Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sour Grapes: Wildmon Chastises Mississippi Voters

They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree but, as my late father-in-law used to say, "It can sure the fuck roll downhill." Nowhere has this been more evident to me than in the Wildmon family. I had the privilege of having Mrs. Ettis Wildmon as a kindergarten teacher. She was the kindest, most gentle person who went out of her way to make an awkward, painfully shy, little girl feel welcome in a new place. She helped me learn how to write my name properly and encouraged my love for science. She was a wonderful woman who shaped my early childhood in very positive ways. Little did I know then that her son and grandson would become the bane of my existence.

Now we are forced to deal with the wormy apples that rolled too far downhill. After their stinging defeat over prop 26, the Wildmons and their AFA circus are lashing out at Mississippians who voted no and trying to pull the biggest guilt trip of all time. Let's take Tim "Sour Grapes" Wildmon's claims apart one at a time so we can see where the dishonesty really lies.

I, however, still believe that a majority of Mississippians agree that human life does begin at conception but they voted “no” anyway, in effect, being intellectually dishonest with themselves. To many who adhere to the Judeo-Christian moral value system, this kind of thinking has grave moral implications.

Let's dispel this myth that the Bible says abortion is murder and all Christians must believe that. The Bible doesn't directly talk about abortion anywhere so any scriptural belief we derive from the Bible must be inferred. That right there leaves a lot of room for human error and bias. Prop 26 supporters most often trotted out verses like Jeremiah 1: 4-5, Job 31:14-15, and Psalm 139:13-14. They failed to notice two very important things: first, these verses refer to the "womb" which is the uterus. They do not refer to conception in the Fallopian tubes. Therefore, the best we could say is that the Bible supports life at implantation. But the second important thing to note is that this is poetic language specifically reserved for anointed prophets, kings, and messengers. It is not used to refer to the unwashed masses.

Another important verse that is often left out is Exodus 21:22 which says: 

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [from her], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges [determine].

One can reasonably infer from this that an unborn child did not have the same value under the law as a born person. Causing the death of an unborn was not murder or manslaughter - it was a property crime against the husband. The punishment was not stoning but was a fine.

Not to mention Genesis 2:7 which describes Adam as dust until God breathed the "breath of life" into him and he became a "living soul." This could be interpreted to mean that a human must breathe in order to be a person.

So for those who want to base their anti-abortion beliefs on the Bible, they have a tough sell to anybody who has actually read the book. The arguments work great on the churched masses who only hear what their preachers read to them but they do not work as well on anyone who has read the Bible cover to cover.

But the vote does not change the facts. We all know scientifically that life begins at conception or fertilization; otherwise there would be no reason to have an abortion in the first place.

Here Wildmon plays fast and loose with definitions. Scientifically, we know that life began billions of years ago and, through evolution, has continued down the ages. Scientifically, we also know that "life" generally exists before conception: the sperm and the egg are both living human tissue, each with their own unique DNA. While it is true that these gametes fuse at conception and may begin the journey toward birth, it is not necessarily true that this is a magical moment of personhood. There is no evidence that a soul (whatever that is) is fused into a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. When you consider the scientific fact that most of these fertilized eggs will be lost during a woman's monthly cycle, it's difficult to ascribe any particular value to them. 

Abortion is a gruesome, savage, unnatural procedure. Even pro-choice advocates do not want to hear it described in detail because it is more than most people can stomach. The most common form of abortion is called suction curettage. 

As we can see from the figures provided by the Guttmacher Institute, most abortions are done in the first trimester. RU486 can be used up to 9 weeks (though it is recommended only for 7 weeks) and it is very safe and effective. A woman gets 2-3 pills, inserts them vaginally, and then has something like a heavy period. Physically, it is not that big of a deal.

The suction-aspiration method is indeed the most common method in the first 15 weeks. This "mini-suction" procedure does not require dilation of the cervix, rods, or any of the things Wildmon went on to discuss in this article. He seems to be referring to the dilation and curettage (D & C) procedure which is the second most common type of surgical abortion or the intact dilation and extraction (D & E) which is rarely done at all.

