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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Abortion Still Matters

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I’ve heard very little about the abortion issue during this political campaign. One reason is that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain seems willing to take a radical stance for or against abortion. I think the likeliest reason, however, is that everyone is everlastingly tired of the issue. Some are tired of hearing about it; others are just as tired of talking about it.

But it’s an issue that is not going to go away.

In the United States, between one in four and one in three pregnancies end in abortion rather than live birth. This is an alarmingly high number, between 1.5 and 1.8 million every year. The number has always been over 1 million per year since abortion-on-demand was first legalized in 1973. Over the past 35 years in the United States alone we have purposely ended the lives of more than 40 million human beings before they had a chance to grow and develop. No other species on the planet deliberately destroys its own offspring in this wholesale manner.

Abortion as we practice it is a terrible evil, a cancer of the human race, a blight on human civilization. It produces no benefits, contributes nothing good, and puts our own comfort and convenience ahead of the precious life of a new child. It promotes selfishness and cynicism. It denies fathers their rights as fathers and makes mothers the arbiters of life and death for their own children. The main reason it enjoys the protected status it has is not because of any benefits it confers on individuals or society but because it is the last resort for disconnecting sex from procreation. In our pleasure-besotted culture, abortion removes one of the painful consequences of sexual adventuring.

I confess; were it not for Democrats’ insistence on supporting abortion, I would most likely be a Democrat. But as far as I can tell, there are no moderate supporters of abortion. Everyone seems determined that no restrictions or limitations of any kind stand in the way of a woman’s legal prerogative to end the life of her unborn child. Parental notification? Too restrictive. Limited to the first trimester? A violation of a woman’s right to choose. I hear dire warnings about a return to back-alley abortions and enslaving women, as if a woman without a license to kill is somehow less free. Abortion supporters give no ground, make no concessions. Even the horrific obscenity of partial-birth abortion does not move them to mitigate their support.

I am well aware that the President has only a limited role in determining the extent to which abortion is available in the United States. Abortion is properly a legislative issue, not an executive one. Nevertheless, I find myself reluctant to vote for someone who joins with those who condemn the innocent and still more reluctant when I consider that one of the first acts of a Democratic President would likely be the repeal of executive orders restricting federal funding of abortions for federal employees and military personnel.

Though abortion supporters are unwilling to curtail the legal rights granted since Roe v. Wade, they say that they want to reduce the number of abortions through early sex education and efforts to make contraceptives readily available. However, none of these efforts has had any appreciable effect on the number of abortions performed. Furthermore, nearly 80% of abortions are obtained by women 20 and older. Does anyone really believe that these women need further education to know how to avoid getting pregnant? No. The problem is not that women need better education. It is that by legalizing abortion, we have also legitimized it. Put simply, our society no longer considers it wrong. If it isn’t wrong, then there is no reason not to get an abortion if the pregnancy comes at a bad time or if the mother just doesn’t want a baby. The number of abortions will not appreciably decline—and I’m talking about a decline to where less than 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in abortion—until we enact laws to restrict it.

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Social Networking Victim

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I originally wrote most of this about a year ago when the events described happened. I decided to re-work it as a humorous speech for my Toastmasters’ Club, so I decided also to re-post it.

One Sunday morning about a year ago, I got up as I always do and headed for the bathroom. I can remember a time, years ago, when the urge to go was not so pressing first thing in the morning, when I might make my first stop in the kitchen to get some cereal and milk, or when I might even flop down in front of the TV to watch Saturday morning cartoons. But I have reached the age when making a beeline for the bathroom on arising is just… prudent.

On this particular day, I noticed that what was coming out was a different color from what I usually saw. There was a definitely pinkish tinge to it. “Blood,” I thought. “This could be serious.”

Rather than alarm anyone, though, I decided to keep it to myself and see if it looked the same the next time. So about one in the afternoon, I had to go again. Still definitely the wrong color. Not only that, I was noticing definite twinges of discomfort in my abdomen. The more I thought about it the more I thought I should do something about it.

I remembered years ago a friend of ours who was colorblind. He didn’t notice anything wrong for weeks. It wasn’t until he forgot to flush that his wife saw and made him go to the doctor. He was diagnosed with cancer and put on a course of radiation therapy. The doctor told him they could have taken a much less aggressive course of therapy if they had caught it earlier. I didn’t want that to happen to me.

I was scheduled to leave on a business trip the next morning, so I thought I should at least call my clinic and get professional advice. I decided to tell my wife, and she agreed. I called the clinic, explained the situation and symptoms to the woman who answered the phone, and was told that I should be seen right away. Over the next couple of hours, I would have to explain my symptoms to women several times. Apparently male doctors don’t work on Sunday.

My oldest daughter had to be picked up from work, and the urgent care facility was just down the street from her workplace, so my wife drove me to the clinic. I went in, explained to a pleasant and pretty young woman why I was there. It made it somehow worse that she was pretty and young. Why couldn’t she have been more… I don’t know… matronly? I filled out paperwork and was directed to the lab where another pleasant woman gave me a sample cup and a couple of moist towelettes and directed me to the lab restrooms. “Directions are on the wall,” she said.

