Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why abortion is murder I am okay with

The inspiration for this post comes from two things: one, the documentary I am in the middle of watching, Lake of Fire, and two, the fact that I just read The Easter Parade and a character starts to write an article about her duo of abortions but stops.

I think abortions are an incredibly tricky issue. I have been pro-choice from day one, and while I haven't wavered from that stance, my reasons for staying on this side of the debate have changed drastically.

Here's the first one: I do think that abortion is killing something, so essentially I condone murder. Before, I didn't think of a fetus as alive, just a mass of cells, even though I have seen jarred fetuses before. While watching Lake of Fire right now, they opened a scene with a glass cylinder with a tube attached, kind of a permanent, glass IV. The movie is black and white, but the cylinder abruptly filled with a fluid that could only have been bloody, pulverized mass. The camera pans right, and you see a vagina with a tube inside it. The doctor says, "It's over," and pulls out the speculum-like thing inside the vagina. Twenty weeks.

Then, because the girl was so far along, he puts the bloody mixture on a metal screen, and rinses much of it with water. He tweezes out a foot, an arm, part of the torso and head. He needs to make sure all of the baby got out for the woman's health. It's like a puzzle, like panning for gold.

That's the first operation like that I've ever seen. I assume it's dilation & extraction (or evacuation), the most common abortion procedure. I paused the doc (which, by the way, seems more pro-choice than pro-life) and immediately googled pictures of fetuses, thinking about what I would do if I were in such a situation.

It's hard. I definitely believe there is life in an unborn child, but it's a twilight life, and in between murder. The child is more alive than not, but its first breath, its integration into Earth, and being held and accepted makes it perhaps no more alive, but its existence more real and visceral.

Whenever I think of the question "When does life begin?" I think of a practice of a culture (I've forgotten which one) I studied. The babies there are not named until the seventh or tenth day. If they die before that time, they are treated differently, because they are not fully alive. To me, this seems like a practical way to deal with a high rate of infant mortality, a way to minimize the emotional impact of stillbirths and babies that die shortly after childbirth. It also shows me the range of where "life" begins. Some think it happens even before the egg is fertilized. Some think a soul is floating out there before that. Some it's at birth, some it's at conception.

I think of the legality of abortion, philosophically, as utilitarian. One is able to create more good for the mother at a time one can conveniently distance oneself from what you are truly doing. I think there are circumstances under which almost anyone would murder someone, and the unformed, unknown entity of a fetus is a particularly apt candidate. If murder is simply saying yes, pressing a button (and we know how easy that is to 'execute' from the Holocaust), then many people would do it. And do it.

Here's another thing. Even pro-lifers often hesitate when you ask the question, "If abortion were made illegal, what would you recommend as a punishment for women who have abortions [commit murder]?" No one asks for the death penalty, or even life in prison. They want the woman to recognize what she has done, to repent, to realize she has committed a sin and killed an unborn child. Which almost makes me think that they view abortion as grey murder themselves.

It's difficult to know what one would do in a situation of an unexpected pregnancy. I believe that I would seek an abortion, especially given my current situation, but I think I would also believe that I was doing something wrong and in fact selfish, and putting my needs above that of the other life. Although I think that knowing that I would not be able to provide for my child would make me feel less selfish, and more a statement of my cruel and cold practicality. I also think that if I had one abortion, I would be less inclined to have a second.

Anyway, I find the process of abortion horrific and a sad but necessary part of American society. As long as the right to choose is safe, I actually have an incredibly amount of sympathy for many pro-lifers, especially the ones without the crazy talk about a woman's place and whatnot.


Laura said...

To me it just seems crazy to value the life of this only-partially-alive thing, the fetus, above a person who is very much COMPLETELY alive, the mother.

Right now there is no way I could financially provide for a child and I think if I found out tomorrow that I were pregnant, I would definitely consider abortion as a real option. On the other hand, however, I realize that I'm educated, I have my shit together enough to not completely fuck up this child through parenting, and I have people who would help me out with money if I were in that situation. And in a year or two, I will be financially quite stable. But there are some people that really can't financially OR emotionally provide for a child, and they also don't have a safe place to raise that child. In that instance I truly believe abortion is by far a better decision than bringing that child into the world, not properly educating it, not giving it the care it needs, and letting that child basically fend for himself in an unhealthy environment -- gang in L.A., some project somewhere dealing crack, whatever -- which is going to cause more harm and suffering in the world than if the fetus were simply terminated. I don't really feel bad about saying that, either. And I don't sympathize with the pro lifers. Mostly I think they're crazy and/or living in Dreamland.

JustAddSugar said...

I totally agree with you about valuing the life of the mother over the life of the child, it's just that I've come to think differently over the "only-partially-alive" child, and its actual level of being alive.

And I think abortion has always been about values more than life. I think many pro-life people see marrying and having kids young as perfectly acceptable, whereas young liberal single people want to have a career and a bigger nest egg before they lay their egg, so to speak, which is what you're saying in your second paragraph.