to in the least condemn its absence

    Absolutely true. But I don’t think (and I don’t mean to imply that you do) that should be a free license for abortion. The vast majority are not due to rape, incest, or medical issues of the fetus or mother. It does not require major self-sacrifice for a healthy woman to carry a healthy child to term. In the case of the women I know, it required giving up partying. They found that too much of an inconvenience and since abortion is legal and deshamed in every sense and every case, why not rid themselves of the inconvenience?

  54. obi-wan on August 12, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    So, Renee — does your masculine input theory work both ways? If she wants to carry the fetus to term, but he doesn’t want to pay child support and demands she abort, does she need to accede to his wishes if he cries, pleads, etc.?

  55. john fowles on August 12, 2004 at 2:40 pm

    Why is there such resistance to the suggestion that a man who has contributed to the creation of a fetus might also have some input in whether it lives or dies?

  56. Adam Greenwood on August 12, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    If you cared to read all the comments, Obi-wan, you’d find that Renee thinks even the woman shouldn’t be able to abort, so I doubt she’d think the father’s wishes ought to prevail in that regard.

    Or maybe you were just making a gratuitous cheap shot.

  57. Davis Bell on August 12, 2004 at 5:05 pm

    Julie,

    How about if you’re husband were a bishop, and you made a suggestion to him about his calling, and he replied, “Julie, you will simply never have any idea what it’s like to have the priesthood or be a priesthood leader.” How would that one go over?

  58. Ashleigh on August 12, 2004 at 5:15 pm

    “These people weren’t even ready to concede something that is black and white fact: that men and women are physiologically different.”

    I think this has to do with the phases that any major change in thinking has to undergo. When the (modern) feminist movement first started I think a lot of the activists percieved that admitting any difference would undermine the gains they were making. If we women admitted that there were hormonal forces at work making us over-emotional durning pregnancy (who me?) then we’d be shoved back into the kitchen and never heard from again.

    And while the physical difference are black and white obvious, there was a very valid and interesting debate regarding the question of emotional and cognitive differences. Nature and nurture. And as a result of those questions being raised for the first time, we now have a wealth of new scientific information confirming the obvious, that there are in fact hard-wired differences.

    But it is much more comfortable now for we feminists, secure (complacent?) in our new respect, to embrace our difference and demand instead that equal value be given to our female strengths.

    Those women probably weren’t reacting to your actual words so much as they percieved themselves in a position of vulnerablity and reacted negatively to that. To some women’s ears hearing a man say “there are differences between men and women” sounds much the same as “man stuff is better than women stuff, get back into the kitchen” when I really doubt that is what you meant.

    But it is perfectly natural for people in a position of weakness to act like a cornered cat and lash out. Or maybe they were just mean and ignorant.

  59. Davis Bell on August 12, 2004 at 5:28 pm

    Little Hans, the difference between the societies you cite and Renee’s friend are so drastically different I hope your failure to see them was intentional.

  60. Davis Bell on August 12, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    Sorry, that should have read:

    Little Hans, the differences between the societies you cite and Renee’s friend are so drastic I hope your failure to see them was intentional.

  61. Ashleigh on August 12, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    “It does not require major self-sacrifice for a healthy woman to carry a healthy child to term.”

    I just can’t imagine that many mothers would agree with you about this.

    I agree that it is fundementally unfair that men do not get more input into the (modern)reproductive process. But it is also fundementally unfair that women bear the vast majority of the burden in the reproductive process. Life is not fair. And I honestly can’t think of any system that the government could set up to protect “father’s rights” in cases of abortion that could make it fair. And do you really favor the draconian government measures that would be necessary to enforce such a system? It is simply an inequaty that we have to live with.

  62. Adam Greenwood on August 12, 2004 at 6:09 pm

    Ashleigh,
    I think a system could be set up fairly simply. You’d set up a sort of filing system, wherein a man records a claim to be the father and posts a bond or pays money into escrow to pay for pregnancy costs, etc. (probably making the claim would irrebuttably entail that the man would have to pay child support), and then any physician who aborts the baby would be liable to the father for, say, wrongful death damages. The tricky part is the level of government you would do this at.

    Or, one could outlaw abortion . . .

    Also, on your analysis of the feminist denial of difference: you’re probably right. Your explanation makes sense to me.

  63. Ashleigh on August 12, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    “The tricky part is the level of government you would do this at.”

    That’s really the only tricky part you see? Really? You’re not being disingenuous?

    “Or, one could outlaw abortion . . .”

    Which is in the end what you really want. Which is fine, but I disagree with you intensly, which you know.

  64. Kristine on August 12, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    I’m in Utah with only sporadic internet access, but I gotta weigh in on this one, even though I’m late to the party.

    I think it would be so much *easier* to die for an unborn child than to stick around and deal with the other children and live with the loss and guilt of the aborted baby. I won’t presume to judge another woman’s choice, but for me, choosing to die in that situation would be not at all heroic–it would be a copout. Yes, dying that way would be bright and shiny and glorious, but sometimes heroism is muddy and pedestrian.

  65. Adam Greenwood on August 12, 2004 at 7:44 pm

    Bright, and shining, and glorious deeds are the very essence of heroism. I join you in thinking of these women’s sacrifice this way.

    Two further points:
    1) Not wanting to live with guilt is a good thing.
    2) You greatly underestimate our animal nature. People at root have a hard time summoning up future problems (like living with guilt and raising one’s children) and making them as real as current suffering and impending death. People who are able to do so are generally admired.
    I agree that if a woman has entered a kind of lassitude and decides to bear her child by default, and because death promises her an out, then that is not terribly admirable. But allow me to assume that most instances are otherwise, genuine examples of mother love. The one instance I am familiar with, discussed in the post, is certainly so.

  66. Renee on August 12, 2004 at 8:17 pm

    Ashleigh, therein lies the problem. Abortion is not viewed as a last resort. It is viewed as an option just as good and well as any other.

    I’m inconvenienced by a heck of a lot of people (and I didn’t even lend an egg in creating them) but I can’t stop their further progression (spiritual or physical) just because I’m inconvenienced by them UNLESS they are a threat to my life. Halting human life is frowned upon by most of society unless you have a good reason such as your own life being in danger.

    Except, of course, in the case of abortion. You don’t need a good reason. You don’t need any reason. You can willfully participate in creation of life and then follow it up with destruction for any reason.

