Saturday, 4 April 2015

The reader dialogue continues--trauma-informed practice

A professional colleague of mine contributed to this series of posts by positing that harm reduction could be a justifiable reason for allowing the abortion choice to remain. Another reader strongly rejected that view. Now reader one has submitted further reasoning for his position. S/he prefers to remain anonymous but extends permission for the response to be published.

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 In your previous post there is the assertion that a harm reduction approach MUST centre on an assumption that the unborn child is somehow morally subhuman (or at least less human than the unborn child's mother). I don't think this is the case at all. I posed the issue of abortion as an ethical dilemma... which necessarily requires that two moral imperatives be in conflict - and therefore whatever the choice, significant harm will unarguably come. Of course, if a woman carrying a baby who intended to have an abortion changes her mind (as in the anecdote you share in this post) - there's arguably no harm there. But I would argue that harm is not only in what happens, but also in how it happens.

In my last response I brought up the possible connection between this issue and the concept of harm reduction, now I'll bring forward the possible connection with "trauma-informed practice".

The basic concept behind trauma-informed practice is that people who have experienced significant trauma have nervous systems that, for good reasons, are tuned up to be hyper alert - enabling them to go into flight or fight mode (thus turning off their executive reasoning) at the first sign of danger.

The basic tenants, then, of trauma-informed practice are safety, collaboration, and, yes... choice. Why choice? Because anyone - but particularly anyone who has experienced significant trauma - will begin to feel threatened and cornered if they sense that they don't have choice or that someone is aiming to take their freedom to choose - their autonomous, easy exit - away from them. And at that point - the point where their amygdala fires them into a flight or fight response -  not only have we lost our ability to interact with that person's executive reasoning - they have too.

It is called "trauma-informed practice," rather than something like "responding to trauma" because trauma is actually much more common than our culture really lets on about, but, more importantly, because both we and a person who has experienced significant trauma may not ever have the chance to become aware of it - or of its effects (and therefore the necessity to respond to it). So trauma-informed practice would suggest that we treat everyone as if they had the propensities of a person who has experienced significant trauma... and offer them explicit safety, collaborative opportunities, and choice.

Doing so doesn't and will not resolve these ethical dilemmas between moral imperatives, but it will give everyone... most importantly the woman carrying the unborn baby... a fighting chance to be supported through an ethical decision-making process, which may include the kinds of information sharing that your anecdotal example in this post points to... but ALL in a process where choice is made EXPLICIT, and where signs of fight or flight are looked for and responded to assiduously... and as if someone's life depended on it... because it arguably does.

Just more food for thought, and I look forward, as always, to any response.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Real life harm reduction--Jade's story

Meet Jade. She was a firm believer in a woman's right to chose, and had strongly positive feelings about abortion as a means of dealing with certain life challenges. Nevertheless, finding herself unexpectedly pregnant, she came into a crisis pregnancy centre, Hope for Women* in Abbotsford B.C. (http://www.hopeforwomen.ca/), wondering what her options were, but truly believing that only one option was viable--abortion. What happened after that didn't just reduce harm--it magnified good.

Jade in her own words:




Jade was astonished, and deeply troubled, to learn that she was pregnant. It simply didn't fit with her plans, with her relationships, with her self-image, with her life.

How did Jade see herself as being in harm's way?
  • Self-esteem: "I thought that I was the only one going through this. I thought that I was a horrible person for getting pregnant."
  • Relationships: "[I thought] that my relationship (i.e., with her boyfriend, the father of the pre-born child) was going to fall through, and that my parents were disappointed with me.
  • School and career: "I thought that [going to university to study criminology and become a police officer) was not going to be possible."
  • Plans for her life: "[I thought] that my life was over...if I kept it (i.e., the child)."
Looking back, Jade concluded that had she not been made aware of other options resulting from her visit to Hope for Women, she would have definitely procured an abortion.

What changed? Why did Jade decide that hers was not the way of harmful results after all?

First, her misconceptions and lack of knowledge about fetal development:
  • Before: "I remember always thinking that if I got an abortion early in my pregnancy, it wouldn't matter because I didn't consider them a baby." [Note: The standard line among those who urge the procurement of abortions is that in the early weeks and months of fetal development, there is no baby present but merely a clump of cells.]
  • After: "By the time I went to Hope for Women, my baby had a heartbeat, and there's no denying that's a baby, that's a living thing with a heartbeat. I didn't know that." 
Second, her personal values:
  • Before: "This is coming from someone who was very pro-abortion."
  • After: "I knew deep down inside, after talking to [my counselor, Elizabeth, at Hope for Women], that I didn't want an abortion even though my whole life I thought I would."
Third, her experience of pregnancy and viewing an ultrasound:
  • "When you feel the first kick, when you see their face on the ultrasound for the first time, it really changes your perspective.
 Fourth, her relationships:
  • "Her daddy, my fiance, is loving every second of it. My parents are so excited to be grandparents."
Fifth, her future:
  • I'm planning to go back to school, which I thought was not going to be possible after becoming pregnant. Pregnancy is not the end of me; it is the beginning of a new chapter. Pregnancy is not a death sentence."
From thinking that she was seriously in harm's way, with her future in tatters if she did not abort, Jade came to this conclusion: "I decided to keep the baby. It was the best decision I ever made."

