Thursday, January 27, 2005

Abortion

On January 24th, two days after the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion on demand, the Family Planning Advocates of New York State held their 28th annual abortion-rights conference. It was attended by about 1000 pro-choicers including Senator Hillary Clinton. They represented, in effect, the 34% of Americans (according to an NY Times poll) that want to keep abortion generally legal.

Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” and winning party of Roe v. Wade, did not attend. Instead, she chose that day to go to (and speak at) the 32nd annual March for Life in Washington DC. She says that she regrets her abortion, having formally asked the Supreme Court a week earlier to overturn their decision and end the “covenant of death.” She was surrounded by women who had had abortions holding signs saying “I Regret.”

When does life begin? A Senate Subcommittee held hearings in 1981 to answer that question. The testimony, given by world-renowned geneticists and biologists, was surprisingly one-sided – the vast majority agreed that life begins at conception. Dr. Jerome Lejeune (often called “The Father of Modern Genetics”) said “to accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion ... it is plain experimental evidence.” Dr. Michelle Mathews-Roth of Harvard Medical School agreed, sighting evidence from more than 20 medical texts to support her claim. “The Father of In Vitro Fertilization”, Dr. Landrum Shettles, said, “Conception confers life…to deny a truth [about when life begins] should not be a basis for legalizing abortion.”

Suppose for a minute, though, that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim the life begins at conception (we are going to examine the way pro-choicers think). If life does not begin at conception, when does it begin? I do not see how one can say that at this finite point in time, life begins, so that there is one second (or maybe one micro-second) when a baby becomes human. Do pro-choicers suggest that if you kill this ‘thing’ one minute before this time that it is morally okay, but that one minute later it suddenly becomes murder?

On the extreme left end of that argument is MIT professor Steven Pinker, who would like infanticide to be legal, so that a mother can “coolly assess the infant and her situation” before deciding whether or not to kill her baby.

Senator Clinton echoed the general sentiment in the room at the Family Planning conference, when she said that they want to bring about a day when abortion is “safe, legal, and rare.” I don’t understand the last part of this. I can tell why they want abortion to be safe and legal, but if abortion really has no moral implications, why should they want it to be rare? To save women the time, perhaps?

I further find it difficult to see why these leftists have no problem with killing a baby and yet oppose the death penalty for convicted murderers. If death is not appropriate for a criminal, why should it be appropriate for an innocent?

An unwanted baby can be adopted, of course, though that would probably take more time than an abortion, and in the case of a junior probably require the parents to be informed. I suppose that having to tell the parents would cause a great deal of embarrassment. So instead of getting overly inconvenienced or embarrassed, the girl in question secretly goes to have her baby exterminated. Morally clean?

Some pro-choicers argue that, after all, it’s her body and she can do whatever she wants with it. No matter whether it’s moral or not, she has a right to kill her baby. Maybe the woman who chooses to have an abortion recognizes that she is actually killing a human being, but that it’s something she can live with (or just avoid thinking about in those terms). Does that make it right? If someone doesn’t ‘feel bad’ about killing one of his coworkers, does that mean that we should let it happen?

The pro-abortion argument seems confused, and requires at the very least that a certain finite and arbitrary time is selected to separate “choice” and “murder.” In the search for clarification, you yourself can conduct an experiment: try asking a pro-choice activist if he wouldn’t have minded being aborted.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Resolution (?)

Well, the editors have decided that my story is not newsworthy (though I think that at least one of them is clearly afraid of seeing the results). I will still be conducting the poll, however, and I will write up the results as an opinion piece (which will appear on this site whether or not the school paper wants to publish it). In my piece, I will explain, at length if necessary, why each question I selected is of great and basic importance.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Culture Quiz

When the last man to fly in space alone, Gordo Cooper, died a few months ago I was upset. The next day in school, whenever my friends and I needed a subject for conversation, I said, “Hey, you know – Gordo Cooper died yesterday.” The only response I got was: “Who’s he?”

Not a single person I talked to in school that day knew who he was.

I figured that this might reflect not only on the kids in my school but on their education, so I decided that it would be a good idea to make up a quiz that I could give to a representative sample of kids at my school, with the results appearing in the school newspaper (which I work on as a section editor). I worked with my Dad a little, and settled on the following questions:

1. Who was the first American in space?
2. Who perpetrated the Bataan Death March?
3. Who were the Khmer Rouge?
4. Name the first book of the Bible.
5. Who wrote, “With malice towards none; with charity to all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right…”
6. Who did Churchill refer to when he said “Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed, by so many, to so few.”?

