I was looking for a featured image to use for a post about abortion and settled on a wire hanger. Why? Because this is the result of making safe abortions unavailable. My great grandmother, whom I knew, had eight kids and I think three abortions because enough was enough. They weren’t legal. They were dangerous. Her eight children could have been without a mother because of the unavailability of safe abortions. There’s no reason for them to be unavailable, and yet now there are a lot of politicians and judges (also politicians in this case) who are trying to limit their legality. They’re not really trying to reduce the number of abortions in America via the most logical means, which would be to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, putting the lie to what this issue is really about.
I’m writing this because I want to address some of what I hear in opposition to legal abortions. I find too much of it generally unanswered.
Let’s start with the most commonly used image to upset people about abortions: the beating heart. If you hold a stethoscope up to a living goldfish, chances are you’ll hear a heartbeat, albeit a really fast one. There is nothing intrinsically human about a heartbeat and in fact the fetal heartbeat most parents first hear is not that of a four-chambered “human” heart because that comes later in fetal development. What makes heartbeats so emotional, and I speak from personal experience here, is that they are the first audible sign of fetal life. Hearing it is sensory proof that the fetus exists and if you want to be a parent that’s a very exciting thing. But in the abortion argument heartbeats aren’t a case, they’re an emotional technique. Nothing more.
Next, let’s talk about when we define human life as beginning. Conception is arbitrary. In the case of Catholics, conception is religious doctrine. I don’t know its origin but all I can say about religious doctrine in this case is to cite the value of the separation of Church and State, which is to say not basing policy on what your own religion states because that religion states it. This is the tightrope President Biden has walked, and walked well. It’s very similar to what was gay marriage as a legal issue.
Why arbitrary? Because it is far from intuitively obvious that a clump of undifferentiated cells constitutes a person. I’d say it’s far more obvious that it doesn’t. A fetus evolves, going through evolutionary stages mankind has gone through to become mankind. There’s a stage at which human fetuses have tails. There’s a stage at which they have gills. Generally speaking, people don’t have tails and gills, and so defining a fetus as a person doesn’t make biological sense.
Where does this leave us? With the case that a potential human life should have the same value as a human life. Being as this is a religious issue, do we have evidence that God agrees? We may have evidence that He doesn’t, based on human design. Every sperm cell has only one function: that of a potential human life, and yet we are designed by our Creator (for those of us who are not atheists) in such a way that even in cases of successful conception millions of potential human lives inevitably die. If you attempt to reproduce, you cause the death of millions of potential human lives. No way around it.
But to a certain extent these arguments obscure the real issue with abortions, and that’s what the issue is really about. A lot of pro-Choice people will tell you that the battle is about control of female bodies, nothing else. I don’t believe for a minute that no Right-to-Lifers are honest. I do, however, believe that many aren’t, particularly those currently involved in trying to reduce abortion availability on a state level, like Texas Governor Abbot.
My question for guys like Abbot is this:
How does your church treat miscarriages?
Are there memorial services? Is there grief counseling provided? Do people bring food to the house of the bereaved couple?
People who hear me mention miscarriages in this context are often angry at me for going there, like how could I politicize miscarriages, but my point is exactly the opposite of what they think it is: Miscarriages are absolutely tragic events that involve very serious grief. Having been through years of infertility treatments attempting to get pregnant, including surgeries on both my wife and me, I know what it is to want a fetus desperately, I know what it is to love one, and I know what it is to worry about one because my wife’s pregnancy was difficult. We were terrified of that loss.
What I can say for certain is that treating a fetus as a human being if it is aborted but not if it is miscarried doesn’t cut it. An abortion cannot turn a fetus into a human being. If you consider a fetus to be a person, that cannot be conditional. If it is, if it is treated as conditional, than your opposition to abortion cannot be about either justice or compassion. It really is about controlling womens’ bodies. Your outrage is phony.
The question often asked by pro-Choicers of Right-to-Lifers is How could you care about fetuses but not about babies, particularly poor ones? The question becomes way more stark if it really is How could you care about some fetuses but not about others?
I like honest arguments. The abortion argument isn’t usually one. I hate to watch it prove to be no more honest than the Voter ID argument. In some circles it is honest but in others it just isn’t.
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