Jade's story has that fairy-tale quality to it--all her fears were overcome, everything she thought would go wrong went right instead, and she can't imagine life without her beautiful baby girl.

But it does not go this way for everyone. Other women and girls in crisis pregnancies have much different experiences. I will finally get around to looking at various agencies who deal with the Jades of this world, and look at the many ways in which standing in the way of harm has made a difference. 
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*Full disclosure: I am a member of the board of Advokate Education and Life Services (https://lifecollective.io/advokate/), a non-profit society in Abbotsford BC that runs Hope for Women Pregnancy Services.



Friday, 20 March 2015

Harm reduction--my take

So we have one reader's post (http://johnonlife.blogspot.ca/2015/03/harm-reduction-argument-for-keeping.html)--let's call him "Stan"-- saying that he finds some of my life-oriented reasoning to be persuasive, but feels that he has to hang on to the availability of abortion for those instances where a woman appears to be putting herself in unacceptable harm's way by not having the choice of terminating the pregnancy.

These are not the ravings of an ideologue. Now Judy Rebick, former leader of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, she's an ideologue. This is what she says, in this case in reference to Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May's view on abortion as found in my post of March 13/15 (http://johnonlife.blogspot.ca/2015/03/who-put-crisis-in-crisis-pregnancies.html):


Elizabeth May:   
She believes that “all life is sacred” but that if Canada criminalize abortions “women would seek out whatever butcher they could find…and they would die horrible deaths.” She goes on to say “I’ve talked women out of having abortions. I would never have an abortion myself.” Her approach would be to “have a different kind of conversation? What kind of programs and strategies do we need to reduce the number of legal abortions take place?” 

Judy Rebick (in response to Ms May): 


There is no middle ground on the abortion issue as you are no doubt finding out. The organized opposition to abortion in this country as in the United States does not care if women die... I personally have debated right-to-lifers for 30 years. There is no dialogue here. They put the life of a foetus above the rights and even the lives of women. Whether or not you agree with this, by raising the issue in the way that you did, you contribute to their position... We had a debate on abortion in this country for decades. Raising the need for further debate as you have done is a serious error in judgment and in the unlikely possibility that Stephen Harper wins a majority in the next election, you could have done irreparable harm.

Rebick refers to a woman's right to choose as "the most important victory of the women's movement of my generation". She also ripped up her financial contribution to the Green Party.

Other pro-abortionists also weighed in on May's position:

1. “I think I was most disgusted when May bragged about giving medical advice to young women she’s totally and completely unqualified to give.”

2. “Elizabeth May is a garden tool and an embarrassment to womankind. An abortion is not a tragedy, it is a medical procedure. Nothing more and nothing less.”

3. “The zygote does not have the same rights as the pregnant woman. No. The zygote has no rights. It doesn’t even get last rites. It doesn’t have citizenship. Most are flushed before there is anything anyone in their right mind would call “life”. The zygote is a parasite living off the body resources of the hostess. And if she is unwilling to be the hostess the parasite has no rights at all.”
 
But the response to "Stan" from Advokate Life and Education Services dismisses the idea of harm reduction as a justification for abortion in even a small number of cases (http://johnonlife.blogspot.ca/2015/03/in-my-last-post-i-published-thoughts-of.html). 

What's my take? Well, I see no point in being distracted by the extremists like Ms Rebick and her ilk. Countless rigorous polls of Canadian women's attitudes regarding abortion indicate that the critics cited above are out of step with what women believe and want. At best only about 30% of women believe that Canada's current regimen of abortion-on-demand is the right position. Knee-jerk ideology, totally lacking in creativity or empathy, is of no value in solving life's problems. 

But the remaining 70% or more of Canadian women believe either that placing various restrictions on abortion (e.g., not past first trimester, not without prior counseling, not without looking at an ultrasound first, etc.) is legitimate, or that abortion should not be permitted at all. What can we learn from the pro-choicers in this group (and I would number "Stan" among them)?

Well, the glaring middle ground that jumps out is, of course, the issue of harm reduction. None of us wants harm to come to women in crisis pregnancies*. Whether we believe in limited abortion or no abortion, the concern is the same. The difference is in how to reduce the harm. 

I'm going to give you a practical case study, complete with video, in my next post on how this was accomplished by a crisis pregnancy centre.  

P.s. Sorry for how crummy this post looks. Blogspot is not always a perfect host in terms of the appearance of the drafts I publish. 

