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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gary Chaffins and Frank Thompson Talking Abortion



This e-mail response from Gary Chaffins is printed in mutual agreement. It is intended for public consumption to help those struggling with the issue of abortion and all its complex understandings. What follows is open discussion between two people who agree to disagree. I certainly intend no harm to my new friend, Gary. He has the same consideration for me. Gary and I put this entry out for your consideration and for your discernment that opposing views may lead to new understandings. The comments from Gary are printed in blue. My response is printed in black.



Frank,

Thank you for your time today. Per your request, here is a summary of my position on the topic of Christianity and abortion. Please note that due to time constraints, I pulled together a few resources that properly reflect my position. I hope that you take the time to consider each and every resource that I have provided for you.

I recognize that Abortion is a very touchy subject and talking about it can result in anger, accusations, hurt feelings and so on. These things seem to become more of a reality whenever one approaches it from a Christian worldview. However, please note, that although I believe abortion is wrong, my message is NOT condemnation, but to offer a clear picture of the value of human life in the sight of God and the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With that said, I unashamedly admit that the Bible serves as my ultimate guide on this issue.

My position is that abortion is murder and that murderers should be punished as murderers (according to current standards of law).

Here is a concise statement that sums up my position on this topic:

"The Bible never specifically addresses the issue of abortion. However, there are numerous teachings in Scripture that make it abundantly clear what God’s view of abortion is. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knows us before He forms us in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 speaks of God’s active role in our creation and formation in the womb. Exodus 21:22-25 prescribes the same penalty—death—for someone who causes the death of a baby in the womb as for someone who commits murder. This clearly indicates that God considers a baby in the womb to be as human as a full-grown adult. For the Christian, abortion is not a matter of a woman’s right to choose. It is a matter of the life or death of a human being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6).

The first argument that always arises against the Christian stance on abortion is “What about cases of rape and/or incest?” As horrible as it would be to become pregnant as a result of rape and/or incest, is the murder of a baby the answer? Two wrongs do not make a right. The child who is a result of rape/incest could be given in adoption to a loving family unable to have children on their own, or the child could be raised by its mother. Again, the baby is completely innocent and should not be punished for the evil acts of its father.

The second argument that usually arises against the Christian stance on abortion is “What about when the life of the mother is at risk?” Honestly, this is the most difficult question to answer on the issue of abortion. First, let’s remember that this situation is the reason behind less than one-tenth of one percent of the abortions done in the world today. Far more women have an abortion for convenience than women who have an abortion to save their own lives. Second, let’s remember that God is a God of miracles. He can preserve the life of a mother and a child despite all the medical odds being against it. Ultimately, though, this question can only be decided between a husband, wife, and God. Any couple facing this extremely difficult situation should pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) as to what He would have them to do.

Over 95 percent of the abortions performed today involve women who simply do not want to have a baby. Less than 5 percent of abortions are for the reasons of rape, incest, or the mother's health at risk. Even in the more difficult 5 percent of instances, abortion should never be the first option. The life of a human being in the womb is worth every effort to allow the child to be born.

For those who have had an abortion, remember that the sin of abortion is no less forgivable than any other sin. Through faith in Christ, all sins can be forgiven (John 3:16; Romans 8:1; Colossians 1:14). A woman who has had an abortion, a man who has encouraged an abortion, or even a doctor who has performed one—can all be forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ."
(Source: GotQuestions.org)

The Gospel and Abortion

Furthermore, I believe that life begins at conception. In the words of Denny Burke:

"pro-lifers define abortions as any measure that causes a fertilized egg or fetus to be destroyed. Pro-lifers believe that all human beings have an inalienable right to life from conception to natural death. Notice that it’s not from implantation to natural death, but from conception to natural death. When sperm unites with an egg, a new human life comes into being. In the normal course of events, that new human life travels down the fallopian tubes and into the mother’s womb where it implants into the uterine wall. Pro-choicers often say that an abortion can only occur after implantation. Pro-lifers contend that abortion can occur before or after implantation. Human life is at stake from the time of conception, and anything that destroys that life is abortifacient."

Here are a few quotes to help justify such a statement:

A United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee invited experts to testify on the question of when life begins. All of the quotes from the following experts come directly from the official government record of their testimony.
Dr. Alfred M. Bongiovanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, stated:
I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.... I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life....
"I am no more prepared to say that these early stages [of development in the womb] represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty...is not a human being. This is human life at every stage.”


Dr. Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, was the discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down syndrome. Dr. LeJeune testified to the Judiciary Subcommittee, “after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” He stated that this “is no longer a matter of taste or opinion,” and “not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.” He added, “Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

Professor Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic: “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School: “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive.... It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.... Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data.”

Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School: “The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter—the beginning is conception. This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political, or economic goals.”

A prominent physician points out that at these Senate hearings, “Pro-abortionists, though invited to do so, failed to produce even a single expert witness who would specifically testify that life begins at any point other than conception or implantation. Only one witness said no one can tell when life begins.”

Many other prominent scientists and physicians have likewise affirmed with certainty that human life begins at conception:

Ashley Montague, a geneticist and professor at Harvard and Rutgers, is unsympathetic to the prolife cause. Nevertheless, he affirms unequivocally, “The basic fact is simple: life begins not at birth, but conception.”


Dr. Bernard Nathanson, internationally known obstetrician and gynecologist, was a cofounder of what is now the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). He owned and operated what was at the time the largest abortion clinic in the western hemisphere. He was directly involved in over sixty thousand abortions.

Dr. Nathanson’s study of developments in the science of fetology and his use of ultrasound to observe the unborn child in the womb led him to the conclusion that he had made a horrible mistake. Resigning from his lucrative position, Nathanson wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that he was deeply troubled by his “increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.”

