Bill Larsen: Communicating with an open heart |

Bill Larsen: Communicating with an open heart

Big thanks to all the firefighters keeping us safe! Surely, we have no conflict here. Unfortunately, in virtually every other segment of public life, there seems to be nothing but conflict. For example:

Lynn Wenzel wrote a well-reasoned Nov. 1 column citing the invaluable services of Planned Parenthood. Predictably, a certain Right-wing zealot (hereto referred to as “The Zealot”) launched a personal attack on Ms. Wenzel in the comments section of, failing to address facts the author had stated. Again predictably, The Zealot’s argument then degenerated into a vitriolic rant, labeling those not on the extreme Right of this issue as “baby killers.”

Powerful language, but nonsense. As he has in the past, The Zealot demonstrates a woeful inability to apply even the most basic rationality to a complex issue.

First, let’s clarify our terms. What are we speaking of when we use the term “baby?” I’ve looked at many sources, and the general consensus is similar to that of The Cambridge Dictionary: “a person from the time of birth until he or she is an adult.” The issue here is separation from the mother, the point where a fetus goes through the birth process to become an individual person (in the words of the MacMillan Dictionary, “a young child who cannot talk or walk.”) There’s no doubt that abortion does constitute an ending of life, (albeit a totally dependent intra-uterine one), but what it does not do is kill a baby.

And this makes clear the illogic of The Zealot’s greater argument. If a zygote bears the stamp of God and is worthy of protection (as The Zealot asserts), then surely a true “baby” — a child now separated from his/her mother’s body — cannot be less worthy. And yet, the Radical Right continues its draconian push to outlaw abortion while routinely opposing legislation that would provide life giving support to babies, children and their mothers.

As a wise person has noted, this makes the anti-abortion extremists not “pro life,” but simply “pro birth.” Big difference!

So The Zealot can rest assured. The only people killing babies are those denying care and sustenance to mothers and their children. How inhumane it is that The Zealot and his cronies demand an unwanted zygote/fetus be carried to term, but then abandon the baby that pregnancy produces. Opposing abortion while stripping health care from children and poor families is an insupportable argument from any logical perspective. It is also morally bankrupt and certainly not supported by Holy Scripture.

But this brutal dictate does make sense from another perspective, at least in the present tense. And that perspective would be … surprise … financial! It doesn’t cost much out front to simply deny women choice in regulating their pregnancy (those costs come later in a host of social welfare and criminal justice horrors far too vast and multi dimensional to be calculated here). It is morbidly ironic, however, to demand that unwanted children be born, and then imprison, and sometimes execute, them when they act out antisocial behaviors long associated with extreme poverty.

It’s a head scratcher for sure. Those on the far Right seem to embrace “family values” as long as they don’t have to pay for them. But the fact is that they (i.e., we) end up paying far more over time — in all sorts of ways — than we would if we simply took care of our children in the first place.

As both a combat veteran and a survivor of spontaneous abortion (the placenta detached two times from my mother’s uterine wall during her pregnancy), I am very sensitive to the taking of life, including that within the womb. While I truly support women’s right to choose, I am also quite troubled by the fact that abortion seems normalized in the minds of many as a routine form of birth control. I am also repelled by the notion of “late term” abortion where a viable fetus is eliminated when its life could be saved by high tech medical support. I wish it were clear how to ascertain a mutually acceptable solution to this problem. Unfortunately, at this divisive point in our history, it is not.

But I do believe that a well-meaning citizenry willing to communicate rationally, and with an open heart, might go far in understanding the position of others. At the minimum, this might prevent us from bundling all our social issues into Right-Left polarities that are grounded in defensive passion rather than cohesive dialogue.

William Larsen lives in Nevada City.

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