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The wonders of “choice”

March 23, 2012 1 comment

Granted, this case from the Ottawa Citizen is not representative of every woman seeking an abortion, but it does raise the question of, “What constitutes choice?”. Here are some highlights from the article:

Anna, first, asked her mother whether she would help her, if she had the baby. Her mother flatly refused, saying, “I do not want to waste my life babysitting.” Her male partner said he “wasn’t interested in a kid” and their relationship has since broken up. She tried to get an appointment with her gynecologist to discuss her options, but the first available one was two months away. She then contacted an abortion clinic, which gave her an appointment in two weeks, at which time Anna was nine weeks pregnant. She said, “I went to them to get information on abortion, to know more about my options, the consequences of an abortion. I was open to getting an abortion, because that was what everyone around me recommended I do. I saw abortion as an option, but was really not sure. I was hoping for some answers.”

What answers did Anna (not real name) get?

Anna met, first, with a nurse for a “consent interview.” She said, “The nurse told me that at this stage of the pregnancy the fetus is just a bunch of cells. I also asked her if the abortion would have any impact on my health, my future pregnancies, and so on. She said abortions had no impact at all, no consequences at all, that all that I had read (to the contrary) were myths. The nurse said, ‘In two weeks, it will be as if all this never happened’.”

Anna changed into a hospital gown and was taken into an examination room where a technician proceeded to do an ultrasound. Anna asked what the fetus looked like and could she see the ultrasound. She said, “The technician told me she was not allowed to show me the images and I was unable to see the screen,” which showed the fetus. At nine weeks gestation, it would have had a beating heart. The technician then picked up the printout of the ultrasound, but dropped it on the floor. She scrambled to gather it up quickly, saying, “You don’t want to see this.” But that’s exactly what Anna did want.

So, Anna was told that her 9-week old baby was just a “bunch of cells”, that after 2 weeks she will be as good as new and she did not have to worry herself with those pesky ultrasound images. That’s great information! Choice wins the day! But all kidding aside, this girl wanted information and was not given any so she had an abortion.

Anna said that “the attitude in Quebec, that ‘of course you should have an abortion, it is of no consequence’, is not true.” She explained, “I feel terrible. I can’t go to work. I’ve started seeing a psychologist. I feel guilty.” She mused, “I wonder why Quebec is like this.”

It’s not just Quebec. These lies about abortion travel all over the world. This is not a case of a woman exercising her choice to have an abortion, this is a case of a woman who did not have support and felt that abortion was her only chance. And, since she was told abortion was more like getting your tonsils removed than the killing of a human being, she thought “what’s the harm?”. I wonder how many more woman there are like Anna, who experienced the wonders of “choice”.

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“We Would Welcome another Child with Down Syndrome”

September 21, 2010 5 comments

Last week, a remarkable article was posted in the New York Times, by a mother who had refused prenatal testing during her pregnancy. The woman in question, Amy Becker, is the mother of a child with Down syndrome and has recently discovered that her 3rd child to be born is 1/100 likely to also have Down syndrome.

I recall my high school teacher asking my class one day, “Have you kids noticed the significant decrease of down-syndrome children over the years?” It was later that I discovered that this was not because scientists had found some miraculous cure for the chromosomal disease, but rather an alternative to the problem: death. This death is a choice made by several fearing mothers who are faced with the legal and ‘perfectly safe’ option of killing their child.

Prenatal diagnostic testing is composed of several tests during the course of the gestational period that allows the doctor to examine the fetus before birth and inform the mother of any deformations or chronic diseases, such as Down syndrome. Originally, these tests were administered to mentally prepare the woman for what was to come, and in this case, prenatal testing was more helpful than harmful. However, 80-90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome during prenatal testing are aborted (says Sam Brownback, past US Senator).

Amy states her biggest fear as she walked into the doctor’s office was not finding out whether the baby in her womb had an abnormal count of chromosomes, but rather talking to the doctor himself about prenatal testing:

[When pregnant with her second child] I agreed to an ultra-screen…I told myself that I wanted to know if the baby had a healthy heart. But the literature about the test explains that…it wasn’t offering me a chance to know the physical health of my baby so much as providing me a choice about whether to continue my pregnancy if the baby had Down syndrome.

Even Senator Brownback, in his PRENATALLY DIAGNOSED CONDITIONS AWARENESS ACT in 2005 states, “We don’t want a world where parents feel driven to justify their children’s existence.”

Prenatal testing is given as a recommended option simply to put the mother’s future in front of her and ask a very simple question: “Yes, or no?” In other words, “Is this child worth your time, or would you like to try again another time?” Without denying the hardships and sacrifices of having a child with Down syndrome, Amy continues to talk about her friends’ experiences as well as her own with doctors who pressure women to abort. If euthanasia was not enough to eliminate the “burdensome” in society, eugenics certainly is not far behind.

