I’ve seen both sides of this debate.
I grew up in a devotedly pro-life home. I was taught pro-life apologetics and arguments (largely from books by Peter Kreeft [go read The Unaborted Socrates]). In spite of that, my study of the development of life and my debates with pro-choicers led me eventually to cross the line. I concluded that if personhood ends with the cessation of brain activity, surely it must begin with it as well.
All that’s to say I’ve had first hand experience with both sides of the highly contentious issue.
But I’m not here to talk about abortion. I’m hear to shine the spotlight on the supreme nitwits who scream the loudest from both sides of the argument. Let’s break it down here.
The problem with Pro-Lifers is that they just fail to understand that pro-choicers don’t believe the fetus is a human being. They think that pro-choice doctors get up in the morning saying “Boy, today I’m gonna kill me some babies!”
Get it straight- nobody thinks that.
Doctors have a deep commitment to life- almost certainly the deepest of any profession. Imagining that they believe in wantonly destroying human life is ignorant and insulting on a mind-boggling level.
Or it would be, if that were the actual line of thought.
See for many, it’s really not about abortion. The idea that there’s a host of Mengeles out there drooling at a chance to kill infants is just a fantasy. I’ve talked about the obsession Western Christianity has with end-of-times and judgment-day stories. Like those, this is for many (not all, but many) some viciously petty revenge for being snubbed.
Relatively wealthy, comfortable Christians want to feel persecuted (without actually having to deal with real persecution, of course) and invent this story of the big, bad conspiratorial world which is out to turn everyone in Atheist-Muslim commi-nazi homosexuals. And how twisted is that? Waging a high-and-mighty crusade which as as much to do with feeling validated than it does with the touted goals of the battle?
Again, not all pro-lifers are like this. Plenty aren’t. You’re still going to encounter this sentiment, though. Hold people to their word. Make ’em put their money where their mouth is. Are they adopting kids? Are they offering public assistance to single mothers or families with a new mouth to feed?
Guess you know whose priorities are what then.
Alternatively, the pro-choice crowd don’t understand that pro-lifers view the fetus as a human being (or if they do, they don’t actually think about the implications of it). If you assume that pro-lifers aren’t trying to save human beings, what does their argument turn into? Some creepy religious-nationalist demand that women become pregnant and have kids no matter what the circumstances. And this is exactly the same as imagining there’s some evil secularist agenda if you’re in the pro-life camp. There are tons of pro-choicers out there who want to pretend like they’re somehow the underdog. That they’re risking their necks (unless you’re an abortion clinic doctor, you’re almost certainly not) by holding this stance. That they’re the high-and-mighty enlightened line holding back the dark ages.
Again, it’s not about protecting anyone’s rights, it’s about boosting your ego and sense of self-worth without actually having to take any risk or put in any effort.
And it’s not like you’re helping the argument by framing everything with “choice.”
“The Woman’s Choice.”
“The Mother’s Choice.”
“My Body, My Choice.”
You know what that sounds like to the opposition? It sounds to them like you’re saying a woman has the right to kill another person if they happen to inconvenience her. Just as they’re perpetuating an emotionally charged propaganda war by assuming you’re evil, you’re doing the same thing by assuming they’re stupid.
And enough with this moronic “all pro-lifers are a bunch of rich, white old men.” That simply isn’t the case. The overwhelming majority of pro-life activists I’ve met (and having gone to a conservative Christian college, I’ve met more than a few) are young women. Yes, there are rich, white, old male politicians, but they make up a tiny sliver of the pro-life crowd; though that’s not gonna stop me from turning my wrath against them.
Pro-choicers attack pro-lifers as being a collection of withered old male politicians who believe in controlling a woman’s body.
Let me be clear. Politicians don’t believe in anything.
The house and senate has been dominated by Republicans more than a few times over the past three decades. We’ve yet to see any proposal for outlawing abortion- heck, the most you get is some minor hurdle in the process, and even then, only in heavily Conservative states. Right-wing politicians don’t want to repeal abortion. They want that as a carrot on a stick to manipulate their Conservative electorate. They never actually do anything about it- until election season rolls around, and suddenly it becomes a choice between them and baby-killer Liberals.
And the Liberal politicians aren’t any better. The Democrats, at the beginning of Obama’s first term, held a supermajority. They could have passed any legislation they wanted and the Republicans would’ve been powerless to stop them. But of course, they didn’t. If they did, how would they be able to scare their electorate with threats of a theocratic police state if they actually solidified pro-choice victories?
And before we finish up with these weasels, let me just hit on what I think is by far the oiliest and creepiest thing of all.
“I’m pro-life, except in cases of rape or incest.”
Think about it. It means “I believe the fetus is a human being with human rights, but if they came about through rape or incest, you can go ahead and murder ’em.”
