Saturday, April 27, 2013

In the womb at a shiny, clean clinic.

In response to the Gosnell trial, some pro-choicers are claiming this is what happens when we restrict access to abortion. They say Gosnell exemplifies exactly why we must fight to protect abortion rights. For example, here's NARAL's statement on the subject:
Kermit Gosnell’s actions were reprehensible, illegal and reminiscent of back-alley abortions from the days before Roe v. Wade. The conditions in Gosnell's clinic were horrific, demonstrating what can happen to women when abortion isn't available through safe and legal providers. This is why we work every day to protect the constitutional rights of women to access legal and safe abortion care regardless of income and geography.

Gosnell was a rogue operator taking advantage of an environment created by the careless oversight of local and state regulators. He preyed on women who were financially unable to choose a better option, thanks in part to Pennsylvania's repeated efforts to limit access to abortion. When states go to extreme lengths to restrict abortion, unscrupulous providers like Gosnell are often a woman's last resort. 
Gosnell's clinic was far below the standard of care. The conditions there remind us of what women were forced to go through before Roe v. Wade. We can never go back to those days of back-alley abortion. The best way – the only true way – and to ensure we don't is by protecting and strengthening access for all women to safe and legal abortion care.
Like so many pro-choice defenses of abortion rights, I can't help but notice NARAL's statements focus solely on the women, completely ignoring the infants Gosnell and his staff murdered. (I can say "murder" this time because these babies were outside their mothers' wombs when they were killed; there are no inane semantic arguments here about how "murder" and "abortion" are different because murder is illegal.)

That's okay, though. Over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kyle Wingfield covers the infanticide angle [warning: graphic descriptions]:
    But pro-choice people are kidding themselves if they believe details of the way the mothers were treated are the only details from the Gosnell trial that matter in this debate. Consider these bits of testimony:
  • “I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” one of Gosnell’s employees, Sherry West, said of the screams coming from a baby she estimated to be 18 to 24 inches (i.e., the size of a child carried to full term) when it was delivered and then killed.
  • “It jumped, the arm,” another employee, Lynda Williams, said of a baby whose neck she “snipped” after it was delivered into a toilet. Williams testified that Gosnell told her not to worry about the “involuntary response” from an “already dead” child. But why would an “already dead” child have to have its neck “snipped”?
  • The post-birth abortion procedure was “literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body,” said Stephen Massof, who previously pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the deaths of two infants at Gosnell’s clinic.
  • “I see this big baby boy laying there … He had that color of a baby. I didn’t feel as though he had a chance,” testified Adrienne Moton, who both worked for Gosnell and had two abortions at his clinic. Moton estimated she’d “snipped” the necks of some 10 infants.
  • “They looked just like regular babies,” said Ashley Baldwin, who began working at Gosnell’s clinic at the age of 15 and testified she witnessed five or more babies move, breathe or “screech” between their births and deaths. One of them was so large, she said, that Gosnell joked, “this baby is going to walk me home.”
    The point is this: All of those children had the ability to move, breathe, scream, screech and twitch before being removed from the womb. They did not become human in the birth canal, and they were not transformed from some stone-like existence to life via the birth-inducing drugs given to their mothers so that they might be pushed out.

    The notion that these killings would have been OK, if only they had taken place within the womb at a shiny, clean clinic, is barbaric.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Yes, I am judgmental.

And I'm fine with this definition.

After the Boston marathon bombing and before the authorities had any suspects, someone I know claimed no one has the right to judge whoever set off bombs in a crowd of spectators. This person quoted multiple Bible verses about not judging lest we be judged, and claimed that people are calling the bombing "evil" to try to feel better about themselves, when they shouldn't feel better. I interpreted this as equivocating all sins, implying that none of us are any better than the bombers.

It made me kind of grateful I'm not a Christian, if being Christian means stifling my own anger at injustice and wrongdoing by trying to convince myself that the mistakes of my life make me no better than a person who blows up innocent bystanders, including children.

Perhaps from the Christian perspective, that's true. It seems like a rather binary view: you're either a sinner or not (and we all are), and there's no gradation for type or frequency of sin.

I understand the idea that none of us are perfect. I understand and appreciate remembering your own mistakes before being too harsh with others. I admire grace, and I can see it's healing power in some circumstances.

But I don't buy this notion of no judgment. Instead of not judging people so that we won't be judged ourselves, I think we should judge people and be open to being judged in turn. By "judging people" I don't mean "stop thinking and just hate." It seems like that's what some people think "judgment" means. I guess I just mean "be willing to say, 'hey, this is wrong, and you're wrong.'" The do-not-judge crowd sometimes seems to object even to that (which I would argue doesn't go with biblical teaching anyway--I recall plenty of instances in which Biblical protagonists called out other peoples' wrongdoing.)

I also don't think this binary view of wrongdoing makes sense. Yes, everyone makes mistakes--and not just mistakes, everyone willfully chooses to do bad things at some point. But all mistakes aren't equal. Imagine a world where everyone cheated on their taxes and shoplifted, but no one raped or killed anybody. Are you at all unsure which world you'd rather live in? Of course not, it's obvious. All of those actions are bad, but they aren't all equally bad. And it makes sense to me that the thieves would look with disdain on the murderers, because murder is worse.

And I mean it when I say we should be open to being judged ourselves. Again, by judgment I don't mean blind hate, but I would hope and expect people who care about me to call me out when I'm doing something stupid or wrong. Judgment is part of the process of holding me to higher standards, standards I want to be held to, and I'm fine with people saying "Hey, you're being a jerk and knock it off" if that's what I'm doing. If I am doing wrong, why shouldn't I be judged?

I'm not going to stay silent about things I think are wrong, especially not out of a misguided desire to not have anyone ever tell me I'm wrong either. Both of those seem like bad ideas to me.

So yes, I'm judgmental. And I'm fine with you judging me for it.