Sunday, October 11, 2009

Forty Days for Life

This past Monday I stood in front of a local Planned Parenthood facility and prayed the Rosary as part of Forty Days for Life. I was part of Forty Days for Life last year, and I found it a moving experience. Last year I was there praying with a friend of mine from our parish. This year, however, I missed the day our parishioners were attending. I didn't know if anyone would be there (I went around 10:00 AM). I was dreading it, frankly. I went to a Communion service at another parish that morning for encouragement. I was feeling a bit like Jonah--I wanted to run in the opposite direction from the place to where God was calling me. Like Jonah, I was a reluctant witness. I went to Planned Parenthood and there was a familiar face--a man who is there most every day. He is a familiar fixture in the neighborhood. He is joyful, encouraging, and compassionate. It was comforting to see him there. I paced up and down the sidewalk, praying on my son's red hand-made twine rosary. I was wondering if this was enough, and tonight I just came across this quotation from St. Francis of Assisi: "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching." That gives me some consolation that my timid efforts still have some effectiveness.

I was thinking about how to speak with others who may not agree why abortion is wrong. Here are ten reasons that came to mind:

1) Because whether a fetus is a human being or not should not depend on whether he or she is wanted or not.

2) Because the weekly growth of an embryo into a fetus into a born child clearly demonstrates the continuity of human development.

3) Because if you can convince yourself that killing an unborn child is not only permissible but a human right, then society can rationalize any atrocity.

4) Because if you do not know when human life begins, then you should err on the side of caution and assume it begins earlier rather than later.

5) Because tearing a sprouting acorn out of the ground and destroying it is the same as cutting down an oak tree.

6) Because abortion comes from the domination of hope by fear.

7) Because aborting an unborn child in cases of rape or incest is like killing a born child for the crimes of his or her father.

8) Because sacrifice is an honorable act, unless the adjective “human” precedes it.

9) Because abortion is an answer to half of a question. If one asks, “What do I do now?” when faced with an unexpected pregnancy, then abortion seems like an option. But if one asks instead, “What do I do now in the best interests of the person I helped to create through my free choice of engaging in an act that by its very nature creates life?” then one’s options appear very different.

10) Because an unborn child is not a problem to be fixed but a gift to be received—or given.

Thanks to Tate for a couple of wonderful resources for talking to others about abortion. The first focuses on how a baby develops:

Diary of an Unborn Child

Chronology of the New Life

1. On day 1, I already have a unique DNA which includes whether I’m a boy or a girl.

2. At 7 days, I implant in my mother’s womb.

3. At 18 days, my heart starts beating

4. At 19 days, my eyes start to develop.

5. At 28 days, my arms and legs are forming.

6. At 30 days, my ears and nasal are developing.

7. At 42 days, my skeleton is complete and my reflexes are present.

8. At 43 days, my brain wave patterns can be recorded. I’m now considered a thinking person.
9. At 7 weeks, I have the appearance of a miniature doll with complete fingers, toes and ears. I’ve even been caught in pictures sucking my thumb.

10. At 8 weeks, all of my organs are complete and functioning. Everything is now present that will be found in a developed adult.

11. At 9 weeks, I can squint, make a fist and move my tongue.

12. At 10 weeks, my sense of touch is working, and I can feel comfort or pain.
13. At 12 weeks, I can smile.

14. At 16 weeks (four months), I’m swimming, kicking and doing somersaults.

15. At 18 weeks, my vocal cords are working, and I can cry.

16. At 20 weeks, I’m approximately 12 inches long, weighing 1 pound.

17. At 22 week, I can live outside the womb.

Then there is this excellent dialogue (of sorts) in 1999 between then-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and California Senator Barbara Boxer on when life begins:

Senator Santorum: I think the issue of where we draw the line constitutionally is very important. And I’m sure the Senator from California [Senator Boxer] agrees with me. I think the senator from California would say that she and I, and the senator from Illinois and the senators from Arkansas and Kansas here, we are all protected by the Constitution with a right to life. Would you agree with that, senator from California -- [would you] answer that question?

Senator Boxer: I support the Roe versus Wade decision.

Santorum: So you would agree any child that’s born has the right to life, is protected under the Constitution? Once that child is born?

Boxer: I agree with the Roe v. Wade decision. And what you are doing goes against it and will harm the women of this country. And I will speak to that issue when I get the floor myself.

Santorum: But I would like to ask you a question. You agree, once that child is born, is separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed? Do you agree with that?

Boxer: I would make this statement: That this Constitution, as it currently is -- some of you want to amend it to say that life begins at conception. I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born -- and there is no such thing as partial-birth -- the baby belongs to your family and has all the rights. But I am not willing to amend the Constitution to say that a fetus is a person, which I know you would.

But we will get into that later. I would prefer to address --I know my colleague is engaging me in a colloquy on his time, and I appreciate it -- I will answer these questions.

I think what my friend is doing, by asking me these questions, is off point. My friend wants to tell the doctors in this country what to do. My friend from Pennsylvania says they are "rogue" doctors. The AMA will tell you they no longer support you. The American nurses don't support you. The obstetricians and gynecologists don't support you. So my friend can ask me my philosophy all day. On my own time I will talk about it.

Santorum: If I can reclaim my time: First of all, the AMA still believes this is bad medicine. They do not support the criminal penalties provisions in this bill, but they still believe -- I think you know that to be the case -- that this procedure is not medically necessary, and they stand by that statement.

