Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Abortion - dealing from extremes.

Now, it occurred to me after my last 'abortion' post that someone might read what I wrote about my 8 month old in utero baby and say something like, "Why are you using an extreme example, most abortions occur earlier in pregnancy." I have a couple of responses.

First, both pro-choice and pro-life tend to start arguing from extremes (PC invoke rape/incest/life-threatening cases; PL invoke partial-birth abortion, China's coercive abortion policy), rarely from the middle (some legislation, lots of education, etc.), and rarer yet, from the opponent's extreme (PL addressing the 'hard cases', PC openly justifying pb abortion itself and other pseudo-infanticide cases). I'm not like other people - I'm special ;) I don't like to dally on partial birth abortion, because for everybody who is sane in society, it's a slam dunk issue (as soon as they understand what it is). I like to address the hard cases first, mostly because if I really mean it as a pro-lifer, these have got to be addressed as well as the 'easier' ones.

Just a quick preamble: as should be painfully obvious (yet, may not be), the pro-life 'position' is founded on the humanity of the unborn child. Pro-lifers tend not to get too hung up on the metaphysics of 'when personhood begins', as though we're talking about angels and pinheads. Pro-lifers tend to start from science and biology - an individual human being's life begins at the union of the sperm and the ovum. Period. Furthermore, there is no other fundamental criteria to accord any human rights to anyone than the fact that that person is a human being. It's more than a little ironic to me that pro-choicers, for all their "get your rosaries off our ovaries", etc., are the ones to introduce an intentionally ambiguous argument about the beginnings of human personhood, seemingly because the bald scientific facts don't readily support their denial of humanity to the unborn. Other pro-choicers take the legalistic "it's not a person because the law decides who/what a person is", apparently ignoring the rich tradition many societies have had of denying the patently obvious humanity of human beings, simply because it's uncomfortable to do otherwise. Not such a quick preamble, after all.

I said I'd address the 'hard cases', and so I shall.

The mother's life, incest/rape, and fetal deformity.

How often is a woman's life threatened by pregnancy? Actual threats are extremely rare, and doctors should be held to account when they over-emphasize perceived threats (I have a relative who was advised not to get pregnant, but who eventually had two healthy children during reasonably healthy pregnancies). What types of threats do these include? To my understanding, we're probably talking about uterine cancer and/or ectopic pregnancy. Even in Catholic teaching (which is adamantly anti-abortion), there are 'escape hatches' for these two types of cases (though admittedly, not abortion in the common parlance): the 'double effect' doctrine allows for other medical treatment in proportion to the threat incurred (my words) - ie. if a woman's uterus is cancerous, it is ethically justifiable for doctors to treat the cancer, even though the child may die as an unintentional side-effect. The seriousness of the mother's threatened life justifies the intervention that may lead to the child's death. The difference here is that the child's death is not being sought.

Incest/rape - cannot be answered apart from answering the "When should we start protecting human life?" argument. For if it's reasonably determined that unborn human beings are what pro-lifers say they are, then it makes no sense to allow anyone the 'right' to end their lives in answer to the wrongs of another person. In the scale of those innocent to guilty in these cases, the unborn are at the extremely innocent end of the spectrum, and deserve no capital punishment for the sins of another. This type of case is often invoked because it plays on our justifiable sympathy for a woman in a tough situation not of her own doing. A number of questions/comments come to mind for those who argue for abortion in these cases: i) the perpetrator has a strong interest in keeping a child conceived from his act from 'coming to light'; there are cases of underage girls being taken to abortion clinics by their overage guys in order to cover up his misdeeds; ii) it's likely that (at least) some of these cases would get found out (sooner) and dealt with if the 'consequences' weren't so easy to get rid of; iii) how many women involved in these situations have actually been consulted to determine how much they actually want this 'solution'?; iv) anecdotal work by Reardon (forgot the first name) has identified that significant numbers of women who abort after rape regret and feel guilty about their decision, whereas women who give birth after rape often see that child as the one good thing to come out of a miserable situation; v) there are other situations where able-bodied human beings are expected to help another in need, even though it's an imposition on their personal freedom and even safety to do so (sometimes legally, often ethically). Enough for food for thought for now.

