My wife and I both gazed in amazement. We were looking at a tiny person on a screen; my son’s first sonogram. Emotions ran high; this was it. Our baby; small, wonderful and precious.
Six years later our friend Alice was pregnant with her second child. He was diagnosed with Tay Sachs at 22 weeks; a genetic disorder with a 100% mortality rate by age five. Alice opted for abortion.
The drama surrounding Judge Kavanagh brought these memories back; as well as those of past conversations. A few points that stood out and are worth discussing. The people quoted will remain anonymous.
“I wouldn’t want anyone deciding for me what to do with my life. So how does a baby deserve any different?”
We, as a society, are obsessed with people’s right to live so much so that we’re beginning to protect those who took someone else’s life. Twenty states have now abolished the death penalty.
In doing so, they allow someone to live who made a conscious decision to take that right from someone else. Even when other states convict, they allow every opportunity for appeal to make sure that we don’t wrongfully take someone’s life. It doesn’t make sense, then, that we would take that right from someone who hasn’t had an opportunity to decide what kind of person they want to be.
“How is it that we value a fetus on the same level as a grown woman; to justify forcing her to do something against her will for the sake of rights of something that isn’t even a fully developed human?”
Maybe it’s the dork in me, but this makes me think of the Iliad. In one scene, a son is urged to instruct his mother to marry a man. A teacher of mine once commented “Can you imagine how low a status women held in ancient Greece? Here’s a son in a position of power over his mother; able to instruct her to marry”. Her own son’s status is valued over her own self-determination; for no other reason than he’s a man. When looking at it this way, it feels as though we haven’t made much progress in the 2,700 years since the Iliad was written.
“But she already decided when she decided to have sex”
Asssuming she had a choice, there’s something to be said for consequence; for living with your decisions. When you take the right to life of the child into consideration then you aren’t forcing a mother so much as giving the child a chance. In this case, pregnancy followed by adoption is a good way to protect both the right of the mother and the unborn child.
Adoption isn’t the same in every state, but it is a strong possibility. In fact, it may be possible for the parents to receive the child back even after adoption. My wife saw this happen first-hand. When we lived in Connecticut, her boss adopted a child, cared for him for eleven months and was then forced to give him back to his birth parents. Under Connecticut law biological parents have twelve months after birth to change their mind.
“Pregnancy should not be a punishment”
Pregnancy should be something that’s wanted. As a parent, I can’t tell you that there are days that seems far off from the truth. But it’s safe to say that most parents (myself included) are happy most of the time to have their children in their lives. There’s something to be said about preserving the idea that having a child is a wanted reward and a should be a goal; not a negative consequence of an in-the-moment decision, an added burden of victimhood (as in rape) or a terrible medical risk.
At this point, you might be wondering about my stance. I’m pro-choice. I always have been. The difference now is that I understand why someone would be pro-life. Actually I respect this idea, even though I disagree. My understanding has led me to believe that abortions should be minimized.
To successfully decrease the number of abortions, however, we must take a practical approach; provide women with universal access to contraception, sex education and plan B starting as soon as most girls hit puberty. This approach will prevent, in many cases, the unwanted formation of anything that resembles a baby. Timing is key.
Late term abortion should be illegal, as it is in most states. By this stage there’s a strong chance the mother (or parents) have had ample time for consideration; that and by then the “unborn” baby is pretty much a baby. I’m ok with making abortion illegal after the first trimester, but only if it isn’t a case of rape, incest or terminal illness for the child or mother; and only if contraception and sex education are universal. If the mother/parents have every opportunity to stop the pregnancy, then at some point they give up their choice by default. In absence of the exact set of laws that lead to such outcomes, I remain pro-choice in all situations except late term. I have two reasons for my stance.
My first reason is that when it comes to choosing between the rights of an unborn baby vs it’s mother, I go with the mother. However cruel it may sound, it simply isn’t a level playing field of suffering. A grown adult with the ability to feel, the faculty of reason and the capacity for forming memories of agony is certainly greater affected than a fetus; who will never know what happened. The two are incomparable. It may sound harsh, even archaic; but such is life. Empathy has its limits in utility.
My second reason for being pro-choice is simple; I’d want the option. I would never want to be in the position of having a baby that I didn’t want; regardless of the situation. It only makes sense that I’d want others to have it too.