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Can Alito See the Shades of Gray?

Over the coming weeks, much time, energy, and breathless news coverage will be devoted to divining how Samuel Alito would rule on abortion as a Supreme Court justice–a subject on which he will offer no clues if he can help it during his confirmation hearings.

That’s sad, because it has made the confirmation process for one of the most solemn and powerful positions in the land into an exercise in posturing (the senators) and obfuscation (the nominee)–the opposite of the substantive dialogue one might hope for. But at some level, this say-as-little-as-possible game is inevitable in the current climate, where abortion is such a high-profile, hot-button issue that any comment, however innocuous, is going to send seismic disturbances through the thoroughly entrenched battle lines on both sides of the issue.

Pro-life, Pro-choice. The terms are code words for so much that is read into them, two diametrically opposed positions that reduce the debate over the complex issue of abortion into simple black and white. Which it is not: While I fully support the right of a woman to control her reproductive freedom, including obtaining a safe and legal abortion, I also recognize the real pain and tragedy that usually are at the heart of the decision to terminate a fetus.

It’s tension recognized by the American people, as evidenced in a recent poll of the highly regarded non-partisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, showing that only 29% of respondents support overturning Roe v. Wade and that 70% express concerns about the morality of abortion. A tension that makes perfect sense according to the lived experience of real people on both sides of the issue, who recognize the personal circumstances and complexities that lie at the heart of any decision about whether to carry a fetus to term. A tension implicit in the Jewish approach to jurisprudence, which recognizes that law is not some pristine, hermetic system that never takes into account personal circumstances but is instead rooted in the real lived experience of those whom it governs.

And a tension completely obscured by this circus of a nomination process.

My personal hope is that, if elevated, Judge Alito will approach abortion-related cases with an open mind, as he has promised. And I hope he will approach all cases with this same sense of openness and weigh each case not based on ideology but rather on its merits. As it says in Leviticus 19:15: “You shall not commit corruption in justice… [rather] you shall judge your fellow in righteousness.”

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Michael Friesen

posted January 13, 2006 at 11:49 am

If it’s not a person then why is it a traumatic/painful decision? Surely it’s not the ‘potential for life’ question since most of us don’t feel all that bad about using contraception. I believe deep down we recognize that in choosing abortion we are choosing to terminate human life. We can create all the euphemisms we want – terminating pregnacy, not going through, etc. – but it does not change the fact that we are condemning to death an innocent life.

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posted January 13, 2006 at 2:11 pm

I have always been puzzled why, especially Orthodox Jews, aren’t strongly pro-life. On every other issues of life, it seems life wins out. Why not life in the womb?

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posted January 13, 2006 at 5:54 pm

Pastor, most Orthodox Jews are what you might consider “pro-life”. However, in Judaism it’s not as simple as it is in Christianity, since we are bound by Jewish law, which makes most matters complex. Therefore, each case is unique in that it would need to be resolved by the woman and her spiritual/legal advisor, her rabbi.

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posted January 13, 2006 at 6:00 pm

I find it hypocritical to quote the Bible to further support the point of justice after saying it’s the woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. Where’s justice for the life of the unborn baby? In this post, he stated that he fully supports the woman’s freedom over her reproductive system. If a woman would result to an abortion in the case of an unwanted pregnancy she have controlled her reproductive sytem beforehand. If there are extenuating circumstances those should also be examined.

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posted January 13, 2006 at 6:53 pm

David, thanks for the response. I have a feeling the same breakdown might even be reflected in the Christian world as it is in the Jewish world. Orthodox Christians tend to be pro-life, while other Christians see it as a “grey” area. The Christian community is far from unified on this issue and others. I was talking with a Jewish friend of mine and he didn’t ever realize that the various denominations even existed. Christians were just one common group. Pax

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posted January 14, 2006 at 2:56 am

There’s a difference between “human life” and “human being”. Jewish law gives the mother priority. Further, it’s not a fully realized person with a soul, according to Jewish law, unless I am much mistaken. Also, just because it’s a traumatic decision to have an abortion does not make it an incorrect decision!! I know of at least two people who have had early term abortions, for various reasons. For them, it was the right decision. Why is it so hard to understand that no one is going to be tied down to a table and forced to have an abortion AND that no one outside of the immediate pregnant woman’s situation should have any input into whether or not she continues her pregnancy?

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posted January 14, 2006 at 2:57 am

Sorry, forgot to finish my sentence: Further, it’s not a fully realized person with a soul, until the fetus is born, according to Jewish law, unless I am much mistaken.

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posted January 14, 2006 at 3:07 am

Yes, but has our intense focus on the life of the unborn allowed us to ignore the millions of born children growing up starving homeless, war torn or is it greed that permits this and the devastation of our natural commons? God calls us to respect all life, not selectively choose. This is just as we need to assure that someone in this life long role on Our Nation s court will be unbiased enough to see the black, the white, the gray and even the murk from which the lotus blooms. What lies at the heart of man? To find the answer we each need to remove the motes from our eyes and see the whole truth of the matter. God Speed.

