Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dr. Bill Roy: "May you live in interesting times" Virginia Tech, Partial Birth Abortion and War.


This week’s news has come too rapidly and is too important for a once a week columnist who likes to write his column at least a day ahead of time.

First, The Virginia Tech Massacre. We lost 32 great people and a sick youngster. In my column in preparation I wrote, “The number 33, or 30-something, seems hauntingly familiar, because isn’t that about the number we hear on the news again and again as those who died in the car bombing of a market in Iraq?”

And I wondered about who is responsible for the death of these children, mothers, fathers and elderly. I cannot help but feel that an American government run amok and supported by you and me is responsible, and unwilling to remedy the situation.

Then Wednesday we learned 233 Iraqis died in five car bombings. And the thought creeps in that perhaps the Democratic Congress should commit political suicide by insisting on a date certain for withdrawal, and let President George W. Bush question their patriotism. (But can we stand another Supreme Court appointment?)

And it doesn’t make me feel any better about what’s happening in Iraq to be reading Andrew Cockburn’s biography of Donald Rumsfeld. I don’t recommend the book. Just believing half of it will make you feel sad and angry, especially if you are familiar with others who started wars.

I reflected on how isolated colleges in primarily rural settings make me think of days gone by and expect homogeneity. Then the first names came in--an Indian and a Rumanian professor, a joyful Lebanese American student dancer, and an African American band member from Georgia about to graduate.

Today they told us 10 states and seven nations are represented among the 33, including the Korean-American gunman.

I wrote: “The stories of the dead at Virginia Tech should tell us one more time we are all brothers and sisters with just a little variation in appearance and background, bound together by sharing common, hopefully quality time on a two-bit planet in a huge universe.”

I am bracing myself on another gun control debate that will be based on emotion and half-truths. We have laws forbidding gun sales to felons, but how can we forbid gun sales to those who will become felons?

And, tell me, what use does a glock 9mm gun with a 30-shot magazine have except for killing people, or shooting at targets of people? I believe in the Second Amendment, but I do not believe it requires the setting aside all reason and good sense.

Then came fresh news. The Supreme Court upheld the federal law banning Partial Birth Abortions.

Of course, I have the misfortune as a physician of having never heard of partial birth abortion until the politicians thought it up.

Yes, I know what they describe, and I know if the fetus is a viable fetus, they are describing infanticide, as I have written before. But, somehow, Congress has called for only two years imprisonment and fines upon conviction of the operator, and no punishment for the mother--betraying their confusion about life and death, the culpable and the not culpable.

The vote may toll the bell on Roe v Wade, but for now it just provides uncertainty for women and their doctors.

A certain factor should be noted in a nation where religious interpretations are deciding foreign policy and domestic law.

The Court vote on abortion was Roman Catholics, five; non-Catholics, four. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts are all practicing Catholics. Two, perhaps three, wives are active in anti-abortion circles.

Should their religion influence their jurisprudence? Sure. Does it? I don’t know, but this seems to be either empirical evidence or a remarkable coincidence, take your choice.

Should religion or absence of religion qualify or disqualify a person for the court? Of course not, but when the appointees come from similar backgrounds, expect similar votes.

“May you live in interesting times“--like heart-breaking school shootings, gun control debate, wholesale murder on our watch abroad, and abortion regulation. Is anything missing?

Dr. Roy may be reached at

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