The GOP And The Personhood Of The Zygote

I’m going to talk dirty here and use words like uterus, sperm, and even “whore,” so shoo the kidlets from the room, will you?

The GOP Presidential contenders, besides representing possibly the biggest single collection of dull-witted, fanatical, cruel, factually- and morally-confused zealots ever amassed for your TV viewing pleasure, have, a few days before Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, lurched even further to the Right — and away from anything like a truly Christian public witness. It’s not enough to tarnish the message of Jesus Christ with enthusiastic embraces of torture, the telling of lies, grotesquely reckless extra-marital behavior, social policies that condemn the poor and suckle the rich, and the elevation of gross ignorance as a weird sort of civic virtue. They’re not content with language and policies that out-Scrooge dear Ebenezer, nor with foreign policy utterances — the Palestians as “an invented people,” Newt? — that make George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sound almost sagacious, almost gracious. And it’s not enough that they’ve taken oaths, rather than simply letting their “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no,” as Scripture commands, to never raise taxes and to defend “traditional” marriage in order to appeal to the farmland fundamentalists who, in Exhibit A of “What’s Wrong With The U.S. System Of Electing A President,” wield such disproportionate influence every four years.

No, in their relentless pursuit of a good showing on January 3, four of them — Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and the odiously pandering Newt Gingrich — have now signed a pledge vowing their support for the legal “personhood” of the fertilized, pre-uterine-implantation human egg, a concept found in November to be too radical even by the somewhat-less-than-progressive citizens of Mississippi, who soundly rejected a statewide “personhood” measure that would equate abortion with homicide.

The whorish wing of the Right, represented by all of the GOP candidates except for Huntsman, Paul, and Romney, has determined that to win evangelical-influenced Iowa, they have to craft a sort of “Christian” persona and platform that mindlessly veers rightward, recklessly speeding away not only from plain common sense, but from the Gospel of the Christ they all embrace with such public, and presumably sincere, fervor. As is true across the country, conservative evangelicals in Iowa are “pro-life” when it comes to abortion and unquestionably Republican in their politics. If they hate abortion, the winning candidate will have proved to hate it more plus ten. The “personhood” issue is simply another field on which they can jostle each other for the turf as far away from the center, or from rational thought, possible.

(I don’t include Ron Paul in my list of “whoring candidates,” because he’s risked the ire of the Religious Right in Iowa and elsewhere by calmly and clearly stating that waterboarding is torture and that U.S. involvement in unnecessary foreign conflicts is unwise and immoral. Paul is also a Christian; sadly, his condemnation of torture and desire to not embroil the “Christian” U.S. in warfare puts him at odds with his brethren. If that doesn’t indicate something seriously wrong with the witness of American Christiandom to the message and work of Jesus Christ, then let’s agree, here and now, that the Religious Right and the Christiandom that fuels it are false religions, as bereft of the Holy Spirit as the worst pagans they’re itching to bomb next. I am not a Libertarian, not even close, and I disagree with virtually all of Paul’s positions. But the “Christian” voter’s rejection of their brother Paul, if on the basis of his opposition to warfare and torture, is that voter’s rejection of their Savior’s message. Warfare and torture are anti-Christs; that a significant majority of evangelicals refuses to see that — or, worse, CAN’T see that — is a tragedy far more dangerous to the stability of the United States than anything imaginable).

As I’ve written here before, I do believe that abortion ends a human life, just as spontaneous abortions, “miscarriages,” result in the cessation of life. I do not believe, however, that criminalizing abortion is the answer, neither as an effective deterrent nor as a reasonable punishment. The “personhood” of a fertilized egg, both before and after uterine implantation, is something I take on faith, with a measure of logic — if it is alive, its taxonomy, then, is of homo sapiens rather than, say, volpine or porcine (fox or pig). The personhood of a week-old baby, or a slave in the antebellum South, is evident and obvious; the personhood of a fertilized egg, an embryo, or a first-trimester fetus is not. Sadly, to the Religious Right, this means that good and decent people can disagree on the issue of the criminalization of abortion, whereas someone who argues for the enslavement of Blacks immediately disqualifies himself from a designation as “good and decent.” Nonetheless, I believe that the deliberate ending of that taxonomically-human life, then, is arguably and logically “homicide.” But it’s not murder, and it’s not about logic.