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*It's fair to say that the official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that the Church bans abortions which directly cause the death of a fetus. Therefore, if it is determined that carrying a pre-born child to term will or might cause the mother to die or be significantly harmed, the Church will still urge the woman to carry the child rather than abort. This position is not typically taken by other Christians. Indeed, a large number of Catholics don't hold to it either. Nor is it my position. To put things into perspective, less than 5% of abortions are performed for reasons of rape, incest, or physical harm to the mother.   
 



Thursday, 19 March 2015

Harm reduction argument for abortion rejected by reader

In my last post, I published the thoughts of a reader who raised "harm reduction" as a defensible justification for abortion. I invited other readers to respond. What follows is a post, this from Advokate Life and Education Services, that critiques the harm reduction argument.

Once again I encourage readers to take advantage of the opportunity at the bottom of each post to leave comments. Let's keep this dialogue going. Thanks.

_______________________________________________________

 2 thoughts on the Harm Reduction argument:

1) It's question begging.  You must assume an unborn child is, in some way, sub-human to make that argument or else the harm-reduction argument is non-sense.  By way of analogy: in the Canadian north, infanticide used to be practiced by leaving the baby out in the cold (usually females) to die of exposure.  Let's imagine that, occasionally, under severe sub-zero temperatures, hiking into a remote area to leave your baby to die would put the mother at risk and in rare cases some women actually died of exposure themselves.  Would it be reasonable to set-up facilities where women could safely leave their infant girls to die without any risk to themselves?  Absolutely not. That would be monstrous.

But that's exactly what harm reductionists are arguing for, unless they believe that an embryo or a fetus is somehow less of a human than an infant.  In that case, their argument is not one of harm reduction at all, their argument is one of the moral status of the unborn and the harm reduction argument is simply a question-begging red-herring.

2) It is an urban legend that 1000s of women were dying from illegal abortions prior to abortion's legalization. Before the advent of modern medicine, particularly penicillin, many women did die.  But it was not legalizing abortion that suddenly made them "safe", it was modern medical advances. Pro-choice lobbyists intentionally fabricated the number of women dying from illegal abortions to get the procedure legalized.  Those who assert that legalized abortion would decrease harm to women have the burden of proof.  Without controversy, legalized abortion increases harm to unborn children.  

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Harm reduction--An argument for keeping abortions legal?

 I have a warm professional acquaintance who, much to my surprise, indicated recently that he reads my posts. I must say that I was gobsmacked. I have never discussed life issues with him, and obviously had no idea as to the nature of his views. 
 
He recently left the comment below on one of my posts in this series I'm doing on engaging with the broader culture and finding common ground with those who take the pro-choice label. I would very much be interested in the views of other readers on what he has to say. 

Please take advantage of the comments section at the bottom of the post to indicate your views. Thanks.

_______________________________________________________
 
 
John, always enjoy reading your posts. I would say that your explanation of the rationales behind the pro-choice lens leaves out the one and only reason I support so-call "choice," and that is harm reduction. 
 
The fact is that women do have a choice, whether that choice is legal or not (in the same way that drug users have a choice)... what they may lack if abortion were illegal would be safer options for exercising that choice. 
 
If I could somehow be assured that every woman for whom carrying a pregnancy to term is unthinkable (and I think we could agree that this does happen, just as staying off of illegal drugs under certain circumstances - intense chronic pain and negative history with doctors, for example - may be unthinkable to some) would be provided adequate support to make the circumstance thinkable. 
 
Do I think that will ever happen? Probably not. Do I think we can do a lot better - and thereby further reduce the number of abortions - absolutely. I think there are a lot of opportunities for uncovering more collaborative (if not necessarily common) ground between harm reductionists (like me) and pro-lifers... that would reduce the number of abortions. 
 
My dilemma is as moral as the pro-lifer's, I think. But it's more conflicted... thus essentially making it an ethical matter (between two moral ones). I keep an open mind to collaborating with the efforts and resources of those who are trying to prevent abortions for whatever reason - my ethics demand it... but must try to ascertain if they are going to stick their heads in the sand - or worse - if (and sadly when) all efforts of support fail to render circumstances thinkable quickly enough. 
 
I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on the harm reduction aspect of medical abortions.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Man I (don't) feel like a woman (with apologies to Shania Twain)

Shania Twain is one of Canada's famous exports to the broader culture of music. I am the furthest thing from a C & W fan, but I do find myself humming her music occasionally.

One of my favourites from among her repertoire of hits is Man, I Feel Like a Woman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJL4UGSbeFg). I find the title quite creative, and the tune is terrific.

Nevertheless, the lyrics in one sense are a bit disconcerting to me. Like so much modern music written or performed by women, it's focus is often related to men, what they think (or don't think), male-female relationships, etc.