    Amazingly, many people who favor gun control (with good reason because guns have lethal potential) want NO control over abortion (which is lethal as well).

    The reason many people here want to diminish the exceptional choice this woman made is so that abortion is continually seen as no big deal.

  67. Julie in Austin on August 12, 2004 at 9:10 pm

    “It does not require major self-sacrifice for a healthy woman to carry a healthy child to term.”

    If I weren’t flat on the couch with lightheadedness, heart palpitations, nausea, and back pain as a result of commiting the hideous sin of going grocery shopping while six months pregnant, I’d debate that point with you.

    P.S.–No hyperbole.

  68. john fowles on August 12, 2004 at 9:17 pm

    Renee, as you are aware, I am sure, the reason for the discrepancy that you describe is that for pro-abortion people, the fetus is not a human being. It is just a vague “reproductive matter,” kind of like killing and excising an extra, useless, and irritating organ.

    The bright side of the picture is that as technology progresses and more individual women see their babies’ heartbeats and see their smiles on TV screens in ultra-sounds and other techniques, they, as individuals, will be less willing to kill their babies (one would think) based on the doctrines of the hardened activists that it is not a human being growing inside them.

    Maybe some of the more gruesome testimonies will also play a role in curbing abortions: such as a more widespread knowledge of what really happens in partial birth abortion (once that head starts coming out, I think it is hard for people dedicated to human dignity to argue that it is not a human being with a right to life).

    Anecdotally, when various activist groups were opposing the ban on partial birth abortions, the judge assigned to the case was blind and asked counsel for the groups very pointedly if it could be determined at some stage of the later development of the fetus (the time when partial birth abortion would have to be used) if the baby was likely to be blind. Counsel had to respond affirmatively and the implications were left hanging in the air. This type of realization might also persuade women not to abort.

  69. Renee on August 12, 2004 at 11:33 pm

    If “lightheadedness, heart palpitations, nausea, and back pain as a result of commiting the hideous sin of going grocery shopping while six months pregnant” is a major sacrifice for a woman then she been blessed with an unimaginable, even unbelieveably, charmed life.

  70. Julie in Austin on August 12, 2004 at 11:37 pm

    Renee–

    Guilty as charged.

  71. Ashleigh on August 12, 2004 at 11:59 pm

    What I don’t understand is how you, Renee, can decide for any woman and every woman what is a “sacrifice” and how “major” it is. It smacks of an unattractive level of arrogance and a marked lack of empathy.

    “I am sure, the reason for the discrepancy that you describe is that for pro-abortion people, the fetus is not a human being. It is just a vague “reproductive matter,” kind of like killing and excising an extra, useless, and irritating organ.”

    And this is a perfect example of that arrogance. I don’t label all anti-abortion people as clinic bombers. Please don’t label me this way, this is flatly untrue.

  72. Renee on August 13, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Ashleigh, I have no idea what you believe but I can say with confidence that the very fact that you are typing on a keyboard indicates that your mother didn’t have “an unattractive level of arrogance and a marked lack of empathy” that caused her to decide your potential was not worth some level of sacrifice.

    I take issue with your statement, not that it matters. Empathy is concern for ALL living, not just the mother but growing mothers and father, too. If you don’t have it that’s a pretty significant arrogance on your part.

    If a woman’s life was on the line due to her pregnancy, I’d have a heck of a lot of empathy and understanding if she chose to abort. How much empathy do you have for a fetus who’s life is halted for any old reason?

  73. Ashleigh on August 13, 2004 at 7:57 pm

    Here’s the thing Renee, I completely respect your right to have an opinion that differs from mine. That is right, good, as it should be.

    But it really felt like arrogance to me that you would tell Julie how she should feel about her body and her pregnancy. Especially based in so little actual knowledge. If you want to know what a sacrifice is to her, ask her, don’t tell her.

    I know that you feel strongly about abortion, so do I. But once again you bring in all this anger and vitriol about my mother, when you don’t know anything about the choices or sacrifices she had to make or how many abortions she did or did not have, or the reasons for that.

    Please by all means have empathy for every unborn child, but please don’t lash out at Julie’s idea of sacrifice, or my mother’s choices, or tell me that I lack empathy for aborted fetus, or any number of things that you have no knowledge of. Because labeling like that, attacking like that also lacks empathy.

  74. Jordan Fowles on August 13, 2004 at 8:13 pm

    Wow- this has gotten really nasty.

  75. john fowles on August 13, 2004 at 8:20 pm

    Ashleigh, you quoted me above and then stated that the quoted sentence was an example of arrogance.

    If you are pro-abortion and don’t believe that the fetus is not a human being, then what makes abortion not murder in your eyes?

    Conversely, if you believe that a fetus is not a human being, what is it? It seems to me that the standard line from pro-abortion people is that it is “reproductive matter.” If I am wrong about this I am open to your instruction.

    But I think it was a little unfair to say that my statement was an example of arrogance; to the contrary, I thought it was an accurate portrayal of why the fetus is not considered a human being (because if it is considered a human being, then I don’t see how people can support abortion).

  76. Kaimi on August 13, 2004 at 9:09 pm

    John,

    As I’ve suggested on an earlier abortion thread, I think that it’s entirely possible to believe that the fetus is a human being, and believe that the pregnant mother has a right of self-defense against it. See http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/001030.html#017105 (and subsequent comments).

  77. Jack on August 13, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    Kaimi: I didn’t want to jump into this conversation, but to say that a pregnant woman “has a right of self-defense against” a fetus is the most ridiculous rhetoric I’ve ever heard. Who among us doesn’t believe that it would be appropriate to abort the fetus in order to save the life of the mother? The reason I take exception to your comment is because its subtext grossly asigns blame to the innocent. That phrase is nothing but a hook line thrown out to the public by the pro-choice hardliners to reel in all morally ambivalent fence sitters into their camp.

  78. Julie in Austin on August 13, 2004 at 11:47 pm

    Jack wrote, “Who among us doesn’t believe that it would be appropriate to abort the fetus in order to save the life of the mother?”

    Jack, the bulk of this conversation has been concerning whether a woman who *didn’t* do that should be considered heroic. I think the subtext has clearly been that that’s an inferior and morally suspect choice.

