If you happen to be an ardent secularist, or a person that finds my views unsavoury because I happen to come from a religious tradition, or just don’t like that I happen to disagree with a secular consensus on this issue, please don’t bother to read this. The discussion on the subject of abortion has gone to such ridiculous dimensions, full of non-sequuntur (or is that non-sequiturs), that we are no longer even talking about actual people – and so I apologise in advance if this appears more a screed than anything else.
I mean no disrespect to the women who have had to undertake such a drastic step – in fact, my heart bleeds for them – it is primarily the discourse with which I have a problem – it sidesteps the greater debate about preserving the equality and dignity of women…not just despite the fact that they have a womb…
Dear readers – here is my first rant in God-knows how long… I have not slept, and so I am trying to tire myself out by putting down all my current thoughts on this subject. That said, you will clearly be able to tell that I am no moral philosopher nor have any command over modal logic – these are my visceral reactions to some of the rather tiring things I hear. I will offer unsophisticated arguments to what I see as very unsophisticated arguments that I read.
In the last couple of years or so, I’ve begun to find myself overwhelmingly in what will be called the ‘pro-Life’ camp in the debate surrounding the termination of a life in the WOMb of a WOMan… (see a connection? Maybe not linguistically correct but it says something profound about the incredible biologic and spiritual function a woman plays in relation to the man).
Part of this has something to do with my disillusion with that liberal secularism in the West – the principles upon which it stands are flimsy at best – we find ourselves in a situation where we insist on protecting and preserving the most vulnerable of our society, yet it seems to conflict with the apparent right to be sovereign over one’s body).
Recently, in the UK anyhow, the debate has produced great dicta of sophistry:
“This is a legally decided matter – the issue has been resolved.”
With a lack of moral clarity over the matter, the secular age has resorted to the free-consensus of the general, sentient population to legislate upon moral issues. Try as they might – in an age driven purely by the discourse of ‘don’t infringe upon my rights to do anything’, there is an utter conflict. Surely Hitler and his power-apparatus alone weren’t solely responsible for the tragedy of the mass and industrialised killings of the first half of the twentieth century? Whether or not the people had legislative power, no doubt a general consensus was a necessary reason for the events that tragically ensued.
But what about propaganda, or the (mis)guiding of the discourse from the top, resulting in a sort of mass hysteria or a delusion…? Well, good point. But then what about the case of the discourse from the bottom, as the top, which says “these are my rights and therefore I can…” without giving a thought to the rights of whoever exists within the womb?
What about the fact that ‘religious views ought not be involved in the legislative process’ – what about the fact that those religious traditions represent a broad church of those for whom values are sacred and moral judgements more founded than mere ‘consensus’-politics… is this not an equal steering of the discourse by systematically excluding voices in a hard secularist paradigm.
For example – despite a large protest from Catholic, Islamic, conservative/Orthodox Jewish, conservative Christians, and many other religiously affiliated groups – the matter is not resolved on terms of “what are the moral consequences for the soul [which won’t exist in this discussion],” “or where is the fundamental sacredness of life in this debate?” “Why is the termination of a life of an unconscious fetus more significant than that of an equally unconscious animal?”
“How dare you tell me what I can do with my womb?”
Is this the epitome of hubris? There’s all sorts of things that I can and cannot do with my body upon which we legislate for reasons that seem liberal and democractic. I.e. I am not allowed to, say, use my hands – from which the sustenance of my child is produced – to beat my child to the edge of his life… why? Because it is an abuse of a vulnerable entity – concious or otherwise – the law applies equally to my five year old as it would my newborn.
I am not allowed, for example, to kill my cat because I find myself in dire financial straits or find it untenable to continue to let it live. Why? Same reason – this being is perhaps less conscious than my five-year-old yet for some reason, its life is protected also?
“I’m not pro-abortion, I’m merely pro-choice…?”
What if one was to say that your right to choose directly affected the right to life of the unborn, over which you seem to insist upon full sovereignty? Could you imagine saying that about a newly-born child who is still entirely dependent in its existance over you… Why do you get to decide when life actually begins, if, in theory, the sovereignty that you wish to express physically will impact that child in the same way – that it will find itself dead – only in both cases, fetus and newborn, it is not conscious and has no cognition over what you will do in deed that would directly affect it…
Height of doublespeak here, I feel, the clause may as well read “I’m merely pro-choice [to abort]“ What is to be said of the fact that “I am pro-choice [to end a life]” or “I am pro-choice [to kill a human being that had no choice in the matter of coming into existence, but, for the most part, was as a consequence of my consensual act of sexual intimacy]”
Why omit words? Why not say it like it is – should this be such a straightforward issue in terms of the moral discourse…?
