Ordinarily I try to steer clear of political issues like ebola since emotions tend to run so high and rationality tends to run so low, but I feel compelled to speak on this particular subject. The fact that I couldn’t even think of a witty pun on the word “womb” for a title should be an indication of how strongly I feel about this. Wait, wait, here it comes… “Womb for Disagreement.” Or, “A Womb of One’s Own.”
Congrats sir; it’s a girl.
In all seriousness, I have traversed the entire spectrum of possible opinions to have on the subject of abortion, significantly influenced by some recent personal experience. And for those of you now wondering, no, I have not had an abortion. But I have had a child and that experience has undoubtedly colored my values. I’m not insinuating that if you have not had a child, your opinion is somehow inferior or less valuable than mine. Please, have your opinions. I’m much more concerned when people don’t have an opinion at all than when they simply have an opinion different than mine. I merely ask that you keep an open mind.
I’ve spent most of my life as a Planned Parenthood, pro-choice zealot and find myself now at the other end of the pole. I have no criticism or judgment or anyone. Here I’d just like to share with you what I’ve learned.
The scientific method was a wonderful and tremendous leap forward for humanity that brought with it many varied and exciting rewards. But as we do with everything, we have pushed this mentality to the extreme, applied it to places where it ought not be applied, and applied it at the exclusion of many other important considerations of life, such as morality. This blind, religious devotion to intellectualism has become a cancer in our society, clouding our judgment from what really matters. The scientific method itself is not the problem; it’s the mentality that we can analyze every question in life and come to an objective answer based on cold, hard facts.
The more we extrapolate and toss around intellectual jargon, the further we dissociate from the realities of what we debate, and we then tend to bend moral standards. Behavioral economists have proved this time and time again as explanations for financial crises such as the 2008 mortgage crisis. The further we dissociate from our actions, the further we dissociate from the consequences. This describes why so many bankers and rating agencies created downright fraud without so much as losing any sleep until their paychecks were affected and it also explains why we are so willing to turn to abortion at the drop of a hat.
We have many, many philosophical and theoretical debates about abortion but we routinely ignore the reality of it. I have never met a woman who has had an abortion and not regretted it, period. I’ve met quite a few. Even beyond that, of the women I’ve known it has been THE primary regret of their life, the last thing they share with anyone, past the fact that they were sexually abused, past the fact that they were addicted to every drug on the market, past everything else. Sure, it’s possible to move past it– we are a remarkably resilient race– but in the majority of cases, the guilt and shame accompanies women to the grave.
Why? Because on some deep level, we know that it’s wrong. However many brilliant rationalizations we invent, it always comes back to this.
It’s unspeakably tragic that we lead our young women to believe that abortion is a means of feminist self-empowerment. We are misleading our youth. I’ve never met a woman who had an abortion that felt that it empowered her in any way, nor have I ever met a professional therapist who ever met such a woman. We are empowered in our unique ability to create and bring life into the world. We are empowered by choosing when, where and how we will share our bodily fluids (except in cases of rape). Killing something never leads to empowerment.
Just three short years ago Oliver and I hit the debate case: “The US Government should provide a facilitative constitutional right to abortion.” We lost the case miserably because I couldn’t think of a single reason against it.
Funny, eh? I was completely hung up on the idea that woman have the “right” to an abortion. Do we? Do we have that right? I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, but I’m also not convinced that it matters. Maybe we do. Certainly the fetus doesn’t have the ability to make decisions with our body. Then again, we have the right to decide when and how to have sex, but once that decision has been made, it doesn’t seem like we have the right to then simply erase those consequences out of convenience.
The question of whether we have the right to an abortion isn’t an interesting one to me. We have the right to stick our heads in the toilet if we so choose, but we don’t often do it because it’s difficult to imagine that particular act adding to our happiness in any way. Given the opportunity, I would not outlaw abortion. I wish I could say there was some lofty sentiment behind that statement, but it’s all a matter of practicality for me. There are many things worse than dying and being born to parents that aren’t even willing to carry you to term is certainly one of them. There are enough abused and unhappy children in the world that I don’t see how forcing people to deliver more children could possibly lead to some net good in the world. It sounds harsh, but any parent knows that raising children under the best of circumstances is difficult enough.
I’d like to stress that I do not believe in keeping abortion legal for the ease and convenience of the mothers. I’ve often heard the argument, “Women will do it anyway and it would be more dangerous,” offered in support of keeping abortion legal. This line of reasoning could be used for anything illegal. Outlaw cocaine and there will still be people that break the law, use and deal cocaine– at great personal peril. They might die as a result of their choices. This is not, however, justification for legalizing a dangerous and societally damaging drug. So the significant question is again: is this the right thing to do?
The answer to that is no. I seem to recall being in college and having the very firm belief that a baby was not a human being until after birth. Even when I was pregnant with Zoe and eagerly awaiting her arrival, it was hard to wrap my mind around the concept that there was a tiny human inside of me. It’s too momentous an idea for us to comprehend. That does not, however, make it less true. It was only after I gave birth to Zoe and raised her for some time that I was struck by the significance of pregnancy and the sanctity of the life we incubate. Personality threads of Zoe’s have stayed consistent, from the womb to today. Any way you choose to look at it, there is the creation of a unique individual from the moment of conception. It doesn’t matter if they can’t yet feel pain or haven’t reached a threshold number of cells in their tiny bodies. It doesn’t make them any less a person. Were that the case, parents would have no reason to weep over a miscarriage, and would just pick up where they left off, no harm, no foul. But we recognize and mourn the loss of a unique individual. Though we may be able to conceive again, we realize that that particular child is gone forever.
I’ve also frequently heard the claim that pro-life advocates attempt to suppress information about abortion. You know, I’m sure that this is true. There’s always someone, somewhere doing something. People can easily have the right opinion for the wrong reasons. Or people can have the right principles and misconstrue how that plays out in real life. But I have to say, I think that better and more complete information is exactly what we need. I don’t think there is anything that better serves a pro-life agenda. If you have the stomach for it, go to the Planned Parenthood website and read the synopsis on abortion. When you really have all the information available to you, it becomes very difficult to avoid the fact that you are terminating a life. I think it’s tragic that I was not presented with all these details while I was in school, that the most I ever heard of it was “a pill,” or “an in-house procedure.” It may not seem like much of an influence, but when that is the only exposure our young people have, it’s enough. I never thought twice about abortion being wrong until I became friends with parents and had a child of my own.
All of this aside, the real tragedy is our attitude towards children. Abortions itself isn’t the actually problem, but merely a symptom of this continually degenerating outlook on children as we grow more and more self-absorbed. It’s not possible to kill a fetus with a snap of the fingers and then, later on in life, decide to rear and cherish children simply because we feel we’re ready for them. Yes, children are inconvenient, and yes, having children at a young age is inconvenient. But children themselves are not entirely an inconvenience, an unwanted side effect of our merry-making in the bedroom. They are not another species. They are us. They are our future generation and raising them is always a privilege and a divine charge. Each of us is allowed the freedom we enjoy today because we had someone who was willing to make those sacrifices for us. Every single person you meet was raised by someone, was in diapers once, and was a fetus before that.
If we really understood and lived by that, our children would be so happy and confident that unwanted pregnancies wouldn’t even occur. Abortion would be a non-issue. Children are the unsullied and unfettered versions of all that is good in us– until we screw them up. If we can’t agree on what to do with the unborn ones, let’s at least treat the living ones with the tenderness they deserve.