Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Politics and Religion

I haven't posted an entry in aeons, but here you go. There's one rule about blogs, forums, etc., that is don't talk about politics and religion. But I'm going to do both. In one blog. How extreme am I? The reason for this unusual event, since I haven't blogged in over a year, is reading a blog entry of a friend here. Which, as a summary, is about why this particular person wouldn't vote for McCain. I wouldn't vote for McCain either. Never. Not even with a gun put against my head. But I can say that because a) Obama won the election and b) I'm not American so am not entitled to vote anyway.

But in his argument, this friend mentioned two points in which McCain was possibly better than Obama, that is gay marriage and abortion. I'm going straight for the heavy topics here! And, although I agreed with him to some extent, I also disagreed with him. This got me thinking on what I actually thought about these issues, et voila. So let's go for the first one: gay marriage.

My friend said, "I think that the Bible teaches that [homosexuality] is wrong." I agree. And I agree that in church, marriages should be heterosexual. Heterosexual relationships are the only relationships given such emphasis in the Bible. They are clearly set apart. One whole book of the Bible is devoted to a heterosexual relationship. And I think that in the church, it should stay that way. Outside of the church, well, who am I to say? I think Christians should not dictate the interpersonal relationships of other people in society if it does no harm to people who have no say in the arrangement. A relationship of informed consent (within certain bounds) should be allowed. And I believe that an official union which confers the same state rights to those in a homosexual relationship should be allowed. Just because I might think that homosexual marriages don't have a place in the church, that does not mean that I should try my utmost to prevent people from, let's say, getting the same level of housing benefits as those in heterosexual relationships. The vast majority of those in heterosexual marriages in the UK and France, the two countries where I have lived, give no thought to God's opinion to it. So by my reckonning (I might be wrong!), us Christians should be equally opposed to most heterosexual marriages. And on a historical note, during the emergence of the Christian church, homosexuality was widely practised, and even condoned by the surrounding society. I don't imagine organising anti-gay marriage petitions was high on St Paul's agenda.

Point two: abortion. I believe that aborting a foetus is no different from killing a human being living outside of the womb. But like killing people, although the majority of the cases are morally abhorrent, and constitute murder, or at least manslaughter, there are cases where it might be necessary to kill another human being. I believe, like most people, that it is perfectly acceptable to kill a person in self-defence. That is, where allowing that person to live, they would inflict severe physical or mental injury against the other person. And I believe the same is true with abortion. I believe that there are circumstances where continuing the pregnancy would be significantly worse than aborting the foetus.

Now, to get into a more detailed discussion, I think it's important to look at the laws surrounding abortion. Since I'm British, I'm going to use UK law, but of course the conclusions I draw are universal. So here's the Abortion Act 1967:

A legally induced abortion must be:
  • performed by a registered medical practitioner, performed, except in an emergency, in a National Health Service (NHS) hospital or in a place for the time being approved for the purpose of the act, and
  • certified by two registered medical practitioners as justified under one or more of the following grounds:

A the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;
B the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
C the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
D the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing child(ren) of the family of the pregnant woman;
E there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped;
or in emergency, certified by the operating practitioner as immediately necessary:
F to save the life of the pregnant woman; or
G to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

There is no time limit for abortion, except for categories C and D, for which there is a 24-week time limit. I agree with reasons A, B, D, E, F and G. So far so good. But C I have a problem with. 'What?' I hear you cry, 'You have a problem with allowing an abortion when the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman was at risk?' Well, yes, actually. The problem is, this is far too vague. In fact, statistically speaking, an abortion is less likely to result in health risks than a full-term pregnancy. So all pregnancies fall under this category. Many doctors also believe that if a woman is in a position to ask for an abortion, her mental health is de facto at risk because of the consequences of refusing an abortion. This means that, often, any pregnant woman asking for an abortion is able to have one. And the statistics speak for themselves. 97% of abortions in England, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland has its own laws on abortion) fall under this category. I do not believe that ground C should be scrapped. A woman who is likely to suffer from severe, long-term post-natal depression, regardless of whether her child is adopted by someone else or not, should, I believe, be allowed to have an abortion, for example. I do believe however that it should be tightened to only allow cases where the physical and mental health risks are imminent or foreseeable. The exact wording of this is for lawyers to come up with, not me.

So, there you go. Other than on those two issues, I definitely agreed with the rest of what he said. It was very thought-provoking!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Steven.

    I've posted an answer to your great entry here