Tag Archives: abortion

Innocent Because You're Guilty

There’s a response by Senator Elizabeth Warren to all the graphic Planned Parenthood videos going around–or rather, it’s a response to those who condemn PP and the abortion industry for contributing to a devaluing of human life in our culture. It basically boils down to, “You all are pretty bad about valuing life too, so there.” 

It’s the standard trope that goes like this:

“Well, if the GOP and these so-called ‘pro-life’ people are so concerned about life, then they’d be more motivated to help people in need, like immigrants and refugees, instead of trying to kick them out and build a wall. They’d be more supportive of funding those living in poverty, providing for basic care, helping that new mother out after she gives birth to the baby they’re all worried about. They’d care about the children who are the same lump of cells and tissue after birth that they were so defensive about when that was a fetus in some mother’s womb. 

“This is how you know they’re not really pro-life, they’re just anti-abortion, anti-women, anti-freedom to choose. And so, just disregard all this evidence and all these allegations, because who wants to listen to those anti-abortion types anyway?”

That’s not an exact quote. That’s just the gist of the argument, as summarized by someone else. It’s also the same stuff I’ve heard over and over from abortion defenders. 

“You’re better off not thinking about what they say. Trust us. Everything’s fine.”

Some good Left-leaning friends taught me long ago (by pointing out when the GOP did it) that “when people don’t have any defense for their position and ideas, they attack the opposition and ignore the facts.”

That’s what you see here: Distraction and misdirection.

I think Warren and others make great and valid criticisms about the GOP, or the pro-life movement, or the Religious Right, or whatever group we want to call out. We’ll talk a lot of Jesus, go after what we claim are moral and societal ills, and sing the praises of personal charity. But when it’s obvious that personal charity isn’t on the scale required to address the overwhelming need, we’re still quick to condemn government intervention and support to the poor.

Yes, those critiques are valid, deserving of not just discussion but also action. We have to practice what we preach. We haven’t always fully lived up to the moniker “pro-life.”

That doesn’t sweep arguably immoral and allegedly criminal actions under the rug.

If fetuses are being accidentally born too quickly then they’re not fetuses, they’re infants. If they’re being harvested for parts after that point, then tissue isn’t being collected for medical research, human beings are being murdered. If everything is so kosher, then explain the myriad attempts by PP officials to distance themselves in the unedited videos from public backlash or government scrutiny. All of that still matters, even if you’re right and I’m wrong about some other political issue like welfare or immigration. 

My ignorant position on that subject doesn’t cancel out your intentional ignorance of allegations of murder.

If you get pulled over for drunk driving, you can’t point at a bunch of speeding cars and say, “What about them?” expecting to avoid the consequences of your actions.

But it’s okay. “Everyone knows pro-lifers are hypocrites… so just trust us, there’s nothing to see here.”

Except there is. 

I guess maybe the eleventh video might finally drive the point home. 

Literal Litter

“Someone would be dead if I found out who did this.”

That’s an actual comment on a video post about a dog that suffered severe torture. 

It reminded me of the outrage that stirs up when someone posts a hunting picture showing off a kill. I’m not talking Cecil the Lion, where illegal activity allegedly took place, just regular hunting for sport. Usually someone declares a desire to perforate the hunter or set wild animals upon him or her. 

Back to the point: 

In addition to other mistreatment, the dog’s nose was removed. This is horrific, terrible, unconscionable, inexcusable, and a number of other words to drive home “don’t treat dogs this way.”

Not that you needed to be told, but clearly someone does.

Well then. That link appeared in my feed right below another news post about undercover videos of Planned Parenthood activities and treatment of babies no wait fetuses no I mean human tissue samples not quite right let’s try medical waste.

But I keep hearing that PP’s actions are not nearly so bad as these “heavily edited” videos claim (beside the fact that full unedited versions are available to prove nothing has been taken out of context).

