When Religion and Health Collide

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortions, but their Supreme Court, in 1992, ruled that it should be legalized in cases where the mother’s life is in jeopardy if the pregnancy were to continue.  Ireland is a very Catholic country.  Abortion is still illegal in Ireland, with no provisions for mother’s health.  So far, religion has the upper hand over health concerns in Ireland.

Why am I writing about the Emerald Isle today?  In what is probably not a first, a woman was denied what could have been a life-saving abortion, and lost her life as well.  It’s easy to criticize Ireland’s law and forced religious beliefs on this woman since she was not a Catholic, and I would be doing so from the perspective of someone who lives in a country with religious freedom and freedom from religion.  To expect the Irish to share my view that religion should not be forced on people would be irresponsible on my part, and hypocritical of me.

This case, however, demonstrates what can happen when women do not have the right to choose their own healthcare.  From what I read, the mother, Savita Halappanavar, had every intention of carrying her baby to term.  It is not like she was looking to have an abortion because she was irresponsible with her choices or because she thought it was a good idea.  She requested an abortion because she had developed blood poisoning while in the process of having a miscarriage at approximately 17 weeks pregnant.  There is speculation that her blood poisoning could have been treated and reversed had she been able to have an abortion instead of waiting for the fetus to die before treatment could be administered.

In our country, there is and has been a movement to make abortions illegal.  Taking the fact that we would be basically telling women that they are not entitled to the same type of rights as men out of the equation (more on this in a second), we would be setting ourselves up for cases just like the one in Ireland.  Women needlessly losing their lives when an abortion could have and would have saved it.  In the case of this woman in Ireland, the fetus had not even reached viability, which is generally set at 28 weeks.  Viability, when referring to a fetus, is the ability to survive outside the fetus, even with artificial means.  In the Ireland case, the woman’s husband lost both his wife and his child when one of them, his wife, quite possibly could have been saved.

As promised, here is the more on restricting women’s rights versus men’s.  People seem to feel that it is just fine and dandy to limit women’s reproductive rights; women are made to feel like they are terrible when they choose to take birth control pills, or if they choose to have an abortion.  They are unjustly judged.  Men, on the other hand, seem to get a free pass.  If I scheduled a vasectomy for myself for next week (I have not, and it is not in the plans, either), nobody would even bat an eye.  When you hear or read about reproductive rights, the focus is always on criminalizing abortion, but a vasectomy is never even brought up.  Is it because a male’s sperm are not considered as having “life” to them?  I guess that could be one argument, but that alone does not justify taking away a woman’s reproductive rights.  While it is true that a husband cannot force his wife to have an abortion, isn’t that the point?  Shouldn’t our country stand for equality when it comes to the rights of men and women?  Shouldn’t we follow what the 1st Amendment spells out and have both freedom of and freedom from religion?  I ask that because what you will generally find is that the argument against abortion is almost always a religious one.

I will close with this.  Ireland is a great country with wonderful people, but I do not want to live in Ireland.  One thing that differentiates us from Ireland is that we, as citizens, have both freedom of and freedom from religion.  Religious beliefs are not forced on any of us through our laws.  Those who came and settled in the colonies all those years ago, did so while fleeing overt and strict religious rule, at least partially.  Do we, as a country, really want to become exactly what the colonists fled from?  Do we want to rule our women with the “Iron Thumb” and dictate to them their every thought, deed, and action?  If so, what would make us any different from the Taliban in Afghanistan?

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13 Responses to When Religion and Health Collide

  1. ryan85 says:

    My post on this issue is next in the shoot, but I want to offer a few observations here. Comparing a vasectomy with abortion is irresponsible. The proper comparison is to compare a vasectomy with a tubal ligation. There is absolute equality in regard to those two similar procedures. To your comment about the sperm not being a life, you’re exactly correct. A human has 46 chromosomes, where the male and female reproductive cells, aka gametes, have only 23. This is because the 23 from dad and the 23 from mom unite to create the new 46 chromosome zygote which is completely unique from either parent. Is it, the sperm, living? Yes. It has very short life span. But it is not a life, in the context of a developing human being. The moment it joins with an egg and the two become one the conversation changes. By the way, a vasectomy doesn’t kill sperm anyway. The procedure simply prohibits sperm from exiting the body via the penis. Sperm are still produced and then absorbed into the body.

