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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Trying to understand.

After a couple of decades of doing everything possible to avoid it, our politicians are starting to talk about the abortion issue, and it's been fascinating, if disheartening, to watch it unfold.  The trigger was when our federal government announced funding for mothers' and childrens' health in disadvantaged countries.  The Liberals immediately insisted that these monies had to include funding abortions, making access to abortions out to be the thing that's most important in maternal health.  Never mind that it's no where near the top of the list when it comes to improving the health and saving the lives of the women in these countries.  Adequate food, clean water, shelter, medication and sanitation are all considerably higher.  But hey, the Liberals have been trying to pin anything and everything on the Big Bad Conservatives, and the evil, kitten eating Harper, so playing fast and loose with the health and lives of women and children in foreign nations to further their political goals doesn't seem to bother them very much.

Yeah, I'm getting rather impatient with the Liberals these days.  Does it show?

It took some doing, with plenty of help from the MSM and the usual elements in the far left, but they've managed to keep it in people's minds and force it onto our political agendas.

The weird part is that, even though it's been the Libs pushing all this and doing everything they can to turn it into some kind of scandal, it's been twisted around to being the fault of the Conservatives, our PM, and the always evil and draconian "religious right".

Now, I'm not going to delve too far into this subject at all.  I could dedicate this blog entirely to the abortion issue, and likely find fodder to talk about the issue daily for years. I don't have that kind of time to waste on a subject that is so divisive.

As I look to the subject, however, I am finding it increasingly difficult to understand the pro-abortion view.

The pro-life side is pretty easy to get.  In a nutshell, pro-lifers believe that the fetus is a unique human being, separate from the mother, and deserves the same protective rights as anyone has after they've been born.  There may be some quibbling over whether that is right from conception, zygote, or embryo.  There may be disagreement on whether abortion should be outright illegal, or if there should be limits based on trimester.  There is disagreement on whether or not exceptions should be made for cases of rape or incest, or if it's found the developing fetus is severely damaged or disabled in some way.  There may be other disagreements as well but, at the core, they all view abortion as the killing of a baby that just happens to not be born yet, and that it is every bit as abhorrent as killing a baby after it's born.  Whether or not one agrees with the various positions, one can at least understand the foundation of their position.  It's pretty clear cut.

The pro-abortion side is harder to pin down, and the current wailing and gnashing of teeth against the Conservatives, the right, Christians, etc. isn't helping to clarify things.

Here are two recent examples.

The first I read in the comments of a blog I visit.  This particular gentleman repeatedly stated that "an embryo is not a baby.  A fetus is not a baby."

This is a rather clumsy and meaningless appeal to logic. Embryo and fetus are specific stages of prenatal development.  They are even used for egg laying creatures.  Baby is just a descriptive word for the very young of a species, and is frequently used in reference to the pre-born.  After all, when a woman discovers she is pregnant, she doesn't go around announcing that she's going to have a fetus.  No one gets invitations to a Fetus Shower.  People don't ask, "when is the fetus due?"  When mothers talk to their growing bellies, they're not talking to a fetus.  Even though, from a technical standpoint, "fetus" is the correct term, "baby" is the term that's used.

Perhaps the commenter was thinking along the lines of the claim that the fetus is not a person, therefor it has no protection under the law.  This is another meaningless argument.  Until not that long ago, women in Canada weren't allowed to vote because we weren't recognised "persons" under the law.  Enslaving blacks was justified because they weren't considered real humans, either.  Similar arguments have been used to justify the killing of Jews, Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, etc.  Clearly, whether or not the law or a culture recognises a group as "people" can be at odds with reality.  Laws can, and do, change.  Women didn't suddenly become people because the law said so.  It just took an awful lot of struggle to change laws to reflect reality.

A related argument is that, because the fetus is completely dependant on the mother, it cannot be viewed as being separate from the mother.  This doesn't pass the logic test, either.  Genetically, the fetus is a unique individual from the mother at the moment of conception.  Once can argue that the zygote, for example, isn't a person because it's just a couple of cells, but by the end of the first trimester, the fetus has all its parts, right down to the fingernails and eyebrow hairs.  Currently, with our medical technology, a fetus is viable by 24 weeks, and who knows how much farther we'll be able to push that back as our technology continues to develop.  A fetus at 24 weeks gestation within the womb is no different than one that's been born prematurely and relying on medical technology for survival, except that it has a better chance of survival.

