Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roe vs. Wade

I belonged to Toastmasters International for more than 25 years. Early on, I learned that the topics that you always wanted to avoid were religion, sex, and politics.

We just passed the 38th anniversary of the passage of Roe vs. Wade. Regardless of how you feel about the ruling, abortion is the only topic that I can think of (other than pedophilia) that manages to involve all three.

I grew up in the conservative 1950’s, and “came of age” during the very turbulent 1960’s. Over the years, my outlook on most topics has shifted from conservative to liberal to conservative and back to “liberal”. As a result, one of the newspapers that I read pretty much on a daily basis is The New York Times, and I tend to cringe at the views that are presented in the New York Post, a VERY conservative newspaper that is owned by Australian Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch, coincidentally, also owns Fox News, which hired Sara Palin as a regular commentator in January of last year. Although Fox News will not disclose her salary, her income from all sources between the time that she resigned as governor until April of 2010 was in excess of $12,000,000

The article that triggered this post was the one published this morning by Nicholas D. Kristof, which he titled, “Tussling over Jesus”. The link below will allow you to read the entire article, which I would strongly recommend.

Tussling Over Jesus.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling of 1973, it is estimated that there were an estimated 250,000 illegal abortions performed each year in the United States. According to the most reliable estimates, 90% of the illegal abortions were performed by “reputable physicians in good standing in their local medical communities”, and they were completed in the office of the physician. The highest known number of maternal deaths from the procedure was 388 women, in the peak year of 1948. Starting in 1972, improved antibiotics reduced the number of maternal deaths substantially, to a total of 39.

The legalization of abortion hasn’t eliminated maternal deaths, since an estimated 30 women a year die from infections or adverse reactions to general anesthesia.

Texas and other southern states have recently passed some draconian abortion laws, which has led to an increase in what the state would consider to be illegal abortions. On February 14, 2014, the state suspended the license of a Houston doctor who had performed 268 abortions between November 6 and February 7.

The irony of restrictive abortion laws is that they actually lead to an INCREASE in the number of abortions. Since Texas passed its more restrictive law in the summer of 2013, roughly 30% of the safe abortion clinics in Texas have closed, and that total includes a number of Planned Parenthood clinics. Only 3% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions, so closing them means that impoverished women no longer have access to medical care and birth control. Since Texas has the 10th highest rate of poverty in the country, that's an awful lot of people. On top of that, sexual education is not mandated in Texas, and when it is taught, the focus in on abstinence, rather than an birth control. The result is that Texas has the fifth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

As of February, 2014, the abortion rate in America is the lowest it has been since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. The actions of Texas and other states can only lead to an INCREASE in a practice that they are trying to stop!

Just as the Volstead Act was ineffective in curtailing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in this country, abortions will be performed in this country whether they are legal of not. Contrary to what you might think, though, this article ISN’T about abortion - it’s about compassion.

Although Mr. Kristof’s article mentioned the Roman Catholic church, the fact remains is that virtually all of the world’s major religions are opposed to abortion. The controversy in the case that he cites was that a Catholic hospital (St. Joseph’s in Phoenix) was punished by the Catholic church because it allowed an abortion to be preformed on a woman who, without question, would have died otherwise.

Regardless of which religion you’re talking about, I’m opposed to the strict adherence to dogma when it overrides a human act that is a more compassionate approach, and I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Ancient Jewish law prohibited work from being performed on the Sabbath. Even though Jesus was born a Jew, he is know to have performed at least seven miracles on the Sabbath, and (in all likelihood) he probably performed more than that.

At my Catholic grade school, I learned the definitions of mortal and venial sins. It was said that if you died without confessing a mortal sin, you would be condemned to Hell after death. Although mortal sins could vary by degree of seriousness, eating meat on Fridays and masturbation were both considered to be mortal sins, as was homosexuality.

The Second Vatican Council in 1963 made a lot of changes in the then existing rules of the church. Along with dropping the requirement for celebrating mass only in Latin, the Church also dropped the requirement of abstaining from the eating of meat on Fridays throughout the year, although the prohibition still exists on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during Lent. The Catholic Church still RECOMMENDS that Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year, and it REQUIRES that some other form of penance be substituted if meat is consumed on a given Friday.

Some of my classmates at the Catholic high school that we attended in Minnesota were killed in Vietnam. To my knowledge, none of them went to Hell because they had masturbated the night before they died.

Although Dr. Oz strongly recommends frequent sex “even if you’re alone”, a number of other medical institutions feel the same way. According to BBC news, masturbation greatly reduces the incidence of prostrate cancer in older men.

Like many churches, the Catholic church is opposed to homosexuality. Without belaboring the point too much, I’m of the opinion that sexual preference is much more due to biology than a conscious choice, and should not be considered a sin. However, picketing at military funerals in order to advance a strident anti-gay message should definitely rank high on a list of “grievous sins”

In spite of the fact that the Catholic Church has paid more than $2 billion to victims of sexual abuse, there hasn’t been a mad rush to the exits among American Catholics. For a number of years, the percentage of the American population that considered themselves Catholic has remained a very steady 23%.

Although the actions of St. Joseph Hospital manage to put more compassion into an ancient church with a long and storied history, meaningful change will come about only when the shortage of priests escalates to the point that it’s a full blown crisis. Not only has the number of priests continued to decline, they are also getting a lot older.

In the early days of the church, women were ordained until the 4th Century, and priests were allowed to be married until the 12th Century. Surprisingly, there ARE women priests in America today, and their stories will be told when the movie “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” comes out later this year. If the Catholic church worked to incorporate that group into the larger church body, and simultaneously allowed MARRIED MEN to be priests, the church would again be truer to the mission outlined by its founder nearly 2000 years ago.

At that time, we can all say “hallelujah”.

No comments:

Post a Comment