The struggles of a catholic progressive

In my view, there is no question that a child is a child whether living in or out of the womb.  Modern science tells us that, we can see it with out own eyes very early on, and I believe the tenets of Christianity teach that.  For me, if I were a women, I cannot imagine aborting a child of mine except under the most difficult circumstances.

Yet, I am not a woman.  I would never, under any circumstances, feel entitled to force my opinion on another responsible adult.  I may discuss options, share beliefs, read from scripture and church doctrine.  But let’s think about what we are talking about here when we say we believe the law should prohibit an abortion.

That means that if a majority of the representatives in the legislature believe that I should not have a medical procedure, then, whether my doctor, husband, or myself  agree or not, I am subject to the terrors that may accompany that decision whether I like it or not.

We don’t do that to our worst criminals.  And becoming pregnant is not a crime in this country under any circumstance.  So if we restrict the pregnant persons ability to choose what to do, we are saying that the rights of the child, once conceived, supercede the rights of the mother.

Laws that force women to bear children not only rob women of their bodily integrity but make women, as a class, involuntary servants to fetuses.  Since only women can become pregnant, only women are affected by laws that dictate whether and under what conditions childbearing should occur. By limiting only women’s right to make personal decisions, laws that prohibit or restrict abortion discriminate on the basis of sex in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

We just don’t accept that kind of inequity in this day and age.  In fact, we call it crime when women are discriminated against because of their gender.  As a Christian, I am very aware that Jesus placed no different value on men than he did women, and I know he said to let the children come to him.  He did not say let the boys come to me, but to heck with the girls.

It is no surprise that in the Catholic Church, the hierarchy still treats women as second class citizens.  It is shameful.  I am of the opinion that if there had been some women watching over things, there would have been a lot fewer child molesters in the priesthood.

The Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution guarantees individuals the right to all citizens personal autonomy, which means that a person’s decisions regarding his or her personal life are none of the government’s business. That right, which is part of the right to privacy, encompasses decisions about parenthood, including a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to complete or terminate a pregnancy, as well as the right to use contraception, freedom from forced sterilization and freedom from employment discrimination based on childbearing capacity.

There are reasons why the laws have developed the way they have; because in the past there has been tyranny based on gender and race.  The Bill of Rights guarantees that fundamental rights cannot be abrogated by the will of the majority. For example, even if the majority of a state’s citizens wanted to ban the practice of Catholicism, the constitutional right to free exercise of religion would forbid the legislature from enacting such a ban.

Similarly, the privacy right that encompasses reproductive freedom, including the choices of abortion and contraception, cannot be overruled by referenda or legislation.

Moreover, we learned during the years before Roe v. Wade how women suffered in states where abortion was illegal. Affluent women were able to obtain safe abortions by traveling to states where they were legal, while poor, rural and young women — a disproportionate number of them women of color — were left to dangerous, back-alley abortions or forced childbirth. Such discriminatory conditions are unacceptable.

Our courts have always held that the government cannot compel an individual to use his or her body as an instrument for preserving people who are already born, much less for preserving a fetus in the womb. For example, the government cannot force a relative of a child afflicted with cancer to donate bone marrow or an organ to the child, even if the child is sure to die without the donation.

Obviously, if the state cannot force someone to undergo a bone marrow or organ transplant for a person already born, it cannot force a woman to continue a pregnancy that might entail great health risks for the sake of a fetus. As the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stated in a 1989 decision, “surely a fetus cannot have rights superior to those of a person who has already been born.”

Enforcement of the idea that a fetus has legal rights superseding those of the woman who carries it would make pregnant women second-class citizens with fewer rights, and more obligations, than others. Moreover, application of the “fetal rights” concept has already had devastating effects on women’s right to bodily integrity. For example, cancer patient Angela Carder, forced by the District of Columbia Superior Court to undergo a caesarean delivery of her 26-week-old fetus, died prematurely as a result. Under the banner of “fetal rights,” pregnant women have been prosecuted for failing to follow medical advice, and even for failing to get to a hospital quickly enough after the onset of labor. The concept also inspired industrial employers to adopt “fetal protection” policies, whereby the capacity to become pregnant, and pregnancy itself, became the bases for closing off certain jobs to all women of childbearing age who refused to be sterilized. Fortunately, the Supreme Court struck down this discriminatory  practice in a 1991 decision.

“One’s right to life, liberty…. free speech…. freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” — (1943 Supreme Court decision in West Virginia State Board of Elections v. Barnette)

By the same token, it appears to me that no matter how many times the population of a state votes against “homosexual marriage,” it will always be overturned because of the Equal Protection Clause.  I may not like it, and can continue to believe that homosexuality is wrong, but as long as no one is forcing me to participate, it is not up to me.

So, yes, because we live in a country where our freedoms and rights are protected by the Constitution, the law, and the courts, I will want as president and as my representatives in the legislature those who will commit to protecting the freedoms guaranteed for all, even if I personally believe the way some people live their lives is wrong.  I can express my opinion, but no one can force others to do things their way without it being tyranny.

What would really be tyranny would be if people were forced to have abortions, such as in China.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Martin Niemoller


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