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Tuesday, July 7. 2009
America continues to take the subject of abortion seriously. That's a good thing, because it means we are morally and ethically still alive.
Hard cases make for bad law. Abortion is a mare's nest of conflicing considerations and motives: a Mom's right to control her fate vs. a baby human's right to life; individual freedom vs. group moral norms; a woman's instinctive striving for maternity vs. her wish for "freedom;" the human's (understandable) desire for consequence-free pleasure vs. the human and natural fact of moral limits, and others.
I don't know about other countries, but I have never seen a woman who did not carry some guilt about her abortion(s). I consider myself lucky in never having had one, because I did some dumb things when I was young.
The pro-abortion movement has done its best, for 30 years, to try to normalize abortion. They have done this with language, by de-humanizing the "fetus" (nobody is "with child" any more); by speaking of "choice," by speaking of a woman's ownership of her womb as if a child were a homeless squatter on her property, by terming it a "d and c," and so forth.
Despite their efforts, the inner voice still speaks: the inner voice of our Judeo-Christian foundation and conscience which considers human life to be the property of God and which deplores the taking of innocent life.
People hate to feel guilt - it's painful. And people hate to feel inner conflict - it's uncomfortably confusing. Our brains struggle to suppress one side of a conflict to relieve us of these discomforts.
I do not really want to tell anybody else that they shouldn't have one done, but I wouldn't perform one (I doubt whether it is consistent with the Hippocratic oath) and I sure wouldn't have one. However, I wouldn't be surprised if I would have if I had gotten myself knocked up at 18 - when I was a selfish and frivolous person.
Thus my views lack moral and intellectual consistency. And that makes for a headache.
This post was prompted by Dr. Clouthier's America's Abortion Headache.
Eight interesting comments found on the web today
From a commenter on our abortion post yesterday: That we live in a land in which one can go to prison for harming the egg of a piping plover yet enjoy a Constitutionally protected right to exterminate their unborn human child speaks only the unspeakabl
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Howdy Dr Bliss
I think you have summarized the abortion dilemma well. As I would want to drive off anyone who told Ms. Palin that she must abort her Down syndrome child, I would want to drive off anyone who told she she must not. It is a difficult call; the life of a Down syndrome person may be somewhat abnormal or dreadfully curtailed. Same with other birth defects (I couldn't find another word). I would prefer a world where all sex was affectionate and responsible, every conception a welcome event, every child born healthy to a loving family. Since we don't have that world, I tremble at the thought of either permitting or forbidding abortion. I feel much the same way about drug abuse.
I will add that if a government presumes to forbid something, it presumes to require the same thing. If we allow that a government may prohibit abortion, we leave room for China to compel it.
I'm not sure I follow that reasoning. If we allow that a government may prohibit murder of babies up to one year old, do we leave room for China to compel murders of that kind?
And yet every argument that can be made about the trade-offs between the duty to cherish children and the wish to avoid a miserable life for a child born with a defect (or to unloving parents, etc.) applies equally to toddlers as to fetuses.
What makes abortion more difficult is not that kind of trade-off, but the controversy over whether fetuses are human and, if so, when they achieve human-ness. When you believe a fetus is less than human, it becomes incredibly difficult to interfere with a woman's choices about "her" body. When you believe the fetus is human, the issue no long strikes you as one simply about the mother's body.
Isn't ones views of abortion a reflection of ones understanding and acceptance of God ? After all, if it was I that created this thing, it stands to reason that I also have the right to destroy it.
I can crush any pro-choice lunatic using the Socratic method:
1. Do you believe in murder of a live, innocent human being? (No one should)
2. When does life begin? (Conception, the possible point in time)
A fetus is human (as opposed to wolf), but is not a human.
That fact about ordinary langauge accounts for all the shouting. Language goes on holiday talking about fetus people and shouting makes up the difference.
Stanley Cavell puts it nicely: the chaim that a fetus is a human cannot be fully meant.
The anti-prohibition side was nicely put by Marge Piercy long ago in The Moon Is Always Female, ``Right to Life''
(a site whose copy has the original typology).
Stanlye Cavell's discussion in The Claim of Reason is copied out here:
along with the parallel problem of slavery (both are instances of not-seeing-as-human).
Nature itself is hard on potential life, even life that is conceived. We know that something like 25% of identified human pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriages; we don't know how many unidentified pregnancies do. This is no excuse or reason for abortion, it's just an acknowledgement that many potential lives are lost without human intervention. It weighs against the idea that abortion is somehow "against nature".
Some pro-lifers do seem more eager to punish those who become pregnant than to nurture them or their children. Some pro-choicers do seem to really be anti-life.
My view is not informed by religion, rather by biology and a historical view over what has worked for the human species so far.
It appears to me that an individual is an emergent entity, starting with conception, and progressing with diminished change until death. It's a normal fact of our biology that numerous potential "individuals" are lost routinely though unfertilized eggs and discarded sperm. I'm not aware of people lamenting this loss.
