Saturday, 23 June 2012

An Illustrated Guide to the Abortion Debate

This blog has never seen an abortion post before. Well, I've commented on the Genocide Awareness debacle at the university, but those comments were more to do with free speech and appropriate behaviour than on abortion itself. Seeing as approximately one in four pregnancies in Canada ends with abortion (and politicians wonder why we're having trouble maintaining our population), it seems to be an issue worth a blog post.

First, I should like to define some terms by displaying for you a continuum. Please note that, so far as I can tell, there is no official distinction between pro-life and anti-abortion as pertains to the abortion debate. Anti-abortion sounds nastier and pro-life sounds warmer, so people tend to use the one that best suits their rhetorical purpose. However, for the purposes of this post, I will be using the terms as follows:
Second, I should like to point out that people who say, "I wouldn't presume to tell a woman whether it is right or wrong to have an abortion," or "I am not in a position to judge the matter," are expressing a pro-choice stance. They are not presenting a compromise between pro-choice and anti-abortion, as they often seem to think they are doing. They are pro-choice. Pro-choice is a middle ground between anti-abortion and what I call "anti-baby", but beside the VHEMT, precious few people hold this stance and it doesn't often come into the discussion to warrant a middle ground. What is anti-baby?

Third, the proper way to frame the abortion debate is like this: Is this a human rights issue? If yes, whose rights are in danger - the mother's or the baby's? If it's not a human rights issue, why don't we just agree to disagree and stop roaring at each other about it? To put it another way, "If you don't like abortion, don't have one, but don't dictate to me what I should do."

If it is a human rights issue, this "solution" just isn't sufficient. It's like saying, "If you don't like rape, don't rape anyone, but don't dictate to me what I should do." It's a pretty big deal if it's a human rights issue.

For my fourth comment, I'd like to point out that most people, at least people who have spines, believe abortion is a human rights issue. However, they often get derailed in debate by completely irrelevant arguments. If we are concerned with human rights, then most of the standard discussion about abortion can be thrown out. It doesn't matter if the girl was raped (well, yes it does, but not as it pertains to abortion), or if the child was the result of incest (well, again, yes it does, but not for our purposes) or whether the mother was using appropriate contraception or planned the entire pregnancy. It doesn't matter whether the child is going to be malformed or fat and healthy, or if it's male or female. It doesn't matter whether it will be unloved by the mother should it be born, or whether a thousand people are lined up waiting to adopt it. Seriously, don't bother arguing these points. You wouldn't argue that it's ok to rape a girl if that's the only way her rapist could love her, or that it was a down-syndrome girl being raped so it doesn't matter.  To put it succinctly (if I still can):

"If a fetus is just a blob of tissue, what justification is necessary? If a fetus is a full member of the human race, what justification is adequate?" Sean McDowell

If abortion is a human rights issue, the only two things that matter are whether the fetus is a human or not and, if it is human, whether the baby's right to life trumps the mother's right to control her body or whether it's still the other way around.

Now, to discuss the first issue: If you deny the fetus is a person, then you are on very scary ground for your own humanity. What makes you different from the fetus in any way? You're bigger, but little people are just as human as giants. You're smarter, but people with learning disabilities are still people. Perhaps you don't rely on other people to take care of you anymore, but you did for years and if you ever become decrepit, you probably will again. You're not physically connected to your mom and using her body, but if you get an organ transplant from her, you will be using it then and you'll still be human.

Unless you want to draw arbitrary lines, there are two options: either the fetus is human or nobody is human. 

Now we'll discuss the second issue. Really, if you don't have life, you don't need to argue for any other rights. Dead people don't really care what you do to them. If you have no life, you have no other rights. You don't have anything at all. The right to life is the most basic right upon which all the others rest.

But for the sake of argument, let's try a thought experiment. It's a little game of "Would You Rather".

I hope you chose the former in both options. If not, I do volunteer for a crisis hotline. Please call me.

All this to say that I do not see any reasonable argument that can justify killing an unborn baby, with the exception of a pregnancy where the baby is endangering the mother's own life. In that painful situation, there is no way to win and I do not envy the decision those women must make. But this brings me to my next point. 

The fifth point is this: if the abortion debate is framed exactly like I just showed you, it's cold and unfeeling. It's pure reason. It's great for forming an opinion and powerful in an intellectual debate. It is also idiotic to use if you are responding to someone for whom this topic is highly emotional and incredibly personal. An unwanted pregnancy you can do nothing about is extraordinarily painful. You will be an unfeeling, preachy idiot if you try to hammer this line of reasoning home without tempering it with grace, forgiveness and compassion. You will be dismissed with ugly names, and your arguments will be thrown out along with you.
The fact of the matter is, while everything is clear cut here, life is messy. Emotion does not justify an immoral action, but it does make it more understandable. Abortion itself is a major problem, but abortion doesn't cause itself. Sometimes it's an issue of selfishness, and sometimes it's a whole lot more complicated. If we can speak to the emotion, and make an unwilling mom-to-be feel understood and loved in her individual circumstance, then we can show her that she has other options and she may listen. I believe that the number of abortions would come down drastically if the pro-life and anti-abortion camps would show more feeling that isn't disgust or anger. And no top-down change in legislation would be required.

My sixth and final point relates to this same issue. It seems to me that most vocal pro-life advocates are male. While I am glad to have male support, and men have as much obligation to protect lives as women, this looks really bad. 

Because unwanted pregnancy afflicts solely women, the issue tends to be much less personal for men than for women. Perhaps as a result, men tend to argue bare reason and women respond with only hurt emotion. They do not feel understood. They do not feel they are being treated as equals.

When a man opens his mouth to dictate to a woman how she should behave in a terrible situation that he himself cannot possibly ever face, it is seen as domineering. He may have good intentions, but he will be cast as a chauvinistic enemy of egalitarian values. He will be hailed as an example of the feminist's arch-nemesis.

Men who argue for pro-choice have realized this, and argue primarily for compassion in support of female pro-choice leaders. We need pro-life men to realize this as well, and to argue primarily compassion is support of female pro-life leaders.

Now for closing statements. Abortion is a tragedy and there is nothing which God cannot forgive. And using that particular conjunction "and" instead of "but" is a big deal.

"I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born." Ronald Reagan


Mom said...

Wow. FANTASTICALLY said, Carla.

CavDawg said...

This is strong. Well done. I think I have a devil's advocate-y response, but I want some time to think about it. If I don't get to it, then just accept my "well done." :)

TheLittleMermaid said...

Well said! I like it, especially the quote at the end!

Art said...

Well said and logical too. I wonder how people will disagree with this?