[Shania performs in front of an all-male band of perfect young specimens in skin-tight shirts, one of whom licks his lips as she disrobes to further reveal her charms.]

Oh, oh, oh, go totally crazy-forget I'm a lady
Men's shirts-short skirts
Oh, oh, oh, really go wild-yeah, doin' it in style
Oh, oh, oh, get in the action-feel the attraction
Color my hair-do what I dare
Oh, oh, oh, I wanna be free-yeah, to feel the way I feel
Man! I feel like a woman!

Don't get me wrong. I am a typical male with a full appreciation for the fairer sex, etc., etc. I'm not saying that Shania's lyrics are weird in any way. I simply feel that too much of people's self-worth is tied up in what others think of them, and so, in looking for approval, may even cause them to act in ways that can pose certain risks. 

But beyond this, I also feel that in the deeply nuanced world of womankind, relationships and the pressures that come with them bring challenges that oblivious males can have little appreciation for.

I was reminded of this again in reading an article having to do with Quebec's in vitro fertilization laws (see http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/03/12/vardit-ravitsky-banning-ivf-for-quebec-women-over-42-is-ivf-is-good-old-fashioned-paternalism/). The author makes what was for me a startling and revealing comment:

The decision when to have a child is very personal. It is also widely acknowledged that women today are under tremendous social pressures to “be responsible,” complete their education and establish financial and relationship stability prior to starting a family. Having a child later in life is not always a mere preference; often it is the result of how our current social structure limits the choices open to women. But by the time it is “socially responsible” to have a child, it may become biologically challenging. Our fertility declines and we are racing against our biological clocks. This is precisely when some need the assistance of IVF to conceive (emphasis added).

I can't help reflecting on an earlier era when social structures were much different. I am the oldest of six children. My parents married shortly after WW2, and I was born 9 1/2 months later. My three
oldest siblings arrived in quick order, every two years thereafter. When sibling number four arrived, Mom was 27 years old. A secretary in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service during the war, she never worked outside the home again once she was married. Her story was far from atypical among us of the early Baby Boomer generation--in fact, it was more or less what people expected of new wives.

But now, if the author I quoted is to be believed, women have one more pressure heaped on them that affects the child-bearing question--what is considered to be the responsible thing to do, given the high importance for women of education, fulfilling jobs, financial security etc. Such matters never crossed my mother's mind. A typical comment from that era would be something like, "Well, if you waited 'til you could afford it to have children (or even, to get married) you'd never do it."

Now I'm not yearning for older, simpler, better times here. I'm only reflecting on how things change, and that changes bring new challenges and complications. As our culture and the worldview that comes with it evolves, issues have to be looked at from a different perspective.

Going back to my earlier posts, then, what do we have?
  1.  Perhaps the most troubling reality is that two-thirds of women who decide to have abortions (according to statistics from pro-choice sources) do so for people other than themselves; e.g., threatening and abusive boyfriends, uncooperative husbands, embarrassed families, hard-hearted employers, inflexible school administrators, moralistic churches, etc.
  2. Pregnant women in crisis often feel that their options are slim-to-none; e.g., no affordable day-care, insufficient means, no partner in their life, nowhere to live if family isn't cooperative, and so on. 
  3. Lack of resources available through government agencies or non-profits that might help women clarify their situation and consider options that they didn't even know existed.
  4. A feeling that adoption is a poor choice, either because they have done all this work and get nothing out of it, or that they have in some way failed by giving up the child. 
  5. Men who do not understand these pressures and do little to address them, either by being irresponsible and undisciplined in their relationships with women, or in ignoring a woman's reality when they are in a position to do something (e.g., politicians who don't create the necessary social policies).
  6. Media that sexualize women and male-female relationships in ways that creates unreasonable expectations and can lead to highly regrettable results, including crisis pregnancies.
  7. And now, social pressure that comes from the prevailing worldview that other things are more important, or that they are just as important, placing significant inner pressure on the woman.
Many non-profit societies that are part of what I have been calling the "life sub-culture" are in a position to address at least some of these issues for women in crisis. But unfortunately our public face is, rightly or wrongly, such a judgmental, moralistic one that we would not even be considered by the very people who could use our help. That is to say, we're lacking street cred.

Colleagues, it is time to become much more understanding and empathetic in our dealings with the modern woman, and far more sophisticated and strategic in posing solutions.










Friday, 13 March 2015

Who put the crisis in crisis pregnancies? Ask Elizabeth May

In my last post, I deliberately quoted Hillary Clinton, despite the animus of many in the life camp toward her, because of her strong desire to dramatically reduce the abortion rate and to urge women to consider other options.

A similar position is taken by Canadian politician Elizabeth May. Like Ms Clinton, Elizabeth May is on the center-left side of the political spectrum (she is the federal leader of the Canadian Green Party and is a member of Parliament). Both women are professing Christians (Methodist and Anglican respectively). Here is Ms May's party's take on the desirability of abortion:

The Green Party's policy is described as “pro-life, pro-choice”, confirming support for legal safe abortions, while also finding ways to support women who find themselves facing economic hardship and wanting to have a child.

