Medicine’s Movement towards Abandonment
by Jim Hewes
We trust ourselves to a doctor because we suppose he/she knows his/her profession. We judge they would not act as they do unless the remedy were necessary, and we must rely on their knowledge and skill. Yet both the medical community and the larger society are moving towards a place of abandonment towards those in their care, instead of providing what is best for them.
We saw this troubling indication happen when Covid hit the United States, before the development of the vaccines. Many doctors did not treat those who came into their office with Covid. They sent them home without much care, and in that sense “abandoned” them and told them to go to the emergency room if they got worse.
Specifically, today’s expanded use of abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) abandons women who are alone, fearful, pressured, and overwhelmed. They are left to go back to their place of residence alone, while taking the chemical abortion pills in the absence of a medical professional. Some women are receiving prescriptions for abortion pills from doctors, without even a medical examination or ever actually seeing a physician, despite the evidence that there can be many serious health risks to women using the abortion pills (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, ectopic pregnancies, hospitalizations, blood transfusions, infections and even death).
In addition, it will not be the abortionist taking the life of the patient’s pre-born son or daughter; it will now be a mother actually ending the life of her pre-born child by taking the abortion pills herself. These women, abandoned by the medical personnel, will then have to see the remains of their aborted children (who have been starved or suffocated and who have begun to shrivel).
After witnessing the dead or dying corpse expelled from her, the mother alone will have to dispose of the remains of her aborted child because she took the abortion pills by herself at home. Recall that organs, tissues, and other forms of biological waste must go through medical incineration. Improperly disposing of biological waste can harm the environment. This practice will change her home or dorm room from a place of safety to an abortion facility. It will also cause many women to see something they weren’t prepared to see – their baby, small, yet fully formed and fully human.
Many people who support abortion will be at public protests holding up signs with the drawing of a coat hanger. They are trying to evoke an image of days when an untold number of women were by themselves, using a dangerous instrument such as a coat hanger, to commit a self-induced abortion (taking the life of their pre-born son or daughter), or using other various methods of self-induced abortion, which often resulted in health problems. Currently there is a modern version of the “coat hanger,” a return to a new “back alley,” namely by taking risky and deadly chemical abortion pills by themselves.
The Food and Drug Administration’s summary report of adverse events states that the total number of abortion pill-related adverse events from 2000 to 2022 was 28 deaths, 97 ectopic pregnancies, 3,113 hospitalizations, 604 blood transfusions, and 414 infections (including 71 severe infections), with a total of 4,213 adverse events reported; additionally, the abortion pills do not work for 2-7% of the women who take them. Now in the U.S. just over 50% of abortions are done by the abortion pills. A large Finnish study found that chemical abortions produced “adverse events” in 20% of cases, so one in five women might experience a complication, four times higher than the complication rate for surgical abortions. Chemical abortions take a longer time than surgical ones. This means in 2020 just over 100,000 women in the U.S. may have experienced some type of complication from a chemical abortion.
Also, the inadequacies of U.S. reporting requirements mean that some complications may go unreported. There is the additional problem of rural women who take abortion pills, who live a great distance from the help they would need when serious complications develop.
What is not included in these reports is that many women who take the abortion pills, as with surgical abortions, often experience emotional and psychological harm such as depression, anxiety, risky behaviors, alcoholism, substance abuse and even thoughts of suicide.
Use of abortion pills will also make it much harder to detect and address any pressure and coercion upon women who use them. Many other circumstances complicate a simple dispensing of abortion pills: a pregnancy test may give a false reading and doesn’t determine how far along the pregnancy is; there’s no one to report a statutory rape situation in the case that the mother is under 18 and the father is older; a victim of sex trafficking may have no one to help get her to a safe place away from her abuser and notify authorities; the woman taking the pills may know absolutely nothing about the deaths and severe side effects that have occurred from these drugs (including from tubal pregnancies).
The abandonment is not just by the medical community. A large portion of abortions wouldn’t happen if the father had wanted the child. The mother often first feels unwanted and abandoned by the significant people around her and, sadly, passes this along to her pre-born child. As the saying goes, “Pain that is not transformed is transmitted.”
Chemical abortions don’t take into account what is pressuring women to have an abortion, whether it is unhealthy relationships; feeling unable to raise a child, especially as a single parent; lack of a job; lack of decent affordable housing; transportation needs; the false belief that a baby would interfere with school, work or the ability to care for dependents; mental health problems; living in poverty; or even low self-esteem. Of those seeking abortion, 75% are poor or low-income, so abortion advocates are primarily targeting marginalized women and girls with the abortion pill. So nothing changes for women after a chemical abortion, because society has abandoned them as well.
In addition, abortion providers offer abortion pills as late as 11 weeks’ gestation. The pre-born child already has a heartbeat, detectable brain waves, fingers and toes clearly defined, as well as major body systems that have formed. A window to the child in the womb by ultrasound shows a recognizably human form as each of us once was. So chemical abortions are certainly not safe for the thousands of babies who are destroyed by these deadly drugs.
Medication treats or prevents disease. Pregnancy is not a disease, so chemical abortion is not actually medication, any more than administering drugs to end someone’s life with the death penalty is. It doesn’t restore health or save a life. On the contrary, its sole purpose is to deliberately impair normal healthy functioning in order to end a life.
It also puts many pharmacists in an untenable position toward those who come to them for abortion pills. This policy changes pharmacies from dispensers of health to dispensers of health risks and death, as an extension of an abortion facility.
Pope Francis talks about the importance of accompaniment, especially accompanying those in difficult situations. Prescribing abortion pills for a “quick fix” is the farthest from that, abandoning these vulnerable pregnant women by conveying that they aren’t worth the time and effort to help them navigate their challenging situation. It does not provide a woman a chance of seeing her baby’s ultrasound, or hearing about available help, or learning that there are couples who are ready and eager to adopt, so that she may have a true choice to be able to choose life, not only for her pre-born daughter or son, but for herself as well.
For more of our posts from Jim Hewes, see:
Consistent Life History: Being Across the Board
Reflections from My Decades of Consistent Life Experience
Abortion and Other Issues of Life: Connecting the Dots
Death Penalty and other Killing: The Destructive Effect on Us
Work and Life
by Ms. Boomer-ang
Claims that having fewer children than one would like and that spending most of the day working away from one’s children (and other dependents) are necessary for the economy and good behavior rule out many occupations that are responsible, are not lazy or idle, and are for some people psychologically enjoyable. Instead, costs should be restructured so that people can have economic security on a lower earned income.
A senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Scott Winship, calls for an end to child allowances, in a December 21, 2022, essay in The New York Times. (Some background: The American Rescue Plan of 2021 expanded the credit to more people, sending out allowance checks to people with children. Now that is expiring.) With such allowances, Winship reasons, some parents would reduce their work hours and/or “have a child they would not have had.”
What does Mr. Winship find so bad about that? Some women want to have more children.
Some parents enjoy playing with their children, reading to them, and engaging them in educational activities. Some parents seek to expand their children’s world with alternatives to screens. And some seek, for their children and themselves, more natural light, more outdoor air, and fewer workplace toxins. Some want time to prepare meals directly from fresh ingredients. Some want to prepare many items for reuse, rather than constantly discarding them and buying replacements. This is not lazy idleness! And it can be better for both the health of people concerned and the environment.
