Let's start this debate off with a little quote from a well-researched novel about the Church's attitude in 1215. "Her funeral, too, had to be held outside the church, for her body held an unbaptized infant, and the church must not be defiled." Really? You wanted babies baptized inside the womb?
I'm going to say it out loud, because that attitude is so offensive. Just because Christians believe that every conception is a gift of God doesn't give them the right to regulate someone else's womb. This whole issue about birth control, including abortion, is about a woman's right to choose her time to be a mother. But it's more than that. It's against the Christian idea that they have the right to control society. Normally I have nothing against Christians. But on this issue I do, and by the time you're done reading this—if you read it with an open mind—you'll understand the debate a little better.
Granted, this opening quote was from 1215 in Italy. But think about it—is it really so different an attitude than what pro-lifers promote today? I made a radical comment in a novel I wrote—about a girl out west in the 1800s who was raped by her father, gave birth, and the father strangled the child and never let her see it. There have been readers who have badmouthed the book and refused to read more because of this event, a pivotal event in a relationship that moves the story further. Why so incensed? Because it could never possibly happen? Of course it could. Had this girl been allowed an abortion, a lot of grief and trauma could have been avoided. I don't know how they did abortions in the middle 1800s, but by the late 1800s I know that abortion doctors were available. I found search for another novel set in the 1940s that claimed the use of a morning after drug.
A recent (2013) newspaper article indicated that 52% of Americans believe abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, 25% legal in all cases, and 20% legal in no cases. That is roughly the same breakdown they found in a poll conducted in the 1970s. The article also noted that, regardless of race, abortion is linked to hard economic times. This is the same rationale women have had about becoming mothers since the beginning of time.
But in today's world, we need to factor in emotional maturity, because today's unwed mother is so often left alone to fend for herself. And pro-lifers refuse to face that fact. They want to force that woman to bear the child but provide nothing to help her out afterward, unless she is willing to fall on the auspices of their church and plead eternity loyalty to their savior.
Is it any wonder that newly born babies are often found abandoned?
If you believe that from the moment an egg is fertilized by sperm its life deserves to be protected until it is born and takes a breath, you're a pro-lifer. Paul Ryan, former House Rep from Wisconsin, wanted to give a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a breathing human being.
If you believe the pro-life movement wants to remove a basic freedom women have enjoyed since the beginning of time, the freedom to choose when they're ready to be a mother, then you're pro-choice. It doesn't mean you're pro-abortion. It means that what someone else does with their body is none of your business.
Here are some of the better-known statements on the right and left of the pro-life debate that we'll look at, one by one.
1. "Who will speak for the innocent gift of God, the unborn, if we don't?"
2. "Abortion is murder, and that gives us the right to interfere."
3. "The newborn baby owes its entire existence to its mother."
4. "Until it takes a breath, it is not an individual."
5. "Did anyone ask to be born? No. But we have to make the best of it."
6. "Children deserve to be born into loving arms."
First: Speaking for the unborn. If you think you can speak for a fetus, imagine asking it this: Would you rather be born in a loving world, or an abusive environment? Would you like to take a chance with being dumped in a garbage can? It seems to me that pro-lifers believe we are killing a child's only chance ever to be born. But if they're religious, then they should know that the soul and consciousness is what makes a human being, and not just its physical matter. Also, an innocent infant that's not baptized when it dies is still considered a child of God, unlike back in 1215. So even if what you believe is true, and it's that child's only chance, at least it's not doomed. Instead it is spared a life of abuse.
But I believe that no fetus gains consciousness or soul until those precious moments during labor. Consider the idea that taking its first breath is what draws in its soul. Isn't that a beautiful thought? If you can comprehend this, you will understand why even the Bible considers life to be a breathing human being, an individual that can sustain life while still needing to depend on others for nourishment and feeding.
You do not speak for the unborn if you ask it to be born into a potentially unstable environment. You speak for your moral up-righteousness, a personal attitude that you have no right to expound on others.
Second: Is it murder? It takes two people, a mother and father, to create another being. They and they alone are responsible for that life. When that breathing human is born, it is still helpless but now it's crying its demands and needs all the loving support that can be mustered. Being a parent of a newborn is extremely hard. It's probably the hardest job a woman ever takes on. Carrying a child is nothing compared to caring for it after it's born. It requires commitment and lots and lots of love, and this is often left to the mother alone.