And champions of women’s right to choose defend PP and condemn those who obviously are out to destroy progress. 

So I wonder how they’d respond if I said “the video of the dog is photoshopped. She has a nose, they just edited it out to make their sad story.”

Who would believe that?

Or better yet. Suppose I found and posted video of fetal dogs being carefully extracted from a mother, let’s say at 5 weeks (about the midpoint of gestation). I mean, we spay and neuter to control pet populations so maybe this fits that category. 

Let’s say I have a video of a vet saying, “Watch this, you won’t believe it,” and poking the heart of the dog fetus so that it starts beating for a short time. Or cutting through the dog’s face to remove brains for medical research.

Let’s capture that on tape and see what kind of outrage it might stir up.

Would people feel differently if that was a human fetus removed from the womb whose heart continued beating for a bit in response to stimulus?

Because that’s happening.

Would people feel differently if litters of dog “tissue” or “waste” were being sold to research facilities without the owner’s consent?

I suspect so.

Replace dog with human and owner with mother and you have a factual story about what’s taking place in America today. We’ve turned humans into litter–and not the puppies kind.

I see that as a problem. I suspect that not everyone would. Because clearly not everyone does.

Callous disregard for life is generally frowned upon. Hearing what’s going on should stir our sensibilities and make us question whether we truly condone these activities. Ignoring it or blowing it off as “edited” is immoral. 

Not that you needed to be told, but clearly someone does.

Defining Moments

A friend posted a riddle presented in his managment class. “If the day before the day before yesterday is Tuesday, what is the day after the day after tomorrow?”

I came up with Monday, since ‘today’ in the riddle seems to me to be Friday. He had the same answer. The instructor said he was wrong, and the answer to the riddle was Friday. My linguist friends and I started tearing this apart trying to sort out what the right answer is and how to arrive at it. Some argued that the conditional ‘if’ phrase is trumped by the present tense verb ‘is,’ kind of like a grammar version of PEMDAS, the rule that guides which part of a math equation one must complete first. Had the question been stated “was Tuesday” instead of “is,” then Monday would have been correct.

(Or so they claim. I have my doubts. Not to mention, searching for versions of that riddle on Google pointed toward a similar-but-clearly-worded variant, one which doesn’t play a trick based on verb tenses but simply asks the reader to figure out the puzzle. I suspect the lesson writers or instructor copied the riddle wrong from the start. But I’m arrogant about these things.)

My frustration with the explanation boils down to playing a trick of grammar rules and definitions. Rather than speak clearly, the riddle as explained by my linguist friends ignores common usage of language and depends on an oft-ignored rule that supposedly shifts the meaning completely from what is implied. It’s someone claiming a simple answer depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is–technically accurate and a proper debate tactic, but readily dismissed as shady or truth-dodging by the average person.

I thought of this little exchange when my Facebook exploded with a mixture of Cecil the Lion and all the videos about Planned Parenthood. I very nearly posted a tweet something to the effect of

Maybe if there was a market for lion parts, PP supporters could get behind hunting. #profitsmatter

Then I realized that would do no good. It alienates rather than persuades. It mocks issues people care about deeply. And I think we have plenty of that already.

I got the video link for a feminist declaring “Planned Parenthood Isn’t Selling Baby Parts, You F@#$ing Idiots” and a day later, the right-wing response “Planned Parenthood IS Selling Baby Parts, You Freaking Feminist Hosebeast.” (They also sanctimoniously called out the feminist for dropping f-bombs left and right, while they stooped to a ‘clean’ version of name-calling that is no better in my opinion.)

Meanwhile plenty of people point out the disparity between response to the PP videos and the slaying of Cecil the Lion. Plenty of tweets and posts encouraging the murder of that dentist, whether by lion mauling or by drilling him a new orifice. Whichever side of the aisle your circle of friends leans toward, no doubt you’re seeing a ton of outrage that invariably paints dissenters as morons, idiots, worthless human beings devoid of morality. “How can anyone support this?!” both sides scream, while talking about two different subjects.

