Equal Concern for Each Human Being, Not for Each Human Issue

Posted on September 19, 2017 By

by Richard Stith

 

Editor’s Note: Richard is responding to a recent article in LifeSite News which has a common criticism of the consistent life ethic by pro-lifers, that by addressing several issues we’re treating all of them as equally important, and thereby watering down the crucial importance of the right to life as a foundation. This was offered as a response, and in the spirit of a good exchange of views, we offer below e-mails between him and the editor.  

Richard is a senior research professor at Valparaiso University Law School, and is on the board of the Consistent Life Network.  

Richard Stith at March for Life in Washington, D.C.

The “seamless garment” or “consistent life” ethic should be understood as equal concern for every human being, not equal concern for every human issue.

If one person is threatened with losing her house and another is threatened with losing her life, equal concern for both would make us rush to the assistance of the latter, not the former. Thus those who think housing and abortion to be issues of equal weight are letting a false consistency cover up a deeply inconsistent politics of care. Such people have no right to cover themselves with the “seamless garment.”

Properly understood, true consistency is what we pro-lifers all uphold. Every one of us is absolutely inclusive. Not one of us cares more for unborn babies than for other human beings. Each of us would protest against the mass killing of toddlers or teenagers just as forcefully as we now protest against the mass killing of unborn babies. Our all-inclusive philosophy is often expressed in this way: We are for the equal protection of all human beings from conception to natural death.

Moreover, this inclusive approach is our best strategy to help the unborn. The only way abortion can be tolerated is if unborn babies are excluded from concern. That is why our opponents insist above all on not calling the babies “human beings.” They know that once the unborn are brought within the circle of our concern, there is absolutely no way that their cruel dismemberment can be justified. So our first pro-life step has to be simply to counteract specific exclusion of the unborn with their specific inclusion.

Thus, for example, a wonderful congregational prayer would be “For all people in our community, born and unborn, who are threatened by violence, let us pray to the Lord.” This phrase “born and unborn” is actually a much better reminder of the babies’ plight than just something focusing entirely on pro-life in a narrow sense, like “Let us pray for an end to abortion.”

By being inclusive and also explicitly mentioning the unborn, we do a much better job of focusing on them as fellow human beings just like the rest of us. Talking only about abortion makes killing unborn babies seem to be a side issue that can be easily ignored.

Bottom line: We pro-lifers need to seize upon the “seamless garment” and “consistent life” language, properly understood, and make it our own. We are the ones who want to include everyone. Our pro-abortion opponents are the ones who want to exclude some people from our society’s care and concern.

By contrast, when we attack the “seamless garment” and “consistent life” philosophies, we make ourselves seem to be the excluders and our opponents seem to be the includers, which is just the opposite of the truth.

Infinity symbol

 

Editor’s second note: Richard requested this be published in Life Site News and was turned down. The editor gave us permission to publish his response:

Hello Richard,
 
We really do not want to get into an extended debate on the Seamless Garment approach. Past experience has been that it has a strong tendency to go on at length without any resolution and get heated. There are very different views on this.
 
As for LifeSite, during all of our years of existence we have seen the Seamless Garment do substantial damage to the pro-life movement and take the focus especially off the killings of children in the womb, regardless of all the rhetoric that the unborn are a priority. The seamless garment has almost always been promoted by liberal social justice Catholics who have tended not to agree with the Church’s moral teachings.
 
I know you do not fit into that category Richard and are as solid as a rock, but there will undoubtedly be those on the liberal left who will see your article as affirming them, even though you have taken an orthodox approach. It will still be lose-lose if we publish your article. We have found the promoters of the false “social justice” of the Seamless Garment approach do not want to engage in sincere debate, they are very aggressive, if not ruthless, and quite a few have a Marxist outlook.

Personally, I don’t think we can co-opt the seamless garment to our advantage, although most of what you say makes sense. The social liberals created this phrase for a definite strategic purpose – to exploit strong pro-life sentiment to turn it towards social issues that are not about moral absolutes and which do not involve the deliberate killing of massive numbers of innocents. We can’t pretend that abortion is not the great evil that is it – as well as those issues related to it such as euthanasia, assisted suicide, infanticide, embryonic stem cell research, etc. – all killings of the most innocent and vulnerable.
 
Steve Jalsevac
Co-Founder and President
LifeSiteNews

 

 

Richard responds: 

Thanks, Steve, for taking the time to respond at length. 
 
I do think that working within the seamless garment (aka consistent life) approach helps our work against abortion, particularly with Catholic parish committees (because they are pretty much committed to the seamless garment). 
 
But maybe my view is distorted by the fact that I really am totally against every kind of intentionally lethal violence, including the death penalty and war (though I do see them as less objectively evil than abortion insofar as they lack the element of betrayal of an entrusted dependent). 
 
And I also appreciate where you’re coming from. I agree with you that the seamless garment has often been misused by people who do not want to campaign hard against killing babies.
 
How about leaving it this way: Don’t publish my little counter argument, but also please in the future don’t publish direct attacks on the seamless garment or consistent life, especially in your headlines (which may be all that some people read). I really do think that hurts us with many people. Makes us seem obsessed with just one stage in life.
 
Keep up the great work you’re doing! God bless you folks.
Richard

 

 

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For more of our blog posts from Richard Stith, see:

Open Letter to Fellow Human Rights Activists

When “Choice” Itself Hurts the Quality of Life

For another blog post addressing this criticism, see:

Does the Consistent Life Ethic Water Down Life Issues?

 

See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

 

 

abortionconsistent life ethic


Common Ground

Posted on September 12, 2017 By

by James Kelly

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017. It’s also the second of three posts that come from Jim Kelly. This was at the session of the Consistent Life Network’s research arm, The Institute for Integrated Social Analysis.

 

We can’t pay attention to everything in this boom-buzzing confusion called life. We necessarily focus on some elements and omit others.  So we “frame,” (The primary text is Irving Goffman’s 1974 Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience)

To frame is to capture something well, but to omit other points – which, as time goes on, prudence might teach us are key. Individuals constantly project onto the world around them the interpretive frames that allow them to make sense of it; we only shift frames (or even realize that we have been framing) when an inescapable incongruity calls for a “frame-realignment.” We only become aware of our habitual frames when something challenges us to replace one frame with another.

Frame alignment happens when we find that we must leave the security of our moral tribes and present our interpretations to skeptics in a way that makes the most sense to us, and then to them, both in terms of first principles and their prudent applications. Within our moral tribes we mostly do tactics and brand the enemy as thoroughly disreputable.  In frame alignment, we persuade by listening in dialog to the “morally other” and then seeking common ground with them. Frame alignment becomes frame deepening, a broadening of perspective by taking seriously the claimed values of the opposition.

“Common ground” doesn’t mean any loss of moral deepening, but after the experience of dialogue, finding creative ways for both sides to better advance their moral core. In the abortion controversy, that means advancing the pro-life goal of non-violence and the pro-choice goal of human equality.

Making Free Choice Real Choice: The Need for Common Ground

Let’s begin with an example from the more brutal real world of hard politics – the New Jersey  “Family Cap.” In January 1992 the New Jersey State Legislative, under Democratic Party control, passed a welfare reform bill with national significance. In its pre-Donald Trump embodiment of a mistrust of government programs, of tax revolts, and of an “individual-moral-failure” explanation of long-term poverty, New Jersey (NJ) included in its welfare reform a novel Family Cap. Its premise was that the single most important cause of poverty was unmarried women having children. Now, any woman on welfare who became pregnant and gave birth would receive no additional state monies to cover her increased costs (although she would continue to receive food stamps and Medicaid for herself and her “additional” child).

