Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

“Unconditional redemption” means no price to pay

Gil Bailie quotes Benedict XVI:

“God is love. But love can also be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic “good feeling.” Redemption is not “wellness,” it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary, it is a liberation from imprisonment in self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross. The prophecy of light and that of the Cross belong together.”

Dean Hansen responds:

“God is love…..BUT love can be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves.” Is that what love is doing? Then what was Christ’s crucifixion for? (God is love, but by the time we get through explaining what it is, you won’t want it).  So let’s see if I’ve got this straight: Up is down, but a strong draft can push you in the other direction if you flap your wings. Freedom is slavery, (but by implication) work brings freedom. Truth is truth, but the opposite of truth is a different kind of truth that can kill you. Maxims can take you to hell but a series of worthless platitudes are somehow praiseworthy.

It’s interesting how redemption ends up being defined by the Pope in a way that makes it appear synonymous with the welcoming fiction printed on the entrance to Auschwitz!  Redemption is the clearing of a debt. Without freedom as the goal, the purchase is meaningless. Even the Catholic definition says as much: “The restoration of man from the bondage of sin to the liberty of the children of God through the satisfactions and merits of Christ.” Grace by its very definition is unmerited favor granted through the cross on our behalf. It can’t be earned, won, or deserved through personal self-recrimination or a struggle against “indulgence” because it’s free. It can’t be merited, only accepted. “Transcending ourselves” has nothing to do with it. The fact that it’s free means it’s unconditional. There are no hidden strings. You can’t be liberated from imprisonment by returning to your cage, rattling the bars and trying to impress the warden with your behavior. If it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free,” he has also set us free from second guessing what he has set us free from. If the anguish of the Cross proves anything, it’s that the accomplishment of Christ cannot be repeated with the express intention of accomplishing twice what has been achieved once and for all through him. Any attempt to repeat it is a repudiation rather than an embrace of the love that brought it about. That’s where the real self-absorption takes over. And it is anything but a romantic feeling.

Gil Bailie finds a third moral calamity contributing to civilizational degeneration

Gil Bailie writes:

We have been told that allowing mothers to hire medical professionals to end the life of the child in their womb is the quintessence of social progress, comparable only to regarding homosexual coupling as the moral and legal equivalent of the conjugal embrace. So now we are to have women serving in combat, and, again, we imagine that we are making progress. All this is so conspicuously a sign of civilizational degeneration that one can hardly believe people capable of seeing it otherwise.

Dean Hansen responds:

Interesting choice of moral calamities:  Abortion, homosexuality, and women combat soldiers. I think the egregious meter will skew differently depending on whom you ask, and not because one respondent is more morally despicable or irresponsible than the next. The thing that personally enrages me the most is woman combat soldiers.  Abortion and homosexuality mostly don’t bother me at all. Why? The first deals with forced equivalency; of pretending that women are the same as men, and that they should be equal participants on the basis of political correctness in the disaster that their male counterparts cause. The second deals with fairness; of no longer pretending that homosexuals are just mixed-up heterosexuals who can be fixed by a generous infusion of Christianity and prayer (never mind that the founder of this particular religion spent every waking moment of his ministry hanging out with guys) and the last deals with the honest realization that women are free moral agents capable of choosing their own destiny biologically. I’m less troubled about women ending a life in gestation in their womb than about their ending a fully-realized life on the battlefield. One is almost always a surgical procedure involving non-conscious cells; the other is murder.

So let’s see if it really makes more sense to be more morally inflamed by abortion than by soldiering.

Abstinence-only ed

When you tell teenagers and young adults not to have sex or to wait for marriage before they have intercourse, you’re actually just advocating for abortion. News Flash: They are not going to listen to you. It will not be because they don’t respect you or your authority; it will not be because they don’t love you or are purposely disobedient and rebellious, although they may be those things too. It will not be because Satan won and Christ lost. Or that civilization is closer to collapse now than when the Apostle Paul believed it was. No, it will be because nature speaks more powerfully and more ardently than a mountain of rules and restraints ever could. Biology has the upper hand, and will not relinquish it until long after everyone’s children have left home.  So, instead of preparing themselves for the inevitable, teens engage in magical thinking at the behest of their parents. They wear chastity rings, or avoid alcohol and drugs, or attend Bible study, or they are chaperoned on dates. None of that matters. It just makes the pot boil that much hotter. They earnestly believe they can resist temptation, which is a big part of the problem, because up until now it’s been an abstraction with no teeth. What they quickly discover when temptation strikes is that they were thoroughly unprepared and overwhelmed. They are also very angry about being told there is something “wrong” with something that feels so much better than they could have imagined, and so you end up with conflict, turmoil and distrust.

