Thursday, December 29, 2011

Utah court gets it right on right to life

The Utah Supreme Court recently ruled that an unborn child qualifies as a minor and wrongful-death claims can be filed on behalf of a fetus who dies before birth.

The decision stemmed from a 2006 medical negligence lawsuit filed by a Utah County couple after their baby was stillborn.

A few other states have also extended liability for wrongful death of unborn babies, and some states are proposing ballot initiatives to recognize the legal personhood of a fetus.

I applaud the Utah court’s ruling. The recognition of a fetus as a person promotes the sanctity of life.

The crux of the pro-life argument is that life begins at conception and thus terminating a pregnancy is equivalent to ending a life.

Scriptures teach that a fetus in the womb is a living being who has a divinely ordained purpose. The prophet Isaiah said, “The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” God said to the prophet Jeremiah, “I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart.” The psalmist declared to God, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

From a biblical perspective, ending a life in the womb is unthinkable.

While the pro-life premise has scriptural backing — and the termination of a pregnancy violates the tenants of many faiths — opposition to abortion is not simply a religious issue. These recent decisions are giving the movement legal merit.

Abortion-rights advocates base their arguments on the right of women to dictate the course of their own lives. By opting to have an abortion, the woman elevates her right to choose over her child’s right to live.

Courts have asserted in several cases that children under a certain age suffer a legal disability because they are unable to make sound judgments. For this reason the government has an interest in protecting the well-being of minors. At times this may require infringing on the personal freedoms of adults. For example, the law mandates that parents secure their children in car seats while riding in vehicles. The protection of children from physical harm outweighs the parents’ right to do as they please in their own car.

If Utah and other states acknowledge the personhood of an unborn child, then it stands to reason that a fetus deserves the same legal protections as minors. Thus, the unborn child’s right to live should be safeguarded — even if it may violate a parent’s freedoms.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keep tax money out of abortion

Published November 13, 2009
The House's recently passed health-care bill includes a provision banning the use of federal funds for abortion services in the public insurance option and government-sponsored health-care exchange.

The measure prohibits abortion coverage as part of a minimum benefits package except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother's life is in danger. The restriction, a big victory for anti-abortion forces, has ignited a fiery debate, and abortion-rights advocates are determined to strip the amendment. Many doubt the Senate bill and any final legislation will contain a ban on government-financed abortions.

Abortion-rights groups call the funding restriction an underhanded attempt by opponents to ban legal abortions in the United States. This is a gross exaggeration. The amendment does not prohibit a woman from having an abortion; it merely forbids government funds paying for one (women would be required to buy separate insurance riders with their own money to cover abortions).

Health-care reform is long overdue. Access to medical care for all Americans is a moral issue and lawmakers must find a solution. But the possibility of government-subsidized abortions is unconscionable. Federally funded abortions are essentially taxpayer-funded abortions. Some have argued this would not be the first time the government has used taxpayer money to pay for programs that some Americans oppose. This may be true, but few issues are as divisive; both sides of the debate hold deep convictions.

Abortion foes ascribe to the belief that life begins at conception. Terminating a pregnancy thus is equivalent to ending a life. This is considered not only morally wrong but also a clear violation of the tenets of many faiths. Rearing children, whether planned or unplanned, can be challenging, but every life has a purpose and deserves to be protected. Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion.

Abortion-rights advocates base their arguments on the right of women to dictate the course of their own lives. Ironically, by choosing to have an abortion, the woman elevates her right to choose over her child's right to life. If abortion opponents are expected to respect a woman's right to choose to abort her child, those on the other side should respect our right not to want to pay for it with tax dollars.

Like many abortion opponents, I continue to support nonviolent efforts for legislative reform. However, until the law changes, abortion foes are forced to acknowledge that abortion is legal. As a person of faith, I find this a harsh reality. But forcing anti-abortion taxpayers to fund a practice so contradictory to our moral and religious beliefs crosses the line. It is callous and infringes on our rights.

