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Whose Life is it Anyway?

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   1 comment
Message Norma Sherry
Everywhere I go these days I see bumper stickers on cars that read, "We vote pro-life". I find myself turning my head so I can see what these drivers look like. I guess I must expect that they'll look unusual or different somehow. Interestingly, they're not. I couldn't help looking to see if they adorned that coiffed hairstyle that seems to identify the new far-right and Christian movement or that polished politician's look. In most cases, however, they look much like most of us. In fact, I laugh at myself remembering the adage my mother used to say, "You can't tell a book by its cover".

But I can't help wondering if these pro-life voters are simply pro-birth or are they also pro-raising, pro-caring, pro-financially-supporting these little lives? Is the limit to their belief that every embryo should evolve into a breathing viable person or have they considered what that unwanted life may face in life's journey?

Life, what a precious commodity, what a gift to a loving couple striving for a family - and yet, here we are debating and arguing when life actually begins. Writer and Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister, is succinct in her appraisal of our "moral dilemma".

Clearly, she states, "I'm opposed to abortion. But I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking. If all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed and why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is."

Most of us have a position on this hot topic. If you're forty-years of age or older then this discussion has consumed your consciousness most of your lifetime, as it has mine; you remember the days of backstreet abortions and desperate measures some women thought were their only option - and it was. As a motherless woman, and a woman who has always wanted a child, the thought of aborting a viable life growing within me would be unthinkable, but, as a woman who respects the right of other women to the inalienable rights over their own bodies, I would side on the side of a woman's right to decide.

If it were up to me I would uphold Roe v. Wade. I would uphold it because I believe that each of us: man or woman has the right to determine what is right for their own bodies. This is not an issue for the government, or our president, or our presidents-to-be, it shouldn't even be a case for the courts, it, however, should reside within the hearts' of the affected parties.

I decided in this contentious atmosphere of a new Justice in the Supreme Court, and the foreboding fear that this momentous court decision may be overturned, that I had to completely comprehend what went into the decision of Roe v. Wade. I had to read it for myself. What I came away with was a new appreciation for the thoughtful process that became the controversial ruling.

As most of us know, Roe v. Wade was a case brought before the court by a single woman, Jane Roe, on behalf of herself and all women similarly situated. "Roe alleged that she was unmarried and pregnant." She wished to terminate her pregnancy by an abortion "performed by a competent, licensed physician, under safe, clinical conditions".

She stated, however, that she was unable to get a "legal" abortion in Texas because her life did not appear to be threatened by the continuation of her pregnancy. She claimed that the Texas statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments."

As I read Justice Blackmun's opinion, I found it to be sensitive and heedful of the times and of times past. He wrote in his profound statement that the justice's acknowledged the "sensitive and emotional
nature of the abortion controversy" and that they were aware "of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires."

He articulated that the considerations of philosophy, personal experience, religious training, attitudes toward life and family and their values, as well as moral standards influenced "one's thinking and conclusions about abortion."

He noted that the justices sought to earnestly resolve the issue by "constitutional measurement, free of emotion and of predilection." He wrote that some emphasis "upon, medical and medical-legal history and what that history reveals about man's attitudes toward the abortion procedure over the centuries" was taken into consideration.

He articulated the history of women's rights and abortion. He described in great detail the times of the Persian Empire and how abortion and those performing abortion were punished. He noted that abortion was practiced in Greek times as well as in the Roman Era, and that "it was resorted to without scruple". He wrote that "Greek and Roman law afforded little protection to the unborn", and that "ancient religion did not bar abortion."

Justice Blackmun also wrote a thorough investigation into the meaning of the Hippocratic Oath followed by an even longer evaluation of "common law" and the term "quickening" referring to the fetus' first movements or animation. Interestingly, it was noted to be different by forty days for female versus male fetuses until the 19th century.

"These disciplines variously approached the question in terms of the point at which the embryo or fetus became 'formed' or recognizably human, or in terms of when a 'person' came into being, that is, infused with a 'soul' or 'animated.' A loose consensus evolved in early English law that these events occurred at some point between conception and live birth."

The Justice continued by stating that a "recent review of the common-law precedents"makes it now appear doubtful that abortion was ever firmly established as a common-law crime even with respect to the destruction of a quick fetus""

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Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning (more...)
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