D & C has a lot of other important uses and it is not nearly as common as it used to be since RU486 got approval. It's purpose is to remove tissue from the uterus. This may be tissue not shed during menstruation, a retained placenta, an incomplete miscarriage, or indeed a fetus under 15 weeks. This method only accounted for 2.4% of abortions in 2002 and continues to decline.

After 16 weeks, an intact dilation and extraction must be done. Few abortions are done after this time as you can see from the chart above. It does sound like a rather gruesome procedure but I've yet to see any kind of surgery that wasn't. It's also worth mentioning that the U.S. has a partial birth abortion ban in place so women in their third trimester can't get up one morning, skip to the clinic, and decide to get one for fun....and what idiot thinks this is the case in the first place?

So how could people who are self-described “pro-life” vote against an amendment that says life begins at conception? One explanation might be that that they said to themselves, “Yes, life begins at conception but … so what? If people want to have abortions, what do I care?”

A better explanation for this is probably, "I don't like abortion but this amendment goes too far." Despite what the AFA and Phil Bryant said, this wasn't simple. The amendment was so broad that it could have many implications. It's very disingenuous of them to pretend that a reasonable person couldn't see 26 as a threat to birth control - particularly when the Yes on 26 site and the Personhood literature clearly stated that they wanted to ban some types of it.  I don't think the issue is that nobody cares about abortion. I think the truth is that a lot of Mississippians do care about abortion and they understand that having birth control access is one way to keep abortion rates low. I also suspect that many Mississippians care a great deal about the women in their lives too and are not willing to risk those precious lives for the sake of Wildmon's rabid dogma.

In other words, not enough voters believed that life begins at conception and that human life is sacred. Sacredness is a religious concept, I understand. Perhaps this reverence for human life will not be recaptured when it comes to abortion because individualism trumps righteousness in modern day America. The right to choose, it is called.

Perhaps most voters understood that 26 didn't ask us when life begins - it asked if a fertilized egg should be granted legal personhood. There is a tremendous difference between the two concepts. Hopefully many voters also understood that their view of "life is sacred" is a religious belief that should not be enforced by secular law. And finally, perhaps some voters understood that the right to life must be balanced by the right to liberty. No woman is free if she cannot access birth control and make decisions about her pregnancy. To force her to breed for the church or state makes her nothing more than a brood mare. If some women want to be QuiverFull moms, that's their choice. But the state has no business compelling women to breed.

Abortion is the shedding of innocent blood, and 99 percent of the time it is done for convenience or birth control purposes.

Once again, this "innocent blood" thing is Wildmon's religious belief, a belief he wants every Mississippian to be forced to accept. I find it very telling that he doesn't seem to care about the innocent children who are neglected and abused in this state. He hasn't come out strongly against the innocent children who've been beaten to death in the name of his faith (usually with a copy of Michael & Debi Perl's "To Train Up a Child" in plain view). 

Women have abortions for a lot of reasons - there's rarely just one. But in most cases it has a lot to do with the fact that they don't feel like they can adequately provide for a(nother) child. In other words, it's not merely a question of convenience but one of responsibility. Sometimes women are left holding the bag and they simply can't afford to feed another child. Sometimes, the family is together but the parents are already working extra to make ends meet. Regardless of the circumstances, women generally take abortion very seriously and few casually use it as simple birth control.

It's a shame that Wildmon used his column to spread more misinformation and bile but it isn't surprising. He and his dad have done very well using these tactics for a long time now. Their organization has made a lot of money by peddling cheap religion and sticking their noses into everybody's business. They are professional busybodies who can't wait to tell you how you need to live and they're happy to support the candidates (like Phil Bryant) who will push their legislation on how to force your hand.

I hope everyone will take this opportunity to write in to the paper and tell Tim Wildmon that the AFA can stick it. Mississippi has had enough of their meddling and we're tired of their deception and hate. Let's make enough noise to dislodge the AFA in Tupelo and to shake up Phil Bryant's office in Jackson!