In addition, working fewer hours gives people time for more exposure to opinions less often acknowledged by the mainstream corporate-bankrolled media. Because my mother did not work outside the home (as I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s), she read some books with alternate interpretations of science and society. Even when I disagreed with her opinions, I absorbed that one need not take what the media says is best as best and what it says is settled as settled.
Mr. Winship says that in the long run, such “behavior, no matter however warranted in individual cases, leads to greater poverty in general..” He adds, “low income families that become less attached to work…are stuck in multi-generational poverty,” making upward mobility harder.
But instead of requiring every adult to work in or be looking for work in an “economically approved” job, our society should be structured so that people can avoid poverty and financial insecurity and strain on less money. Only after mainstream society began telling women with children that they should prefer working outside the home (in the 1970’s) did the price of housing leap into unaffordability on one middle-class income (in the 1980’s).
In addition, children should not be bound by their parents’ economic and lifestyle choices. Society should offer children of parents who choose a non-lucrative lifestyle the same opportunities to get education and training for a more lucrative job or lifestyle.
In response to Winship’s article, some people suggest the solution is better jobs and childcare. One woman wrote The New York Times (published January 4): “If the money from tax credits enables working-class parents to quit or reduce [the hours they work in] an undervalued, low-paying job and stay home to nurture and raise their children, [avoiding] the stress and anxiety of…unreliable childcare,…what’s so wrong with that? Let them enjoy the options more financially secure parents enjoy.”
Actually, society should go beyond that. Two-parent households should be able to be financially secure with only one parent working, or with both working half-time, or if one or both chooses to spend their days subsistence farming or creating art or literature writing that doesn’t don’t make them rich or famous. They might have to give up luxury, but they shouldn’t have to give up financial security or the ability to have more children.
After all, said artist and cartoonist Tim Kreider, in The New York Times, July 10, 2020, “One important function of jobs is to keep you too preoccupied and tired to do anything else.”
The doctrine that everyone must “work” has also been used to promote abortion, euthanasia, population control, and accepting the reduction of lifespans through exposure to lucrative but dangerous toxins and radiation.
Matthew Walther in a New York Times essay of May 12, 2022, noted that what abortion supporters “hail as the society-wide benefits of decades of legal abortion” include: more women participating in the labor force, a more “flexible” work force, and “the maximization of shareholder value.” Oh, and a more “dynamic” workforce with less turnover.
But why must we measure a nation’s advancedness by the percentage of its population working a minimum number of hours in Wall-Street-approved jobs or by the value of stock? And must every employee be so “flexible” that they easily change hours, locations, and roles with little notice? In addition, are not some of the biggest corporations powerful enough that they have some control over which events and trends raise and lower the price of stock? Therefore, if the price of stock jumps when something happens, can we not suspect that the powerful directors of these powerful corporations really like what happened?
That a purpose of work requirements is to get parents away from children is illustrated by the following observation made by Matthew Desmond (New York Times Magazine, September 16, 2018):
Actually, what is desirable is women participating in the workforce if and when they want to. But women who want to stay home with their children should be just as respected.
The best measure of progress, the ultimate goal one should measure all society goals against, should be human health, life, and contentment, not shareholder value. The measure of progress by shareholder value has been used to justify harmful exploitation of the environment and living things.
More of our posts from Ms. Boomer-ang:
Political Homelessness is Better than a Wrong Political Home
“Shut Up and Enjoy it!”: Abortion Promoters who Sexually Pressure Women
The Danger of Coerced Euthanasia: Questions to Ask
Asking Questions about Miscarriage and Abortion
The Violence That Didn’t Happen
by Julia Smucker
“As long as you can look at them as anything but human, you won’t have any problems.”
This is what Richard “Mac” McKinney recalls being told in his Marine Corps training, recounted in the Oscar-nominated documentary short film “Stranger at the Gate.” (You can watch it here.)
McKinney describes how this advice enabled him first to cope with shooting paper targets, and then to be, in his words, “involved in so many deaths” over a 25-year military career. Of course, the learned dehumanization that’s sometimes instilled in humans to enable them to kill other humans is not automatically switched off once killing is no longer being required of them. “Stranger at the Gate” brings this tragic reality home in a powerful way by focusing on what happened – and ultimately what didn’t happen – in McKinney’s post-military civilian life and the lives of his Muslim neighbors in the United States.
The documentary’s interviews alternate between the perspectives of McKinney and his immediate family members and those of a few members of the Islamic Center of Muncie, Indiana. What begin as separate and seemingly unrelated life experiences gradually converge as McKinney describes his intense discomfort when he found himself living in Muncie alongside people he had been taught to fear and dehumanize – in his words, “being forced to see people I considered an enemy every time I walked out the door.” By the time his story intersects with the stories of members of the mosque, he is plotting to kill as many of them as he can by detonating a bomb during Friday prayers.
What led McKinney to visit the mosque in the first place was seeing his stepdaughter’s reaction to his visceral expression of hate toward Muslims. While he initially went to the mosque intending to find evidence to support his planned violence and even fearing that he wouldn’t make it out alive, his explanation of his motivation for going bears an ironic parallel to his motivation for joining the Marines. That decision, McKinney says, was made in hopes of earning the respect of his father – himself a Marine veteran – which he didn’t feel he had. And when his daughter responded incredulously to his expression of hate, he sought to justify his hate – and as a result, soon began to question it – in order to keep her love.
This very human search for approval, as we see it play out in McKinney’s life, ties in to another human need that also takes parallel forms in his story: the need for community and belonging. McKinney voices a common experience of finding the proverbial “band of brothers” in the military, and of the disorienting void this leaves in the return to civilian life. What makes McKinney’s story so remarkable is that, in his case, this void was ultimately filled by the very community that his military experience and training had conditioned him to hate, who he says “showed [him] what true humanity was about” through their (literally) disarming hospitality.
On one level, “Stranger at the Gate” is a feel-good story of personal and communitarian redemption, of love overcoming hate, and that alone would make it a story worth telling. But it is also a cautionary tale about the damages that war can do to those who participate in it, especially the lasting effects of the psychological conditioning required to overcome the natural human aversion to killing fellow human beings. It’s a story that illustrates how basic human psychological needs – the need for approval from those who matter to us, or the need for belonging to something bigger than ourselves – can be filled in healthy or unhealthy ways and, in some cases, can be directed toward healing or killing (whether that killing occurs in a hate crime or through the state-sponsored violence of militarism). As a story of the violence that could have happened but didn’t, it’s a message of warning and of hope, a story of “true humanity” at both its worst and its best – of how cycles of violence start, and how they can be stopped.
For more of our film reviews, see:
Hollywood Movie Insights (The Giver, The Whistleblower, and The Ides of March)
Hollywood Movie Insights II (Never Look Away, The Report, and Dark Waters)
Jasmine, Aladdin, and the Power of Nonviolence
Movies with Racism Themes: “Gosnell” and “The Hate U Give”
The Darkest Hour: “Glorifying” War?
