40 days ‘for life’ — one day of rain

It was raining pretty steady yesterday morning out on State Street in Schenectady, and that seemed a

It was raining pretty steady yesterday morning out on State Street in Schenectady, and that seemed appropriate, at least as regarded the anti-abortion demonstration in front of Planned Parenthood headquarters. That’s a regular event called 40 Days for Life, consisting of a round-the clock vigil for that many days, and I say the rain seemed appropriate because the reference in the name of the event is to the 40 days and nights of rain that produced the great flood of Noah, among other stories in the Bible.

The rain wasn’t enough to make me want to build an ark, but it was enough to let demonstrators feel they were making a sacrifice anyway, a sacrifice for life.

“I’m not demonstrating,” one demonstrator corrected me. “I’m praying.”

For me, if you’re standing on a public street holding a placard, you’re demonstrating, even if you’re silently moving your lips and looking abstracted, but I’m not one to argue.

There were only seven people present at about 11 a.m., but I thought that wasn’t bad, given the weather.

The praying one identified herself as Judy, no last name, “a child of God, a daughter of God most high,” and she assured me she was against capital punishment also, even though she had never demonstrated against it, which was one of the questions I asked.

I’m always skeptical of people who identify themselves as “pro-life,” which anti-abortion people invariably do, if they’re in favor of killing criminals.

I am not rigidly for or against abortion myself, considering it a difficult issue, but was there as a neutral observer. The demonstrators, of course, were rigidly against it, and the ones I talked to would prohibit it even in cases of rape or incest. And naturally they were convinced that human life begins at conception, at which point a fertilized cell already counts as a person.

I think that’s ridiculous. Words mean something, and the words “person” and “human being” do not mean a cell or a microscopic cluster of cells.

But I’m willing to make allowances for people who take their inspiration from an ancient collection of fables from an old desert tribe, and I was even diplomatic enough not to point out to them that among the myriad quaint prohibitions in that book of theirs, the Holy Bible, there is no prohibition against abortion. Which is interesting when you think about it.

The rule-makers of that ancient desert tribe, obsessive as they were, decreed that a man should go outside camp to relieve himself and have a paddle with him to cover his excrement. (Deut. 23:1).

They decreed that a menstruating woman should be set apart and considered unclean for seven days, and anyone who touches her be required to wash himself before being readmitted to polite society (Lev.15:19-27).

They decreed that men should not trim the corners of their beards or the temples of theirs heads. (Lev. 19:27).

They decreed that if a man lies with another man as with a woman, that’s an abomination and both should be put to death. (Lev. 20:13).

They decreed that if you blaspheme the name of the Lord, you should be put to death (Lev. 24: 16).

They had more abominations and more capital offenses than you could shake a stick at, but they said not a word about abortion. Nor did Jesus, nor did St. Paul, nor did any of those old celebrities.

There must have been abortion in those days, practiced by midwives using herbal potions or sharp sticks, just as there must have been sexual exploitation of

children, but Holy Writ is silent on both those subjects.

Well, never mind. The demonstrators I spoke to were all Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholics are not so Bible-bound as their Protestant brethren. They have also the teachings of Holy Church to look to, and Holy Church condemns abortion just as it condemns contraception, Bible or no Bible.

I forgot to ask them if they were against contraception. I was juggling my notebook to keep it under my umbrella, and kept getting distracted.

With 39 days left, I’ll have a chance to go again.

The 40 Days for Life business originated in Texas in 2004, and has now grown to a national organization and demonstrations in 238 locations, as of last year, including in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

The schedule is one 40-day campaign in the spring and another in the fall, all run by local volunteers.

According to the organization’s website, “The mission of the campaign is to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40 day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion in America.”

They claim to have prevented 4,082 abortions so far, though I don’t know how the calculation was made.

One demonstrator yesterday, Charlie King of Charlton, told me that in his two years of two-day-a-week demonstrating at Planned Parenthood he has seen three or four cases of vistors having second thoughts and being directed away.

Another, Gregg Wilbur of Galway, when I asked him if he thought he had ever prevented an abortion, said, “I don’t know, and I don’t need to know. My job isn’t to create an outcome. I just do what I’ve got to do.”

Which in a sense is what I do too.

PEF says no

As for the rejection of a new contract by the Public Employees Federation, I find it interesting that a majority of those voting opted to turn 3,500 of their union brothers and sisters out into the street rather than accept even minor sacrifices for themselves, which shows you how much the vaunted union brotherhood and sisterhood is worth.

Gov. Cuomo made plain that’s the number of employees that will have to be laid off if the necessary savings can’t be achieved through contract concessions, and there is no reason to believe he is bluffing. It didn’t matter to the 19,629 PEF members who voted no. They would not acquiese in five days of furlough (unpaid vacation) or a modest increase in health insurance contributions.

I can only guess that those who made this decision were predominantly senior members, whose own personal jobs would be safe, rather than junior members, who would be most likely to get the ax. That is generally how public-employee unions operate — for the benefit of the older members, who are of course the leaders. The hell with new hires, is the fraternal thinking.

State law requires that existing contracts don’t expire anyway but remain in effect forever, pending agreement on new ones. So why give an inch? Why accept any cut in benefits or any hike in contributions?

Half of the PEF members who keep their jobs will still qualify for step increases twice a year, according to a PEF spokeswoman, though I could not learn the size of those increases.

Another thing that interests me is that despite the large stakes, only 65 percent of the PEF membership voted at all, and in an earlier vote, which went the other way, only 44 percent of the CSEA membership voted. Not on some remote matter like who will be town supervisor but on the terms and conditions of their own employment.

There’s a lesson in there of some sort, though I’m not sure what it is.

Categories: Opinion

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