This post is a bit late for the actual Thanksgiving holiday, at least the traditional day, but after Black Friday’s commercialism and shopaholic excess, I think I should talk about a topic rife with problems that are more practical in scope and less self serving in the goals it seeks to advance. What I speak of is abortion. I’ve talked about consistency of terms (http://toholdnothing.blogspot.com/2010/03/abortion-terms-revisited.html) and whether pro life people are actually pro life instead of anti abortion,(http://toholdnothing.blogspot.com/2011/06/politics-and-pro-life.html amongst other varieties of this topic (http://toholdnothing.blogspot.com/2010/05/abortion-rights-past-and-present.html). Heck, my very first blog post (http://toholdnothing.blogspot.com/2010/02/pro-choicelife-ad.html) was on the subject with Tim Tebow and his mom in a pro life/pro choice commercial that was ambivalent as to whether it actually supported choices about reproductive health or just choices towards life. Clearly the issue is important to me, and not because of the anti abortion kernel of “wisdom” that all pro choice people are already born. That goes without saying: a fetus can’t make the choice that abortion is or recognize the process for what it is in any sense until a certain point in development anyway. At most it makes very basic choices as any organic being that is conscious of its own existence will do, even if by pure instinct at first. But I haven’t had family members or even friends that have directly had to face the issue of abortion. In the South, I’ve noticed that abortion is never seen as anything beneficial and is rarely an option at all. It’s not that we probably don’t have abortion clinics, but they’re either isolated in big cities or otherwise difficult in terms of access, though I admit I’m just speculating on a sub area of the abortion issue I’m not familiar with. I have heard enough and learned enough so far that my general position on abortion has been and always will be pro-choice, which in no way is pro-abortion, contrary to what political pundits would tell you. In the wake of a season that speaks of being thankful for people, I think we should be thankful for something that allows people to give themselves a better future for the family they are more ready for, even if not everyone does it.
I’m well aware of the argument and agree with its premise that abortion shouldn’t be used as a form of birth control, or any sort of procedure done merely for convenience when you are perfectly capable of taking care of a child. Admittedly abortions are probably done for that reason, though I imagine statistics aren’t going to help a lot in a situation where the practitioner doesn’t get such a straight answer from women who are feeling so much anxiety and pressure from their family, friends and society. But abortion is not something you should seek to illegalize or eliminate completely, since it has medical benefits, albeit those are more isolated to ectopic pregnancies and other situations where a woman’s life is in danger and, as heartless as it sounds, sacrifices must be made. Bringing up numbers of how many fetuses have been aborted seems to be easily countered by stats concerning birth rates in the U.S., which by a quick check are not going down excessively, but only in response to economic difficulties many people are having, postponing children until they’re slightly more stable in their finances. It’s different than it was a century ago when America felt it could throw around money and resources like candy without thoughts for the future. It’s not as if I see a significant downturn in birth rate in relation to my own general family, for instance. The number of kids range from anywhere to the minimum expected 2 kids, making an even 4, to 5 or 6 kids, making double that number for a single family from a couple. I myself would be happy with just one, but parenting is the last thing on my mind. Moves to illegalize abortion forget that it is an elective procedure and is not mandatory upon all pregnant women at all. Eliminating it completely would negate the value it possesses in situations that would still be dangerous even if we had technology that would allow for zygotes, embryos, etc to be transplanted or preserved after attachment to the uterine wall. This would reduce abortions to a very small percentage, which, from what I’ve said before, is an unofficial (or official?) position of many pro choice advocates, “Abortion should be safe, legal and rare,”
An irony people could observe with the movement of anti abortion is that it is composed in great or significant part of women who have already had abortions and either regretted it or seem to think that you should only follow their example in every other instance except abortion and not see the hypocrisy they exude in being overzealous for a cause they only fight against after the fact of seeing it as wrong. The view is that abortion is primarily a communal and emotional issue instead of a personal and rational one that it is much of the time, even if it also does have communal and emotional effects on those involved directly and indirectly. The best saying in response to these people that strive to control people’s sex lives and decisions they make with their body is “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one,” It shouldn’t be a matter of popular opinion, it should be an informed decision without pressure from parents, partners or even medical professionals without justifiable reasons, such as economic or psychological considerations.
One of the biggest things that drive the abortion debate is the personhood vs. humanity idea that people constantly bring up. A zygote is argued to be a person because it is genetically unique. But this doesn’t hold water because it is only technically genetically human. Personhood is a bit more complicated than simply having human DNA, since that could apply to any cell. The response is that a zygote, when left alone, will develop naturally. This is based on possibility, which seems to be a big line of argument in conservative positions on these issues. Gay people will make marriage slide further into immorality, and abortion will target racial groups or particular genders as it becomes more and more acceptable. Mississippi brought up an attempted amendment to its constitution that would have made a fertilized egg a person, but it was thankfully struck down, by anti abortion and pro choice people alike no doubt. The goal of the amendment was to challenge something many find fundamentally egregious in the Roe v. Wade decision over 50 years ago: that a zygote, blastocyst or embryo (for the most part) are not considered a person and thus not protected by the 14th amendment. It was decided, from what I recall, that at the 5th month or roughly around 20-22 weeks when a fetus reaches viability, it is considered a person philosophically, medically and legally to an extent. If the state had changed the definition of person to a fertilized egg, anti abortion pundits thought they could overturn the decision through pushing a vote to repeal the decision by the people. Unfortunately, like gay marriage, some things are not solved by a democratic vote, but by a legislative decision that says certain things are included in the inalienable rights the Constitution enumerates or are of such a morally contentious nature that democratic decisions do not reflect the morality or immorality of whatever issue is voted on. An obvious historical example was slavery. It might have been voted otherwise by the American people in each state, so the government wrote a fundamental amendment to the Constitution that made slavery illegal. Personhood is not something we can all agree on and that’s fine. If you either agree to disagree or, more reasonably, remain uncertain as to exactly and precisely when a fetus becomes a person, or when an embryo becomes a person, etc, then you make the discussion that much smoother in that you aren’t touting your position as unquestionable. If we all had a reasonable discussion without bringing personal emotional experiences into it as primary evidence, then perhaps we’d be able to start talking about these philosophically complex issues in a more civil, mature and reasonable way.
Anti abortion, so called pro life advocates, should be thankful (emphasis intended) that people make the choice to not have an abortion instead of pressuring others to choose life and condemn those who make a less popular choice for a better future life. If you think you can provide for your family with a limited budget and are willing to put children in a situation they did not ask for where they are given a lower quality of life instead of sacrificed for a better future life of siblings, so be it. I’m not going to advocate forcing people to have abortions, and that’s where I think I have a moral high ground of sorts. I am not doing anything more than advising people about their possible options and not saying that they should do it because I say so, but because my argument is sensible. If they disagree, it’s out of my hands for the most part, unless there is some explicit relation to myself. And that’s why I’m thankful for abortion, since it is a choice people can make, but also a choice people can decide to not make and bring life into the world. Regardless, life goes on and I’m thankful especially for that. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.