The problem with self-control is that the “self” is participating just as eagerly in the loss of that control as in its maintenance, because control represents an ideal that simply can’t be attained. Since your abstinence-only approach has precluded any useful instruction about birth control, your daughter is ill-equipped to react sensibly when she hears the siren call of biological reality, and there is no back-up plan. It’s all or nothing, as far as she knows. The desire not to get caught is then all that matters to her.

Think about it:  You’ve given her no realistic or sane reasons for denying what you fear. You want her to avoid sex and remain abstinent until she’s married. So you can’t teach her to prepare herself for sex because that might imply tacit acceptance of her having it. Any preparation is proof of intention. Instead, you teach her that sex is sinful or dirty or morally wrong, which she discovers to be completely untrue the moment she falls in love and experiences an overwhelming desire that utterly eclipses all restraint. Like it or not, your little snowflake is going to go out on the limb because that’s where the forbidden fruit is. Nature planned it that way.  And it’s not nice to fool mother nature.

Sexual morality has changed. It had to. It was smothering us to death in the abysmal mediocrity of Eisenhower America. As a result of these long overdue changes, the stigma of unwed motherhood has declined. Men no longer feel the absolute responsibility to sacrifice themselves to an unwanted life in exchange for sexual relations if their sexual partners opt for biological blackmail instead of contraception or abortion. Shotgun marriages are no longer the default mechanism by which shame is administered in relationships. Now the only question is whether the parents, who are aware of these changes but nonetheless resistant where their own progeny is concerned, will double down and force an unwanted pregnancy on their unprepared children as a means of avoiding a consequence they were heavily responsible for. These days, it’s becoming less likely that the kids will go along. The shotgun may still go off, but it is aimed at no one in particular and in no way guarantees that the person compromised by a bad decision will go for the double jeopardy of a marriage to satisfy mom and dad. In this sense and this sense only, an abortion is wrong, because it was simply unnecessary and opened the gates to increased suffering all around when personal choice was overruled by parental authority. Anticipatory counsel is wiser, saner and more loving than blind indifference to dumb inevitabilities.

Unfortunately, the number of abortion providers is dwindling. The number went from 2,680 providers in 1985 to 1,787 in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available. The generation of obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) who had watched women bleed to death from botched abortions and had responded to those tragedies by staffing clinics when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade is reaching retirement.

There are now an estimated 1.5 million abortions each year in the United States, making it the most common surgical procedure. Yet there are fewer and fewer abortion providers available, putting those who are forced to wait at increased risk. One-quarter of women needing abortions must travel more than fifty miles for the procedure; six percent must travel to another state.

The obstacles placed in the path of women seeking abortion by pro-life activists will ultimately be no more effective than parental displeasure over discovering that one’s children are sexual beings with lives of their own, destined to free themselves from the burden of other people’s displeasure by taking legislative, social and physical control of their own destiny and learning through less painful methods that proscriptive rules and roadblocks have little effect in determining personal choice.

Abortions more common in places where it is restricted

Gil Bailie writes:

We have been told that allowing mothers to hire medical professionals to end the life of the child in their womb is the quintessence of social progress, comparable only to regarding homosexual coupling as the moral and legal equivalent of the conjugal embrace. So now we are to have women serving in combat, and, again, we imagine that we are making progress. All this is so conspicuously a sign of civilizational degeneration that one can hardly believe people capable of seeing it otherwise.

Sophie Sommers responds:

Allowing mothers to hire medical professionals to perform abortions seems to have at least two salutary effects. One is that it significantly reduces maternal mortality: the World Health Organization says that abortion is a leading cause of maternal death in countries where it is unsafe or illegal. The other benefit is that abortion rights are invariably accompanied by rights to contraception, and contraception reduces abortion rates.

Across the globe, abortions are more common in places where it is restricted. Where abortion is illegal (Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean), the rates are two to five times higher than in countries where it is legal (Europe, North America).

The urge to flatly prohibit behaviors that we deem immoral seems to be deeply ingrained in human societies. But that urge is sometimes flatly counter-productive.

