Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shades of Gray

It’s been a long hiatus, busy moving our household across town while the world changed. Terri Schiavo’s judicial homicide by starvation is a fait accomplis for the culture of death. Our beloved Pope John Paul II was released from his earthly burdens, and the newly-elected Defender of the Deposit of Faith is the orthodox and competent former-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Prior to the announcement of his election yesterday, I wrote three words on a notepad: “Shades of Gray.” Moral relativism was going to be the first subject I tackled on my return, one of many that have been bouncing through my head with nowhere to land. Pope Benedict's election was Providential in that regard, but I was actually prompted by an earlier criticism from a pro-choicer who thought I was unable to see in shades of gray. My first response to the accusation was childish and not worth recording except in an email whine to Ashli at The S.I.C.L.E. Cell (an excellent blogspot that deserves as many plugs as I can fit in): “the world has shades of gray - oh, my, did I, the baby-killer, not know that?”

Childish, yes I am, but I am also often amazed at the childishness of the pro-choicers who spout patent arguments off the cuff without any thought at all, apparently. I am post-abortive – is that a secret somewhere anymore? I have a pretty good idea of how to look at the world through the screen of gray shades, thanks. Been there, done that, and tired of saying it to people who don't pay attention. Please, change your arguments or think them through when you are talking to a woman who exercised the choice you fight so hard to protect.

The problem is that there are absolutes in the world, legitimate shades of black and white that every one is capable of seeing, but which not everyone can accept, and one of those black shades is the color of death. And that’s what abortion is about – it’s about death, and death is inarguably absolute.

It’s not about women’s health, or we would regulate the abortionists and the abortuaries – but we don’t. It isn’t about poverty or financial responsibility, or thirty years of legalized abortion would have reduced the number of children who live in poverty in this nation. It hasn’t. It isn’t about letting women decide whether they want to be pregnant or not – they already can without legal abortion. Abortion is not contraception, because it occurs after conception. It is murder used as contraception, and this black truth bears repeating as often as it takes, until we no longer deny that it exists.

The simple fact, in plain black and white, is that abortion is about killing the child and the responsibilities that come with him or her. It is this truth that causes problems for women who procure abortions. Unlike other cases of abuse or trauma in which the victim is purely a victim, the post-abortive woman has to point to herself as one of the instigators. Not only was she a victim, she was a victimizer. She wasn’t just abused by abortion; she abused her own child with it, and he is absolutely dead because of it. This scar penetrates the psyche in a different way because it carries the black weight of guilt. In helping the post-abortive woman who seeks recovery understand the consequences of abortion in her life, we cannot deny the impact of grave sin on her soul. In doing so, we short-change her because apparently we don't think she can grasp right from wrong. We don’t give her the opportunity to repent and heal if we don’t help her stop denying that it is the knowledge that the abortion was wrong, that she sinned against life – a life she helped create - which is tearing her apart inside.

Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics would prefer the pro-life movement say that women “submit” to abortions, rather than saying they “have” them. Yes, women submit to abortions. They are coerced, present company included, and they give in to the pressure of others. But he misses a point that is salient to recovery programs and to turning the tide against making the poor choice. All post-abortive women are victims of abortion, yes, but many of us don’t just submit – we choose. We elect. We opt. We procure. We engage.

In doing so, we accept the lies and cheap rationalizations, the gray area that frees us to make the choice to kill our unborn children. We have to identify with the argument, no matter how briefly or transparently, that abortion is okay, or we aren’t going to be able to go through with it. I accepted this lie: “it will be as if it had never happened.” Yeah, right. Unfortunately, the catch phrase is as black as truth can be. I didn’t not become a mother by choosing abortion. Just like they say, I became the mother of a dead child. The abortionist could not undo conception. He had to kill the child to make me un-pregnant. There was no other way, no gray area in which I could think of myself as having been a “little bit pregnant,” or think of the child as not quite alive, yet, so the abortionist is simply removing some inanimate tissue (but if the baby is not alive, essentially dead already, why does he have to be torn to pieces? Most doctors remove a tumor intact if they can...but no, I can't bear thinking of that, because it is all black, there, and I get lost in the darkness). Does anyone remember when being a little bit pregnant was a joke, and few would argue with it because of the absurdity of it all?