I thought that these questions were common knowledge – and that if they weren’t, they should be. And how did the kids in my school do on this poll? I don’t know.

I don’t know, because I decided to show the questions to one of our paper’s chief editors (also a student) and he said that he didn’t like them. I discovered a couple of things that he thought were wrong: First of all, three of the questions dealt with war, and two with religion, and he didn’t like that. Secondly, he himself couldn’t answer the questions, so naturally they must be no good. I asked him if he thought it was right to interfere so much in my section; he said that it was if I was going to do such a “controversial” topic.

His reaction surprised me, because I was prepared to encounter resistance from the teachers, not the students. Nevertheless, I told my ‘chief’ that I was determined to use these questions, and I added that my intent was not to show that Amity High School kids were stupid, it was to find out how good a school we had – here we had a chance to be a real newspaper. He was skeptical, and further worried that teachers would be angry with him if I rapped the school in our paper (he also thought that I couldn’t fill up enough space with a story on that). I told him that I would take all the responsibility myself, and that if the story didn’t work out that he could fire me from the newspaper. He gave me a shaky go-ahead.

I sent the questions out to my writers that night with their assignments, and I added an additional note to one of them, whom I knew I could trust. I said in that additional note that I was worried about being sabotaged, and that if my friend got any letters from any other editors about the assignment that I’d appreciate his sending me a copy. In the meantime, my section co-editor was “urging” me not to send out my assignments.

The same evening one of my writers – the one who I could trust – forwarded me a note from my co-editor that was sent to everyone on my section, except me:

“If you have recently received an assignment for the January issue, please disregard it for now. Soon, we (meaning I and not Dan) will be notifying you of the real assignments.”

The sight of this note really steamed me, and if this co-editor had been sitting next to my computer I probably would have punched him right in his characterless nose. It’s a good thing that I didn’t, because the next day he was quick to confess that he’d been instructed to send out that note by the chief-editor that I’d started with.

That brings me up to the current point. I’ve decided to leave this until after midterms, at which point a few friends of mine with character will help me get my poll out to the students. As for the Chief, his attempt to stop this thing hasn’t gone to well – the results will appear in my column in the school newspaper, on this blog, and (who knows) maybe in another national magazine.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Do the Iraqis want us there? A Marine explains.

A school friend of mine told me that his history teacher explained to her class that the Iraqis didn’t really want us to be there (she also said that the US has killed more Iraqis than Saddam did). The second claim is so ridiculous that it’s not worth discussion, the former claim, however, is worth a few lines.

Former USMC First Lieutenant Karl Blanke was recently interviewed on Fox News. He told a number of interesting stories, starting with the time of America’s initial push into Baghdad. As they engaged Saddam‘s loyalist forces, Iraqis would line the street to cheer for the US.

“Their response was incredible…they just had complete trust that we would not target them, would not harm them in any way. And they literally were out there with their children watching and were so excited to see the special Republican Guard and Baathist units be destroyed by U.S. forces.”

The Iraqis’ positive response was not limited to the first days of the war. Blanke says that he interacted with Iraqis on a daily basis who were “extremely appreciative of everything we had done.” Blanke gives a “great example” from the period after the Abu Grahib controversy: One night in when he was on patrol Fallujah, two Iraqis stopped their car. “And they came up to me and said thank you, thank you, thank you. That’s all they could say. What they did was then they showed me, they pulled up their shirts, pulled up their trouser legs, and showed me all the scars where they’ve been tortured by Uday and Qusay and went on to quite an extensive length about the horrors that they had faced. And that, you know, that’s not one isolated incident. We had a whole series of those types of incidents.”

Interviewer Jim Angle went on to ask Blanke if the absence of WMD had soured the mission for him. Blank answered, “I think for us, as we interacted with the Iraqi people and they started to tell us about the atrocities…the mass graves that have been found, literally thousands of people, some of whom were buried alive. Things like that made it very clear to us that there was a human rights dilemma. And for example…we found a prison of nothing but children, all 10, 12, 14-year-old children that were in prison as a way of manipulating their parents for political goals of Saddam.” In other words, he’s proud of what we’re doing.

Lt. Blanke ends on a positive note, pointing out that it will take time for the Iraqis to recover from 30 years of slavery but saying nonetheless that things look good. (Despite the fact that this “flies in the face of everything we see in the media today.”)

While some people may not accept the above evidence as conclusive, I think that Lt. Blanke may in fact know even more about what’s going on in Iraq than my friend’s history teacher.