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January 24, 2005

Comments

al

Amy,
So true.

At the Crisis Pregnacy Center where I and my wife volunteer, many staff members come to work directly from the 16th Street Planned Parenthood center mentioned in the Washington Post article you post.

margi

While it is true that we do support and staff crisis pregnancy centers and pray outside of abortion clinics and donate clothes and baby items...we need to do more.
Crisis pregnancy centers rarely can offer more than referring the mothers to a maze of social service agencies run by quasi governmental agenencies. Paperwork, lines, impersonal treatment and inconvenient locations are the characteristics of these agencies- at best. And at each step- there are too many obstacles and opportunities to choose abortion.
Rarely are the pregnancy centers able to provide the medical care, financial assistance or housing that may be needed to really help these women.
It is not impossible to provide these things in order to fully meet the needs of women in crisis pregnancies. But it would require much sacrifice- a la Mother Teresa- where our pro life efforts truly honor the dignity of each and every pregnant mother by providing full service care that includes medical care, financial assitance, spiritual and psychological counselling as well as education in parenting, adoption and life and relationship skills.
If we are serious about respecting life and we want to change the hearts and minds of our society, then we must meet this problem face to face and one on one and show each individual woman the value of her life first- love her first as well as the life within her womb.
We can do better. God bless all those who work tirelessly already; but we need more laborers and more people willing to put their money, talents and life on the line.

Nance

Interesting post, and well-said as always, Amy. I only want to call your attention to the stories you posted below about the burial of fetal cremains at a Catholic cemetery in Colorado, and hope you'll consider them in contrast to one another.

You say pro-lifers don't hate women, and I believe you. However, it's hard for me to see the point of the cremains burial in terms other than those offered by the abortion clinic director, who said pro-lifers "will stop at nothing to inflict guilt and to compound the grief, sadness and sense of loss that these women experience." Such a ceremony looks like little more than a chance for some public piety on the 6 o'clock news, as well as the cruelest infliction of punishment on women who've had abortions.

Some good friends of mine suffered a second-trimester miscarriage a few years ago. She had to enter the hospital, have labor induced, and deliver a dead fetus. I asked, as delicately as I knew how, what the procedure was in such cases. The husband explained that in his faith (Judaism), the fetus was not considered to have ever had a soul, and their rabbi said they had no religious obligation to bury it or otherwise consecrate it. They said their tearful goodbyes and the body was removed and treated as medical waste.

Now, we know from these stories that some of the ashes being buried came from naturally miscarried fetuses like my friends'. If I were a Jewish woman, and discovered some Catholic busybodies had taken the remains of my pregnancy and buried it, with Catholic prayers, in a Catholic cemetery? You know what I would think?

I'd think these people hate me.

Kevin Miller

I think the main - and legitimate - point is "To bury the dead," a corporal work of mercy.

deb

Nance:

I've read your occasional comments on this issue. I've never seen you express any compassion for kids before they're born. Do you know what I'd conclude?

I'd conclude that you hate them.

Would that be fair?

Elena

If I were a Jewish woman, and discovered some Catholic busybodies had taken the remains of my pregnancy and buried it, with Catholic prayers, in a Catholic cemetery? You know what I would think?

I'd think these people hate me.

Then I'd think you had some other problems going on. Why any woman who has miscarried a baby (and I've been there Nance) think that someone lovingly burying it and praying for it in a sacred cemetery hated them is beyond me. If it were me, I'd be happy to have a place to go visit, leave some flowers and pray.

Patti

If giving a baby a proper burial induces guilt, why, THAT's an act of mercy too. Like many prolifers I support a center that gives help to unwed mothers. But I don't feel I need to wear that badge to "be" prolife.

Do I need to Win the War on Poverty before I can support laws against theft? Do I need to solve the world's social ills to be opposed to your standard laws against murder of those lucky enough to be already born? Do I need a degree in psychiatry and credentials serving the Pro-Rape Community before I can oppose that particular crime?

Why can't the unborn be protected simply because their lives are at stake?

James Kabala

Did anyone read the news reports that protestors at the burial carried signs saying, "This church is a grave robber?" If the fetuses in question were not dead bodies, whose grave was being robbed? Wrap your minds around that one.
That is what really frightens me about the
"pro-choice" movement. For more than thirty years they have tried to claim that the unborn child is not a person, and some people, like Nance, still seem to believe that. Increasingly, however, they seem to be adopting the position, "Th unborn are persons, but we should be allowed to kill them anyway." I don't know any other way to interpret that sign.