The Message of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”: Abortion Gets Sexual Predators Off the Hook
Seeing Is Believing: Films to Inspire a Consistent Life Viewpoint
The Death Penalty and Abortion: Perspectives on Connections
Quotation collected by Rachel MacNair
Endorsing the book, Consistently Opposing Killing
The societal wounds of racism, poverty, and a penchant for using violence to address problems are intimately connected to the death penalty, to war, to the killing of the old and demented, and to the killing of children, unborn and born. If more people were familiar with the consistent life ethic, as expounded in this book, then the voice of all unseen vulnerable people would be better heard.
Ann Marie Bowen
Nebraskans United for Life (writing on the Retain a Just Nebraska website)
The Sacredness of All Life, April 21, 2016
In debates over life, questions inevitably come up asking whether those working tirelessly to defend life are motivated by a concern for all life. A growing movement of pro-life lawmakers and citizens in Nebraska have left no doubt where we stand: we are committed to ending all policies that unnecessarily threaten life, from abortion to the death penalty to euthanasia. Ultimately, no message is more powerful than this straightforward consistency.
In November, all Nebraskans are going to have a chance to vote on whether or not to bring back our state’s death penalty. I encourage you to think of that vote as an opportunity to vocally proclaim a consistent ethic of life in all we do. I implore Nebraskans to help promote a culture of life and reject bringing back our broken death penalty.
Kathryn Jean Lopez
Stop the Death Penalty, National Review, February 24, 2020
I do think that good Christian pro-life people need to examine the witness of not having mercy for a Nick Sutton. People respond to love. Mercy is for the guilty. We can’t be callous in these circumstances, or our arguments about the life of the most innocent might not be heard. I understand why the governor did what he did, but the death penalty should prompt more of a cultural examination of conscience. It could bring a lot of people of good will — those “pro-life” and “social justice” groups that seem strangely divided — together.
Richard A. Viguerie
When Governments Kill: A conservative argues for abolishing the death penalty, Sojourners, 2009
Conservatives have every reason to believe the death penalty system is no different from any politicized, costly, inefficient, bureaucratic, government-run operation . . . But here the end result is the end of someone’s life. In other words, it’s a government system that kills people. Those of us who oppose abortion believe that it is perhaps the greatest immorality to take an innocent life. While the death penalty is supposed to take the life of the guilty, we know that is not always the case. It should have shocked the consciences of conservatives when various government prosecutors withheld exculpatory, or opposed allowing DNA-tested, evidence in death row cases. To conservatives, that should be deemed as immoral as abortion . . . But even when guilt is certain, there are many downsides to the death penalty system.
Laura Hollis, conservative columnist
Creators Syndicate, August 22, 2019
The embrace of death as solution is not a phenomenon that admits easily of “left versus right” political — or even cultural — divisions. Americans on the right often defend the death penalty just as vehemently as the left cheerleads for abortion. (Euthanasia and assisted suicide seem to have advocates and opponents in every conceivable political camp.) . . .
How easily we accept the conclusion that death is the answer to our most serious problems. Unwanted baby? Kill it. Have an incurable disease? Kill yourself. Commit a heinous crime? The government should kill you. These precedents — and the assumptions about human life that underlie them — should frighten us. Instead, we find ourselves pushed into accepting them as normal — even as positive.
Nicholas T. Wright
former Anglican Bishop of Durham, England and author of several books as N.T. Wright or Tom Wright
September 15, 2011, Washington Post blog
You can’t reconcile being pro-life on abortion and pro-death on the death penalty. Almost all the early Christian Fathers were opposed to the death penalty, even though it was of course standard practice across the ancient world. As far as they were concerned, their stance went along with the traditional ancient Jewish and Christian belief in life as a gift from God, which is why (for instance) they refused to follow the ubiquitous pagan practice of “exposing” baby girls (i.e. leaving them out for the wolves or for slave-traders to pick up).
Mind you, there is in my view just as illogical a position on the part of those who solidly oppose the death penalty but are very keen on the “right” of a woman (or couple) to kill their conceived but not yet born child.
2008 candidate for U.S. Republican presidential nomination, Libertarian Party presidential candidate, former U.S. Representative from Texas
Liberty Defined, 2011
The consistent right-to-life position should be to protect the unborn and oppose abortion, to reject the death penalty, and to firmly oppose our foreign policy that promotes an empire requiring aggressive wars that involve thousands of innocent people being killed. We would all be better off for it, and a society dedicated to peace, human life, and prosperity would more likely be achieved.
More of our posts that are quotations from varying perspectives:
Historical Black Voices: Racism Kills
When Linking Abortion with Other Violence Comes Naturally to Pro-lifers – Part 1: Connections Show Importance
When Linking Abortion with Other Violence Comes Naturally to Pro-lifers – Part 2: Consistency Strengthens the Case
Roe v. Wade: Legal Scholars Comment
Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Full excerpt of the section on Wangari Maathi (1940-2011) from Pro-Life Feminism: Yesterday and Today.
(all sections contain an introduction and at least one document)
Introduction by Mary Krane Derr
Wangari Muta Maathai, globally acclaimed environmentalist, human rights campaigner, feminist, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was born in 1940 to a farming couple in a rural area of Nyeri, Central Province, Kenya, near wildlife-rich Mount Kenya. The young Maathai was already sensitive to the start of disturbing changes in the landscape she loved deeply: the replacement of small, eco-friendly farms and forests with commercial monoculture plantations, the drying up of clean, abundant water, soil erosion, the disappearance of familiar plants and animals. Over the past 150 years, possibly 75% of Kenya’s forest cover has been destroyed, first by Anglo colonialists, then wealthy plantation owners and the poor Kenyan farmers they have squeezed out and made desperate for fuel, arable land, food, and water.
In 1960, Maathai was awarded scholarships to study in the United States. She earned a B.S. and M.S. in biology (Mount Saint Scholastica College, 1964, and University of Pittsburgh, 1966, respectively). Her Ph.D. in anatomy (University of Nairobi, 1971) made her the first East African woman to achieve a doctorate. From 1973 to 1980, she directed the Kenyan Red Cross. In 1976, she was appointed chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy, University of Nairobi. During the late 1970s, as a leader of the National Council of Women of Kenya, she was deeply affected by the laments of rural women over the countryside’s accelerating degradation, which deprived them more and more of healthy diets, farming income, drinking water, firewood, shelter, and kinship with the living world and one another. In 1977, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement (GBM), which has pioneered a home-grown approach to overcoming these threats against poor women and their families, and against the ecosystem at the same time: hiring the women to plant and nurture trees.
During the early 1980s, Maathai’s husband left her and their three children, Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta. A judge granted him a divorce on the grounds that she was “too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control.”2 Maathai told the judge that he was incompetent, and he sentenced her to a night in jail. She persisted as leader of the Green Belt Movement despite this and numerous other run-ins with Kenyan authorities, especially the heavy-handed, thoroughly corrupt regime of President Daniel arap Moi. Moi and his associates derided her as a “national menace” and an “un-African”—because outspoken and unsubmissive— woman. The nonviolent Maathai endured further arrests as well as death threats and injuries from beatings. Moi has since fallen from power, but the Green Belt women can now celebrate three decades of accomplishment.
