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Thursday, May 28. 2009
From Harsanyi in the Denver Post.
His personal piece caused me to ponder how those who seek social changes strategize to "normalize" those changes so that we stop thinking about them. I remain deeply conflicted about the idea of abortion.
Posted by The Barrister in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:23 | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)
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I have no doubt that abortion is a sin. My 17 year old niece got pregnant, and her devoutedly Catholic mother said, "No abortion." She had the baby; today he is a wonderful 8-year-old, and she has found another man to be her husband (father of her first kid being a loser) and has two more children with her husband, and they are a terrific three-child family.
I look a the oldest and think, "If your parent and grandparents had been liberals, you wouldn't be here." And it makes my blood run cold.
It is popular to comment "you can't legislate morality" and to hear the riposte "All laws are about morality." I think that legislation should confine itself to moral issues that touch on others who aren't party to the choice being made. If someone slashes my tires or steals my lawn mower, those are morally wrong actions that touch me, an unwilling party. (I had a lawn mower once, the theft of which would have been its own punishment.) Now we need legislation.
If my neighbor is sexually promiscuous with other consenting adults, the cars may get in my way but that's the only harm I can suffer. If my neighbor teaches the family's children to use foul language, I am annoyed but not genuinely injured. I would demand the freedom to do things like this, so I must allow that freedom to my neighbor.
If my neighbor is pregnant and feels sure that carrying to term will devastate her family's life and structure...that's a hard call, and being a hard call I will stay out of it as far as legislation goes. Offer prayer (if so believing) and alternatives but not coercion. If my neighbor learns that her cherished baby-to-be will be miserable all of her short life due to a devastating problem, I don't want to be part of forcing her to either abort or carry the baby. What a dreadful situation -- how can anyone from outside the family presume to weigh in?
Conflicted is a good way to feel about both abortion and capital punishment. Or warfare, for that matter.
I remain conflicted about abortion up to a point but I am satisfied with my decision to have had mine. I gave it loads of thought and reached a painful decision. Actually considering what might have been makes me shudder way more. I feel the same about that as a miscarriage a few years later in my marriage. There is sentiment attached to it, it wasn't a pleasant experience but I don't feel a need to mourn. I find it patronising that the views of a few, including legislators are extended to the views of all women on this personal issue. People deal with things differently as well they should. My boyfriend at the time was way way more flippant about it than I ever was btw. I am relieved to not have to be connected in any way to that asshole. I was unlucky as I was on the Pill at the time. See, these are the uncomfortable and deeply personal details you need to involve yourselves in if you feel the need to legislate someone into a pregnancy (or a marriage for that matter. All connected to morality).
On that note, personally I cannot stand the whole porn industry and find it vulgar and encouraging of a flippant mentality to sexuality and more widely to a mysogynist approach to women (going by the terms they are referred to on standard porn sites, the propensity for as young a girl as possible legally verging on prepub and encouraging paedos, the more and more extreme sites). But I know that legislating it is difficult. So I can seek to show my dislike for it's grotesqueness, it's wider reaches, distortions and general normalization nowadays and choose not to go along with any of that. I can view men and women who use it in a certain unpositive way. People pick and choose on both sides, liberal and conservative, what they feel they need to judge morally or "normalise". There is a balance to strike with all moral legislation however and currently that balance is more or less right. It's education that is lacking.
Back to your point. Noone normalized anything for me in my decision. That is down to individual intelligence.
My thinking on abortion: 1) I believe in God. 2) I believe if I am good, I go to heaven. Bad, I go to Hell. 3) A fetus is human. 4) The Bible says 'thou shall not commit murder'. Given all that, I don't know how God is going to judge people that have had or abetted abortions, but aborting a baby because it would be too costly, inconvenient, etc, are not defenses I would care to put before the Almighty with eternity hanging in the balance.
TWISI, the only way this issue is anyone's business but the woman's comes down to the following:
1) Human life (legally defined, a full complete entity just as well defined as that of a full term baby) either begins at conception or at some point after.