Zhou De-Ming

The comments here seem to have drifted onto the news about burial of the remains of aborted children in Colorado.

I don't want to set up any silly "pet vs. child" arguments, but it is a fact that pet cemetaries are a booming business, at least in California. It seems it is o.k. to bury and memorialize the family mutt, but not aborted children. Sad.

Zhou De-Ming

The comments here seem to have drifted onto the news about burial of the remains of aborted children in Colorado.

I don't want to set up any silly "pet vs. child" arguments, but it is a fact that pet cemetaries are a booming business, at least in California. It seems it is o.k. to bury and memorialize the family mutt, but not aborted children. Sad.

Chris

Because Nance, it's not as if by burying, we're also baptizing them as Catholic. You can't baptize corpses.

Mark Kasper

This quote from the Colorado article says it all: "If we had not buried these ashes, they would have been thrown away in the trash," she said. "Why would they be upset that we are treating the remains of unborn children with dignity?"

There is an unstated desire to have the children in the womb be considered un-human before birth and un-human after death. What the anti-Catholic protestors in Colorado object to is ANY acknowledgement that these children were alive and that they have eternal souls. It is no wonder at the desparate need to have the remains of these children treated no better than watermelon rinds or coffee grounds. Out of sight, and especially, out of mind.

To deny these children the dignity of burial is an incredibly degrading insult (per Kevin Miller, and Dr. Miller didn't go far enough in my view) and is the ultimate pronouncement of the un-humanity of these little ones.

It is hard to know how to respond to such pitiless and callous lack of basic human decency. Maybe the best response is that of Joseph N. Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Donald R. McClarey

"However, it's hard for me to see the point of the cremains burial in terms other than those offered by the abortion clinic director, who said pro-lifers "will stop at nothing to inflict guilt and to compound the grief, sadness and sense of loss that these women experience.""

Mr. Kasper said it all. We bury those poor victims because no one else will bury them. We treat them like the human beings they were, rather than the garbage some people prefer to make believe that they were.

Peggy

C-SPAN seems to have cut away from the March for Life pretty early. It's not even 2 pm and they're showing some indoor event by the NARAL Pro-"Choice" group.

The Church is honoring the dead by giving them a decent burial. My cousin (Catholic also) lost a baby, had to deliver it dead, last year. They had a funeral and burial for for the baby whom they named as well. That baby deserved a proper burial. Indeed, Mr. Kasper said it well.

Nance

Mark's post goes to the very heart of it, I think. My Jewish friends were told, by their rabbi, that their dead fetus had no soul, and this tracks with their belief, and they disposed of the body according to same. And along comes a whole host of people who say, "No, that's wrong. OUR belief system says it has a soul, which gives US the right to take YOUR fetal remains and do what WE want with them, and if you disagree with our disposition, then you lack basic human decency."

Trench warfare, anyone?

Nick Frankovich

"You know what I would think? I'd think these people hate me."

Most of us have taken pains to do the right thing and not only not been thanked for it but reviled. Ever had kids? Ever been one? As you stand there telling your parents you hate them because what they've done to you is hateful, they just take it. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

ben

Nance,

Let's say I have a piano, and I have no use for it, so I send it to the dump. Let's say that my piano is rescued from the landfil and placed in an innner-city Baptist congregation and used in their services.

Do I have anything to say about it? No. Even though I don't agree with Baptists, and would prefer not to have my property used in their religious services. I threw the piano away. It is not mine any longer.

That so many are upset with what the Church in Boulder is doing, indicates that they really don't believe that these babies are medical waste. They believe they are something more than that, and deserve more respect. They don't like having the issue forced on them, so they attack the Church.

Mark Kasper

Nance,

"Take your fetal remains"? Whatever do you mean? How could they be taken? If they (here I am making the mistake of referring to the fetus with a personal pronoun) were considered to be no better than soulless nothingness and you had no use for it, how could they be "taken"? Why be so insulted, Nance, if another person values something you do not? And why is it so important to you that others not be permitted to value that which you do not?

Nice try with the invocation of competing belief systems. Sorry if I don't bite. But please keep in mind that the very fact that there are differences in belief systems is what led Amy to post on the issue of abortion. Yes, there are others who have different belief systems, including those who think abortion is morally upright. Am I compelled to believe that someone has basic human decency just because their belief system informs them that it is OK to procure an abortion? Basic human decency is much more than just a person's opinion of themselves.