In his film, “The Silent Scream,” Nathanson later stated, “Modern technologies have convinced us that beyond question the unborn child is simply another human being, another member of the human community, indistinguishable in every way from any of us.” Dr. Nathanson wrote Aborting America to inform the public of the realities behind the abortion rights 
movement of which he had been a primary leader. At the time Dr. Nathanson was an atheist. His conclusions were not even remotely religious, but squarely based on the biological facts.

Dr. Landrum Shettles was for twenty-seven years attending obstetrician-gynecologist at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Shettles was a pioneer in sperm biology, fertility, and sterility. He is internationally famous for being the discoverer of male- and female-producing sperm. His intrauterine photographs of preborn children appear in over fifty medical textbooks. Dr. Shettles states,"I oppose abortion. I do so, first, because I accept what is biologically manifest—that human life commences at the time of conception—and, second, because I believe it is wrong to take innocent human life under any circumstances. My position is scientific, pragmatic, and humanitarian."

The First International Symposium on Abortion came to the following conclusion:
The changes occurring between implantation, a six-week embryo, a six-month fetus, a one-week-old child, or a mature adult are merely stages of development and maturation. The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg, or at least the blastocyst stage, and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life.

The Official Senate report on Senate Bill 158, the "Human Life Bill," summarized the issue this way:

Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being - a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.
Source: Randy Alcorn (www.humanlife.org)

Helpful Resources:

Can birth control cause abortion? 
"180" The Movie http://www.180movie.com/

In Christ,
Gary Chaffins 

First of all, I want to thank Gary Chaffins for e-mailing me his position after he read a blog entry I wrote about my views on abortion. We discussed abortion during a phone call prior to his e-mail. I greatly appreciate his intelligent approach and his call. It is evident he has done extensive research on the subject, and he reasonably supported his view with documented resources. 

As a person who writes a blog that is largely editorial in content, I appreciate his scholarship and documented work. I hope you read it carefully and give it your utmost consideration. He deserves your time and effort.

During a call from Gary, I asked his permission to print the entire e-mail as part of this response in my blog. As I told him, I firmly believe people must discuss important issues to find common ground and points of difference. I think bringing opinions to the table is essential to understanding compromise and to forming well-supported positions.

I applaud him on his honesty and his courage to allow me to include his response. I feel Gary is both sincere and committed to his Christian views. To me, the fact that he stands up for his beliefs is proof he is a rare person with great conviction willing to talk amiably with someone taking a slightly different stand.

Gary's biblical position is clear. I respect his references to the Bible. I will let them speak for themselves. My only comment is that all of these scriptures come from the Old Testament. The Old Testament does also contain references to God's vengeance of using abortion. It records God in his wrath causing the people of Samaria to bear their guilt because they rebelled against Him. Hosea 9:13-16 speaks of the wrath in which their infants are dashed in pieces, and their women with children "ripped up."

I confess Gary is a much more competent biblical scholar than myself, but I have difficulty paralleling God's complete sanctity of the fetus referenced by Gary with God's decree of complete desolation in the Bible, including annihilation of the fruit of women's wombs, due to their transgression. Surely, these fetuses were innocent of worldly sin and incapable of causing the sins of their fathers and mothers. I find this contradictory to pro-life belief.

Gary and I agree about the definition of conception: "When sperm unites with an egg, a new human life comes into being." Yet, in our conversation, he informed me that his anti-abortion stand also supports the ban of the morning-after pill (EC), or emergency contraception. Gary is careful to delineate "implantation" from "conception." I also understand his point here. Destruction of an implanted embryo that has adhered to the wall of the uterus is defined as abortion. I believe that too.

Gary and I disagree about the fact that morning-after pills necessarily destroy human life. In truth, morning-after pills a means of contraception that most likely perform the task before conception. The emergency contraceptive/morning-after pill has three modes of action (as does the regular birth control pill); it can work in one of three ways:
  1. The normal menstrual cycle is altered, delaying ovulation; or
  2. Ovulation is inhibited, meaning the egg will not be released from the ovary;
  3. It can irritate the lining of the uterus (endometrium) so as to inhibit implantation.
Morning after pill contain contain a form of the hormone progesterone called levonorgestrel. Another regimen of EC pills is a combination regimen containing forms of two hormones: progesterone and estrogen. Pills in this regimen are really just the pills used in oral contraception, but a woman must take more than one for them to work as emergency contraception.

EC should never be used as a primary form of birth control. And, similar to regular birth control, EC will not terminate an existing pregnancy. Yet, human conception rarely occurs immediately after intercourse, instead, it usually as long as several days later after ovulation. During the time between intercourse and conception, sperm continue to travel through the fallopian tube until the egg appears.

It is evident the morning-after pill is most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex. The influx of synthetic hormones prevents the ovaries from releasing the egg, thus stopping an unwanted pregnancy. Once a fertilized egg implants, EC will have no effect. This explains why doctors advise women to take the pills no later than 72 hours after unprotected sex -- the chances of it working past that point are very low.  

Despite any disagreement on whether many people believe the definition of life involves implantation and not just conception, the evidence that EC prevents a fertilized egg from adhering to a "thinner" uterine lining is questionable. And, most certainly the hormonal action of EC as described in numbers 1 and 2 above does not destroy a fertilized egg, or as Gary defines "a new life."

Studies have shown that most of the time, women take the morning-after pill for their own peace of mind. For example, a risk of pregnancy may occur when a condom slips off or breaks during intercourse, when a woman forgets to take her birth control pills two days in a row, or when a diaphragm or cervical cap moves, breaks, or tears.