2) If human life begins at conception, there can be no exceptions made for rape or incest anymore than the killing of a full term baby (or even mature adult) who was the product of rape or incest could not be excused.
3) If human life begins at conception, then we have a moral obligation to "cure" what ails the something like 20% or so spontaneous abortions that naturally occur. And also deal with the resulting 5:4 M:F sex imbalance, not to mention the medical bills as many of the extra 20% will likely have considerable health issues.
The fact that only 1% (or whatever) abortions are in response to rape or incest is irrelevant to the principle in question.
In all the gazillion words written, spoken, screamed, etc. on this issue, I have never heard a coherent argument that addresses these three points without going off on an emotional tangent. Admittedly, the most extreme pro-life position, one that requires a rape victim to bring that pregnancy to full term at least has some legitimacy on the rape issue.
And on the emotional point, what happens to all of the miscarriages today? Shouldn't our cemet
That last sentence should read "Shouldn't our cemeteries be filled with their gravestones?"
grumble...grumble...MF spam filter...
I wouldn't think twice about pulling the trigger on the battlefield or on a home invader or somebody threatening my wife or kid. I feel exactly the opposite way about an unborn baby. It has to do with the innocence of that human life and the fact that it is my responsibility to take care of it; it has no choice in the matter.
Any lack of moral clarity I had was remedied after my wife's first trimester ultrasound. It was in color and I saw my son's face, and his movements. I had intellectually always believed that a fetus was a nascent human deserving of the full protection of the laws; after that I believed it on an emotional and intuitive level.
The time for the difficult, agonizing personal decision is when the couple are all heated up and there's not a condom in sight. It's not later. The fetus is a consequence of a difficult, agonizing, personal moral decision, it shouldn't be the subject of it. There were times I didn't take adequate precautions in my wild oat sowing; thank God my recklessness did not put a girlfriend in a bad position where abortion was an option. I realize the decision has a lot of gravity, and I'm not trying to condemn here (Alison), just trying to state where I stand.
I realize there are some situations akin to the lifeboat (e.g. life of the mother) where the moral scales are weighted quite differently. But I don't see convenience or the fact that a child might face a tougher life as a rationale for abortion, and I have known more than a few women who rely on abortion as an alternative method of birth control. No agonizing there, but plenty of justifications. Kids have grown up fine in ordure, without big screen TVs, and in relatively penury, and doing so is not as big of a handicap as one might think. Nor is living in a smaller house or having an older car than one desires a black mark, and, in fact, in most moral systems, sacrificing one's own desires on behalf of another is generally an extra credit activity.
I find KRW's argument about the rape and incest (and I suppose life of the mother) problems particularly galling - it basically says that if we cannot be perfect in our morality then we should not even bother. Not sure I'd like to live in that sort of a world, but maybe people in KRW's neighborhood are more perfect than those who live in mine. As a matter of political practicality I'd settle for eliminating third trimester abortions and ask for elimination of anything past about the 4th month, save in extreme cases - again, my morality is imperfect here.
Similarly, the fact that many fetuses spontaneously abort does not justify abortion. To argue that opposing abortion imposes a moral duty on believers to stop natural spontaneous abortions intentionally conflates proscription with positive duties to intervene. The law prohibits many things, but only rarely imposes a duty to intervene - in tort law, for example, one is prohibited from harming an accident victim and causing further injury during rescue, but the prohibition on harm does not also impose a duty to rescue or a duty to intervene to prevent harms that naturally would have occurred to the same victim. Arguing that opposing man-made abortion compels prevention of natural spontaneous abortion is like arguing that because we oppose murder and manslaughter, that we also have a moral duty to stop heart attacks, cancer, lightning, bus strikes, old age and other causes of death - otherwise our opposition to murder is morally invalid.
"I find KRW's argument about the rape and incest (and I suppose life of the mother) problems particularly galling - it basically says that if we cannot be perfect in our morality then we should not even bother." - Straw man. Take something said, turn it into something not said, then argue that. In the context of formulating a law based on some semblance of logic, I'm interested in (and open to) a logical critique. "Galling" is an emotional response.