We’re talking past each other. Everyone’s speaking but no one is listening.

When the right yells about baby parts, the left sighs at best or swears at them, because the legal definition in our country is “fetal tissue” or “medical waste” produced by a legal and optional medical procedure. There may be aspects that are legally questionable, like whether “sales” are taking place or procedures are being altered from what the patients consented to in order to produce better remains. But “by definition” they’re not selling baby parts, duh, because you have to remember what the definition of “fetus” is.

And the right shouts, “How can you care about a stupid lion more than you care about the horrors depicted in those leaked videos? Look at the evidence; listen to the words of the doctors and the staff.” Many will admit if pressed that they’d like to see the hunter who killed Cecil prosecuted for where he broke the law, if indeed that can be proven. But to most, it’s just a lion, and doesn’t compare with the human remains shown in the PP videos. Going from a religious or moral definition of all human life as being precious, the anti-abortion / pro-life crowd can’t help but be furious about the sale of baby parts — because you have to remember what the definition of “life” is.

We’re all heavily invested emotionally into so many various societal and cultural issues that it can be hard to hit the brakes and take a look around. Maybe it’s a debate about white privilege and the #blacklivesmatter trend. Maybe it’s the Confederate flag, or gun control. Maybe it’s a fight for rights we feel we’ve been denied, or a challenging sense that the comfortable culture we once knew is slipping and changing into something far different.

The river of outrage in this country seems neverending. It’s easy to forget that there are people just like us on both banks.

Locking in on my one point of view and refusing to consider the opposition only creates tension, division, and strife. Yes, we might never agree… but at least I can do you the courtesy of listening to find out exactly what I’m disagreeing with, and vice versa. (For example, here is a challenging view on Planned Parenthood from a Christian man faced with an impossible choice.)

I’m grateful for my friends on all sides of these discussions who are willing to have conversations and dig down to the roots of where our points of view diverge. I spent a good chunk of yesterday morning discussing the value of life and the question “When is it justifiable to kill another human being?” I don’t think either of us walked away with a different point of view, but we maintained the mutual respect we’ve developed over the years.

For me, that respect is what matters. Rather than debate words and call each other names, we’ve made sure to define our friendship first. We’ve defined our individual morality to include striving to show respect for others, and we make sure our conversations on these subjects are guided by that definition.

A mind that won’t listen can’t be changed. And when my first thought is that someone else is guilty of this, usually I figure out that it’s me.

Let’s not categorize ourselves with “us” and “them” on this or any other issue. We are not engaged in a civil war despite all the cultural issues and debates. We have to figure out how to be “we the people” because that’s what this nation is founded upon and defined by.

Is He For She For Me?

Emma Watson invited me to a party, but I’m not sure if I’m going to accept.

Her speech at the United Nations for the start of the He For She campaign was all the rage on my Twitter feed.

I listened to the speech with interest after hearing that it riled up a bunch of dissenters. What could she have suggested to get such angry responses?

She suggested such lofty goals as equal pay for equal work. Or girls receiving the same access to education as boys. Or girls not being married off like property while they are still children.

I agree with her on all those things.

She also suggested that feminism shouldn’t have a negative connotation, nor should it be a “women’s thing.” Hence the campaign, intended to call up support from men who agree with the above. It’s not enough for women to say “I’m for equality.” We need men to say it too, not just with words and tweets, but with actions in the public and political spheres.

She said:

“I want men to take up this mantle, so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I grew up getting picked on sometimes (even as an adult), because where other boys would play football or whatever “real guys” do, I was happy to draw comics, play piano, or cook my favorite foods. When my crew in the Air Force would go drinking or fishing, I would go to the Chapel (a reliable place to find a piano) or library. I had a crewmember express shock that I was married with (at the time) a child on the way. “Dude,” he said, “I thought you were gay!”