My strongest argument in favor of birth control, including abortion, is that there is no one more helpless than a newborn infant, an eating machine that at first seems to cry incessantly because he doesn't always know how to eat, or maybe he's simply frustrated, too, at the birthing process and in pain from all the adjustment his body has had to make. The mother has to have extreme patience in those first months, while dealing with this squawking eating machine, especially if breast-feeding, along with a host of other problems, namely pain and maybe even a little post-partum depression.
If you call abortion murder, then what do you call miscarriage? Miscarriages happen all the time and some babies die at birth. They fail to survive breathing or die of other complications. Grieving women have a hard time coping with the loss of their lovingly anticipated offspring. Should we accuse them of murder? Did they do something wrong, causing the fetus to abort? Absolutely not. But how do we know that this mother, whose baby miscarries or dies at birth, really wanted it? If you outlaw abortion, will ever single prenatal death be called murder?
Conception is a biological process that we have in common with animals. What makes us different is our soul/consciousness. Animals have controlled patterns of mating; they don't "do it all the time." But humans have taken themselves out of nature, and with conscious thought patterns men can feel those urges all the time. That means it's up to the woman to control the sexual act, and also control whether or not it leads to offspring. Pro-choice is pro-responsible. A woman determines when she's ready for children; no biological process can control that right.
How do other people, then, have the right to pass judgment, or force the process on someone who is terrified by the idea?
Let's analyze this idea that "life begins at conception," where at first the fertilization resembles just about any animal on the planet. Here's a pro-life comment from the website American Life League:
"While I agree with the concerns that should be expressed for any animal that appears to be abused by those caring for it, there is a line that must be drawn when it comes to personhood—a category of identity that refers to human beings. Among those who have made the point eloquently is Nancy Flanders, who wrote, "A 'human being' is defined as 'any individual of the genus Homo, especially a member of the species Homo sapiens; a person, especially as distinguished from other animals or as representing the human species.' There isn't a definition of 'human being' that excludes the unborn."
My question is how does this include the unborn? This site also addresses their moral right to interfere in your life:
Excuse me, but I think you are confused. We are talking about an abortion, which results in the death of a person. We are not discussing a view, but rather a crime. Would you tell us that you personally oppose owning slaves, but would not mind if others did?
I think they're confused because the last time I looked, abortion is NOT a crime. Their opinion that it is doesn't make it one. Again, it is the mother's responsibility and her business. The crime is one of interference. The crime is in the belief that the mother cannot choose when she's ready for the enormous task. And comparing it to slavery is just ridiculous, because you're comparing something that's not breathing to someone who is.
Here's a list of repercussions when abortion rights are removed:
· Babies found in garbage cans and toilets. (crime)
· Environmental destruction (crime)
· Psychological damage/abuse (crime)
· Removal of wanted children from the world
· Forcing beliefs on others (should be a crime)
· Increased crime (caused by neglected children who turn into disturbed adults)
· Desperate measures taken to abort (kills otherwise healthy women).
Think hard before you consider what you're calling a crime.
Three: It is absolutely true that a child owes its entire existence to its mother. The dad is also needed to create pregnancy, but the dad can run off (and often does), leaving the mom to fend for the two of them, both during pregnancy, and after. Only the mom can breastfeed, and more and more are breastfeeding these days because it's cheaper and healthier. Breast feeding ties you to that child 24 hours a day. At first, the baby is hungry every two hours. Sometimes you feel that's all you do.
If you don't bring that child into a completely loving environment, this demand can become overwhelming.
A woman has an abortion not because she's mean, but because she's loving. She knows that her child deserves the right kind of environment. So what happens when you force her to bear young before she's ready? She may have such a horrifying experience that she never does it again. So by making her bear one she doesn't want, you are robbing her of the loving experience of having others she does want.
Conception is a completely biological mammalian process of sperm meeting egg, but animals can also choose when not to care for their young. Since about the beginning of time, animals and our human ancestors with and without consciousness have taken total command of when to nurture and when to abandon the pregnancy or the young. Once upon a time, women did not even know that men were making them pregnant. Ever hear of a "virgin birth?" That's the concept. Women bore children as if by magic, or caused by the wind. Humans once traveled in packs and the men shared the child-rearing assistance, never knowing which were theirs. The women could share nursing duties, because wet nurses were more common.