Within Kenya, over 600 GBM community groups have planted over 30 million trees in both rural and urban settings, in the process schooling “ordinary” citizens, especially women, in political advocacy skills and inspiring parallel activism in other Two-Thirds World nations. Most recently the GBM has ventured into personal and community empowerment through sexual and reproductive health education in the facts and decision-making skills surrounding abstinence, voluntary family planning, and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Maathai continues to serve on GBM’s board, and those of the National Council of Women of Kenya, the United Nations Advisory Board on Disarmament, the Earth Charter Commission, Green Cross International, and the Women and Environment Development Organization, among others. In 2002, Moi’s abdication made free democratic elections possible, and Maathai resigned as GBM leader to run for office. From 2002 to the present, Maathai has served as Member of Parliament for her hometown district, and since 2003 as Kenya’s deputy environment minister.
The list of Maathai’s honors grows ever longer: the Goldman Environmental Prize (1991), the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Hall of Fame (1991), the UN Africa Leadership Prize (1991), the Jane Addams Leadership Award (1993), the Golden Ark Award (1994), the Kenyan Community Abroad’s Excellence Award (2001), the Republic of Kenya’s Eldership of the Burning Spear (2003), the Conservation Scientist Award (2004), the Petra Kelly Environmental Prize (2004), and the J. Sterling Morton Award of the National [U.S.] Arbor Day Foundation (2004), to name only some. In late 2004, Maathai was granted the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first African woman ever to achieve a Nobel of any kind. On hearing the news, Maathai planted a Nandi flame tree at the foot of Mount Kenya. She asked admirers around the world to celebrate this honoring of the GBM women and to “secure the future for our children” by planting trees also.
Maathai often says: “What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.” These words express her wisdom—drawn from both modern scientific and ancestral knowledge—about many issues, including abortion and its relationship to female disempowerment. The article below comes to us from Lifesitenews (www.lifesite.net), affiliated with Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition.
“Abortion Is Wrong,” Says Nobel Peace Prize Winner
by Lifesitenews (e-mail release, December 7, 2004)
OSLO, NORWAY—Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mrs. Wangari Maathai, said “abortion is wrong” in a conversation with Norway’s Dagen newspaper reporter Jostein Sandsmark Tuesday. Professor Maathai is Kenya’s deputy minister of the environment.
“But I am trying to avoid condemning the victim,” she said, referring to the pregnant mother who seeks an abortion. She sees both mother and child as casualties: “Both are victims. There is no reason why anybody who has been conceived, shouldn’t be given the opportunity to be born and to live a happy life. The fact that a life like that is terminated, is wrong,” said Maathai.
“When we allow abortion, we are punishing the women—who must abort their children because their men have run away—and we are punishing the children whose life is terminated,” she continued. “But it is because we are not willing to put the men where they should be, and that is taking up the responsibility.”
“I want us to step back a little bit and say: Why is this woman and this child threatened? Why is this woman threatening to terminate this life? What do we need to do as a society? What are we not doing right now as a society? A part of that answer lies in this House,” Maathai said, pointing at the Kenyan Parliament building. While abortion is still illegal in Kenya, Maathai suggests going further— that the 1960s law making fathers financially responsible for any children they conceive be re-instated.
“That law was removed by men in this Parliament,” she emphasized. “Now I think we are too lenient on men. We have almost given them a license to father children and not worry about them. That is part of the reason why women abort, because they do not want to be burdened with children whose fathers do not want to become responsible.”
Maathai will be awarded the Nobel Prize in Oslo Friday for her involvement in fighting for the environment, human rights and women’s rights.
For more of our posts on environmentalism, see:
Stewardship and the Consistent Life Ethic
Climate Change and the Consistent Life Ethic: An Opportunity to Connect Issues
Lethal from the Start: Uranium Mining’s Danger to the Most Vulnerable
Threats to the Unborn Beyond Abortion
For more of our posts from Mary Krane Derr (d. 2012) see:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (another excerpt from the same book)
Progressive Prolifers at the Progressive Magazine 100th Anniversary Celebration
Ancient Roots of the Consistent Life Ethic: Greece
Isolating Women and Encouraging Jerks
by Rachel MacNair
I recently received an email from a fellow Quaker in response to my emails on the availability of insights at prolifequakers.org. I think she made points that are important to address.
I mainly focus on her statement: “Preventing a woman who needs one from having an abortion is in many cases a more violent act than an abortion.”
Point 1: What Abortion Availability Causes
My observation is that advocates of women having access to abortion tend to be considering the woman in isolation. They see her situation as a given, without taking into account something very important: is the ready availability of abortion a part of what causes the situation?
At the extreme, we have cases of rape and incest – many people who otherwise oppose abortion will make an exception for pregnancies resulting from these causes. Yet we need to take into account that men inclined to commit rape, pedophilia, and incest are keenly aware that the abortion clinic is handy. While in theory those taking under-age girls there should be reported to law enforcement, in actuality, perpetrators often navigate the system with ease. And know in advance that they can.
For some cases where sexual abuse went on after the abortion(s), see Abortion Facilitates Sex Abuse: Documentation. More generally, in How Abortion is Useful for Rape Culture, I ask the question (and give a case as an illustration): “What does having abortion handy do to men who have a sense of male entitlement to female bodies?” For a movie with a realistic story in which the director didn’t catch the implications, I offer the implication I saw: The Message of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”: Abortion Gets Sexual Predators Off the Hook.
But we don’t need to go to that extreme, since there are plenty of men having a sense of male entitlement in entirely consensual adult relationships. Consider this tweet still available online from a famous comedian several years ago, after the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) had decided to knock down some abortion regulations in Texas:
Someone who feels a sense of male privilege over women’s bodies, writing only to male readers presumed to have that same sense? What does this say about the connection of abortion to women’s genuine rights?
And if her situation is that the father of the child is vehemently against her continuing the pregnancy and will resist paying child support? This circumstance isn’t merely a given; abortion makes it more likely. As Julianne Wiley put it:
There will always be men who, at any given moment, want sex but don’t want a child; some of these men will get women pregnant. But sexual intercourse now implies for each of them – exactly nothing, no responsibility.
It’s only the woman’s subsequent and separate option that determines everything. That being the case, why should any man feel he’s acquired an obligation if the woman decides to give birth? Because he deposited sperm in the woman’s vagina? Don’t be medieval.
Am I predicting that the elevation of sexual autonomy to the status of a “right,” coupled with the availability of abortion, will cut men loose entirely? That paternal responsibility will sink to zero? That men are not only going to take off, but feel justified about it?
Hell, no. I’m not predicting that. I’m reporting it. I’ve done my share of women’s shelter work. I saw it all the time.
Importantly, thousands of women who’ve had abortions have joined the pro-life movement, and hundreds of people who used to work for abortion facilities have as well. That’s pretty amazing when you consider what they have to admit to in order to join the movement.