(Ms May speaking) “Some feminist scholars have pointed out that the slogan 'right to choose' focuses on too narrow a context. What are a woman's real rights in society? Where are our economic rights? While a woman must have the right to terminate a pregnancy, what of the larger context? What about the on-going struggle to create a truly equal relationship of sexual equality that might (would) help avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place? What about the responsibility of both sexual partners to avoid unwanted pregnancy (and while on the topic, to avoid sexually transmitted diseases that would be reduced through use of condoms)? I believe that respectful dialogue is possible even around such an emotionally charged issue as this. Not every opponent of legal abortions is unthinking. Neither is every supporter of legal abortion unwilling to acknowledge the moral complexity of the issue. Some common ground could be found, I believe, when the discussion shifts to a broader context” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_May#Stance_on_abortion).

[Despite the above, May's personal view has raised the ire of many hard-core pro-choice people:
Her position is simple. She believes that “all life is sacred” but that if Canada criminalizes abortions “women would seek out whatever butcher they could find…and they would die horrible deaths.” She goes on to say “I’ve talked women out of having abortions. I would never have an abortion myself.” 

Her approach would be to “have a different kind of conversation? What kind of programs and strategies do we need to reduce the number of legal abortions taking place?” I think this the approach the anti-abortion folks should take. I think criminalization of abortion is a poor strategy. It is unlikely to happen, it comes with serious baggage, and I‘m not sure how effective it would be (http://graceworks.ca/?p=604)

One prominent pro-choice spokesperson replied with heat: “Elizabeth May is a garden tool
and an embarrassment to womankind. An abortion is not a tragedy, it is a medical procedure. Nothing more and nothing less.”
]


Now, look at my last post, where I quote a guest columnist who is also a professing Christian but identifies with the life culture, and consider the factors she posits as contributing to crisis pregnancies, and often to terminations:
  • The [hyper-sexualized media] message is: women exist for men. It's called female subordination. Pregnancy is not part of the message. Male responsibility is not mentioned. 
  • Women have been streamed into low wage jobs.
  • Maternity benefits and child care provisions are still poor.
  • Child care subsidies are inadequate.
  • Adoption, the alternative proffered by many pro-life people, is also anti-life, particularly if the adoption is closed. It ignores the child's lifelong feelings of abandonment as well as the mother's pain.
  • A truly pro-life society would work on male responsibility, different socialization, better wages for women, more affordable regulated child care programs, and improved income assistance. 
I have no doubt that both Clinton and May would agree wholeheartedly.
 
Now I ask again, as I have at different points in this series on engaging culture, Why isn't the life culture more concerned about the matters raised above, and less on placard waving? Because it's very hard, long-term, potentially expensive, strategic work. It requires cultural engagement, a thick skin, a high tolerance for setbacks and ambiguity, and satisfaction with small wins while never resting until the final objective is obtained.

Sounds a lot like William Wilberforce, doesn't it?
 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Crisis pregnancy - Lessons from Hillary Clinton

Hilary Clinton, former U.S. first lady, former U.S. senator, former U.S. Secretary of State, and quite possibly future U.S. President (with Bill as First Dude), said this about abortion in a speech to the National Abortion Rights Action league:

I think abortion should remain legal, but it needs to be safe and rare. And I have spent many years now, as a private citizen, as first lady, and now as senator, trying to make it rare, trying to create the conditions where women had other choices (emphasis added).

Hilary Clinton is pro-choice, but she is not pro-abortion. She wants to bring the abortion rate down dramatically. Her goal is to create the conditions where women have other choices than abortion.


The founder of the National Women's Coalition for Life, Jeannie W. French, was not very far removed from Ms Clinton's statement when she said:

The answer to a crisis pregnancy is to eliminate the crisis, not the child.

Call me crazy, but I see a good deal of common ground there. Sure, the two spokespeople won't agree on the moral acceptability of abortion. But they agree big time on desirable options to eliminate the crises that often lead to the termination of pregnancies.

The issue for us in the life camp, however, is to first define what a crisis pregnancy is, and then to look at options.

Or we can stand on the sidelines and call for change to legislation and/or make moralistic judgments about women like Hillary Clinton. To put it another way, we can engage the culture or we can live outside of it.

So let's begin by defining just what a crisis is. For that, I want to post a guest column I first ran in this blog in 2007. It is an anonymous post, but I know the woman who wrote it, and I can affirm that she is pro-life. Yet her experience with women and girls in crisis has led her to certain conclusions, some of which you may find surprising. She also has some options to suggest.

________________________________________________________

Who put the crisis in crisis pregnancy?