Findings report in 78% of all cases, taking emergency contraception is unnecessary because the woman could not have conceived a child (meaning she was not fertile to begin with). Thus, emergency contraception only has an effect 22 percent of the time. Taking a morning-after regimen does not abort a fetus.

I happen to believe in EC if for nothing else, for a woman's need for emotional security, not for her simple convenience. I understand some abuse of these pills is inevitable, yet birth control is necessary in many cases. And, in most cases, if not in all cases, EC is a form of birth control and not an abortifacient device. I think pro-life attempts to legislate morning-after pills off the market threaten a woman's rights to freedom of contraception.


My Main Concern With Pro-Life Legislation

Gary and I agree that abortion can be morally and even legally wrong. But I, unlike Gary, think the right to have an abortion must be preserved for certain circumstances (Please read this entry for my stance: http://allthingswildlyconsidered.blogspot.com/2014/04/abortion-womens-rights-and-innocent.html) while Gary believes all abortions must be banned.

I, perhaps with a little too much spirited impetus, prodded Gary about what would be done to women who have abortions once the law makes abortion illegal. And, by the way, let's not forget "it takes two to tango," and a potential father shares the responsibility for committing this crime. I asked Gary if he considers abortion is murder in the first degree. He said he believes it is.

Here is what Gary believes, and it is the 
focal point of our disagreement:
"My position is that abortion is murder and that murderers should be punished as murderers (according to current standards of law)."

Here is the Ohio Revised Code section for the penalty that applies to this argument:

2929.02 Murder penalties.

"Whoever is convicted of or pleads guilty to aggravated murder in violation of section 2903.01  of the Revised Code shall suffer death or be imprisoned for life, as determined pursuant to sections 2929.022 , 2929.03 , and 2929.04 of the Revised Code, except that no person who raises the matter of age pursuant to section 2929.023 of the Revised Code and who is not found to have been eighteen years of age or older at the time of the commission of the offense shall suffer death. In addition, the offender may be fined an amount fixed by the court, but not more than twenty-five thousand dollars."

It is necessary to understand when young people are tried as adults in criminal court, they face the same penalties as adults. This includes the death penalty or life without parole. In addition, once a juvenile has been transferred to adult court and convicted of (or pleaded guilty to) any felony, he or she is thereafter deemed not to be a "child" in any subsequent case. Likewise, a juvenile who has had the adult portion of a "serious youthful offender" sentence invoked is no longer deemed a child.

I can view this penalty for anyone convicted of having an abortion only one way: this view is absolutely and totally unjust. In fact, the ramifications for destroying the liberties of Americans and endangering our youth are unthinkable. I understand how Gary, in his solid commitment to moral and ethical behavior, believes some who decide to have an abortion are akin to murderers, but, in reality, to judge that all abortions are murders and all who have an abortion are murderers who must receive the necessary penalty under law for such an offense, is irrational and, in my mind, unholy.

To legislate an end to the right to abortion squarely puts the responsibility for death to "abortionist murderers" upon those who insist upon lobbying for such sweeping laws. In my opinion, the present anti-abortion movement diminishes its stance by insisting that all those who abort are killers. The Christians who stand behind the symbol of the cross as an absolute conviction to ending all abortions practice a means of revenge, and do, in effect, attempt to crucify those who abort.

The reason I use the defense of the morning-after pill is to illustrate that all who choose to prevent a new life are not ruthless, uncaring criminals, and, not all those who wish to plan pregnancy through the use of contraceptives are reckless pleasure seekers.

Would many right-to-life advocates also prohibit the sale of birth control pills? I think so. Then condoms and then... anything that prevents conception... because in their minds intercourse is only deemed "right" for purposes of some kind of legal procreation in marriage? Do these people reject all acts of sex outside of traditional heterosexual marriage? This would deny homosexual freedom of sexual contact and expression.

Let me be damned if I am wrong. I risk taking the chance to disagree with pro-lifers. I do not like abortion, but at the same time, I recognize the need to make it available to those in certain circumstances who need it and who use to continue their peaceful existence. To accuse all who have of abortions of the crime of murder is more than gross over-generalization. It is just bad, bad thinking.

I want to close my response by again thanking Gary for representing his views and the views of many others like him. I respect the rights of everyone to believe in good principles and to practice their beliefs. I respect Gary and his pro-life advocates for their choices; however, I do see a great distinction between adhering to chosen personal commitments and pushing legislation that mandates questionable moral principles that must be followed by all.

I will fight this pro-life "cover all abortion" stand with my writing.

My proof rests on the beliefs that America could not stop abortion through law, neither could it enforce anti-abortion law and convict all those guilty of the crime. Death and life imprisonment to those involved in committing abortions would amount to a new genocide of sexually active citizens, young and old, and to a very negligible decrease in abortion labeled as "infanticide" by pro-lifers.

In an innocent vision of a perfect world, juvenile lovers would be holding hands and kissing; consenting, enamored adults would be amorously enjoying safe-sex love affairs; and married couples of all ages would be engaged in sensible, financially responsible family planning. Maybe you wake up in this reality. I don't. My eyes view complications, and my mind works to apply feasible solutions.

As a member of a jury, I could no more give the death penalty to a woman who has what is considered now a legal abortion than I could commit my own soul to hell. Let's live in a moral America with all its cracks and marred surfaces while we look at the exact circumstances of all ethical concerns.