And the movement wouldn’t have lasted this long, and had the successes it had, if this weren’t true. If a merely philosophical view on when life begins were all that were driving it, it would have folded long ago. It’s because activists keep hearing stories from women that often include feeling trapped in their situations, traps which would not have been there had abortion not been so readily available.
Point 2: Just War and Pacifism
Since this argument comes from a Quaker, from whom a pacifist stance would normally be expected, I point out the parallel to the just war theory. A common argument for just war theory says, “Allowing people to be oppressed is in many cases a more violent act than a war.”
She further says: “I also believe that peace is not simply the absence of violence. To have true peace we need justice and freedom from oppression for all.”
That’s a basic understanding of pacifism. We oppose not only direct violence, but also structural violence – poverty, pollution, and other forms of harming people as a side-effect of the way societal structures are set up.
She develops the thought: “Maybe in an ideal world all women who become pregnant would choose to carry their pregnancies to term without coercion or fear. However, that is not the world we live in.”
That is quintessentially the argument for “just war.” In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have people attacking and oppressing others. But that’s not the world we live in. So, the argument goes, we need a “strong defense.”
Pacifists are aware of the problem, but come up with a variety of nonviolent solutions. A major insight of pacifism is that while nonviolent solutions often take more time and effort in the short term, they work better in the long run. The simplicity of the quick violent solution is deceptive because the damage lasts over time.
Advocates of just war theory think that pacifists are naïve to think that there aren’t times when violence is necessary to protect the innocent. Pacifists think that just war advocates are naïve to think that wars can be done within the strict limits the doctrine sets. It’s in the nature of wars to get out of hand. This is how violence works. Once violence has its foot in the door, it snowballs.
Point 1 above flows from this point: I think abortion availability advocates are naïve to think that, once violence is proposed as a problem-solver, it will stay strictly limited to women who want it. That other people in her life won’t try to push her into it or blame her for not doing it.
I think it’s also naïve to think it won’t spread to other forms of violence as a problem-solver. Are those men who have sex in the knowledge that their own child could die because of it going to remain limited in using violence to solve problems?
I think the image of the woman alone being the one who decides whether or not an abortion happens is about as realistic as any Hollywood movie where the good guys win all the violent confrontations and the bad guys always lose. You’d be more inclined to support that violence if you believed this. But that’s not the world we live in.
For more posts from Rachel MacNair engaging arguments from those who favor abortion availability, see:
Is an Embryo More Important than a Woman?
“The Daily Show” Doesn’t Do Its Homework>
What Do Men Have to Say on Abortion?
How Abortion is Useful for Rape Culture
Abortion Facilitates Sex Abuse: Documentation
For more on pro-life Quakers, see the website of our member group:
Friends Witness for a Pro-life Peace Testimony
What Just Happened!?! Becoming Consistent Life Despite Myself, Part 2
by Thad Crouch
This is the second part; the first part is:
Becoming Consistent Life Despite Myself. Part 1
Early May, 1988. Interstate 65, Alabama
A Greyhound bus passenger asked about my “Airborne Infantry HOOAH!” t-shirt.
I proudly inform him, “I’m an army infantryman and just graduated airborne school.”
“What’s an Infantry?” he asks.
“Infantry are combat soldiers. We kill personnel and destroy equipment.” I said with all the false pride and folly of teen who had never been in combat and was convinced that war was awesome like in 80’s combat action movies.
“No!” he interjects incredulously. “What’s your job description?”
“Yes!” I proclaim defiantly, “‘Kill personnel and destroy equipment.’ That is my job description!”
“Could you shoot someone?”
“Shoot someone? Yeah. Booooring! I’d rather look ‘em in the eye and stab them to death!” I actually said that loudly, with intensely aggressive piercing eyes, like a psychopath. In the days before cell phones, half the bus was listening.
As a teen, I studied and taught Filipino knife fighting. I idolized characters portrayed by Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone. Even at seventeen, I somehow knew money, a mansion, sports cars, and sex couldn’t fulfill me. Life seemed pointless until I decided great purposes are fulfilling. I chose protecting American lives, freedom, democracy, and human rights around the world. After all, that’s the purpose of the U.S. military, right?
I took a rare two-year enlistment opportunity. In those two years I got my airborne wings, my Expert Infantryman Badge, and proudly assisted the Army’s School of the Americas (SOA) counter-insurgency training of Latin American soldiers to fight communists and protect freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights in Central and South America. I used my MCI long- distance card to call my mother on a payphone to tell her I was training Latino troops who are actually fighting communists. She was tearfully proud.
I crossed many milestones between infantry soldier and war tax resister. The most shocking milestone came within two years after my life-altering prayer experience described in “What Just Happened!?! Becoming Consistent Life Despite Myself. Part 1,” which resulted in hours of daily contemplative prayer, getting a spiritual director, and becoming more active in the Church. This time it was a vision rather than a Voice. I saw myself as a soldier escorting civilian refugees on a dirt road in a war zone. I don’t recall seeing what lay ahead of us. There were fields on our right, a forest on the left, and a smoldering city in a desert behind us.
Suddenly, an enemy armored personnel carrier (APC) attacked from the tree line on our left flank. This anachronistic APC had horizontal slits in the sides like an old-timey armored wagon. Enemy troops could safely fire at us through the slits and we had a Chuck-Norris-Oscar-performance-as-a-war-tax-resister’s-chance of squeezing around those slits and hitting those @h0L&$^s. —well, from a distance, anyway. I ordered the refugees to get in a ditch, ran toward the tree line, and I hid behind a tree —without being seen.
When the APC passed by, I put my M-16 on full auto, lept like a panther, grabbed the armored personnel carrier roof with one hand, and stuck the rifle barrel into that slit. I put my finger on the trigger.
At this point it seems like a dream. I’m fulfilling my purpose and former job description. I am totally a like Chuck Norris character in that moment.
At point blank range on full auto with a 30-round clip, it was unnecessarily gratuitous to peer through that slit. I wanted to look ‘em in the eye when I killed them. Just. To. Watch .Them. Die.
When I looked into the eyes of my enemies I saw them. I saw them. I suddenly knew that they were my brothers and I could not kill them. I let go of the vehicle, fell into darkness still clinging to my weapon, and abruptly startled myself awake —or back to normal consciousness.
What Just Happened!?!
This experience didn’t quickly or easily integrate into my life like my previous realization about the death penalty. My moral identity —my very sense of self — was indescribably shattered!!! It seemed like the whole world fell out from under me. I desperately clung to pieces of my identity while feeling an intense mix of cognitive dissonance, fear, confusion, and shock. Writing this, decades later, I started shaking and crying remembering how it felt. I was so discombobulated that I’ve never been able to remember where I was when it happened, or if it was a vision in a prayerful trance or a dream after falling asleep in prayer.
I had been one of 32 men in my regiment — out of the 404 who attempted — to earn that Expert Infantryman’s Badge that year. When the colonel read the award certificate he said, “May they change to combat badges before long.” With no prompting, we all yelled, HOOAH!” For several years, it was my prize possession. My sense of pride, goodness, and accomplishment was largely rooted in being soldier willing to risk his life for a noble purpose. That pride was crumbling and contrasting with my recently deepened identity as a Christian who highly valued human life.
