Friday, March 10, 2006

Thou Shalt Not Not Kill
A Guest Post by The Raving Atheist

What best fulfills "the central Biblical imperative to love and render justice to one's neighbor"? Abortion -- at least according to the scriptures unearthed this week by a clergy task force assembled by Planned Parenthood of New York City. The sacred text, Reproductive Justice in a Just Society, is dedicated to a rabbi who passed away last summer while presumably transcribing it from on high. Judging from the stench of death that permeates the document, they may have forgotten to remove his body from the committee room.

For it appears that the goal of whatever deity dictated this new Word was to transplant the commandment "Do Not Kill" from stone to some more flexible medium. The authors "do not believe that God's vision of a just society is static" and "use the term 'justness' to convey the notion that a theology of justice, including reproductive justice, is inherently a work in progress and that ours are living faiths". What this means is that when it comes to abortion, anything goes:

Each of us has been endowed with free will, together with the capacity and the responsibility to make moral judgements about complex issues. One purpose of religion is to guide people of faith in making good use of these God-given gifts, so that each of us can determine how best to live our lives. Religious teaching on abortion, even among branches of the same religion, varies greatly. Many denominations support a legal right to abortion, even as some of them recognize a conflict between a potential human life and a living human being. But even those religions that recognize this potential conflict assert that it is the right of a woman to make the determination to end her pregnancy, in light of her individual circumstances, guided by her conscience and her faith.

Liberty of conscience in a democratic pluralistic society demands nothing less.
For those who need clearer moral guidance about the potential conflict with potential humans, it is noted that "the decision to end a pregnancy can be viewed as moral or immoral." God apparently doesn't take a position on the issue, other than to approve of whatever is decided. All that matters is that some decision be made -- "[t]his struggle is what it means to be a moral agent." Unless the moral agent is pro-life pharmacist or a nurse or a taxpayer struggling against the culture of death -- neither God's will nor liberty of conscience permit anything less than full participation in the quest for universal "access."

The Holy Pamphlet purports to be written by the "inheritors and guardians of a prophetic tradition." Not necessarily an ancient tradition - the only seer quoted in it is Margaret Sanger, whose genocidal, eugenicist prognostications date back barely a century. Her theology nevertheless forms the core of the updated Gospels, in which the poor and meek inherit little but the right to share in unfettered access to abortion through public financing.

Do the old fashioned concepts of "good" or "bad" ever enter into the new divine morality? Some limitation is suggested: "[a]bortion is a service that a responsible community provides when something goes wrong. But the very first example they provide of something going wrong is "when there is a failure to use birth control or birth control fails." In other words, the "something" that necessarily precedes every pregnancy. So what's "wrong," ultimately, is the pregnancy itself.

The pregnancy, and any measures that might preserve it. The moral relativism which pervades most of the document gives way near the end with a list of very specific no-nos. State-mandated counseling regarding fetal development and waiting periods are wrong because they delay the inevitable "choice." Parental notification laws are bad because a teen might have "reason to fear her parents' reaction." But there are some things we must discuss with our kids: "God commands us to instruct our children so that they will gain understanding and the ability to make wise choices. . . . [m]any faith traditions support comprehensive sex education." Abstinence-only instruction, however, is bad because "[s]uch programs do not discuss birth control except to say, erroneously, that it fails" -- the very failure they previously identified not as erroneous, but as ample justification for an abortion.

The authors conclude that "[a]s human beings, created in God's image, we are entitled to nothing less than full reproductive justice." But the only justice described involves destroying rather than creating. If we are entitled to "nothing less" than that sort of justice, it is only because there is nothing less.