Today, a woman needs to be ready, because killing a breathing infant IS murder.
Fourth: Pro-lifers don't seem to understand a basic biological necessity. No breath, no life. A woman can go those nine months only to see her baby stillborn. It happens. No breath, no life. Until it makes that separation from the woman to become its own individual, it is a part of her; completely dependent on her blood and breath. Once it is born and breathing on its own, then it is life. Then it is placed in its mother's crying joyful arms, a real gift of whoever her god or goddess may be.
But what happens if everyone is convinced that "life" begins at conception? Well, first, it becomes more devastating to miscarry. A mother can become more paranoid about everything she does while carrying, rather than believing this child will be born if it's meant to be. A reluctant mom might even seem thrilled, at first, when the child is born because the adrenalin of childbirth is running on high, or she may simply turn away and not be able to watch, eyes filled with tears, as her child is taken away to someone else. She may try her darndest to love the kid, only to begin a cycle of abuse, or she may, as she heals, regret giving it up. She may give birth in secret and abandon the child, to die or be found, which is happening yet today because some are fearful of the stigma of admitting they're pregnant.
Caring is a remarkable feeling and giving birth is a beautiful thing -- if the child is wanted. Yes, adoptive families are most often loving ones (although I have known failures). Adoptive children fill a gap. But there will always be things about that adopted child the parent will never know, forcing that child out to seek her birth parents.
The mother/child relationship is a remarkable one—when it works. When it doesn't, it's horrendous. Child abuse is one result. Suicide, murder, abandonment, crime, psychosis, you name it. All kinds of bad things can come from forced motherhood. A friend, Marisa, shared with me the research done by Steve Levitt that determines that crime rates dropped 18 years after Roe vs. Wade. You can see more here:
Fifth: Does anyone ask to be born? According to some, it's God's will, and we are just to make the best of it. No, no one asks. It just happens. These bodies that our souls inhabit are just a matter of luck. If I hadn't gotten this body, I would have gotten another one. In fact, I used to have tantrums when I was two, and I think that this could have been frustration of learning what body I was in. I don't know too many tantrum-throwers, but I have a hunch they're people of high sensitivity, like me.
The problem is in believing that every conceptive moment is sparked by God, and that aborting means undoing God's will. It's not God's will. If it was God's will, then Romney would have won the 2012 election. Heck, that praying quarterback would have won the Super Bowl. God only observes. We act. We do. We create. And what we create, we better be ready to take responsibility for. Would God create a baby only to be abandoned in a garbage can? What kind of God are we talking about here?
Abortion has a very long history, indicating that women have always believed they had the right to choose motherhood. But then Christianity stepped in and made it a forbidden act, by converting those "pagans." Aside from the crime rate caused by unwanted and abused children, do you know what women had to go through before Roe vs. Wade? Doctors were sought who would perform abortions in closets (figuratively speaking), coat hangers were used by those desperate for do-it-yourself … I would bet some very dangerous substances were ingested as well. Women died in desperation because of the fear of bringing a child into an undesirable circumstance. And we've mentioned the occasional dead baby found in the garbage, or flushed down the toilet because of the terror of women unable or unready for the responsibility, and fearful of the stigma of pregnancy.
Sixth: Birth abandonment continues today, even with abortion rights. Why? Because people condemn women for accidentally creating potential life they weren't ready to carry. Help them get birth control, instead. Have you heard that abortions are down? A report in the newspaper on 11/22/12 noted the biggest decline in abortions is due to increased use of contraceptives.
But pro-lifers are against birth control, too, and are likely outraged by doctors who agree that birth control pills should be sold over the counter. "Control yourself, woman! If you don't want a child, don't have sex!" But aren't you against prostitution and gay coupling, too? Are you condoning rape? In today's world, we cannot afford to be against birth control. We need to protect the sanctity of motherhood so that those babies born are welcomed into loving hands. Since Roe vs. Wade women are given the ability to make the right choice—for them. They get counseling on all aspects of their decision.
Here is from the Planned Parenthood website:
Our primary goal is prevention — reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, especially the alarmingly high number of teenage pregnancies, in the United States. At the same time, to protect their health and the health of their families, women facing an unintended pregnancy must have access to safe, legal abortion services without interference from the government. Decisions about childbearing should be made by a woman in consultation with her family and doctor — not by politicians.
