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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.

I read an interesting blog entry a little while ago and wanted to share it with you, for reasons which will be obvious. But first, I wanted to describe its author, one James M. Branum. Here are some excerpts from his "Who is J.M. Branum?" writeup:
A 31 year old guy who lives in the Lincoln Terrace Neighborhood of Oklahoma City. Like most native-born Okies, he is a mix of white and American Indian ancestry.

He works as a solo practice attorney with his own firm... He is also still licensed as a pedicab driver in Oklahoma City (working with but doesn't have time to get to ride that much anymore).

Religiously, he is a member/lay minister at Joy Mennonite Church but before that was part of several charismatic/non-denominational churches (including Hope Chapel, Hope in the City and Shekinah Fellowship) as well as the Churches of Christ (where he grew up)...

Educationally, he graduated from Newcastle High School in 1994, from the Institute for Christian Studies (now Austin Graduate School of Theology) with a B.A. in Bible with an emphasis in Christian Ministry in 2000, and from Oklahoma City University with a Juris Doctorate in 2005.
He is currently a religious studies major at Tulsa Community College.
Current interests of the moment include: activism, organic gardening, latchhook, , watching movies, reading and blogging.

He is member of the Green Party of OKlahoma, the Industrial Workers of the World, the National Lawyers Guild, the Oklahoma Food Coop and the Oklahoma Committee for Conscientious Objectors.
That's some resume, eh? And what makes it even more interesting is that Branum doesn't mention here the specifics of his political odyssey. You might focus in the above on his apparent religiousness; you might also see the references to the Greens, the IWW, conscientious objectors, and so on, and come up with an entirely different guess about his stance on the beginning of human life, abortion, and so on.

As we can learn from's guide to the most recent (2006) election cycle, Branum ran for Congress last year, as an independent endorsed by the Green Party. But look where he started out, and where he's headed, and why (emphasis added):
Prior to his membership in the Green Party, he was a Libertarian from 1999-2001 (during which he received over 17% of the vote as a candidate for Constable in Travis County, Texas), and was a Republican from 1994-1999.

J.M. Branum says his evolving political philosophy has been primarily shaped by his faith and by life experience. "As a college student I first was involved with the Republican party because of the hot button issue of abortion and because of my admiration of their small-government philosophy. Later as I discovered that the teachings of Jesus were pacifistic, I became a Libertarian, and then after I discovered that Jesus was most definitely not a capitalist I became a Green.

"Today as a Green, I share much common ground with both liberals and conservatives. I share common ground with many liberals on the issues of civil rights and their concern for the poor, while I share common ground with many conservatives in their belief that government should best be done at the local level. It has been said that Greens are neither left or right but rather out in front, and I think that is true."
In short, in almost 15 years he's been all over the map politically. So what does somebody like him think about the issues which we've been dealing with here? It's quite a post (and you were wondering when I'd link to it, weren't you?):
As I see it, I find the following propositions to be true on the issue of abortion . . .
  1. My #1 guiding principle is that of valuing human life. Any ideology that devalues human life is flawed.
  2. Women should have the right to control their own bodies and to be free to take control of their own destinies. Women have the right to the best information available so that they can make informed decisions. No decision is more sacred than the right ton control one’s own medical decisions.
  3. The beginning of human life is a mystery. I think that a person becomes a “person” long before birth, but I’m not convinced that it becomes a “person” at conception either.
  4. I believe that every human life is sacred and should be protected. No one should be seen as “disposable,” whether be poor, disabled, or not yet born.
  5. I believe that any economic system that leaves mothers in poverty if they choose to not have an abortion is immoral. “Choice” within such an economic system is a fiction.
So where does that leave me… definitely not on the extreme of the pro-life side of the argument. I do not feel it is right to interfere in the most basic of decisions about one’s own body and autonomy, and I certainly don’t think a woman should be forced to have a child which is the result of rape or that might endanger her own life. I also think that a woman should not be doomed to a life of poverty if they choose to have a child, yet that is the reality for many women, both here and in other countries.

I also can’t embrace the extreme of the pro-choice side of the argument. I cannot embrace the idea that there are no ethical concerns over the question of abortion. No one except God knows when human life truly begins (in the sense of the existence of a soul and spirit), but I do know that at some point it does begin and at that point, a person’s life is at stake and should be protected.
As for me, John, here on Jack Sisson's site, I don't want to point out anything I agree or disagree with in Branum's conclusions. All I want to draw attention to is the nature of his struggle to reach those conclusions. You can think about this stuff all day -- think hard about it -- and you can spend years or even decades arriving at something like a conclusion. And when you get there, you suddenly realize the conclusions are messy and ragged. It must be nice to be 100% clear-eyed on these issues, to be able to take a stand firmly on one side or the other without hesitation. I haven't made that leap yet, and neither has James M. Branum. And (I suspect) neither have the majority of Americans, no matter what you might forecast from their political and religious affiliations (or lack of them, as the case may be).

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