At what point does the fetus magically become a baby?  If a fetus is also a baby, when does it also become worthy of the same protective rights as any other child? 

As far as the developing fetus is concerned, the mother is a life support system.  Looking at it that way, aborting a baby isn't much different than, say, pulling the plug on someone who's in a coma and dependant on machines to stay alive.  Well, except that the coma victim has his or her machines shut off and remains otherwise intact, rather than that whole being torn apart by a vacuum thing.  Pulling the plug to allow a coma patient to die would be like killing the mother to kill the fetus.  Which happens.

I've also seen the arguments that equate abortion with miscarriage, which I find downright silly.  It would be like saying tripping and falling down the stairs is the same as being pushed down the stairs, because both resulted in death.

I'll leave off that train of thought for this next one I read recently.  A woman I know, upset because some MP said something about how we're going to have to talk about the abortion issue now, wrote that she didn't want things to go back to the way they were in the 50's, and that she'd never want one of her grandchildren to be forced to have a child she didn't want.

I'll give her props to at least acknowledging that she's talking about a child.  Even many staunch pro-abortionists know that the pre-born are babies; children that are separate from, though dependant on, their mothers.

This woman's statement is purely from the emotional point of view. Her wording, however, is perhaps the most confusing to me of all when it comes to trying to understand the pro-abortion point of view.  Aside from portraying the 50's as some sort of bizarre dark age (which shows a significant lack of historical, or even modern, cultural perspective), I am flummoxed by the image of a woman being forced to have a child she doesn't want.  It brings to mind visions of someone shoving a baby in her arms and demanding she raise it (which is not without historical precedent).   Except she's talking about an unwanted pregnancy, which brings to mind the image of a woman who's been artificially impregnated against her will.

One can bring up the usual claims of pregnancy due to rape or incest, but less than 1% of all abortions are ending pregnancies due to rape or incest combined.  So all those other women having abortions because they don't want to have children (I don't know how many are preformed for valid medical reasons; I'm not sure that data is even kept here in Canada) had to have participated in the creation of that pregnancy.  A developing fetus didn't spontaneously start growing in their bodies, like some sort of tumor, or an immaculate conception.  I find it difficult to think that women are so totally and completely unaware of where babies come from, or that they're so completely incapable of controlling their sexual desires, that if they really, really didn't want to have children, they couldn't just... you know... not have sex. 

Of course, the mere suggestion that abstinence might do a better job of preventing unwanted pregnancy than having sex and really hoping the birth control works (if any is used in the first place) has become taboo.  Quite frankly, I think this shows a rather insulting opinion of women.  Do those who reject abstinence really believe that we are too animalistic to resist our hormonal urges?  Or that we're too stupid to understand the consequences of our actions?  Or is it that "if it feels good, do it" mentality, that rejects the notion that maybe, just maybe, we should be responsible for the fallout of our behaviour?  I regularly hear the "just made a mistake," argument, but that doesn't really wash, either. It's a bit like saying you "made a mistake" by marrying the wrong person, then killing him or her instead of getting a divorce.

Right now, Canada has no abortion law.  None.  Zip.  Nada.  Contrary to current mythology, in the dark ages of the 50's, we did have legal abortions.  One could rightfully argue that these were far too difficult to acquire, and that it left women helpless under the control of men, since almost all doctors at the time were men.  Abortions could only be obtained if there was a medical need, and only if 3 doctors agreed that there was a medical need.  In the length of time it would take to get the approval of 3 doctors, the pregnancy might be too far along anyhow.  (Plus, the numbers of women back then that died because of back alley abortions were greatly - and deliberately - exaggerated, but that's a whole other issue.)

While it's generally assumed that only pro-lifers want to revisit the abortion issue, and that they all want to make all abortions illegal, this is not the reality.  There are plenty of pro-abortionists that want to revisit the issue, believing there should be limits on abortions based on how far along the pregnancy is.  Others believe that women should be free to have an abortion at any time and for any reason, but that our medicare system should only pay for medically necessary ones.  Likewise, there are pro-lifers that believe abortion is morally wrong, but don't believe they have the right to force others to abide by their beliefs - in other words, one can be both pro-life and pro-choice at the same time.

There's really only one thing for sure about the abortion issue, and that it's not a far right/far left issue, but one that's extremely complex, with people all over the spectrum, and no easy answers.

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