I had so many questions for my spiritual director, Sr. Camille Martinez. She pointed me to ancient and modern nonviolent Catholics. She gave some Pax Christi literature. I transferred to Loyola University New Orleans and chose a Religious Studies major.
I took a class on social & political inequality and learned that U.S. troops often carried out policies for economic and geopolitical gain to the detriment of freedom, democracy, and human rights. I did not want that to be true, so I kept researching while forming moral questions. If this is true that our nation that does such evil things and I value Christ’s teachings, human life, human rights, freedom, democracy, am I culpable as a citizen? As someone with freedom of speech and a right to redress grievances, should I be doing something about this?
My professor offered us extra credit to attend a Pax Christi event with a Haitian asking us to petition Congress and President Bill Clinton to oust the military dictator and restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected president, back into Haiti. He also asked us to close the School of the Americas. Had I not been studying the use of our military, I would have screamed my defense of the SOA to the crowd, but I was learning to listen. When he told us that SOA graduates were kidnapping, torturing, killing, and disappearing their own citizens — the “insurgents” whom they countered, who struggled for democracy and rights – I began slipping out of my chair. I had only begun questioning my responsibility as a citizen, and now I was suddenly confronted with my culpability for training terrorists. My heart wanted to vomit!
Transformation isn’t always so dramatic. Mine continued slowly as Loyola, Pax Christi, and the poor of New Orleans educated my heart, though it did once again feel like vomiting when confronted with having been blind and done nothing to counter dehumanizing racism so embedded in U.S. society, and to some extent, myself.
I went on a two-week Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Haiti, then under U.N. occupation, at the encouragement of a Pax Christi friend. I shook hands with President Aristide in the Haitian National Palace and met people who were imprisoned and lost loved ones in the coup years. I went to Nicaragua with a Maryknoll campus minister and lived a month with Sandinista peasants who had been my “enemies” in the ’80s. I saw the Haitians, the Sandinistas, the New Orleans African Americans, the homeless men, and the people of Central and South America as my sisters and brothers. The attacks on their lives and dignity by systemic racism, greed, and militarism were as moving to me as the first time I, around the age of twelve, had heard about abortion on TV news and asked my mother what it was. I was eleven when my baby brother was born. I had felt him kick in my mother’s womb. I was horrified that anyone would kill their child, because I didn’t need to do research or have a poignant spiritual experience to know that biological brothers were my brothers.
As I write, I’m newly struck that brothers and sisters we see as enemy soldiers probably see their military purpose as being just as noble as I once saw mine. Perhaps the best thing we can do to promote the Consistent Life Ethic is to peer within, look into each other’s eyes, and help each other see clearly who we are — who we all are.
For more of our posts from Thad Crouch, see:
What Just Happened!?! Becoming Consistent Life Despite Myself. Part 1
Culture of Conscience: Would You Pay Taxes that Fund Abortions if Hyde and Helms were Repealed?
Mourning After & Hoping for the Future, We Call for a Consistent Life Texas!
For more of our posts from people’s personal journeys with the military, see:
Coming to Peace and Living a Consistent Life After Military Service / Eve Dawn Kuha
Becoming a Catholic Conscientious Objector / Tony Magliano
Comprehending Horror through Animation: The Art of the Anti-War Animated Movie
by John Whitehead
Animation fascinates me. Like painters, animators can create images of stunning beauty. Being free from the limitations of human actors or physical locations, animators can also depart from strict realism and create images that are fantastical, metaphorical, or otherwise stylized.
Animation’s stylization can allow animated films to deal with darker, more serious topics such as war more successfully than live-action films. As peace activist and film critic Dwight Macdonald observed, realistic presentations of war or other violence can lose their impact by overwhelming viewers. “The first corpse is a terrible experience,” Macdonald wrote, “the second less so, and finally one becomes either immune by repetition…or, worse, morbidly fascinated by the spectacle” (from Dwight Macdonald on Movies, p. 447).
By taking a non-realistic, indirect approach to war, animation can perhaps get beyond such viewer defenses and by subtler means bring the horror of mass violence home. Many animated films, both shorts and feature-length films, have tried to do this.
Out of many animated films dealing with war, I have selected a handful that might make for interesting viewing for consistent life ethic or other peace activists. (These films can be found via the Internet Archive, YouTube, streaming services, or on DVD; check your local library for DVD versions.)
Peace on Earth (1939)/Good Will to Men (1955). MGM’s Peace on Earth (featured in the 2011 edition of Peace & Life Connections) imagines a future, post-human world now populated by forest animals. An elderly animal recounts to some children his memories of humans and how they wiped themselves out in an apocalyptic war. Made shortly before the United States entered World War II, the film’s portrayal of human war resembles World War I-era combat, with soldier in gas masks fighting in trenches.
After World War II, the noted animation team of William Hannah and Joseph Barbera remade the short as Good Will to Men. While following essentially the same plot, the remake updates the war scenes to include flamethrowers, missiles, and ultimately atomic bombs.
The Hannah-Barbera version boasts more polished animation, but both versions are haunting in their portrayal of war. Both also end on hopeful notes as the animals build a new society and mark Christmastime with resolutions not to wage war again.
The Hole (1962). This Oscar-winning short was made by the husband-and-wife team of John and Faith Hubley. The Hubleys favored minimalist, abstract animation and that approach is on display in The Hole, where jagged lines, fuzzy borders, and bleeding colors make the film resemble a child’s drawing.
In the film, two New York City construction workers (one voiced by jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie) chat as they work below street level. Their conversation turns to nuclear weapons and the very real danger of nuclear war occurring because of technical malfunctions or other accidents. As the men continue talking about a possible catastrophe, the tension and sense of dread grows. The Hole finally builds to an ambiguous but unsettling conclusion.
We Can Do It! (1970). Anti-war animation was not limited to the American side of the Cold War. This Soviet-made film offers a call for world action against war and imperialism, with a distinctly Marxist spin.
Using stark black line drawings against colored backgrounds, We Can Do It! shows a monstrous bird of prey hatching and being nourished by an American general and a greedy capitalist. The bird takes flight and fires feathers from its wings like rockets, devastating the communities below.
However, the world’s peoples respond by rallying for peace and, in a sequence with memorable symbolic imagery, defeat the war bird. Those contributing to the bird’s defeat include a writer at his typewriter and a jazz musician playing a trumpet, in a nice acknowledgment of the arts’ role in peace making.
The Conflict (1983). Another Soviet-made film, The Conflict is less ideological than We Can Do It! and also the simplest film on this list. Directed by Garri Bardin, The Conflict shows a war between the armies of two rival countries, which are portrayed, through stop-motion animation, by two sets of matchsticks.
The conflict between the blue matchsticks and green matchsticks begins with a border dispute and escalates from there. Seeing walking matchsticks chop each other up is initially somewhat comical. When the war reaches its inevitable climax, though, and we see the aftermath, the effect is sobering and eerie.
Major US animation studios such as Disney and Pixar have generally steered clear of making anti-war movies. However, other countries have produced powerful films on this theme.