A person has a soul irrespective of MY belief system. A soul does not exist because my, Mark Kasper's, belief causes it to exist. A fetus is not a child because my mental belief causes it to be so. Don't attribute so much power to belief systems - at least not the ex nihilo power of my own.

Finally, there are people in the world killing their own children...and Nance nails me as an advocate of trench warfare. She cleverly ferreted out the truly evil one - Mark Kasper - who would dare to advocate for the burial of children, an act others would refuse.

Jill

A piano is not the life of a child a mother carried in her womb, created within the union of two grieving adults who have a set of faith beliefs they cherish and live their lives by.

If we use your metaphor, what's wrong with a woman saying she has no use for the life she carries inside her and aborting it? It's her "property", after all...that sounds more like the kind of thing an abortion-supporter would say than a pro-lifer. Bad metaphor in the context of this discussion.

I do agree with Nance that the particular situation she outlines depicts some very offensive and arrogant behavior on the part of a group of other people. The decisions of parents who have lost a child through miscarriage, consulted with their minister, rabbi or priest, and made their wishes known, supercede those of any other party. If you want the right to bury your miscarried child's remains in a religious service, don't deny other parents the right not to have their child buried, especially in a religious ceremony not of their faith. To do so shows apalling arrogance and also implies a judgement, as Nance has said.

I also don't think this discussion has as much to do with abortion as it would seem. It has to do with supremacy of parental rights, and contractual issues with mortuaries hired to dispose of medical waste. Just because there are fetal remains involved doesn't mean it's automatically part of the abortion debate.

A better bone to pick would be why parents of miscarried babies are asked what their wishes are in regards to their baby's remains and not parents of aborted babies. That's the real heart of the matter, not Jewish tradition vs. Christian tradition.

James Kabala

What Nancy, like John Kerry, doesn't seem to understand is that the pro-life doctrine is not some kind of secret Catholic handshake, but a view that is derived from the facts. Although I thank God that I was baptized and brought up in a pro-life Church, my pro-life views have less to do with my religion than with the common-sense observations of my five senses. An unborn child has brain activity after forty days and a beating heart after three weeks or so; it reacts to stimuli, goes to sleep, can breath on its own well before the alleged moment of viability (see the article below about a Chula Vista abortion clinic), and can (according to some studies) remember things that happened to it in the womb for a short time after birth - but it isn't alive? Yeah, right.
I don't see how any truly open-minded person, whatever his or her religious beliefs, can look at the evidence and not conclude that the unborn child is a person. Being a rabbi is no excuse. If anyone thinks I'm somehow being anti-Semitic, please know that I have equal scorn for the numerous willfully blind pro-abort ministers of the Episcopalian, Presbyterian (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, American Baptist, Unitarian Universalist, and other churches. And anyway, aren't Orthodox Jews pro-life? I suspect that this rabbi's decision was derived not from the Talmud or a similar source but from his desire to be a good modern liberal.

James Kabala

I think Ben meant well, although it did come out a little wrong.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Nance,

Of course I do not know any of the people involved in the case you mention, your friends or their Rabbi. However, my reading of the literature regarding options for disposition, burial, funerals, memorials, grief services, etc. in relation to miscarriage and abortion across several faiths (including Buddhist), seem to indicate that there are many more option in Judaism than "the fetus was not considered to have ever had a soul, and their rabbi said they had no religious obligation to bury it or otherwise consecrate it. They said their tearful goodbyes and the body was removed and treated as medical waste."

Here are some Jewish opinions: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

From 2: Until recently, Jews did not sit shiva for a still-born or even for a child who died before living up to 30 days.
Recently, however, perhaps because of women becoming ordained rabbis, we've learned that women suffer from the loss of a still-born or young baby almost as much as the loss of a child who has lived more than 30 days. In some cases, a name has been given or a ceremony such as a pidyon haben, bris, or naming has taken place.
When people ask me what to do in the case of a miscarriage late in the pregnancy, a still-born or a child who doesn't survive for more than a few days, I tell them both about traditional Jewish Law and custom and also about newer customs evolving in Jewish communities today.
According to traditional Jewish Law, no shiva takes place for a baby who has not lived at least 30 days. In contrast, I, and many of my male and female colleagues who also serve as Conservative rabbis, will respond to requests from families who want "Jewish" help with their funeral, burial or mourning rituals for a still-born or young baby.
In response to requests for help with the funeral and/or burial of such a loss, I have officiated at generally very small and private family services. Thereafter, if the family wishes, they can voluntarily sit shiva. I encourage them not to sit the full seven days in order to distinguish between the mourning of this loss from the more traditional mourning rituals over the loss of a close relative.