WE did, as a society. We are a male-dominant individualistic instant-gratification society, and our media have promoted irresponsible sexuality along with myths of romance that obscure real-life consequences. Then we have not made adequate provisions for the victims of our societal choices: the pregnant women and their children.

First of all we raise girls to be hyper sexual. We put our little girls in tiny bikinis. We allow our pre-teens to dress like prostitutes. Ads on TV and in print present young women as sexual prizes for men who can afford an expensive car. Male publishers (and female ones too) market women as sexually available to anyone anytime. The message is: women exist for men. It's called female subordination. Pregnancy is not part of the message. Male responsibility is not mentioned.

So a pregnancy can be a crisis in the relationship. He never meant to be a father. She was not raised to support herself and her child(ren).

Societally, women have been streamed into low wage jobs, and although feminists have worked hard to change that, women's wages, even for those who can work full time full year, still average 70% of men's.

In addition, maternity benefits and child care provisions are still poor. For every small improvement, there seems to be a setback and except for Quebec, there aren't enough accessible regulated programs affordable to average income women. Child care subsidies are inadequate. Mr. Harper's government offered a taxable benefit of a hundred dollars a month to mothers of a child under six. My daughter's childcare expenses for her four year old are $650 a month.

So pregnancy can be an economic crisis for a woman without a partner willing to contribute financially or personally to the raising of the child. A male-dominant individualistic society leaves her and her child on her own.

People in my church are under the illusion that “the government takes care of people like her.” They are unaware that income assistance is less than half the income she requires to support herself and her child. And it ends when the child is three.

Adoption, the alternative proffered by many pro-life people, is also anti-life, particularly if the adoption is closed. It ignores the child's lifelong feelings of abandonment as well as the mother's pain.

One woman who had given up a child said to me, years later, “Every time I read about a child molested or killed I wonder, “Is that my child? “

So after one adoption, next time she will have an abortion. There often is a next time, because her grief, her low self-esteem and her lifelong training in subordination will drive her into another man's arms. As a society, we have made a “life choice” very difficult for her.

Many people see all this as “no more than she deserves,” but that's blaming the victim. A truly pro-life society would work on male responsibility, different socialization, better wages for women, more affordable regulated child care programs and improved income assistance. Changing the world is harder than we think.





Monday, 9 March 2015

Finding common ground (cont.) - Half a loaf is better than none

Coming to complete agreement on women's full and equal rights between those in the choice camp and those in the life camp is probably impossible. I maintain that there is no fundamental disagreement between us on a woman's equality with men, her essential worth and dignity, her potential for making huge contributions to the public good, or the fact that women deserve the same opportunities as men.

Where we differ is in the impact of biology, and the moral basis upon which we assess that impact. Because those of the life persuasion feel that not only humanity but legal personhood begin at conception, then abortion can't be countenanced because it is murder.

For a long time the choice camp argued that an unborn baby is not a human being, but medical knowledge makes that position highly problematical to hold. So the usual argument now is that the fetus is not a legal person in Canada until birth, and therefore possesses no rights, whether to life, security of the person, or any other right enjoyed by legal persons.

The choice group often declare that the life position is a religious one (particularly a Roman Catholic one), and that believers are forcing their religiously-based morality on others. But this flies in the face of the existence of many pro-life groups who claim no religious basis for their belief; e.g., Atheists for Life (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/03/11/yes-there-are-pro-life-atheists-out-there-heres-why-im-one-of-them/#ixzz3TvadUwBS):

Atheist and civil libertarian journalist Nat Hentoff said that “Being without theology isn’t the slightest hindrance to being pro-life.” Atheist philosophy professor Don Marquis declared abortion is “immoral” because it denies developing fetuses “a future like ours.” The host of CFI’s Point of Inquiry, Robert M. Price, author of books like Jesus is Dead and The Case Against the Case for Christ, called abortion “second-degree murder” on one of his podcasts.

Well, at least we still have the “Four Horsemen” safely in our ranks, right? Not quite. Even our beloved Christopher Hitchens considered “the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society.” He also argued that “the unborn entity has a right on its side” and identified himself as involved with the pro-life movement.

On the other hand, you have a Christian denomination such as the United Church of Canada trying to respect the dignity of life, including that of the unborn, while still supporting abortion, but not abortion on demand:
As Christians we wish to affirm: The sanctity of human life, born or unborn. That life is much more than physical existence.

We also affirm that: The taking of human life is evil.

Our concern must not be limited to a concern for the unborn but it must also include a concern for the quality of life as a whole...Life in this imperfect world often places us in complex circumstances of moral dilemma and ambiguity where values ultimate in themselves seem at times to be in conflict with other values and rights...We affirm the inherent value of human life, both as immature in the foetus and as expressed in the life of the mother and related persons. The foetus is a unique though immature form of human life and, as such, has inherent value. Christians should witness to that value by stressing that abortion is always a moral issue and can only be accepted as the lesser of two evils. Therefore, abortion is acceptable only when, after careful consideration, the medical, social, and/or economic situation makes it the most responsible alternative.