  79. Jack on August 14, 2004 at 12:10 am

    Julie: I know that. I’m criticizing the subtext in Kaimi’s comment which assigns blame to the fetus. If you knew a woman who had an abortion because her life was threatened by the pregnacy, I doubt that you would consider her actions *ina ppropriate*. I wasn’t arguing whether or not her actions were herioc. Good gracious! Do we have to go so far as to blame the fetus in order to justify aborting it?

  80. Julie in Austin on August 14, 2004 at 12:17 am

    Jack–

    I’m feeling a little weird defending Kaimi (who would certainly defend himself better than I would, in any case), when his idea is new to me and I’m not sure what I think of it yet, *but* if you follow the link to his argument, he makes it pretty clear that you don’t have to *blame* the fetus.

  81. obi-wan on August 14, 2004 at 2:32 am

    Adam Greenwood: “If you cared to read all the comments, Obi-wan, you’d find that Renee thinks even the woman shouldn’t be able to abort, so I doubt she’d think the father’s wishes ought to prevail in that regard.

    Or maybe you were just making a gratuitous cheap shot.”

    No, Adam, I much prefer to leave those to you. The one quoted immediately above, for example.

    Maybe as one of the bloggers here you should re-read the T&S comment policies from time to time. In case you’ve forgotten where to find them, they’re here. Pay special attention to policy #1, which over the past few months I’ve noticed you in particular have a tendency to ignore.

    Since they’re your rules, you might want to consider following them. OTOH, if you all want to suspend the rules and make T&S a no-holds-barred free-for-all, that’s fine by me, too. Just make up your mind which way you want it and let the rest of us know when we’re free to take cheap shots back.

  82. Ashleigh on August 14, 2004 at 4:47 am

    I’m sorry if I came off as nasty. I tend to use strong language but I really didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, if I did I apologize again.

    Kaimi, such interesting and erudite stuff. A lot to think about, but very different from my own (less educated) thoughts. Thank you.

    I hope I’m not beating a dead horse. I’m new here and I’m enjoying it very much, love reading the archives so many interesting ways to think. I feel humbled by my ignorance after only a brief acquaintance with this site. So much so that I hesitate to share my sorry thoughts, but since John asked I guess I should answer.

    On both sides of the abortion debate there are beliefs and rhetoric that I don’t agree with and often find dishonest, self-serving, or lazy. For instance I’m sure there are plenty of pro-choice advocates who do advance the belief unborn humans are nothing but vague reproductive material. And on the opposite side are pro-life advocates who assign the same human value to a new born baby as to eight cells in a petree dish. What *I* see is a lot of shades of gray and very little moral certainty on either side.

    To me abortion is one of the most morally complex and difficult topics we face and *to me* it seems that people who see it in blacks and whites aren’t looking hard enough. I think that people who insist that abortion is murder, period, or people who insist that abortion is a simple medical procedure, period, are both doing a disservice to the real discourse in finding an acceptable answer to this incredibly difficult moral dilemma that we all have to grapple with. Both sides are so afraid to cave even a fraction for fear of sliding down some theoretical slippery slope (a rhetorical argument that drives me crazy) that very little meaningful discussion takes place.

    (Blah, I’ve just realized this is tangential because the question was)

    “if you believe that a fetus is not a human being, what is it?”

    My answer is I don’t know and (I would argue) neither does anyone else. IMO, only our Heavenly Father really knows this.

    I am willing to concede on a philosophical level that perhaps it is true that the minute a sperm burrows into an egg a human being is formed. But on a practical level this is hard for me to believe. On a practical level I see a cell with a very low likelihood (even discounting abortions or in vitro procedures) of becoming a baby born to a mother. I don’t know the actual numbers but it is a very low percentage of fertilized eggs that actually become a fully formed human being simply because most/many are naturally unviable. I would also concede that it is *possible* that a fetus is nothing but vague reproductive material up to the very moment of viability, except that this too does not appeal to me on a practical level or a spiritual one. The viability argument is convenient for legal purposes, but continues to change as science advances. Add to that that some abortions are a grave sin, while others are an acceptable choice and what we have here a very complicated religious, social, ethical, legal issue.

    This is probably not news to anyone. But fwiw those are my thoughts.

  83. Renee on August 14, 2004 at 11:57 am

    Jordon, sorry if you or anyone else felt my comments were nasty. I didn’t believe I was expressing anger by stating the fact that Ashleigh’s mother didn’t abort her. It’s a statement of fact.

    No, I don’t know what anyone’s level of a “major sacrifice” is but I can turn on the television or call up a friend or family member who are suffering things that will either traumatize them the rest of theirs life or cut their lives short. I’m glad Julie has had the kind of life where a tiring pregnancy with medical effects is a major sacrifice. Not glad she had to endure it but I’m sure she’s grateful, too, knowing people endure far worse and she hasn’t been subject to that.

    I’ll kick the dead horse once more and agree with whomever made the comment that no one here is arguing that a mother who’s life is in danger should *always* sacrifice her own life for the child. I can’t imagine what a difficult choice that would be to make. I wouldn’t fault a mother who did either (risked her own life or aborted). What I have seen here, however, is people criticizing a mother for choosing the former. Hers was a choice between between life and potential death (her own or a the growing human). Not everyone can make that choice but I think attacking her, accusing her of abandonment of the rest of her family is vile. Just because we commend her action doesn’t mean we condemn those who chose to abort in those circumstances.

    Abortion is okay because a zygote has barely a chance to survive anyway? I’m sorry, that logic seems strange to me. If the potential is there and this little zygote’s already fighting an uphill battle, perhaps it’s best to give it a chance to reach its potential. But that’s just one opinion.

    I can understand extinguishing a growing human when the mother’s life is in danger. I think everyone here understands that. I can’t understand doing it because it’s inconvenient. I know people who have done it. They don’t (or don’t want to) see it as anything with moral implications. After all, it’s legal. Had I gotten pregnant at 20, I would have considered it myself, such was my mindset. So I’m not lacking empathy for those who do it, who have bought into the notion that it’s no biggie. I used to believe the same. It’s the propangada that permeates our culture. As I came to focus on a Christian life, and just considering a basic moral contemplation of life and the right to it, my views shifted to the rights of all parties involved, growing and fully developed males (we’ve forgotten about them) and females. I’m not going to apologize for that. I know others have reached different conclusions.

    My kicking is done here. I think I reached the definition of insanity already (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results).