Nope. Just human. Just an individual who does things differently than you.

If Emma Watson wants people to be free of gender stereotypes like that, I happily agree.

She also said:

“Both men and women should be free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”

You bet! I know some really strong women. And it seems to me that they’ve paid a steep price for being that way. What would be accepted or even respected in a man is often treated like a threat in a woman, at least from what I’ve seen. It should not be so.

Great points, Ms. Watson!

That said, there was something that caught my ear about the speech.

While on the one hand, she said “everyone’s invited to the table, everyone’s welcome to join the conversation,” this was immediately followed with “women should be in control of their own bodies.”

If I disagree with Ms. Watson (and I’m sure I do) about abortion–what it means, whether it is morally acceptable, when life begins, what life is worthy of legal protection–am I welcome to the table? Am I permitted to join the conversation?

More importantly, what kind of conversation will that be?

Just a guess
Just a guess

Because it seems patently obvious that there is one accepted right answer on this subject, and it is the answer Ms. Watson already possesses.

There might be an RSVP on my invitation from Ms. Watson, but there’s no point in responding if my contribution is going to be ignored.

Choosing She or Me

There’s an UpWorthy video popping into my Facebook feed, a Fisheye Moments presentation of a poem by the (seemingly quite talented) Leyla Josephine. The poem is titled “I Think She Was a She.”

There’s some strong language, and hey, it’s about abortion, so if either of those things is going to rile you up, you’ve been warned.

The video lays out a case for women’s rights, and specifically for the right to choose on the subject of abortion. It could be viewed as a touching presentation of “what might have been,” a powerful expression of womanhood untamed, and an honest grappling with the variety of emotions that the subject of abortion brings to light.

But there was something about the logic and the in-your-face presentation that nagged at me.

So, since I’m on the ignorant “putting government in your body” side, I thought I’d respond.

I’m sorry, I’m ignorant, I’m stuck in the past
I’m hung up on views that are never going to last
You can say what you like about me, I guess
Because Lord knows sometimes my side should have said less
But we judge and condemn and put down and cry murder
Not considering that this separates our sides further
Not thinking about the woman, we’ll hurt her
With good-intention defenses for the fetus within her.

But let me back up and try to hear what you said
Because your message is all about the story in your head
The hypothetical girl in a fantasy world of what might have been
If she had only come later, instead of back then
You want me to understand you’d have been a great mother
Investing and serving the needs of another
Marking the wall and taking care of it all
Answering the call of responsibility
For this small child you say “who’d grow up to be
And look just like me”
Because she could have been born, had you been ready.

But just after that speech you try to persuade
Any who listen that there was no other way
Or that this mother-to-be, herself still just a girl
Would not, could not handle bringing a child into the world
Due to lack of maturity at such a young age.
She could have been born… at some later stage

I’m sorry, I’m ignorant perhaps to your pain
But the two sides of this story don’t add up to your claim
You’d have me believe you’d be the best parent
Then tell me it’s such a daunting task that you daren’t
Which is it then? Because when I hear your views
You want me to see that you really couldn’t choose
As though this experience was forced upon you,
The only sensible reaction to the unexpected news
You’ll tell me you’d die for that girl’s right to be free
But death is far harsher than responsibility
And you wouldn’t give up the life you desired
To become the perfect mother your story required
But if the roles were reversed, you’d lay down your life gladly?
I’m sorry, I’m ignorant, I can’t buy it, sadly.

Declaring “I’m willing to die for you”
Easy to say, much harder to do
What about choosing to live for her instead,
So that your actions would have proven what your poetry said?
I’m sorry, I’m ignorant, I can’t agree with your views
Nor celebrate the death caused by your right to choose.

UpWorthy makes the point that it takes a lot of courage to talk about the deeply personal stuff in our lives. I agree. I respect Ms. Josephine sharing her views on the subject.