--
From 3: a miscarriage may, however, be disposed of by the hospital or clinic in accordance with its usual procedures. Not burial is necessary in such a case, but it is not prohibited either.

--

From 4: VII. Death, Miscarriages and Amputations
While in many other area, the religious Jew will attempt to be forgiving if his needs cannot be met, the time of death carries with it the most emotion laden and eternal ramifications. ... The body of the Jewish patient is sacrosanct. Only his Orthodox religious co-religionists may touch it. ...
Miscarried or aborted that possess a human form are treated precisely as described above. Other tissues and fluids occurring during miscarriage or abortion may be disposed of as the hospital sees fit.
...

Mark Kasper

"I also don't think this discussion has as much to do with abortion as it would seem."
"Just because there are fetal remains involved doesn't mean it's automatically part of the abortion debate."
-------
Yes, it does have to do with abortion. It is disingenuous to say otherwise. Just as it was disingenuous for Nance to object so strongly on the basis that some of the ashes "came from naturally miscarried fetuses LIKE my friends'." From Nance's posts, one would think she would have irrefutable proof that her friends' miscarried fetus was buried at the Colorado church. In a word, Nance, that is a red herring. Misdirection frequently, but not always, works.

From the Yahoo article: The Church "obtained the ashes from a mortuary that had a contract to cremate remains from the Boulder Abortion Clinic."

Repeat: "the Boulder Abortion Clinic."

This is clearly about people who are not satisfied with the fact that these unborn were not accorded the status of human being before birth. They want any consideration that these unborn were human, were alive or even existed, blotted from the face of the earth. That is why the up-in-arms attitude against the Church on this matter. It is clearly offensive, arrogant and judgmental for the Church to acknowledge these children through burial, especially to those who want, above all else, confirmation from others that the unborn are non-persons and non-human.

Nance

From The Rocky Mountain News:

Also included in the burial were remains from miscarried fetuses from Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, an organizer said. That was troubling news to the hospital's CEO, John Sackett, who said Sunday that he knew nothing of the practice.

Chris Sullivan

If I were a Jewish woman, and discovered some Catholic busybodies had taken the remains of my pregnancy and buried it, with Catholic prayers

There's a long and noble Jewish tradition that burying the dead is a righteous thing to do. See, for example, the book of Tobit, a righteous Jew.

The only way to consider burial unJewish is to deny that a real person is being buried.

Which is precisely the core of the issue.

God Bless

Maclin Horton

Nance,

Trying as best I can to put myself in the place of the couple you mentioned, I can't come up with "they hate me" as a response. "They're nuts." "How dare they?" "I'm calling a lawyer." Etc. But I really don't get why anyone would take this as an expression of hatred.

It seems to me that what would be resented here would be the implicit disapproval of my action (or non-action) in allowing the fetus to be disposed of as waste. I can imagine this resentment becoming "I hate them" and then by projection (or whatever the psych term is) becoming "they hate me." But that's the only way I can get there.

Apart from that, I think you have a valid point, even though I think the people doing the burying have a better one. You say you don't see the point in the burials. I would take that on its face to mean that you don't have a religious belief or sensibility about the appropriate treatment of human remains, but at the same time I would be surprised to hear that you would object to the burial of a full-term baby found dead in a dumpster.

So it comes down to the same old question. I've been in a lot of arguments about abortion over the years, and no matter where they start they always end up here: is it a human being, or is it not? Everything follows from the answer one gives to that.

Maclin Horton

Oh, and, back on topic: Amy, great post. It's really long past time for that falsehood to be retired.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Nance,

First Jewish concerns, now Adventist.

If I were the CEO of a hospital that was mentioned in this context, no matter what religion or none, I would find it "troubling news." No hospital CEO likes to see his hospital mentioned in the middle of such a fight, and one could only think, "The law suits are coming!" I think this is business sense and has nothing really to do with religion.

One of my uncles was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor. There is no unified view on abortion in the SDA Church, as far as I know. They officially equivocate and quibble, and the people range from strict opposition to abortion (thou shalt not kill) to typical waffling of "we don't know exactly when human life begins."
The SDA Church cannot manage yet any "Official Statement" on abortion, but they do have an on-the-fence Guideline.

What, exactly, were you trying to get at by mentioning the Adventist hospital?

Patti

<>

Indeed. How dare busybody Catholics demean someone's Contractual Medical Waste.

