This morning, I felt led to write about one of the most polarizing topics out there: abortion. I am among the ranks of those who believe in a moral and Constitutional right to life, ie. that abortion is wrong. And yes, I believe it should be illegal. I'll admit, I'm nervous to broach the subject with you all, but I hope you'll take a second to hear me out.
I bring this up because yesterday was Sanctity of Life Sunday, today is MLK day and tomorrow is a day that to some, means the beginning of a bettering of our quality of life. Since this has been an issue burning a hole in my brain/heart for a few months, what better day than today to talk about it? Indeed, I believe that one of the worst things about the subject is that no one talks about it, at least not outside their own circles. Why is this such a taboo subject if this is something that is legal? Sure, it makes people uncomfortable to get into "confrontational" spaces, but if you believe in something so strongly, shouldn't you be able to back up your beliefs? I was the same way for years, a proud (as long as no one confronted me about it!) believer in the right of women to choose. It took actually talking about it to change my mind. Talking about it doesn't mean our voices need to be raised, or that we need to resort to pompous rhetoric to get our point across, two things which have sadly, marked much of the discussion I've ever witnessed on the topic.
Once I learned about what abortion is, what it looks like, whom it affects and who's doing it, I realised that there is no way that I could oppose the war in Iraq, oppose the genocide in Darfur, oppose the violence against women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, without also opposing abortion. In all of these cases, someone is deciding whether a life is significant enough, worthy enough, convenient enough to exist.
I take a lot of inspiration from Nat Hentoff, the legendary journalist and author, whose fierce columns and books protecting the First Amendment have made him a hero to those who believe in free speech. He's a Fulbright scholar, winner of numerous journalism awards, whose work has been published in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and from 1958 until just the end of 2008, the Village Voice. He's Jewish, civil liberatarian, aethiest, left-leaning... a model Democrat except... he's pro-life. His 1992 article is a cogent dissertation on why he thinks abortion is wrong, how it isn't that rare to be liberal and pro-life, and what happened to his career after he declared himself a pro-lifer. I highly recommend it.
So, here are the two main reasons I oppose abortion:
1) Life & conception.
This is the most fundamental point, as I'm sure you know, so this one is a bit long. Some pro-lifers believe life begins at conception. Hentoff says this:
"Nor, biologically, does it make any sense to draw life-or-death lines at viability. Once implantation takes place, this being has all the genetic information within that makes each human being unique. And he or she embodies continually developing human life from that point on. It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because that thing is not yet a "person." Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start."
I, being a believer in God, believe that life begins BEFORE conception. In the Bible, God says to the prophet Jeremiah,
"Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you..." (The Message version).
I believe God had those plans for each one of us before we were conceived. Therefore I believe, that even if it appears to just be a blob of tissue, that blob has human potential! I see it as a classic case of believing that we, as humans, know better: who are we to decide that just because we can't find something "human" in that blob right now, that it isn't? Everyday, we're getting better medical technology that helps us see more of what happens in the womb: babies laughing, playing with thier noses, yawning... who's to say what technology will help us see in that "blob of tissue" in the future?
Don't even get me started on late-term abortions, when the baby looks like a baby for Goodness' sake, on its way out of the womb. (Shudder). If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a look at this, although I would turn the sound down because the music is distracting. Bear in mind that this is probably a baby at only 20 weeks, not the full 38-weeks; this baby is only midway through development, at the moment when the mum is really starting to show (so people can't mistake you for being fat anymore!). It's graphic folks. Eat your lunch first. This is what it really looks like, and if you support it, then you shouldn't be afraid to see what it is that you're supporting. It's the same thing as showing photos of all the mutilated bodies of victims in the Congo or in Darfur.
If you can agree with me that life does (or even if you can bring yourself to say "may") begin at conception, then aborting that life is nothing short of homicide.
For a long time, I counted myself as the pro-choice pro-lifer; I believed that abortion was wrong, but that it wasn't up to me to make a woman's decision for her. That was until Bren said to me, "Yes, but what about the baby? Shouldn't someone be making a decision for him or her? If that baby could talk, wouldn't he or she choose to live?". Similarly, we don't allow someone to murder someone else just because it's his choice. We don't say, oh well Jeffery Dahmer was just following his gut on that one. When women kill their children, we don't say, well that was her choice. Why is it easier to outlaw those people's choices?
Hentoff points out that the first thing white slaveowners did was dehumanize black slaves by calling them "n***ers". The Nazis dehumanized the Jews too, calling them an inferior race and blaming them for Germany's economic woes. The Janjaweed call the Darfuris, "black" (laughable since the Janjaweed themselves are black too). I think we've done the same thing by calling the unborn baby a "fetus"; suddenly, he/she has lost all human characteristics, so that it doesn't feel like murder when that life is eliminated.
We've been really lucky to be around so many pregnant bellies in past months, ones so huge that there's no mistaking what's inside, and ones who are so delicately small, that you could be mistaken for thinking they have gas (!). In both circumstances the mothers and fathers have been equally excited. Their joy gave me pause: we have allowed ourselves to believe in a relative truth, that whether we think of it as a baby or a fetus is determined by our excitement at its imminent arrival... take two babies, of the exact same gestation. If you aren't excited about it, if it's a product of rape or incest, if you don't think you can afford it, it's a fetus. If you and your husband planned it, if you have the money for it, if you tried with fertility drugs for months, then it's a baby, a human being. The truth is the truth is the truth! It's either a baby or it isn't.
Well, that's what I think. If you disagree with me, I highly encourage you to write to me! I am happy, if not eager, to hear what you think.