In our current “dictatorship of moral relativism,” it is entirely possible to convince ourselves that obvious fallacies such as this can be true. “If it’s true for me, then it’s Truth, whether it conflicts with what you think is true or not. If what you think is true is different, well then that’s Truth for you, and your Truth equals my Truth.” It hurts just to write such unreasonable reasoning. Thinking in this manner creates complete anarchy in the psyche. If there are no absolutes, then I cannot find my way. There are no landmarks to guide us on this gray plain, so it is no wonder we act as if we are lost.

Truth is immutable – it is unchanging by its very nature. Truth comes in one shade, and isn't gray. Otherwise, it is not truth. It is opinion. Opinions come in all the shades of gray that range between black and white, and we all know the old saw about opinions: everyone has some of them, along with other equally unattractive features.

19 Comments:

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Naaman said...

Simply amazing work. Beautiful, Julie!

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger GrannyGrump said...

RE: Crutcher and "submitting to an abortion." That was my line! I said that we need to take the "empowerment" language out of it. She's on her back on a table with her knees in the air letting some guy she's never met shove sharp things into her private places while she weeps and clutches the nurse's hand and wants to be anyplace else, doing anything else, but she's there letting this be done to her. That's about as submissive as you can get. It's always a surrender: to the man, to her parents, to a doctor's opinion, to society.

Yeah, she chooses it. She chooses to disempower herself, to literally lie down and surrender rather than to stand on her feet and defend herself as a woman.

That was my thinking behind the "submitting to abortion."

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger jpe said...

This isn't about relativism - it's about disagreement over whether a fetus has personhood.

It's a factual disagreement, in other words, and relativism has nothing to do with it.

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger GrannyGrump said...

jpe, the whole idea of declaring that some human beings are not "persons" is moral relativism in action. It's saying that each person can choose which other human beings constitute "persons" or not -- as long as they "depersonalize" the same people the ruling elite are depersonalizing.

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger jpe said...

It's saying that each person can choose which other human beings constitute "persons"

That's not relativism, however. A relativist would say that the proposition "a fetus is a person" is true if uttered by a pro-lifer, false if uttered by a pro-choicer. In other words, things can be true to some people, false to other people.

That's a relativist position.

The pro-choice position, however, is that a fetus is not a person regardless of what anyone thinks. It's universally true, and its truth is independent of what people think. As should be evident, the pro-choice position is anything but relativistic.

What you were grasping for, I think, is that the proposition seems morally arbitrary.

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger jpe said...

Just want to clarify something. grannygrump wrote:

It's saying that each person can choose which other human beings constitute "persons" or not

No, it's saying that a fetus isn't a person. You can decide to think a fetus is a person, but that doesn't change the fact that the fetus is not a person.

 
At 7:52 PM, Blogger GrannyGrump said...

jpe, you are choosing to view fetuses as non-persons, and supporting the right to this depersonification to those who agree with you. That's your personal viewpoint, and it's a relativistic viewpoint based on your personal moral view, that some human beings are more important than others.

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger jpe said...

you are choosing to view fetuses as non-persons, and supporting the right to this depersonification to those who agree with you.

Maybe, but I also choose to believe that dogs are mammals. Believing that dogs are mammals, however, doesn't make me a relativist.

I don't think you understand what relativism is. What would make me a relativist is if I decided that the truth of the proposition "dogs are mammals" depends on the framework of the person advancing the proposition. Get it? A relativist believes that things are true by virtue of what a specific person believes. So the proposition "dogs are mammals" is true for a person that person that thinks of mammals as warm-blooded animals with hair that nurse their young, whereas the proposition is false to the person that defines "mammal" differently.

The relativist holds, then, that the proposition can be both true and false. That belief that a proposition can be both true and false is essential for someone to be a relativism.

