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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

The following column ran in the Tallahassee Democrat on Sunday, October 8, 1989. It was written by a local columnist, Mary Ann Lindley, who is now the paper's Editorial Page Editor. Jack, who saves every piece of paper he thinks he might need some day, saved this column. The original, cut from the newspaper long ago, is yellowed with age, creased with accordion folds, and marked with notations in both pen and ink. And when Jack came across it one day last week, he decided its central message is just as relevant today as it was 18 years ago. He thinks this is the day he was saving it for, when it would be needed again. And you know what? He's right. Here it is with Mary Ann's kind permission:Painting by Beatrice Davis
Instead of combativness, seeking common ground
Somewhere a doll lies still; somewhere there's a dress unworn, designer jeans remain upon a shelf. Somewhere a stereo lies silent; somewhere out there's a little girl unborn.

Now that I've met the Lord of the Universe, the Father of all who choose to know Him, I trust that on that day your infant spirit went instantly to be with Him....

Oh, Mandy! How can I tell you how I've wondered about you? Do you have your father's smile or my green eyes? Are you shy and quiet or do you resemble a minature tornado like your brothers?...

How I've longed to hold you, Mandy, and whisper how sorry I am. Will you ever forgive me?

Oh Mandy, my Mandy, though I dare not call you mine -- I gave up that right many years ago. I swapped it for my right to choose. How inconceivable! How unjust!

I didn't know that "He was there with you being formed in utter seclusion; that He made all the inner parts of your body and knit them together in my womb. He saw you and scheduled each day of your life before you began to breathe." (Psalm 139LB)

It's not important how I knew you were a girl or why I gave you a name. It's only important that you know if I could choose again, I'd give up everything to have you back.. Since that cannot be, I'll wait until that day when we meet face to face and I can tell you what I've longed for you to know...That there is a special place in my heart for you, and the world is a little duller, a little emptier, a bit less joyful for never having known the wonder of you....
      For the Tallahassee mom who wrote "A Song for Mandy," the abortion choice she once made for convenience, and then gave no thought to for years, eventually resurfaced.
      "I didn't do it for therapy, but that's what it was," she said of her lyrical confession. Once written, it made clear the reasons for her nightmares, the depression and those days on end when, though by now she had a family, she could hardly bear to be around other people.
      Not every woman who has an abortion is haunted by her decision. Not every woman, by any means, names the child that never was, nor asks its forgiveness.
      But for Elizabeth, writing to Mandy brought tears of relief and the certain knowledge that "we had connected, that she was out there and that she understood."
      "I really became a whole person after that. It's a good feeling," says Elizabeth, which is not her real name.
      A charming, articulate businesswoman who says she used to be "your basic cosmopolitan woman," Elizabeth now aligns herself with those opposing abortion, though she was once unequivocally pro-choice. Now strongly committed to her church, she also understands what it is to straddle metaphysical fences, and she may be one of those rare creatures with compassion for both sides on the abortion debate.
      Just now she's concerned, as a lot of us are, that something be done about the hurtful, unhelpful chasm between the two sides. And she hopes her "Song" might be used as a philosophical vehicle: Its destination would be some common ground where we could all agree that, legal or not, abortion is overused and too often an ill-considered first resort.

Laws aren't the point
      The Legislature is gearing up for its special session on abortion, which is looking more and more like a medieval tent show with too many jugglers, no ringmaster and a lot of mud.
      The Florida Supreme Court, which is rarely flamboyant, has dramatically upstaged the governor by invoking the state's little-used privacy amendment to strike down a requirement that minors get permission for abortion.
      Yet, both institutions are almost irrelevant in terms of changing the way Americans think about abortion. Neither has half the power of ordinary people to make a new attitude become part of the social fabric.
      We're all so touchy about our political position on the subject that we can hardly acknowledge it when "the other side" makes a point. Yet thoughtful anti-abortionists deserve credit for forcing pro-choicers to be less casual.
      They remind us that a decade or so ago, when thousands of women were getting abortions matter-of-factly, when the sexual revolution was at its peak and abortion was almost chic, we were foolish to be so capricious.
      A return to illegal abortion is unfathomable for countless reasons. The psychic pain such as Elizabeth experienced can coexist with any unwanted pregnancy, no matter how it's resolved.
      Yet not enough's being done to make abortion the last resort -- and especially not for very young women, who often can't imagine how long indeed a decision can last.
      Not enough's being done to free ourselves from the thought that just because something's legal, it's necessarily good for us. Not enough's being done to stop conferring a social sanction on abortion.
      That's the kind of work that laws and courts can't do half so well as people like Elizabeth expressing their truest feelings about the consequences of complicated personal decisions.
      If the governor only knew this, the Legislature could stay home.

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