Faith Aloud’s November 2011 Newsletter, and reasons for life

Welcome back.  This time, we’re going to be taking a look at the November 2011 newsletter from Faith Aloud, the creators of the 40 Days of Prayer campaign.  I would like to use this as a springboard, of sorts, to look at the 40 prayers themselves.

In the section entitled “Pray to End Sidewalk Bullying,” we find:

This campaign was a direct response to an anti‐choice group called “Operation Rescue” (or “Operation Save America”) who semi‐annually plans 40‐day intensive protests on clinics in hopes of bullying patients and doctors out of a woman’s right to choose. During the “40 Days for Life” campaign, the amount of protesters often doubles outside of clinics. Parents pull their children out of school to picket, buses of youth groups are dropped off, and large congregations appear, sometimes to scream at women that they are murderers going to hell, other times trying to offer them inaccurate information, while endlessly harassing the clinic staff members.

Wait a minute…what’s this?  Created in direct response to 40 Days for Life?  What was that that Rev. Rebecca Turner said in her interview with Focus on the Family?

Focus on the Family:  Reverend Rebecca Turner says the title of the prayer campaign is named after Lent, and has nothing to do with the 40 Days for Life event.

Rev. Turner: During Lent, to say that there is, um, that there is a compassionate voice out there with religious people who are supportive of women in difficult situations.

So was it created in response to FDFL, or not?  Am I supposed to believe the interview, or the newsletter?  I presume that this is a case of confusion, because if it’s a case of dishonesty, that would not be good.

Side note: 40 Days for Life was not created by, and is not even endorsed by, Operation Save America.  That is simply factually incorrect.  Also, I think the 40 Days for Life folks would be interested to know if their participants really are engaging in bullying or harassment, contrary to the stated principles and goals of their campaigns.

Contradiction aside, all we see here are sweeping assertions: of bullying (when? where?  documentation?), inaccurate information (what?), hate (what constitutes hate?), among other things (lollygagging comes to mind).

I am not going to pretend that it is not stressful to be picketed.  I have been on both sides at different times: picketed some times, picketing others.  But to simply complain about the presence of people who disagree does not answer the reasons they have for doing so.

Moving along…

Victory in Mississippi!
“Eggs are People”
Initiative Defeated!
We thank Mississippi citizens who voted down legislation that would have given full personhood rights to fertilized eggs. Not only would all abortion have been banned, but also many forms of birth control and in‐vitro fertilization. Although many news outlets expected the proposition to pass, the bill was defeated by a significant margin, with 58% against, and 42% for.

Anyone notice anything wrong with this paragraph?  It is biologically incorrect to speak of embryos as ‘fertilized eggs,’ because such a term is a contradiction in terms.  If an egg gets fertilized, it ceases to be an ‘egg’ and becomes a ‘zygote.’

There’s something else here that needs attention: the “given full personhood rights” language.  What constitutes a person?  For the record, I don’t much like the language of ‘personhood’ because it frequently avoids the bigger, more fundamental, question: what makes us human?  This question gets to the heart of the matter: what is the unborn?  If humanity is not determined by size, location, degree of dependency, or degree of development, or other accidental properties, then we are always human, from the first unique cell, and therefore the subject of human rights by way of being members of the human family.  The measures of personhood are often contrived (consciousness, viability, sentience, capability, wantedness, etc) and are not essential attributes of human beings.

Before I continue, and certainly before I look at the prayers themselves, I need to set out my rationale for opposing abortion.  Specifically, the claim that abortion is a moral action.

This rationale is really quite simple.  If the unborn are not fully human, then abortion is morally acceptable.  The unborn are fully human, therefore, abortion is not morally acceptable.

When I say that the unborn are fully human, I am not saying that they are fully developed humans.  I am saying that from the first cell, that a new individual has come into being, that has everything he or she needs to develop into an adult, provided that that process is not interrupted.  Humanity is not determined based on non-essential characteristics like size, location, degree of development, or degree of dependency; therefore, even if a human being does not have the capability to immediately exercise a particular act, it does not make him or her less than human–in other words, it is what we are, not what we can or cannot do, that determines our humanity. This means that we are all morally equal.

But if we are all members of the human family by virtue of essence, rather than accident, it means that all the members of that family are subject to certain rights based upon their moral status.  Historically, this has been the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and these rights are not contingent upon our ability to immediately exercise certain capabilities (like the right to vote or drive), but upon our nature.

This moral status is also an objective one; that is, it cannot be the case for one person that the unborn has this status and true for another that the unborn does not: either both of them are wrong, or one of them is wrong.  This status is not religiously derived, either: this is well within the bounds of philosophy and embryology, so the “this is just a religious thing” line doesn’t really work here.

But it means that how we frame the discussion has to change.  What I mean is that when abortion proponents use the language of “choice,” one important question gets begged: what choice, exactly?  The language of ‘choice’ is only valid if and only if abortion is morally equivalent to the alternative.  But if abortion is not morally equivalent to its alternatives, then the language of choice does not apply. Does this indeed mean that the “anti-choice” label sticks?  No.  There is nothing wrong with making choices where the alternatives are morally equal.  Abortion is not one of those choices, because it infringes upon the most basic rights of all humans.

That’s all I’ll say for now about why I think and act the way I do about abortion, but this should lay a decent framework for looking at the content of the prayers suggested by Faith Aloud.

Suggested reading for pro-life ethics and philosophy:  The Case for Life, by Scott Klusendorf; Defending Life, by Francis Beckwith; Embryo by Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen.

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