Thursday, January 11, 2007

Throwing Anti-Abortionists to the Lions

Dead End Positions

Ban Ki-Moon at his first press conference tried to put to rest the vengeful spirit of Saddam Hussein following his early off the cuff remark that it was up to each country what they did on the execution front.

"I believe that life is precious and must be protected and respected,
and that all human beings have the right to live in dignity. International law affirms these values. I recognize the growing trend in international law and in national practice towards a phasing out of the death penalty. I encourage that trend. As Member States are taking their decisions, I expect they will comply with all aspects of
international human rights law. As you know, I have also urged restraint by the Iraqi authorities in the execution of death sentences imposed by the Iraqi High Tribunal."

Apart from saying "well-wiggled!" to Mr Ban who seems to relish the title the Seoul Press Corp gave him – "the slippery eel," I could not help thinking about American attitudes to execution. Incidentally, he avoided answering the question from veteran Mexican correspondent Ricardo Alday about abortion.

Many Americans proclaim the "right to life" for any sperm that has hooked onto an ovum and most of them, it would seem are equally fervent about injecting, hanging, electrocuting or shooting fully grown people. President W. Bush, who never once offered clemency for the almost 200 executions in Texas while he was governor, is a case in point.

Indeed some of them think it is fair game to top any medical staff who perform abortions, which has always struck me as a somewhat eccentric way to demonstrate the sanctity of life.

Among the "Right to Lifers" are many American Catholics… who seem to partially deaf. Having got over its love affair with the Inquisition, the Church is actually equally fervently against executions as it is against abortions. But that is not a text you hear often from right wing Catholic politicians drumming for votes.

In Britain, I knew many left wing Labour members who were opposed to abortion – but they were at least consistent and opposed the death penalty as well. In the US being opposed to abortion means many Liberals would not be seen dead with you, while opposing executions will have the right exorcising you on the spot.

Surely there is room for a wedge issue here for Democrats of faith to expose the spurious claims to exclusive morality of the Christian right?

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