Sunday, September 28, 2008

Abortion and The Jill Stanek Lie

I suspect that few people would disagree with me if I said that abortion was the most emotional issue in American politics...

I'm a Democrat. I disagree with my party on abortion. I don't really think there is a constitutional right to the choice of abortion. Oh, sure, I understand Roe v. Wade, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there is a constitutional right to an abortion. But the Supreme Court has changed its mind before. On the other hand, I disagree with the Republican position that abortion is always (each and every time) just plain wrong because, well, the Bible says so. I own a Bible. I have some training in how to read it (and interpret it). I even like it. And it just doesn't say that - at least not as clearly as the Christian Right in America would have us believe.

You'll notice I used "Christian" there as an adjective, not a noun. I know that most of the people who believe in James Dobson have stopped reading by now. (They probably stopped reading at "I'm a Democrat.") In America, a group of political conservatives have tried very hard to take over Christianity (or at least the Church) and milk it for political ends. Let's face it: Republicans generally worship money. The blend of the Republican Party and the Religious Right reminds me very much of the Pharisees in the New Testament - politically conservative, very religious, and preoccupied with money.

Jill Stanek has a video. She lies in it. It's quite a moving video - which is to say that the people using her make good videos. You can find it on YouTube (I won't post it here). It's about Barack Obama and his time in the Illinois state legislature and, well, abortion. A colleague that I respect a lot sent me a link to it in an email. The video is five and a half minutes long. The last full minute is of a baby supposedly dying. The sensationalism is incredible.

I've called Stanek a liar. I'm sure she experienced something horrific. I'm sure her emotions are being used by others. But her video talks about a proposed law in Illinois, and here's her lie: "At the end of the day, his (Obama's) opposition (to this proposed bill) was responsible for living babies being left out to die." The problem is that the proposed law duplicate one already on the books. The law Stanek is talking about would have made something illegal that was already illegal.

I watched the video. And I replied to my colleague. Here's my reply...

Dramatic. You'd almost think they really left that baby there to die in the video...

Here's the Obama response,

The Republican who sponsored the bill Jill Stanek is talking about in the Illinois state legislature has said in the Chicago Tribune that Jill Stanek's statements in the video are misleading. In his own words, "None of those who voted against SB-1082 favored infanticide." He also points out that the bill later passed with minor rewording - something Jill Stanek's (video leaves out). She also leaves out the fact that a law that covered the issue was already on the books in Illinois. Funny how people can stretch the truth to make it look like God is on their side...,0,3918744.story

Abortion is a horrible thing. I worked for a year as a counselor for an anti-abortion group, Birthright, in Augusta, Ga., in college. I don't mind saying in Democratic Party meetings (which I attend) that we need fewer abortions, that abortions need to be harder to get, and that there needs to be more obvious alternatives supported by state and local government. I don't know that I think abortion should ALWAYS be prohibited. But I'd be quite happy to make abortion far less convenient.

While I think that abortion is a horrible thing, I think there are a lot of horrible things out there. The James Dobsons of the world want me to think that abortion is a crystal clear Biblical issue. And yet the word isn't in the Bible. Abortion was around. Historical records document it in about Egypt in 1550 BC. Hippocrates (died 370 BC) discussed abortion and forbad general practice doctors form being involved in it (or in any other form of surgery).

Exodus 21:22-23 is an interesting passage. If two men fight and they injure a woman in the process and she loses her baby, they owe a fine. For centuries that's been the interpretation of that passage by Christian scholars and in the Jewish lit. The passages in the Bible that get used to support the idea of humanity beginning at conception are all poetic. I have enough Bible training to know that using them as the foundation of a theological position is bad exegesis. In most of the Old Testament, humanity begins with breath or blood, not conception.

I don't mind saying that abortion is a horrible thing. But the effort of the political right to put it in a religious context and make absolute statements about it is an assault on the general public's right to read God's Word for themselves. Like many issues in the Bible, there's no definitive statement. The ministers of politics who want to say that there is such a definitive statement - they're selling something...

And Jill Stanek appears to be a liar who makes good videos.

Abortion is a horrible thing. If we hadn't turned it into a religious litmus test, the church might be more interested in poverty (which is DEFINITELY a Biblical issue)...



Anonymous said...

Yours is the most sensible position on abortion I have ever read. While I believe in a woman's right to choose, I agree with the right-to-life bumper sticker professing "Abortion is not birth control." It should not be easy to obtain.

Anonymous said...

My stance on abortion has always been that while I don't agree with it being about a womans right to choose I look at it as a necessary evil. The harsh realities in this country is that children are born into this country unwanted and abused now...can you imagine how it would be if abortion became illegal?
When all of the right wing anti-abortion people start adopting babies and children and taking care of the hungry and abused children of this country I will be more than happy to see abortion illegal.
Lets make this a better world for all children to be born into first.
Oh and btw...I was a pregnant 16 year old who now at the age of 46 has a beautiful 29 year old married daughter who is just now the mother of a new baby son. I also took under my wing several kids who needed a "mom" over the years. I walked the walk.

concerned said...

Sir, you have misquoted the Bible. I don't know if it was intentional or not. Either you didn't bother to check your facts, which makes me question everything you've written here, or you did it intentionally which means you are a man of little character. I'd like to believe the former. Exodus 21:22 says that if two men are fighting and strike a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely they are to pay a fine IF THERE IS NO INJURY. Exodus 21:23,24 goes on to say if the baby is harmed they are to repay life for life, eye for eye, etc.

Greg_Cruey said...

Dear Concerned,

I have not “misquoted” the Bible. In fact, I didn’t quote the Bible at all. I did refer to a passage (Exodus 21:22 and onward). I summarized its content. But it was not my intention to quote it because most readers can look it up for themselves.

You claim that the passage says that “if the baby is harmed…” and yet the passage most certainly does not use that wording in ANY translation. (I guess that means that YOU are misquoting it.)

The difficulty of translating this passage can be seen by comparing a few translations from different Bibles. The Hebrew is figurative. The King James put it into English this way: “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her…” The American Standard Version stays with that imagery of “her fruit.”

The English Standard Version and the New Century Version try to make the passage more literal without adding interpretation to the translation process: “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out…” (ESB).

In the New International Version (the Bible for Evangelicals, by Evangelicals) it reads: “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury…” The New KJV also follows this.

The Revised Standard Version interprets the figurative language as referring to a miscarriage. The fighting men caused a miscarriage (and had to pay a fine) in the RSV, the New Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the Douay-Rheims Bible, and the Contemporary English Version.

Translation is the process of rendering words in one language into another language. So Nacho Grande = large nachos; that’s a translation. Interpretation (or exegesis) is the process of deciding what the words mean. For literally thousands of years Jews and Christians alike have interpreted this passage as meaning that if two men fight and injure a woman so that she miscarries, but is not otherwise injured - they must pay a fine because she lost her baby. Only in the last few decades has anyone argued that the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” section applied in exchange for the life of the unborn baby. You’re welcome to that interpretation; but it is clear from comparing various translations that YOU are interpreting it. It doesn’t SAY that. And whether it MEANS that or not is a point of contention.

MY POINT is just that: this passage does NOT state with clarity that the value of an unborn baby is the same as the value of an adult. And to say that it DOES flies in the face of historic interpretations and lowers the theological bar. It’s a revisionist approach to the passage…