Yesterday I received a letter from a visitor to my website, voteutah.us, asking the following:
"I see that you are running for Senate. I would like to
know your stand on the following issues:
3. Embryonic Stem Cell Research
4. Same sex marriage
5. Human Cloning"
My answer follows: I appreciate your asking and investigating my take on these matters of great importance. I am happy to attempt to address them.
Abortion. I believe that many people place this as their central issue in voting, I think because they view it as the destruction of a soul, presumably immortal. That is actually the position I took in a college speech class, several decades ago. I had graduated 12 years of Catholic school, with some very strict nuns.
Since then, I've grown physically and spiritually, read countless articles on the topic, known a number of women who had an abortion (probably many more than actually talked about it to me), and thought about the subject from many points of view.
First, I do think many people take the topic too lightly, whether one believes in an immortal soul or not. Clearly, if a person believes, for whatever reason, that abortion is the taking of innocent human life, I can understand their abhorrence of such an act. Not to stand up for that belief would be a disregard of one's own morality.
Of course, there can be an infinite spread of further complicating issues. Is the mother's life endangered, does the fetus have serious medical problems that will cause a life of misery or a very short life anyway, and the list goes on and on.
That said, the view that a fertilized egg has a soul, mortal or otherwise, is ultimately a personal, generally religious one. At the same time, even if there is no soul, as many believe, this is not something many women I've known take lightly. It is a major, life-changing event, either way.
Given the variables, the timing, the medical aspects, the nature of conception (e.g., was it rape?), and the simple fact that I am a male who doesn't want to poke his nose into other people's life (and don't think doing so is moral in itself, except in extreme cases--e.g., I would do my best to help someone being beaten on the street), I believe whether or not to have an abortion is a woman's decision and the state should stay out of it. A woman, her doctor, and the relevant people in a woman's life are the ones who should be making this choice.
Briefly, personally, I would look closely at the state of consciousness of the unborn and try to factor that into this weighty question. A freshly conceived egg is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, and I am far more concerned in general with our country killing other fully conscious and innocent men, women, and children around the world (calling it "collateral damage" and now using robotic drones to do it), and sending our own young men--with so much potential to do real good in their lives--to foreign countries to take over resources, namely oil, as we've done in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Euthanasia. Again, we have definitional issues right off. When I was lying in the LDS Hospital in June and July of August 2005, on an artificial heart and other machines, waiting for a real heart from a then living donor, I wanted to be "disconnected" many times. I am glad now that I wasn't, but I actually had a living will somewhere saying that I wanted no part of being on medical life-support. Also, for the year before that time, I was living like a vegetable, with a 15% ejection fraction, and a helpless burden to those I lived with. For life to go on like this was becoming more and more unfathomable, and I was beginning to ponder how to end it. Yes, suicide, another form of euthanasia.
If one is considering this question seriously, I would strongly encourage them to watch Million Dollar Baby, with Clint Eastwood. I cannot think of a more potent and compelling movie to give deep insight and provoke thought on this incredibly weighty issue.
Again, it comes down to one's own conscience. My friend,
Dr. Robert Weitzel, was up on murder charges which you may have been following in
the press a few years back. He was adhering to strict and clear directives from
relatives regarding his geriatric patients, to not keep these elderly, badly
ailing folks on life support, but instead to give them end-of-life care. That
meant to reduce their pain and suffering to the greatest extent possible. 60
Minutes did an excellent and I think objective piece on this, which takes about
12 minutes to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJB11Ka4Ycs
Dr Jacob Kevorkian , who died not long ago, I think was ahead of his time, and certainly not some kind of "mad killer," as he has been portrayed (another video I recommend, as it gives great insights into this person and his view of life). Countless Americans would love to have him or another like him around near the inevitable end of their life (please note: Dr. Weitzel was NOT taking an active role in anything but rather helping his five patients exit life on earth with dignity, and he makes a very big point of this distinction).
I think his was a five day
trial, with a jury of 12 lay person peers, and the decision came in unanimously
to vindicate Dr. Weitzel on all counts. The only reason they took an hour to
deliberate, we later learned, was that they had pizza for lunch. This was in
So euthanasia has many sides and definitions too, near as I can tell. I once saw a high school student who was crippled and completely paralyzed and in need 24 hours of care. I don't really know all his circumstances, but he appeared to be barely aware, if aware, of his own existence. My heart bled just to see this, and I could not possibly imagine how the parents must have been suffering all those years.
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