Note, however, that the pro-choice person believes that the proposition "a fetus is a person" is always false, regardless of who thinks it.

 
At 7:10 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

"Note, however, that the pro-choice person believes that the proposition "a fetus is a person" is always false, regardless of who thinks it."

jpe, I don't understand your argument. Pro-lifers believe the proposition that "a fetus is a person" is always true, regardless of who thinks it. Relativism is thinking both can be equally true.

Believing that objective truth, such as "dogs are mammals," is false in spite of physical evidence to the contrary is not relativism. I don't intend to be harsh, but it is ignorance (as in lacking knowledge or learning), a lack of reasoning and logic, and/or pure denial.

How does your repeating your misconception about personhood do anything to refine your argument about the definition of relativism? It seems as if you're simply taking advantage of an opportunity to state your own position, which is either a denial of objective truth or, to give you a little credit, perhaps it is simply relative to your belief system because it suits your needs.

If it is based on actual facts as you say, then please, tell us the defining moment of personhood and the physical evidence that it has occurred.

But I hope you don't say "birth" if you want your argument to be valid. The fetus/unborn is unchanged from womb to the outside world, so there is no empirical evidence to cite to prove personhood has magically occurred by changing the location of the fetus/unborn child.

If your definition of personhood is at all defined by the opinion or viewpoint of another human being (as in only "wanted" children are persons), then you are engaging in relative thinking whether you recognize it as such or not.

Let me explain my thinking a bit more: dogs would continue to have mammalian characteristics even if there were no humans left on earth to identify them as such. That is objective truth. Unborn human children are human beings no matter what anyone thinks because that is also an objective truth.

 
At 7:21 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Granny, I remember what you wrote - excellent work. I can't disagree at all.

I keep thinking of Stockholm Syndrome - we submit because we feel helpless, but some of us, like Patti Hearst, identify with our captors/abusers so closely that we join forces with them, even briefly.

I guess I tend to think this because it is true what some pro-choicers say - no one tied me to the table and took my baby against my will. Although there are some abortion stories that come close to that scenario, especially among women who had abortions more than a decade ago, I think.

My mother had one such as this (as she told me), in the early seventies (it was legal then only in a few states, like California). She had consented, so they wouldn't stop the procedure, but they held her down while she screamed the entire time.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger jpe said...

"Unborn human children are human beings no matter what anyone thinks because that is also an objective truth."

Pro-lifers and pro-choicers disagree about what the objective truth is. A pro-lifer believes that, as a matter of objective truth, a fetus is a person. A pro-choicer believes that, as a matter of objective truth, a fetus isn't a person.

What I'm trying to get across is that the pro-choice/pro-life disagreement isn't one between objectivists and relativists; it's between two objectivists that disagree on what the objective truth is.

Pro-choicers aren't necessarily relativists - that's all I was trying to get across.

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger jpe said...

It looks like you actually agree with me here:

Believing that objective truth, such as "dogs are mammals," is false in spite of physical evidence to the contrary is not relativism. I don't intend to be harsh, but it is ignorance (as in lacking knowledge or learning), a lack of reasoning and logic, and/or pure denial.

Falsely believing something doesn't make one a relativist, in other words, it just makes one wrong.

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

jpe, thank you very much for your clarification. We do agree on the definition of relativism, and I appreciate your taking the time to help me understand.

I hear what you are saying, that we are disagreeing over objective truths, but I don't understand what the objective definition of personhood is for the, for lack of better phrasing, "pro-choice crowd."

I've seen various catch phrases and explanations, but it seems to vary widely,and is often dependent on the viewer - which makes it, well, relative.

I have read some strange things. There are even abortion proponents who don't mind saying they know they are killing a person, and they would rather we didn't insult their intelligence by saying they don't know the fetus is alive.

What is your insight on this, and do you have a personal definition of personhood you could share?

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger jpe said...

There are even abortion proponents who don't mind saying they know they are killing a person

That's a very, very good point, and honestly I was hoping no one would bring that up, since it makes my case (pro-choicers aren't relativists) harder to make. Blast you! Honestly, though, those people baffle me.