In my opinion, there is little, if any, difference between terminating a one day fetus and having an egg and sperm die via a missed conception. As the fetus develops, a unique potentiality is gradually created to which the parents begin to owe responsibility. By the third trimester, IMO there's little difference between terminating the pregnancy before or after birth.
It seems to me that the right to self-euthanasia should be acquired long before the right to terminate a third trimester pregnancy. Yet our society says otherwise.
It's pretty clear to me that most decisions regarding the pregnancy can easily be made in the first trimester - probably in the first week, if the pregnancy were known. The "morning after" pill seems to be a very humane approach. While I'd agree that termination in the third trimester to prevent death or serious injury to the mother is reasonable, it seems that many (most?) are for convenience. This is reprehensibly negligent planning and laziness.
If a decision to terminate is made, especially in the third trimester, exquisite sensitivity should be given to the innocent fetus. It's quite remarkable that the same people who would avoid any possibility of a slight twinge of discomfort during an execution have no problem with horrific abortion procedures involving injection with corrosive chemicals and dismemberment inside and outside the womb.
There are some conditions, like Down syndrome, which can't yet be determined with high confidence in the first trimester. In fact, there's a five percent chance it will be missed completely, even with subsequent tests. Should it be the right of the parents to terminate after birth? It was in many historic societies.
It should be up to the parents whether they want to raise a Down baby. But they should keep in mind that they can always try again (or try earlier), and that a Down person is likely to lead a difficult life and die before 50, often experiencing dementia near the end. The decision is clearly very difficult, especially when the pregnacy is advanced.
My personal recommendation would be to terminate most unplanned pregancies immediately. Certainly any rape should be followed with a "morning after" pill for the sake of the unborn. I would support a law to that effect.
There is plenty of opportunity to bring a child into this world in a loving and nurturing enviornment. It's remarkable that self-designated elites avoid having children, which are obviously necessary for the propagation of the species, and leave the task to the "breeders" they look down upon.
Well, those are my opinions as I approach 70, with two grown children, but no grandchildren as yet.
Good post. But I don't think that your views "lack moral and intellectual consistency" because you did dumb things in youth but never actually had to decide whether to have an abortion or not.
The pro-choice people have so cowed some of us who are pro-life that we worry that ,because we MIGHT have had an abortion if we had got pregnant out of wedlock or found we were carrying a disabled child (when we were selfish and frivolous, as all the young are), it is not consistent to state now that abortion is wrong.
This is odd logic. For example, applying it to another issue: When they were hot-headed young people, someone MIGHT have got into a drunken fight with a romantic rival in their youth and MIGHT have struck and even killed that person. Does that mean that the person, in perhaps calmer middle age, with fewer romantic adventures to unsettle them, has no right to condemn murder, because they would be "inconsistent" to do so?
Further to retriever's comment-
as we gain wisdom with age and experience, we would expect our youthful, selfish & frivolous choices to be reconsidered - as a "turning away", or - repentance.
And further to retrievers comment. It seems mighty personal. I'll not tred there.
"(when we were selfish and frivolous, as all the young are)"
'...as all the young are..'? What a revolting generalization.
For the sake of intellectual consistency, how about we figure this one out about human life being the property of God.
"... the inner voice of our Judeo-Christian foundation and conscience which considers human life to be the property of God and which deplores the taking of innocent life."
Jews don't get to go to heaven according to Christian doctrine because 'only through Christ' can one meet his maker. So much for human life being the property of God. If he doesn't want a Jew or a Muslim, why should we care about a few cells in a uterus?
Wait. I guess you all are saying it's not okay to end a Christian pregnancy, but it's fine for aborting Jew fetuses or Muslim fetuses, or Buddhist fetuses, or Sikh fetuses......
What 'inner voice' are you talking about, Dr. Bliss?
Well, don't expect an answer to that question. As if you did you'd be mighty disappointed in the answer, I'm afraid. Least here anyway.
It seems to me that the "spirit" of a person is somehow both dependent and independent from their physical being.
Phrases such as "you can kill the body but not one's spirit" come to mind. I also think of how my own body has changed from my boyhood to my adolescence to my time as a young adult to my current years. Meanwhile, my spirit is the same.
My sense is that we are spiritually a person from the time we are conceived to the time we die (and beyond in my view). Our physical ability to survive begins with our dependence on our mothers and ends when our bodies can no longer sustain us for whatever the reason.
However, our physical state does not compromise our personhood or humanness from a spiritual perspective. Thus the sanctity of human life.
Without the sanctity of human life, our moral compasses are no longer anchored and we know anything can be rationalized. Moral relativism sets in with all of its situational conflicts. History has not been kind to persons or groups who have been stripped of their humanness.
Abortions are often conducted under circumstances where answers come in degrees of bad outcomes. However, there is often no one to speak up for the defenseless. Also, is there room for personal responsibility in the discussion - even if the "pickle" someone finds themselves in has than optimal long-term ramifications? (Please note, I am not addressing the less than 1% of horror stories or where the life of the mother is at stake.)