“This is a decision of the woman and not the man, should she so choose.”
– there is a very dark irony in relation to this one, considering we have a host of absenteeism when it comes to fathers. There is something so fundamentally jawdropping that the woman who claims she can decide to end the life of that child (which she ultimately carries to full=term), equally feels that the father of her soon-to-be-born ought to have positive role in his or her life… Of course, this is a rhetorical generalisation, but for God’s sake…
Nor am I saying that one sufficiently leads to the other – but for some reason we have systematically excluded men from the discussion and not, in this secular, radically feminist (and I speak as a feminist) age where there is almost a guilt-complex meaning that men are somehow excluded from the discourse regarding an act in which they were involved, in which resulted in the beginning of a human being…?” They might say – “ah, but this is only a ‘potential‘ human being”… to which I could say a fatuous thing such as…
and this is an extreme example (but follow my thought here) –
“I am pro-choice to abort the life of my middle-aged mother – who is disabled that I help to look after – to save her, and me, the indignity and costs of her old age,” Sound ridiculous? I have equal sovereignty over her life, and if she is severely disabled I am the one upon whom she depends entirely – whether or not she happens to know it.
Why the hell not? After all – she merely has the potential of becoming an old person… why not save her, and more importantly, me, the heartache?
Our secular mentality is at a complete contradiction – whereas we give rights to those that don’t even know they have it, we still insist that our own self-mastery can in some, rather peculiar cases, override those rights of others because of the fact that the agent is conscious and has an upper hand in the balance of power between child-and-parent.
What is happening to [our – for yes, men have a stake in them too] women today – in what situations are they finding themselves – that for financial or social reasons, they feel often compelled, in their best interest, to have to end the life of the child? We are failing our women. This provision has merely sidestepped the issue of gross inequality toward women. It seems utterly unfeminist to have to lead to a situation where a woman feels compelled to undertake such an undignifying procedure – in an age in which we want women to be seen for all that they are, including the half of the species that will inevitably nurture future generations, – we have done a grave disservice to them.
As the feminist writer, Daphne de Jong, says (according to this) “If women must submit to abortion to preserve their lifestyle or career, their economic or social status, they are pandering to a system devised and run by men for male convenience.”
“Well I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant, was I?”
Sure, your pregnancy wasn’t a choice, but did you seriously think that that absolves you from the duty of nurturing a child if you chose to have sex? Why are they not teaching people anymore that a child is a natural consequence of sexual intercourse? Is this a form of cognitive dissonance?
Why are we not taught that whatever our acts, however safe we are, the sexual act isn’t merely something that we ought to do and bear no responsibility for the outcome? Reminds me of those sex-ed campaigns that teaches teenagers that they have a right to orgasm daily…
What if a doctor didn’t treat a car-crash victim because she hadn’t attempted to get run over by a car when she crossed at a zebra crossing? Okay, a little indulgent sophistry on my part… Yup, his responsibilities end for some reason? Do your responsibilities of being a parent to a child cease just because you took some precautions, knowing full well that there was a tiny possibility even of your pregnancy?
We’ve become a sex-obsessed culture. Richard Dawkins and the late Chris HItchens used to speak about (as David Berlinski aptly summarises), their moral judgements are based upon the fact that each human being can solve all his problems (and get rid of those pesky religious arguments) if they happen to have a great sex-life. Uninhibited, unfettered. All problems solved therefore.
We seem under the illusion that giving way to our own pleasures as a primary right – something wholly alien to the pre-modern age where rights were (though some were of course repressed, women in particular) were treated as moral propositions that had to be exercised with great judgement. That there was no such thing as an uninhibited right. And then they believe that if indeed all precautions are taken, it would reduce the number of abortions in sum. Well the evidence is of course far to the contrary. Liberal sex-ed programs in New York, for example, have not stopped abortions in genocidal proportions. Have a listen…
Father Robert Barron, the philosopher and priest, makes an excellent case in which he outlines what has happened to the rates of abortion despite all of these measures. His case is excellent, and very solid I think, and is worth paying attention to.
I shall end there. No conclusions at all…