I don't understand what the objective definition of personhood is for the, for lack of better phrasing, "pro-choice crowd."

It's a tough question. Personally, I begin from what, to me, is an intuitive idea: a blastocyst simply isn't a person.

Better yet, take the case of the....I don't know what the technical term is, but sometimes there will be twins, and something goes horribly wrong. One twin ends up as just a ball of flesh and teeth inside the other twin. It has no brain, no organs: it's just nebulous tissue, hair, and teeth. Intuitively, I can't see how that thing is a person with the same rights you and I have.

That fundamental intuition is my starting point, and probably the starting point of a lot of pro-choicers.

At any rate, the political nature of the dispute lends itself to a very counter-productive polarization, and actual women often get lost in the brute political equations. So your blog is quite the breath of fresh air. You're obviously pro-life, but you seem sensitive to the human dimension of abortion which, frankly, lots of people on both sides forget about.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

jpe, thank you for your kind words, and most especially for your courteous and serious dialogue. That is very refreshing!

Your question about blastocysts prompted me to do some research on something I've been curious about. I found an excellent article entitled, "The Pre-Embryo Question" at: http://catholicinsight.com/online/bioethics/printer_prembryo.shtml

It was a difficult read for me. It's quite technical and I will have to read it several times (and get an M.D. maybe!). I was fascinated by the description of the life force of the blastocyst, and it has an excellent moral explanation of why we should not interrupt that life force. I hoped you would also find it interesting.

I have heard of cases such as you describe. I don't quite understand the mechanism that causes it - were these cells whose programming went wild and created anatomical duplicates, or was it a twin who did not completely separate and essentially died in utero?

I believe if the tissue is outside the body of the normally-developed child, it is called a parasitic twin. Christina (Granny Grump) at Real Choice blogged about a recent case that was chilling. You can probably still Google "two-headed baby" and find the news reports. They were twins attached at the head who did not separate completely, and one was not fully developed. It was just a head, but it had independent movement. As I said, it's chilling. Christina was the only one in the little pro-life internet community I frequent who had the courage to blog about it. I won't kid you and say I know what would be right and wrong in that case. That requires more wisdom than I have.

This discussion is all well and good if we are debating the morality of embryonic stem cell research, birth control pills, and IVF. Unfortunately, we aren't aborting blastocysts. We are aborting well-developed fetuses who respond to their environments. I highly recommend the National Geographic program, "In the Womb." I was astonished at the range of abilities the fetus has, and at a much younger stage of development than we previously thought.

The problem I have with defining personhood at any time other than conception is that we have to make an arbitrary decision based on knowledge and technology that changes (advances) every day. We can say for certain that there is no person before the sperm fertilizes the egg - these are just individual cells containing the DNA of each parent. Once fertilization takes place, we can also say for certain that a new and unique DNA pattern has been created - and even if twinship occurs, they are not entirely identical because the environment operates on their DNA individually and uniquely.

Sorry for the diatribe, but you touched on a subject that interests me quite a bit. I will probably continue to research it.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

jpe, thank you for your kind words, and most especially for your courteous and serious dialogue. That is very refreshing!

Your question about blastocysts prompted me to do some research on something I've been curious about. I found an excellent article entitled, "The Pre-Embryo Question" at: http://catholicinsight.com/online/bioethics/printer_prembryo.shtml

It was a difficult read for me. It's quite technical and I will have to read it several times (and get an M.D. maybe!). I was fascinated by the description of the life force of the blastocyst, and it has an excellent moral explanation of why we should not interrupt that life force. I hoped you would also find it interesting.

I have heard of cases such as you describe. I don't quite understand the mechanism that causes it - were these cells whose programming went wild and created anatomical duplicates, or was it a twin who did not completely separate and essentially died in utero?

