I had the privilege of watching Star Trek Into Darkness last weekend. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the opening scene puts Zachary Quinto’s fantastic Spock into a deadly situation, freezing a volcano in order to save a planet from certain doom. Things go wrong, as they always must, and Spock is trapped. He chooses to stay and do the job, but he cannot be rescued.
He calls back to the Enterprise and explains his logic. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Chris Pine’s Kirk has a differing view about that.
But in that moment, we see the heroism of Spock’s selfless and practical decision. One man can die to save a population from destruction. If you’ve got to go, that’s not a bad achievement to take from your death.
Now imagine the scene from another angle. Kirk lines up a few “red shirts” and says, “I am going to choose one of you for a suicide mission. You’ll save the planet, but you’ll die in the process.” And then he covers his eyes and points, or plays eenie-meenie-miney-moe, or whatever Kirkly method he chooses, and he selects his crewman. “Lieutenant Jones, it’s you.”
Jones goes to the transporter crying, screaming, fighting until he is restrained. And then he gets beamed down to the planet, ordered to ensure the detonation of a device that will kill him in the process of saving many others. Instead, he scrambles to deactivate the device, like a time bomb. Spock’s voice echoes in Jones’ ears. “It is the logical decision, Lieutenant. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of you.” And Jones fails to stop the device, it goes off, and the day is saved at the cost of Lieutenant Jones’ unwilling sacrifice.
That doesn’t play so well, does it?
Sacrifice is heroic when individuals are free to take that burden upon themselves. The man who jumps on a grenade to save his friends, the medic who pulls his comrades to safety at great risk under heavy fire, the fireman who races into the burning building to save the missing child knowing the structure may collapse at any moment… we see these as heroes and rightly so.
It’s not so moving when someone chooses to sacrifice others against their will. The leader who sends his soldiers into pointless battle for an impossible objective, the criminal who makes his fortune by deception, the deadbeat who takes care of himself while neglecting the basic needs of his children… no one views the sacrifice imposed on the victims as a heroic or praiseworthy situation.
This is what comes to mind for me when I think about “reproductive rights” and abortion in the West.
I thought of this as I was attending a Chinese class. In China, the population lives under the “One Child Policy,” the rule that only the first child receives benefits from the Communist government. I discussed this with my Chinese teacher, along with Spock’s logic. And she confirmed that Chinese society has pretty much accepted this population control as a sacrifice made for the good of the nation. The nation trumps the individual, hands down.
Not so much here. We’re very much about the individual, and their freedom and right to self-determination. Don’t impose your beliefs or values on someone else, and don’t act like there’s some universal values all should esteem. We each have the right to choose!
Yet in the case of abortion, we praise “freedom of choice” when the human beings who make the greatest sacrifice have this burden thrust upon them unwillingly. The fetus does not choose, it is chosen–or rather, unchosen. We are Kirk, sending a red shirt to their death.
I know, I’m a man, so there’s a sense that I’m automatically disqualified from speaking about a woman’s right. But I’m also a human being (as are the victims of abortion). I am also aware of the basic fundamentals of biology which reaffirm that we’re talking about ending the development of human beings during these protected procedures. We may claim that a fetus is not a “person” yet, but it is a human being at a particular stage in development.
I won’t go into the graphic details of how that development is terminated, because it is disturbing. If you so desire, google Gosnell or read about the other similar cases coming to light. Then google or wiki up some abortion procedures. Then ask yourself how it is that what Gosnell did is illegal, but when he did it to a fetus inside a womb, it’s all good.
This is a complex issue, no doubt. I don’t want women in alleys with coat-hangers, to borrow from the Planned Paranoia debate playbook. I’m not keen on abstinence-only education because it seems to me like having information is a general plus. An informed decision about contraceptives might very well prevent an informed (or uninformed) decision about abortion, so I don’t know why many of us aren’t all for that.
I also don’t much like how the Pro-Life movement comes across. Opponents rightly ask, “If you’re all for saving these unborn children and bringing them into the world, who is going to take care of them?” The implication, borne out in reality, is that as much as Pro-Lifers love charity and adoption, there’s not enough of either going on to cover the needs of all the unborn children we might have saved if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Government may be the worst at welfare programs, but if they’re the only player in the game, people take what they can get.
And there are more nuances to consider, no doubt.
I simply want to express how tiresome it is to hear the praises of “choice” in this debate. It’s like generals and politicians exercising choice to send waves of young men and women into combat.
Not quite, though.
The soldier got to raise his or her right hand and volunteer.
The fetus, not so much.