Friday, January 22, 2010

The Switch that Saves Lives

In 1973, there was a young, childless couple living in Dallas. As most barren couples are, they desperately wanted children of their own. Somehow, they came to be aware of another young woman, this one single and pregnant, searching for someone to provide her with an abortion. At the time, even searching for someone to provide an abortion was criminal, much less the act itself. Both parties wound up in court over the matter-the young girl to fight the law that outlawed her "choice", and the young couple fighting for that very girl's unborn child. Dallas County allowed the young girl to proceed with her case against the state, but the couple was prohibited from pursuing theirs any further. The court's decision was based on the idea that you could not be in defense of another life if that other life wasn't a life at all, rather an "unborn".

Since that day, fiery battles have raged and lives have been lost over the terminology of conception. Pro-Choicers would have that babies don't grow in the womb, and it's not a baby kicking, breathing, eating, and sleeping. Rather, embryos, fetuses, and the unborn perform all these actions. These switches in terminology are key to a pro-choicers argument. Language is a very powerful force and an important cultural indicator, and it's much more powerful to call abortion baby killing than fetus-terminating or embryo-removing. If we call them babies, then that's exactly what they are. But if we call them the unborn, well that sounds a lot like the undead, and who's not ok killing zombies? This terminology debate started in the mid 70s along with environmentalism, animal rights legislation, and other traditional liberal sticking points. As society has become more liberal (read: hippie-esque), we have continued time and time again to depersonify pregnancy with our words and terms. This makes abortion legislation easier to pass and easier for the public to condone; Americans would never condone baby killing, but we sure vote for law makers who legalize using a vacuum hose to suck out all the contents of a woman's womb, or use bamboo sticks to pierce the cervix and absorb the placenta fluids so the life inside dies a slow, torturous death.

One could argue that American citizens are becoming more conservative in the wake of the Obama administration; the election in Massachusetts would certainly point to this trend. If one observes closely, there is also a country wide trend toward traditional family values (the destruction of prop 8 in CA and resistance to alternative marriage legislation in many other states) and moderation. The trends are inevitably interlinked, and the bigger picture shows that those grass-roots independents and sign-holding conservatives are the same people decrying the morally ambiguous and ethically bankrupt things that happen in our country today. Just as in the 70s when we started a downward slide into murky moral waters, our terminology is changing again as we climb back upwards.

The young couple aforementioned believed they were acting in defense of another human being when they went to court to stop the young girl from having an abortion. Scott Roeder also believed he was acting in defense of other human beings (past, present, and future) when he walked into a Kansas church and downed a late-term abortion doctor, Dr. George Tiller, with one shot. Dr. Tiller performed late term abortions (even though there is a federal law on the books prohibiting late term abortions, many states continue to offer these procedures), which means that he terminates and then surgically removes babies that are anywhere from 16 weeks from birth to 2 weeks from birth. At 20 weeks, the baby is 8-10 inches long, has all fingers and toes, a heartbeat, eyelashes, and fingernails. Even staunch pro-choicers can't argue that's not life. Mr. Roeder is now in court facing murder charges for the death of Dr. Tiller. In this gruesome theater, there was not expected to be any surprises. There were many witnesses, it was clearly pre-meditated, and showed extreme violence and lack of remorse. Something happened, however, that shifted the entire trial and blasted this case into the stratosphere. The judge has allowed Mr. Roeder to argue that his actions were in the defense of other human beings. The law clearly states that one may defend another human being's life. Life is the key word. The law, at least in Kansas, has acknowledged life in the womb. If the state had continued to only refer to pre-birth babies as embryos or fetuses, the law wouldn't have applied. The state had to concede the existence of life in order for there to be defense of life. Voila, terminology switch!

The collective of our country is changing. We are beginning to wake up and embrace the right things-family, faith, and freedom, and dismiss that which is not sound logically, ethically, or morally. When our culture changes, so do our words. Our culture is changing, and as evidenced in Kansas, so are our words.

In 1973, a one Ms. Roe got her day in court and won herself an abortion and changed everything. While murder is never the answer, it's about time all those fighting for life, like that young couple, get their day in court and their chance to change everything.

The Scott Roeder murder trial coverage can be found here.

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