With some of the illogical governmental actions lately, I see many better opportunities to save lives than to outlaw abortion. More state-sponsored, unenforceable, knee-jerk reactions to lobbyists offering big money and false promises to end dilemmas will only contribute to the demise of our freedom and liberty.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Living and Adjusting Within My Own Soul




I believe my soul is the domain of God, not bounded by the covenant of a single doctrine or a single church. Many times in my life I have faced decisions to believe one set of rules or the entire dogma of one denomination. I have done that, and I have found my soul still lacking.

In addition, I have had others preach to me that simplicity and nonsectarian acceptance of the Savior in a call to the altar is the sole path to salvation. To me, this requires nothing but a mindful commitment, and a simple vow that "I will never doubt again." But, my mind seems too restless. It cannot be chained to a simple, static understanding as I continue to sin and question the faith.

First of all, I believe in God. I, like so many others who believe in Him, struggle with what the Creator intends me to make of my life. I have prayed and counseled with the Almighty about the path I should take. Since I believe He owns my soul and He is the only one who understands its unique creation, I also believe in making many tough decisions in life by relying upon His advice. To me, these soul-searching times are very private, spiritual sessions in which I listen and then attempt to apply the solution in ways satisfying to Him. With my human faults, I am not always successful in my applications.

My God even allows me free will to practice life by trial and error. Since I am stubborn and egotistical at times, my mistakes are inevitable. But, through his grace, He allows me to readjust my routes and carry on. I know some believe God is vengeful and abhors the continued sins of a human; however, I think sometimes God intends sinners to keep learning and applying new purposes to achieve greater good. The struggle is the proof of longevity of belief.

I do not believe my particular life is one that is meant to be lived quoting scriptures and waving Bibles under the noses of lost sinners. At best, I believe God wants me to relate my story -- the rights and the wrongs -- and let others find their own meaningi n it. (If any meaning is apparent)  I am comfortable outside the walls of churches in my beliefs, and I understand many would say I am wrong and bound for hell for being so. I do not condemn them for holding their beliefs.


Without trying to sound overly metaphysical, I find my soul most at rest in nature, away from people, sects, clubs, and governments. I have literally been shaken to the core by natural settings and natural events. For example, upon witnessing the splendor of the Grand Canyon, I sat on a park bench and broke into uncontrollable tears. I felt as if I had lost all perspective of earthly comprehension there, and I experienced a deep, soulful connection with all humans who had ever viewed this gift of God. Simply put, I was spiritually overwhelmed.

I have had similar experiences with small gifts of Creation. Taking time to look at the amazing detail and beauty of water, stones, and plants, I have felt the Maker deep in my soul. I have often said a small blade of grass is a heavenly miracle far beyond the greatest inventions of man. In that small stalk of grass, I see a living universe without end, and I imagine the breath of life supplied by God.

I am not condemning or attempting to detract from the beliefs of anyone else. I have wonderful friends who staunchly believe in one book and in one interpretation of religion. I respect them as long as they do not injure others with their judgments. I will always love them as I sincerely believe they are merely fellow beings traveling their own destined journeys the best way they know how. And, besides, I don't believe in one answer to all spiritual concerns.

Again, I am merely stating my belief that God intends me to question, study, gain, and even fail to find His purpose for my life. Although I have attained several degrees, have worked in a profession, and have attained practical experience, I think God wants me to continue to push towards making a unique contribution. While doing so, I also believe God intends me to offer others love with my own voice and actions. I think he respects my decisions as long as I apply love.

I find complete harmony of thought in human beings both boring and largely unproductive. During my life I have taken so much understanding from so many perspectives that I often question the status quo or the simple solution. That is one of the main reasons I write this blog. I find it impossible to ask someone to expand their understandings without looking at the opposition and without considering reasons for opposing beliefs.

I have never "stood upon a rock" of belief that didn't contain a sizable crack. Upon my inspection, sometimes that crevice proved to be dangerous and sometimes it proved to be a scar of little-understood, natural weathering. I have learned to accept and love imperfection with inherent, kind purpose.


I find blind allegiance and promotion of narrow understandings un-Godly. I don't believe God inflicted such lockstep advancement upon His own son, so I can't believe He intends me to live without questioning and thinking freely. When I feel God most in residence within my soul, He seems to offer a myriad of roads for contemplation and growth. He disapproves of some of my actions. Still, the Almighty is a source of infinite inspiration for positive change in ways I find inconceivable without His help. 

Many times, my God reminds me to learn from all wise people I have met. At the same time, the Almighty seems to say He doesn't want me to be molded into a "cookie-cutter existence." He doesn't want me to expect Him to smooth my rough edges by simply praying or regretting. He demands that I develop workable theories with Him and that I apply them in practice. And, in His wonderful kindness, he often watches me weakly "let down" my end of the work, but then challenges me to another try.

In closing, I believe God resides in my soul, and He is the good driving force that allows me to advance my life. Any good spirit I possess, I derive from him. Some day, when I leave this earth, I hope He possesses my soul and allows it to be even more pleasing to His plans. In the meantime, I rely upon searching my soul for His will and attempting to apply it through my heart and mind. I'm pretty sure the Almighty loves baseball, and maybe I can hit .350 with his help... then again, most of us are lucky to find the .280 mark. God grant me the vision and the wisdom to keep myself in a winning ballgame.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Human Touch: The Fingerprint Expression of the Palpitation of a Soul




From "Human Touch" by Bruce Springsteen 

We all hunger for the same thing. We crave the embrace, the tender and soft assurance of human love, the human touch. From birth to death, we need the feel of skin upon skin. It is the first sense to develop in the womb and the last sense to leave in old age. Nothing suffices for this innate need deeply rooted both in our physiology and in our psyche.

Attempts to define human touch with simple physical actions such as hugging, cuddling, and caressing that induce oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” seem too nondescript. We can extol the health benefits of  touch as gracious, loving actions that reduce stress, lower cortisol levels, and increase the senses of trust and security, but that too is not enough to define its true character. 

