Doniger on Abortion, Palin, and Roe v. Wade

Several weeks ago, Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago’s Divinity School, wrote an article titled, “All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others.” In this article (which can be found here in its entirety) Doniger makes statements such as these about Gov. Sarah Palin:

Belief in god, like getting pregnant, is a private matter between consenting adults (or one consenting adult and one or more deities) and is no one else’s business. …But I object strongly when anyone (and especially anyone with political power) tries to take their theology out in public, to inflict those private religious (or sexual) views on other people. In both sex and religion (which combine in the debates about abortion), Sarah Palin’s views make me fear that the Republican party has finally lost its mind…Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party’s cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women. (Emphasis mine)

And the article goes on in much the same tone for its length (though it’s not terribly long, so read it if you can).

When I read it, I feel compelled to offer what I take to be a reasoned response to some of Dr. Donigers claims. Most of what I say below in more on the faith and reason, and abortion issue than on her attacks against Gov. Palin’s character. Here is my response in full:

This is a very interesting piece, and for a number of reasons. First, I find it is ironic (and a bit amusing) that Dr. Doniger chastises Mrs. Palin for supposedly attempting to speak on behalf of all women (not to mention that Doniger appears to be able to read the intentions of Palin’s heart, “she has no sympathy for the problems of other women”), yet herself “speaks for all women” when she expounds her views on ethics of the life-abortion debate.

Does she not see the inherent contradiction of her position? She would refuse others the ability to do the very things she herself does in this article!

Also, contra Biden (and those that follow suit), the issue of when life begins is not a matter of faith. And it has essentially been a platform for pro-abortion advocates to state the conflict in terms that say that pro-lifers believe what they do became of religious convinctions. This simply is not the case, the pro-life position is firmly rooted in the scientific claim that human life begins at conception, or as Dr. Jerome LeJeune, (“the Father of Modern Genetics,” University of Descartes, Paris) says, “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence.”

Likewise, Dr. Hymie Gordon (Mayo Clinic) states, “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” Palin’s position is not whether or not the abortion issue boils down to the ‘right to choose”, but on whether or not the fetus is a human being. If it is (and it is, according to Dr. Alfred Bongioanni [University of Pennsylvania] who said, “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”) then we do not have the legal right to choose to kill it any more than we have the legal right to kill our teenage children if their lifestyle becomes an emotional, cultural, or financial burden to us.

And if the fetus is a human being there likewise should be a law protecting that life, outlawing the ability to take it’s life in the same way that there are laws forbidding parents from taking the lives of their teenage children, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. It is simply being consistent in our “anti-murder” laws. And lest the issues of rape, incest, etc. are presented, I note that the pro-life position is and always has been primarily on the topic of abortion on demand, not the 1%-2% of abortions that fall under the “hard cases” (we should also recall the truism, “Hard cases make for bad laws”). This is not about “forcing” or “inflicting” privately held, but scientifically unverified, beliefs upon others. To state the case this way either a) demonstrates ignorance of the issues involved, or b) is an intentional attempt to erect a smokescreen and obscure the true pro-life position. The pro-life case is built upon the facts regarding the status of the fetus, and until those facts are refuted, the case stands.

And, to make this a religion v. science issue is to misrepresent the nature of the debate.

Posted on October 16, 2008, in Abortion, Culture. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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