    Tommy, you opened this post crying foul because a woman lost her life through an unfortunate set of natural circumstances. However, you are advocating for the taking of another’s life through unnatural means. As you said in one of your previous posts, you are not limiting your allowance of abortion to scenarios like these. You stated you believe it should be a woman’s choice regardless of circumstance. Therefore, you would support a woman taking the life of a days-before-delivery infant. If that’s morally permissible, how would you articulate the wrongness of the woman in question losing her life? No doubt, it’s a terrible situation and I hate to speak specifically of a family going through such profound heartache, but as a case in point it’s helpful for understanding the issue.

    • TommyK says:

      You are right, I do not limit my stance to scenarios such as the one I wrote about. Nor have I ever stated the “days-before-delivery infant” stance, either. What I support is what the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, in which it was decided regarding the viability of the fetus to survive outside the womb (28 weeks). Is that me lacking understanding?

      It is not really fair to take my support of decided case law and jump to a conclusion that I support the days-before-delivery example you provided. That was a stretch. And what is legally and what is morally permissible are, based on said decided case law, not necessarily the same.

      Look, I know that I am not going to sway your view on this subject, and I respect the view and stance that you have taken. In the same context, I am not trying to change your view or anybody else’s view.

      I appreciate your comment and your series as well.

      • ryan85 says:

        My “days-before-delivery” scenario is based on your support of a woman’s right to an abortion at any time. While Roe v. Wade does have the 28 week viability phrase in it, it also includes the idea that after viability a woman can have an abortion for health reasons including “psychological well-being.” By the way, We have now seen babies survive who were born prior to 22 weeks of gestation, so shouldn’t the law change to reflect that? At least? But viability aside, Roe v. Wade allows for abortion at any time in a pregnancy including “days-before-delivery.” And if I understand your position correctly, you would support a woman’s right to abort that child. Am I wrong?

        The differentiation between legally and morally permissible is a good point. This is exactly why and how slavery was abolished. Something considered acceptable by law -slavery- was recognized as morally unacceptable by concerned citizens. Today slavery is illegal, aligning our country with moral truth. This is also the precise reason why I advocate for the absolute prohibition of abortion. While legally acceptable, it’s morally unacceptable.

        Am I correct in understanding you base you position purely on the law? If so, if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, would your view change? Would you then become pro-life? Would you then tell a woman she should not have an abortion? If not, why?

        A final question I’d like for you to consider; how long would you survive if removed from the environment in which you were designed to live? For example, how long would you live underwater or in open space? Roe v. Wade has a fundamental flaw in it’s artificial qualification for viability. The baby is perfectly viable in its appropriate environment, and now even at under 22 weeks of development outside its environment.

      • TommyK says:

        Do I think that a woman should have an abortion days before delivery? They probably should not. Do I think that they should have the right to make that choice? Yes, I do. I am not claiming that abortion is pretty or anything like that. I stand with a woman’s right to choose.

        Would I change to pro-life if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned? No, I would not. I am firmly pro-choice and Roe is a part of, but not the entirety of that position. I believe that a woman should have the right to make a choice what they do with their body. Do I think that a woman should get a tattoo on her face? No, I really do not. But do I support her right to choose to do so? Yes, I do. In the same vein, being pro-choice does not make me pro-abortion. There is a difference. Pro-abortion being I think abortions are great and wonderful, which I do not. Pro-choice being I think that women should have the right to make a decision for themselves when it comes to something health-related.

        It’s funny/ironic, that you mention slavery. I am working on a post regarding the belief that some have that abortion is protected by the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude. I am still researching it so I can approach that stance with a firm foundation and see exactly how I feel about that claim.

        While I disagree with the absolute prohibition of abortion that you advocate for, I respect that you are steadfast in that advocacy. Do you feel the same way about the death penalty? I know you are against it, but are you willing and ready to advocate for the outright prohibition of the death penalty? If not, why not? If we are going to outlaw things that we find morally reprehensible that cause harm, shouldn’t guns and other weapons also be outlawed? Some people find guns to be morally reprehensible, and when fired at another human being, cause great harm.