Human touch can best be envisioned as a "fingerprint" expression of the true palpitation of a soul. Each lover understands unique contact as a loving juncture of pure spiritual energy. Human touch is a conduit to a coalition in which two people transmitting love become one. Whether the connection occurs between friends, spouses, significant others, parents and children, or complete strangers, the meaning is understood without as much as an accompanying word, sound, or gesture.

“To touch can be to give life.” 
  --Michelangelo


We often deny human touch. The difficulty of expression hinders the value of sharing this energy. Many times, we are afraid to reach out to others for fear of being too forward and for fear of being misunderstood. In fact, many of us automatically equate touch with sexuality. Without a doubt, unwanted physical contact can be creepy and threatening. On the other hand, those who never touch others give the impression of being "cold fish."

At times we simply do not want to touch skin that is unattractive -- bodies that are old or unappealing in their conditions. Instead of reaching out to elderly or unsightly individuals, we keep our hands to ourselves, preferring not to shake their hands or touch their bodies with actions of approval and warmth. From our own prejudices, we simply refuse to offer them the benefit of our touch.

During other occasions, we feel the risk of being too "touchy-feely" by displaying our "silly" emotions when we touch. Men, especially, experience this dilemma when considering touching another guy. To many men, touching another male conjures up negative thoughts of someone acting out-of-control and ineffectual. These men think sharing touch is synonymous with emoting simply for show, certainly not something most see as displaying appropriate manhood. Although drunk men typically let down their guards and buddy hug, they employ alcohol as the social lubricant and the excuse that permits them to show same-sex public affection.

And, naturally, we are taught to value emotional awareness and cold control. We have been raised to "suck up our pain" and expect others to do the same. Neither do we want to inflict our issues upon others nor do we want to sympathize with those we perceive as weaklings. To touch would amount to acknowledging weakness, and that, we believe, is not beneficial to keeping order. Instead of touching our family and friends, we then verbalize our affection and assume that words suffice for needed warmth and kindness.

The fact is some of us just do not want to touch because we don't know how. It is true, no one can judge what is in another person's heart or exactly why it is there. Perhaps the aorta has been bashed and betrayed by untrue lovers. Perhaps living in an environment barren of tactile contact has frozen the emotion. And, maybe no one ever offered some of us unconditional gifts of mutual, loving embrace. How could anyone living without constant benefits of touch, the most primitive of all sensations, voluntarily offer others that sensual contact?

Then, a small minority of us actually resist all touch because it hurts. It actually pains, like a hot or cold sensation. Bearing the suffering, the unfortunate few actually have to force themselves to touch other people or be touched by them by "going somewhere else" mentally and detaching themselves from their bodies. Because of traumatic abuse or psychological cross wiring, aversion becomes encoded. It is believed a very small percentage of us who resist touch may be born with tactile hypersensitivity even to the point of having certain foods feel strange in their mouths.



The Complexity of the Sense of Touch

Touch is the only one of the five senses that involves the entire body? It's a simple fact really, but it also reveals the innate complexity of human touch. Only now is touch being better understood by the human race.

In a study conducted in 2009, DePauw University psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, demonstrated that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone. In a series of studies, Hertenstein had volunteers attempt to communicate a list of emotions to a blindfolded stranger solely through touch. Many participants were apprehensive about the experiment. "This is a touch-phobic society," he says. "We're not used to touching strangers, or even our friends, necessarily."

Hertenstein's results suggest that for all our caution about touching, we come equipped with an ability to send and receive emotional signals solely by doing so. Participants communicated eight distinct emotions -- anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness -- with accuracy rates as high as 78 percent. "I was surprised," Hertenstein admits. "I thought the accuracy would be at chance level, about 25 percent."

(Rick Chillot, "The Power of Touch." Psychology Today. March 11, 2013)

We appear to be wired to interpret the touch of our fellow humans. This ability relates the awesome potential of touch in all its sensual connotations. It is complex spiritual energy, indeed.

The irony of touch as a language is that we know how to use it; however, we take it for granted and
consistently underestimate our ability to communicate through it. Perhaps practice would make the expression more perfect. Face it, we tend to believe an abundance of touch is strictly taboo.

There is much to be gained by embracing our tactile sense but no fail-proof instruction book containing exacting knowledge of its transmission or its translation. In other words, we assume we understand the employment of our touch, but that assumption is foolish. Experts are just beginning to understand touch and all of its meanings.

At this juncture, many researchers believe the true indicator of a healthy long-term bond is not how often a person touches us but how often he or she touches us in response to our touch. "The stronger the reciprocity, the more likely someone is to report emotional intimacy and satisfaction with the relationship," says Laura Guerrero, coauthor of Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships, who researches nonverbal and emotional communication at Arizona State University.


Touch? An abundance may be loving or it may be threatening. In certain environments and in many interactions with people, the advice about touching is simply "Don't do it." Just consider inappropriate actions in the workplace or in first meetings. People want their personal space. Yet, during times of intense grief or fear, and in ecstatic moments of joy or love, only human touch can fully express the caring fingerprint of our soul. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts.

"Tis the human touch in the world that counts -- the touch 
of your hand and mine -- which means far more to the sinking heart than shelter or bread or wine, for shelter is gone when the night is o'er, and bread lasts only a day, but the touch of the hand and the sound of the voice live on in the soul always."

