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They're Pro-Life -- But Only If You're Cute And Innocent
CNN contributor Roland S. Martin digs in where Chris Matthews didn't think (or was too timid) to go -- the hypocrisy that those who are "pro-life" tend to be very, very pro-death when it comes to snuffing out the life of prisoners held for capital crimes (which they may or may not have committed in some cases):

Folks, it's hard to say on one hand that every life -- at every phase -- is important, but then say, "Send them to the death chamber!" Those two are diametrically opposed to each other.

And I'll be the first to tell you that many Christians -- especially right-wing conservatives -- are staunch anti-abortion advocates on Monday. And on Tuesday, if there is an execution, they are right there supporting that one as well.

It would have been nice had debate moderator Chris Matthews forced the candidates to deal with this issue.

But let's also expand the pro-life dialogue. Where do the Republican candidates stand on funding Head Start for children? Is that not part of the development of human life? Are we going to see Republican candidates seek to change Medicaid laws to allow dentists to better care for those who get government assistance? Or are we willing to see another case like Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy who died because his family lost their Medicaid, and the boy's abscess, which might have been cured with an $80 tooth extraction, led to his brain becoming infected?

Are the Republican candidates going to vigorously fight for expanded pre-natal care for mothers in many inner cities around America, where the infant mortality rate rivals that of some Third World countries?

What is needed -- on both sides -- is a full-scale discussion on what it really means to be pro-life.

Life is indeed precious. And just as I have tussled with my personal views on being pro-choice and supportive of the death penalty, the pro-lifers should really examine whether they are as passionate about life beyond the womb.

Posted by aalkon at May 7, 2007 10:18 AM

Comments

Also, left out of his really nice commentary is the health of the mothers. It is not just the babies who die when health care is poor.

Posted by: Shinobi at May 7, 2007 6:45 AM

So when did compassion become the number of government programs you approve for people who can't figure out how to get to school or a doctor?

How is ensuring that an obvious multiple murderer commits no repeat offense anti-life?

Of course, anti-abortion people have a set of blinders on; they only seem to see good in forcing someone who has made a big mistake, or someone who does not want to be a parent (and wouldn't be any good at it) to have a baby. I've even heard people say that the victims of rape and incest should have the child - about as horrible a sentence as I can imagine. In such cases, thought about the likely path of such a life is channelled into how we would be killing daVinci (Sorry, Cho shot him at VT).

But logic compels me to point out that if we can decide that someone can decide by herself that a new life on the way can be ended because of her judgment as to how it will turn out, a large number of us is definitely qualified to say when a life proven to be destructive of others must be ended.

Posted by: Radwaste at May 7, 2007 7:07 AM

It's not compassion. A person is not a person but a potential person until they are born and living on their own. After that, we don't have the right to kill them. Imprison them for life, yes.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 7, 2007 7:47 AM

Some people are so sick (such as our own Joseph Duncan here in Coeur D'Alene) I think it is compassionate to kill them, just as you would put down a rabid dog.

Posted by: eric at May 7, 2007 8:15 AM

Well, the term 'life' used by anti-abortion people has more to do with an attitude than dealing in reality.

Posted by: Joe at May 7, 2007 8:18 AM

People who package the abortion issue with the welfare programs are confused about what is meant by "right to life." It means that no one is allowed to kill you. Period. It does not mean that anyone is obligated to preserve or enhance your life.

People who package the abortion issue with the death penalty ignore the fact that a condemned criminal has forfeited his right to life by violating that right of someone else. (Assuming he actually did so; the fact that he might be innocent is the one argument against the death penalty I consider valid.)

Posted by: Rex Little at May 7, 2007 8:48 AM

Not speaking for them here, OK?

But perhaps Christians are baffled that people think abortion and capital punishment are somehow tied together. (I certainly am.) The snark of the word innocent in the title of this blog post doesn't register for them, because they know what the word means.

Christians think of life as a precious gift. And almost by definition, religious people think that how you live your life is really important. Many believe that if you've made bad and hurtful choices, your claim to the gift is diminished.

To reflexively meld these issues betrays a squeamishness about death, a need to get through all the unpleasant stuff in a single, quick volley. The comfort from this approach isn't worth the injustice of reckless oversimplification ("Life = good!").

