“Now We Know Her”


My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: ‘You said the same thing a minute ago’… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.”

The aged mother has Alzheimer’s disease. Will Daughter take care of Mother? Will she deal with her kindly? I first saw this endearing note when my friend Diane posted it on her daughter Delaney’s facebook wall. It’s a sweet sentiment. It speaks volumes about the structure of life, parent-child relationships, and the family bonds that tie one generation to the next. The sweetest thing was Delaney’s response, which spoke volumes about her love for her mother.

But there was something really ugly behind this that neither Diane nor Delaney saw. I’ve known Diane a long time, long enough to remember when she was pregnant with Delaney. Ardently pro-choice, Diane sought testing to screen for genetic disorders. During that time, she announced loud and clear for all to hear that, were any anomalies to be detected, she would terminate this pregnancy. It was as if she were daring anyone to take issue with her over it. And you better be alright with that, seemed to be the unspoken end to the sentence.

To my knowledge no one objected, and Delaney, all her genes lined up appropriately, was born a few months later.

All’s well that ends well, right? Maybe. But maybe not. A pro-life mother may, or may not, feel moved to plead for grace and mercy when her ‘quality of life’ begins to change. But were she to do so, she would be speaking and acting with integrity. She would be practicing what she’d been preaching, so to speak. But what about a pro-choice mother? What about Diane?

Over the years, Diane and I have interacted a little about the pro-life/pro-choice divide. I recall one time asking. “What would you do if Delaney suffered a debilitating accident? Would you terminate her if the lifelong handicap were just too much for you to handle?”

“Oh, no!” she said quickly, adamantly.

“Why not?”

“Well, because, now we have her. Now we know her, and we love her,” she said it quickly. It all made such perfect sense. Why didn’t I get it?

Actually I do get it. In fact, I get it more than she does.

Here’s what I get: An ethic that says, “If we know you, love you, and want you, you get to live.” leads to a world in which your life will eventually hang on whether or not someone else knows you, loves you, or wants you. And you may end up pleading, groundlessly, for someone to deal mercifully and kindly with you.

It will never be any other way. For if the authority to decide the worthiness of a given human life rests with other humans, then this is how it will always be: One human life at the mercy of another. Daughter at the mercy of Mother; Mother at the mercy of Daughter. It’s only when we recognize that the worthiness of any human life begins with the Creator of all human life that we have a moral leg to stand on. I got that. Diane didn’t.

Fortunately for her, not only did Delaney have her genetic ducks in a row, she also has her morals and ethics sufficiently lined up too. She will undoubtedly love and care for her Mom till her dying day.

But what if she didn’t really care about her mother’s well-being? A pro-choicer herself, what if she exercised her freedom to choose differently? What if Mom’s anomalies were simply too much to adjust to? Well, that would just be too bad for Mom, wouldn’t it? What goes around comes around, and karma’s a bi*ch.

There is one thing about this that I don’t get. What exactly are pro-choice mothers and daughters thinking when they defend abortion together?

That’s what I don’t get.

6 Comments on ““Now We Know Her”

  1. Terrell:

    I understand that you and many Christians consider a fetus as equivalent to human life which has been born. Therefore, you believe that the treatment of a demented parent is equivalent to the treatment of a woman’s unborn fetus. That is not what either the Hebrew Bible or Talmud (rabbinic commentary) says.

    The Torah says little about the status or treatment of the embryo or fetus. Indeed, only one crucial Biblical law establishes a rule about the killing of an embryo or fetus. Specifically, Exodus 21:22-25 states:

    When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman so that her children depart (yatsa), but no other damage (ason) ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

    Under Jewish Biblical exegesis, abortion is not deemed murder. Instead, unintentional abortion is a form of damages subject to monetary compensation. Conversely, the killing of the mother—the other damage (ason)—is murder.

    Judaism does not regard the fetus as a full human being. While deliberately killing a day old baby is murder, according to the Mishnah, a fetus is not covered by this strict homicide rule.

    A core text in rabbinic law crystallizes the status of the fetus. The Mishna explicitly indicates that one must abort a fetus if the continuation of pregnancy might imperil the life of the woman.

    In Talmudic law, an embryo is not deemed a fully viable person (bar kayyama), but rather a being of “doubtful viability” (Niddah 44b). Hence, for instance, Jewish mourning rites do not apply to an unborn child.

    The US Constitution is clear. The government cannot endorse (and impose on others) the sectarian religious views of a religion or religious sect.



  2. Les, I think the difference between the two views comes down to this: Who confers personhood? In the pro-choice view, human beings confer personhood. That is, someone – perhaps a parent, religious scholar, or government official – determines whether another someone counts as a human being worthy of the status of personhood.

    In the pro-life view, God is recognized as the Creator of all human beings and the one who, by that creative act, confers personhood, making it incumbent on morally responsible people to recognize the personhood and natural human rights of other human beings. In other words, in the pro-life view, human beings do not confer personhood, but merely recognize that which God has already conferred.

    What this means is the difference in views on abortion aren’t so much differences over a medical or political issue, but differences at a deeper level over how one responds to the existence of God and the call of God on one’s life. I’ll be happy to continue this discussion with you over that point of divergence and at that level if you so choose.

    As a side note, I will also mention that, fortunately for both you and me, grace has been offered to cover our failures to live up to God’s call in a manner fitting a divine Creator. I will be happy to continue to engage with you on that subject as well, beginning at that level.


  3. We agree, God confers personhood. We disagree (theologically) about what that means. You believe God confers personhood at the point of conception. People of faith who believe that abortion is permissible believe that God confers personhood at birth.

    As for “grace”. We’ll have to agree to disagree. You believe that humans are inherently sinful, and they only have grace/salvation through acceptance of Jesus of Nazarath. I believe that we are all created in the image of God, created to do “good” and that whether we believe in God or not, our lives have a purpose to make THIS world a better place. In some cases, Scripture and belief in a higher Power helps us to do that, but it is not required.


  4. “We agree, God confers personhood.” <— Les, if you and I agree on this fundamental principle after three comments about a highly contentious subject, then I'll call this a successful exchange of ideas and be content with that.

    May God bless your day today.


  5. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 8/7/15 – Planned Parenthood Edition | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

  6. The “pro-choice”* position makes me wonder about myself and others like me. My parents were killed when I was a young child. There was no one who knew me or loved me. Ought I have been killed at the age of four because there was no one who valued me?

    *I put the term in quotes because the choices are so limited and so often end in death. That’s not much of a choice.


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