I believe I’m free to disagree with them. That’s my choice.

Who Is My Neighbor?

There’s a new Golden Rule in some parts of America, and it goes something like this:

“Do unto others according to the amount of taxes they pay to your government.”

I saw a link on my Facebook feed where a Tea Party group is enraged because illegal immigrants were given government EBT cards to purchase food. Various groups scream on social media with headlines designed to inflame instead of inform.

“Those are taxpayer dollars!”

“We have vets who go homeless while illegal immigrants are housed. It’s not fair!”

All this (predominantly Right-Wing) fury makes me wonder.

I think of someone the Right often claims as one of their own: Jesus. Specifically, I think of when the lawyers and religious leaders came to Him asking “What is the most important commandment?” The story is captured in Luke’s Gospel (chapter 10, starting in verse 25ish)

He boiled it down to “Love God with everything, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

One of the lawyers looked for the loophole in this broad and sweeping command. Luke writes, “He, wishing to justify himself, asked ‘Who is my neighbor?'”

Great question. Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan who encounters a victim in need. The Samaritan goes out of his way to take care of someone his culture said was his enemy. Jesus asks, “So who was the victim’s neighbor?” The answer the lawyer gives is: “the one who shows mercy.”

I for one would like my government, my society, and my country to be known for mercy.

The argument I hear is, “Well, why not let citizens be charitable instead of giving away tax dollars and American money to all these people?” It’s the same argument for doing away with or cutting back welfare and other forms of aid to the poor. Why can’t we let individuals and faith-based organizations give and serve, so that our government can use the money to take care of America’s other pressing needs?

Sure! That would be great… if enough people were doing it that government didn’t have to step in. But that’s not happening. Not enough individuals or charitable organizations are stepping up to the plate. So it’s either let people suffer because they’re not Americans, or because of their supposed and presumed bad life choices, or because hey life sucks and not everybody wins.

Or we can show mercy.

Mercy is costly. Mercy takes away from our resources to meet the needs of another. Mercy doesn’t focus on who “deserves” it.

Yeah, it’s your tax dollar. Sure, there’s a lot our government could do better. Of course I want immigrants to follow legal methods. No, when you boil it down to an overly simplistic question, I don’t think it’s fair that a veteran might go homeless while someone who’s not even a citizen gets cared for. Sure, I do wonder whether we’re feeding people we’ve detained while sorting out what to do with them, or handing over a bunch of electronic money without any concern for who we’re giving it to.

But Jesus didn’t say, “Suffer the law-abiding citizens to come unto Me.” He didn’t tell a tale of the Good Taxpayer who ensured his denarius was spent only on his nation’s citizens. I have a hard time picturing Christ flipping tables where detained illegal immigrants are being served food, or chasing the immigrants out of Wal-Mart.

And I remember the symbol of hope Ameica is to many on distant shores (and across distant borders). The plaque on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say, “Give me your wealthy, give me just your best and brightest, give me those who have no needs and no worries.”

It doesn’t say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your outcasts… so I can send them back, rejected.”

There are better ways, perhaps. Reforms are needed, and a balance has to be found between a secure border and an open welcoming society.

But I feel like this pic from the Left calls the Right out on a political and philosophical disconnect.


Let us not be those who, wishing to justify indignity and indifference, ask “And who is my neighbor?”

Pro-Choicers, Please Stop

I know, I know, another abortion post. And who cares about my opinion on this matter, anyway? I’m sure you all have your own, for or against. After seeing some very poor arguments on the subject, I just have to get some things off my chest.

If you’re pro-choice, you should care about my opinion, because I am here to help you, even though we disagree.

The fact is, a lot of you sound like tools. Stop it, for your sake and mine.

I hear a lot of arguments supporting the right of a woman to choose. Unfortunately, many of them are nonsense. I thought I’d be helpful and make a list.