For the UCC's complete statement, see http://www.united-church.ca/beliefs/policies/1980/c511.

I suggest that it is too easy, in fact philosophically lazy, to simply write off the life camp's moral position as a strictly religious one. But whatever the moral basis for the two positions (life v. choice), they cannot be completely reconciled.

But we don't have to be completely reconciled to each other to learn from each other, if only we'd start talking instead of haranguing.That's why I used the title "Half a Loaf is Better than None" for this post. Is some of what the choice camp says of significant use in coming to a sound, strategic plan of action for the life side?

Absolutely. Let's look at what the choice groups say are their objectives for women and for public policy and see where we have common ground. This post has gotten pretty long, so I'll work on the next section tomorrow. Right now I have to go and clean the car. According to the one I love, I have no choice in this matter :-).


Friday, 6 March 2015

Finding common ground (cont.) - We have met the enemy and he is us!

When I was a kid, I enjoyed the comic strip Pogo the Possum, although I missed many of its satiric subtleties. One of the most famous lines associated with this denizen of Okefenokee Swamp is "We have met the enemy and he is us." The cartoonist was using the phrase in connection with the deteriorating environment; i.e., that humankind is the source of its own demise. But I want to exercise a little artistic license and apply it to my current exploration re culture change through finding common ground. This is what I have in mind.

As my regular reader knows, I was a public school trustee for many years. Like most school districts, mine faced competition from a number of independent schools. Many public school trustees were unhappy with these private schools and complained loudly that the provincial government should not be giving them any operational budget funding. These trustees often mocked the schools as places for the rich and snobby who were trying to avoid the real world. In other words, they were the enemy of the public system and needed to be contained.

I saw it much differently. I asked myself why parents (the majority of whom were neither rich nor snobby in reality) would pay large amounts of tuition to send their children to schools that often provided fewer programs and services when a first-rate public system was available gratis. After all, the overlap in courses, class sizes, quality of teaching, and extra-curricular options was extensive. In other words, I was looking for things that were missing from the public system that were important enough to parents to pay big money to provide for their children. I ended up writing a chapter on this for a book entitled Being the Church in Abbotsford (http://churchforvancouver.ca/telling-the-story-of-the-church-in-abbotsford/).

I propose that we do the same with the many pro-choice groups that we have lumped into the enemy camp. Is there any overlap with what they do/stand for, and what we in the life sub-culture do/stand for? Are there ways in which we are the same in some fashion? Is there enough common ground that we could stop ignoring or attacking them, and actually learn from them. After all, at this point, they do have the ear of Jill Public much better than we do.

Could we possibly say, "We have met the enemy and, waddah-yuh-know, we have a lot in common"?

I believe that we can.

The place to begin is the issue of women's full and equal rights. While agreeing that women are of equal worth to men, and as deserving of all that life and the world have to offer, the life subculture feels that biology makes it impossible for women to live exactly as men live; i.e., that child-bearing often requires, in certain regards, a different set of choices as to how women will use their time, talents, and interests. We also believe that child-bearing elevates women in a way that men could never replicate and should be celebrated as a such. Associated with this are a constellation of other convictions, such as that all life (including pre-born life) is sacred, that pre-born babies are both human beings and persons, and that abortion is immoral because it kills a fellow person with equal rights.

The pro-choice culture sees child-bearing as a hindrance to the exercise of full and equal rights, by which they mean identical rights; i.e., there should be nothing in our society that is closed to women, and anything that does slam a door on a woman's freedom to chose for herself (e.g., whether and when to have children) is immoral. These beliefs also bring with them a host of others, including that the pre-born baby (often referred to as a mere clump of cells) is not a legal person and does not have any rights, that only the woman has any say over her reproductive choices, and that abortion is a useful and even moral (and they would also say, safe) way of exercising such rights. Any restrictions placed on the procurement of an abortion (e.g., stage of development of the pre-born child, access to abortion facilities, even debates as to their morality) are dismissed out of hand.

Rather than paying any attention to each other's perspectives, we fall into armed camps heaving salvos across the barricades:

Life subculture - Those pro-abortioners are nothing but Feminazis who hate men, despise religion, dislike babies, and are mired in godless self-centeredness and materialism. They ignore what the majority of Canadian women believe. They lie about abortion's efficacy and safety, and otherwise manipulate women and politicians to maintain the current abortion-on-demand legal vacuum.

Pro-choice culture - Those anti-choicers are nothing but a small group of Victorians and religious fanatics (mostly repressive Roman Catholics) who put women in second place and support the current patriarchal regimen. They ignore what the majority of Canadian women believe. They lie about abortion's efficacy and safety, and otherwise manipulate women and politicians to institute anti-woman laws.

