Archive for June 8th, 2008

Earlier today I ran across an article written by Doug Phillips. It was about the death penalty of Paul Hill (the abortion doctor murderer) and what justifiable homicide really means. I was both shocked and saddened by Mr. Phillip’s stretch to make the issue cover the heartbreaking reality that is an ectopic pregnancy.

Doug Phillips is an excellent lawyer. He has a knack for swaying opinion and speaking eloquently on a subject. But on this subject I think he lacks both an understanding of the real medical issues surrounding ectopic pregnancy, and a very narrow view of God’s law.

For reference, the article is found here.

As with Paul Hill’s justification of the murder of abortionists, advocates of killing unborn babies “for the life of the mother” reason that it is o.k. for a mother to kill her child if it is an act of self-defense. But Paul Hill and pro-life exception advocates fail the biblical test. Both are terribly guilty of borrowing from pragmatic, non-biblical arguments, and twisting the Scriptures to justify a desired result.

I find it interesting that one of the first things that Mr. Phillips does is explain that it’s a bad thing to use non-biblical arguments after giving us a definition of justifiable homicide that he admits is partly based on our common law, not scriptural law. But I disagree that ending a pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother fails the test scripturally, logically, or in any other way. In fact, I think you have to defy logic altogether and very narrowly interpret the law to make it sinful or wrong to save the mother’s life. And I take issue with the idea that the loss of any baby, even when saving the mother’s life, is the “desired result”. As the mother of a baby whom I wanted desperately, her death was never what I desired.

Several things are worthy of note: First, a baby is not a willful aggressor. This ends the debate on justifiable homicide. A baby neither intends the harm, nor acts aggressively against its mother. (In fact, if “blame” is to be passed, it should rest on the mother, not the baby, since it was the mother’s body which produced the circumstances in which the baby has found himself.) The Bible makes no provision for executing an innocent party (one which lacks intent to harm) in order to help another.

This is simply not true. The intent of the aggressor is not the issue. the issue is whether or not the person (in this case the mother) is truly in harms way.

Just as an aside, I want to take this opportunity to say that I think Mr. Phillips should be ashamed of himself for saying that if blame is to be passed it should be on the mother. No one, certainly not the mother, is assigning blame. It’s tragic and sad to have an ectopic pregnancy, and certainly the mother is in no way at fault. It breaks my heart that any mother grieving the loss of her baby should think for even a moment that it is somehow her fault, even unwillingly. It’s simply not true. The opinion expressed lacks medical understanding of pregnancy. Perhaps Mr. Phillips should stick to the law. When a pregnancy occurs, it is the baby that implants. And of course, neither the baby nor the mother have any influence over where this occurs.

I looked through Exodus and can find nothing to support Mr. Phillips claim that “The common law defense of justifiable homicide is derived from the case laws of Exodus which make clear that one may use lethal force if necessary in defense of self or others where imminent life-endangering harm is threatened and lethal force is necessary to prevent the crime.” It seems the laws in Exodus are about personal injury and the commandment not to murder. In other words, the laws of Exodus are about restitution for injury and death, not the appropriateness of killing. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Phillips fails to offer biblical evidence to bolster his case. He seems to think we’ll just take his word for it.

The definition for justifiable homicide that is given by Mr. Phillips is actually derived from American law, not biblical law. Another reason that I scoff at his insistence that it is those on my side of the argument who are guilty of using non-biblical arguments. His whole understanding of this issue is heavily colored by his law background and not influenced at all by the medical facts surrounding ectopic pregnancy.

What I did find in the bible were verses like Deuteronomy 19:4 ” This is the rule concerning the man who kills another and flees there to save his life—one who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought.”

It seems that the intention of the person threatening the other’s life is not at all what is important in biblical law, but the intention of the person who is taking the life of the other. In a case of ectopic pregnancy since the mother does not end the pregnancy with any kind of malice, but with grief, and the goal is not the death of the baby but the preservation of the life of the mother it hardly seems comparable to murder.

Second, while the unborn baby in the case of an ectopic pregnancy may pose a threat which could materialize into a harm to the mother, the threat is not imminent in the classic sense, nor is it conclusive that the baby’s presence necessarily will cause harm. All that is known is that it might cause harm. Consequently, the murder of the baby takes place in anticipation of a statistical possibility. Here again, the biblical requirements for justifiable homicide are not met.

First of all, Mr. Phillips should clarify that it’s not the biblical requirements of justifiable homicide that he believes this doesn’t meet, but the common law definition that he’s given. Even so, I disagree with his conclusion. His statement shows a gross misunderstanding of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube about 98% of the time. Other times they can occur in the cervix, ovary, or other internal organ. These are not places that were ever intended for a baby to grow. Once the baby reaches a certain size, they literally explode the organ in which they are growing. This causes internal bleeding in the mother and is most definitely life-threatening. Saying that one shouldn’t end the ectopic pregnancy because it might not hurt them is akin to saying that police shouldn’t shoot the suspect holding them at gunpoint because it’s statistically possible that the suspect might not shoot. It’s misleading to say that it’s a statistical possibility. In fact its a probability. In fact, it is the most likely thing to occur.

I believe in a God who makes sense and loves me. When you look at it in it’s most honest context, ectopic pregnancy is the number 1 reason that women die in the first trimester of pregnancy. The baby cannot survive if their mother dies. So, is it prolife to have both mother and child die? Or is it pro-life to regret the loss of the baby, but to save the mother?

What kind of principle is being defended by letting women die in the hopes that perhaps the baby will survive? We’ve all heard about the babies who have lived as abdominal pregnancies or ovarian pregnancies. And there is a reason they make news. The chances are less than one in a million.

The bible tells a story of Jesus walking through a vinyard and eating grapes on the Sabbath. When stopped and chastised for working on the day of rest, Jesus explains that the Sabbath day was man for man, not man for the Sabbath. It makes sense that it means more to God that we feed ourselves than to starve just to avoid working on the Lord’s Day. God doesn’t need the law, it is made for us, to make our lives better. The law is life-giving and freedom-giving. But, as it is interpreted by Vision Forum Ministries it seems to be neither of those.

It seems that Doug Phillips thinks that it makes more sense for both mother and child to die to preserve a pro-life principle than for the mother to end the pregnancy and have one of them live. Perhaps she’ll live to have more children and bring more life into the world.

The way he explains the law it no longer follows a sense of basic logic, and I reject that it’s “unbiblical pragmatism”. Mr. Phillips fails to make his biblical case, logical case, or medical case. But he certainly sounds good doing it.


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