Sunday, September 15, 2013
THAT MOST CONTENTIOUS ISSUE
Abortion is, of course, the single most contentious issue in the US today because it's so straightforward; either you believe that life begins at conception or it doesn't, that every abortion ends a life or not. But I do believe that there are more complexities to the issue than people often consider.
I myself am pro choice, I support abortion on demand for the first three months of pregnancy, and then after that in certain cases (according to The New York Times, 98.5 percent of all abortions take place in the first five months of pregnancy). This puts me on the side of the slight majority of pro choice Americans. But I do have some sympathy for the anti abortion stance, because when life actually begins seems to be difficult to pinpoint, and personal feelings come into play. Although I think some anti arbortionists want to punish women for having sex without wanting to have children, I have met some who honestly do believe that a fetus is alive and therefore worthy of protection. There's even a group that calls themselves "feminists for life", yes, an anti abortion feminist group! So the issue is not always clear cut.
But for the anti arbortionists, I would like to make this logical hypothetical point: let's say that the Christian fundamentalists get exactly what they want in America, a constitutional amendment banning all abortions without exception. Can they really honestly believe that that would end abortions completely in this country? As we can see from the war on drugs, making an activity illegal hardly brings an end to it. All that would happen is that American women who can afford it would travel to another country to get an abortion, and poor women would go to back allies and get dangerous illegal abortions. In the days before the Roe vs. Wade ruling, states where abortion was illegal had numerous cases of women being badly injured or even dying from such unsanitary abortions, and there's no reason to doubt that this problem would return if abortion were made illegal.
Furthermore, there is contradiction from anti abortionists that angers me: one of the main reasons that women give for getting an abortion is economic; raising a child is expensive, and many women just can't afford it. And knowledge of that expense comes from experience, tellingly, sixty one percent of women who get abortions already have at least one child. So if money is a large part of why women get an abortion, why is that so often the most outspoken anti arbortionists are the first to demonize single mothers, to call women on welfare moochers, and to cut food stamps and medicaid? A stunning seventy six percent of families that get food stamps have at least one child, but that doesn't stop congressional Republicans from trying to gut the program in the name of "fiscal responsibility" and "ending dependency". The anti abortionists seem to want it both ways: if a woman gets an abortion she's an evil murderer, if she goes on welfare, she's a lazy leech on society. How can a group care so much about unborn babies and then so little about poor children? Ardent anti arbortionist Ronald Reagan once referred to people on medicaid as a "faceless mass waiting in line for a handout", robbing poor people (including children) of their very humanity. Many anti abortionists say that they support adoption instead of abortion, but if every woman who got an abortion put that child up for adoption instead, our adoption centers would be flooded, many of the children would never find homes, and they would wind up being raised by the same government that conservatives claim to hate so much.
And why do so many anti arbortionists support making it harder for women to get access to birth control? Many say that health care plans should be able to opt out of offering birth control for "moral reasons"; even worse was George W Bush's plan of abstinence only sex education. The absurd notion that if we just tell children not to even think about sex until marriage then they won't have any denies not only reason, but human biology. It's just plain common sense: less unwanted pregnancies equals less abortions, so why can't the US grow up and teach proper birth control methods as part of sex education, like other industrialized nations with lower teen birth rates do?
Although I obviously disagree with the Catholic church on this issue, I will give them points for consistency; unlike Christian fundamentalists, the Catholic church supports expanded aid to the poor, and pays for many charitable organizations. In fact, in the last presidential election, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a Catholic, proposed a budget that slashed government aid to the poor, that was condemned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. So not all anti abortionists demonize the poor, just some of them.
Here's another point I'd like to make: Christians assert that god created all of us in his divine image and that we are his blessed creation. Now if god knows and sees all, then surely it must be able to see into the future, and therefore it must have known that eventually humans would create the ability and desire to have abortions. If god hates abortion, why did it create us with the ability to perform them? Surely a supreme being could have created humans in such a way as to make abortions physically impossible. But it chose not to. Why? Was this a design flaw in its creation? Why would god allow humans to have abortions and then send its holy messengers on earth to attack it? Isn't that a mixed message?
Trying to change people's minds on this seemingly intractable issue may be a fool's errand, but I hope I least have made some points that might provoke some thought for anti abortionists. And for those of you who do want to overturn Roe vs. Wade, I would plead with you to at least tone down the angry rhetoric, which has lead to violence against clinics and doctors. Killing people is never the answer, and it makes a mockery of your so called "pro-life" stance.