The monetary pressure to abort offended both pro-life and pro-choice sensibilities and led to some common ground political cooperation. The NJ Right to Life chapter, NJ Citizens for Life, and the NJ Catholic Conference immediately announced their opposition. And because it seemed self-evident that the cap subverted a poor woman’s “reproductive freedom,” the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the NJ Civil Liberties Union announced their opposition. Their joint opposition was endorsed by dozens of other NJ activist groups.

The initial pro-choice/ pro-life collaboration was tentative and resulted only in a joint press release. When NOW and the ACLU filed a civil rights class action suit, it didn’t include any pro-life members.

By 1998, 20 states had followed New Jersey’s example. But that was not the end of common ground.

More Common Ground Efforts

At its heart, common ground signifies the possibility that adversaries can engage in joint ventures without either side compromising their essential principles.Common ground” is not a synonym for “centrist.”  If common ground jeopardizes integrity, it’s no longer common ground, but compromise.

Common ground is difficult to accomplish, and even more difficult to maintain. Since legal abortion is the status-quo, abortion opponents are wont to find the notion of common ground veering ever closer to compromise.

Dr. Wanda Franz

In his Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes (1990), pro-choice Harvard Professor of Law Laurence H. Tribe has a section entitled “Towards Common Ground’’ which designates a future which, while there are no restrictions on abortion, is “a world of only wanted pregnancies” achieved by better sex education  and better and more available contraception. Tribe’s outlook resembles President Clinton’s meme of making abortion safe, legal and rare. Mainstream pro-life organizations viewed such “safe and rare” outlooks more as trench warfare than as dialogue invitations. In her March 16, 1993 National Right to Life News editorial NRLC President Wanda Franz cautioned her 3,000 chapters in 52 states that common ground was a “clever pro-choice” strategy seeking “to gain acceptance of the pro-choice position as morally equivalent (or morally superior!) to the pro-life position.”

Both sides feared the term would mean compromise and at least a tacit endorsement of their adversary as morally legitimate. One of the first pro-choice members of the first common ground venture (in St. Louis Missouri, July 12, 1990), B. J. Isaacson-Jones, recalled “the barrage of resentment from her pro-choice colleagues that left her cuddling up in the fetal position for her days in her Planned Parenthood office.”

Loretta Wagner listens in a legislative hearing

But in her arguments to her pro-life critics another member of the first common ground effort, Loretta Wagner, pointed out that both  sides ought to acknowledge and do something about the high rates of abortion among the poor who felt they had no real choices. “We need to relieve some of the pressures that cause many women to choose abortion and to make it possible for a kinder society for them and their children. There are many things we can agree on: more and better quality pre- and post-natal care, providing more access to treatment of substance abusing mothers and their children, welfare reforms, day-care, affordable housing, adoption, improved recruitment of foster parents, helping women find jobs and educational opportunities. Neither side wants to see poor women economically compelled to have abortions.” Wagner’s analysis and policy suggestions are far more aligned with the typical Democratic platform than with the Republicans.

 

The concrete achievements of common ground in its St. Louis birthplace were short-lived. B. J. Isaacson-Jones, director of St. Louis Reproductive Health Services, could not find the additional financial resources to support its adoption placement services for her predominantly poor Black clientele. Loretta Wagner acknowledged that “The media thinks common ground is a really dramatic new story but I can’t say we’ve done anything dramatic – just getting the idea out.”

Stories appeared, for example, in USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, Glamour Magazine, and countless local media.

One of the early efforts was by the Family Institute of Cambridge (FIC) which in September 1992 initiated a “Public Conversations Project” whose aim was to improve the debate about abortion through a dialogue that would enable opponents to come to see each other as “people just like themselves.” The Public Conversations Project eventually comprised 72 people. But in and interview I had with her, the project director, Laura Chasin, acknowledged that although their goal was to move to problem solving action, the conversations remained “one-shot experiences.”

In February 1992 a grass roots group comprised of six pro-life and six pro-choice women published the North Carolina Piedmont Area Directory of Pregnancy Support Services which was distributed in the area’s churches and family planning clinics.  In 1993 Washington DC the Common Ground Coalition for Life and Choice was initiated by a conflict resolution organization founded in 1982 to help international diplomacy. CGCFLC co-coordinators were Mary Jacksteitt, a lawyer with experience in arbitration, and Sister Adrienne Kaufman, OSB, who coordinated the Peace and Conflict Resolution program at Washington University. In 1995 they published a manual entitled Finding Common Ground in the Abortion Conflict, explaining that their work is simply the facilitation of dialogue and not any specific proposals or policies.

With their assistance a Buffalo (NY) Coalition for Common Ground was formed to help mitigate the anticipated community conflict that was expected by a “Spring of Life Campaign” announced by Operation Rescue. One of its founders, Rev. Sanford, the executive director of the Buffalo Council of Churches, reports very slight impacts.

Conclusion

While disheartening for its promoters, the ebb and flow – and it’s mostly ebb – of common ground efforts makes good sociological sense. Leaders of social movements, who are preoccupied with daily concerns, are making tactical gains that encourage their membership that they are winning, albeit slowly, the abortion wars and, not incidentally, justifying their most recent fund raising appeal.

Besides, the man-bites-dog media appeal of common ground – that abortion opponents can actually talk to each other – has lost any front-page reader appeal.

It’s sociologically naïve to expect that any social-movement organization that can still plausibly promise its membership at least some tactical incremental victories will endorse a common-ground approach. Sociologically, common ground is tangential ground.

But tangential does not mean marginal. In the long run, the common ground frame realignment is highly significant. For abortion adversaries their moral culture – non-violence and justice for women – is far, far more important than seeking tactical gains and fearing tactical losses.

 

 

The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly, the first of three)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

abortioncommon groundhistory


My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem

Posted on September 5, 2017 By

by Monica Sohler

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017. The Consistent Life Network doesn’t endorse specific candidates or political parties, but offers helpful information on all of them.

 

“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It’s that they can’t see the problem.” – G.K. Chesterton

 

Monica with baby Maura

From the time I was a teen I was pro-life. I had been challenged with photos of fetal development. I was an atheist at the time, so religious arguments against abortion (not commonly heard back then) were not compelling. On the other hand the photos, which clearly showed this was human life, were compelling. In the ensuing years medical imaging improved, along with our understanding of biology and DNA. This progress only underscored the obvious humanities in those photos.

I was also opposed to the death penalty, which surprised some people who tried to debate me on abortion. Even back in the 1970s, the divide had begun; people who were anti death penalty might be expected to be anti-war, but certainly not anti-abortion. A consistent life view was a surprise to many.

As I reached voting age I found I had difficulty finding candidates who held a consistent pro-life view. Back then, most people in both parties were claiming to be “personally opposed, but” regarding abortion. I voted for candidates from both major parties after carefully weighing each candidate on life issues, with abortion being to me the most critical. If one cannot value the most helpless and vulnerable, how can one value anyone?

But my difficulty in voting increased over the years, with each major party often on opposite sides of life issues, and each tolerating less diverse views on these positions both within and outside the parties.

Yet, I began to notice something eerily similar with both parties. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. There was a sameness despite the very different platforms, and this sameness grew over time, and tied in directly to the life issues. Special interests and the backing of big business became something shared by both parties. Both parties moved towards abortion, the death penalty, and a quick trigger finger on war issues.

Each election I continued to look at each candidate individually, and pick the “lesser of two evils,” at times deciding to hold my nose and vote.

Then came the 2016 election. Like so many, I couldn’t see myself voting for either major presidential candidate based on one being the lesser of two evils; both choices seemed terrible. In the previous two elections, I’d come close to voting third party, but I didn’t want to “throw away my vote.” But this time I simply could not vote for either. I could not play ball with either side. This time I was willing to vote my complete conscience, even if “it did no good.”

