It simply must be said

I probably should know better than to wade, or dive, into this.

 I’ve never been much for wading actually. Not that I’ve been much for diving either. I tend to take my time, surveying the pool from all angles, determining whether it’s worth the risk, weighing the pros and cons.

Sometimes that level of careful consideration gets on people’s nerves. Mine too, honestly. It can keep me from ever making a move at all.

There are moments, however, when I decide to just jump, and when I do, it tends to be with a “cannonball” mentality.

Of course, this is all metaphorical and I’m not really talking about any literal kind of pool at all.

In this particular instance, I’m talking about making some statements and taking a stand on some issues, knowing full well those statements are going to offend some people — possibly some people I care about. Hence, my hesitancy.

But this is too important to keep my mouth shut, or my fingers still, as the case may be, so I’m just going to jump into discussing some things I know are controversial but that must be addressed. These things may seem to be separate issues but, in my mind, they’re not separate at all. 

There have been multiple anti-abortion laws passed in various states in recent months, with the explicit goal of mounting a U.S. Supreme Court Challenge to 1973’s Roe v. Wade. I find these laws to be draconian, hypocritical and some even reprehensible. 

Let me state something that should be obvious. I am not pro-abortion. Nobody is, in fact, “pro-abortion.” I know several women who have made that difficult choice, and nobody involved is being cavalier about terminating a pregnancy.

There are a lot of arguments people give as to why they want to outlaw abortion, most of which center on questions about when exactly life begins. I can’t answer those questions.

Certainly, the moment of conception results in cell growth and replication, and certainly, the detection of a heartbeat can be indicative of life. A heartbeat, however, is a necessary but not sufficient component of life. 

When looking up the word “life” in a dictionary, entries include “the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being,” among others. Does a mass of growing cells in a woman’s womb possess that quality? Again, I find myself unable to answer that question. I don’t think anybody can argue that an embryo with a heartbeat at six weeks’ gestation is capable of being a “vital and functional being” on its own, however.

What these arguments about life really center on is ultimately a religious determination of when an embryo possesses a human soul. For some religions that is at the moment of conception. For others it’s when the fetus is anywhere from 40 to 90 days old and for others it’s when a child takes its first breath following birth. The main point is that those are all religious determinations, and the Constitution explicitly forbids the establishment of a religion that dictates the public sphere.

I want to return, however, to what I find reprehensible and hypocritical about these laws and connect this to some other issues.

Some, but of course not all, people who are strictly “pro-life,” as they deem themselves, seem to me to be not really “pro-life” at all. 

If these people were really pro-life, they would be passing laws to guarantee that all children and pregnant women (who are definitely alive, last time I checked) had access to proper and affordable health care, before, during and after pregnancy and at all stages of life.

Being pro-life demands a recognition that 11-, 12-, and even 16-year-old girls are still children with lives and forcing them to give birth could jeopardize that life. Studies show that girls are reaching puberty at earlier ages now than in the past. This means that potentially very young victims of rape could be forced to bear children. Don’t even try to tell me that an 11-year-old child being forced to give birth following a rape is some kind of “silver lining.” The very notion is appalling.

Legislation that not only requires rape victims to give birth but also requires them to co-parent with their rapist, which is the case in several parts of the country, is equally appalling, and I can’t help but feel such legislation reeks of sexism and devalues girls and women. 

Other legislation claims terminating a pregnancy is never a medical necessity and makes no exceptions. That is not the case. For just one example, look up the standard treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, which cannot, as some lawmakers have suggested, be moved and surgically implanted in a uterus. Not only does such legislation defy science and accepted medical practice, it again devalues women’s lives. 

People who are really pro-life wouldn’t justify separating migrant children from parents at the border or cutting off humanitarian aid to countries where poverty, disease and violence claim the lives of millions of children annually (and where our country has most definitely played a role, through our meddling in the governments of nations, in creating leadership vacuums that allow violence to flourish). If you can look at a photograph of a man and his young daughter lying dead in a river and shrug, because, “They shouldn’t have come here illegally,” then you’re not actually pro-life at all. 

The present situation at our southern border is largely due to a huge uptick in the number of family units attempting to cross into the U.S. A significant percentage of these are people who turn themselves in at the border and request asylum. It is not illegal to request asylum. 

I ask any parent; how desperate would you have to be to risk a dangerous journey of thousands of miles when the conditions at the border are well-known? Some compassion is in order. 

People who are really concerned about all human life wouldn’t want to curtail the lives of those who are of different races, nationalities, religions, sexes or gender identities. Coming up with reasons to view people as “other” leads to viewing them as “lesser,” which is a very slippery slope leading to all manner of immoral acts.

Telling people to go back to where they came from is discriminatory, no doubt about it. For proof, look no further than the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s own documents that describe workplace discrimination. 

There are different levels of racism, sexism and xenophobia. There’s the blatant hood-wearing kind and then there are different levels of systemic intolerance so deeply ingrained in our society that some people may not even realize it. 

Here’s a quick and simple test to determine if a comment is discriminatory. If it’s something that would never be said to a heterosexual white man in our modern era, then it’s discriminatory and you should probably keep your mouth shut. 

I’m ashamed of some of what is happening in my country right now. That doesn’t make me un-American. In fact, I would argue the opposite. The most American among us are those who have continually strived for our country to do and be better and live up to our stated ideals. 

What is un-American, in my opinion, is tolerating or refusing to denounce behavior or language that is clearly beyond the pale because you think the economy is strong or because of partisan politics or because we’re approaching an election year. 

Being pro-life has to mean more than being pro-unborn-life.

Being an American has to mean more than blind support, especially when it comes to blatant racism, discrimination and lack of compassion. 


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