Violin Players, Kidney's and a woman's right to choose

Ann threw down the gauntlet (in the nicest of ways) She asked me to comment on her comments. So, for reference, here are her comments:

"That said, I read the article differently than you did. Did I miss something? The writer didn't specifically say his logic applies in cases where the mother's life is in danger (incidentally, your situation is generally considered to be higher on the "socially acceptable" level than mine is, and I've found that even mine is more socially acceptable than I thought it would be--because while my life wasn't in danger, my son could never live on his own). He seems to be talking about the women who view the pregnancy as an inconvenience, not a "my life vs. his" debate. "

There's a lot to unpack here. In my typical over organized fashion, I'm going to break the responses down.

Firstly, Ann notes that Mr. Kaufman was talking about what we might call general abortion. I think the definition is problematic. Abortion is abortion is abortion. As in my first post, I make reference to the young high school girl pregnant out of wedlock by her foot ball playing boyfriend. (Now, out of strict intellectual honesty, I'm compelled to tell you, most women who have abortions are in college, they are between 20 and 25, and they are in longer term, stable relationships. Having said that, I seem to recall that a statistically significant number of women from ethnic minorities have abortions. I found my info here. You may not agree with the aims, but the research is well done)

So, people look at my circumstances and say "Mrs. Spit, You didn't have an abortion". Well, yes, I did. When I look at a dictionary I see:

Termination of pregnancy and expulsion of an embryo or of a fetus that is incapable of survival
Induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus.
The ending of pregnancy and expulsion of the embryo or fetus, generally before the embryo or fetus is capable of surviving on its own.
the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus

But, invariably someone says to me, "you were going to die". Yes, I was. But I still signed the consent to induction. The perinatologist told me exactly what was going to happen to Gabriel. I knew that induction and delivery were going to save my life, and kill my son. I suppose you could call Gabriel and inconvenience. I'd be inclined to call him a wanted, loved baby, who was going to kill me, but the underlying idea is the same. In the purest sense, I didn't want to be pregnant any more, if being pregnant meant that I was going to die. I'm not sure how I can call what I did anything other than an abortion.

Mr. Kaufman, I suspect unintentionally, willfully calls all persons who would make this decision evil, a monster. He makes no distinction about why one might choose to end a child's life, only that if you do, you are a monster. My argument yesterday was that he was way out of line to use words like that, particularly when things relating to abortion are anything but black and white, in spite of his assertion that he can clearly determine what's at stake in any abortions.

Mr. Kaufman didn't say that if you are pregnant out of wedlock, you are regarding a foetus as an inconvenience, no he said that any woman who would have an abortion should be aware that things are very black and white:

The principle is very basic: If you are a baby's only hope to survive — if there's no one else who can do the job — you could never walk away, much less invoke your "right" to do so. Period, exclamation point.

I was my son's only hope to live. I was the only one who could do the job of carrying him. I invoked my "right" not do so. I'd call that an abortion by any terms, and particularly by the words Mr. Kaufman chose in his article.

Invariably someone brings up the next issue, mitigating circumstances - "Mrs. Spit, you were going to die". Well, yes. If I did not deliver my baby, I was going to die. There was, as our perinatologist suggested, the faint hope of a miracle. Maybe, it was possible that God would suddenly avert the course of pre-eclampsia, Gabriel would have suddenly gained 200 grams in a few days. Maybe. Seems to me that expecting this is like jumping off a cliff and expecting God's Angels to catch you. That's not about trusting God, it's about testing him. As a Christian, I believe that the instructions on testing God are really quite clear.

The discussion highlights another an interesting part of Ann's comments - the notion of the socially acceptable abortion. So, you can have an abortion if you are going to die. If your baby has a diagnosis incompatible with life, if you are raped, if you are a victim of incest. Many of us "get" this. No woman should be held accountable for something she didn't plan. I got pregnant, I expected to have a happy, healthy baby. Ann got pregnant, she expected to have a baby that could live outside her womb. Ms. X. walked down the street, she didn't expect to be raped by a complete stranger. She didn't expect to be pregnant. So, we get to this idea about abortion, sometimes it's acceptable - if we decide it's not your "fault" you are excused. That doesn't work for me.

