Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whose life is more valuable?

I seldom wax political on these pages, although if you browse a bit through past posts you'll find a few. There are others who relish the flapping of the red cape at the bull far more than I.

But the recent murder of George Tiller as he was ushering during a church service got to me. He was cold-bloodedly murdered because he performed late-term abortions in his Kansas clinic. Despite other attempts to shut the clinic down and intimidate both the doctor and his staff, Tiller kept it open to help the desperate women from around the world who seek the procedure.

Reasons for late-term abortions are usually because of some horrible genetic problem in the fetus, and they are rare. More than 90 percent of the abortions performed in the US are first trimester. The decision to have an abortion after that is not easy, nor is it simple to find a facility.

There are many well-known columnists who have opined about the killing, including Ellen Goodman, Deborah King on the Huffington Post, even Time Magazine. As always in abortion-related violence and acts of terrorism against providers and even clients, the pro-life folks are claiming shock at the act, saying that there are other ways to bring providers to justice. But one must wonder if there isn't also some jumping up and down with glee.

I'm not expressing anything new here. Simply put, I am completely baffled by how such an act of violence and murder can be justified by anyone, most especially by groups who claim that ending a pregnancy for any reason, including to save the life of the mother, is wrong. Period.

I do not understand how to justify putting an unborn fetus first in the life of a family -- a mother, certainly, a father, perhaps other children, an extended family -- over the health of either the mother or the fetus, over economic hardship caused to all as a result of a gravely impaired fetus, over certain extensive medical expenses, and over the grief and pain and suffering of all, including what would be a drastically handicapped infant.

Do the other lives then count for nothing? Once born, are we then disposable? Are our lives useful only to the extent that we become incubators for fetuses, no matter how handicapped or how grave a prognosis there might be for it if carried to term? What of the existing lives of the mother, the other children? Are they inconsequential when measured against the life of one yet unborn?

If life is sacred, how does one equivocate the existence of a fetus with the life of a person? Which is the more valuable? And who makes that call?

Pro-choice does not mean proabortion. I have actively been prochoice for years, marching in picket lines, testifying before a state legislature, even lobbying on Capital Hill. Long ago in Missouri, I represented the prochoice viewpoints of various Christian denominations to legislators, voters, and the public. Does that mean I favor abortion? No. Nor did anyone with whom I worked or met during that time.

Tiller provided a compassionate, legal service to desperate women and their families, one which he knew was risky at the least. That he would be gunned down during his own time of worship is -- indeed, MUST be -- intolerable to anyone who believes in love, who believes in a compassionate, caring God, and who values all life.

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