We’ve had that sentiment come from more than a few high-ranking Republicans, including 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Seriously, if you’re gonna take that stance, why not cut out the speaking time and just wear a t-shirt with “hypocrite” written on it in big, bold letters?
Not too long ago, I read an editorial by a man describing the day he and his wife went to get an abortion. Their child had been diagnosed with “Sirenomelia” or “Mermaid Syndrome,” an extremely rare deformity in which the unborn child’s legs are fused together. Knowing that there was no chance of survival for their child, the couple chose to terminate the pregnancy, rather than subject the baby to a few hours of hellish and agonizing pain before it died. Outside the clinic, they were called murders by the pious and righteous.
It’s one thing to imagine that the opposition in the abortion debate are happily killing children, it’s another to scream at people who have no other option. How on earth is screaming hellfire and damnation at some terrified teen rape victim even effective, let alone not casting the first stone?
But hey, since these people wanna play fast and loose with scripture, lemme offer my retort.
“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
People Who Say “Isn’t It Ironic That the Pro-Lifers Try To Kill Abortion Doctors?”:
It’s not ironic.
That’s a stupid argument, and you know it.
If I go back in time and try to save millions of holocaust victims by killing Hitler, am I hypocrite? Of course not. Using that argument, and whatever smug variations there are of it, just takes away from the single voice of outraged condemnation we should all use to respond to the murder of an abortion doctor.
People Who Ran Steve Taylor Out of Business:
Once upon a time, there lived the only good Christian rocker who ever has or ever will exist. His name was Steve Taylor, and he attacked hypocrisy in the church with biting satire, brilliant lyrics, and a dance style pulled out of one of our nation’s finer mental institutions. He was so good that he was one of the earliest (and indeed, one of the only) Christian rockers to ever get featured on MTV- and all this at a time when many were decrying Christian rock as being a satanic perversion (as opposed to just being generally lousy). In short, he was a brilliant star and had a bright future- until everyone just lost their minds after they misread a clearly satirical song mocking abortion clinic bombers.
It’s a shame, people- it really is.
It seems there are as many people in this fight to make themselves feel good or holy or righteous as there are people who actually care about the outcome- and that’s not counting the politicians, who just leech off of the entire thing and play you like puppets. As for the people who do care, you’re all going to have to put aside your preconceived notions of each other if you actually care about progressing the conversation. Pro-lifers have to consider the possibility that maybe Pro-choicers aren’t homicidal maniacs, and Pro-choicers have to to consider the possibility that maybe Pro-lifers aren’t all rednecks and fascists. Maybe if people started putting the welfare of women and children first, rather than personal stunts, some good might at last come out of all us.
And until such a time…
It is funny how both groups label themselves, in such a way so as to make their argument harder to oppose. “oh, you’re not pro life? Then you must be anti-life!”. Just call them what they are, pro and anti-abortion. Also funny how most of the people claiming to be pro-choice stop being pro choice when it comes to things like economic freedom, and many of the “pro-life” group are all for life until you reach military age or are a criminal (death penalty etc).
Good read, both sides definitely have blinders on and are prone to using emotional appeals as their arguments.
Brain waves can be detected 6 weeks from conception. When exactly do pro choicers believe that the unborn baby becomes human?
There’s a lot of thought out there in the pro-choice side, I can’t speak for what their reasons may or may not be. You bring up brain waves, so I presume you really mean “When do YOU think the unborn baby becomes human?”
You’re right in saying that brain waves can be detected six weeks from conception- that’s when the foetal heartbeat begins. The basic motor functions (motor functions- not human functions) begin developing at this point. However, I don’t believe that the fetus becomes human until the mid and fore-brain begin to develop- those areas constituting the functions and elements that distinguish us from plants and animals.
The key consideration regarding the beginning and ending of life is where we place our effort. We must take action to terminate a pregnancy before brain activity begins. If we take no action, that activity WILL take place on its own.
However, we must take action to PRESERVE the life of someone whose brain activity has ceased. If we take no action, that life WILL terminate on its own.
So the question that keeps me on the pro-life side of the fence: “Can we say that working to AVERT a natural occurrence is the same thing as ceasing work in order to ALLOW a natural occurrence?” One requires our intentional effort, the other requires that we expend NO effort – no intentionality required. So to me the argument for pro-choice you described falls apart.
Thought-provoking as always, Ev.
Actually, my pal Gordon wrote this one, so any kudos you’d like to give should be directed at him.
Oh, woops. Just switch that “Ev” for a “Gordon”, because it was still thought-provoking and still as always.