Where is the common ground here? One more post coming up.

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 2 days later.

I don't want to suggest that I'm prescient or anything, but the following are excerpts from a posting that appeared today on my Facebook timeline. It started with a picture of a famous actor of yore, Loretta Young, with a quote purportedly from her regarding her stance on abortion:

"Be careful. Be very careful. Abortion is wrong to start with. But in addition, you don't know who or what you are aborting."

The comments that follow are endless, but I'll select some representative ones to illustrate the type of non-dialogue that typically ensues when a statement of this sort is made:

Sharon Rudolph- I so agree with her. You might be aborting a future very important person.

Betty Stebbins- At least a whole generation of people who could love and be loved by so many. These would have changed lives, for the better. Some of the diseases we still have today may have been cured. Endless possibilities ……...

Ella Pitrono- LOL what??? I don't know what I'm aborting? I'm aborting a pregnancy you dolt! What a stupid statement.

Ella Pitrono- Abortion isn't wrong. There is no valid argument against women having 4th Amendment rights.

Elizabeth Potter Graham- Loretta Young lied to her daughter and told her she was adopted. The child was the child of Loretta Young and Clark Gable, who was married to another woman. Y'all really know how to pick role models. 

Diana Viau- Well, you can't convince the top pro-aborts of that. They claim that aborting the poor & the black, it will cut down on crime.Many great people have come from those roots. Of course, when you are as full of yourself as they are, no one is as valuable to you as yourself. God help us.  

Lori Choman- Who cares what a Roman Catholic actress who as born in 1912, died in 2000 and was married 3 times thinks about abortion. Stop being cookie cutter people. Not everyone is the same, not ever situation is the same, not every set of rules applies to every situation. Loretta Young in not even relevant, neither is what she thought when she was alive.

Lasallian Heart Remm- RIght... the environment back 30's of the PAST century show some hindrances socially speaking; it might have been hard for many single mothers; YET... nothing of the struggles compare with TODAY's LETAL MODERN ANTI-LIFE STATEMENT, WHICH FORBIDS THE RIGHT TO LIVE FOR HUNDREDS OF MILLION BABIES, WHO WHERE DESTINED TO DO, TO BECOME GREAT PEOPLE FOR OUR WORLD... GOD KNOWS what Humankind has LOST by KILLING THEM... What an awfully painful and horrific truth..  

Gary van der Meer- 1 out of 4,000 actress
Wow that's a revelation for the Anti-choice movement
 
 


 You see what I mean?





Thursday, 26 February 2015

Finding common ground--the second step in effecting culture change

No matter what message you are about to deliver somewhere, whether it is holding out a hand of friendship, or making clear that you disapprove of something, is the fact that the person sitting across the table is a human being, so the goal is to always establish common ground.
Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

I think the most effective forms of critique are ones that establish a common ground for people to occupy, and then appeal to the best nature of people on that common ground.
Mohsin Hamid, Pakistani novelist

While attending seminary in Illinois in the 1970s, I was exposed to some of the more curious American Christian leaders whose reputations had not crossed into the Great White North. These included such notable fundamentalist Protestants as John R. Rice, Bob Jones (both Sr. and Jr.), and Carl McIntire. 

John R. Rice was particularly intriguing to me. He struck me as a flat-out nutbar, but he had a considerable following among very conservative fundamentalist Americans. His books included such titles as What's Wrong with the Dance? (plenty, apparently), What is Wrong with Movies?, and the unforgettable Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives and Women Preachers. His newspaper, The Sword of the Lord, hit a high of 100,000 circulation.

In addition to their fundamentalist understanding of New Testament teaching, all of the aforementioned leaders had this in common--they dismissed the iconic Billy Graham as a traitor to the true faith. He was hopelessly compromised because of his willingness to cavort with the dreaded liberals (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_R._Rice).

One would assume that the set of common beliefs, values, and religious objectives that Billy Graham shared with these men would be sufficient for them to get along while agreeing to disagree on that one significant issue; i.e., that Graham was willing to work with non-evangelical Christians in putting together his famous crusades. But this was not possible for the fundamentalists. Either there had to be total agreement on all points, or no common ground could be found.

Seems ridiculous, doesn't it?

Many people who have been successful in achieving important goals--whether religious, political, even economic--strongly argue that finding common ground with other parties who might have an interest in the matter at hand, even if they bring very different values and practices to the discussion, is indispensable to achieving that success (see the quote from Madeleine Albright above).

That has caused me to wonder what common ground I, as a member of the life sub-culture, could find with, say, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, Planned Parenthood, or the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. Could I learn anything from  organizations such as these? Should I ever consider borrowing from their ideas? Or should I shun and condemn them at every turn?--which is in fact what the pro-life movement tends to do (while getting it back in spades).

Do I do the John R. Rice thing? Or go Billy Graham?

Stay tuned.