Wednesday, February 28, 2018

On the Abortion Debate

This was initially written as a response to a Facebook share in what is possibly the worst argument I have ever come across, to the extent it is almost a parody of right-wing pathology and thinly-veiled political hysteria. My reply to the sharing party of said content I feel is an accurate summary of the correct approach to the subject. Here is the initial obtuse remark:

Censored to not promote the stupid
First I will point out I generally agree with you. It’s basically a tragedy, that certain people don’t view it as a heavy situation rather than another option of birth control. This is a common attitude I’ve witnessed in people. What changed my mind was reading something written by Roger Ebert roughly paraphrased as, “I believe in a woman’s right to choose, but could never advocate it for a child of mine.” It gets more complicated.

If a child is a child is a child, there can be no exception for incest and rape. I’m aware of these are rare occurrences, but there are occurrences. Someone who is pro-life without exception I can take more seriously. Otherwise you’re saying killing is wrong, unless the rape of a third party is involved. The problem with this is, it would be immensely amoral to force someone to bring such a child to term because I have half an ounce of empathy and moral integrity. It was not planned and carries a heavy physical, psychological, and financial burden. On the other hand if you allow an exception for rape and incest, it’s hard to take you seriously. Since this scenario is uncommon it will only weaken any other argument. Let’s put it aside.

Look at the phrasing used. You imply something unborn is being murdered. This is problematic. Not just for you, for everyone. What else is alive that is a part of humans? Do germs count? Sperm? The strange organisms that make up every person’s molecular biology? Or is it only a fertilized egg? Is there any line at all to be drawn? For example, some people are against stem cell research which uses a cluster of cells about the size of a bug’s brain to study and try and create life-saving technologies. You kill more scratching your nose. At what point is life created? This also brings up a very important point, which is how much do we value a person’s agency over their own body? A childbirth is always a threat to someone’s physical well-being. We have no problem with transplants, excising tumors, and body modifications. I do not feel comfortable dictating what dangerous physiological changes can happen to a person’s body. I can only leave that choice to the individual. If abortion were replaced with, say, safely removing a fetus and hooking it up to an effective artificial womb, raised to term and adopted, would you be okay with it?

We legislated these decisions and now we don’t have back alley abortions by impoverished mothers. Yet despite what I’ve argued, I am disturbed by the cultural indifference. I posited this to a friend and would to everyone if it weren’t so incendiary, “Would you be friends with an abortionist?” No. Because it’s not just about these rare situations involving the threat of a woman’s life, or extreme cases, or miscarriages. Abortion, by and large, is nothing more than Plan C. It would be better to change those attitudes. But it would be better if argued from a polemical, moral stance instead of saying it’s the equivalent of shooting a baby in the face. Too many people, from pastors to politicians bring this up showing little empathy, respect, or recognition for a woman’s agency. I believe that shift could go a long way in changing minds, just the acknowledgment that it is indeed a heavy and complicated question with gray areas.

It would also be better served if it wasn’t so deeply entwined with a religious connotation, because otherwise you’re losing the secular segment of the population. That is a whole other issue in itself. When you are arguing on religious terms and by intelligent design, it’s easy to point out the apparent design of women allows for more death by miscarriage than abortion. When you make this case, Mother Nature is the greatest abortionist. How do you reconcile this as a Christian? I don’t believe it can be. It is completely physiological, it is not the wickedness of man, it is not a yarn to be spun with religious themes of good and evil.

Now to counter the false equivalency of the initial, preposterous shared post, why aren’t you doing something about it? I don’t like the toxic aspects of the abortion debate where it becomes about identity. Conservatives are actually more politically malleable with two exceptions: gun rights and abortion. The initial post combines the two with something almost beyond a parody. Let’s say the laws changed tomorrow and you had a three-day grace period, where you could have a doctor throw a rag over your newborn and euthanize it. I imagine, tomorrow you would be at any clinic that supported this with weapons and I might be right there beside you. If what you are claiming is the murder of a child now, however, and not a fetus, how do you sleep at night?

The point is, fetuses are not alive. If they were alive, their bodies would not be entirely physiologically dependent on another human being. They would be able to exist on their own. Perhaps instead we can acknowledge this and have an intellectually honest discussion. In the 50 years time we’ve wasted on each other, fighting and creating picket signs, we could have mutually decided this problem is too complicated for a simple solution or an us-versus-them mentality. If you want to be a good person, instead, support scientific solutions where abortion wouldn’t be necessary. Perfect contraceptive measures and concede that contraception is necessary and important. Create a fetus-extracting, womb-simulator. Otherwise it’ll be another 50 years and the problem won’t go away, each side will dig their heels in further, and discussions on abortion will continue to only be useful for signaling virtue.

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