Murder of abortion doctor a tragedy on both sides of the debate

Published June 12, 2009
On May 31, George Tiller, a physician who performed late-term abortions, was gunned down at his church. The suspect being held for the murder is an anti-abortion activist, Scott Roeder, who is reported to have regularly protested outside Tiller's clinic.

This week, Tiller's family announced that his clinic would close permanently. Under normal circumstances, the closure of an abortion clinic may be a victory for the pro-life movement, but Tiller's murder is a tragedy for both sides of the abortion debate.

The crux of the pro-life argument centers on the sanctity of human life. While many people who consider themselves pro-choice agree that life is sacred and should be protected, some do not agree that a fetus is a living organism and thus, terminating a pregnancy does not equate to ending a life.

Some may consider a fetus to be a life but believe there are extenuating circumstances, such as rape or possibility of giving birth to a severely disabled child, that justify abortion. Still others hold that the woman has the right to make a decision on the fate of the fetus (whether it is a life or not), since it is taking residence in her body. Some people are pro-choice simply because they do not believe in legislating morality.

On the other hand, pro-lifers ascribe to the belief that life starts at the time of conception. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says to the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart."

Based on this text alone, it seems safe to conclude that God's acknowledgement of human life begins long before birth. This thought is also the premise of opposition to so-called "justifiable abortion." While the circumstances surrounding rape are traumatic and raising a disabled child is challenging, every life has a purpose and deserves to be protected; adoption should be considered in place of abortion.

But be that as it may, if sanctity of life is the basis of Roeder's ideology, it is hard to miss the inconsistency. By committing murder, Roeder is guilty of the very act that he so vehemently opposes. It is these sorts of contradictions that contribute to the delegitimization of the pro-life movement. Most of the leading anti-abortion groups have condemned Tiller's murder, but no movement is devoid of fringe people.

In recent years, the pro-life debate has been dominated by extremists, many of whom have committed senseless crimes in the name of religion. The irony in this instance is Tiller was shot while serving at his church, making it more difficult to turn this into a religious versus irreligious discussion.

No one claiming to value life can condone Tiller's murder. Even though his decision to perform late-term abortions went against pro-life beliefs, his life deserved just as much respect and consideration as the life of an unborn child.

Canceling church on Christmas makes no sense

Many churches see a surge in attendance around Christmas, but this year the holiday falls on a Sunday, leading some congregations to cancel their worship services.

Some pastors doubt parishioners will take time to attend a church service on Christmas Day. Others want to allow their staff and volunteers to spend time with their families.

The purpose of a Sunday service is for Christians to gather and worship Christ. It is ironic, then, that churches are scrapping services on CHRIST-mas. It seems as unthinkable as shelving an Easter service.

Churches have long voiced concerns about the growing trend to remove Christ from the celebration of Christmas. Retail stores have replaced “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.” Nativity scenes in public places draw controversy and court challenges. The commercialization of Christmas has led to excessive consumer spending, landing many in debt and overshadowing the religious aspects of the holiday. Some argue that Christians should not even observe the Christmas holiday because many of the season’s traditions have pagan origins. Further, historians do not believe Jesus was born on Dec. 25.

Be that as it may, Christmas is the day the Christian church has chosen to mark the birth of Christ. The day is significant because the faith hinges on the incarnation of Jesus. If the Messiah had not been born, he could not have died and there would be no promise of eternal life. The Bible says shepherds tending their flocks stopped their labor and made their way to the manger to see the babe. Wise men traveled a far distance to see the child. This was a momentous occasion. The promised Messiah had come. No distance was too great, no task too important.

Although many parishioners may not attend services on Christmas, canceling worship would perpetuate the idea that the spiritual meaning of Christmas is secondary. It makes no sense to defend the religious roots of the holiday if we are so entangled in the secular ones. There’s nothing wrong with exchanging gifts or spending time with family, but these activities should not draw Christians away from manger. If Jesus is the reason for the season, then taking time to remember his birth should never be an inconvenience, no matter what day it falls.