The way these tests are administered, the way information is provided to women and the way our culture talks about individuals with chromosomal abnormalities, contribute to my concern that prenatal testing more often serves to devalue all human life and to offer parents and doctors an illusion of control.

I strongly encourage you to read Amy’s very reasonable testament to society’s misinformed view of the “horror” of Down syndrome. She is one of few who manage to see the positive light that comes out of sacrifice, and that every life is a life worth living.

“Having the right to die gives me the control I need to have a peaceful death.”

Here’s quick answer number four from COLF‘s “quick answers to common arguments” about euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“Having the right to die, even if I never exercise it, gives me the control I need to have a peaceful death.”

A peaceful death comes from acceptance not control. It is important that those people who are suffering are given compassion and help on their journey towards acceptance, until their natural death.

Focusing on controlling the circumstances of one’s death seems like a bit of an exercise of futility and resistance—not the most peaceful of approaches.

Requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide are often made out of a profound sense of despair. They are generally a call for help. At the heart of such a request is a profound fear of the pain the person may have to endure and of being alone in that suffering. Such a desire is typically transitory, especially when we respond to it with true compassion.

I was suprised when I first learnt this. Alex Schadenerg speaks out this in detail.

Our society has always reached out to suicidal citizens who need help in living, not help in dying. It would be quite a contradiction to continue funding distress centers and suicide prevention programs while legalizing assisted suicide. If people chose to die while temporarily depressed or in intense pain, instead of receiving proper medical attention, they will potentially be deprived of many good years of life.

Killing people is a lousy cop out, when people really need care. Telling someone, “oh, you need help? Sure! We can kill you!” is not providing them with a real solution to their problems.

Dying patients who are no longer competent to make their own decisions may find that physicians and members of their families take control and decide to end their life. For example, this could happen if a person has prepared a living will clearly stating his or her desire to be euthanized under certain circumstances, but no longer wishes to be killed once the time comes. The so-called right to choose death could become the right of other people to force your choice on you once you have become incompetent.

I think this is one of the most important points: legalized euthanasia empowers no one. Barbara Kay concludes that article, addressing one of the letters to the editor from Alex McKay in support of legalisation:

Ironically, if euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are legalized (philosophically it comes to the same thing), by the time Mr. McKay’s “wonderful life” has become less wonderful to the point of chronic pain and suffering, he may find, to his surprise, that against all logic he wishes to “cruelly extend” his life. But he may also find — nothing could be more logical — that others around him reproach him, saying no, “life is for the living,” and therefore it is unconscionable for him to have such expectations.

And thus, as is so often the case with those who privilege “logic” over human nature and the natural law, Mr. McKay, and others who are so smugly sure they know in advance what their late-life wishes will be, may be chagrined to discover that the words “deny me my dignity” and “against my will” have taken on a whole new — and rather macabre –meaning.

It is a false choice. It’s not about control—euthanasia is a public safety issue.


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The Heart of the Abortion Debate Within Our Culture: Part I

A friend of mine wrote the following poem, which mentions some concerns – some of the more “stickier” issues, no doubt – regarding the abortion debate. It is written from the perspective of the child in the womb.
It must be noted that the poem only describes just one of many possible situations and set of circumstances that may be faced by women who are pregnant.

I will never get a chance to live my life
Because you were afraid of hardship and strife
Didn’t you know that you would be blessed?
While you were moaning, “YES, YES, YES!”

I’ll never see the world or be set free
Because your only thought was “ME, ME, ME!”
Really our situation is not even that sad
There are worse cases that would make even you feel bad

But they chose an alternative solution
It was long and hard like solving pollution
But meant life for me, what’s my life worth?
Is it worth going through child birth?

How can the World let this happen, have we lost our Dignity
Or is it worse? Have we already lost our Humanity?
What about my Daddy? Doesn’t he get a say?
Please don’t do this! There must be another way

Let’s pick apart this poem stanza by stanza. In light of the wonderful semester I have spent with the University of Toronto Students for Life (UTSFL), I thought it would be an effective way to shed some light on what the pro-life movement, and those within it, may have to focus on when speaking to others about the issue.