I had to vote, but for whom? What party really shared my values?

One day last fall, while commiserating over this with my adult daughter, she suggested that I look into the American Solidarity Party. This, she said, was a party that had elements from both the Republican and Democratic parties, yet was pro-life in the broadest sense. Would I look into it?

After years of wandering in the political desert, occasionally finding an oasis, I found home. And in finding this home, I discovered the reason for that strange similarity between the two major parties.

The Solidarity Party is built upon the idea that human beings have worth, no matter their age or condition. Then they take this idea to its logical conclusion. Every policy, every position, comes from this view.

On the other hand, in the two major parties it does not. At the end of the day, regardless of those parties’ stated views on abortion, war, capital punishment, workers rights, euthanasia, or immigration, their “solutions” look at humans as commodities, as numbers, as problems. Instead of “how do we work for the common good,” it becomes “how do we rid ourselves of the problems?” And that very quickly translates into “how can we get rid of these troublesome people?” The only difference I saw was a difference in who the troublesome people were. The solutions to deal with the “trouble” were much the same. In short, both parties denigrate the dignity of the human person, albeit in different ways.

When I first opened the Solidarity Party web page, I saw the motto: Common Good, Common Ground, Common Sense. This appealed to me – I’d seen no common sense in politics in years (one can question whether it’s ever been there). Certainly no common sense used to find solutions that actually work towards the common good. Instead I saw factions; no one listening, no one willing to see the valid points in an opposing view, each vilifying the other. And what suffers? The common good.

So is the problem with the major parties simply a matter of not trying to find common ground and working together for common sense solutions for the common good?

No. I have come to believe that they have a more basic problem: without the fundamental belief that human beings have inherent worth and dignity despite condition, age, or ability, any solutions promulgated by these parties will ultimately prove to be flawed. This is because their solutions will continue to lead, on some level, to the destruction of life and the commoditization of human beings. Compromise without the notion of the non negotiable value of human life and the human person, will often turn deadly.

Below the ASP slogan on their web page, I saw their “party requirement.” It says if you can say “I affirm . . . the sanctity of human life, the necessity of social justice, our responsibility for the environment, and the possibility of a more peaceful world,” you can join the American Solidarity Party.

Why those four things? Because they are the logical conclusion of the basic view: Human life has dignity and worth, no matter what. Life, from conception through natural death, should be valued and protected, without making exception for those who cannot produce or who don’t otherwise meet someone’s specifications. Life is worthwhile, because you are human.

Social justice follows from that. How do we treat our fellow people? Do we stand apart or do we stand in solidarity, no matter rich or poor, weak or strong? If human beings are not commodities to be used, it changes our entire worldview. If we are not simply commodities, perhaps the creation we care for has worth as well. While property is a good, misuse of what we have is not. Respect for life starts at one point and flows naturally to others. And all that, of course, leads us to value a more peaceful world. War is the great destroyer – destroying love, destroying people (born and unborn), promoting hatred and vengeance, and destroying the creation around us. If we value human life, and the environment in which we live, a quick trigger looks less and less desirable.

This past election showed many who thought as I did: people who were uncomfortable with both major parties and who joined the Solidarity Party. With them they brought a diversity of ideas for solving human problems, but they also brought their common belief that human beings have innate worth from conception to natural death, with that value based on their humanity, not what they can produce for society. That common ideal was ever present as the party revised its platform recently. There was much discussion, and many compromises, as the party strove to find common ground, using common sense. But there was a difference here – the common good was based on the dignity of human life. It resulted in a platform I can joyfully embrace.

For more information on the Solidarity Party, and to read the full platform, go to https://solidarity-party.org/

Mitzi Hellmer and Mark Dominesey at the American Solidarity Party table at our 30th anniversary conference

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The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)

See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

 

abortionconnecting issuespolitics


Over 20 Million People Facing Starvation – And We Should Care!

Posted on August 31, 2017 By

by Tony Magliano

Think of a time when you were hungry. Remember how it felt, a bit uncomfortable, right? You may have even said, “I’m starving!” But you knew that in a short time the next meal would be there for you. Knowing that a good meal was awaiting you allowed your slight hunger to actually whet your appetite.

Now imagine that you are very hungry and have no idea where the next meal will come from for you and your family. In this case your hunger is physically painful and terrifyingly stressful.

Imagine now that there is no work to be found, the drought has dried up your crops. Your livestock are dead. And you and your family have eaten the last seeds that were meant for next season’s planting.

Now how are you feeling?

This is how many Africans and others are feeling, especially those in South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria, and nearby Yemen. In these nations over 20 million people are facing famine and starvation. Armed conflict and severe drought are the main engines driving this emergency – the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II  (see: http://arcg.is/2tjzoRe).  

 “Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease,” said Stephen O’Brien, U.N. under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs. He emphasized that to avert a catastrophe, immediate adequate funding from wealthy nations is critical.

O’Brien said the largest humanitarian emergency was in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, where two-thirds of the population – 18.8 million people – desperately need aid, and over seven million people are hungry and don’t know where their next meal will come from (see: http://bit.ly/2ks1Mvt and http://bit.ly/2mRAMr7).

Compounding the famine, Yemen is now facing the world’s worst cholera outbreak according to the U.N., which has placed blame on all sides of the nation’s ongoing conflict between the U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Houthis (see: http://cbsn.ws/2ui2bph).

An editor friend of mine in Nigeria put me in touch with Bishop Stephen Mamza, head of the northeast Nigerian Diocese of Yola. Bishop Mamza sent me a report with his assessment of the crisis in Yola. His report states that the U.N. World Food Program’s response to the food crisis in Nigeria is critically underfunded, meaning that hundreds of thousands of food-insecure northeast Nigerians are not being helped.

 Bishop Mamza wrote that he and other diocesan aid workers visited a makeshift settlement where “we met scores of hungry, malnourished and crying children who told us that they had not eaten for three days.”

American citizens should email and call their two U.S. senators and congressperson highlighting this emergency and urging that instead of slashing funding to programs that feed desperately hungry fellow human beings and programs that assist the poorest of the poor to build self-sustaining lives, the 2018 fiscal year budget needs to robustly increase funding for these life-saving programs (see:  http://bit.ly/2uLv0qI).

And urge them to stop supplying weapons to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition waging war in Yemen and instead to broker an immediate cease-fire with total access to humanitarian relief.

Catholic Relief Services is on the ground in Bishop Mamza’s diocese and throughout Northeast Africa working to ease the suffering. Please help them expand their life-saving efforts by making a generous donation to CRS’ “Africa Hunger Crisis Emergency Fund” (see: http://bit.ly/2wMIxQf).

 

“For I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25: 31-46).  

 [Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.]        

 

poverty


Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives

Posted on August 29, 2017 By

by John Whitehead

Editor’s Note: This is the third in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017.

John Whitehead at the 2017 conference with Kristen Day

In the United States, political conservatives tend to support American wars and military interventions abroad and generally favor a hawkish foreign policy. People dedicated to peace and alternatives to violence need to persuade such conservatives to oppose U.S. military action more often.

Persuading people, whatever their ideological affiliation, to change their minds is extremely difficult. No one approach is going to work with everyone. I will offer a few suggestions, however, of how at least to encourage conservatives to reconsider support for a hawkish foreign policy. A crucial principle that unites these suggestions is that showing someone how the peace cause is compatible with his or her existing views can open the door to consideration of your argument.

Make arguments based on American interest.