        Again, I think it is a stretch to compare my surviving in space or underwater with that of a developing fetus.

        Look, I know that abortion is both a touchy/sensitive topic and one that is ripe with controversy. We are on opposite sides on the issue, and that is ok. I’ve written before that I enjoy having mature and respectful debates and discussions with people who do not share my views, and the nature of this topic does not change that. As long as we maintain, at the very least, the agreement that we will continue to be respectful of each other’s views, I will be happy to continue this debate/discussion and have any number of others. My position doesn’t mean that I hate babies any more than yours means that you hate women, and I think we can agree that neither of those examples are the case for us.

        I do appreciate your comments and interactions, and I hope that if anybody else reads them, they can learn a little from your comments and my replies.

      • ryan85 says:

        You said a woman “probably should not” have an abortion days before delivery. My question is why do you say that? Why shouldn’t they?

        A woman getting a tattoo, her appendix removed, or a tubal ligation is about her body and her choice. There is a fundamental difference when speaking about abortion because another life is involved. No one wants to arbitrarily prohibit a woman from choosing things, but I would place a prohibition on her choosing to harm another person. This is the same line of reasoning that justifies the prohibitions against violence, rape, murder, etc.

        I’m struggling to track your belief on this issue though. You said you believe it’s okay in any situation, then you said in this comment you “think that women should have the right to make a decision for themselves when it comes to something health-related.” Which is it?

        While I’m not a proponent of the death penalty, I also see a fundamental difference between the two issues. Someone gets the death penalty based upon their being convicted of a horrible act of violence against another person. Abortion is committed against a totally innocent person. I oppose the death penalty because I hold hope for the redemption and restoration of the person guilty. At the same time, I wouldn’t advocate for its outright abolition because frankly, I’d rather invest in defending the innocent before moving to the defense of the guilty.

        Tommy, I don’t know my official position on gun laws, but I know a gun is a morally neutral item. Its use is what’s in question. Again, the comparison to abortion is irresponsible. A proper comparison would be to compare a gun to a scalpel or knife. Any could be used for good and any could be used for evil. The issue is in the heart and intent of the user.

        You said it’s a stretch to compare your surviving underwater with a baby out of the womb. Please explain the stretchiness of it. How is it different?

      • TommyK says:

        If we want to pick through and parse every word I say for deeper meaning we can, but I will make it easy. I am pro-choice. Plain and simple. I support a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her body when she wants to do it.

        Last time I checked, a pregnancy is a health issue, right? Or do we want to split hairs and parse words some more. I’ll state again, I am pro-choice.

        I am sorry that you are stuggling to track my belief on this issue, I thought it was rather clear.

        Speaking on the death penalty, are you aware that the cost to the taxpayer is higher for those condemned to death than it is for those condemned to life in prison? How can you justify advocating for the outright prohibition of abortion (the taking of a life) but not the death penalty (also taking of a life)? Or are you more in the camp of protecting life until birth, and then after birth, we are on our own and can be freely killed, as long as it is within the bounds of the law?

        It’s a stretch comparison to say underwater living is the same as a baby in the womb because, unlike a baby in the womb, I am not solely reliant on anyone else for my survival today. I can choose to eat or not eat, etc. If I was meant to live underwater or in outer space, my body would either have to quickly evolve to survive or I would die. I know that I will never convince you to even remotely respect my belief, and that is ok with me.

        Since we are discussing choice, what about someone who is on life support and their spouse has to make the ultimate decision to “pull the plug” or not? Should we outlaw that choice as well since it would be one person choosing to end the life of another? I mean, if you are on life support, you are still alive, albeit by artificial means. While advance directives certainly spell out someone’s wishes in that situation, the ultimate decision is made by someone else, not the person who is most affected. Wouldn’t your pro-life stance prompt you to advocate for the outright prohibition of “pulling the plug?”

        You stated that you had trouble following my belief, and the more I think of your response to my question regarding the death penalty, I am having trouble following your position as pro-life. Are you ok with the deliberate homicide of a felon or not? Should it be in place or not? What is the justification for taking someone’s life who has been convicted of murder? An eye for an eye? Now, you can try to turn it around on me and say that since I am pro-choice, there is no way I can be against the death penalty, but you would fail in trying. The difference, as I have stated and written about, is that pro-choice does not mean that I am pro-abortion.