My hope is that abortion, by whatever means, as a tool of convenience declines, that good judgment prevails before there is a "problem" and that personal responsibility remains a factor in decision making.
But once we get comfortable with the ability to terminate unwanted pregnancies for whatever the reason, it will become easier to rationalize other actions (e.g. euthanasia). Ultimately, this takes us to a slippery slope. When and where does it stop?
If we allow this to be reduced to cost-benefit analysis, we will surely have lost our way.
I hope this makes sense to some.
If you do a "convenience analysis" or a cost-benefit analysis, having kids never makes sense.
Yes, we've cleverly arranged our economy and social structures so that is true. Didn't used to be.
I say we go back to the source....woman. In the 60's-70's the feminists sold women a bill of goods. We were told we would no longer be sex objects, we would be equal to men and be able to have wild, irresponsible sex and suffer no consequences. Do you see the disconnect? Now we have young women wandering around dressed as tramps who seem to think their only value lies between their legs.....thanks a lot NOW. My ob/gyn transferred from that practice to an abortionist. I interviewed him about his clients. He said, for the most part, that his clients (from BackBay in Boston, MA) seemed to take no steps to prevent conception, were repeatedly utilizing his abortion clinic, and then going out and doing the same thing over and over again.....he did not have high regard for them. And these women came from a highly educated, privileged background.
"Let all the babies be born. Then let us drown those we do not like." -Chesterton, 1932
I would amend that to suggest that we provide for no age limit at which to determine if the babies are liked. Joe Biden, as an example, might still be considered a baby and would thereby qualify for a deep swim. We must, however, at least allow them each an equal opportunity to earn affection.
And that bit about being human but not being a human being seems pure nonsense, a poesy attempt to reason ones way out of reality.
While no credible statistics ever make their way out of an abortion clinic alive, I would have to surmise that fully 95% of all abortions are done for convenience, for purely socio-economic reasons.
That we live in a land in which one can go to prison for harming the egg of a piping plover yet enjoy a Constitutionally protected right to exterminate their unborn human child speaks only the unspeakable about our national legacy.
This is the second comment by a woman on this thread who blames the pro-choice movement for women seeking abortions.
" these women came from a highly educated, privileged background."
Did that education leave out how one becomes pregnant? Is it that the feminist movement created Stepford vaginas that knew not how to prevent pregnancy? One commenter is 'cowed' by the pro-choice movement. Why? Why let a movement determine the choices YOU make? Or worse, make you feel guilty? What you do is YOUR choice, and it is your ability to think or not that determines that choice.
Wise up. Women have been having abortions since we've been walking upright, and no amount of 'civilized' debate is going to change that.
If no one dares answer why God won't let Jew babies into heaven, then quit with the spiritual crap. If you are cowed by movements, go crawl into a cave and whimper. If you think giving birth to an unwanted child is a good thing, go talk to someone who works in social services. If you "know" when life begins, spread the word and be sure to let everyone in on your facts. If you think it's fine that some lady called the cops because she saw some monkeys in a dumpster only to find there were four of them... and they were human beings, tell everyone that 'at least they got to live'. One was 19 and weighed 39 lbs. The four 'monkeys' were kept in a closet. Their foster parents needed the state money to help feed their two very fat natural children. At least they got to live!
No one likes abortion so think before you blame or condemn. It's a human nature issue - no matter how you spin it.
And let God suffer the little children unto him. Oh, except for those Jew babies and all the rest, you know, who don't understand or believe 'only through Christ'.
Stop the sanctimony and disregard the extremism on both sides and just feel sad ..... or glad if the pregnancy is an unwanted one. That might prevent another abused little kid.
God might not even want him if he's not the 'right kind'.
I don't understand the argument that abortion is no big deal because a lot of pregnancies spontaneously miscarry. People die in accidents all the time, and everyone dies some day, but does that mean it's morally meaningless for me to go shoot up an office building?
The abortion debate spurs some truly odd reasoning. I think Dr. C nailed it: we'll do an incredibly amount of mental gymnastics in order to avoid thinking about something so horrible, because it's terrifically convenient to get rid of unwanted pregnancies without a lot of fuss. It's just Jews in the gas chambers, with soundproofing and nice, anonymous crematoria to dispose of the evidence.
My discussion on the number of spontaneous miscarriages is simply to note that nature is a tough cookie. I use it neither in favor of abortion-on-demand nor against it. It's only to recognize that the loss of potential human life is part of the human condition. Or more that abortion isn't an act against nature, since nature causes a lot of it.
We engage in a lot of "acts against nature", like cleaning our water before we drink it so that few of us die of diarrhea.
Yup, death is natural, nature is tough, and murder is wrong.
Abortion is murder and the poor souls who are murdered can't be counted on to protect and advocate for their hateful mothers when judgement runs the witches down.