Jill

Oh, damn...I forget how to fix messed up tags on this system. Do I now post in italics and close my tags? Let's see...

James Kabala

Zhou: I think that Nance was trying to prove that Boulderites really had buried miscarried fetuses, not only aborted ones. Mark had cast some doubt on whether this was true. I think that the Adventist part was incidental.

James Kabala

Are Patti and Jill the same person, or using the same computer?

Jill

No...oh well...

I know Nance can speak for herself, but I think she was only quoting that section to show that the cremated remains weren't exclusively remains from an abortion clinic, but that remains of miscarried babies from a hospital had been included unbeknownst to the hospital administration, and therefore her Jewish friends, or other parents in similar situations might find their babies, against their wishes, had been buried and prayed over by a religious group that did not share their faith. I don't think that it was Adventist was an issue. But I could be wrong.

Jill

Grr...no...we're not...

There's a way to fix things up in the next post when someone leaves their tags open, but I forgot how...

Mark Windsor

"Trench warfare, anyone?"

I honestly can't see why it makes any difference to you, Nance. One mans trash is another mans treasure. If the dead are of so little interest to you why do you argue over what happens to the body? Unless of course you have an agenda here that you haven't admitted to...

I had an atheist get rather upset with me because I dared offer up a prayer for her. (She got so upset that she saw fit to threaten my life...so much for tolerance.) What possible difference could it make to her if prayers are offered to a God she doesn't believe in? Same thing here, what possible difference can it make to you if we offer up prayers for the dead?

"Indeed. How dare busybody Catholics demean someone's Contractual Medical Waste." How exactly do you demean waste? Demean: "to lower in character, status, or reputation." Is adding the word "contractual" to this sentence supposed to elevate the state of this waste to a point that it can be demeaned?

Zhou De-Ming

Italicus <> vade!

Christopher Rake

I know Nance can speak for herself, but I think she was only quoting that section to show that the cremated remains weren't exclusively remains from an abortion clinic, but that remains of miscarried babies from a hospital had been included unbeknownst to the hospital administration,...

Yes, that's how I took it as well.

Neil

If I may replicate some earlier comments of mine, I think that the pro-choice claim that those who are pro-life "aren't aware of women's reasons, don't try to meet needs or address the broader cultural context" does tell us something, especially since it is often made without evidence.

Presently, one of the most persuasive moral languages centers on the role of sympathy. Thus, the human rights theorist Michael Ignatieff grounds the claim that humans shouldn't be beaten "from our own experience of pain and our capacity to imagine the pain of others." And some of the best sorts of pro-life arguments also focus on sympathy. They ask us to recognize our feelings towards newborn children and the mentally handicapped, which seem to imply that we do not really believe that personhood is accidental or acquired, and then extend them to the unborn. If a mother treats her helpless infant or retarded son as a "someone" rather than a "something," as a "self" rather than a collection of characteristics, surely she can broaden her sympathies to extend the same sort of recognition of personhood to a fetus.

The pro-choice argument against this pretty convincing claim has to suggest that with this extension comes a simultaneous contraction in our recognition of personhood so that it now dangerously fails to include other groups. It will say that those who are pro-life, because they are pro-life, lack the ability to sympathize with mothers and already-born children. It will also suggest that those who are pro-life are more prone to violence against their fellow human beings.

To be sure, this pro-choice argument isn't completely groundless. It often focuses on a minority pro-life millennialism that is perhaps exaggerated in the minds of pro-choice activists. Here are a couple paragraphs from Carol Mason's Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics (Cornell University Press, 2002). Mason is here referring to, among other things, Gideon's Torch, a relatively recent novel co-written by the prominent Evangelical, Charles Colson:

"Millennialism is a vibrant and popular prophecy theology that mobilizes mainstream pro-lifers as well as pro-life guerilla activists and the far right. Even though millennialism may decry violence, violence is not incompatible with millennialism, and in fact violence is necessary for the fulfillment of its prophecy. Gideon's Torch lends credence to this view. As Sara Diamond explains, Gideon's Torch demonstrates that 'like it or not, violence is an integral part of the unfolding events that lead to victory. Violence is a pitfall, but it is part of the prophecy. Read as a sign of the times, Gideon's Torch allows the reader to see anti-abortion violence as part of God's plan.' Like millennialists with their 'ironic ambivalence' toward the suffering of Jews, pro-lifers may react with genuine disdain to violence against Jews, such as that used to murder the Buffalo abortion provider Barnett Slepian, and to killing for life. But they may also see violence as part of God's plan.

