Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Since I've been on this abortion kick lately, anyway...

Jimmy Akin and pals discuss the abortion subplots that have appeared on Battlestar Galactica recently, with more clearheadedness than I am currently in a position to muster. I encourage everyone to head over there and...and just check out the show. More than once I've turned off the TV after an episode and just sat there, saying to myself "Wow. Whew."

I might comment on the issue myself, but I think I'm experiencing some topical fatigue, else I wouldn't just be waving you to someone else's blog with little preamble. Feel free to tell me what you think, though....

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Unaborted Atheist...

The Raving Atheist has a few posts about the pro-choice, or pro-life, bait and switch that takes place when pregnant women (maybe we should start saying a pregnant woman is "with child," just to remind folks what's at stake, although it makes for some rather unwieldy verbiage) go in to one type of clinic or another for some, ah, medical guidance. Based on the largely hostile content of the comboxes, the posts must have struck a nerve; although a few commenters suggest that, in essence, an atheist has no business supporting life issues, I couldn't shake the impression that most of them were simply upset to be presented with such a thorough refutation of their position.

Let us remember not to get as caught up in things when we're in the same position. We have more important things to live for than the ability or inability to argue our beliefs and philosophies. Not everyone has the vocation of apologetics.

Although, you know, it would be good if more of us were better at it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Law of God = Spiritual OS?

I confess, I may have let my attention drift a bit during today's readings. At one point during the second reading (2 Cor 1:18-22) I wasn't so much listening to it as I was thinking about the passage, with which I was already familiar in a paraphrased sort of way, but then the reader got to the end and I was sure I misheard him somehow.

I think I started to come back to the actual words being read aloud by the last line, for the first half of it sounded completely different from what I later looked up, but the very end was pretty close.

What I heard in my head was "And the Lord has written love in our hearts in a full install."

I don't think looking at God's love/law as a metaphysical operating system would be fruitless, but it's some imagery I really wouldn't have expected, even if Paul were around and writing for us today.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Persiflagic Comma

According to the leading headline on a recent issue of that college rag I occasionally read:

Quad rally denounces hate

Great, I'm glad to see opposition to hate, but I couldn't but laugh at how disingenuous the headline made the event sound. In fact, it was a demonstration against the cartoon riots, which is all good, but at a glance, I couldn't tell if it were something about global unrest or recent fallout from some school mascot controversy, or something as Earth-shaking as the dining services' beverage and catering contracts. For all I knew:

Quad rally denounces hate
Hundreds of students gathered on the Main Quad today to protest haters. Brief, spontaneous demonstrations broke out elsewhere on campus for such diverse causes as universal suffrage, an increase in scripted television, and not wearing underwear on the outside of your clothing.

Of course, there's only so much room on the page for a headline, and the folks who set the headlines don't always get the chance to read the whole article before coming up with a provacative and concise way of telling the reader to read the article, or at least, to help the reader decide whether reading the article would be worthwhile or not.

Plus I wanted to see if I could get away with a word like "persiflagic."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I wasn't going to watch Boston Legal this week...

...but I ended up catching, after all, that episode of Boston Legal, where a pregnant teenager sues the Catholic hospital where she was taken because of a rape, because they wouldn't prescribe the morning after pill, and by the time she was discharged, it was too late for her to get the pill elsewhere.

I was going to skip it, having heard how it ended, and not wanting to get too caught up in another skirmish in the culture war over some fiction (with apologies to DVC opponents), but someone in the house--me, for all I know--set the DVR for it and my roomie decided to watch it while I was already in the room, so I figured I'd see for myself if at least the quirky writing redeemed it. After observing that it seemed a bit weak to inquire about an abortifacient drug called, cryptically, the Morning After Pill, and get turned down on moral grounds, and then not even check with the more accomodating family doctor until after discharge, but in a move worthy of a Stella Award, then goes back to blame the hospital; after observing how contrived, if not implausible, this plot device is, I'm going to cut to the thick.

Long story now ripe for shortening, the defense argued (more coherently than I expected) that the doctor was legally within his rights not to act against his own religion, but the jury decided that hospital policy should not constrain the type of medical treatment a patient could receive.

