NECAC Third Debate: University of Rhode Island, April 16, 1985
The third debate I participated in on abortion was sponsored by Chi Alpha ministries at the University of Rhode Island, April 16, 1985.
There were three panelists on each side. I joined with Stephen Schwarz and Judy Boss, and on the other side were Susan Brady, Dr. Robert Weisbord (professor of history) and Janey Hirsch. It was structured with up front visuals from both sides (I did not have visuals prepared), opening statements, debate, questions and closing statements. The visuals did include some reference to the film by Bernard Nathanson, The Silent Scream, the the debate over it.
I organized my portion of the presentation to address 1) liberal arts inquiry, 2) the definition of conception, 3) the definition of abortion and 4) the question of worldviews. In my notes, I see I rooted having referenced a book published in a series on Philosophy and Medicine, Volume 13, Abortion and the Status of the Fetus, edited by William B. Bondeson., H Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Stuart F. Spicker, and Daniel H Winship (D. Reidel Publlishing Company, Dordrecht/Boston/ Lancaster), 1983. Along with defining the language of conception and abortion, I also addressed the definition of redemption, Christ and Society as understood by Dutch Christian scholar and political leader, including once serving as Prime Minister, Abraham Kuyper, the question of how origin and destiny are linked, how all law imposes,as it were, one set of “morality” (e.g., concerning issues such as prostitution, drugs and suicide), the “rights” of women v. the reality of male chauvinism, thus, not an either/or, and the nature of freedom within boundaries v. the atomization of sexual license.
Other notes to myself during the debate include:
- Abortion as the ultimate male chauvinism.
- Question of defining sexuality.
- No one has challenged the definitions of conception and abortion.
- Ar you pro-choice? If not, why not?
- Margaret Sanger supported the Nazi concept of the “super race.”
- Nazi support of aborting the undesirables.
- Positivistic authority: Playing God.
- Are you a Christian? Religious coercion?
- Full pro-life ethic.
- What will history say?
- Right to Life Amendment –the 13th and 14th Amendments did not give legalized status to the unborn explicitly because that was not their focus (it was on the abolition of slavery).
Dr. Bob Weisbord spoke of women being “pregnant against their wills,” the need for a “contraceptive mentality” to stop abortions, a sexual ethos outside marriage, promoting sexual fidelity, abortion as a private decision, morality cannot be imposed, choosing the lesser of two evils, being agnostic on the question of the soul as it relates to conception and human life, and women’s rights.
Janey Hirsch spoke of the historical situation of abortion in 1849ff in the context of the medical profession beginning to formally organize (the American Medical Association), part of which opposed unlicensed abortionists, of abortion and infanticide among the ancient Greeks, and in sum “abortion has increased the health of reproductivity.” Susan Brady at one point spoke of “tails and gills” in the unborn, early on, thus making them somehow less than human.
These are my handwritten notes.
Near the end, Dr. Weisbord was pressing me on my conduct in the public arena, liked what I said, and then exclaimed in conclusion, “Well, Jerry Falwell should be like you!” The sad part was that he had a media driven negative stereotype of Jerry Falwell (Thomas Road Baptist Church, Liberty University and the Moral Majority), a man who always worked within the law and was gracious to all people despite the tenor of a given debate.