Barefoot Gen (1983; in Japanese with subtitles). Japanese “anime”-style animation about war could fill an entire article by itself, given Japan’s thriving anime industry and searing experience of warfare, including atomic warfare. I will limit myself to one anti-war anime film, though.
Based on a manga (comic book) series by hibakusha Kenji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen follows a young boy, Gen Nakaoka, living in World War II-era Hiroshima. The film shows Gen and his family’s daily life, what happens to them when the United States drops an atomic bomb on the city, and the family’s struggles in the bombing’s aftermath.
Barefoot Gen stands out among anime movies on war partly for its sheer power. The portrayal of the Hiroshima bombing is not for the faint of heart: the movie shows the carnage in all its horror. Being rendered in exaggerated, somewhat goofy-looking animation prevents the bombing scenes from being conventionally gory yet the contrast between the child-like form and the devastating content underlines the enormity on screen.
The movie also stands out and recommends itself to consistent life ethic activists because its concerns extend beyond war to other threats to life. The humanity and well-being of the poor, children in the womb, and people with disabilities all receive some attention. (For a more detailed discussion of the movie, see this piece for Rehumanize International.)
Waltz with Bashir (2008, in Hebrew with subtitles). Israeli filmmaker Ari Holman grapples cinematically with his experiences as a soldier in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Suffering from memory problems, Holman tries to piece together what he witnessed and specifically what he saw on the night when Lebanese forces allied with Israel perpetrated a massacre of Palestinian civilians.
Holman interviews fellow veterans and both the interviews and the veterans’ remembered experiences are recreated using multiple types of animation. Waltz with Bashir’s combination of pop art-style drawings and a limited color palette makes the resulting movie feel like an animated film noir. This look suits the various gritty, downbeat tales presented on screen.
We watch veterans go through harrowing, often surreal, episodes of combat and get occasional moments of respite that are sometimes no less grotesque. We hear them talk frankly and thoughtfully about what they did and saw and the resulting trauma. We also see the many terrible ways civilian life is destroyed in war’s chaos. (Note: Viewers should be warned that Waltz with Bashir concludes with a wrenching, non-animated sequence in which we are shown documentary footage of the Lebanon War’s real-life consequences.)
The Breadwinner (2017). Parvana, an Afghan girl with a knack for storytelling, lives in Kabul, under Taliban rule. When misfortune befalls her family, Parvana must become their main source of support. Because unaccompanied women are not allowed to leave home, she disguises herself as a boy and tries to help her mother and siblings as best she can.
A production of Irish studio Cartoon Saloon, The Breadwinner rejects any attempt at a realistic visual style, instead embracing a flatness of imagery reminiscent of a children’s storybook. This style is especially pronounced in fanciful depictions of Parvana’s imagined tales, which use paper-cut-out-like characters and brighter colors than are used in the drabber real-world scenes. The filmmakers also rely on an indirect approach to events, often implying what is occurring rather than showing it. This paradoxically makes such moments more resonant.
War hangs over the story. The legacy of the Soviet invasion and subsequent civil war is present in the wreckage of tanks and the continuing threat from land mines. Later, the 2001 US invasion begins and creates a climactic crisis for Parvana and her family. Through it all, she tries to endure, using her storytelling as a coping mechanism. The conclusion is appropriately bittersweet—and seems even more poignant in light of Afghanistan’s ongoing suffering today.
All these animated films, short and long, have the ability to haunt viewers and inspire reflection on war’s toll. Consistent life ethic activists and others interested in peace should consider watching them, perhaps by hosting group screenings with discussions afterwards.
For more of our posts on art, see:
Right-to-Life Issues in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Literature
Dickens (Christmas literature)
Recognizing Humanity: Orwell and the Consistent Life Ethic
Act Before We Reach “Midnight”: The Need to Seek a Cease-Fire in Ukraine
by John Whitehead
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently announced that they had adjusted their “Doomsday Clock,” a symbolic measure of threats to humanity, to 90 seconds to “midnight”—that is, global catastrophe. This current status is the closest to midnight the Doomsday Clock has been in its 75-odd-year history. This dire prediction, the Bulletin has explained, is largely “because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine.”
While the risk of worldwide disaster cannot be quantified with the precision implied by measures such as “90 seconds,” the Doomsday Clock’s setting serves as a useful metaphor for current global dangers, especially the danger of nuclear war. I agree with the Bulletin that the risk of nuclear war is now very high, primarily because of the Ukraine war.
Almost a year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russia-Ukraine war threatens to spin out of control into some greater catastrophe. Nuclear war between Russia and the United States is the worst of the war’s possible outcomes, although lesser but still dire outcomes are also possible. Averting disaster will require the United States and other western nations to limit their support for the Ukrainian war effort and to pursue a cease-fire or similar diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
The State of the War
Following the Ukrainians’ success last fall in pushing back Russian forces and re-taking some territory, the situation on the ground has bogged down into a stalemate. In Ukraine’s east and southeast, Russian forces still occupy roughly 15-20 percent of the country, including much of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and the Crimean peninsula. Fierce fighting continues around the eastern city of Bakhmut.
While the battle lines have not moved dramatically during the winter, both sides have continued fighting by long-range means. Russia has waged a sustained campaign of missile and shellfire attacks on Ukraine that have devasted the country’s civilian infrastructure, often leaving cities without electricity. The Russian campaign has also caused more direct harm: for example, this January a Russian missile hit an apartment block in the city of Dnipro, killing at least 40 civilians. For their part, the Ukrainians have succeed in striking Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine and even Russian territory with their own long-range attacks.
Various western nations continue to give military assistance to Ukraine, with the United States and other nations recently deciding to send tanks to the Ukrainians. Tanks may allow the Ukrainians to break through the current stalemate and push the Russians further back. On the Russian side, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has described the tanks to Ukraine as a sign of western nations’ growing “direct involvement in the conflict.”
Hopes for a diplomatic solution to the Russia-Ukraine war are not bright. Yet pursuing such a solution is imperative, given the alternatives.
Diplomacy: The Best among Bad Options
The ideal resolution to the Ukraine war would be for the Russian people to put sufficient political pressure on their government that Russian President Vladimir Putin is forced to end his aggression and withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine. While this might happen, this outcome is hardly guaranteed: evidence suggests Russian public opinion is ambivalent about the war rather than mobilized against it. Peace advocates should not rely on the Russian war effort being undermined from within.
The resolution of the war presumably hoped for by policymakers in Ukraine and western nations such as the United States is that Ukraine will win a decisive military victory over Russia, pushing the Russians out of all the Ukrainian territory they have occupied since 2014, including Crimea. The Russians would then simply accept this defeat and the war would end. Again, such an outcome might happen: Ukraine’s battlefield successes have been one of the war’s great surprises. I don’t think such a scenario is the most likely outcome, though.
If the war continues unchecked, I suspect the most likely outcomes will be one of the following scenarios:
- The Ukrainians, with western support, continue to win victories over the Russians. To avoid the humiliation of total defeat, a desperate Putin dramatically escalates the war, possibly by attacking a western nation that belongs to NATO or possibly even by using nuclear weapons. (Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has explicitly warned this might happen.)