  84. Adam Greenwood on August 16, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    Julie in Austin,
    Critical to my entire argument is the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘heroic.’ I mentioned my choice to get out of military service not because I thought my choice was wrong or suspect _at all_ (I think avoiding military service to take care of family is a perfectly reasonable thing to do) but because it was unheroic. Good, but unheroic. Those who went were good and heroic. No skin off my nose.

  85. Adam Greenwood on August 16, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    I will be accepting cheap shots next Tuesday, or by appointment. Or email is always available.

  86. Julie in Austin on August 16, 2004 at 8:41 pm

    Adam–

    As long as you think ‘heroic’ superior to ‘good,’ I will stand my ground: there is nothing superior in leaving behind motherless children to protect *potential* life.

    My foremost responsibility is to do all that I can to raise the children who have already been given me in light and truth. I would allow nothing, not even the potential life kicking away happily at this moment, to interfere with that duty. There is nothing heroic in leaving/abandoning/shirking/postponing my current responsibility.

  87. diogenes on August 17, 2004 at 1:12 am

    “In re the ‘rhetorical sleight-of-hand’: I will not comment on the imputation of bad faith and tricksiness contained in that phrase. I will say that I _do_ believe the fetus is a child . . .”

    Adam Greenwood: The fact that you happen to believe your own rhetoric doesn’t mean that it’s not rhetoric, in both the best and worst senses of that term.

    Aristotle suggests that it may even be more effective that way. Sometimes.

  88. Kaimi on August 17, 2004 at 1:18 am

    Adam,

    You’re Mormon, so cheap “shots” are out of the question. Unless you’re planning on doing shots of orange juice. Or maybe milk. (Then again, that’s probably a lot cheaper than shots of an alcoholic beverage, so you’re right about the cheap part).

    Side note: On my honeymoon, we were passing through the Mormon Lake area in northern Arizona and noticed a gift shop selling shot glasses that said “Mormon Lake.” We immediately bought a couple of them, and they make a nice mantle piece. I mean, what beats a Mormon Lake shot glass?

  89. Adam Greenwood on August 17, 2004 at 3:31 am

    Julie in A.,
    All right. Let me say the part I can say calmly first.
    Although I never said anything about ‘superior,’ I think I can work with that term. I do not think that ‘heroic’ is morally superior to ‘good.’ This is why I keep emphasizing over and over again my example of me not going off to the military, and it being the right thing for me to do, but me still not being a hero. I think that ‘heroic’ is a subset of ‘good.’ If I had to take a first stab at a definition, I’d suggest ‘heroic’ describes those good choices where the choice is immediate and stark and perhaps involves visceral fears–laying down one’s life is the classic central case in my view.

    Now let me discuss your other points. You’re way off base with them and I don’t see an excuse for it.
    First of all, you keep talking about ‘potential life.’ As I’ve told you several times, I and the women I’m praising think it’s just life, period. You can have your views, fine, but our’s aren’t so wacky that it means nothing when we act on them. Maybe you disagree that it’s a life being saved–disagree all you want, I’ve SEEN the baby–but you’d be better off keeping your opinion to yourself or airing it in a different thread. At best it’s in horrible taste that when I mention that I was deeply moved to meet a woman who was willing to die for her child you respond by telling me that she was mistaken, it wasn’t her child, it was just some potential thing.

    Then you go on to accuse her of abandoning her child and shirking her responsibilities.

  90. Matt Evans on August 17, 2004 at 8:30 am

    I’ve tried to follow this thread, but it’s taken so many twists and turns that I’m confused. Up above, Julie suggested that a mother who dies to save a person’s life effectively abandons her children. Then someone wrote that it’s only abandonment if the mother dies to save a potential life. (In this case, the merits of the pregnant cancer victim stand or fall on the status of the fetus.) But in her last comment, Julie writes that a mother’s first priority is to raise her children, again suggesting that a mother with multiple children should not die to preserve one of their lives because that would prevent her from fulfilling her highest duty.

    As for potential life, the church never uses that term. To the contrary, the handbook says, “It is a fact that a child has life before birth.” It’s not just the church that doesn’t use that term. Julie’s doctor, for example, does not refer to a “potential life kicking happily” inside Julie. Julie’s doctor calls that thing kicking happily a baby. Occasionally a doctor or medical professional will use the term fetus. The only context in which I ever encounter the term potential life, however, is when an abortion apologist is seeking a euphemism for unborn child or baby.

    Regarding heroism, Adam’s definition is the traditional one and the one used by the military and Boy Scouts for their medals: heroic acts are good acts done despite significant personal risk. For example, rescuing an injured soldier by pulling him into your boat is good, but doing so despite the fact that this requires you to expose yourself to enemy gun fire, is heroic.

    I disagree with Adam’s conclusion that heroism is merely a subset of good. There are many instances in scripture where God praises not only by the good one does, but the personal cost one endures to do it. The woman who offers two mites received special praise from Jesus not because she performed more good — others there had given more and done more good — but because she risked much more than did the wealthy donors. The miracle of the flour and oil is of the same sort — it is remarkable not because a woman prepared food for the prophet, but because she did so despite the risk to her child and herself. I do not believe we can be true to those stories if we deny that the women’s personal sacrifice and risk transformed good acts into heroic, superior acts. When Christ said, “Greater love hath no man than this,” I take him to mean that a person who saves his friends life does good, but that a person who saves his friends life at the expense of his own does something greater.

    As for the fear that praising parents who die to save their children will hurt the feelings of parents who choose to let their children die instead, I don’t share it. When the military awarded a medals to John Kerry for risking his life for his brothers, they do not demean those soldiers who did not. And when I marvel at Joseph Smith, or Gandhi, or my mother, or Christ, I do not demean in any way those who weren’t or aren’t able to do the superior things they did.

  91. Kristine on August 17, 2004 at 11:43 am

    Matt, why don’t you quote the rest of that paragraph from the handbook? It’s a much more ambiguous statement than you’ve made it out to be. The status of a “life” which is not joined with spirit could certainly be called “potential.”

    I find your degree of certainty, in the face of a nuanced and somewhat ambiguous church policy statement, staggering. Do you have access to information that is unavailable to prophets and seers? Or is it OK to disagree with them, as long as you’re more conservative than they are?