Abortion due to fetal 'deformity' cannot be separated from the view that those-already-born-but-handicapped are less than human. We might as well start executing the handicapped and other undesirables to keep our race pure. If you laugh derisively at this, what exactly is the difference?

I expect that I'll post more on this subject as thoughts skitter through my brain, but will leave this to simmer for awhile.


Blogger ubiquity said...

Hey Cyrano,

as promised I'm here checking out your site, and in the process I had a thought. Have you ever heard of G.A.P (the genocide awareness project)? I'm interested to know what you think about it. http://www.cbrinfo.org/gap.html

I'm also interested to know how you think women who have had abortions should be treated/handled, both now and in a world where abortion was illegal?

Just curious.

Saturday, July 09, 2005 9:28:00 a.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

Thanks for stopping by.

Actually, I know one of the people involved in running the local G.A.P. I've seen their site before, and it disturbs me - not in a bad way though. I think that they've been very effective at showing parallels between abortion and other instances of genocide.

In fact, I have a book (its title escapes me) that compares the terminology people have used in various historical instances to justify treating certain classes of human beings as sub-human. The language of the pro-choice side is eerily similar to past genocides/instances of denying human rights to groups of people.

If I understand things correctly, in the past when abortion was criminalized, the primary penalty was meted out to the doctor effecting the abortion (although a lesser sentence for women seeking abortion was also on the books).

I certainly don't have all the answers to this, but I think we can see a way ahead from two sources: the first are the pro-life feminists (both the early and their current incarnation), who see a need to promote institutions and relationships that help women through crisis pregnancies (marriage is one such institution); the second is to continue supporting the many crisis pregnancy centers to help those in need - there are something like 4000 pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, run almost entirely by volunteers (which, again, is part of why I was peeved at your earlier post on John's site, because pro-life people already put their money where their mouth is in a lot of ways) - as a counter-example, Planned Parenthood centers are run by paid staff (money comes from government, service charges, and donations), but has far fewer centers in the same region. It would appear that women with crisis pregnancies need support without stigma (at least not as much as in the past - if we want to discourage certain behaviours, we probably need some stigma).

Immediately following protection for the unborn in a law - it wouldn't make sense to retroactively try to charge anyone for their involvement in abortion (I don't think laws can do that, can they?) - but it would make sense to charge, principally, any doctors providing abortion. Those of us promoting the pro-life philosophy (especially) should be willing to step even more up to the plate to support women with crisis pregnancies at that point (I'd open my home for that reason - in fact, my wife and I have discussed doing just that since we moved into our house a year ago - and have taken a preliminary step of letting the local Birthright know that we are looking at that).

I guess the other thing to do would be to study those societies that currently are restrictive towards abortion and see how they deal with things, legislatively and in terms of individual helps to people in need - there are some modern countries like that still, although very many have accepted legal abortion as a given.

Saturday, July 09, 2005 4:11:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

I should also mention, my name is Shane - I use Cyrano of Cyrano de Bergerac, because he preferred to engage people in a classy and witty way, instead of low-brow name-calling (when I started my blog, I'd just come out of reading a lot of name-calling stuff on other people's blogs - sort of a reaction against it).

Saturday, July 09, 2005 4:13:00 p.m.  
Blogger ubiquity said...

More questions:

What do you think of the tactics G.A.P uses on campus'? In essense the fact that no one can escape seeing the billboards even if they wanted to?

Also I'm wondering, are you of the opinion that pro-choice organizations encourage abortion?

The thing in your posts that concerns me most is that to me you are going about things all backwards. That is banning abortion then offering support (or even offering support concurrently) It would make sense to me that if women felt little stigma around their unplanned pregnancy, and if raising that child weren't such an incredible financial, as well as emotional burden, then less women would have to go through abortions. ??

