has an amazingly harsh article on Mother Theresa. There are two main things it focuses on. The one it spends the most time on is their perception that she was willing to overlook certain abuses from people who treated her well – Indira Gandhi’s imposition of martial law in India in 1975, the son Sanjay’s program of sterilization for the poor, and the Haitian Duvalier regime given as examples. I’m sure there are other details involved, and I’m sure that she (like many people at the time, and similar to the way in which Castro and Chavez routinely have managed to pull the wool over idiotic hollyweird celebrities with more teeth than brain cells) was duped and would probably have said differently had she not been on the wrong side of the dog-and-pony show.

The second point on which it attacks her is the fact that, following the 1971 war which created Bangladesh, she called out for thousands of raped women not to abort the resulting fetuses. This is one of the ongoing items which tends to be a very hard question to answer: should abortion be allowed/encouraged for a woman impregnated as the result of rape?

The question itself lends a hint as to why it is so hard to answer. The circumstances – the rape, the condition of the mother following rape, the fact that the pregnancy will inevitably remind the woman of what happened in a very obvious way – are nothing but grotesque. Depending on one’s beliefs, the options are no less vile.

On the one hand, you might believe (as do most religions) that “human life begins at conception.” In this case, there are a few very ugly points to consider:
1 – Having to carry to term (or even just long enough for a caesarean or induced labor) means the constant reminder of what happened, which may drive the mother to self-destructive acts, possibly up to suicide.
2 – On the belief that the fetus deserves the full rights of any human being, and as a baby is innocent of the circumstances of its conception, ending its life is at worst outright murder and at best the killing of one innocent to try to save the life of another victim.
The question from this perspective then becomes: what is the risk to the mother, and what are the chances the fetus/baby can be carried to term and then given some form of a life (foster/adoption care, etc) to live?

On the other hand, you might believe (as a sizable portion of the population does) that human life begins at some arbitrary point; when the heart first beats, brainwaves first appear, “when it could survive outside the womb” (which keeps getting earlier and earlier as medical technology advances, and may eventually reach the point where an “artificial womb” could raise a human from zygote to birth without the need of a mother at all), or so on. In that case, the calculation inevitably turns to “get rid of it before it reaches that point, since it was forced into the mother against her will.”

To my perspective, none of the options are (at present time) particularly appealing. Bad choices tend to stem from bad circumstances, and these being particularly bad circumstances, I’m not sure that an agreement could ever be fully reached on the “right” thing to do in general. I don’t necessarily think that her calling out to try to prevent the abortions was either evil, or unjustified (especially by the teachings of her church). Neither am I fully convinced that removing the option entirely, especially for those who might be driven to desperate measures, is necessarily the wisest course.

Category: Church

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4 Responses to No Good Option

  1. trumwill says:

    Insert standard comment here with regard to being civil in discussing this contentious issue.

  2. trumwill says:

    This is one of the ongoing items which tends to be a very hard question to answer: should abortion be allowed/encouraged for a woman impregnated as the result of rape?

    Well, it’s a tough question for the strongly pro-life side of the debate. For pro-choicers, obviously, it’s an easier one.

    Each side of the discussion has some really tough questions to answer. You outline some of the ones on the pro-life side, such as how you deal with the rape question and the mothers-health question. It really goes beyond that, though, with not only Mother Theresa’s ideas on Bangladesh being justified in its own way, but even Eric Randolph’s.

    The same applies to the other side with the Schrodinger’s Cat question of the baby/fetus (it’s a baby and a fetus at the same time, the former if you want it and the latter if you don’t). To be entirely consistent, you have to tell the woman that miscarried that she needs to get over it because it wasn’t anything significant yet. Thankfully, just as with Randolph, there are few people who take it to that extreme.

    And I think to some extent, even people that spout off viewpoints on one side or the other, there’s just the sense that we don’t know when life really begins. But religions and countries have to make a decision anyway. And then, once we’ve taken our position, we have to defend it. And once we’ve defended it, we come to really believe it. Until we’re reminded of these impossible decisions.

  3. trumwill says:

    As for Mother Theresa, you’re more forgiving than I am. On the consistency matter, I can respect her position on Bangladesh even if I would be uncomfortable with her expression of it. But it’s extremely hard to square the India thing with everything else she has said. The Hollywood comparison is probably right, but I would expect more of her than I do of some actor or athlete.

  4. web says:

    Mother Theresa wasn’t exactly highly educated. She struck me as very much a “hollywood type”; well beloved in her own nation, not very well educated, and easily manipulated by those who could direct most of her focus to only their side of an argument.

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