I believe if the tissue is outside the body of the normally-developed child, it is called a parasitic twin. Christina (Granny Grump) at Real Choice blogged about a recent case that was chilling. You can probably still Google "two-headed baby" and find the news reports. They were twins attached at the head who did not separate completely, and one was not fully developed. It was just a head, but it had independent movement. As I said, it's chilling. Christina was the only one in the little pro-life internet community I frequent who had the courage to blog about it. I won't kid you and say I know what would be right and wrong in that case. That requires more wisdom than I have.

This discussion is all well and good if we are debating the morality of embryonic stem cell research, birth control pills, and IVF. Unfortunately, we aren't aborting blastocysts. We are aborting well-developed fetuses who respond to their environments. I highly recommend the National Geographic program, "In the Womb." I was astonished at the range of abilities the fetus has, and at a much younger stage of development than we previously thought.

The problem I have with defining personhood at any time other than conception is that we have to make an arbitrary decision based on knowledge and technology that changes (advances) every day. We can say for certain that there is no person before the sperm fertilizes the egg - these are just individual cells containing the DNA of each parent. Once fertilization takes place, we can also say for certain that a new and unique DNA pattern has been created - and even if twinship occurs, they are not entirely identical because the environment operates on their DNA individually and uniquely.

Sorry for the diatribe, but you touched on a subject that interests me quite a bit. I will probably continue to research it.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

jpe, thank you for your kind words, and most especially for your courteous and serious dialogue. That is very refreshing!

Your question about blastocysts prompted me to do some research on something I've been curious about. I found an excellent article entitled, "The Pre-Embryo Question" at: http://catholicinsight.com/online/bioethics/printer_prembryo.shtml

It was a difficult read for me. It's quite technical and I will have to read it several times (and get an M.D. maybe!). I was fascinated by the description of the life force of the blastocyst, and it has an excellent moral explanation of why we should not interrupt that life force. I hoped you would also find it interesting.

I have heard of cases such as you describe. I don't quite understand the mechanism that causes it - were these cells whose programming went wild and created anatomical duplicates, or was it a twin who did not completely separate and essentially died in utero?

I believe if the tissue is outside the body of the normally-developed child, it is called a parasitic twin. Christina (Granny Grump) at Real Choice blogged about a recent case that was chilling. You can probably still Google "two-headed baby" and find the news reports. They were twins attached at the head who did not separate completely, and one was not fully developed. It was just a head, but it had independent movement. As I said, it's chilling. Christina was the only one in the little pro-life internet community I frequent who had the courage to blog about it. I won't kid you and say I know what would be right and wrong in that case. That requires more wisdom than I have.

This discussion is all well and good if we are debating the morality of embryonic stem cell research, birth control pills, and IVF. Unfortunately, we aren't aborting blastocysts. We are aborting well-developed fetuses who respond to their environments. I highly recommend the National Geographic program, "In the Womb." I was astonished at the range of abilities the fetus has, and at a much younger stage of development than we previously thought.

The problem I have with defining personhood at any time other than conception is that we have to make an arbitrary decision based on knowledge and technology that changes (advances) every day. We can say for certain that there is no person before the sperm fertilizes the egg - these are just individual cells containing the DNA of each parent. Once fertilization takes place, we can also say for certain that a new and unique DNA pattern has been created - and even if twinship occurs, they are not entirely identical because the environment operates on their DNA individually and uniquely.

Sorry for the diatribe, but you touched on a subject that interests me quite a bit. I will probably continue to research it.

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Okay, the publishing on that comment was pretty freaky, but these things happen when you bomb out while publishing. I wish I'd known I hadn't actually lost it the first time, or I wouldn't have had to retype the darned thing.....

 
At 8:28 AM, Anonymous sarah said...

"Just like they say, I became the mother of a dead child. The abortionist could not undo conception. He had to kill the child to make me un-pregnant."
Wow...that really hit me. I knew that but to hear it put in such a way...it was very succinct. This is a great entry. As a side note, I am interested to here a definition of "person" by Planned Parenthood or the like. I can't think of any definition that includes everyone except babies in the womb (unless I guess you just said, a person is a human being who is not in the womb) but I guess I was thinking of a more detailed one than that.

 

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