        The more I read each comment that is added, the more I am coming to believe that you cannot seem to disagree with my position but respect my right to have said position. Just because you disagree with it does not make it wrong, and it does not make me a bad person. Now, I know that you have not said that I am a bad person for having a different view, but you have also never indicated once that you respect the fact that we have a difference in opinion. That is all well and good with me; I value our friendship the same today as I did 6 months ago or a year ago.

        Again, I appreciate each comment and value your input and your opinion. I truly hope that anybody who reads this entry and these comments will learn a little and craft their own opinion on the subject matter.

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  3. ryan85 says:

    Tommy, I mean absolutely no disrespect. I’m not sure what I’ve written to make you feel I’ve lacked respect for you. I’ll make amends where you feel it necessary. My questions and clarifications are intended to work through the implications of your position, not to make you feel bad.

    To your comment. I’m not picking at your words. But I am asking for consistency in your thought. Initially you took issue with me saying you would support a “days-before-delivery” abortion but now it seems you would support that choice. But you said she “probably should not” make that choice. I just want you to articulate why you fee that way.

    To be clear, let me offer a definition of pro-choice and let me know where you agree or disagree. Pro Choice – the belief that a woman has the freedom to end the developing life inside her at any moment in its gestation, even to the point of delivery. This is predicated on the idea that the developing life has no constitutional or legal protection in the United States.

    Does that definition represent your belief?

    To your paragraph about the death penalty. I will not allow financial burden be the justification for the ending of a life. I believe one of our government’s purposes is to protect the citizens. We’ve got laws theoretically written to protect the rights of those citizens. That being said, comparing the death penalty with abortion is an imbalanced comparison. The child being aborted never committed a crime, never had a trial by a jury of his peers, etc. Even a man who murders a classroom full of children, live on TV would be granted an attorney and a hearing. The due process every citizen is promised is intended to prevent the innocent from being incarcerated or punished with death. The death penalty is an issue of how we manage the enforcement of punishment for guilty people. Abortion is an issue of how we manage a pregnancy. These issues represent planks of political platforms, but that doesn’t make them equitable comparisons.

    Back to the “stretch” example. It was in reference to the concept of viability. A developing child is perfectly viable inside the womb. When taken from the womb prematurely her viability is lessened. Her body is still developing, but she still has a body. Her organs and systems are all present but still developing. If I understand your criticism with my analogy correctly, the difference is the child’s dependence on her mother for nourishment. The child does not get to make her own choices to eat, or any other choice, therefore her viability is in question. Correct me if I have that wrong. If I am correct, would you believe a nursing child, before the advent of formula, was still a candidate for abortion? If not, why not. I believe the courts are taking a dangerous liberty and have set a perilous precedent by attempting to define when a person is “viable.” Or perhaps you could share what you understand “viability” to mean.

    “Pulling the plug.” These issues are similar because they involve death and someone acting on behalf of another, but their similarities end there. I am firmly against euthanasia. You aren’t asking about that, but I thought it necessary to state. Pulling the plug assumes a living person is in the process of death, and his caregivers, either by pre-written request or power of attorney, allow that process to reach its natural conclusion. They stop intervening. Abortion is fundamentally different because the caregiver is stopping the natural process, with absolutely no input from the baby, and in doing so ending a life. The are intervening. A proper comparison would be euthanasia motivated by viability of the person. I believe, like I do with abortion, the practice is wrong. The pro-life position would be that because every life is valuable we strive to protect it.

    Me, pro-life, and the death penalty. Am I okay “with the deliberate homicide of a felon or not?” Legally speaking, the death penalty is not homicide, and it’s not applicable to just any felon. That being said, I am not okay with it. I am all for radical prison reform and would advocate for profoundly arduous sentences for convicted criminals, but I don’t feel comfortable with the death penalty. The guilt of the felon makes this issue less absolute though. A moral, legal, and even Biblical argument can be presented to support the death penalty. I don’t buy them, but they aren’t out of left field. I can understand the thinking that taking the life of a mass murderer is appropriate. I am not for it. I speak out against it. But I will still fight to defend the innocent before fighting to defend the guilty.