 - Spencer M. Free.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Abortion, Women's Rights, and "Innocent Cemeteries"




Writing about abortion, especially in Southern Ohio, is like holding a lit pack of firecrackers. Once you ignite the incendiary by expressing your opinion and then toss it out for public consumption, it creates instantaneous startling reactions from readers and a firestorm of protest from those with opposite convictions. Abortion is the subject of intense public and political debate and discussion in America.

Abortion is, and has always been, an emotional, volatile issue. I believe the choice to have an abortion is a very personal, ethical decision. Although human life must be preserved, both the definition of "life" and the circumstances that lead to pregnancy create a multitude of complications for consideration. Many people chose to make abortion a crime akin to an action of homicide, or murder, so they lobby to legislate judgments against a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. I question the value of legislating the morality of abortion.

The surgical definition of abortion is fairly simple. Surgical abortion is defined as "a procedure that ends a pregnancy by removing the fetus and placenta from the mother's womb (uterus)."

Reasons a surgical abortion might be considered include:
  • Your baby has a birth defect or genetic problem.
  • Your pregnancy is harmful to your health (therapeutic abortion).
  • Your pregnancy resulted after a traumatic event such as rape or incest.

A common Right To Life definition of an abortion is "the premature exit of the products of conception (the fetus, fetal membranes, and placenta) from the uterus. It is the loss of a pregnancy and does not refer to why that pregnancy was lost."  Most Pro-life advocates argue that human fetuses (as well as embryos and zygotes) are unborn human beings who have the same fundamental right to life as that of a human being after birth. In general, those supporting the "right-to-life" concept are strongly opposed to abortion, euthanasia, and sometimes embryonic stem cell research.

In legal terms abortion is defined as "the termination of pregnancy by various methods, including medical surgery, before the fetus is able to sustain independent life." In the United States, abortion is legal via the case or Roe v. Wade. In Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), the U. S. Supreme Court determined that the Constitution protects a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Specifically, the Court ruled that during the first trimester of pregnancy the state cannot bar any woman from obtaining an abortion from a licensed physician. During the second trimester, the state can regulate the abortion procedure only to protect the woman’s health. In the third trimester, the state may regulate to protect fetal life, but not at the expense of the woman’s life or health. 

However, individual states can regulate/limit the use of abortion or create "trigger laws," which would make abortion illegal within the first and second trimesters if Roe were overturned by the US Supreme Court. A trigger law is a nickname for a law that is unenforceable and irrelevant in the present, but may achieve relevance and enforceability if a key change in circumstances occurs.

The number of states considered "hostile" to abortion rights, defined by the Guttmacher Institute as having at least four kinds of major abortion restrictions on the books, has also more than doubled since the year 2000, from 13 states to 27.

 (Laura Bassett. "More Abortion Laws Enacted In Past 3 Years Than In Entire Previous Decade." The Huffington Post. January 03, 2014) 

To the best of my current knowledge, states with no trigger laws and no restrictions regarding trimesters are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

I believe the the decision to end a potential life is a serious matter. I do not support many decisions to have abortions. That is not within my moral framework. For example, I abhore abortion as a preferred method of family planning. I also question the need for most abortions past the first trimester.

That being said, I believe women must be given the right to gain control over their pregnancies. A woman who loses control over her reproductive functions loses a basic human right. Reproductive rights is a fundamental requirement for achieving equality between men and women in American society.

The only proper function of government is to protect people's absolute rights against violation by other entities. No government, no state, no collective has any “interest” apart from the individuals of which it is composed. Thus, it folows that a governmental body can have no “interest” which conflicts with any individual’s rights, such as a paternalistic interest in “maternal health.”

The Constitution was drafted in recognition of these principles. It was designed as a protection against government power, i.e., against invasion of individual rights by the government. For this reason, the Constitution enumerates the limited powers of the government but not (as made clear in the Ninth Amendment) every individual right.

Ayn Rand has explained: “A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context.” Thus, a pregnant woman, like every other individual, has the right to determine her own destiny and the destiny of her body, to choose what constitutes her own best interest and private happiness and to work for its achievement, so long as she respects the same rights in others. 

(Officers of the Association for Objective Law. 
"Abortion: An Absolute Right." abortionisprolife.com)

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." 
--Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution

In other words, I think women must have safe and legal access to abortion. To make abortion illegal denies women the right to happiness, to destiny, and to their own existence in some cases. The Supreme Court has found that a mother has a right to abortion until viability, a point to be determined by a doctor. After viability, a woman can obtain an abortion for health reasons, which the Court has defined broadly to include psychological well-being.

The Supreme Court holds that the unborn have never been recognized as persons in the whole sense and thus the fetuses are not legally entitled to the protection afforded by the right to life specifically enumerated in the Fourteenth Amendment. So rather than asserting that human life begins at any specific point, the court simply declared that the State has a "compelling interest" in protecting "potential life" at the point of viability. This is the law without interpretation by me.

It is obvious to me that abortion will continue whether it is legal or not. The safety of millions of women is at stake. I want it clearly understood that I do not promote abortion. I promote the need and lawfulness of personal choice.Without access to lawful surgical abortion, many women will seek unsafe, illegal abortions that may result in their injury or death.

The movement to ban abortion has become a political issue, and, I believe, political movements that interfere with Constitution rights and that deal with issues of morality are generally nonproductive. The movements usually attempt to bolster support for one political party and one view, and the party, needing the support of powerful constituents and dollars, shrewdly calculates its platform according to the number of votes support of a particular moral issue may deliver. Time after time, headlines provide proof that many of these same "moral" lawmakers lead anything but moral lives.