The first stanza picks up on what would arguably be the heart of the abortion issue: the idea of choice. People, in almost all cases, can choose to have sex. I do not intend to go down the whole debate of that choice, because it is irrelevant to the matter at hand. There is, however, something that people who choose to engage in sex need to clearly understand…
Sometimes, when you have sex, you get pregnant.
This is a fact. It sounds so straightforward and seems so obvious. But this is crucial, and the disconnect between sex and pregnancy that many are making needs to be taken seriously.
So, if you do get pregnant, what does this mean? When you intentionally terminate a pregnancy, what exactly are you choosing to do?
Anti-abortionists/pro-lifers could say that when pregnant, a distinct human being, deserving of rights and needing protection, is now developing in the womb.
Pro-abortionists could say what’s in the womb is just a clump of cells that is a part of the women’s body. So, a woman should be able to terminate the pregnancy.
If one agrees with the former, one could derive that the right to liberty of the mother and the right to life of the human being in the womb are in conflict. Although the right to liberty is important (which no pro-lifer would deny), the right to life trumps the right to liberty, and thus, abortion is not permissible. If, however, one agrees with the former, one could conclude that the right to liberty of the mother, especially in light of the fact “it” is just “a clump of cells” takes precedence. This highlights the major difference in the views of pro-lifers and pro-abortionists, and this is often where the discussions end, because there is no agreement of what the unborn is.
Life is fillied with hardship and strife, with or without an expected pregnancy; carrying the pregnancy to term and raising a child is no easy task. (Noone in the pro-life movement would deny this, either.) But then one must ask – Is this, a life of hardship and strife (or any other reason, for that matter) an adequate reason to end a pregnancy, in light of the anti-abortion view?

The second stanza is the one I have the most problems with. It can be received as rather negative and quite harsh, as it can be interpreted as belittling the problems a woman facing a crisis pregnancy goes through. The pro-life movement is not meant to do this, and, unfortuantely, this is often what comes across to pro-abortionists (making them equate pro-lifers with being “anti-woman”). This must change; a woman facing a crisis pregnancy is undoubtedly going through a great deal of stress, and is often experiencing fear, loneliness, and anxiety. Compassion is the best response to any woman in this situation, regardless of the circumstances and the nature of the pregnancy. This response acknowledges that a woman needs help in so many respects, and society should help women raise their children by providing more services to do so – whether it be financially or emotionally through a network of people, and in turn, empower her with this support to raise her child. A society that tells a woman “You cannot raise a child because of a, b, and c!” seems to not give much choice at all.

The third stanza asks an important question with regards to the unborn: “What’s my life worth?” In acknowledging that a solution was made, and was a difficult choice to make (I do not like to think women choose abortion easily, but it may be for some), that this life is seen as less worthy than the life of the woman, for various reasons. In treating those in need of the most protection – the unborn, in this case – as worthless or less deserving, is truly unfortunate.

The fourth stanza is, personally, my favourite, and mentions something that has been erking me lately. Often, MEN don’t seem to think they shoud have a say in abortion, since it’s “the woman’s body”. Abortion is a human rights issue, and gender is arbitrary. (It’s like saying one shouldn’t have an opinion about the treatment of workers in sweatshops just because they don’t work in one, or any other human rights abuse just because it hasn’t happened to them). Again, we touch that heart of the debate – men are just as involved in the start of a pregnancy as women are. This prevailing notion of a disconnect of a man from the pregnancy (and beyond it) also needs to change; both men and women need to realize that responsibility is not, and shouldn’t be, only on the woman.
I would really like to stay optimistic, and not conclude that humanity has been lost. I hope that instead of completely losing our humanity, we have just forgotten to remember – what the unborn are; that a woman facing pregnancy is in need of financial and emotional support; that men are entitled to have a voice in the abortion debate; and ultimately, that we must treat everyone with dignity and compassion, especially when they are at their most vulnerable.
There must be another way. Yes, the other way would be REAL choice; women should be kept well-informed of the possible health risks of abortion, and society should provide the resources necessary for a woman to raise her child, or even for the child to be put up for adption. The pro-life movement is continuing to move in the direction of demanding a change in the institutions that make up our society with regards to how money is distributed. Taxes should not be used to destroy human life, but to save and protect it.

“A majority, perhaps as many as 75 percent, of abortion clinics [in the US] are in areas with high minority populations. Abortion apologists will say this is because they want to serve the poor. You don’t serve the poor, however, by taking their money to terminate their children.”
– Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A special thanks to my friend who wrote down their thoughts on what is, for many, such a controversial topic.

Take Two: Reproductive “Choice” Campaign Video

November 6, 2009 1 comment

The Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform posted a video on YouTube a couple months back about their Reproductive “Choice” Campaign. We tried to blog about it, but YouTube had taken the video down by the time our post went live.

The CCBR has it up on Vimeo now.

Stephanie Gray is pretty awesome.

Women stabbed for refusing abortion

August 24, 2009 1 comment

Thomas Peters covers the tragic story of a women who was stabbed by her boyfriend after refusing to have an abortion. The woman was in critical condition when the story was published, but “the fetus survived.”