    My view on the death penalty or your view of the death penalty is immaterial to this discussion though. My heart is to speak clearly and thoroughly about the concept of abortion. If it’s okay by you, I’d like to keep the discussion focused on the points directly associated with abortion.

    I hope this comment wasn’t disrespectful; I sincerely mean you no disrespect.

    • TommyK says:

      It might be a little extreme to assert that allowing a woman the right to choose to terminate her pregnancy of an unborn child is akin or similar to a post-birth abortion (not sure if that is a term or not). That’s as extreme as saying that a dad can beat to death his 10 year old son for drawing on the wall. You say you want to stay focused on the topic at hand, abortion, then bring up children that are outside of the womb.

      Circling back to the death penalty just for a second. Yes, in fact, an execution is a homicide. A homicide is defined as “the killing of a human being, committed by another,” so legally speaking, an execution is homicide. But you are right, that is not the issue at hand here, but I did want to clear that up.

      You can certainly add or subtract anything you would like to make your definition of pro-choice fit what you want. Pro-choice, to me, is advocating a woman’s right to control her own body. Does that include the decision to have an abortion if they see fit? Yes. Does that make me a proponent of abortion? Absolutely not. I think what needs to be understood here is that I am not advocating for abortion. I am advocating for a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. I don’t know that I have ever said that abortion is the answer; there are times, however, where as ugly as it is and as hard as it is to accept, that a woman will make that choice. I do not see the need to try to paint me into a corner and proclaim that I have to agree with abortion to advocate for a woman’s right to choose; while they are very closely related, they are not necessarily to be considered one in the same. Someone can be pro-choice in the sense that they can be in favor of a woman’s right to birth control pills. I know your stance on contraception as well, so discussion can be for another time since it is not 100% relevant to the topic at hand.

      I want to be very clear. I am pro-choice. I am for a woman’s right to be able to make decisions about her own body. The fact that abortion is inlcuded in having a choice is just that, a fact. Would I prefer for a woman to explore alternatives such as adoption? Of course I would. But I do not think that we (not me and you) should take away any rights from women to make exploring alternatives the only option. I believe that we each have the fundamental right to decide what is best for our bodies; I can choose to drink sour milk or eat raw chicken, and I will have to live with the consequences (yes, I am aware that those comparisons are nowhere near the choice to have an abortion, but were used solely as examples of living with the choices we make).

      I don’t think that your view is wrong at all, it is just different from mine. Spirited debates/discussions are fun, and I think it is great that you have the same conviction in your view that I have in mine. We are fortunate to live in a country where we can be on opposite sides of an issue and engage in a spirited and lively discussion, and not have to live in fear of retribution. I hope that these replies have at least given you insight into my view the way that yours have for me; I would rather debate with a friend who I know is coming from a place of steadfast conviction (you) than someone who would sit and sling personal attacks from the safety of their desk or phone or iPad. Too often people want to judge another based off of one opposing view, and I believe it is more difficult to do that when you know more about the person than what you read on sites like this one or yours. The content of one’s character is not solely revealed on one topic or subject.

    • TommyK says:

      And one more thing, all of our comments and replies have diverted attention from anyone else reading how disgusting of a display I read from someone regarding the death of Governor Scott’s mother. The fact that people want to sling insults at him at this time is repulsive; there is a time for politics, and that time is not now.

  4. TommyK says:

    One last comment. As a pro-choice person, my ultimate goal is to reduce the need for abortion to be a choice by proper education and access to contraceptives. The goal is make the procedure obsolete to where the only time the choice has to be made is in extreme circumstances. Criminalizing the procedure will only serve to make women seek the so-called “back alley” procedure, which has to be dangerous. Criminalizing the procedure by taking away a woman’s right to choose sets back women’s rights decades; moreover, it would start our country on a slippery slope of taking away the rights of people.

    Someone way smarter than me who I respect and who also shares my pro-choice stance summed it up best: I don’t like abortions, but it is not up to me to tell a woman she cannot have one.

    What is lost in the entire debate is that pro-choice people are not necessarily pro-abortion; some are, and that is their view and I respect their right to have that view.

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