I concede that rape, incest, and health concerns amount to a mere 19.5% of the reasons woman say they have an abortion; however, those who choose to ban abortion must consider this percentage an extreme need and a protected right. Here are findings from a 2004 Guttmacher Institute study listing reasons for choosing to have an abortion: 

  • 74% Having a baby would dramatically change my life
  • 73% Cannot afford a baby now
  • 48% Do not want to be a single mother or having relationship problems
  • 38% Have completed my childbearing
  • 32% Not ready for another child
  • 25% Do not want people to know I had sex or got pregnant
  • 22% Do not feel mature enough to raise another child
  • 14% Husband or partner wants me to have an abortion
  • 13% Possible problems affecting the health of the fetus
  • 12% Concerns about my health
  • 6% Parents want me to have an abortion
  • 1% Was a victim of rape
  • less than 0.5% Became pregnant as a result of incest
(Finer, Lawrence B.; Frohwirth, Lori F.; Dauphinee, Lindsay A.; Singh, Susheela; Moore, Ann M. "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives."Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 37. September 2005)

Many emotional critics of abortion seem quick to call women who elect to have the surgical procedure "murderers." I believe this name calling is extremely judgmental and callous. Thank God the United States protects the right to privacy so certain groups are prevented from ruining these women's lives with public disclosure. I happen to believe almost all are not ruthless executioners. If anything, they do not deserve contempt, but rather they deserve attention, help, and guidance.

Of course the number of abortions performed every day in the United States is alarming. Education and moral teaching are definitely lacking. Still, lumping politics and religion and fanaticism together into one concrete stance that abortion is murder and a form of mass infanticide is unfair.

If life is sacred by religious definition as proposed by Christians, why do many supporters of banning abortion also support the death penalty and the insane policies of the government that contribute to innocent, civilian deaths in places like Iraq and Afghanistan?

I think those unwilling to consider everything about the issue of abortion and blindly damn it as destruction of life have chosen from a "smorgasbord" for their beliefs. Please just consider the civilian casualties in the War in Afghanistan. If "life" is precious and God-given, fervent religious doctrine should be consistent. Is the Right To Life movement ready to take on this painful issue? I think not. What does this say about who values life and what life they value? I believe it is apparent. 

Estimates of Civilian Death Afghanistan

There is no single official figure for the overall number of civilians assisted by the war since 2001, but estimates for specific years or periods have been published by a number of independent organizations and are presented here.

Most, if not all, of the sources state that their estimates are likely to be underestimates.

Aggregation of estimates

Year Civilians killed as a result of insurgent actions Civilians killed as a result of U.S-led military actions Civilians killed as a result of the war
2001 n/a
  • The Project on Defense Alternatives estimated that in a 3-month period between October 7, 2001 and January 1, 2002, at least 1,000-1,300 civilians were directly killed by the U.S.-led aerial bombing campaign,[4] and that by mid-January 2002, at least 3,200 more Afghans had died of "starvation, exposure, associated illnesses, or injury sustained while in flight from war zones", as a result of war.[5]
  • The Los Angeles Times found that in a 5-month period from October 7, 2001 to February 28, 2002, there were between 1,067 and 1,201 civilian deaths from the bombing campaign reported in U.S., British, and Pakistani newspapers and international wire services.[6]
  • According to the The Guardian, possibly as many as 20,000 Afghans died in 2001 as an indirect result of the initial U.S. airstrikes and ground invasion.[7]
  • Professor Marc W. Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimated that in the 20-month period between October 7, 2001 and June 3, 2003, at least 3,100 to 3,600 civilians were directly killed by U.S.-led forces.[8]

2002 n/a
2003 n/a
2004 n/a n/a n/a
2005 n/a
  • Professor Marc W. Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimated at least 408-478 Afghan civilians were directly killed by U.S./NATO actions.[9]
  • direct civilian deaths: at least 408 to 478
  • indirect civilian deaths: n/a
2006
  • Human Rights Watch estimated at least 699 Afghan civilians were killed by various insurgent forces in 2006.[10]
  • Human Rights Watch estimated at least 230 Afghan civilians were killed by US or NATO attacks in 2006: 116 by airstrikes and 114 by ground fire.[11]
  • Professor Marc W. Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimated at least 653-769 Afghan civilians were directly killed by U.S./NATO actions.[9]
  • Human Rights Watch estimated at least 929 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting related to the armed conflict in 2006.[10] In all, they estimated more than 4,400 Afghans (civilians and militants) were killed in conflict-related violence in 2006, twice as many as in 2005.[12]
  • An Associated Press tally based on reports from NATO, coalition, and Afghan officials, estimated 4,000 Afghans (civilians and militants) were killed in 2006.[12]
  • Indirect civilian deaths: n/a
2007
  • Human Rights Watch estimated that at least 950 Afghan civilians were killed by various insurgent forces in 2007.[10]
  • Human Rights Watch estimated at least 434 Afghan civilians were killed by US or NATO attacks in 2007: 321 by airstrikes and 113 by ground fire. Another 57 civilians were killed in crossfire, and 192 died under unclear circumstances.[11]
  • Professor Marc W. Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimated at least 1,010-1,297 Afghan civilians were directly killed by U.S./NATO actions.[9]
  • Human Rights Watch estimated at least 1,633 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting related to the armed conflict in 2007.[10]
  • Indirect civilian deaths: n/a
2008
  • The Afghanistan Rights Monitor(ARM) estimated that over 2,300 civilians were killed by insurgents in 2008, including 930 in suicide bombings.[16][19]
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that 828 Afghan civilians had been killed by international-led military forces in 2008, accounting for 39% of the civilian deaths. Air-strikes accounted for the largest proportion of this number, 64%, with 552 civilians killed as a result of U.S./NATO airstrikes.[17][18]
  • According to Afghanistan's ambassador to Australia, Amanullah Jayhoon, 1,000 Afghan civilians were killed by coalition forces in 2008.[20]
  • The Afghanistan Rights Monitor(ARM) estimated that over 1,620 civilians were killed by U.S.-led military forces in 2008, including 680 killed in airstrikes. ARM also estimated that military operations by US-led NATO and coalition forces caused at least 2,800 injuries and displaced 80,000 people from their homes.[16][19]
  • Professor Marc W. Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimated at least 864-1,017 Afghan civilians were directly killed by U.S./NATO foreign forces in 2008.[21]
  • The Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) estimated that in 2008 around 3,917 civilians were killed, over 6,800 were wounded, and around 120,000 were forced out of their homes.[16][19]
  • Indirect civilian deaths: n/a
2009
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 1,630 Afghan civilian deaths as having been caused by anti-government elements in 2009, representing two-thirds of the 2,412 Afghan civilian deaths it recorded in the American-led war in 2009.[23][24]