- In a variant of the above scenario, the Ukrainians win a total victory on the battlefield and push the Russians out. This humiliating defeat leads to Putin being overthrown in a coup and replaced by a hardline nationalist who resorts to some dramatic escalation in an attempt to still win the war or exact revenge.
- Ukrainian victory leads to Putin’s overthrow and larger political upheaval in Russia. Such a scenario might seem positive, but it is more likely to prove disastrous. Revolution and regime change has a mixed record, especially in Russia. We should not expect general upheaval in Russia to lead to a more just and humane regime than Putin’s rule. Regime change might well lead to chaos or even civil war, as it did in varying degrees in 1917 or 1991. Chaos and instability in a continent-spanning nation of about 140 million people with a massive nuclear arsenal is not an outcome anyone should desire.
- The war continues and, despite their military successes and western support, the sheer human cost involved—according to one estimate, roughly 100,000 Ukrainian troops might have been killed or wounded to date in the war—takes its toll on Ukraine. Russia benefits from its larger population and prevails through sheer weight of numbers, occupying more Ukrainian territory and forcing Ukraine to accept a worse situation than the current one. (This outcome is probably the least likely, but little is certain in war.)
- In perhaps the most likely scenario, the war simply grinds on and on without resolution, killing huge numbers of Ukrainians and Russians and hurting some of the world’s most vulnerable people in the process.
Faced with such scenarios, a cease-fire that freezes both sides in their current positions and radically reduces the fighting and killing seems like the least-bad option.
The immediate prospects for a cease-fire are unclear: neither Ukraine nor Russia might be ready to negotiate one yet. The goal of a cease-fire should always remain in sight, though, and policymakers from all nations should constantly seek an opportunity to foster cease-fire negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.
Until a cease-fire is in place, western nations would do well to moderate their military support for Ukraine. If the Ukrainians continue to make battlefield gains that push back occupying Russian forces, this could lead to one of possible crisis scenarios described above.
An Appeal for Diplomacy
Even as I argue for a cease-fire, I acknowledge the clear limitations of this approach. Freezing the Ukraine war now would leave Russia in control of a relatively small but still significant swath of Ukrainian territory. Accepting this situation could be seen as rewarding Russia’s brutal aggression.
I understand why many people, even peace-minded people, rebel at such an outcome. I agree that this outcome is very far from satisfactory. However, I think it is preferable to the most likely alternatives.
Sometimes the most prudent policy is to accept a continued injustice if it means avoiding still greater injustices. This was in effect what the United States and western nations did during the first Cold War, accepting Soviet domination over the eastern half of Europe rather than pursuing a destructive, war-mongering policy of “rolling back” the Soviets.
Whatever the limitations of seeking a cease-fire, the alternative of supporting and encouraging a purely military effort by Ukraine to achieve total victory and hoping that this doesn’t provoke a disastrous Russian response is simply not a responsible policy.
Within the United States, we should contact President Biden by phone and email as well as our representatives in the House and Senate.
We should urge our elected representatives to work for a cease-fire in Ukraine. We should also urge them to curtail further shipments of tanks or other military aid to Ukraine that might lead to further Ukrainian territorial gains and an escalation of the war.
Policymakers need to act now, before the Doomsday Clock gets any closer to midnight.
For previous coverage on Ukraine, see:
Buy the Time to Make Peace: Seeking a Cease-Fire in the Ukraine War
Untying the Knot of War: Seek Negotiation, Not Escalation in Ukraine
A Catastrophe Decades in the Making: The Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Not Your Pawns: A CLE Examination of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
For more on the damage of war, see:
The Wages of War, Part 1: How Abortion Came to Japan
Wages of War, Part 2: How Forced Sterilization Came to Japan
The Danger of Coerced Euthanasia: Questions to Ask
by Ms. Boomer-ang
Sometimes strong arguments for the Right to Life do not receive the attention they deserve. For example, an important argument against euthanasia and assisted suicide is that people can be coerced into ending their lives in these ways. I was recently reminded of this strong-yet-sometimes-neglected argument when reading a piece criticizing euthanasia by Wesley J. Smith.
The essay includes both very strong points and points that need strengthening.
The strongest point the essay makes is that a “woman in the Netherlands [was] held down by her family as she struggled against being lethally injected” [emphasis added]. So much for euthanasia being what “everyone” wants.
Apparently, when the woman had been more mentally alert, she had expressed a general willingness to be euthanized if she chose to pursue that option. Whether she wanted that option at the time she was killed is unclear. (In 2016, Dutch authorities took the step of officially allowing euthanasia on people with dementia if the patients authorized such actions when they were still lucid. Dr. Catherine Ferrier has provided a critique of this practice.)
But the following are additional points the essay makes and additional questions worth asking. The answers might make these points stronger.
Mr. Smith laments doctor shopping, meaning that when a doctor refuses to hasten a patient’s death, the patient simply goes to a different doctor who will do it.
Yes, that is lamentable. But what information is available on doctor shopping in the other direction? Do and can patients who want to live until their body dies naturally “shop” for a doctor who will support their wishes, if their doctors (proactively or on request of the patient’s family) suggest speeding their death? Is it as easy to switch from a doctor who participates in death hastening to one who does not as it is to make the reverse switch?
Just knowing that some people “shop” for non-participating doctors could help opponents of euthanasia know we are not alone and promote the idea that one can evade death hastening. Further, publicizing difficulties in finding a doctor who does not participate in euthanasia/assisted suicide can demonstrate the danger of legally allowing death hastening.
Here is another important question: In cases where a patient’s first doctor will not participate in death-speeding, what percentage of shopping for a doctor who would participate is done by the patient’s family without the patient’s request or initial knowledge? If the answer is that a high percentage of such shopping is done by families, that also shows the danger of allowing death hastening. Patients may not share their family members’ impatience for their death.
Smith also mentions euthanasia of children. Some are old enough to know what is happening. Do some of them fight against their killers, do some scream for their lives? If so, pro-life voices should be highlighting these stories.
Smith reports that newborn babies in Holland can undergo a medical evaluation to see if they can be euthanized. According to a 2005 article by the doctors who developed the protocol for such evaluations, 60% of the deaths of children younger than 1-year-old in the Netherlands were preceded by “a medical decision regarding the end of life.” They also cited a survey of Dutch neonatologists who reported euthanizing 15-20 newborns annually. These euthanized newborns had “a hopeless prognosis [and] experience what parents and medical experts deem to be unbearable suffering.” A specific condition cited by the doctors as a reason for such euthanasia is spina bifida.
Do parents ever dispute these evaluations of their newborn children? Knowing more about such cases would be useful.
Smith’s essay is good and valuable, but parts of it give the impression that the greatest concern should be about people who voluntarily choose to die because they are depressed, isolated, homeless, or financially insecure. We should also remember those who really (maybe secretly) want to live but are coerced or bullied into submitting to hastened death by their family, social workers, community leaders, or others. We should tell their stories as well.
For more of our posts on euthanasia, see:
Figuring out Euthanasia: What Does it Really Mean?
#SayHisName: The Medical Murder of Michael Hickson
How Euthanasia and Poverty Threaten the Disabled
Will I be Treated the Same Way Now?