Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Abortion is a War"

That's the word from pro-life blogger Jill Stanek over at WND. She's got some choice rhetoric (something about whores I couldn't parse and some grisly jokes about blood-stained carpets) as she dissects a recent op-ed from two pro-choice leaders in the LA Times. While most of the op-ed seems to be a fairly banal bit of soul-searching as to why the pro-choice movement is losing some steam, Stanek seems more interested in using it as a platform to bash the writers and movement as a whole:

If I were a pro-abort I'd be suicidal after reading the piece, but then again they're all so narcissistic or secretly afraid they really are going to hell I doubt that will happen.

Wow. That was... random.

Stanek also accuses the writers of the op-ed of inconsistency.
while they said on one hand, "We support a public discussion of the moral dimensions of abortion," they said on the other, "Pro-choice forces must adjust to regain the moral high ground." If they agree some part of abortion is morally problematic, how can it be morally superior?

Clearly Stanek isn't Jewish, where moral ambiguity pops up all the time. It's quite simple, Jill. You can acknowledge that there are sticky issues with abortion- exactly where does life begin, is it moral to privilege an actual life over a potential life, what are justifiable reasons (and less justifiable ones) to terminate a pregnancy, etc... and yet still conclude that, despite all these issues and concerns, that abortions being legal and visible is still far preferable to driving the practice underground, or criminalizing an entire swath of medical practitioners, to say nothing of women patients.
And how could they call for fresh ideas when they regurgitated tired old lines such as this one in their very opening paragraph: "The Supreme Court affirmed in Roe vs. Wade that women have a fundamental right to choose abortion without government interference"?

First, I think they're saying they want new ideas on how to present their case. This is just as disingenuous as saying, "How can the Republicans say they want an honest discussion on how to argue for new Tax Cuts and then reject my idea about going Communist?"

Second, it may just be me, but both the pro-life and pro-choice camps seem like they're significantly tapped out when it comes to new ideas. How many different times and ways can we argue over what a fetus is and how to count it? (And in any event I wouldn't be throwing stones about tired old lines when you're going on about how abortion-supporters are narcissistic.)

Stanek concludes by bitch-slapping some would-be pro-lifers' attempt to dialogue:

I am concerned that some on our side see Michelman and Kissling's piece as some sort of mea culpa, and pro-lifers should stand ready to hold hands with them singing "Kumbaya." Wrote Steve at the Stand to Reason blog:
It appears from their article that Kissling and Michelman are calling for an internal discussion of the effective pro-life challenges they've highlighted, but I would encourage them to go further. Talk to pro-life advocates about them. We're ready to listen, understand and build common ground first in order to really hear your concerns and perspective.
I for one will never try to "build common ground" with the abortion industry. There is no common ground. The culture of death is the sworn enemy of the culture of life. This is a war, a clash of civilizations.
I do stand ready to dialogue with those in the mushy middle who don't understand the abortion cartel's agenda. But we will never have a meeting of the minds on abortion.

Well that's a relief. Now I don't have to invite Jill Stanek to any of my abortion tupperware parties. Though it is a little strange to hear the "clash of civilizations" patter again. I hope she isn't planning on any Jihad stuff.

Anyway, this reminded me of one of Toby Katz's (comparatively) better columns from last November in which she noted how the traditional Jewish view of abortion doesn't really jive with either camp.
Many people think that Jews and Christians are on the same page on these issues, but it isn’t so, and it’s our own fault, because we have been such passive and silent allies to the pro-life movement, rarely telling anyone what Judaism actually teaches about when life begins or when the soul enters a fetus.
In truth we have many good reasons to ally ourselves with religious believers in the pro-life movement, because the “pro-choice” movement is so horrendously murderous and immoral. The entire point of the pro-choice movement is to guarantee “sex with no consequences”—in fact, you could put that on a bumper sticker, it sums up the whole pro-choice agenda. Despite our disagreements with conservative Christians about stem-cell research, IVF and the morning-after pill—despite those issues, we appreciate that at least Christians recognize the sanctity of life.
They might be wrong about the sanctity of an eight-celled blastocyst but they are fundamentally right about the larger issue that is tearing American society apart—the wholesale slaughter of millions and millions of babies each year, some well past the point of viability.
We Jews need to speak up about this, about where we agree and where we disagree.
But it isn’t enough for us to pipe up and say, “Well, no, Jewish theology is not the same as Christian theology, we don’t agree with them about this or that detail.” We have to be an active PART of the pro-life movement, we have to be more vocal and involved with it. We can’t just be another bunch of kibitzers from the sidelines, heckling the good Christians and telling them they’re wrong about this, that and the other. We also have to be seen as allies and supporters of the pro-life movement, so that our voices can be heard WITHIN that movement. We have to honor the pro-life movement and thank the foot soldiers who have fought so bravely and so untiringly, in the face of vilification and bile, to keep alive in America the very notion of the sanctity of life.

Frankly, I'm not sure that Orthodox Jews SHOULD be trying to associate themselves deeply with the pro-life movement, given how dominated that group seems to be by conservative Christians, particularly given that OJ's views are significantly different from those of most pro-life Christians (as noted here and here by DovBear).

Don't get me wrong, Toby Katz should feel free to align herself with any political or cultural organization she wants to. But I can't help thinking that this particular decision has more to do with her own political affiliation (and corollary feelings of, shall we say, hostility, towards her opponents) than an honest evaluation of exactly where OJ's position lies.

No, Orthodox Jews shouldn't just be sniping from the sidelines. But they should also be honest that at the end of the day, the Jewish position isn't really pro-choice or pro-life, and as such, any decision to implant themselves within either camp is problematic, to say the least. If Toby Katz thinks that she's actually making a substantial impact by being a clarifier of the "authentic Jewish position" within the pro-life movement (where most people, let's be honest, neither know nor care about what the Jews think), she's just as deluded as any counterparts she might have among the pro-choicers. Not to be unkind, but the whole prospect seems incredibly naive.

I'm not saying Jews can't participate in this debate. I know I do. But I don't use the Torah as a proof-text, and I don't claim to be speaking for "the Jews." In this case, Torah is actually more nuanced than either of these modern-day ideologies. To pretend otherwise does our tradition a disservice.

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