Setting that aside, the charge is one of "hypocrisy." As we've noted in these comments so often, no one on Earth is as concerned about hypocrisy as petulent teenagers. It's a mechanical citation, and proving it in court requires no investigation of the underlying morality of an issue, which is why the youngin' love it so much. Gamblers know they shouldn't play and will say so on Monday. On Tuesday, they throw dice and lose. It's Wednesday afternoon: Were they wrong on Monday?

> victims of rape and
> incest should have the
> child - about as horrible
> a sentence

A horrible sentence for the child? Such a child will arrive naked, hungry and oblivious, just like the most loved and desired baby ever born. Does the bastard baby deserve less welcome? A great problem with modern reproductive patterns is that people seem to think the impulses of parents somehow confer righteousness upon children, even as when a crack-addicted single woman will shout to the Child Protective Services agent who comes to collect her starving brood: "But I'm a good mother! I love my kids!"

This voodoo energy, very popular in 21st century America, is no less primitive and irrational than the Christian ceremonies and practices Amy seeks so often to mock. I think it's the quintessence of slavery.

> A person is not a person
> but a potential person
> until they are born and
> living on their own.

Living on their own? You mean, like, taxpaying home ownership? How 'bout early-20's in a slum apartment? Can we kill undergrads in dorms?

Posted by: Crid at May 7, 2007 9:06 AM

Yeah, "Pro-Life" is kind of a misnomer, what it is is just a nicer way of saying "anti-abortion." But "Pro-Choice" is just as much a spin, it's much nicer than saying "pro-abortion."

Someone who is "Pro-Life" is no more for "all life, all the time, plants, crustaceans, whatever" than someone who is "Pro-Choice" is for "any choice I want to make is ok, I may just choose to stab you in the neck with a pencil."

It's really a seperate issue from the Death Penalty. Or whether seatbelts should be mandatory. Or whether the Iraq War was a good idea.

I really think we would have a higher level of discourse in this country if people could form opinions on each issue based on its own merits, rather than just arguing whatever their "team" position was.

Posted by: Jon Tyken at May 7, 2007 9:55 AM

Personally, pro-choice groups should start using the term pro-life in their language just to screw with the anti-abortion crowd. To change the meaning from an anti-abortion stance to a definition of quality of life for women. The expression could be used in the defense of euthanasia, longevity research, same sex unions and other forms of individual choices to add a higher quality of life for responsible adults.

Posted by: Joe at May 7, 2007 11:25 AM

> The expression could be
> used in the defense

Give us a f'rinstance.

Posted by: Crid at May 7, 2007 11:56 AM

All the issues that were listed? Any in particular?

Posted by: Joe at May 7, 2007 12:14 PM

Anything, pick one. There's no way the phrase "Pro-life" can encourage euthanasia except in a grandiose or poetic and gooey sense about the impermanence of all things, which is not what people who vote want to talk about. The popular mind is all about dialing your life into a condition of static wealth, health and excellence where you're a hard n' horny twenty year old for two hundred years and nobody can fuck with you, and then you die in your sleep after an afternoon of tennis. And what's pro-life about being gay?

Posted by: Crid at May 7, 2007 12:49 PM

"A horrible sentence for the child?"

No, for the mother, who will relive the crime every day, several times a day, for the rest of her life. And for everyone else who cares for her.

Life isn't cheap. It's expensive. So is living. Some things you can do are so expensive that only your own life will pay for them. Some of those are glorious, and some are heinous.

I personally think it's a sickness to keep a person in a cage until they die there, because that is neither merciful nor efficient. Someone is welcome to demonstrate otherwise; I don't think they can show anything but their own fear and willingness to shift blame and somehow responsibility to Father Time.

If you want a good gauge of what the capital punishment circus has become, take a look at the difference between the punishment meted by the State and the justifiable defense allowed the victim. We have legions of criminals alive in jail while their victims are dead; had they defended themselves adequately, the criminal would be dead. I suggest that this is the preferred situation.

Posted by: Radwaste at May 7, 2007 1:59 PM

I was referring pro-life as in the quality of life for the individual. Similar to F.A. Hayek's expression the 'party of life' found in Why I Am Not a Conservative. The current use of the expression of pro-life should have a more expanded or grander definition than it is commonly used in various debates on national issues.

Euthanasia could be seen as pro-life in the quality of a patient's life diagnosed with a terminal illness. A patient could have the right to choose at an appointed time for doctor assisted suicide before the latter stages of the illness. Yes there are medical procedures that could extend a patients life, but with negative side effects through a rate of depreciated mental/physical health standards. It goes back to the question on how the individual decides the quality of their life. Death with some semblance of dignity and placing a lesser burden on the family. Emotional and financial burden.