If the zygote/embryo/fetus/unborn child is a person, it must have, must be, a soul loved by its Creator — who also loves its mother, whose decision to terminate her pregnancy is not something she makes lightly, and particularly not if she’s faced with the loss of either her life or that of the fetus, or with a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. In a fallen world that seamlessly accommodates neither the musings of the theoretical nor the sterile, if solid, argument from the logical, judgment borne of perspective and empathy must prevail. That judgment might agree that the deliberate cessation of life-called-human is tragic for all involved, but it would not presume to use the plumb line of mere logic to determine that all tragic things must, then, be met with judicial sanction.

And this is something the “Righter-Than-Thou” GOP candidates never discuss. If “personhood” amendments are added to State Constitutions, for example, who, exactly, is subject to prosecution? Is the mother guilty of solicitation of murder or conspiracy with intent in the same way as a gang thug who orders someone to kill a rival? Is the ob-gyn or ER doctor guilty of homicide if she performs the abortion? Regardless of the circumstances, even if the pregnancy is only in its first month, or if it resulted from incest or rape, or if carrying the fetus to term could kill the mother? What about the biological father who compels the woman to terminate her pregnancy? Is he an accessory to murder? The rigidly religious GOP, who rarely quote from the Psalms in their desire to outlaw all abortions, insist that “life + taxonomical designation = personhood” is a matter of unassailable logic, logic that leads to the conclusion that the deliberate termination of human life is always homicide, perhaps always MURDER, and that that logic is, in its unassailability, impossible to argue against. And if life were a neat, perfect exam proctored by Pharisees, they would be correct.

It isn’t. I write this, as I have before, not only as a victim of a rape some 30 years ago, but also as the mother of two young men whose conceptions, however unplanned, were begun in love and met with a joy so profound that I would never be the same. Unlike the men who rail against abortion and pour out their love on the unborn, I’ve had children. And unlike those men, and presumably unlike Bachmann, I’ve experienced the brutality of rape — and I would not presume, ever, to insist, personally nor legally, that any woman carry any pregnancy to term if she herself believes she simply can’t.

In the case of pregnancies resulting from rape, pithy, seemingly logical appeals to “not punishing the victim” of rape reveal the contempt with which most of the Religious Right holds women. It’s the woman, not the fetus, who is the victim of rape. The fetus is the result, not the victim, and there is no classically Christian logic that erases the appalling absence of mercy that accompanies the State’s decision that the violated woman continue the pregnancy, living for nine months, and then the rest of her life, with a reminder of the horror she endured. She may well decide that she honors her Lord best by continuing the pregnancy. Bless her, and may the Church be there to care for her and for the baby. But she may determine that she cannot endure the pregnancy. Bless her, and may the Church be there to care for her. Either way, though, mercy and empathy triumph over judgment and logic, and in the face of this terrifically imperfect tableau called “life,” it’s better to trust the fetal soul to its Creator and to offer the fully alive, fully formed woman in front of us not judgment but peace.

I despair that the majority of GOP Presidential candidates, even those who previously have affirmed abortion as a matter between a woman and her doctor, not the State, have decided now to “out-Right” each other so unrighteously. The rigid fundamentalism of Iowans is not something to be catered to, fawned over, or applauded. Their endorsement at the ballot box, while important in a run for the Presidency, isn’t something that ought to cause people who, charitably, are sincere in their religious convictions, to prostitute themselves trying to win their affection. True Christian morality — a true Christian worldview — is neither Democratic nor Republican, neither Left nor Right; it is, however, utterly absent today in the words and platforms of the GOP slate. The staunchly Bible-believing Religious Right has produced a public witness that looks nothing like the Gospel, and the largely Irreligious Left has managed despite itself to cling, if barely, to social policies that reflect the actual and tangible good that government, ordained by God, can do. I wish there were more of it. Nevertheless, the Republican Party has abandoned its commitment to its neighbors, to the God it proclaims as LORD, and to any real semblance of common sense, reason, and civic-mindedness.

A rush to the Right will, I think, result in a pile-up from which no Jaws of Zygote Life can extract victory in 2012 — but it also will enshrine the GOP as the party of those who seek to be Right and embrace Right-ness while shrinking from any notion of being truly righteous. That’s a trial to the few clearheaded Republicans left, a tragedy for this nation, and a toxic infusion of godless hypocrisy into the message of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

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