Many American wars or policies can be criticized on practical, self-interested grounds that do not require challenging anyone’s patriotism. For example, the various wars the United States has fought over the past 16-odd years in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have not been prudent. Experience shows that overthrowing a hostile regime and replacing it with a stable, friendly government is extremely difficult. Despite all the American lives sacrificed and money spent in those three countries, they continue to be troubled by insurgencies. Moreover, judged by the goal of countering terrorism from groups such as al Qaeda or its splinter group ISIS, these wars have been at best futile and at worst counterproductive

The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was justified because Afghanistan was a safe haven for al Qaeda. However, while the American invasion and occupation may have hampered the terrorist group’s operations somewhat, al Qaeda, ISIS, and others with similar ideologies continue to carry out successful terrorist attacks such as the Barcelona attack this August. When a terrorist attack requires so few resources—a single man in a car can kill or injure many people—investing so much in stabilizing a chaotic, violent nation to prevent it from serving as a terrorist haven seems an inefficient strategy. Moreover, in Iraq and Libya, the American overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Qadaffi led to those countries descending into chaos and civil war and allowed terrorists such as al Qaeda and ISIS to use them as safe havens.

Some conservatives who would probably not listen to arguments that the Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya wars manifest some inherent American malevolence might listen to explanations of how these wars were not in America’s own best interests. Similar arguments can be made against overthrowing the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Connect criticism of US wars or foreign policy with causes conservatives support.

While many conservatives support a hawkish foreign policy, such a policy is not always compatible with other conservative policies or values. For example, American social conservatives who care about stable family life should recognize the damage done to families by war. If a parent is in the military, war or other deployments take them away from children—in many cases permanently. The same process separates spouses and even if the spouse in the military does return home from war, the marriage might not survive. History shows that divorce rates increase after war. This happened in the United States after both world wars, and in the early 2000s, roughly during the first years of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, divorce increased among Army officers.

War separates parents and children in other ways. One result of sending American troops abroad is that men have relationships with women in the countries they are sent to, the women get pregnant, and at the end of his deployment that man will leave, abandoning his former lover and their child. After the Second World War, tens of thousands of children fathered by American servicemen were born in Britain and Germany. Something similar occurred in various Asian nations where American troops were stationed. One estimate in the early 1980s placed the number of children fathered by American servicemen since the beginning of American military involvement in Asia at around 2 million.

Pro-life conservatives might consider the points discussed in this blog post, “War Causes Abortion.” As noted in that post, the hardships and disruptions to normal life that war creates may lead to women having abortions because they believe they cannot support their children. In addition, soldiers on all sides of a conflict have been known to rape women in the countries they fight in and occupy. If these women become pregnant, they might have an abortion. In fact, the same danger applies to the aforementioned cases of short-term consensual relationships between American servicemen and women in other countries.  For various reasons, women in these relationships who become pregnant might also abort.  Therefore, in addition to the millions of children of soldiers and local women who are born into broken families, untold numbers might have been killed in the womb

Do not lump together opposition to a war or specific foreign policy with liberal/progressive positions on other issues.

The peace organization the Fellowship for Reconciliation once featured the following statement on their website: “we challenge economic exploitation, work to eradicate racism and religious intolerance, and call attention to imperialistic U.S. foreign policy.”

These are admirable and worthy activities, but they are likely to appeal primarily to progressives while potentially alienating those with differing perspectives. Not everyone who opposes or is uneasy about American military intervention necessarily feels comfortable with the characterization of U.S. policy as “imperialistic” or agrees that economic exploitation and racism are closely connected with war.

Cite conservative thinkers or Republican politicians who opposed wars or hawkish foreign policies. Opposition to nuclear arms/warfare is a useful topic to focus on.

Historical examples abound of conservatives or Republicans opposing hawkish foreign policies, from Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican-American War to Dwight Eisenhower’s warning of the military-industrial complex. Conservative opposition to nuclear weapons and their use is particularly striking.

In the 1940s, many conservatives condemned the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. National Review even declared, in a 1959 editorial, “The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming a part of the national conservative creed.” Eisenhower, who was commander-in-chief of Allied forces in Europe when the atomic bombs were used, later recounted his reaction to learning of the planned bombings: “I was getting more and more depressed just thinking about it. Then [the U.S. secretary of war] asked for my opinion, so I told him I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon” (quoted in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, p. 688).

The tradition of conservative opposition to nuclear weapons continued past the 1940s. Julianne Wiley, co-founder of Consistent Life Network precursor Pro-Lifers for Survival, recalled Brent Bozell, a major conservative theorist who ghostwrote Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative, explaining his belief the nuclear weapons were profoundly immoral. In 2007, four American foreign-policy elder statesmen, including Henry Kissinger, who had been secretary of state under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and George Shultz, who had been secretary of state under Republican President Ronald Reagan, published an op-ed declaring “We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal.”

In 2015, Jason Jones, a military veteran and politically conservative activist co-produced a white paper, Toward the Abolition of Strategic Nuclear Weapons, to which Aimee Murphy of Consistent Life member group Rehumanize International and I contributed. The paper uses Just War Theory and concerns for the honor of military service personnel to argue for dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons.

Conclusion

These four suggestions are just a few possibilities of how to persuade American conservatives to take a more critical stance toward U.S. military interventions. Peace activists should find additional approaches (The American Conservative and Antiwar.com are good sources for conservative-leaning critiques of U.S. foreign policy). Finding arguments that appeal to people across the political spectrum is vital to the peace cause.

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Some anti-war books by conservative authors:

Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-war Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism, by Bill Kauffman

Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, by Justin Raimondo

Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, by Andrew J. Bacevich

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Mary Meehan wrote an article on this topic on her web page:

Antiwar Conservatives Make a Strong Case

For the similar topic on our own blog, see:

Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons

 

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The rest of the full series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)

 

 

conservativeswar policy


The Frustrations of Being a Consistent Life Activist

Posted on August 22, 2017 By

by Lisa Stiller

 

Lisa Stiller at the post-Charlottesville rally

I recently attended a rally in support of the people in Charlottesville, Virginia. The previous Saturday a “Unite the Right” rally protesting the removal of statues of Confederate figures had erupted into violence, as one participant plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many. Many Confederate statues were raised in the early 20th century as explicit support of Jim Crow segregation laws and “white supremacy.” 

I wanted to be part of a gathering supporting love, respect, and dignity. That seems to me to be a pretty “whole life” issue. Racism and bigotry are an especially insidious form of violence. We all know that racism motivates people to hurt and kill others, and it also does terrible psychological damage. Racism destroys the dignity and sanctity of the human person, injuring its perpetrators as well as its victims.

But those of us who spend much of our time as activists speaking out for so many whole life issues such as health care and housing, and opposition to poverty, the death penalty, and war, find ourselves having to navigate a difficult path when other issues get thrown into the mix.

This is what happened at the rally. Most of the speakers at a rally that had a compassionate, community-oriented tone stuck to the message of intolerance for racism and called on members of our community to support one another. A few people ventured to speak about the influence of unregulated capitalism on racism (and a case can be made for that, as it contributes to the economic inequality that largely targets minorities and women) and the need to support measures that protect human rights.

But when a speaker got up and decided that not only was he going to recite the slogans on the “resistance flag” (pictured below) but have the crowd recite it back to him, I had a momentary feeling that I didn’t belong in this crowd. Most of the flag’s slogans are pretty much benign and support a whole life world view: “All People are Equal,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Immigrants and Refugees are Welcome Here,” and so on. But slogan number six is definitely not whole life: “Women Are in Charge of Their Bodies”.

