#107 – Dick Bernard: Abortion

Almost 45 years ago – it was March, 1965 – my wife and I, and her doctor, were worried that she was pregnant with our second child.
This was not a selfish worry.  Barbara had very serious kidney disease, and it was getting worse and worse.  Pregnancy would kill her and, of course, the fetus.
It turned out she wasn’t pregnant.  Four months later she died waiting for a kidney transplant at a major University teaching Hospital.  Her end of life meant major surgeries and isolation and intensive care for the last two months she was alive.  We were a charity case.
But if she had been pregnant in March, 1965, there would have been the issue of terminating a pregnancy.  We were Catholics; the hospital was a Catholic hospital; I think the Doctor was Catholic.  Likely we would have had to look at other options, and then have to live with the guilt of, as anti-‘baby-killers’ like to say, killing an innocent unborn human life.

Barbara and Dick, sponsors at a Baptism, March, 1965

Barbara and Dick, sponsors at a Baptism, March, 1965

I think of our two years of health hell every time the debate over abortion, over “choice”, heats up.  It never ends, and I despair that it will ever be resolved.  The cement in which zealots feet are firmly planted hardens.  There is no room for dialogue.  Theirs is, they say, the “objective truth”.
I am terminally pro-choice, largely because of personal experience.  Pro-lifers would not have nice things to say about me, even though I am, in all the important ways, as, if not more, pro-life than they are.
Now one of the issues made to be in Health Care Reform is an absolute prohibition on funding for abortion.  It is a ‘kill the bill’ position.  It is dishonest, and it is insane.  Some would add birth control, sex ed, personal conscience, et al to the list.
There is less likelihood that Law will end Abortion, than there was that Prohibition would end Booze.  Still, the pious outrage continues.
Abortion is called death of an innocent human being, but to my knowledge, there has not yet been a single legislature courageous enough to pass a bill making abortion murder, with penalties for the person having the abortion.  After years of intense heat but little light, there is no “life in prison without parole” for having an abortion.  (Occasionally there may have been some legislators who actually introduced such bills.  If so, I’d like to see the evidence.)
I remain Catholic.  Barbara passed on 44 years ago.
People, doubtless caring and of good will, rail against women’s right to choose without caring to understand the dilemmas of a lack of a right to choose.
It is a (too many would say) a ‘divinely divisive’ political issue, and, apparently, a good ticket to heaven….
I’m in pretty solid company, I feel, including amongst practicing Catholics.  Most would agree with me that a woman should have the right to choose.  There is not now, nor will there ever be, an effective law or penalty against abortion or family planning because such a law would be fatally flawed, and the view is shared by only a minority of Americans.
Still, ‘life’ remains a potent political issue, and only by shining the spotlight on it will the other side of it ever be examined.
This is an attempt to shine such a light.
Postscript:  Barbara and my personal story is here.
UPDATE October 16, 2009
Two days after the above post I saw a commentary which seems to fit the general topic in an appropriate way.  Perhaps is still accessible here.

1 reply
  1. Florence Hedeen
    Florence Hedeen says:

    Historically, I believe that one’s right to choose to abort the fetus is relatively recent. Only after 1973, in the US, did it become a more safe choice for pregnant women. Those who oppose “choice” are only making abortion more dangerous and difficult for a woman facing an unwanted or medically difficult pregnancy. People of means will always have “choice”.

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