I said same sex unions as being pro-life. Shouldn't it be self explanatory? Why would gays and lesbians decide to get hitched with their significant others? Why do heterosexual couples make their relationships legal? A sense of obligation, children, pressure from family and the community? Would it not be the same for them too. Also, with the high rate of divorce among the current legal married couples... gays/lesbians will share the horrible feeling of being divorced by their significant other. Divorce proceedings for gays and lesbians may have a spill over effect in reforming current divorce laws within hetero marriages. If a same sex couples divorce, which partner gets fleeced? How will it be determined? How will the courts decide? Also, gays and lesbians make up about 3% of the population and not all of them support same sex unions. So the percentage will be much less than 3% and will not pose a serious threat to civilization. Everyone benefits in a way.

Longevity research goes beyond my field of immunology and designing drug therapies in extending human immune systems. It will have a ripple effect in areas of reproduction alternatives for both men and women, no matter what their sexual preference or living arrangements. Also in extending life expectancy in humans beyond the standard years of physical decline too. I may go into a further details on this subject with a latter post. Currently, I’m a bit busy with work.

Posted by: Joe at May 7, 2007 2:21 PM

Delete 'Shouldn't' to Should it not be self explanatory...

Posted by: Joe at May 7, 2007 2:32 PM

> Life isn't cheap.
> It's expensive.
> So is living.

Two redundancies in three tiny sentences! (Raddy's up to something again....)

> No, for the mother

Right, we've heard about this for many years now. Abortion can have a profound effect on the mother's life as well. Understood; got it; acknowledged; a fool denies it; very well then.

> who will relive the
> crime every day

Over weekend I cut a guy off in Westwood. I can't remember the street, it's near that parking garage across from Whole Foods. He was in a Prius. I feel bad, and made apologetic gestures to him in the moment. Do I now have to worry about the burden he felt for the rest of the day, knowing that his car so nearly suffered a few hundred dollars' worth of damage?

Of course, raising a child of rape is a different ball of wax. But I'm not sure it needs a completely new psychological curriculum. Making things simply illegal obviates that need. Once you know that it's illegal to steal someone's fishing tackle, you don't have to put the fisherman on the couch after theives do their villainy. We'll all understand when the guy says "I was robbed!"

> the capital punishment
> circus

See the CP essay in 'Love, Poverty and War' by Christopher Hitchens. It's too sordid to be called a circus.

> I was referring pro-life
> as in the quality of
> life for the individual.

Right. But these are intimate (poetic!) judgments, and not the place for policy enforcement. The Christian hillbilly voters who most terrify Amy Alkon and Nancy Pelosi understand that already.

> The current use of the
> expression of pro-life
> should...

We almost never get to chose the terms. Sometimes an asshole makes a bad call (e.g., the Department of Homeland Security) and we're fucked until the end of time. Pugnacious Paglia convinced me to refer to myself as pro-abortion rather than pro-choice, because it mocks the extended-pinky daintiness of "pro-life." We should all be a real as we can....

> Shouldn't it be
> self explanatory?

Well, it ain't.

> I’m a bit busy
> with work.

This is a blog, dammit! Ignore your responsibilities! What's the deal with this stem-cells-in-the-eye thing in the news today?

Posted by: Crid at May 7, 2007 4:27 PM

I am pro-abortion being legal. Especially for victims of rape and incest.

That having been said...no woman in 2007 is forced to raise a child that she does not want to. She can place the kid for adoption at birth and never see it. Hell, in states with Baby Moses laws, she can take it into a firehouse and hand it to someone or leave it in the hospital and have no more questions asked.

Again, I do NOT think that a woman should be forced to go through nine months of pregnancy with the child of her rapist. But that is not the only alternative to abortion. (And if abortion were restricted, rape-conceived babies would still be adoptable - in this day and age, healthy newborns whose birth mothers want closed adoptions and whose birth fathers are complete non-factors are prized. Sad, perhaps, but true.)

Posted by: mg at May 7, 2007 8:51 PM

Posted by: Crid at May 7, 2007 9:11 PM

And don't forget, Bush sanctions unlawfully tying women's tubes all over third world countries- without their consent or knowledge (they think they're just there for check ups)- so what does that say about being 'pro-life'? That they're ony pro a certain type of life, apparently American- what is with the need of other people to control other people's right to reproduce- it's sick?!