Oh and one last thing. When you refered to the post that ticked you off ("which, again, is part of why I was peeved at your earlier post on John's site, because pro-life people already put their money where their mouth is in a lot of ways") were you refering to my suggestion that a lot of things had to be fixed up before I would ever discuss an end to abortion? I assume that is what that reference is to, if not feel fre to correct me. You are right pro-lifers often invest significant amounts of time money and energy in furthering their goals. However, my concern is that this energy isn't aimed in the right direction. I've read the literature of many pro-life pregnancy centres including birthright. Frankly, they scare the crap out of me. They are all about the shame and stigma, not the unconditional support. They aren't about care and concern for a woman in a vulnerable position, they are about making sure no abortion happens. That isn't support.

Saturday, July 09, 2005 7:41:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

I guess it would depend on the pro-choice organization, but by and large, yes, they encourage abortion (or it's the only 'choice' they are willing to invest any of their resources in fighting for). You can probably count on one hand the number of times a woman with a crisis pregnancy walks away from a Planned Parenthood clinic deciding to have her baby and give it up for adoption - even then, she probably had the idea before going there and wasn't counselled into it. A friend of mine had a different close friend who, as a hospital counsellor, generally confirmed this in that environment. Philosophically, it's probably fair to call these pro-choice organizations, but tactically, a lot of pro-lifers (fairly, I think) call them pro-abortion organizations.

G.A.P., as I said, disturbs me - but not because they're there (if that makes any sense). Their work disturbs me because I go through so many of my days simply not noticing what, in my heart, I know to be a fundamental injustice in our society, and that I should be doing more to change it. I don't think it's wrong or bad for people to be confronted by that reality - it's meant to shock peoples' complacency, and particularly in a society of free speech, it entirely defendable (my friend who helps with G.A.P. locally was telling about how the local university wouldn't let them on to campus - legally, they can't do that - so G.A.P. will be back there again sometime soon, now that the university admin knows better). In fact, universities, being the places of higher learning, questioning, and debate, seem like the ideal environment for the presentations. The G.A.P. people are entirely peaceful about it, they're also just very in your face with the pictures - it shocks me how people attack their displays and get away with it. If a person seriously wants to avoid the displays, they can walk a different route (as a public space, G.A.P. has a right to be there) - which, in a sense, would probably also cause them to think about why they are going out of their way to avoid seeing the posters (part of the awareness campaign).

You picked the right part of your post that I was referring to. There is already a LOT of tangible support through the pro-life pregnancy centers - not having used one, I can't say I'm aware of how much they present the 'guilt' side of things. I wish I could say more about this, but my direct experience is low.

I don't think it's really that backwards of an approach - as I mentioned, many pro-life people already provide support in different ways (my family did to my younger sister who got pregnant in high school). There's a 'jumping off' point somewhere along the way where I think we have to accept that for awhile at least, some women who have come to view abortion as back-up birth control are going to be inconvenienced - it's inevitable, I think, until it enters the public mindset that it's not an option. If a law passed, it's very likely someone like Morgenthaler would challenge it and it would be held up for a time in the court system. During that time period, many who view abortion in a less serious light would likely change their behaviour, or at least become aware of their behaviour in a way that, should the law stand (or be upheld through the notwithstanding clause) they would then be mentally prepared to adjust their behaviour. Some wouldn't, and would form networks to doctors who would clandestinely provide abortions - the test of the law would be whether we're willing to prosecute those doctors. The law functions as a teacher, and if we support unborn human life through it, it would help teach many to adjust their behaviour.

I'm away for awhile after this - we're off to see the mountains tomorrow, and work will keep me busy for a couple of days after that - I will check in sometime soon after things get settled again. Thanks for continuing the conversation.

Sunday, July 10, 2005 2:05:00 a.m.  
Blogger TheDevilIsInTheDetails said...

Another abortion information Resource... LifeLaw.org . A discussion forum for all that deals with such hot-button issues as abortion information .

Sunday, November 06, 2005 5:44:00 p.m.  

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