Insistence that they must have access to planning their parenthood is NOT the same as insisting they have the abortion.
I know a Catholic woman whose husband left her after their 6th child was born. He couldn't handle the financial burden anymore. She fell onto the mercy of her church for help, and on her father. The only way to stop that Catholic woman from having babies was by removing the man in her life.
I saw a mother the other day at a grocery store with five children five and under. And all I could do was shudder. My dad felt the strain of having five; shortly before he died he found a job that he felt could support us. He died when I was 14 and my youngest sister was 3. My Catholic mother may well have had more, even though we couldn't afford it.
As a babyboomer in a generation just coming to terms with free sexuality, I had friends in high school who aborted and other friends who responded to their pregnancy by getting married shortly after graduation. The two who aborted went on to have three wanted children each. They were fortunate that abortion was available to them, at a time when birth control was not. Their children are happy and productive members of society. The two who had to get married are both divorced; one's husband became abusive; the other went through excruciating mental anguish during and after the separation when she learned he was cheating on her.
Sure, we all know people who remained together happily after a forced marriage. But the point is that it's the individual's right to choose the story that's right for her. Had the two who didn't abort been forced to abort, they would have lived with guilt all their lives. Had the two who aborted been forced to give birth, the world would have lost those later children who were wanted.
And then there was that poor Indian woman in Ireland who died in late 2012 because a Catholic hospital there refused to terminate her pregnancy when it was obvious she was miscarrying. For three days the fetus's heart kept beating so they said no, abortion was illegal. There was no chance of saving the child because she was miscarrying and they knew that. Finally the baby died and the pregnancy was terminated—and Savita Halappanavar died of septicemia, blood poisoning, four days later.
She was not Catholic and the baby could not be saved. She was already at a hospital, so why didn't they know the potential dangers of delay? Perhaps they accused her of deliberately miscarrying and this was a form of punishment. Think about it—Ireland's law states no abortion unless the mother's life was threatened. Why didn't they realize she was threatened here?
The point of pro-choice, then, is not to stop people from having babies. Instead it recognizes the seriousness of the mother/child relationship and allows the mother some say when it's her time.
Pro-lifers think everyone has to give birth because they and their God will be offended otherwise. But their God does not belong to everyone. They want everyone to believe as they do. People who are comfortable with their spirituality have no need to push their beliefs on others, which is what pro-lifers are trying to do.
Does any child want to be born unwanted? How can anyone presume to know what a fetus wants? They believe their God is speaking through them to stop abortion. They're wrong. God's gift to us is the healthy child born into a loving relationship.
My friend Claire in the UK says pro-lifers there are not necessarily religious. They believe in the two-cell-is-life theory from a more scientific standpoint. I do not know how to respond to them. You call it life just so you can interfere in other people's lives? Maybe you're just a busybody, then. So a scientist who would think nothing of spaying or neutering a dog or cat feels that every match-up of sperm to egg must be preserved? I don't see the logic. You say too many cats or dogs are ruining the environment? What about too many people? Do you know how many are starving right now, at this moment? Where's the real crime?
Realize that if you force women to have babies they don't want, you have to take responsibility for those babies. You have to make sure that child is loved and cherished and doesn't develop any psychoses for the next 18 years or more. Are you up to that? And not just for one baby; for all the babies you save that are misplaced, misused, abused, and end up asking without answer, "Did I ask to be born?"
No one is going to be forced to have an abortion. That might be the biggest fallacy out there. But to say we want to be free to have guns and defend ourselves and in the same breath take away a woman's control of her own body is an arrogance that only an insensitive man can devise. And when women listen to these kinds of men, they are engaged in mental abuse, whether they know it or not.
I'm not a fan of abortion after the first trimester, at which time the woman should be given adoption counseling. I also would not allow any woman to keep a child if she has sought a way to abort it after it has started kicking, because then you are putting that child's life at risk after birth. In the first three months there is the greatest risk of spontaneous abortion, what we call miscarriage because obviously we don't like the term abortion for anything.
I long for the day when there is no need for abortion, because of easy access to birth control, lots of sexual activity training by the time the girl is menstruating and at that same age for boys, an open conversation and dialog about this most important of duties, and free birth control and morning after drugs readily available.
And I would rather see Christianity disappear than hear one more of its radicals say that they have the right to stick their hand over another woman's vagina.