I'm sorry, but personal morals have to supercede externally imposed professional duties. It is, I would say, a thoroughly American principle, although it's not that parochial. It's the autonomy of self: on the healthy side, it's the dignity of the indivudal--a pacifist can refuse to enter combat, and a soldier can refuse an illegal order; a suspected criminal is given the benefit of the doubt during his trial; a person who is compelled to act wrongly by the authorities is not guilty of that wrong, but has been entrapped by said authorities, who retain the guilt; on the unhealthy side...this kind of stuff. I can quit being a doctor but I can't quit who I am. Funny how the doctor is obligated to subvert his own ethics, but the victim, being a Victim (and I am not here to downplay the ordeals that real rape victims face), never has to compromise. A woman who gets raped has paid enough of a price, I can get behind that idea, although citing "heavy" prices like delaying college to have the baby (by what, one semester?) and battling her incarcerated rapist for custody are, as one of the characters said, tasteless, and as the character should have also said, trivial given the circumstances--but "the customer is always right?" It's pretty much what the verdict amounted to. There could have been better rationales to fall back on...ah, but I'm not going to make their case for them.

Naturally, it's not always as simple as a discrete, autonomous moral agent acting against the collective wisdom of his professional peers or whomever, as sometimes a perfectly civilized man is called to fight for his country, and no honest man who volunteers for military service should be surprised and recalcitrant when given a combat assignment, but we have to leave room for the individual to refuse to comply with something that is completely morally unacceptable to him or her. Not even a jury of "peers" can decide, not merely how someone should do his job, but what the acceptable bounds of someone's job are, unless "peer" actually means "professional colleagues," which is the only standard that would make sense. No one else is qualified. If you don't like the way somebody's doing business, shop elsewhere. If you don't get the service you want someplace, but it's after the fact, and you already knew it, why is suing the smart choice? Because it's a litigious society where you solve every problem that way? Would I be justified in suing Burger King for not having a Big Mac, because I burned too much of my lunch hour waiting in line at the wrong place to go to the right place and try again?

Yes, I realize it's not the same thing by a long shot, but in this one way it's not actually different. An analogy is not false for being weak. Maybe I don't need to say so here, but usually I have to make that point eventually, so...keep it in mind for future reference.

Then, of course, the teenager got an abortion after all. Her comment on the stand early in the episode turned out to be foreshadowing: "I've always been morally opposed to abortion...but I never expected something like this," if I'm remembering it correctly. I'm not sure if the girl's change of heart for the worse is supposed to signal to the viewer how nuanced beginning-of-life issues are to those outside the culture of life, or just suggest that contraception's okay even for reasonable people who oppose abortion (although their language got sloppy, repeatedly mentioning contraception after conception, with the only correction coming from the Catholic doctor on the witness stand), or when push comes to shove, even someone who opposes abortion will get one rather than put up with an inconvenient pregnancy.

I'm not sure if the life issue with the cat on life support was supposed to be a counterpoint to the "A" plot, or not. If I may paraphrase:

Lawyer:" to say that the spark of a soul is any less important because it resides in the body of a cat?"
Judge:"I am. It's a cat."

How ironic. Even if the judge had ruled in favor of preserving the life of the cat, the contrast of a baby with a pet would only further trivialize the life of the unborn by the act of juxtaposition itself.

Finally, with marginal relevance (so I shall not hesitate to marginalize the relevance of the remainder of this writing, as well) to the cat and to a thread of satire that is apparently increasingly left-leaning--although you should be able to see how tired the propaganda is regardless of your political preferences--Denny and Alan are discussion the former's desire to have the latter euthanize him with a gun. Euthanasia's bad enough, but when Alan refused, Denny gave all sorts of sincere but terrible reasons for justifying the necessity of shooting people, finishing with "Where would we be without guns?" to which Alan replied "Where indeed?"

Bleeding to death from a thousand knife cuts. Incapacitated by concussions from rocks and clubs. Maybe blowing each other up with IEDs. Euthanizing each other with pharmaceuticals.

But at least there wouldn't be any guns.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pro-Life Search Engine

Looking for ways to combat the culture of death? Here's something simple you can change in your routine. is a search engine where the revenue generated by ads and whatnot is donated to pro-life organizations. It's powered by Google, so its functionality should be little different from what you're used to even the first time you use it, although they have some naughtiness filters in place, so...the functionality should still be little different from what you're used to. Click here for a brief rundown on what it's all about.

Go ahead. It's good for you.

Any man who says "It's none of my business" has already committed abortion in his heart

I'm not in a position to say how crucial it may be, but one thing more pro-lifers need to do is stop assuming that the pro-choice position is the correct one.

Morally, no, we don't think that way, but to hear people talk, I am not surprised when I get the impression that in conceding the fact of the legal right to abortion, pro-life people unwittingly concede a moral right to it before their opponents, as well.

What we say doesn't contradict our stance, but how we speak does compromise it.

I'm not saying we should start calling the pro-choice movement pro-death or anti-life as a matter of course, although it may be worth risking the offense of a few people to make some rhetorical points now and then. I'm saying we need, in part, to stop lying down whenever someone refers to us simply as anti-choice.