"Shaped as a millennialist conflict by fiction, films, and political discussions, pro-life ideology is best understood as narrative in form. It is a dramatic narrative about the prophesied culmination of the forces of darkness, of atrocities throughout the ages, from slavery to the Holocaust to abortion. Or more precisely, it is the story of how the historical persecution of blacks, Jews, and homosexuals is displaced by the far more fantastic perseuction of white born-again Christians on the basis of their race, religion, and sexuality."

The deeply unfair pro-choice argument that those who are pro-life "aren't aware of women's reasons, don't try to meet needs or address the broader cultural context" tells us that the moral language of sympathy is very important to the abortion debate.

Thanks.

Neil

Chris Sullivan

We buried our miscarried babies.

their rabbi said they had no religious obligation to bury it or otherwise consecrate it

And that's exactly what the Catholic priest told us when we buried our babies.

Catholics and Jews are not that far apart.

The Jewish scriptures repeatedly speak of burying the dead as a good thing to do. Therefore, to do this is in accord with Jewish tradition. Remember, Tobit buried people who had no one else to bury them.

The only way one could possibly be unJewish is if one didn't believe they were people.

God Bless

Nance

It's interesting. I heard a radio show yesterday that repeated the assertion that there is a middle ground on abortion -- that at least a slim majority of the population wants it to remain legal, with restrictions, up to and including late-term prohibitions.

That seems to track with the way most people I know (if not most people you know) feel: They're uneasy with the procedure, have real qualms about the humanity of the fetus, but aren't willing to write the woman out of the picture entirely. They remember the 14-year-old girl impregnated by her brother in Michigan a few years ago. They consider rape victims. They have sympathy for women whose unwanted pregnancies aren't just inconvenient but catastrophic.

Like you folks, I've been watching this debate for years, too. And while you recall all the wonderful people who would happily adopt any number of unwanted children, I also remember the darker moments: The protestors who yelled "slut" at women entering clinics, the ones who screamed "they'll kill your baby with whirling knives," the people who said, "Hardly anyone gets pregnant from rape, anyway." (These are all things I witnessed with my own eyes, BTW.)

I also think about all the women I know who've miscarried, and how they handled those losses. Some were absolutely la-de-dah about it. Some were devastated. Most were somewhere in between, and where they fell on the continuum seemed to track with where in the pregnancy they were. Those who started bleeding the day after a positive home test, even when they wanted to be pregnant, handled it better than those who had to have D&Cs with a Valium drip. Were women on one end of the spectrum less human than those at the other? Or did they have some innate sense that an early miscarriage is somehow not the tragedy that a full-term stillbirth is, that in between the white and black there's some gray?

If every pregnancy is a human soul fully formed, why do a huge percentage not continue to term, abortion or no abortion? Why do so many fertilized eggs fail to implant? How many women have miscarried without even knowing they were pregnant? When you miscarry in the sixth week, do you have a funeral? How about in the eighth month? What do you bury? Do you embalm an eight-month fetus? What about a four-month fetus? What do you mourn? A life, or a potential life?

Most of us have children. If one died, and a parent fell into a depression that lasted the rest of her life, we'd all be able to understand; losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. But if a woman miscarries an early pregnancy and had the same reaction -- if her mourning continued for months and years -- I think reasonable people would think she was overreacting. I think reasonable people would be right.

I'm not going to parse when life begins, but I believe people have a sense -- flawed as it might be -- that things are not as simple as they seem.

If those of you here are trying to stop abortion by applying kindness and gentleness and help and support to women with problem pregnancies, good for you. That's certainly the way to do it. Neil is absolutely correct. Yelling about whirling knives doesn't help.

I saw this letter at After Abortion one day when Amy was driving traffic there:

I have been through the horrors of post-abortion stress syndrome as a result of my sister's abortion ten years ago. My symptoms were so severe that I had to quit my job (I worked around children, and would break down and cry on a weekly basis). As my sister's actions were and remain a secret known only by me and her, I couldn't explain to anyone what was wrong with me, why I was goiing through such a terrible bout of depression, crying fits, obsessions with fertility... It was a terrible thing to have to live with, and it has only been in the past few months that the symptoms have begun to lift and I have found myself able to begin putting myself back together.

