- Aug 10, 2006
Item 12; in which abortion is NOT an matter of the right to life, & NOT a women's rights issue.
[I originally wrote this in '06, but added a bit 24Mar2012. I tend to be on the liberal / progressive side of most things - but as I say in my blog's header, I am not beholden to a "side". This is one of those times.]
[Looking at it objectively, I have to say that the conservative right is wrong on this issue - but they are wrong for the right reason. The left is right, but just by lucky coincidence. They are right for the wrong reason.
Now, you might think that as long as they get it right, that's all that matters - but you would be wrong.
Because the country is divided pretty evenly right and left in this country, and its a very important issue. The arguments pro-choice people make have no affect on public opinion, because they are ignoring the actual issue. If we give up on convincing people it has anything to do with women's rights or reproductive freedom, and instead focus on addressing the "life" part of pro-life, we have a much better chance of actually swaying the opinion of the people on the other side.]
Why the hell is it so hard for both sides (of the abortion issue) to see that it is NOT a question of morality, and it is NOT a question of women's rights?
It comes down one philosophical / scientific question:
At what point can you consider something human?
Under that framework, the center of what makes you you is not actually your brain - your brain just handles the mundane day-to-day tasks of running you body and housing your thoughts - it is your soul. Your soul is something ephemeral and intangible, and it gives you your consciousness and feeling and humanity. And the soul is not something that develops gradually in a process of biological development. Our biology is just a shell. The important part is the soul, and that part is injected directly by God.]
[No one argues that a woman in labor should be able to have an abortion. Right after birth, the baby is still connected to the woman by the umbilical cord. Its part of her body, so why shouldn't she still have the right to destroy it? The argument then is that at that point the baby could survive outside of her, making it a viable human. With that reasoning it should be legal to "abort" a premature baby, because they actually can not survive outside its mother on their own - they survive only because we have created technology to simulate the womb artificially. Destroying a premature baby after birth but before severing the umbilical cord would be considered abortion, not murder, because it couldn't survive on its own and it is still connected to its mother's body.
That sounds ridiculous, extreme, and irrelevant, right?
If we return to the framework of the true believer, an embryo has a soul. The physical body doesn't really matter very much. There is no concrete division between embryo and fetus, between pre-brain development and post-brain development.
When you tell someone who believes this that abortion should be a right of a woman, because it is her body, that sounds as absurd and obviously immoral as the scenario I just described above.
But then there are all the people in the middle. Not necessarily fundamentalists, but not experts in biology either. They may not have a die-hard conviction that God injects the soul at the moment of conception, but the argument they hear from the fundamentalists FEELS right.
This feeling is shared by liberals; see: http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/09/unborn-humans-and-social-conservatives.html
If you feel the need to have concrete answers to everything, there are only two points you can pick where something dramatic happens: at conception, and at birth.
If, in fact, we could say for certain that an embryo was human, there would be no debate. Everyone would agree that abortion was wrong. On the other hand, if we could say for certain an embryo was not human, then it would be obvious that abortion is ok.
Notice that, in either scenario, the thoughts, feelings, needs, and preferences of the mother do not come into play. If an embryo isn't human, then abortion is ok regardless of whether women should have rights.]
The pro-life crowd at least gets what the issue is. That's why I say they are wrong, but for the right reason. They have the correct question. They are just wrong about the answer. The pro-choice side is focused on an argument that isn't even relevant to the debate.
There are billboards up stating things like: "brain formation has begun by week 5", with a picture of a cute infant beside it, but there is no message pointing out that it is barely more than a bastula at that point: only 5-10mm big, with no face, no bones, no intestines, no separate fingers, and no ability to think or feel or even react.
|By week 7, it's as much dinosaur as human. It literally has a tail. It could make the basis of a terrible alien creature in a movie, and if you saw one coming at you you would probably look for something to smash it with.|
Not until week 15 does it begin to move, and not until week 22 does it have a fully distinct heart beat. The brain still has substantial developing to do as late as week 30.
The image the lay person has, thanks to the pro-life movement, of as embryo is a fully formed, fully conscious, human. This is simply not the reality.
If the debate were centered around exactly what point during the 3rd trimester it actually becomes human, there would be no threat of conservatives trying to push the law towards restricting or banning all abortions instead of just late-term abortion. It is reasonable that there should be some debate about 3rd trimester abortion, because it really isn't clear, scientifically and philosophically, whether the fetus is a legitimate human or not.
Because there is no voice countering the message that an embryo is human, people who don't know any better are going to be swayed by that argument.
Meanwhile, the left makes ridiculous arguments like that it is hypocritical to support the death penalty while supporting abortion (as though there couldn't possibly be a reasonable distinction between protecting innocent life and protecting all life) in order justify the forgone conclusion they have made that the opposition is actually evil and are just trying to oppress and control women.
It is easier to vilify the other side, to make them into an "other", than it is to try to understand them.
We have no one to blame but ourselves. Its time the pro-choice movement becomes right for the right reason.]