1. Being a man, who are you to think you have a useful opinion on this?

Well, I thought I was a human being possessed (like most of us) of the capability for rational thought that allows me to observe evidence, consider facts, develop conclusions, and make value judgments about various things like we all do every day. It is both ludicrous and illogical to say that because I have not experienced a thing, I am incapable of making any judgment about that thing.

I have murdered exactly zero people in my life. Yet I am capable of coming to a conclusion about murder. I don’t want to do it. I don’t believe it is acceptable to murder people in cold blood.

Besides, I am able to speak to women who have had children and who have terminated pregnancies. I am able to consider medical procedures and their implications. How do we debate or establish medical ethics for as-yet-untried procedures or technologies if only those who have experienced them already get to weigh in on the matter? We use past evidence, past observations, past precedents, and we make a judgment, then evaluate whether that judgment holds true moving forward. We engage in healthy debate.

So stop stifling it by saying half of humanity has nothing to say on the matter.

2. It’s just a lump of tissue.

I suppose that’s accurate. I mean, so am I, and so are you, if that’s how you want to see things.

You’re also a human being, probably somewhere in the adult phase of development. That thing in the mother’s womb is also a human being. It’s a scientific fact that a zygote or embryo or fetus is a human being at an early stage. Those cells are alive and growing. They are living tissue that makes up a human being. Understand that part of why abortion supporters sound so callous to the opposition is because – to the opposition – you are talking about terminating a developing human being, not just removing an unsightly mole.

The debate becomes about when life begins, and how much do we value life. And we can have a reasonable debate about such things, so long as we still permit discussion of ethics in medicine.

But it’s not as simplistic a subject as some would like, and treating it as such does disservice to your arguments.

3. You just want to control women.

Honestly I don’t give any thought to what women (or men) are doing in the bedroom. Choices have consequences. That’s life. Risk STDs, risk pregnancies, risk emotional pain, live it up, enjoy physical pleasures, experience heights of ecstasy. Whatever.

But you’re still defending terminating a human being. I don’t want to control women (or men). I want to defend the women (and men) who don’t have a voice or the strength to defend themselves. This is why I break ties with some traditional Pro-Lifers who will say that contraception and sex education are bad things. I’d rather someone learn to use a condom than learn to choose a Dilation and Extraction.

4. You pro-Lifers don’t really value life. Look at the death penalty.

You actually make our case for us here, while revealing the flaws in your own. First, we do value life. We value it so dearly that when someone chooses to commit a pattern of crimes endangering or ending the lives of others, we feel that the threat they pose to the life of another is too great to justify the risk of further criminal activity. When actions establish a threat to society, we believe – due to the value we place on the lives of others – that the threat should be eliminated. Choices have consequences.

Almost every pro-choice person I know feels the same way about eliminating threats when life is in danger. One of the key provisions pro-choice advocates demand is that exception to abortion restrictions must be made if the pregnancy is a threat to the life of the mother. In other words, if that fetus is a risk, we have the right to eliminate that risk.

Pro-choice advocates are talking about possibilities and chances of danger based on past evidence. Supporters of the death penalty are operating on the same concern. There’s plenty of room for debate about the effectiveness of the police, legal, and judicial systems, and due caution must be made to ensure only those proven guilty are punished.
But please stop pretending that we don’t value life. We advocate eliminating the threat posed by the guilty, not the innocent

5. You pro-lifers don’t really value life. Look at guns.

Guns are a means of self-defense that we support based again on the value of life. My life and the lives of my family members are valuable to me, and I am eager to eliminate immediate threats to my loved ones. Guns are a tool to serve that purpose. We advocate legal ownership because it’s a Constitutionally-protected right and because it’s a way of protecting those we care about. We resist attempts to make guns illegal or place undue restrictions on ownership because gun control laws are demonstrable failures.