Well, not really. Saying the fetus will grow to term is an assumption- any number of things could occur to keep that from happening. Death (of the mother), complications with the pregnancy, or (as happens a lot) the fertilized egg may simply fail to implant. If conception is the beginning of humanity, why aren’t we shocked by the sheer number of “miscarriages” that happen every day? Surely if conception was the beginning, anyone who didn’t do some sort of procedural implantation would be guilty of criminal negligence. Or if “prevention” is the issue, then we wind up decrying contraceptives or even everyone on the planet not getting busy every waking moment.
You’re right that I’m assuming the fetus will grow to term, but I don’t think that that assumption harms the merit of the argument. I don’t think many juries would acquit a murderer who says that his victim was planning to drive a car later on, and those things get into accidents all the time – so really, there was a strong chance his victim would have died without his involvement. That example sucks, but I’m sure you see the point. The jury would have to assume that the victim would make it home, or at LEAST have the freedom to die “naturally” in a later car accident without the murderer’s interruption.
I still think that the main consideration should be where our efforts are applied. Miscarriages tend to happen without intentional outside involvement. Abortions require intentional outside involvement. And I’m sure we all know a couple who wants a child really badly and grieves very much over a miscarriage. So there may not be culture-wide shock about miscarriages, but they aren’t viewed with indifference either. To many people, a miscarriage is losing a child that you just didn’t get to know very well.
I don’t know that we need to discover where life begins and ends in order for us to make a moral decision on this one. Is it fair for me to ask how you feel about capital punishment? Some people argue that because we often can’t know for SURE that someone has committed the crime they are charged with, we have no right to end their life. There’s no way to bring them back if we were wrong. So I’d apply the same benefit of the doubt to a fetus. We don’t know for sure where they ought to be considered human, but because we don’t know, we don’t have any right to end things earlier.
Actively preventing life by intentionally extinguishing it in its early stages and preventing it by never creating it to begin with seem like different things to me.
If God doesn’t exist, then neither do moral absolutes. In a materialist universe morality reduces to individual or societal preference, mere words we use to describe what we approve and disapprove of. In such a world abortion is fine at any point and for whatever reason (“I’m bored with carrying this baby” – “I’ve decided to go to college instead”) and there is no need to wrestle with where to draw lines along the developmental route. After all, who is there to tell you what to do?
On the other hand, if God exists and creates human life in his image, if human beings have souls and God is author of the human soul, then who is any person to step in and say, “Well, until it has achieved this or that level of development, I can kill it”? Of course there are fertilized eggs that fail to come to term. That’s God’s business. But that fact doesn’t create even a sliver of an argument for the conscious destruction of what is in reality (call it whatever we like) a little girl or boy beginning her or his life and who, if not destroyed, will have a life as meaningful as yours or mine.
Human beings develop. They develop very quickly, but they develop. The idea that because they are not conceived ready to think and talk, we can sit around with our calculators and decide how long we have to treat them as though they were nothing, is really something to think about.
Again, if we live in an atheist universe, anything goes. If God creates human life, every argument for abortion is just a way of saying God didn’t.
Hold up there a moment- there are two things I’d like to address in your comment.
Firstly you agree that there are plenty of fertilized eggs that don’t come to term, but that’s “God’s Business”. Today, however, we have the technology to massively reduce the chance of this happening, through in vitro fertilization and other methods. If life begins at conception, then any failure to use every resource available to ensure the successful implantation of the fertilized egg would constitute- if I understand my law correctly- “gross criminal negligence resulting in death”. The same line of logic would mean that any activity or behavior reducing the chance of pregnancy (smoking, stress, certain diets, etc.) would likewise constitute an act of manslaughter.
Secondly, you state that you can’t interrupt the development of the fetus. The issue here is that we’re making an assumption. If nothing happens to the mother and if nothing happens to the fetus, then it will become a human. But like I said in the post, if we use the “we can’t interrupt what may result in a human life” line of logic, then contraceptives, interrupting sex- heck, any activity not geared for the production of human life becomes then essentially manslaughter, if not outright murder.
You skip over the heart of my comments entirely to focus on a logical consistency argument that has the feel of a guy who says, “Hmmm, I should help the poor, and since the poor being fed is obviously more important than me spending time writing on FB, I should devote every waking moment to feeding the poor. In fact, anything less than devoting every waking moment to this is essentially murder and…” It doesn’t follow from the fact that human life begins at conception that everyone in the world must now devote themselves 24/7 to creating human beings. This is red herring stuff. Also you use quotation marks to indicate things i didnt’ even say. I didn’t speak of what “may result in a human life…” I said human lives develop. They are human lives — biologically, genetically distinct and separate from the mother — from the beginning.
But address my central point. What happens when God is brought into the equation? Read it again.
Maybe a better illustration would be: You say murder is wrong and I respond, “Well, then, to consistently hold that position you will have to commit yourself to keeping every person on earth alive by whatever means and at whatever cost and if you aren’t doing that then (somehow) you really can’t argue against murder.