"moral duty to stop heart attacks, cancer, lightning, bus strikes, old age and other causes of death" - First of all, none of these items afflict innocent "babies". Now perhaps I overstate by saying moral "obligation" but we as a society do take far greater effort to stop (or at least diminish) these problems than address conditions that are wiping out up to 20% of the male "population" in addition to a smaller number of the female. We go to great effort to address conditions such as SIDS because we do "impose a duty to rescue or a duty to intervene to prevent harm" when the lives of children are involved. See the Daniel Hauser story.
You find galling an emotional response? Okay, I won't try to spare your feelings this time by making it about my subjecting reaction. I find your line of reasoning fatuous and objectively flawed.
The primary flaw in your reasoning is that you somehow manage to find opposition to man-caused abortion logically inconsistent, arguing that if we oppose man-caused abortion then we must also necessarily favor taking all steps available to stop natural, spontaneous abortion. This very clearly conflates a duty to do no harm, with an affirmative duty to act. Within your heart attack example, our duty to not go around poisoning people and causing heart attacks (which would be murder) includes an affirmative duty to protect them from heart disease.
That you cannot see the difference between a proscription and an affirmative duty to act is fatuous. And still galling.
Having suffered from what the docs called "recurrent miscarriage" myself, I find comments re: the connection between spontaneous abortion of a nonviable fetus and selective, willed abortion of a viable fetus absolutely galling.
There was something chromosomally wrong with the ones that I miscarried. End of story. REs will try to sell you progesterone supplementation, endometrial biopsies and treatments to improve endometrial lining, steroids to suppress your immunity - some quacks even make poor desperate people pay out the wazoo for IVIG and other extreme immunological "treatments" - but it doesn't matter. The twenty percent you cite amount to a bad roll of the chromosome-mixing dice, and other than improving your sperm or egg quality so your odds improve, there is NO treatment for that.
I always knew the ones that were going to end. They weren't right. The vast majority of miscarriages are like mine were - very early, when the "bad code" would become apparent and the whole process would fail, as it should have done.
When I was pregnant with ones that "stuck," the entire pregnancy felt completely different.
Sorry if I used to much IF terminology hope it was understandable. We were in that particular jungle for a long time. Don't use us (IF people) for anti-life arguments. Please. Just don't.
I had five documented losses, including a set of twins at 9 and 13 weeks. And my last successful pregnancy started as twins and ended up a singleton. I probably had many more losses than even what I knew, just thinking: "hmm, my periods have gotten irregular since I got married." As it probably is with many women. Start late, get married late, I wasn't the only one in this boat among my peers. "Bad code" happens, especially when you're older. Doesn't justify tearing up the good code.
Your situation sound very similar to that of my own mother. She had several miscarriages as she married later in life, combined with what at the time was believed to be the possible impact of my father taking quinine over a period of several months during the war. I appreciate and respect your position in regard to the "chromosomally wrong" being hopeless cases, however many XY eggs (and others) are rejected for reasons currently unknown. Some women who have had difficulty conceiving resort to bed rest throughout their pregnancy and are successful. There are many reasons that we know and we don't know about why a pregnancy is successful or not.
If we define life as beginning at the very moment of conception, do we then lessen the number of failed pregnancies by requiring all pregnant women to take every conceivable precaution? My point isn't to support abortion itself, nor to argue the many exceptions or variations that have been argued to death. Defining conception as a full complete entity just as well defined as that of a full term baby has consequences that the vast majority of people will not support. It is a political dead end loaded with gray areas. Construct an argument for the rape/incest issue and you may have a chance. Without that, not many will be convinced.