Bringing support for abortion into a rally addressing racism, bigotry, and intolerance is nothing short of an oxymoron. Supporting the right to take a human life while advocating the need to defend human life from the violence of racism is, to me, counterintuitive.

Also, consider the fact that a very disproportionate number of minority and low-income women have their unborn babies aborted. Also, abortion clinics are most likely to be located in minority and poor neighborhoods. It makes no sense to advocate for the protection of our most vulnerable people, such as low income people and racial minorities and people with disabilities, as well as Jewish and Muslim people who are also targets of hate groups, while affirming the right to kill unborn children, the most voiceless members of our society. And, as our friends at Feminists for Life of America remind us, in the process of taking the lives of unborn children, we are hurting women.

So, as with other rallies and events I go to where I fully support the main issue, I have to find a way, when support for abortion is brought up, to remain “present,” put aside the seething anger, and acknowledge and let go of the discomfort. I have to carry on. And keep looking for ways to send a different message.

 The “resistance flag” at the rally.

Our own yard sign, available through Café Press, that those who wish to can use in similar locations to gently counter it.

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For more of our blog posts on Actions and Adventures, see:

The Adventures of Organizing as a Consistent Lifer

My Day at the Democratic National Convention

Adventures as a Delegate to the Democratic Party Convention

A Tale of Two Cruises

The Marches of January (2017)

Progressive Prolifers at the Progressive Magazine 100th Anniversary Celebration

 

See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

 

abortionliberalsorganizingpersonal storiesprogressivesracism


The Vital Need for Diversity

Posted on August 15, 2017 By

by Sarah Terzo

Editor’s Note: This is the second in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017.

Diversity is very important in the pro-life movement, as the following story illustrates. In the 2009 book Stopping Abortions at Death’s Door by Roderick P. Murphy, the author recalls what happened when a woman named Carol walked into a crisis pregnancy center:

Carol was a young professional woman and she was sure she wanted an abortion. She came in for a pregnancy test over lunch hour. She had questions about abortion procedures and their safety.

The counselor was able to connect with Carol closely enough to discuss risks, emotional scarring and the development of life inside her. Then she handed Carol a brochure full of great information that would further answer her questions. As Carol thumbed through the booklet, she seemed grateful for such accurate information… And then she turned to the last page. Across it was the name of the organization that printed the brochure. Among believers it was a reputable name. But because the word “Christian” stood out so clearly to Carol, she tossed the brochure into the garbage, and walked out. In that instant, our opportunity to reach her was gone. (pages 57-58)

The story illustrates that some people pro-lifers want to reach are turned off by a religious approach. All too many people have had bad experiences with religion, or simply find it irrelevant to their lives. When a pro-lifer uses Christian materials and arguments, it turns these people away.

At the conference: Melanie Beasely, Sarah Terzo, John Whitehead, Kristine Kruszelnicki

Non-religious Pro-lifers

It’s easy for people to see abortion as a “religious issue.” This leads to the oft-heard claim that pro-lifers are pushing their religion on others. If the pro-life view is considered to be religious dogma, nonreligious people can dismiss it easily. Often, when a Christian speaks out against abortion, pro-choicers will respond with, “You only think that way because of your religion.”

An atheist who uses secular arguments is harder for people to dismiss.  When I discuss the abortion issue online and reveal that I’m an atheist, it always surprises people. They have to think of a new argument because the “forcing your religion” argument doesn’t cut it anymore.  I usually follow up by linking to or quoting an article called “40 quotes from medical textbooks and scientists that say life begins at conception” on Live Action News. After that, they often fall silent. I know they have not embraced the pro-life view in that moment, but I have made them think. I can hope they remember the conversation and that it plants a seed.

Certainly there may be times when a religious approach would be appropriate – if you are speaking in a church, for example. But when non-Christians argue the pro-life case, people are compelled to look at the issue more seriously.

Sadly, in the pro-life movement, I have been turned away from doing pro-life work due to my atheism. A crisis pregnancy center refused to let me volunteer because I was an atheist. I have experience talking to abortion-minded women, but they dismissed me as soon as they learned I was not a Christian.

Later, I learned about the Personhood movement, which works against exceptions in pro-life legislation and lobbies the government to recognize preborn children as persons. There is no Personhood chapter in New Jersey, where I live, and I thought of starting one. But the organization does not allow nonchristians to start chapters. New Jersey is still without a personhood chapter.

I don’t see how this helps the pro-life movement.

There are things pro-lifers can do to make nonreligious people more comfortable. Once I was listening to a webcast which had an audience of thousands. The person running the webcast said something like, “As Christians, we pro-lifers know that God is the most important thing in this battle, so we’d like to pray.” The prayer went on and on. I felt alienated and uncomfortable, so I turned off the webcast.

It would have been better if the organizer had said something like, “We know there are pro-lifers of many different religions here, but for a moment we want to speak to the Christians,” then made the prayer shorter. This would have made me feel less excluded. I am not suggesting that pro-lifers eliminate prayer and religious language entirely, just that they frame things in a more inclusive way.

LGBT People

Many gays and lesbians assume that only conservative Evangelicals and Catholics are pro-life. These demographics have often been unkind to LGBT people. When an LGBT person argues the pro-life case and uses arguments that appeal specifically to LGBT people, they are more likely to make headway.

For example, Secular Pro-Life ran an interview with a pro-life gay man.  He wrote about how gays are executed in 12 countries. In these countries, gays have no right to life. Unborn children also have no right to life in some nations.  Both gays and unborn children can be legally killed in parts of the world.  Seeing the commonality, he became pro-life.

Also, most gay people believe we were born gay; i.e., we were gay from conception. There is a theory that a gay gene (or genes) exist. If it’s discovered, a test may be developed to detect it. Preborn LGBT babies could be targeted for abortion the way Down syndrome babies are today. In the United States, around 400,000 LGBT teens are homeless, many because they were thrown out of their homes by their parents. If given the chance, parents who reject their gay children might abort them instead.

I believe the pro-life movement is becoming more inclusive. Groups like Secular Pro-Life and PLAGAL (the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians) are more accepted among pro-lifers. They are being included in pro-life conferences and campaigns.  Live Action is willing to publish my work despite my atheism and sexual orientation. I doubt these things would have happened 20 years ago.

For pro-lifers who are against gay rights, these two issues should be kept separate. Not only does combining abortion and opposition to gay rights alienate LGBTs, it turns off many members of the younger generation. Millennials support LGBT people more than any generation before them. These millennials are the future of the pro-life movement. Abortion, as a life and death issue, must take priority.

Importance of Nontraditional Pro-lifers

Nontraditional pro-lifers are going to be very important to the American pro-life movement in the future (and therefore whatever impact US progress has on progress in other countries world-wide).

This is why:

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will not make abortion illegal across the United States. Overturning Roe only means that individual states can ban abortion, not that they must. Everything would revert to the way it was before Roe. In states with anti-abortion laws still on the books, abortion will be illegal. States that legalized abortion before Roe will still have legal abortion. Abortion will still be legal in New York, California, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Florida, Colorado, Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, and other states.

After Roe falls, it will be a state by state fight for American pro-lifers. The battle would take place in the legislatures. We will need to pass pro-life laws in states that don’t have them and defend pro-life laws in states that do. This requires public support.

Let’s look at what happens if the only pro-lifers are Evangelicals and Catholics: 25.4% of the US population is Evangelical Protestant, and 20.8% of the population is Catholic. Even if we could convince every single Evangelical Protestant and Catholic to vote pro-life (including the millions who identify as belonging to those religions, but never go to church) we would STILL not have a majority. One way or another, eventually, we are going to have to do things to attract nontraditional pro-lifers. We simply can’t win without them.

