the last post generated a flurry of comments, and also got me thinking a lot about people’s reactions both positive and negative- to the issues surrounding the lives of the unborn. i’ve been circling some things around in my head that i wanted to write about, but this morning i had a moment of clarity:
we as a progressive society have come so far in extending life at the end of the spectrum. we now provide hospice and other palliative care to those at the end of their lives because we understand that they feel pain, and we wish to make their final days as pleasant and gentle as possible. as people as are enabled, often through artificial means, to live longer and longer, the costs skyrocket, but still we consider it a noble goal to extend life because it is precious. additional time with loved ones is a worthy goal and it is understood intuitively that this should be done if it is within our ability. so considerable resources are brought to the fore, sometimes even against the wishes of the patient, in order to extend the lifespan of the person at the end of their days, and it almost goes without saying that these days should be made as pain-free, comfortable, and easy for everyone involved as the medical team and technology can possibly make them. as technology advances, both the amount of time increases and so do the devices involved in the care of these patients.
on the other end of the spectrum of babies in the womb. some people call them pre-born infants, and some people call them fetuses, but whatever you call them the technology is getting better on that end too. we now know they have beating hearts earlier than we ever realized. we know they react to pain at a much earlier age than we ever dreamed possible. they interact with their environments sooner than we ever dreamed was possible. but if you try to tell this to someone on the other side of the debate, they will shut you down and accuse you of disseminating propaganda. why? why are they afraid to even hear you out? when someone won’t even listen to you, and instead would prefer to hurl insults at you. i find that intellectually troubling.
so at this other end of the spectrum, we have this better technology, and we could be celebrating that as well. but instead it is marginalized as a tool of people with an agenda. we can and do use some of this technology to help premature babies, but only those who are wanted, not those who are born as a result of botched abortions who must be left to die. we could be helping people at both ends of their lives to live longer and better and with dignity, and instead we politicize the issue and shut down the dialogue.
which brings me, of necessity, to the two banes of every discussion on abortion, rape/incest, and life of the mother. i could have just avoided these topics altogether, but i felt that would be cowardly of me to bring this topic up and not tell you what i think. so, here’s what i think, and then you can rip it apart if you want:
in the case of rape and incest, i think it is an awful, horrible, disgusting tragedy. i hope it never ever happens again to anyone on the face of the earth or anywhere else. i can’t even put into words what i hope happens to people who perpetrate those crimes, and i have true faith that God will deal justly with them. that said, i don’t truly know if having an abortion- if killing a baby (because that’s really what i believe it is) will erase the crime. i don’t know if killing a baby will undo the horror that was done to them. i don’t know that putting another nightmare on top of the nightmare that was done to the victim will un-victimize them. i don’t know if “forcing” that girl/woman to carry a baby to term who was the result of rape/incest will further harm her either, and i’m not in a position to know. nor are you. and i don’t think we can make public policy based on our blanket speculation about how you or i would feel in that situation because hopefully neither you nor i know how we would feel. what i do know is that assuming that killing a baby is the was to right that wrong is not the way to go. if we as a society will not sanction chemical, much less physical, castration for the actual perpetrator of the actual crime, how can we in good conscience kill a perfectly innocent baby thinking that will fix the hideous injustice that was done to her? and to keep acting like it will only feeds her a line of bull that she is forced to choke on. and when it doesn’t undo her trauma? what is she left with then? the original trauma plus an empty hole plus a lot of guilt. i’m not all preachy saying i’m right. i’m just saying i don’t know and it’s something to think about before we go around flushing a bunch of “fetal tissue” thinking we’ve done some kind of magical therapy on rape or incest survivors.
in the case where the life of the mother is in danger: i know there are some people in the “pro-life” camp who will say no to abortions, even to save the life of the mother. but what about the mother’s life? i don’t think the mother loses her personhood when she gets pregnant. what i think people are afraid of, and rightly so, is that this loophole will be abused. i think that some doctors will construe “life of the mother” to mean “lifestyle” of the mother and will grant abortion exemptions because the woman doesn’t want stretch marks, or she has a vacation planned, or she is a struggling student, or whatever. but guess what? there are doctors who abuse their privileges to write prescriptions for pain pills and we don’t say that nobody can have pain medication anymore. can you imagine the uproar if suddenly the FDA would announce, “we just realized that some doctors are writing scrips for housewives who are abusing vicodin, so from now on, anyone having surgery will get no pain meds after. sorry folks, but we can’t trust doctors to be honest anymore.” sheesh. so yes, life is sacred. and yes, life should be protected. but if we have such deep fears that doctors will violate their medical licenses at the drop of a hat, we have much bigger problems as a society than abortion.
and for all of you fear-mongers on the left (yes, you exist there too!), no, reversal of roe v. wade does NOT mean an end to safe legal birth control. long before roe in 1973 there was eisenstadt v. baird and griswold v. connecticut that gave women the right to safe legal birth control in consultation with their own private doctors. so undoing decades of damage from roe does NOT put us back into some reproductive nightmare, as you would have us believe. in addition to more natural methods, women could still choose the birth control that suits their lifestyle, and overturning roe does not send us back to wherever you are afraid it would send us back to. so much of roe was based on judicial construct and not on medical science anyway, that it’s high time we have a re-evaluation of the entire way we look at the development of a baby in utero and figure out what makes sense based on a 2012 model and not a 1973 understanding.
it’s time to take this discussion out of the arena of fear (remember when women had to sneak into filthy apartments and die from unsanitary botched abortions! as someone pointed out in the last post…) and into the arena of enlightened discussion. i’m sorry but there is just too much data out there now to keep recycling the same trite slogans over and over.
we can do better.
so, let’s hear what you think- on both sides of the issue…