I will never forget, during my last day at college, I experienced a "visitation" (which I have since learned is not uncommon) by my aborted niece. I saw her as the saddest little girl, walking behind me to my car, and at the time I had no idea who she was or what she had to do with me. All I knew was that she carried with her an incredible sorrow, and she seemed, in some way, to transfer that sadness onto me. It was from that point on that my experiences with P.A.S.S. began in earnest. To this day, I can't remember that walk back to my car without wanting to cry or punch something.

...I have told my sister about my experiences and while she regrets the abortion she has also told me, flat out, that I am "crazy" and "overdramatic" for having been so effected. But I could not decide how her abortion would haunt me. I didn't ask that little girl to follow me home from class that day, I didn't decide to fall apart afterwards. Sometimes in life there really is no choice. I fear that I will be haunted with this until I die, and I bitterly resent my sister - both for what she has done to her daughter and for the callousness she has shown me.

This woman's sister is correct: She's crazy. The fact there are people here who consider this a reasonable response shows why the middle ground is still far, far away.

Mark Windsor

Nance,

Your compasion is underwhelming.

I sincerely hope you're right - that a middle ground is far, far away.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Nance,

I don't think the woman who experienced a visitation from her aborted niece is crazy at all. Such experiences are not uncommon in Asia.

See "The Haunting Fetus." Another review.

James Kabala

Jill - I didn't really think it was likely that you were the same, but I thought the wording of your comment implied that you were trying to repair a problem that you had caused. Obviously I misread you. Sorry.

Richard

It's interesting. I heard a radio show yesterday that repeated the assertion that there is a middle ground on abortion -- that at least a slim majority of the population wants it to remain legal, with restrictions, up to and including late-term prohibitions.

Not sure I am understanding you here, but based on Gallup and other polls I have seen, a majority favor keeping abortion legal but a majority also favor major restrictions.

In other words, if Roe were overturned tomorrow. most states woudlallow it but only for special cases - rape, incest, life of the mother endangered, and probably never in the latter stages of abortion.

Which would outlaw most abortiosn done today.

And that would be a major step forward. Law has a pedagogical function.

James Kabala

Who can say whether that woman is crazy or not? As a Christian, I do believe that one can theoretically be visited by the dead; on the other hand, I doubt if it happens very often.

Chris Sullivan

Nace,

Our babies were not very old when my wife miscarried but it still hurt heaps and we still mourned for them and still do.

There's something about being a parent that you never stop loving your children, even those who were never born.

Sure, there are some in the prolife movement who go over the top with wild and heartless antics. You'll find those in every movement for social change. The peace movement has its share too.

While we can and should have compassion and love for those who see things differently, on this issue there can't really be any permanent middle ground. This is because a true and deep compassion has no limits, no halfway points, and no ends.

As you recognise in your post, there isn't any point after conception at which one can say the baby is not a person before this point, but is afterwards.

Similarly, there aren't any circumstances in which a human person stops being a human person, even if that person was conceived in rape or miscarriage.

The society we live in very often does not provide the love, support, and resources mothers and babies need. This often puts the mother in a very difficult position. The fault for this is not with the mother, but with the sinful nature of society which places a higher priority on greed, wealth and war than on babies. We need to work to change this society, but in order to do that we'll have to stand 100% for human life. A 50% stand won't make it.

God Bless

Chris Sullivan

Oops

was conceived in rape or miscarriage

should read

was conceived in rape or incest

Sorry

Zhou De-Ming

Nance wrote: If every pregnancy is a human soul fully formed, why do a huge percentage not continue to term, abortion or no abortion? Why do so many fertilized eggs fail to implant? How many women have miscarried without even knowing they were pregnant? When you miscarry in the sixth week, do you have a funeral? How about in the eighth month? What do you bury? Do you embalm an eight-month fetus? What about a four-month fetus? What do you mourn? A life, or a potential life?

These are hard questions, and there are no easy answers. But I do not think that any of them justify even a single future abortion.

Everyone who was conceived before 1875 has died. 100% of them. Medical statistics indicate that about one third of all conceptions result in spontaneous miscarriage. Of the remaining two-thirds, something like one-fourth are being aborted, roughly. So roughly only 50% of conceptions result in births. Then those who are born start dying, some as infants, some as children, some as young adults, some very elderly. We all die. That is not reason that we should support abortion. Rather, that is a reason to treasure and nurture and respect life. We entrust them to God, and treat their remains and dignity with respect.

The questions regarding the remains of a miscarriage or abortion are, technically, no more difficult than the remains of many serious accidents or disasters. What remains you have, you treat with dignity and respect. Even when no physical remains are available, you can have a memorial service. In Japan memorial services for children who died before birth are public and not uncommon. Fertility clinics are also considering how to "dispose" of embryos with dignity.