Actually, I didn't have that example in mind when I first sat down to write, but it encapsulates what I'm trying to say. Usually we're all polite enough to refer to each other by the labels we've chosen for ourselves. Although I'm confident it's happened, I can't remember any time when a pro-life person or publication casually referred to the pro-choice side as pro-death or what have you. One or two particular uses of the epithet to make a point, I've seen, but the response was always outrage at the mischaracterization (which I'll get to in a minute). However, I've almost never seen anyone speak up when someone, say in the MSM, refers to us generally as anti-choice.

Calling us anti-choice is at least as mischaracterizing as the pro-death label. Notice I made a distinction between particular use to make a point--certain individuals might actually be interested in all sorts of infanticide for population control or what have you, and other individuals may want to legally recategorize women as chattel, both of which are separate issues from abortion--and broad use, to generalize or stereotype. The former would have to be treated on a case by case basis: it might be true, and it might be slander. The latter is something I don't think we've done a good job of protecting ourselves from.

We start out by calling ourselves pro-life, to make evident the fact that our goal is orthogonal to the question of women's rights specifically, not opposed to it. However, I'm not sure we go far enough.

With the Alito confirmation hearings, Roe v. Wade had come up a lot, naturally, and where the Democrats had been unable to penetrate Alito's (and even Roberts', before) armor with direct attacks, they still succeeded in setting the tone of the debate (although not always in their favor, it turned out). Making it a question about simply women's rights at this level, in this stage of the game, would be too sophomoric to be taken seriously, I suspect, but making it sound more fundamental, like reproductive rights, or more personal (i.e. less the concern of the public), like abortion rights, still gets through most everyone's filters.

In fact, I'd say it informs everyone's filters. I can't tell you how many headlines I saw last month that used verbiage to the effect of supporting or not supporting abortion rights. Do you see what they've done? The baseline, the common denominator, is Abortion Rights, and whether or not someone supports them. Everything except a few undercirculated pro-life handbills and newsletters is framed in terms of abortion rights, as if they are an objective and proper thing in themselves, the default and natural result of a civilized society. The pro-lifer is not only fighting uphill (since, from what I can remember--I don't have any statistics handy but I'll be happy to check any reference you'd care to suggest--far more people support abortion in some form now than they did in 1973), but fighting on enemy territory. Pro-choicers generally get to set the tone and standards for the debate, so they get the home court advantage. We have to demonstrate that abortion is morally wrong and that it should be illegal; all they have to do is demonstrate that it's none of our business.

Naturally, they'll assume it's because they're right, and naturally we assume the contrary. If I may digress for a moment to comment on the sad state of modern journalism in general, I'd like to quote G. K. Chesterton: "Bigotry is the incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition." Sometimes I think half of what gets me upset about "abortion rights" is the tendency of some people who get in the fray to simply state and restate their position, rephrasing it to make it sound like they're addressing the challenges put to them by their opponents, but not really talking to them and explaining things at all; they're just talking, parroting themselves, as if incessant repetition will make us put down our foolish and arbitrary opinions. I wonder if they also raise their voices when talking to blind people.

One recent example I read--I know I'll sound biased to some, but it's the only recent one I happen to remember offhand--was a person saying he would not want his daughter to kill his grandchild, and another person responding with "That's why women's right to choose, to control her own body, to privacy, needs to be protected." No matter what the argument, no matter how tenuous the connection or ironic the parallel, it's always evidence that women's rights for whatever justifies an abortion are in danger, as if Roe protects both the right to choose an abortion and the right to choose life, which tends to be less than true in practice. This person earlier had been making all her points with the assumption that her opponents, the pro-life people, were only men (since, apparently, no lucid woman would be pro-life), which sort of brings me back to the point of my digression, which I'd gotten off of: no matter how certain you are that you're right, no matter how obvious you think the truth is to the people who disagree with you, remember that they're disagreeing with you for a reason, and it's probably not spite, and as a courtesy you should assume it's also not stupidity. If you don't assume everybody else is stupid, it will be easier for you to learn from them, even if they happen to be wrong.

In short, never assume your truths to be self-evident; repeating and rehashing them to sound vaguely like they apply to various and sundry thoughtful points. It doesn't further the discussion, and just makes you look like you're lazy and not paying attention. It's bad enough in a debater; I had to stop reading a certain mainstream media outlet because it's even worse in journalists, whose half-baked editorializing seems to pass for background and analysis on otherwise factual stories these days.

All right, now with my rant over....