  92. obi-wan on August 17, 2004 at 11:56 am

    Adam Greenwood to Julie: “May God soften your heart.”

    In addition to T&S comment policy #1, may I now may I direct Mr. Greenwood’s attention to T&S comment policy #3 about questioning the personal righteousness of others?

  93. Little Hans on August 17, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    “May God soften your heart.”

    Maybe you should take care of your own two-by-fours before you start praying over Julie’s dust specks.

  94. Kaimi on August 17, 2004 at 12:03 pm

    Everyone,

    It’s clear that some people have strong opinions on this topic. I don’t think anyone has moved an inch from initial arguments.

    Can we agree to disagree, and move on?

  95. Adam Greenwood on August 17, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    On second thoughts this morning I had removed the offending comment as unlikely to achieve my desired effect, but this seems to have been after Obi-wan had already read it. My apologies.

    Kristine,
    Matt and my defense of women who put their own lives at risk for the sake of their unborn child (it shouldn’t need to be defended) does not require that the Church unambiguously affirm the life of the unborn child. It only requires that the position be reasonable, which it is. It is reasonable because the Church has never affirmed otherwise. You are not alone in trying to construe the refusal to take a position into a position against life, but i think that is clearly incorrect for reasons discussed at length here: http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000737.html

  96. Dr. Tarr on August 17, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    Adam Greenwood sez: “I will say that I _do_ believe the fetus is a child, I do not believe the church has taken a position to the contrary for reasons I have explored at length elsewhere on this blog . . .”

    and

    “It [his belief] is reasonable because the Church has never affirmed otherwise.”

    In other words, file Adam’s theory alongside ordination of women, same-sex sealings, and prayer to Mother in Heaven, under “Personal Views That Those on the Fringe Desperately Wish the Church Would Endorse Even Though It Hasn’t.”

  97. Nate Oman on August 17, 2004 at 1:07 pm

    A Couple of Points:

    1. I think that most of this thread is laboring under a false assumption, namely that to label something “heroic” is to suggest that it is morally superior to any non-heroic alternative. I see no reason to make this assumption at all. I don’t think that we really want a world full of heros. Nor do I think that all heroic actions are necessarily well considered or even the proper course to take. I think that we need to able to understand heroism as a concept different from simply praiseworthy. I think that Adam’s initial comments raised an interesting issue precisely because I think that he quite clearly WAS making the claim that heroism involves a different set of virtues than other sorts of praiseworthy conduct. I can understand why people are defensive, but I find it unfortunate that the defensiveness foreclosed what would otherwise have been an interesting discussion.

    2. Why is sacrifice necessarily a subjective concept? I see no reason to suppose that those subscribing to some objective notion of sacrifice are necessarily arrogant. I don’t see that claims about personal virtue decide the issue one way or another. It seems to me that sacrifice is a concept related to a loss of well-being in relationship to some baseline. If we simply take the baseline as one’s pre-existing condition, then sacrifice is necessarily subjective. (Although this doesn’t mean that others are all together incapable on making judgments about the depth of another’s sacrifice.) On the otherhand, if we take the baseline to be something other than one’s condition — for example some notion either basic moral entitlements or the satisfaction of the basic level of need — than one’s subjective feelings of sacrifice or deprivation become more or less irrelevant (except of course to the extent that some level of subjective well-being is incorporated into one’s baseline). It seems to me that the question in moral debate then becomes which concept of sacrifice — pre-existing condition baseline or abstract baseline — is relevent.

    These are difficult conceptual issues, and I don’t see that the concept of arrogance does very much to sort them out.

    4. Kaimi’s self-defense theory of abortion rights is, in my opinion, spot on and explains why the real constitutional fount of aborition jurisprudence lies in the pneumbras of the Second Amendment.

  98. Steve Evans on August 17, 2004 at 1:32 pm

    Nate, and #3?? I’m dying here…

    amen to Kaimi’s theory as per the prior thread.

  99. Steve Evans on August 17, 2004 at 1:35 pm

    Nate, and #3?? I’m dying here…

    amen to Kaimi’s theory as per the prior thread.

  100. obi-wan on August 17, 2004 at 1:42 pm

    Adam: I hope that your apologies are directed toward Julie for the presumption of harboring the sentiment, rather than toward me (and apparently others) for catching you at it.

    It’s deeply disturbing to read that you removed the comment as “unlikely to acheive the desired effect” rather than out of a realization that no one but the Lord, and under certain circumstances, his authorized representatives, has the right to make judgments about the state of Julie’s heart.

    This goes directly to the core of Kaimi’s admonition: strong feelings on a topic are not necessarily a problem, nor are disagreements properly expressed. It’s the tendency to personal judgment that retards this kind of conversation from making any headway.

  101. Nate Oman on August 17, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    My understanding (always doubtful) is that under the Casey framwork abortion is subject to a great deal of regulation. Prior to the point of fetal viability it can be banned in the interests of maternal health and subject to a host of other forms of regulation — e.g. waiting periods, etc. — provided that the regulations do not place an “undue burden” (read: What Sandra Day O’Connor dislikes). Post-fetal viability, abortion can be banned outright in the interest of protecting the lives of the unborn. The only sort of abortions that are completely exempt from government regulation are those that are necessary to preserve the life of the mother.

    If we subscribe to Dworkin’s defition of rights as trumps, then the constitutional right to abortion actually consists of no more or less than the right to an abortion in the case of a threat to maternal life. Hence the structure of the right is that the Government is precluded from forbidding private action by a party necessary to preserve that party’s life. What would be the constitutional basis for such a right? Equal protection seems like a stretch. Due process? Maybe, but only in its substantive form, which really begs the question. Furthermore, the right to not be deprived of life without due process won’t work because the fetus is not state action. (Note the government takes action that indirectly results in deaths — e.g. stricter CAFE standards — quite regularlly, and I doubt that you could make a plausible argument that fuel efficiency standards violate due process.) The pnumbras of freedom of association or the right to privacy? Likewise unsatisfying. Grounding abortion in associational freedom (essentially a right to sex with limited consequences) would push the right far beyond its current paramaters.