And there is nothing to prevent you from praying for or having a memorial for people who are not in your immediate family, or of your religion.

Every life is potential until death, whenever that death comes. After that, it is eternal.

caroline

The argument that pro life people aren't really that interested in providing for the needs of the already born of any age is the flip side of the argument of some of our clergy that we must not be one issue voters but embrace the seamless garment of life in our political
behavior. Some of our own leaders feed into this attack although hopefully not to further the same political agendas as the pro abortion people.

Chris Sullivan

Caroline,

Down here in New Zealand, the Consistent Ethic of Life is the official teaching of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops.

Their teaching is Dedicated to the memory of: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin 1928 - 1996, Archbishop of Chicago 1982 - 1996, whose active promotion of the consistent ethic of life planted the seeds for this statement.

The "seamless garment" is supposed to strenthen our prolife position by making it consistent.

Respect for the human person is indivisible. Noone's right or life can be defended and advanced by attacking those of others. This isn't an "either/or" argument - its a "both/and" argument. Anything else inevitably pits mother against child and life always looses.

God Bless

Chris Sullivan

Interestingly, in Maori (the indigenous langauge of New Zealand), the NZ Bishops Statement "A Consistent Ethic of Life" is "Te Kahu-O-Te-Ora".

As the Bishops explain :-

Kahu was to the Maori a cape or garment of various types. Kahu was also the membrane enveloping a foetus. It was the veil that at times covered the head of new-born babies. Maori tradition was that person would never drown. O-te-ora, of life. So Te Kahu-o-te-ora, "The Garment of Life".

In New Zealand, the first recipients of the faith were Maori. They often have something interesting and useful to teach us.

God Bless

Nerina

Nance,

Thanks to you I don't have to go see anyone about my "prolonged" grieving over the loss of my 5th child at 10 weeks inutero (over a year ago). Now I know what "reasonable" people think. Thank God, I'm not one of them.

James Kabala

Have you ever noticed that, although pro-choicers claim to have science on their side and dismiss prolifers as illogical religious fanatics, when cornered they invariably fall back on emotional or not-quite-relevant arguments. (Gee, since many embryos don't get implanted properly, abortion must be OK! I guess that means that since some people die natural deaths when they're children or teenagers, it must be all right to kill them! And some people die in their twenties, so it must still be acceptable to murder them! And then there are some who die on their thirties...) In their heart, they know that the pro-lifers have facts on their side.

Robin

"What do you mourn? A life, or a potential life? "

Both, as in every life that is cut short.
If we lost the baby I have been carrying for seven months, we would not only mourn because he would never experience life beyond the womb, but we would mourn the loss of the unique baby that we have already come to know.

Leo

No one wants to have an abortion. It's not fun. No one says, "Whee, let's get up this morning and have a good time and have an abortion!!"

Just like no one wants to go through a divorce.

No one needs to argue that this is a horrible experience. Everyone knows that.

The real question is, how can we save people from this horrible experience?

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Leo,

There are many bad things that happen in life.
But one can hardly compare divorce and abortion. Divorce does not end with the death of one of the two parties--that would be homicide, not divorce.

Abortion is not fun. It is not painless, physically or emotionally. It is not easy or guilt free or no fault. It always involves a group of people, not just the mother, not even just the mother and father, ending the life of another person. It also involves abortionists (medical professionals), it often involves social workers of various sorts, often siblings or friends of the parents, sometimes grandparents of the victim, sometimes clergy of various sorts.

What needs to be done is vast, from supporting the parents and encouranging them to have hope for the child and themselves, to shutting down abortion as a money-making professional specialty, to changing the broader society to be more pro-family and pro-child.

c matt

Zhou:

You've been reading too much Harry Potter.

c matt

Nance:

The people who would call the mourning sister "crazy" are not reasonable - they are callous. Unfortunately, that is what abortion does to our society (or have you not noticed?). A living, existing, breathing human being is called a lump of tissue, product of conception, post-conception waste. Thing is, the people calling him/her that were once themselves this "waste". Every last callous one of them.

Maureen

Even if you don't believe in ghosts or visions, you can certainly believe that there are people with strong visual imaginations, who sometimes think in images.

Or do you think Mozart was nuts because he often heard his compositions in his head?

What surprises me is that, with 40 million murdered babies on our hands, we're not all haunted.

Elaine Kincaid

Abortion? Drop it. Just live your life and
drop it!

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