At the risk of irony, while we keep hearing that abortion/choice is natural and moral, I'm not sure we make it clear enough why we're so up in people's grills about prenatal life issues. As a casual observer, most of the debates I see go along the lines of "We get upset because we see over a hundred thousand children killed, worldwide, every day" and "You're being ridiculous and sentimental; they're not people." Period. The inherent dignity of children is recognized as something we believe due to some personal flaw, but not as a potentially legitimate position by itself. While I don't expect to convert anyone by fiat, I would appreciate it if some respect came with the disagreement. After all, I can sympathize with a woman who doesn't want to have the child of, say, her own father; is the person who simply is a little more generous with his definition of personhood not even worthy of charitable pity? No, because we're religious nuts who blow up buildings (Do I need to specify abortion clinics?), right? Yet you still can't relate your carnage to ours for the sake of argument?

Private individuals, I suppose, could do so, but the demagogues can't afford to. I think they recognize the slippery slope before them. I am still a little shocked, though, by the folks who can look people in the eye, concede that we've got no objective reason to say personhood definitively starts no sooner than viability or birth, so it's both a person and a human from the moment of conception, and still say it's okay to kill him or her in certain situations, as if it were no different from war or the death penalty...which may not be the best examples. I guess some bizarre and revolting parallel can be stretched between a problematic pregnancy and a violent criminal at large, in some very narrow way, but it's a chilling proposition.

There it is again, though: to circumvent the moral question of killing a baby, whom many seem to agree for now is a human person, "human" and "person" are split into separate, independent categories when it comes to a baby who's unborn. Sometimes it's just presented as a "living organism" instead of an integrated and discrete human when the blob of cells perspective is shown to be rather weak. If I were more optimistic about people's ability to recognize the desperation of pro-choice pundits when they resort to taxonomies that have no place outside of a philosphy classroom, I'd be relieved, but I'm actually rather disturbed that they can come so close to acknowledging the real humanity of the unborn and still find a way to dismiss it. Maybe I shouldn't be, maybe it's harder for them than I realize. Quoth Kate Riordan recently of the Georgetown Independent, "Some would argue that the Morning After Pill is also destroying a life, and yet I have never seen someone march for zygotes." I submit Ms. Riordan is not trying very hard to find actual evidence to refute.

In our brave new world, or at least in the Netherlands, such attitudes might become acceptable, but for now I'm still a little relieved to see pro-choice demagogues at least changing the question, since the old arguments are proving to be about as logical as that which is behind Roe itself, which even pro-choice legal scholars acknowledge is not exactly normal jurisprudence. I think they realize that they can't take the moral high road on any but the most superficial and ephemeral grounds. That door was closed when it was admitted that abortion should be not only safe and legal, but rare. If it were a natural good, there would be no reason to discourage people from it, even medical complications, since serious complications are also relatively uncommon and with medical advances will decrease even further. If it were better for us to work to eliminate the demand in society for abortion, then at best abortion is a "necessary evil," a gravely disordered act, and if we're working to actually eliminate other disordered societal things like the death penalty and war and crime, whether we can eliminate some of these things completely or not, should we not work to eliminate this practice, as well?

Well, yes, but if we reach that conclusion, the pro-choice movement hardly has a leg to stand on; all they'd have is numbered days, trying to keep things safe and legal while the other social problems make it unimportant at the same rate at which it is made rare. Abortion is bad enough to discourage until you really want one, and not bad enough that it should be outlawed, or maybe no one is going to see the sense in that kind of proposition, so how can they defend themselves?

Well, perhaps they might have a few rusty tools left in the shed. To hear some of the pro-life rhetoric, one might think we believe every woman who goes in for an abortion does so with all the gravity of getting a flu shot or a new hairdo. I'm sure most of them weigh the issues carefully. What I'm not sure is if they're weighing the right issues. A significant fraction of abortions don't go to women who can't afford another mouth to feed; they go to women who already have relatively comfortable lives who can't bring themselves to make the sacrifices necessary for feeding another mouth. Sacrifices like not sending whatever children they may have to the best and most expensive school, having to drive a minivan for 100,000 miles instead of trading in a coupe or sedan every 2-5 years; in other words, sacrificing quality of life for life itself. Of course, it is just a fraction; expectant mothers who are really down on their luck are not few in number, but rest assured that they only choice they think is viable is the one promoted by the ones who have a vested interest in maintaining their lifestyle.

I recently read the following response--edited slightly to guarantee anonymity--to an assertion that if abortion is wrong, we (i.e., society at large, the government, as used below) shouldn't allow it, and if we're really killing babies, then abortion is wrong:

Please do not ask the question that way.