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Robert Wainscott

posted January 15, 2006 at 5:46 pm

God is love. Life is a gift of God. How can we discuss semantics (pro-life vs. pro-choice)(or fetus vs. a baby),or does life begin at conception or only when a child is born, when the real issue is do we believe in God or man. God is not seperate from man but is in each of us. Are we not God, spiritual souls trapped in human bodies until we pass into eternity not the other way around. If we are going to play God and abort children then we must also be prepared to pay the consequences. Did I mention that God is also a vengeful God and I believe he is really getting pissed off at us. Maybe it’s time to find love in children and decide LIFE. Robert

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posted January 15, 2006 at 8:30 pm

I too hope that Judge Alito, if confirmed, will keep an open mind. That being said, it seems to be the case that the Bush administration cares most about life from 0-9 months. Thereafter, it is something that is not such a point of concern, at least for this President and his administration. Listening to the Senate hearings, Alito says that he will be his own person. He will not change. His record speaks for itself, on how he has defined and handled sensitive issues such as privacy and the right to choose.

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posted January 16, 2006 at 7:17 pm

Let us note in all this that nowhere in this country do the unborn have any property rights, nor are their deaths investigated. I have never heard of probate or an inquest for a miscarriage in almost 20 years as a lawyer. That is as constitutional an issue as abortion itself. Can you imagine not investigating child deaths or Black deaths? Or not ensuring that their property is secured for the heirs? I also note that no right to life group or law counts age from conception but only from birth. That’s pure hypocrisy. So is Right to Life people celebrating a birthday rather than conception day. And even in Orthodox Judaism a neonatal death is a miscarriage under Halacha for a month after birth, if I’m not mistaken. At least we have some form of recognized mourning for miscarriage and still-birth — more than any Christian group can say.

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posted January 17, 2006 at 4:54 pm

yes, in judaism there is a story of a man getting into a fight with another man while his very pregnant wife was present. During the course of the fight the other guy knocked down the other man’s pregnant wife causing her to loose the baby. When the husband took the man to court to get compensation for his lost child. It was decided since it was not yet born that it was not yet considered a human yet and the only compensation the man could get was damages to his goods and doctors fee for his wife. (This is a story from the Torah and please forgive for not knowing the exact details.)

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Anabel Trevino

posted January 17, 2006 at 9:38 pm

Re: Leviticus 19:15. I leave you with this scripture Revelation 20:11-14. Thank you.

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posted January 18, 2006 at 2:45 pm

So, according to you, Anabel, those of us who support a woman’s right to choose are going into a hellfire? I’m so happy the NT means nothing to me.

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Hazel Crowley

posted January 18, 2006 at 5:54 pm

No one has to get an abortion. There are plenty of alternatives to it. Many childless couples are looking for children to raise. Governments prevent a lot of children from getting food. Hazel Crowley

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posted January 18, 2006 at 8:06 pm

Dear Hazel, What’s your point? No one is holding down a woman to force her to get an abortion, but there is no doubt she should still have that right. There’s so much wrong with the adoption process and so many children waiting to be adopted and well as so many other points I could mention but choose not to here… Saying adoption is the answer is well intentioned but neither feasible nor realistic.

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posted January 20, 2006 at 6:12 am

“While I fully support the right of a woman to control her reproductive freedom, including obtaining a safe and legal abortion.” Let’s stop word game … and call things by their proper names … If I kill, it’s MURDER – if we leave the “fetus” alone, will it not develop to full term? The Word says that the Mary was WITH child – it does not say … with a fetus ???? when a mother wants a child – she shouts from the roof top that one is on the way … but if that same “fetus” is unwanted, the same baby in the womb becomes a thing …. and we suddenly find OK to remove it … kill it …. and say … I HAVE THE RIGHT ??? in whose eyes????

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posted January 20, 2006 at 6:06 pm

Yoelle, you can yell, scream, and point fingers all you want, but it’s only your view in your post, not the view of all others.

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Gerald Pechenuk

posted January 21, 2006 at 3:12 am

All of the above miss the key point on Alito. He is a strong and open supporter of Carl Schmitt, the man who justified everything Hitler did and said it was “legal” There is NO ROOM for this in the United States. Hitler too was against abortion!!! Any one who claims to be religious of whatever type or stripe… should be immediately contacting their Senators to STOP ALITO NOW!! Contace me if you want more documentation on Carl Schmitt, the Crown Jurist of Nazi Germany that Alito and His Federalist Society Worship!! Gerald Pechenuk

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posted January 21, 2006 at 4:36 pm

Well said, Yoelle…..but as in so many other issues, the sun will always shine before the right to life, or denial to life is settled……God be with you

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