Posted by: Julie at May 7, 2007 9:20 PM

Thanks Crid,

Being a researchier within the bio-engineering field… we have a slight inside advantage from the regular readers of media stories. Peer review journals and in house gossip among colleagues and competitors. Whenever you read a story about stem cells growing human hearts, repairing damaged eyes, spinal cords and such… just think of anything related to your body and its cellular structures and it can be mass produce through a stem cell process in a controlled environment. Simple parts of the body will take months to grow artificially. The more complex the structure it will take years. (7 to 10 years on average)

The stem cells can be used to repair damage retinal areas or grow whole new sets of eyes. (long term growth procedures) The other uses of adult stem cells to grow an egg, sperm or both from a single individual alone will create a revolution in reproduction rights. Especially, for infertile couples, individuals, gays and lesbians. Replacement organs at our disposal. This is one of the reasons why I am in immunology. Old people are going to die from diseases that resulted from shot immune systems. It is the same for someone at 89 or 159. Plus the company’s benefits and perks help. I’m so grateful for switching my major from Classical History to Molecular Biology at the end of my freshman year in college.

Also, stem cell growth of human eyes will be additional physical proof of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and this has to stick in the crawl of the anti-evolution crowd too. Well, they should be getting use to it by now. The ability to grow the various stages of the eye and to finally eliminate its current imperfections within a laboratory.

When Nietzsche mentioned "God is dead," he was referring to God was irrelevant in Academia. The next step will be God's irrelevance within Society as a whole. A post-theistic society, in which it has its roots in the events of 500 years ago. This does not mean religion will become extinct, but its impact within society will diminish down to the individual believer. This is the heart of the fear behind the politically active religious types within the nation. They will exploit the publics fears, anxieties of the future and their lack of understanding science to achieve short term gains with long term disastrous consequences.

This does not mean we will achieve utopia. Hell, I’m against the creation of a false sense of utopia. A perfect world will never happen, but a new standards based morality/ethics will need to be implemented. We will still have the same problems, because of our mammalian brains. Or as Hitch refers so eloquently that we are only one chromosome away from the chimpanzees. My personal preference comes from the famous line in the movie The Third Man:

"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

So with these mind shattering achievements in science and technology, expect social upheavals, demagogues and violence. Organized group violence from the M.E. and individualized acts by lone religious extremists within the USA. I can see a future of pro-life extremists attacking stem cell or bio-engineering facilities or attacking individual researchers. It is one of many reasons why I carry a concealed gun with me.

So the United States has 2 choices. Lead the world or follow the next up and coming nation (or nations) that embraces a sense of discovery and openness to new ideas.

Posted by: Joe at May 7, 2007 10:18 PM

'researcher'

Posted by: Joe at May 7, 2007 10:20 PM

Bush sanctions unlawfully tying women's tubes all over third world countries- without their consent or knowledge (they think they're just there for check ups)

Corroborating link, please?

And, beautifully and insightfully put, Joe.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 8, 2007 3:54 AM

"And, beautifully and insightfully put, Joe."

Yeah, it was.

(Except for the bit about the concealed gun. Unless you take lessons, like, every weekend).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 8, 2007 6:41 AM

Yes, Jody. I was raised in 'Deer Hunter' country. So I have had experience with firearms and attended a military school with a rifle range. Even before a cadet is given a rifle, they have to memorize the School's Manual of Arms. Pass a thorough test. Constantly supervised during the target shooting trials. When it came to owning a handgun, I took lessons from a local NRA shooting instructor. Based on my lack of experience with handguns.

One of the other spill over effects of the abortion clinic violence during the 1990s is the lack of interest among medical school graduates pursuing a career at various Planned Parenthood clinics. Many clinics today still receive daily death threats via anonymous calls and through the mail.

Posted by: Joe at May 8, 2007 8:00 AM

Yes, Jody. I was raised in 'Deer Hunter' country. So I have had experience with firearms and attended a military school with a rifle range. Even before a cadet is given a rifle, they have to memorize the School's Manual of Arms. Pass a thorough test. Constantly supervised during the target shooting trials. When it came to owning a handgun, I took lessons from a local NRA shooting instructor. Based on my lack of experience with handguns.

One of the other spill over effects of the abortion clinic violence during the 1990s is the lack of interest among medical school graduates pursuing a career at various Planned Parenthood clinics. Many clinics today still receive daily death threats via anonymous calls and through the mail.

Posted by: Joe at May 8, 2007 8:03 AM

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