Women don’t stop having abortions because they are illegal. Faced with prohibition, many women just endanger their own lives and, because of the difficulties they encounter, their procedures may take place well past the time when they would have wanted to abort.

The data seem to be telling us that the best way to reduce the number of abortions while safe-guarding the health of the mother is to provide comprehensive family planning that includes access to contraception and, when that fails, to early-stage abortion under safe medical conditions.

Rick Boone responds to Sophie Sommers:

Ms. Sommer’s analysis is either factually questionable (access to contraception reduces abortion rates) or irrelevant. If the practice of abortion is wrong, it should be prohibited. We don’t allow other forms of murder just because we know they’ll occur despite our prohibitions and penalties. If abortion is not wrong, then it doesn’t matter at all that there are varying rates (a statistic that’s rather meaningless without taking into account the number of live births, the number of women capable of child-bearing and, I suspect, other factors). Whatever rate exists is acceptable. Sort of like the varying rates of movie-goers or farmers. Maternal death is certainly nothing to be taken lightly, but, to the extent that we should care about the life of any person, taking the life of another clearly should not be our default answer to the concern.

Sophie Sommers responds to Rick Boone:

Mr. Boone, why would it be “questionable” that access to contraception reduces abortion rates? That would seem to be a no-brainer.

If 50 million abortions have been performed in this country in the last 40 years, maybe it is because most people don’t consider an abortion to be “murder.” If they did, then there would surely be more revulsion against it. Obviously, most people in this country still do not consider a blastocyst or an early-term fetus to be a person, and therefore they do not consider an abortion to be a murder. This is an entirely reasonable and defensible view, whereas assigning “personhood” to an embryo that doesn’t yet have a functioning nervous sytem may not be. Because this is such a grey area, women are granted the right to choose.

I certainly would not discount the value of the mothers’ lives. Legalized abortion, coupled with access to contraception, reduces both maternal mortality and abortion rates. You are not going to eliminate abortions by driving them underground. You will only increase their incidence and make them more dangerous.

Gordon Savage responds to Sophie Sommers:

You suggest it’s a “no-brainer” to say “access to contraception reduces abortion rates.” Yet in your last post you said access to contraception leads to a culture in which “sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships.” Not just sex without commitment, but a cultural expectation of sex without commitment, by some alchemy morphs into fewer abortions than sex with someone you love and expect to spend your life with? Really?

Sophie Sommers responds to Gordon Savage:

Gordon, sex without commitment doesn’t necessarily lead to abortion. In Europe, the marriage numbers are down and so are the abortion rates. Contraception is easily available there. In Africa, the marriage numbers are up and so are the abortion rates. Contraception is not freely available there.

Not having sex at all certain prevents abortion, but so does contraception.

I don’t see how you can get around the fact that contraception reduces abortion rates.

How to reduce out-of-wedlock births without reversing 40 years of contraceptive freedom

Gil Bailie quotes Michael New, writing for The Witherspoon Institute’s online publication, The Public Discourse:

Contrary to the bold claims of abortion advocates, there is no proof that legal abortion has reduced either the out-of-wedlock birthrate or the incidence of child abuse. In fact, both the out-of-wedlock birthrate and the rate of child abuse have increased since the onset of widespread legal abortion. And research claiming to show that legal abortion has reduced the crime rate has been proven flawed. Since their empirical arguments for abortion’s benefits are weak, abortion advocates today generally focus on arguments for the autonomy and liberty of women. However, as we observe the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade and consider the impact of forty years of legal abortion, it is certainly worth noting that abortion advocates’ many promises for society remain unfulfilled.

Sophie Sommers responds:

ContraceptionIn 1996, the Brookings Institute published an excellent policy brief about the increased rates of out-of-wedlock births. They provided convincing evidence that the availability of contraception and abortion over the last fifty years led to the demise of “shotgun weddings.” As a result, sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships.

How to go forward is the critical question. Can it be done by overturning Roe v. Wade and banning contraception? The authors of the brief believe that would be all but impossible. Here is what they say:

Attempts to turn the technological clock backwards by denying women access to abortion and contraception are probably not possible and might be counterproductive.

Denying women access to abortion and contraception that this point would only increase the number of children born out-of-wedlock and reared in impoverished single-parent families.

Easier access to birth control information and devices, before sexual participation, and easier access to abortion, in the event of pregnancy, could reduce both the number of unwanted children and improve the timing of those whose mothers would have preferred to wait.