There's a really big problem with this sort of thinking. The idea of a socially acceptable abortion isn't clear. Just what is it? I have become particularly aware that there are many who felt that I should have let God/Nature/the Universe take their course, and if both Gabriel and I died, well, that would be God's will. There are some who would suggest that Ann should have carried her son, at whatever personal pain that would cost (which I am quite sure would have been beyond my ability to comprehend) and deliver in God's time. Socially acceptable varies from person to person, and from time to time. It can be explicit - "our society permits no abortions, under any circumstances), it can be implicit "If you were truly allowing God to be in control of your life, you would have trusted him in all circumstances, and accepted his perfect will for your life, even if that meant dying, or undergoing this pain, or being pregnant as a result of rape, and becoming a single mother, or giving up your baby)

For the rape victim, some Christians can be particularly galling. I have heard more than a few suggest that no child should suffer for the sins of their father. This is likely true, but probably the most horrific thing about this sentence is what is *not* said - if you are truly a Christian you will pursue this path. It's the implicit idea of "See, there's no real reason to allow abortion. We've dealt with that particularly pesky problem of rape, we can make it all better, so let's just outlaw abortion once and for all."

And that's why I have become pro-life. On December 8th, I didn't want to have to beg for a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, a priest, my peers, to decide that my circumstances met whatever test one used to be socially acceptable. Let's be quite clear - that would have required me to quite literally beg for my life. I can't think of anything that would have been more de-humanizing than to have to beg to be able to live. I am ever aware that if I had get permission from some Christians, or Pope Benedict XVI, they would have denied it. And I would have died.

That's the danger of limiting abortions to what we believe is socially or morally acceptable - there is no universal definition of what is socially or morally acceptable, even on what we might consider to be the ideal test case. If we allow abortions based on the feelings, inclinations, moral judgement of society, women are entirely dependant upon varied and changeable emotions to decide what should be done with their lives. If, in my case, I should have died in one person's mind, and I should have ended my pregnancy in my mind, we can see that there are no clear answers. And honestly, given Mr. Kaufman's assertion that I'm a monster on her way to hell, I really don't see how we can possibly reach any universal conclusion about any sort of abortion.

And this is where we step away from Mr. Kaufman's certain universe.

As far as I'm concerned, there were three people to ask in the decision about giving birth to my son, me, my husband and God. I had their permission. I'm a Christian, that's who's opinion I think matters. I believe in Truth, with a capital T. I believe I can know it, but after Gabriel, I'm sure a lot more willing to accept that I can't know it for everyone. Sometimes, women have to search out what God is saying to them. It's not always clear what the answer is. I'm not God. I have no idea what all the answers are. I know what the answer was on December 10th.
For the record, I think as a society, we could do a lot better of a job about valuing children. I think they are a gift. But I'm humble enough to admit that six months ago I would have told you that I would never have an abortion. Not for any reason. Can't tell you that now, can I?

So, here's my problem. I ethically believe that I had to ask the wishes of my husband and search out God's will. How can I require that any other woman needs to justify her circumstances to me? Or to her doctor? Or her priest? Or a judge?

Either she has a right to ask and search, and possibly receive different answers, or she doesn't. If this is an issue of God, God will tell her what he wants her to do. She can listen or not. Her choice. Either the right to decide what to do with my body is mine, or it belongs to society. We can't both have the right to decide what to do about my body. I don't want to be the person telling a woman what she can and can't do with her body. I might urge her to a particular choice. If she is a Christian, she's likely to search scripture, seek pastoral counselling - but really, not all decisions about abortion are universal, they aren't black and white, they aren't two plus two, however much Mr. Kaufman tried to make them so.

And there's a bigger problem. I hold a particular set of ethics about my pregnancy, my son's life, his death and what happened to me because I believe in Christ. I believe that He died for my sins. I believe in the bodily Resurrection. (Somehow I don't think this is going to come as a surprise to all of you out in blog land) But what about those who don't believe what I do? Those who don't believe in God at all? Can I use my faith to tell them what happens to their body? It seems to me that I use my faith to tell me what to do with my body. That's my Christian obligation. The rest, well, that's up to them and God. Seems to me that my job is to proclaim the Gospel. His job is to do the rest.

What I want more than anything is that we let women make their own choices, even when we don't agree with their choices. That we acknowledge the sad and private tragedy of a fallen world, and that we treat them with love and compassion, and we choose our words to them carefully. That we accept each of us make different decisions, and what is right for you isn't always right for another. Finding right and wrong isn't always like flipping a coin. Circumstances alter cases, as my father used to say.

And Kuri, if Mr. Kaufman still insists on sending us to hell, I'll bring the chocolate if you bring the beer! I'm sure we can find a warm corner to knit in!

As an update: I received a thoughtful, really well written email back from both the Boundless Editor (Ted Slater) and Mr. Kaufman. Both suggested that the article was never meant to imply that I was evil, a monster, or anything else of the sort, instead, as Ann suggested the article referred to what I called "general abortions" above. I have asked their permission to publish their email, if they are comfortable. For the rest, we are going to have to agree to disagree.

Kuri, we may have to meet in some place other than hell to knit now.