The pro-life movement should be open to anyone who wants to protect the preborn, regardless of religion, race, or sexual orientation. Abortion is not just another political issue. Our goal is to save lives. Babies are dying at the rate of roughly 3,000 a day in the United States. Why wouldn’t we include everyone in the fight to stop it?

If you were in a burning building, would you care if the firefighter who saved you was gay or straight? Would you care if the firefighter who pulled you out of the flames believed in God or didn’t? I would say the vast majority of people wouldn’t care – they would just want to be rescued. We need to rescue the preborn. That is the whole purpose of the pro-life movement. When you look at it this way, it seems very clear that we all should come together to stop abortion.

To see more in the series of presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)

See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

abortionatheismLGBT peopleReligion


The History of Framing the Arguments

Posted on August 8, 2017 By

by Jim Kelly

 

This is one part of Jim’s presentation at the Consistent Life Network 30th anniversary conference.  The second part is Common Ground, and the third one will be published later.  

 

The origins of the modern pro-legal abortion movement do not lie in feminism. In her 1963 classic The Feminist Mystique Betty Friedan does not even mention abortion, much less consider it a necessity for women’s equality. The late historian Mary Krane Derr has documented that early 18th and nineteenth century suffragists’ writings regularly referred to abortion as “ante-natal murder” and even as “infanticide.” In her March 14, 1875 speech Susan B. Anthony included abortion as one of the evils perpetrated by men against women. An article in Anthony’s newspaper The Revolution presciently urged “We want prevention not merely punishment. We must reach the root of the evil, and destroy it.”

So, if not feminism, what was the contemporary start of the movement to legalize abortion, and how did they frame their arguments?

The first organized support for legalizing abortion came from the eugenics and population control organizations. In 1922, the American Eugenics Society was founded and by 1931, 27 states enacted sterilization laws to remove those “unfit” to reproduce. Paul R. Ehrlich’s 1965 bestseller was entitled The Population Bomb.  A commitment to zero population growth included support for legal abortion.

The first prominent call for not reform but repeal of the abortion laws was made by Lawrence Lader who titled his 1971 book Breeding Ourselves to Death. Lawrence Lader was a co-founder of what was then called the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws and it was Lader who persuaded Betty Friedan that the newly formed National Organization for Women (NOW) should endorse abortion.

This provoked considerable conflict within NOW. There was no referendum and many delegates resigned. Four years later (1971) some chapters unsuccessfully tried to remove abortion from NOW’s “Bill of Rights for Women” because they found it impeded their work on other crucial women’s issues (day care, medical insurance, neighborhood schools, etc.)

The most prominent and mainstream abortion opposition social movement organization is the National Right to Life Committee, with membership in all states. In the September 1974 edition of its National Right to Life News, editor Janet Grant characterized legal abortion activists as upper-class elites. “The rich,” she editorialized, want to ‘share’ abortion with the poor. But ‘sharing’ stops when it comes to wealth, clubs, and neighborhoods. In the same issue, Donna M. Sullivan asked, “Are social pressures now geared more to getting rid of poor babies than assisting their mothers with economic problems?” The March 1974 edition found it ironic that some congressmen were arguing that abortion lowered welfare costs when Congress had spent “billions to wage a war in Indochina.” How did the Democrats lose these folks?

These right-to-life feminists are not just anecdotal exceptions. Sociologist Granberg reports studies of both pro-life and pro-choice movements in a 1978 article, “Pro-Life or Reflections of Conservative Ideology?” and expressed surprise about the clash between the empirical data and pre-research expectations. Granberg found that 56% of National Right to Life leaders opposed capital punishment, as contrasted to only 28% of all American adults. 71% disagreed with the idea that “the US should be ready and willing to use military force if necessary to assure our access to important resources, such as oil, which are necessary to our way of life.” Later studies found that while pro-choice respondents scored high on “liberal” rights issues, such as opposition to censorship and sex education, they scored lower than abortion opponents on “economic liberal” items that asked about government spending on social programs, such as housing and food stamps, higher minimum wage, and fairer taxation. How did the Republicans get these folks?

While it now appears predictable that committed legal abortion opponents find their political home in the Republican Party and legal abortion advocates in the Democratic Party, the historical fact is the exact opposite. Democrats for Life, despite what the organization says on its home page, was not founded in 1997. That’s when it was re-founded.

Early abortion opponents placed their political hopes entirely in the Democratic Party. Typical is the dramatic example of Ellen McCormack, the housewife leader of the Long Island, New York “Women for the Unborn” who, knowingly quixotic, succeeded in obtaining enough registered voters to place her name in the 1975 Democratic primaries in 20 states. She qualified for matching federal funds for her primary campaigns and had her name placed in nomination for President at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, getting 22 delegate votes. In my interview with her, she said there was no possibility that the Republican Party, the party of big business and big profits, would interest itself in “saving unborn babies.”

While Reagan did succeed in having the Republican platform committee write in the promise to repeal Roe, the way it proceeded remains highly illuminative. In her “insider’s” account (The Republican War Against Women, 1996) Tanya Melich reports that most of the Republican delegates viewed Reagan’s courting of antiabortion activists as a shrewd tactic to add numbers to a declining Republican-affiliated party base.  The delegate vote on the Reagan amendment was scheduled after midnight and the debate was limited to four speakers. Melich claims that there were sufficient pro-choice delegate voters to overturn the amendment but the convention chairman, John Rhodes, a Reagan ally, called for a voice vote and then simply declared a majority vote in favor of reversing Roe. What is far more certain is that polls of those delegates showed the vast majority didn’t favor a Roe reversal.

Reagan staffed his administration with many publicly known anti-abortion activists and selected Supreme Court replacements that many felt were likely to reverse Roe. Still, during no Supreme Court confirmation hearings did any Republican nominee explicitly or unambiguously challenge the validity of Roe.

All seven of the original Roe signers are gone and Republican presidents have nominated replacements for six of the seven. Four of these six (John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy), while finding permissible—under its “without undue burden” criteria—state efforts to encourage childbirth over abortion, reaffirmed in its 1992 Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey the Roe decision and, importantly, the significance of precedence for the Courts.

So Democrats for Life, even if wondrously successful, is but a small, though necessary, step in the ongoing effort to grasp the meaning of the opposition to abortion. The routine sociological and media framing of abortion is that it is a conservative counter-movement. Few understand its core radicalism.

While in time the disentanglement of abortion social movement organizations from the increasingly unrewarding political alliance with Republican fiscal conservatives, and the movement’s gradual turn to a consistent ethic of life, will facilitate some incremental political linkages to a growing Democrats for Life, this represents but a necessary step in a return to the movement’s originating radical core principles that a resort to violence in any form is a negation of the human good.

And no principle and no term, especially in foreign affairs, is more alien to nation state sovereignty than “nonviolence.”

To see more in the series of presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)

See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

abortionconservativeshistoryliberalsprogressives


Reflections on the Charlie Gard Case

Posted on August 1, 2017 By

by John Whitehead

The legal battle over the treatment of Charlie Gard, a gravely ill baby in the United Kingdom, recently ended. Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, and the Great Ormond Street Hospital disagreed over whether to pursue an experimental medical treatment. The parents had wished to pursue the treatment, while the hospital wished to instead shut off the ventilator allowing Charlie to breathe. Charlie’s death was the likely result. Charlie’s parents gave up their efforts on July 24. Charlie’s condition had deteriorated too far for the treatment to offer them hope. The ventilator was withdrawn July 28, and Charlie died.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children

Charlie’s case attracted international attention and generated a surprising degree of controversy among pro-life opponents of euthanasia/assisted suicide, some of whom disagreed about the correct course of action in this situation (see the varying assessments of Jana Bennett, Charles Camosy, Simcha Fisher, Austen Ivereigh, Michael Redinger, and the Anscombe Bioethics Centre). These differing opinions were understandable given the case’s complexity. My own judgment is that Charlie’s parents should have been allowed to pursue that experimental treatment. The right course of action was by no means obvious, however, and neither side was necessarily approaching Charlie’s treatment in a way pro-lifers should wholly support.