The lab restroom was bare except for the sink and toilet. I put my papers on the floor, and read the instructions on the wall. I won’t go into details except to say that I thought the color was a lot closer to normal than it had been. In fact, it was about the color of apple juice. This was hopeful and disconcerting at the same time. I felt like the guy who takes his car to the mechanic only to have it run flawlessly while he’s there.

I went out to the waiting room and was soon conducted to a small examining room. The nurse asked me about my symptoms again: the discoloration, the discomfort in my abdomen. I explained it all for the third time. She said my results would be back soon, and a doctor would come in to discuss them with me.

The doctor came in a few minutes later, a plump, genial woman with a round face. She began asking the same questions again, and I went over my symptoms for the fourth time.

“When you gave the sample,” she went on, “was it the same color as it had been earlier?”

“No,” I said. Then a sudden thought occurred to me. “Could it have been beets? Because I had beets last night.”

Of course, I made it sound innocuous, but the truth is I had had several helpings of beets.

You see, before my daughter, Libby, left for college we bought her a book that changed our lives. It was The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl, long-time editor of Gourmet magazine. We knew Libby loved to cook, and we had heard good things about this particular cookbook on NPR. When Libby left, though, she left the cookbook behind. She didn’t think she would have much use for it in college, but she thought we could use it at home.

Well, we soon became enthusiastic fans of The Gourmet Cookbook. We tried all kinds of recipes, from artichoke crab dip to zucchini frittata. The previous day we had tried “Beets with Lime Butter.” Now, I never liked beets when I was a kid. I thought they were slimy and tasted like mud mixed with vinegar. I refused to eat them. On those rare occasions when I was forced to swallow a mouthful or two before being excused, the experience only confirmed me in my contempt for beets.

But these beets were different.

They were grated instead of sliced. They were lightly crisp instead of slimy, and they were sweet and earthy instead of sour and muddy. I ate, perhaps, a little more than I should have.

Could it have been beets?”

The doctor smiled. “As a matter of fact, it could. I looked it up just now. In 10 to 15 percent of people the pigment from the beets passes into their urine, making it pink.”

So. All that hubbub about beets. Of course, they also poked my finger and analyzed my blood just to be on the safe side, but there were no traces of anything abnormal in the sample I had given them. I was healthy and normal.

When I got out my wife was waiting for me. I told her about the beets, and she started laughing, softly at first, but by the time we reached the car she was laughing immoderately. She told my daughter, and then they were both laughing as if it were the funniest thing they had ever heard of. Before we were even out of the parking lot, my daughter was on her cell phone to one of her friends. “It was beets!” she crowed. “My dad ate beets last night, and they made him…”

“Who are you talking to?” I asked.

“Nathanael.”

“What? Does the whole world need to know about this?”

“He already knew.”

“How?”

“I don’t know. Nathanael, who told you? He says Sarah told him.”

“Sarah? The whole world already knows. Great. I’ll be a laughingstock for weeks.”

My daughter called Sarah, ostensibly to find out how she knew, but she spent so much time laughing and repeating my symptoms with almost as much detail as if they had been her own, that the real reason was clear. She just loved having an excuse to say the p-word.

But that was not all. We soon learned that my younger son, whom we had left at home, had talked to another daughter who was staying with friends. He had told her that I was in the hospital and that I was really sick. Most of my children were nearly frantic with worry about me. They had called the prayer line at church. In the short time I had been at the clinic, my “problem” had been broadcast throughout the entire network of our friends and acquaintances.

“Why not just put it on the Internet,” I said. So I when I got home I wrote the whole adventure up on my blog. Somehow telling it all so publicly made it less embarrassing. I don’t know; maybe there’s a lesson in that for Barack Obama and John McCain.

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Demands Without War

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Protesters to march on the RNC demanding peace, justice, and equality.
Protesters to march on the RNC demanding peace, justice, and equality.

A week ago, when we were going to the Farmers’ Market in Saint Paul, we encountered people handing out fliers and urging us to march on the Republican National Convention in protest over the war in Iraq. I was particularly struck by the injunction to “demand peace, justice, and equality,” as if a better world could be had just by insisting on it. If we are going to get “peace, justice, and equality” without war, then we had better be prepared to be slaughtered. This was the approach of early Christians. By their willingness to die rather than fight, they shamed their oppressors into granting them respect. I don’t think many—whether left or right—would advocate that policy now. While it may be appropriate for adherents of a cause, it probably is not appropriate policy for a country, especially one that lays claim to global influence. It seems to me that war is the inevitable result of demanding peace, justice, and equality from those who refuse to yield them.

I also noticed no reference to the war in Afghanistan. Is that a tacit acknowledgment that some wars are—if not just—necessary?

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