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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)


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