  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 596 Afghan civilian deaths as having been caused by international-led military forces in 2009, representing about a quarter of the 2,412 Afghan civilian deaths it recorded as having been caused by the war in 2009.[23][24]

  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded 2,412 Afghan civilian deaths in the American-led war in 2009, representing a jump of 14% over the number killed in 2008. In 186 (8%) of the deaths, UNAMA was unable to clearly attribute the cause to any one side.[23][24]
  • Indirect civilian deaths: n/a
2010
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) attributed 2,080 Afghan civilian deaths as having been caused by anti-government elements in 2010, up 28% from 2009 and representing 74.9% of the 2,777 Afghan civilian deaths they recorded in the American-led war in 2010.[25][26]
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) attributed 440 Afghan civilian deaths as having been caused by U.S.-led military forces in 2010, down 26% from 2009 and representing 15.9% of the 2,777 Afghan civilian deaths they recorded in the American-led war in 2010.[25][26]
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) recorded 2,777 Afghan civilian deaths in the American-led war in 2010, a jump of 15% over the number killed in 2009. In 9% of the deaths, UNAMA and AIHRC were unable to clearly attribute the cause to any one side.[25][26]
2011
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) attributed 1,167 Afghan civilian deaths as having been caused by anti-government elements in the first six months of 2011, up 28% from the same period in 2010 and representing 79.8% of the total 1,462 Afghan civilian deaths they recorded in the conflict during this period.[27]
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) attributed 207 Afghan civilian deaths as having been caused by U.S.-led military forces in the first six months of 2011, down 9% from the same period in 2010 and representing 14.2% of the 1,462 Afghan civilian deaths they recorded in the conflict during this period.[27]
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) recorded 1,462 Afghan civilian deaths in the American-led war in the first six months of 2011, a jump of 15% over the number killed in the same period in 2010. In 6% of the deaths, UNAMA and AIHRC were unable to clearly attribute the cause to any one side.[27]
*Note: In UNAMA/AIHRC methodology, whenever it remains uncertain whether a victim is a civilian after they have assessed the facts available to them, UNAMA/AIHRC does not count that victim as a possible civilian casualty. The number of such victims is not provided.


Rick Clark, pastor of Christ’s Community Church, is a wonderful man who does immeasurable good. Perhaps the display of the Innocent Cemetery memorial on the knoll alongside Christ’s Community Church on 25th Street in Portsmouth will save some lives. I hope it does. I know Rick and I am witness to his great work at the church. We are friends, and I hope if he reads this blog entry, we still are friends. I respect him and will continue to do so, yet I disagree with his opinion about abortion.

I ask him only to consider me, who would be branded a "killer" in these terms, someone with a purposeful opposing opinion. I also disagree with a couple of points in the local paper. Neither do I consider our country to be "unblessed," nor do I consider the 4,000 crosses to be symbols of crucified babies by mothers who choose abortion. In essence, this is a message that is easily derived by viewing the display resting beneath the American flags.

I respect the right of the congregation to display crosses that depict the babies that have died since Roe v. Wade, through abortion. This is Portsmouth, Ohio, America, and it is still the land of liberty. I'm sure many love the display. That is great. I am sympathetic to the idea.

Still, I don't know how the mothers who chose abortion benefit from this public display, and I do not believe combining the government symbol and the religious symbol creates unity in a nation divided on how to handle the issue. These are powerful, meaningful symbols -- the cross and the flag -- and I happen to believe Christians can support some cases of abortion and save souls and lives by doing so.

I am not judging religious conviction here, but I am guilty of judging intentions that leave themselves open to further investigation. I admire those who stand up for their opinions. Still -- Capital punishment? War crimes? Abortion? FDA-sponsored greed? So many seemingly "apparent" issues prove very complicated and, thus, require thorough investigation.

Rick, I love you, but I hope we can agree to disagree. I am not a murderer. I must defend my own beliefs. I refuse to believe some of those I know who have had abortions are evil. I also question whether Right to Life supporters are OK with the morning-after pill. Women 17 and older can buy it without a prescription, and believe me, many young women do purchase it now.

“When God judged nations in ancient times, they were judged because they killed their babies,” Clark said. “They killed babies and they were burying them in foundations, asking for blessings from their gods. They would sacrifice babies in the fire. It was a common practice, and it was because of that practice that God didn’t bless nations - he judged them. And then I think about abortion. And I think - here we are in a country that was founded initially, whether you like it or not, on Christian principles and yet we kill babies - 4,000 a day on average, and yet we are quick to ask God to bless us. We’re quick to ask God’s favor on things. How can he really bless a nation that kills its own?”

(Frank Lewis. Innocent Cemetery comes to Christ’s Community Church."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. April 13, 2014)