    The second amendment is really the only plausible game in town. On its face it gives citizens a right to own a gun. (The militia clause notwithstanding. I agree with Laurence Tribe and Sandy Levinson that militia arguments are a red herring. See Levinson’s “The Embarassing Second Amendment”.) Presumeably one of the values of a gun is that it provides one with an effective means of self-defense. Hence, the second amendment has more or less exactly the same structure as the right to abortion: it precludes the government from outlawing private action (ownership of a gun) necessary for effectual self defense. One need only adopt a broad, functionalist reading of the second amendment to get the Casey right to abortion.

    I am expecting that NARAL and the NRA will begin filing joint amicus briefs in future abortion cases.

  102. Matt Evans on August 17, 2004 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Kristine,

    I’ve posted the church’s full statement about stillborn children on Times & Seasons before. Because my purpose in this instance was simply to point out that the church never uses the term “potential life,” the church’s statement affirming a child has life before birth was all I felt necessary. (I have since search LDS.org and the Handbook of Instructions and, as I suspected, there are no references to potential life.)

    I agree it’s conceivable that there are living human bodies that do not have spirits, the church’s statement that there is no direct revelation on when the spirit enters the body directly invites this possibility.

    But even if Julie’s baby does not have a spirit, it is inaccurate to use the phrase “potential life” to refer to an organism scientists unanimously believe to be a distinct human life. Because the term ‘potential life’ is inaccurate and unscientific, I object to its use. There is enough unjustified anti-science sentiment floating around the church already.

    Now you suggest that I read too much into the church’s statement when you say you found my certainty staggering. I believe the charge is without merit — I didn’t express any certainty in the context alleged. For even if you are right that Julie meant that her baby didn’t have a spirit when she said he was a ‘potential life’, it was Julie who expressed certainty about this doctrine that has not been revealed. The church does not know when the spirit enters the body but, if you’re right about Julie’s use of ‘potential life’, she made the affirmative assertion that her six-month-old fetus does not yet have a spirit. I offered no opinion on this substantive theological claim and expressed certainty only about the fact that neither the church nor her doctor uses the inaccurate term ‘potential life’.

  103. diogenes on August 17, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    Matt and Julie’s disagreement, if you will pardon me for dragging out the Aristotle again, is largely due to reliance on the rhetoric of the “pro-life” movement.

    The fetus is clearly “life” in one sense of the term. So are unfertilized ova, miscarried zygotes, amobea, slime molds, wombats, chrysanthemums, and so on. But none of those have the status that Matt would like to assign to the human fetus.

    The rhetorical move is slip from “life” in the sense of “exhibiting functions like metabolism, ingestion, excretion, etc.” to “life” in the sense of “exhibiting intelligence, autonomy, and independent existence.” Julie’s “potential life” relies on the latter meaning; Matt’s objection to it rests on a rhetorical move between the two. I’m not at all certain which meaning the Handbook intends to use. But y’all are using the term in two different senses.

  104. Julie in Austin on August 17, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    I agree with Kaimi that Adam and I need to agree to disagree on this one. Adam is so far out in right field that I don’t think anything I can say would be useful.

    However, I am going to restate my position because it is important to me that anyone reading understand that I don’t concede to Adam’s bizarre position in the least.

    (You know, this event–an LDS woman choosing to die rather than abort happens–what?–maybe a handful of times per year if that? Doesn’t seem worth spilling all of this virtual ink over. However, because the position that Adam takes is so far removed from Church doctrine and so detrimental to our understanding of the work done by mothers, I think it is worth pursuing for that reason alone.)

    1. An unborn baby (or whatever you want to call it) does not have the same status as a child.

    I am not really sure how one could consider oneself in harmony with the teachings of the Church and disagree with this statement. For example, let’s say a married woman has a baby and finds out a few years down the road (through testing) that the child was the result of rape and not her husband’s (Let’s assume that she had previously wrongly assumed that the child was her husband’s, based on timing or whatever). Would the Church condone her killing it? Of course not. However, she could abort a fetus that is the result of rape, and that would be, explicitly, condoned by Church policy. Hence, and it pains me to state the obvious, the status of the unborn is not the same as the status of the born. We seem to be having semantic problems here with potential life, life, unborn child, fetus, etc. I don’t give a ______ (thank you, Ken Jennings) what you call the thing, its status is different from a child’s.

    2. The different status means that one’s obligations, as a mother, are different.

    Just as my husband and I have a financial obligation to our minor children that we will not have to our adult children, a mother has a greater responsibility to her living children than she does to whatever we are calling the being in her womb. The responsibility to the non-womb-dwelling children is greater. Consequently, it is not heroic to end one’s life in order to protect the womb-dweller. (Absent a personal revelation, it is the wrong decision.) Again, we seem to have a semantic problem with heroic, good, better, superior, etc. Again, I don’t care what you call it, but the decision to stick with one’s obligation to one’s living children instead of allowing one’s life to end for the sake of the womb-dweller is better/superior/not unheroic, whatever.

    3. The reason any of this matters when it happens so rarely is because of what it suggests we think is important and less important in the work mothers do.

    If you think that the single most important thing a mother can do is to provide a tabernacle of flesh, then I suppose that one would die rather than abort. If you think that, then a woman with several children who can’t afford another one should go to work full time and have another baby (most important thing is getting that baby here, right?). If you think that, then a woman who abuses her children should be encouraged by her bishop to have more (hey, as long as they get a body, right?). Abusive husband? Procreate away! Single woman? Babies are better than no babies! Fornicate, sister! Adoptive mother? Sorry, doesn’t count. Too bad you couldn’t bring a baby to earth. etc. Obviously, the context into which the baby is born is more important than just getting the baby to earth.

    The most important work mothers do is in rearing, not bearing, their children. Because a mother who has chosen to die has left that rearing uncertain, she has not chosen the better part.

  105. Jordan Fowles on August 17, 2004 at 2:37 pm

    The moral of the story seems to be:

    If you are a pregnant woman facing the prospect of either losing your life or the life the baby, make sure you tell everyone that whatever you decide to do is the result of personal revelation. That way nobody on either side of this never-ending debate will judge you for your decision.

    (As if that is something such a person should even have to worry about dealing with, given the obviously tragic circumstances which bring her to such a decision, but apparently it is…)

  106. Julie in Austin on August 17, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    amen to that, Jordan.

    And I realized that perhaps I could have made my point more clearly:

    We would obviously question a woman who chose to bring a baby into the world without a father in the home. Under no circumstances would we call her heroic. Why, then, would we condone a woman brining a baby into the world when there would be no *mother* in the home?