Charlie’s Situation

Charlie’s medical situation was described in the first major court ruling on the case, on April 11. Charlie, born August 4, 2016, was diagnosed with infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS). This condition is extremely rare: an expert said Charlie’s case is one of only six pediatric cases she’s encountered. Infant onset is still rarer. Charlie’s condition had left him without the ability to move his arms or legs, open his eyes, or breathe on his own. He was dependent on a ventilator to breathe, and was deaf. Tests didn’t show signs of responsiveness, interaction, or other normal brain activities. Charlie also began, to suffer from seizures, indicating brain function deterioration.

Charlie’s parents learned of nucleoside therapy from Dr. Michio Hirano, an American professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center. It’s apparently had some success with a related mitochondrial disease, TK2. Yet it’s never been tried on humans or animals with Charlie’s condition . Dr. Hirano  said it’s “very unlikely that [Charlie] will improve with that therapy.”

Moreover, Dr. Hirano and the expert representing the hospital agreed Charlie’s condition was likely terminal. Hirano commented “I think he is in the terminal stage of his illness. ” The hospital expert said Charlie’s seizures suggested death might be six to nine months away.

The court found in favor of the hospital’s  application to remove the artificial ventilation and provide palliative care only, with Charlie’s death likely to follow. Charlie’s parents continued their challenges through the British court system and to the European Court of Human Rights. The courts consistently found for  the hospital and against Charlie’s parents, before the parents finally gave up their legal efforts on July 24.

European Court of Human Rights

Principles for Defending Life

Appropriate pro-life principles should guide medical care for disabled or seriously ill people:

  1. Intentionally killing someone who is sick or disabled to end that person’s suffering constitutes euthanasia and must be rejected. Intentionally aiding someone in killing herself or himself out of the same motivation constitutes assisted suicide and must also be rejected.
  2. These types of killing can be direct, such as giving someone a lethal overdose, or can be more indirect: depriving someone of water or food, for example.
  3. Depriving someone of life-saving medical care can also be a form of euthanasia or assisted suicide.
  4. Preventing euthanasia or suicide by medical deprivation doesn’t mean patients must always pursue every possible treatment. Someone might justifiably refuse a treatment because it’s too painful, invasive, expensive, or has too little chance of benefit. A terminally ill patient might refuse a burdensome treatment that will only delay (now inevitable) death.

A Question of Intent

Given both Charlie’s condition and these principles, what would have been appropriate? Reasonable arguments could be made for different approaches. Because multiple doctors thought Charlie’s condition might be terminal and the therapy unlikely to work, foregoing the therapy and removing the ventilator could be justified: the therapy was futile and the ventilator merely delayed inevitable death, possibly causing Charlie pain. Nevertheless, an argument could be made for the opposite approach. While unlikely to work, nucleoside therapy doesn’t appear to be inherently inhumane or painful , and keeping Charlie on the ventilator long enough at least to try the therapy could be justified.

Another consideration is the question of intent. Regardless of which approach was adopted, what was the rationale? The question is important because of a subtle distinction in why certain medical decisions might be made. This distinction was highlighted by Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University and Consistent Life Network endorser. His analysis and the statement of the Anscombe Centre, a Catholic bioethics organization (cited above) both inform my comments below.

To decline further medical treatment or remove life-sustaining equipment because they’re burdensome to the patient and don’t offer enough benefit is an acceptable choice. What isn’t acceptable, however, is to do so because the patient’s life is judged, for whatever reason, to be no longer worth preserving.

This unacceptable approach to medical care is sometimes defended by use of that slippery phrase “quality of life.”

Judging a person’s life to be of such low quality as not to be worth maintaining is wrong. Such a rationale opens the door to lethal discrimination against people with chronic illness or severe disabilities. Someone’s life has value even if that person is immobile, dependent on machines, unconscious, or in pain. Withholding or withdrawing medical treatment because a person’s life is deemed not worth preserving would qualify as  euthanasia. Distinguishing between euthanasia and the legitimate refusal of burdensome or futile treatment, while difficult, is necessary.

Therefore, the April 11 ruling on Charlie’s case is disturbing. The judge, Mr. Justice Francis, cited previous court rulings. One held “it is not in the interests of the child to subject it to treatment which will cause it increased suffering and produce no commensurate benefit”—a reasonable stance. Another held the need to prolong life “may be outweighed if the pleasures and the quality of life are sufficiently small and the pain and suffering or other burdens of living are sufficiently great”—a far more problematic position

A doctor whose opinion on Charlie’s condition was solicited said, “sadly, Charlie’s life is therefore limited both in quality and quantity and there is no reasonable prospect for recovery.” Francis characterized the doctor’s opinion: “in his view, the severity of his condition is such that it could be argued that Charlie would derive no benefit from continued life.” A similar view came from the hospital’s recent statement: “since his brain became affected by [his particular condition], Charlie’s has been an existence devoid of all benefit and pleasure. If Charlie has had a relationship with the world around him since his best interests were determined, it has been one of suffering.” These statements raise serious concerns about whether the choice of foregoing therapy and removing Charlie’s ventilator was made for the right reasons.

What complicated matters further—and prevented this from being merely a contest between a “right” and “wrong” approach—was that Charlie’s parents appeared to accept the notion that his quality of life didn’t justify preserving his life. In the April 11 ruling, Chris Gard said “We would not fight for the quality of life he has now . . . We truly believe that these medicines will work. After three months we would want to see improvement and, if there wasn’t, we would let go. This is not the life we want for Charlie.” In the statement Charlie’s parents made announcing the end of their legal efforts, they commented “He still responds to us, even now, but after reviewing the recent muscle MRI it was considered that Charlie’s muscles have deteriorated to the extent that it is largely irreversible . . . Were treatment to work, his quality of life would now not be one which we would want for our precious little boy.”

While Charlie’s parents, the hospital staff, and the judge might simply have been imprecise in their language, these statements leave the impression that none of the parties involved approached Charlie’s case with entirely correct principles in mind.

Teaching about Respect for Life

If we grant that either pursuing nucleoside therapy or foregoing it and removing Charlie’s ventilator could be justified, then Charlie’s parents should have been permitted to decide. Their parental rights should have taken precedence if there were no clearer reasons to prefer one course of treatment over the other. By refusing the parent’s wishes even in the face of their legal challenges—and obvious emotional torment— the hospital acted wrongly.

Nevertheless, both Charlie’s parents and the hospital made statements suggesting neither were guided by respect for life regardless of disability or illness. To view the case as a clear-cut struggle between those who championed life and those who didn’t may be an oversimplification.

One important lesson may be that to prevent another Charlie Gard case, pro-lifers not only need to consider reforms of laws or hospital policies, but also clearer public education on what principles and approaches to medical treatment are consistent with respecting life.

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See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

For a more general blog post on how to tell when euthanasia happens, plus connections to other consistent-life issues, see:

Figuring out Euthanasia: What Does it Really Mean?

 

 

 

euthanasia


Abortion and War are the Karma for Killing Animals

Posted on July 25, 2017 By

by Vasu Murti

Vasu Murti

In the tradition of offering a wide variety of consistent-life views, Vasu Murti offers a Hindu perspective, also using Christian and secular reasoning. This was originally written as a comment to our recent post, War Causes Abortion.