You don’t even believe in gun control, so stop acting like you do. If you believed in gun control, then you wouldn’t bring out the old saw about coat-hanger back-alley abortions. “If you make it illegal, it’s still going to happen, it’ll just be worse than before.” Sorry, are you shooting down your gun control argument or are you defending legal abortion? I forget, because there’s an obvious logical contradiction.

Certainly there’s a place in our society for reasoned debate. Nobody needs a rocket launcher or .50 caliber machine gun mounted on their minivan. Maybe handguns aren’t 100% evil too. Let’s talk and find a middle ground.

6. Like euthanasia, the individual mother’s choice deserves respect. No one else should choose for another.

We Pro-Lifers go nuts about cases like Terri Schiavo because we value life. Pro-Choice advocates reasonably argue that, when facing terminal illness or the ravages of old age, if an individual wants to die, why should we deny them that right? And they think us mad when we disagree, because that individual had the opportunity to choose, and choice is inviolate. Who are we to choose for them?

Again, the Pro-Choice position is inconsistent. The mother gets to choose for the fetus all the time, and we treat that decision as sacred. If the individual’s choice is so important then why doesn’t the developing human get a choice in the matter? Hey, maybe we should wait and get his or her take on whether they want to be prematurely euthanized.

7. What about cases of rape and incest?

Before I make a point on this, let me refer you to #1. Even though I’m not a woman, I get to talk about this because like you, I have a brain and the ability to process information and make judgments.

Rape is horrific and unacceptable. Incest is terrible. I do not condone these things or defend them in any way. No one should be subjected to such abuse.

Still, based on that debate about what constitutes life and what life is worth protecting, some Pro-Lifers are going to advocate for abortion to be illegal even in these cases. Is that ballsy? Is that hateful? Is that “rare chutzpah,” as a friend put it? Do the math. If I think that a living human being is about to be terminated solely for the crime of existing, then I’m going to oppose that. If I think that we’re talking about killing innocent human beings, I will believe we are compounding a tragedy. It would be rare chutzpah for me to stand by and say nothing.

There are some arguably good ways and many obviously wrong ways to make these cases. These subjects are tremendously sensitive and merit every ounce of compassion one can muster. I want to smack Pro-Lifers who get aggressive in the face of a victim of rape or incest. Their tactics can be vile and hateful, doing far more harm than any supposed good.

Still, meaningful discussions can and should take place, based on the assumptions we all bring to the table about the beginning and the value of life.

8. Abortion should be legal – if not up to birth then at least up until the fetus is viable on its own. It’s just a parasite until then.

Yes, I know (thank you, science) that the developing human being receives resources from the mother during gestation, and can’t survive outside the womb on its own until… well, what is it, a 50% chance of survival at 24 weeks now? We keep getting better at saving the lives of babies born prematurely. Yay technology!

But I’ll tell you what. Just because a newborn comes out of the womb, that doesn’t mean it’s “viable on its own.” Try leaving an infant on the table right after birth (I mean, if that’s not already common practice at the local clinic). Is that baby going to survive? My eight year old is still a parasite on my resources and his mother’s sanity. My soon-to-be 15 year old is even worse, if that’s possible. The same folks talking about when a fetus is or isn’t naturally viable on its own are the ones telling me all about how it takes a village to raise a child.

So long as it’s a fetus up to a point, it can be terminated and that’s fine, I’m told. Actually, left alone in the womb, the fetus is generally going to be naturally viable. Let nature run its course, and in nine months, most likely, you’ll have a baby. It’s such a natural process that we see news stories of new mothers who had no idea they were pregnant.

It’s not some invader stealing from the mother. It’s a developing human doing exactly what nature intends it to do, in the only place it could possibly be at that stage, the part of a mother’s body that is designed or evolved expressly for the purpose of protecting and sheltering the unborn human being until birth.

9. Keep your religion out of my body.

Well I kept religion out of this whole series of arguments, so we have a deal. How about you likewise keep your dogmatic views about your personal freedom out of that developing human individual’s body?

The Needs of the You

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.