  107. Randy on August 17, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    Julie,

    I think I’m with ya, but isn’t the viability of the fetus relevant here? Say the unborn baby is viable, even full term, and that a choice (for whatever reason) has to be made–the life of the mother or the life of the baby. Does this change the equation?

    I don’t claim to have the answer. But if a mother is ever put in those circumstances, and decides to sacrafice her life for the sake of her baby, I don’t think I’d have the heart to stand up and accuse her of “not choosing the better part.” Some decisions are hard, with no right or wrong answers.

  108. Jordan Fowles on August 17, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    Some decisions are hard, with no right or wrong answers.

    And because they are so hard and heart-rending, the people making such decisions certainly don’t need the added hell of being judged so harshly from either side.

  109. Julie in Austin on August 17, 2004 at 4:04 pm

    Randy–

    Our hypothetical was a mother who would choose to abort or die when faced with, say, chemotherapy. If the child were viable, there is no dilemma here: birth the child and proceed with the chemo.

    Jordan–

    I have been extremely careful in my posts to point out that we are talking about the ethics behind a hypothetical, and that in an actual situation (say, someone in my ward), I would assume that the person was acting under inspiration and not judge. Consequently, I don’t appreciate what I perceive to be your judgment of me (grin).

    Unless you think no ethical issues should be discussed ever, we need to allow that we might explore and issue, have (strong) opinions on it, and yet not judge an individual in that situation but assume that s/he was doing what was right based on that particular situation.

    Incidentally, we’re having a rather ‘clean’ scenario here, but the reality would probably be something like: “We can deliver your baby now, with a 60% chance of its survival, or you can carry it to term, but you would have a 70% chance of dying in birth, or you can have chemo, which would give you an 80% survival rate but a 90% chance of harming your baby . . .”

  110. Jordan Fowles on August 17, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    Julie,

    honestly no judgment of you intended from me! :)

    Ethical discussions are fine. But people have become so emotionally wrapped up in this one that reading it I began pitying any poor sister who might actually be facing such a dilemma and is reading some of the (in my opinion) harsh judgments of women who would decide either way. Whether it should or not, things written even in the virtual anonymity of T&S actually have an effect on how people do things. Imagine that!

    For example, a few weeks ago I was put in a position where I ended up teaching a Gospel Doctrine class in a ward that is not my own. After the “Utah Mormons” conversation, I was terrified that every member sitting in the congregation would judge me a “Utah Mormon” of the worst sort because of the situation in which I found myself.

    I remembered several people saying that they wished outsiders to the ward would “shut up”, and since it was a lesson I was terrified to teach anyway, the vision in my mind that some of you might be out there smiling at me from the congregation but in your minds wishing that I would just “shut up” lost me a LOT of sleep the night before I taught.

    The point is that while ethical conversations are great- I engage in them daily because they are interesting- this particular one seems to have gotten to the point where I would feel sorry for anyone actually struggling with something like this who has to read it.

    Is that judgmental? I hope not.

  111. Adam Greenwood on August 17, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    I am content to be read out of the mainstream of the church, if only Julie in A. does it. I am content that my position is neither foreign nor unreasonable to the body of the Saints.

    I have been very careful to indicate that I respect choices made either way. I have in no way hinted that I consider either choice to be presumptively morally objectionable. I regret that the opposition has not made that same concession.

    I have also been careful to indicate over and over that we are not primarily engaged in the discussion of a hypothetical. We are discussing three real women, one of whom is in my ward. I will continue to praise and defend them.

    I understand that some would wish this debate carried on in a less heated atmosphere–reasonable minds discussing reasons. I think to make that concession would be to concede the argument. It is precisely the privileging of discussion, neutrality, and the search for propositional truth that I am objecting to. I am objecting to the apparently widespread view that moral quibbling and doctrinal debate should be the primary response, or even a warranted response, to an instance of real sacrifice.

  112. Ashleigh on August 17, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    I want to say thanks to everyone for this discussion. These are things I’ve been thinking about in isolation for so long that hearing other people’s opinions and thoughts has been very powerful for me.

    Also, is Nate Oman speaking English or is it just me? No offence Nate, but I think you’re just too smart for this small brain.

  113. obi-wan on August 17, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    “Also, is Nate Oman speaking English or is it just me?”

    Nate is, alas, speaking in “law.” Pay no notice. Joseph Smith said that if the Lord inspired someone to speak in tongues, he would inspire someone else to translate, othewise the audience is not responsible for whatever was said.

  114. Jordan Fowles on August 17, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    I think Nate has a good point however. What a brilliant argument… The 2d amendment… hmmm…

    I’m contacting the NRA today! Thanks, Nate! :)

  115. Kaimi on August 17, 2004 at 6:06 pm

    Cute argument, Nate, penumbras of the 2nd amendment.

    Of course, then the fetus may have right to shoot back . . .

  116. danithew on August 17, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    Jordan wrote: I remembered several people saying that they wished outsiders to the ward would “shut up”, and since it was a lesson I was terrified to teach anyway, the vision in my mind that some of you might be out there smiling at me from the congregation but in your minds wishing that I would just “shut up” lost me a LOT of sleep the night before I taught.

    Jordan, I hope you won’t let anyone tell you to shut up … literally, imaginatively or otherwise.

  117. Little Hans on August 17, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    Adam Greenwood sez: “I understand that some would wish this debate carried on in a less heated atmosphere–reasonable minds discussing reasons. I think to make that concession would be to concede the argument. It is precisely the privileging of discussion, neutrality, and the search for propositional truth that I am objecting to.”

    Yes. I think we can all see that you are.

    It’s your belief that this is a virtue that troubles many of us.

  118. Nate Oman on August 17, 2004 at 6:37 pm

    Ashleigh: Sorry for not being more clear. My objection is to your suggestion that any attempt to judge whether or not something is a substantial sacrifice for another is evidence of arrogance. You also seem to claim that such judgments are necessarily invalid because we don’t know how the other person is feeling. My point was that it is by no means obvious to me that subjective feelings are what is morally relevent when we talk about sacrifice. Donald Trump may feel that not being able to bathe in a gold-lined tub is a real sacrifice. I am doubtful. The fact that people can quite reasonably tell Donald Trump to suck it up suggests that we actually do operate with some objective rather tha subjective notion of sacrifice. If that is the case, then telling someone that their subjective feelings of deprivation do not count as a morally relevant sacrifice doesn’t seem unreasonable. I don’t take this to be a particularlly smart or clever point. It is just how I happen to disagree with you.