 

Abortion  and war are the karma for killing animals. The reincarnationist strategy for ending the abortion crisis is that we cease to kill animals.

Pythagoras warned: “Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men.”

Thomas Tryon’s lengthy The Way to Health, Wealth, and Happiness was published in 1691. Tryon defended vegetarianism as a physically and spiritually superior way of life. He came to this conclusion from his interpretation of the Bible as well as his understanding of Christianity.

Tryon, a Christian mystic, wrote against “that depraved custom of eating flesh and blood.” The opening pages of his book begin with an eloquent plea for mercy towards the animals:

Refrain at all times such foods as cannot be procured without violence and oppression, for know, that all the inferior creatures when hurt do cry and fend forth their complaints to their Maker…

Be not insensible that every creature doth bear the image of the great Creator according to the nature of each, and that He is the vital power in all things. Therefore, let none take pleasure to offer violence to that life, lest he awaken the fierce wrath, and bring danger to his own soul.

But let mercy and compassion dwell plentifully in your hearts, that you may be comprehended in the friendly principle of God’s love and holy light. Be a friend to everything that’s good, and then everything will be a friend to thee, and co-operate for thy good and welfare.

In The Way, Tryon (1634-1703) also condemned “Hunting, hawking, shooting, and all violent oppressive exercises.” On a separate occasion, he warned the first Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania that their “holy experiment” in peaceful living would fail unless they extended their Christian precepts of nonviolence to the animal kingdom: “Does not bounteous Mother Earth furnish us with all sorts of food necessary for life?” he asked. “Though you will not fight with and kill those of your own species, yet I must be bold to tell you, that these lesser violences (as you call them) do proceed from the same root of wrath and bitterness as the greater do.”

George T. Angell, founder of the Massachuse­tts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said, “I am sometimes asked, ‘Why do you spend time and money talking about kindness to animals when there is cruelty to men?’ I answer: ‘I am working at the roots.’”

“The vegetarian movement,” wrote Count Leo Tolstoy, “ought to fill with gladness the souls of all those who have at their heart the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth.”

English vegetarian Henry Salt said: “When we turn to the protection of animals, we sometimes hear it said that we ought to protect men first and animals afterwards… By condoning cruelty to animals, we perpetuate the very spirit which condones cruelty to men.”

“Although I may disagree with some of its underlying principles,” writes pro-life activist Karen Swallow Prior, “there is much for me, an anti-abortion activist, to respect in the animal rights movement.” She goes on to write:

Animal rights activists, like me, have risked personal safety and reputation for the sake of other living beings.  Animal rights activists, like me, are viewed by many in the mainstream as fanatical wackos, ironically exhorted by irritated passerby to “Get a Life!”

Animal rights activists, like me, place a higher value on life than on personal comfort and convenience, and in balancing the sometimes competing interests of rights and responsibilities, choose to err on the side of compassion and nonviolence.

The fate of the animals and the fate of man are interconnected.  (Ecclesiastes 3:19)  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said in 1974:

We simply request, “Don’t kill. Don’t maintain slaughterhouses.” That is very sinful. It brings a very awkward karmic reaction upon society. Stop these slaughterhouses. We don’t say, “Stop eating meat.” You can eat meat, but don’t take it from the slaughterhouse, by killing. Simply wait (until the animal dies of natural causes) and you’ll get the carcasses.

You are killing innocent cows and other animals – nature will take revenge. Just wait. As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them. Finished. They’ll fight among themselves – Protestants and Catholics, Russia and America, this one and that one. It is going on. Why? This is nature’s law. Tit for tat. “You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.”

They are sending animals to the slaughterhouse, and now they’ll create their own slaughterhouse. You see? Just take Belfast. The Roman Catholics are killing the Protestants, and the Protestants are killing the Catholics. This is nature’s law. It is not necessary that you be sent to the ordinary slaughterhouse. You’ll make a slaughterhouse at home. You’ll kill your own child–abortion. This is nature’s law.

In a 1979 essay entitled “Abortion and the Language of Unconsciousness,” contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William  Deadwyler) explains Srila Prabhupada’s words in terms of a secular slippery slope argument, familiar to pro-lifers:

A (spiritually) conscious person will not kill even animals (much less very young humans) for his pleasure or convenience. Certainly the unconsciousness and brutality that allows us to erect factories of death for animals lay the groundwork for our treating humans in the same way.

In the March 1982 issue of Back to Godhead, another contemporary Hindu spiritual master, Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami (Dr. Howard Resnick), comments on this shortcoming of the anti-abortion movement:

Insisting that human life begins at conception, the anti-abortion movement seeks to shock us into the awareness that abortion means killing – killing a human being rather than an animal, a bird, an insect, or a fish.

Thus although the movement calls itself “pro-life,” it is really “pro-human-life.” Its fudging with the terms “life” and “human life” reveals a disturbing assumption: that nonhuman life is somehow not actually life at all, or, if it is, then it is somehow not as “sacred” as human life and therefore not worth protecting….

If the pro-life movement can become part of a broader struggle to recognize the sacredness of all life…then undoubtedly it will attain great success.

No lay practitioner of bhakti-yoga nor ordained (initiated) with lifelong vows can take a stand against the killing of the unborn without simultaneously taking a stand against the killing of animals for food, clothing, sport, etc.

In his 1987 booklet, The New Abolitionists: Animal Rights and Human Liberation, subtitled, “An introduction to the ascendant animal rights movement, framed in the historical context of human emancipation and explained in the terminology of progressive thought and politics,” B.R. Boyd  similarly writes:

With more and more people sensing connections between the looming global violence of environmental collapse and thermonuclear war, on the one hand, and our various “localized” or specific violences of child abuse, sexual assault, class exploitation, etc., on the other, the message of the animal rights movement echoes an ancient Chinese Buddhist saying:

If you wish to know

Why there are disasters

Of armies and weapons in the world

Listen to the piteous cries

From the slaughterhouse at midnight

Whether viewed spiritually as karma or in secular, psychological terms as the natural result of our individual and collective psychic numbing to the suffering we inflict, it does seem that our violence comes back to haunt us — as we have sown, so are we reaping — and that the roots of our ecological and nuclear dilemma reach deep into our history and our psychology.

It seems increasingly clear that a thoroughgoing solution to the big problems we face will require a radical change in many of our ways of thinking and feeling and being in the world. Radical ecofeminism and some other holistic perspectives are teaching us that an integral part of that change lies in learning to balance our intellect — including clear-headed analysis, which is essential — with our emotions, integrating head and heart, and developing circular and complete relationships with the earth and her creatures, as contrasted with the separated, linear patterns and the absolute primacy of intellect over feeling and intuition that seem to typify Western patriarchal thinking.

In the April 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a consistent-life magazine, Catholic civil rights activist Bernard Broussard similarly concludes:

our definition of war is much too limited and narrow. Wars and conflicts in the human kingdom will never be abolished or diminished until, as a pure matter of logic, it includes the cessation of war between the human and animal kingdoms.

For, if we be eaters of flesh, or wearers of fur, or participants in hunting animals, or in any way use our might against weakness, we are promoting, in no matter how seemingly insignificant a fashion, the spirit of war.

The “might makes right” mentality that makes abortion possible begins with what we humans do to other animals.

Animals are like children. If you can’t see toddlers as persons, how will you ever see zygotes and embryos as persons?

Again, Pythagoras warned: “Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men.”

 

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See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

Vasu Murti also wrote our blog post Suffering and Injustice Concern Us All

He’s the author of The Liberal Case against Abortion and

They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy: Animal Rights and Vegetarianism in the Western Religious Traditions

 

 

 

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