I'm not really that worried about the Almighty. Given what horrors have been committed in his name, and what he himself allows to happen to children born into this world and left uncared for, abused, starved because third world parents cannot cope (rather than any malice) and the lack of his general caring on that score, a distinct hands off approach he has going on, I'll have more to take up with the Big Guy when I see him than he ever will with me, assuming he knows me. Really very very simple on that score despite the usual guilt mongering from the Holy ("murder" etc)
Alison, Good luck getting through to the Big Guy. Acccording to most who visit these parts, you gotta go through Jesus. I mean, that's the only way. That leaves 500 billion out of His grace. Too bad for them. I read an article in a paper that a woman called police because she saw some monkeys in a dumpster. They were two boys, one 19 who weighed 49 pounds and the other, 11 who weighed about 35 pounds. They looked like monkeys as did their two sisters. They were adopted and had two siblings who were the natural spawn of the parents. Both were fat. I can't get that story out of my head.
If you do get the chance to parlay with Him, ask him why it's okay for the patriarchal society of Pointy Hats in Rome to tell women they can't use birth control or have abortions. What have they got against women?
There's a post in today's links that states God wants man to have freedom and then says man's desire for liberty is an aberration. I wonder if God is sorry he made us in his image.
I also think Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo the most evil revolting human specimen on the planet and the paedo Catholic Church in Ireland and the US about level pegging. God has some seriously major housekeeping to do therein. That church virtually normalised those behaviours by not thinking about them, in relation to your post. Ugh.
Point taken. I'll note though that God's servants tend generally to be somewhat imperfect, and one of the tricks to finding God is to look past his imperfect and sometimes downright treacherous servants. Just as a virtuous rich man may have a butler who purloins silverware, there are occasionally thieves in some of the rooms in God's temporal mansion around these parts. Until men are perfected I think that will always be the case.
Adopted in '65. My home state has opened the adoption records so I know Mom was 17 and Dad was...well, not listed. I don't kid myself for a moment that if abortion had been as "safe, legal and available" as it's proponents demand that I would have never seen the sun.
No answers here, just questions. Are we still classifying "lumps of cells" using 1973 science? Has our knowledge and testing criteria evolved since then? Should questions be asked again, with superior knowledge and technology guiding the answer?
Should abortion be legal? I think so. Should it be so socially acceptable that it is used by many as an after the fact contraceptive? Should "I don't want a baby right now" be enough of a reason? If a baby survives an abortion should it be killed? Treated? Ignored?. This happens more than you might think...enough so that bills have been introduced to shield those involved from murder charges.
"It's my body!" DOES NOT trump "it's my life!" the problem, the question is where does one begin and the other end.
"I don't kid myself for a moment that if abortion had been as "safe, legal and available" as it's proponents demand that I would have never seen the sun."
Actually you don't know that. Not at all. You are rather treating all women put into that situation for whatever reason as the same. That is half the problem with this debate. Noone would assume all men reached similar decisions or were of similar intellect or ability faced with life altering moments and 2 choices.
Should it be so socially acceptable that it is used by many as an after the fact contraceptive?
Define socially acceptable. That it is legal and therefore available? That a couple might consider one? That it is okay to discuss it as an option? That it is in fact a form of contraceptive?
Should "I don't want a baby right now" be enough of a reason?
Absolutely. Just as it should be perfectly fine to say I really want a baby right now and start trying.
If a baby survives an abortion should it be killed? Treated? Ignored?.
If a woman takes a black market abortion pill and it causes internal bleeding, should they save the child or the woman?
At the end of the day choose not to have one and treat the matter as personal. Otherwise roll up sleeves and provide better alternatives for women to maintain a pregnancy without stigma and give birth and then dig deep to provide for those born.
OR make it fully illegal and deal with a similar moral argument of a different kind. If you are going to place such validity in a 9 week old foetus then abortion should be illegal even if the mother's life in danger carrying the pregnancy to term. You can no more pick and choose where to draw the battle lines there.
The argument rolls around the same issues time after time. The debate needs to move on to practical alternatives. Pro Life needs to get real.
if unborn babies could post comments, i bet they'd all be anti-abortion.
I don't know Buddy. I think it would depend on what the baby heard his parents say about his upcoming birth. I mean, if I was a baby in utero and knew my parents didn't want me, I'd be out of there. Better that way than when your tiny arms reach out and there's no one there who loves you.
you've got a point there, Meta --'to be or not to be' is a real question.