July 29, 2019


Jews, outraged by restrictive abortion laws, are invoking the Hebrew Bible in the debate (Lindsay Schnell, 7/28/19, USA TODAY)

 In January, Kirk Cox, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, cited biblical scripture when he came out against a proposed bill that would lift late-term abortion restrictions. 

"You knit me together in my mother's womb," he said, quoting Psalm 139. "You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born." 

But for many leaders in the Jewish faith, such interpretations are problematic and even insulting. [...]

The strongest argument in the Hebrew Bible for permitting abortion comes from Exodus, Chapter 21, Verse 22-23: "If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take a life for a life." 

In this passage, "gives birth prematurely" could mean the woman miscarries, and the fetus dies. Because there's no expectation that the person who caused the miscarriage is liable for murder, Jewish scholars argue this proves a fetus is not considered a separate person or soul. 

The garden helping to heal the pain of pregnancy loss (Dougal Shaw, 6/30/19, BBC Stories)

The Little Spirits Garden is a landscaped garden dedicated to the memory of children lost during pregnancy. It was completed in 2012, and sits within the grounds of the Royal Oak Burial Park, a cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia.

Within it are a series of long, concrete plinths, with small grey houses resting on them - these are "spirit houses", and each one commemorates a lost child. There are about 400 houses in the garden, with space for up to 3,000.

Doctors put bereaved parents, like Debbie, in touch with the team that runs the garden, if they think it will benefit them. The service is free and is supported by donations.

If a child is cremated, ashes can be scattered in a special section of the garden, or placed in an ossuary - a vault which sits underneath a pavilion.

Whether or not the child is cremated, parents are given a spirit house.

These are made of refined concrete. They also have a small womb symbol inscribed inside, a motif repeated throughout the design of the garden.

The concrete is designed with indentations, so that over time moss will grow over it.

Families can customise their houses with their own designs, or leave them bare, with just a named inscription.

"It's really difficult when you have a miscarriage and you don't have a body, because there isn't a physical object," says Debbie.

"The Little Spirits Garden provides that object for you, which is the house."

As she only found out about the garden after her second miscarriage, she made sure she got a house to mark the first too - as well as the subsequent seven.

"I have a lot of real estate in this garden," she says.

"The feeling I got from it was a sense of validation - this sense that someone can see what I feel. You can look at this and call it your daughter's spirit house. It felt so good to be able to have a home for her."

She visits her nine houses regularly.

"I go on their birthdays - their due dates - and the days that they passed. I go there for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, Valentine's Day. My husband and I need to connect with the children we would have otherwise celebrated with," says Debbie.

"To be given a spirit house is the most generous, loving, kind thing that one human being can do for another. Because the sad thing about miscarriages or stillbirths is that it's such a taboo to discuss it. This garden is a kind of place where you are free to feel what you need to feel and grieve the way you want to grieve."

The garden was designed by Canadian landscape architects Bill Pechet and Joseph Daly. The inspiration came from Bill Pechet's time in Japan, where he lived for two years. While there he was struck by a Buddhist tradition known as Jizo - the practice of creating a small, votive statue to mark the death of a child.

These are usually placed in temples, which have cemeteries attached to them. During festivals they are adorned with clothing, typically little bonnets woven by parents, and they are all brought out together to form a pageant.

"I found this inspiring, so tender and beautiful to see these creations," says Bill. "I was struck by the sense of magnitude when these were displayed together on special occasions, showing a collective loss in society."

He wondered if something similar could work in Canada.

"I realised that the Spirit Garden would have to be an ecumenical space, because we are a pluralistic society in Canada. I would need a symbol that was inclusive, and the house is a universal symbol of protection, and non-denominational."

His team held a series of workshops to test what people thought of the idea, inviting parents who had lost children, counsellors and religious leaders.

There was some resistance, Bill remembers - especially from those of the Christian faith, who were taken aback by the Japanese origin of the idea - but he persisted.

"My inner monologue at the time told me our entire country is based on immigration and adopting ideas from the rest of the world," says Bill.

Eventually everyone came round to the idea, and the garden became a reality.

...the argument is that if the father wants the child aborted and the mother doesn't, so he punches her to cause a miscarriage, there was no harm?  Then what are all these parents grieving for?
Posted by at July 29, 2019 12:00 AM