Thursday, April 2, 2009

Anti-abortion zeal and the blessed flood

The appeal from Fargo, N.D., was heartfelt and reverent. A flood threatened to consume a city. Prayers were solicited.

The exhortation, however, left one confused. Were we to pray to spare Fargo? Or were we to pray to punish it?

Punish it for allowing women to end unwanted pregnancies with a legal medical procedure. Surely, that's not what the prayer thread suggested. Or did it?

The confusion came in an e-mail forwarded my way. It was an appeal for good thoughts directed to an area where much of a town was evacuated, where citizens shivered and strained to hoist sandbags against catastrophe.

The cresting Red River has pulled back, averting the worst. Still, as of this writing, many operations in the Fargo-Moorhead area are closed.

One participant in the e-mail thread finds that worth rejoicing. Why? Because, the writer assumes, one of the operations shut down has been North Dakota's only independent abortion provider, the Red River Women's Center.

The commenter called the flood a "gift from God" in having people link arms at river's edge, it said. "Another great thing about this flood situation: no abortions! I hope this flood lasts forever if it will mean no abortions . . ."

In other varied forums, people of zeal were saying that flooding was God's revenge for abortions in Fargo.

The thing is, if the waters had said intent, they did not hit their mark.

The clinic, which is in downtown Fargo, faced no flooding and didn't close, said its director in a phone interview. A snowstorm did prevent its doctor from arriving. But flood? Sorry to disappoint anyone.

Meanwhile, families were uprooted and businesses were closed in other communities along the Red River. And their offense against goodness and decency was . . ?

One reason the Fargo clinic was drawing scrutiny is politics. In the days before the flood, anti-choice groups had gathered in Fargo to mount an effort to make North Dakota the first "abortion-free" state.

That would be some trick. Every hospital that delivers babies performs abortions. Why? Because abortion at times is a medical necessity. You may want to ban all abortions that aren't doctors' calls based on medical necessity. That would put you in dicey clinical territory.

A bill that passed the North Dakota House would, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, ban all abortions in the state except those deemed medically necessary. I'm wondering how any bill could be crafted to navigate those ethical straits. People of zeal in the Dakotas want to try.

In one way, I am in absolute solidarity with the folks so devoted to ending abortion. I, too, would wish for a world without it.

Then again, it would be a world where education and contraception were linked arm in arm so that every child was a choice. It also would be where rapists and lecherous uncles did not prey on the defenseless. In other words, I'd be wishing for a fantasy world.

Abortion as a right has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court for more than three decades.

Some would have us believe that abortion wasn't going on before then. But, of course, it most certainly was: For women of means, skilled professionals would do it in a hush-hush way. For those of lesser means, shady practitioners would do it, with nothing safe at all about it. For those desperate and without other options, deadly, self-induced abortions would beckon.

Making laws declaring fertilized eggs persons, as the North Dakota bill would, is not the way to fewer desperate women. Neither is shutting down lawful abortion providers.

Empowering women to make reasoned decisions, while arming them with the means to prevent unnecessary pregnancies, is the way to less desperation and fewer abortion dilemmas.

An appeal for floodwaters most certainly won't do it.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald.

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