Very few abortions take place after viability, and those abortions are for health reasons. There is a difference between believing that abortions are "okay" and believing that a woman and her doctor, rather than state legislators, should make the decision.

Our concern should not be whether abortion is "okay" with us. It should be with who should make the decision.

This demagogue displays the cunning tactic, favored by forensic losers everywhere, of changing horses midstream. Note that this demagogue isn't even claiming anymore that controlling who lives and who dies is an objective good that is the bailiwick solely of women. It doesn't exactly look like the abortion shill thinks she's managed to prove it. She's now saying we shouldn't even be looking at the moral dimension at all; there is only the ethical concern of who gets to make a choice about a private matter.

Well, ya put that way...who would want the government breathin' down our necks like Dolomite?

I feel bad for people whose opinion of humanity is so negative and skewed that killing a child, actual or potential, is actually considered a humane solution to a problem that can only and will always result from the imperfect civilization we will always live in. Oh, I don't expect perfection this side of eternity, either, but I know we can do better. Real problems, including the mass execution of the unborn, are a tragedy. The promotion of Self, putting Self's right to choose an abortion above and beyond, unrelated to, our problems, is just sad.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Biology teacher fired for teaching Intelligent Design

Don't worry, another school picked her up, although she's doing it again, so who knows if she'll get to stay on this time.

Judging from the article I read, though (sorry, I no longer have a citation for you), I think she wasn't fired so much for teaching ID as she was fired for not teaching biology in her biology class. She claimed that there isn't much evidence for evolution, which is an opinion she certainly has a right to hold, and proceded to deconstruct the theory of evolution by such unassailable tactics as saying "We've never seen a cat evolve into a dog in the lab" and explaining how the scientific establishment, except for her, has been lying to the students their entire lives. Leaving evolution in shambles on the floor without apparently making an impartial case for any of the evidence that does favor continuous speciation, she then tells the class "I believe in intelligent design. I belive in creationism."

I don't care what you believe, ma'am, although the creationists might. I care that you're throwing out the scientific baby with what I think you believe is the bathwater of materialist dogma. I care that you're telling students to disregard nearly everything they've learned from the teachers who came before you without giving them the tools to judge for themselves that you're correct (or, in my opinion, not).

No wonder people think religion is anti-intellectual.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Neither sleet, nor ethics, nor dark of night, nor threat of law shall stop the culture of death on its appointed rounds...


Having found myself on the campus of the University of Illinois this afternoon, I passed a demonstration calling for the removal of Kathryn Waldyke, a physician at the McKinley Heath Center there on campus. They were not protesting the fact that she is pro-choice, or rather, not merely protesting for that fact alone. While I would share their hopes of a pro-life medical center--I wouldn't want my student fees supporting contraceptive/abortifacient services--I wouldn't expect it in a state school while Roe v. Wade is in force; they probably don't expect it, either.

Anyway, I only heard part of the spiel from the protester with the megaphone, but what I did hear was alarming. One student went in for a regular checkup, if I'm not getting my anecdotes mixed up, and without being asked Dr. Waldyke wrote a prescription for the morning-after pill with six refills, telling the student patient "If you don't need them, give them to your friends." Another time, an undercover student reporter made an appointment with Dr. Waldyke, and told her a story about the student's 15 year old sister who had, shall we say, an accident while having sex. The doctor agreed to prescribe Plan B to the sister, sight unseen.

You shouldn't have to be pro-life to see the problem here. In the United States, it's illegal to share your prescription drugs with someone else, and unethical to suggest you do so; and while it's not illegal in many states to write prescriptions without a thorough exam (I have talked to people who have called their doctor, complained of flu-like symptoms, and had the Rx faxed to a pharmacy so these people could save some trouble), it should never be trivialized, especially under such circumstances as what in most states (including Illinois) would be statutory rape. I am unaware of any report to the police on this matter, although I'm sure I am not in full possession of the facts.

I don't even know what else to say. I probably don't really need to add anything.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A little prayer request

Today marks the second instance of notes I made for future posts of the Diry Papist disappearing. Some of you might feel that the less motivation I have to post, the better; I don't know, but I can say that things would be even less interesting and coherent if all I had to go on was my memory.

So, I'm asking that you put in a good word for me with St. Anthony. I've said a prayer for finding the notes I've misplaced, but the last time I prayed for help finding something, it showed up in the washing machine, after a complete cycle; perhaps with your help, I can experience the grace of paper not being reduced to its constituent pulp. (;

It'd be nice, anyway. I finally remembered to keep a pen and paper near my bed in case inspiration strikes while I'm trying to sleep, and then this kind of thing happens....