There are all sorts of complicated issues related to these all-too-common stories — violence against women, an inability to recognize unborn victims of crime — but I think what’s least talked about are the pressures on women when their partner’s don’t want children. Call it the Askmen.com effect. Take a look at this shocking comment on the article:

She’s 28 and he is 18 sounds to me like she forgot to take the pill purposely and got pregnant because she just wanted a kid and this guy got trapped. I am not saying stabbing her is right at all but man this kid got sucked in.

I realize this commenter is trying to separate out the pregnancy from the response to the pregnancy… but this is still way too far in the victim blaming direction for me to be comfortable with. But it’s not hard to see where this is coming from. It’s an extension of the how-to-get-your-girlfriend-to-abort mentality. The logic goes: if this guy didn’t want to become a father, but couldn’t convince his girlfriend to abort, why does her choice have to be his too? Wasn’t he being taken advantage of here? The only thing he did wrong was to react with violence..

That’s a disgusting train of thought. And it’s not empowering women.

(Nevermind the messy contraception connection…)

Now, all this is speculation, but we need to take a more honest look at the connections between abortion and violence against women. In cases like this, abortion doesn’t offer women “choice” or freedom. Rather, it sets up an excuse for their male partners not to support them in a crisis pregnancy situation. If this guy didn’t take it to such extreme violence, the underlying tragedy of abandonment would still remain.

Let’s hope she makes it through…

Surprise: US Catholic Bishops are… Catholic (*gasp*) and Cecile Richards thinks abortion should be publicly funded

August 19, 2009 1 comment

Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, took her gloves off in an editorial in the Huffington Post critical of the US Catholic bishops for coming out against (surprise!) taxpayer funded abortions (via LifeSiteNews.com). Her mastery of the arts of observation are pretty unimpressive.

Does anyone else see the irony in the U.S. bishops wanting to define universal health care as covering everything except for what they don’t support? Under this theory, I suppose women are supposed to wait to see just exactly how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comes down on a variety of health care needs to understand what in fact will be considered universal. Since when does universal health care mean denying comprehensive reproductive health care supported by the majority of Americans?

Um… anyone see the irony in Planned Parenthood wanting to define universal health care as covering everything that they support? Or, does anyone else consider it “ironic” that the Catholic bishops are, uh… Catholic?

Note she doesn’t quote them directly. Bishop Murphy put it this way: “no health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.” I think they’re arguing that health care isn’t killing rather than putting forth some subjective set of procedures that qualify for universal healthcare, but maybe I’m just not observing hard enough.

It’s hardly worth getting into the specifics of most of the article, because it’s based on such a fundamentally flawed assumption:

I’d welcome the bishops’ commitment to focus on these “universal”‘ problems, rather than continue to fight to diminish a woman’s right to make personal decisions that should be kept between her and her doctor.

That decision should be kept between her and her doctor. Except, you know, when taxpayers are being asked to fund it.

Obama is willing to admit that there are serious moral questions involved in abortion, but that would apparently be too much to ask of Cecile Richards. To suggest that abortion is a “personal” decision ignores the person who’s life is in question right from the start. It doesn’t even leave open the possibility for disagreement. I’m sure that’s intentional.

It’s also a terrible way to argue about abortion.

Maybe that’s why she focused on talking about contraception instead:

The bishops agree with Pope Benedict that condoms can worsen the AIDS pandemic in Africa [PDF]; that contraception should not be covered under most health plans and that it is not basic health care; and argue that emergency contraception will not reduce either the need for abortion or unintended pregnancy.

No matter what you think about contraception, does anyone else find it “ironic” that an organization called Planned Parenthood considers fertility as some sort of problem that requires “health care” to fix? Again, totally unwilling to acknowledge that anyone would disagree with her worldview (and not even talking about abortion anymore).

Seems that, if the U.S. Conference had its way, the national health care system would make American women second-class citizens and deny them access to benefits they currently have.

Does anyone else consider it “ironic” that Planned Parenthood views a burden of responsibility as a benefit? Even the ever-so-classy folks as AskMen.com can figure out that if abortion is easy, then, hey, it’s also easy for a guy to walk away if his partner isn’t willing to have one. Oh, right, not allowed to disagree here either. We don’t question, just accept in the Church of PP. (I suppose Cecile Richards would be God? I’d say Obama, but even he realizes that other tenable perspectives exist…)

Notice that she doesn’t use the word “choice” once. Think about it for a second: an entire article about abortion from a “pro-choice” perspective without using the word choice. I wonder why. Maybe it’s because of the irony of our money paying for their choice, or about the irony of “choice” being medically “necessary.” I guess when you’re arguing for taxpayer dollars, you use “medically necessary,” and when you’re talking about morals or ethics, you use “choice.”

Richards thinks it’s ironic that Catholic bishops are Catholic, but that irony escapes her?

If the bishops are pissing off Cecile Richards, they’re probably doing something very, very right.