    Obi-wan: Thanks for your comment. You are just so cute that I wish I could mass produce you and sell you to Hallmark.

  119. Nate Oman on August 17, 2004 at 6:44 pm

    “Of course, then the fetus may have right to shoot back . . .”

    True. This, of course, is why constitutionalized welfare rights could be so dangerous. If there was some constitutional right to government welfare, then the second amendment could be read to require that the government purchase guns for all citizens. This could lead via standard pneumbral reasoning circa 1968 to the conclusion that fetuses have a right to be armed during the course of abortion procedures: Shoot out at the OBGYN Corral. Aren’t you glad that Goldberg never went anywhere?

  120. Matt Evans on August 28, 2004 at 11:37 am

    The topics in Julie’s comment above are important, so I feel compelled to address her three points.

    1. I don’t believe we can deduce anything about the moral status of the fetus from the rape exception. A better explanation, and one that Dallin Oaks obliquely used in his 2001 Ensign article, is that the rape exception is permitted not because the fetus is less valuable, but because we don’t impose the affirmative duties of parenthood on those who are made parents by force. We would not, for example, require a biological father to pay child support for a child created with his sperm stolen from a lab. This says nothing about the status of his child — it is still a full human being — but about the father’s obligations to her. A woman made a mother by force, the analogy goes, should not be required to care for her child, either.)

    I also reject the claim that the teachings of the church require that we ascribe a lesser moral status to unborn babies. Consider Julie’s statement, rewritten for 1960: “A black man (or whatever you call them) does not have the same status as a white man. I am not really sure how one could consider oneself in harmony with the teachings of the Church and disagree with this statement.”

    There were, of course, many Mormons who would have been equally willing to die for a black person as for a white person. They would not have welcomed your assertion that their determination to value blacks and whites equally put them at odds with church teachings. I hope and believe that the church will someday receive a revelation that human beings are children of God at every stage of their development, in the same way that many hoped for the revelation that came in 1978. Whites who risked their lives to save blacks were heroes EVEN IN 1960 when blacks were not their full ‘equals’ in the teachings of the church.

    Given that the church has said that the spirit enters the body before birth, but that no direct revelation has said precisely when, it is an interesting question what posture we should take in the meantime. On which side should we err when there is uncertainty whether something is or is not a human being and child of God?

    2. There is a heirarchy of needs in every family; some kids need parents more than others. However, by the logic used here, a parent who sacrifices their life so that their 13-year-old daughter might live should not be considered a hero if they have a toddler, because toddlers need their parents more than teenagers. (If one disputes that final premise, alter the needs or ages in the hypo as necessary to illustrate my point). To my thinking, no need of the toddler can surpass his sister’s need for her life. Moreover, I believe a mother (or father) could do nothing to more significant to shape the life of her child than to provider her the perfect knowledge that his mother was the kind of person who would risk her life to save someone else’s. “Greater love hath no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friends” would be inscribed on his heart. If I were faced with the predicament of having to risk my life to save someone else’s (especially my wife’s or child’s), I would be ashamed to show that my love was not sufficient to risk my life to save theirs.

    3. None of the above suggests that a parent’s most important duty is to provide tabernacles of flesh. The most important thing someone can do for their neighbor is save their life. This doesn’t mean a mothers primary role is to provide tabernacles. The importance of saving people’s lives follows from the fact that we can’t do anything else for them if they’re dead. So we go to exceptional efforts to prevent their premature deaths.

    Consider the case of a father with three kids, like me: should I (a) carry my son from a collapsing building, (b) abandon him if I’m not certain I’ll survive to care for my other kids if I don’t, or (c) wait for revelation before deciding? I would unhesitatingly choose (a) no matter the circumstances. There are no circumstances in which I would abandon him. Even if experts said they were nearly certain I would die if I didn’t drop him, experts have been wrong far too many times to abandon my son on their counsel. Note that this does not suggest that I believe my primary role is to ‘provide tabernacles of clay’ for my children, but rather how important I feel it is to preserve my children’s lives, even at the risk of my own.

  121. john fowles on August 28, 2004 at 4:54 pm

    Nate wrote, I am expecting that NARAL and the NRA will begin filing joint amicus briefs in future abortion cases.

    I love the irony in that and also appreciated the analysis (which rightly takes the absurdity of the various penumbras for granted). I actually don’t think that the NRA would have too much of a problem with that because of their belief that the right to bear arms is more of an enshrined right that anything emanating from one of the judicially created penumbras. But NARAL would never go for it–read selective enforcement of the Bill of Rights. Similarly, don’t expect the ACLU to defend anyone’s rights to own a gun (even though, as Levinson points out in the article you cited, it is indeed what the Second Amendment means) even though they are all over the partial birth abortion bans (as if preventing such a horrible procedure as partial birth abortion were actually someting that any human being could consider morally objectionable).

    The fact that the procedure involves partial birth seems to me to take away all arguments of the pro-choice camp that the issue is the freedom of choice. I have often heard the argument framed such that the pro-choice camp feels that those who want to protect babies don’t really want to protect babies but rather want to take away women’s choices. Still, they never seem to address the issue of whether partially delivering a living, viable baby, and then injecting potassium into its skull before crushing it constitutes murder or not, and if it doesn’t, how exactly it is different than fully giving birth and then drowing the viable baby in the nearest convenient stream (see Goethe’s Gretchen in Faust).

  122. Speaker 4 The Living on August 10, 2004 at 9:31 pm

    LDS Quintuplets, T&S, and Duty to Family or Country: Whither the LDS Soldier & Father?
    Hi folks. T&S, courtesy of Julie in Austin, has done a slap down of my friend Adam. How? Well… http://timesandseasons.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/369 1. Although she isn’t a soldier, she presumes to judge the faithfulness of an LDS father & soldier who chose…

  123. Aaron Brown on October 22, 2004 at 1:06 pm

    My thoughts exactly, rape seed. Thank you for your timely insights. :)

    Aaron B

  124. Adam Greenwood on January 15, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    Another heroine:

    http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jan/05011204.html

    Unfortunately, some here can only see her as through a glass, darkly.

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Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.