Abortion: Choose Your Ideology and Defend It
This picture—pro-abortion propaganda, dumbed down to the level of an advertisement—embodies the pathology of the U.S., where ideological fundamentalism trumps discourse.
First, there is the absurdity of its premise; if a being can only be recognized as a human life the more it matures, as the advertisement seems to suggest, then it would be logical to kill infants, then toddlers, with life only becoming worthy of protection when the "person" reaches a certain age.
If you become a person at birth, what is it that has made you a person? Are you a person if half of one of your feet is still inside your mother, or are you only a person when every inch of you is outside? Does your personhood become more valid once the umbilical cord is cut?
These are stupid questions, of course, but they reflect the level of the argument—or, more accurately, the war—over abortion in the U.S. The discourse, such as it is, has been static in the thirty-eight years since Roe v. Wade.
It is an ideological war in which I walk through No Man's Land.
I am pro-life.
I am also pro-choice.
This is only a contradiction in the eyes of fundamentalists on either side.
On the one hand, there are the fundamentalists who describe themselves as being pro-life. It might be more appropriate for them to call themselves "pro-existence." They picket such places as Planned Parenthood, harassing women as they go inside. Often, they picket on days when abortions are not being carried out. One client of Planned Parenthood recalls a time when she was hassled by anti-abortion protesters as she went in to get birth-control pills.
"They showed me photographs of dead fetuses. I thought, 'The reason I'm going to Planned Parenthood is to avoid that.'"
However, these people do not show pictures of abused children, or children abandoned—physically or emotionally—by parents who do not want them. Their interest in "life" tends to stop at birth. These same zealots almost invariably favor capital punishment.
On the other hand, there are the fundamentalists whose sacred doctrine is abortion.
Both sides are wrong.
Abortion is execution. It is killing.
This is why its fundamentalists deny that a fetus is really a living being. They have to, or it would be impossible to justify their position. Throughout history, people who have committed atrocities have justified their behavior by denying that their victims have validity as human beings. The slave trade depended on black people being seen as less than human. The Nazis justified the Holocaust by denying the validity of the Jews as human beings.
And so, those who are pro-abortion (which is not the same as being pro-choice) view the fetus as a cluster of growing cells, a tumor, something to be gotten rid of without remorse.
This denial of the fetus's validity as a child does not stand up to any kind of scrutiny, whether religious or scientific. If you believe humans have souls, how can you say when the fetus has a soul? Does the soul hover like a vulture outside the mother's body, waiting to jump into the baby as soon as it comes out? If your perspective is that of an atheist, then the actuality is even clearer—if there is no soul, then life is life. A fetus is alive inside the womb, feeding and growing. And abortion is the taking of life.
A fetus is a baby. And yet I am pro-choice. I think all women should be entitled to abortion on demand.
Two reasons. One is that abortion is often a necessary evil. Pro-lifers believe they can speak for the fetus. They talk about the baby's right to be born. What gives them the right to decide that the baby would choose to be born? Can anyone be sure that a baby would choose to be born to a mother who doesn't want it? Pro-lifers tend to be solipsistic in the extreme. I've heard them say over and over that, even if the woman doesn't want to have the child, she'll love it after it's born.
You only have to look at a newspaper to see the fallacy of this. People who love their children may find it impossible to believe that all parents are not like them. But in a world in which child abuse and neglect is routine news, in a country with the highest rate of child poverty in the industrialized world, it's clear that too many children are being born into misery.
But even this argument is a red herring, a distraction from the real issue, which is one of freedom. You do not have the right to kill, but you have the right to refuse assistance if that assistance would invade your body, which is the last boundary of privacy.
Suppose you are driving on the highway and you see an accident. The law requires you to stop and render assistance. But if one of the victims needs a blood transfusion, you cannot be compelled to hand over your blood. To refuse might be considered despicable, but you have the right to refuse. It is your blood. Nobody owns your body except for you, and nobody has the right to use your body or take from it without your permission.
Suppose you have a child, and that child needs a life-saving organ transplant, and you are a suitable donor. You do not have to do it. You can refuse to give your child one of your kidneys, even though the child will die without it. There are many names that can be applied to you if you refuse to help your child live, but you have the right to refuse. Some might consider such selfishness revolting, but it is your right. When it comes to your own body, you have the moral right to do what is morally wrong.
This right applies before birth, too. Even if we recognize the fetus as a child, you cannot be compelled to carry a child inside your body, and to go through the painful and sometimes dangerous process of giving birth. If the fetus could survive outside a woman's body, there would be no case whatsoever for the right to abortion. This is why there is no moral defense for partial-birth abortions, unless the health of the mother is in danger.
But if you get pregnant by accident, you find yourself with an unwanted stranger living inside your body, feeding off you as it grows. And you have the right to refuse to give yourself to that stranger. You have the right to abort, to let the child inside you die. And, whatever anyone might think of you for the abomination you commit with your body, it is your body and your conscience alone.