I ask the senator from California, again: you believe, you said "once the

baby comes home." Obviously, you don't mean they have to take the baby out

of the hospital for it to be protected by the Constitution. Once the baby is separated from the mother, you would agree -- completely separated from the mother -- you would agree that baby is entitled to constitutional protection?

Boxer: I will tell you why I don't want to engage in this. You did the same conversation with a colleague of mine, and I never saw such a twisting of his remarks. [Editor’s note: See Nov. 14, 1996 NRL News, page 24, for transcript of an exchange between Santorum and Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wi.).]

Santorum: Well, be clear, then. Let's be clear.

Boxer: I am going to be very clear when I get the floor. What you are trying to do is take away the rights of women and their families and their doctors to have a procedure. And now you are trying to turn the question into, "When does life begin?" I will talk about that on my own time.

Santorum: What I am trying to do is get an answer from the senator from California as to where you would draw the line? Because that really is the important part of this debate.

Boxer: I will repeat. I will repeat, since the senator has asked me a question – I am answering the question I have been posed by the senator. And the answer to the question is, I stand by Roe v. Wade. I stand by it. I hope we have a chance to vote on it. It is very clear, Roe v. Wade. That is what I stand by. My friend doesn't.

Santorum: Are you suggesting Roe v. Wade covered the issue of a baby in the process of being born?

Boxer: I am saying what Roe v. Wade says is, that in the early stages of a pregnancy, a woman has the right to choose. In the later stages, the states have the right, yes, to come in and restrict. I support those restrictions, as long as two things happen: They respect the life of the mother and the health of the mother.

Santorum: I understand that.

Boxer: That is where I stand. And no matter how you try to twist it, that is where I stand.

Santorum: I would say to the senator from California, I am not twisting anything. I am simply asking a very straightforward question. There is no hidden question here. The question is --

Boxer: I will answer it again.

Santorum: Once the baby is born, is completely separated from the mother, you will support that that baby has, in fact, the right to life and cannot be killed? You accept that; right?

Boxer: I don't believe in killing any human being. That is absolutely correct. Nor do you, I am sure.

Santorum: So you would accept the fact that once the baby is separated from the mother, that baby cannot be killed?

Boxer: I support the right -- and I will repeat this, again, because I saw you ask the same question to another senator –

Santorum: All the person has to do is give me a straight answer, and then it will be very clear to everybody.

Boxer: And what defines "separation"? Define "separation." You answer that question. You define it.

Santorum: Well, let's define that. Okay, let's say the baby is completely separated. In other words, no part of the baby is inside of the mother.

Boxer: You mean the baby has been birthed and is now in its mother's

arms? That baby is a human being.

Santorum: Well, I don’t know if it’s necessarily in its mother’s arms. Let’s say in the obstetrician's hands.

Boxer: It takes a second, it takes a minute – I had two babies, and within seconds of their birth --

Santorum: We’ve had six.

Boxer: Well, you didn't have any.

Santorum: My wife and I had babies together. That’s the way we do things in our family.

Boxer: Your wife gave birth. I gave birth. I can tell you, I know when the baby was born.

Santorum: Good! All I am asking you is, once the baby leaves the mother's birth canal and is through the vaginal orifice and is in the hands of the obstetrician, you would agree that you cannot abort, kill the baby?

Boxer: I would say when the baby is born, the baby is born, and would then have every right of every other human being living in this country. And I don't know why this would even be a question, to be honest with you.

Santorum: Because we are talking about a situation here where the baby is almost born. So I ask the question of the senator from California, if the baby was born except for the baby's foot, if the baby's foot was inside the mother but the rest of the baby was outside, could that baby be killed?

Boxer: The baby is born when the baby is born. That is the answer to the question.

Santorum: I am asking for you to define for me what that is.

Boxer: I don’t think anybody but the senator from Pennsylvania has a question with it. I have never been troubled by this question. You give birth to a baby. The baby is there, and it is born. That is my answer to the question.

Santorum: What we are talking about here with partial birth, as the senator from California knows, is a baby is in the process of being born --

Boxer: "The process of being born." This is why this conversation makes no sense, because to me it is obvious when a baby is born. To you it isn't obvious.

Santorum: Maybe you can make it obvious to me. So what you are suggesting is if the baby's foot is still inside of the mother, that baby can then still be killed.

Boxer: No, I am not suggesting that in any way!

Santorum: I am asking.

Boxer: I am absolutely not suggesting that. You asked me a question, in essence, when the baby is born.

Santorum: I am asking you again. Can you answer that?

Boxer: I will answer the question when the baby is born. The baby is born when the baby is outside the mother's body. The baby is born.

Santorum: I am not going to put words in your mouth –

Boxer: I hope not.

Santorum: But, again, what you are suggesting is if the baby's toe is inside the mother, you can, in fact, kill that baby.

Boxer: Absolutely not.

Santorum: OK. So if the baby's toe is in, you can't kill the baby. How

about if the baby's foot is in?

Boxer: You are the one who is making these statements.

Santorum: We are trying to draw a line here.

Boxer: I am not answering these questions! I am not answering these questions.

The Catholic Church's reasoning for opposing abortion is based on thoroughly logical philosophical methods, not simply divine revelation. I have often said that if I became an atheist tomorrow I would still staunchly oppose abortion merely on the grounds of human reason. Senator Boxer's exchange with Senator Santorum shows how her ideology prevents her from examining the philosophical and logical inconsistencies and gaps of her position.

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