Abortion and Pro-Choice
In the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe versus Wade, a prior 1850s Texas law was negated when the court decided that the plaintiff’s right to privacy in her petition to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, had been violated under the Fourteenth Amendment. Key elements of this decision that are often forgotten include the fact that this right is not absolute and must be balanced against both the health of the pregnant woman as well as the developmental stage of the fetus.
The ruling also does define the right to life of a fetus once it reaches a point of viability such that it can survive on its own outside the uterus. This is a medically defined physiologic and biologic point usually occurring at about 24 weeks. In addition, it preserves a State’s right to proscribe the late term abortion of a viable fetus unless there is compelling evidence that in not doing so, such as the mother’s health or life being at serious risk.
In the United States today, eighty percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal. In fact, half of the annual 1.5 million abortions are performed within the first eight weeks of pregnancy while 90% are performed within the first twelve weeks. In general, the number of abortions occurring after this point numbers less than one percent. These statistics reflect a conscious choice to either have the child or not. Nature itself takes a hand in naturally aborting up to as many as sixty percent of conceptions.
Nature also takes a hand in the fact that three percent of pregnancies can result in a severe fetal abnormality. Fortunately, amniocentesis can detect many of these potential problems, which allows time for parental counseling. Unfortunately, however, the science of amniocentesis sometimes requires up to twenty weeks of fetal development to allow detection of one of several hundred potentially severe fetal abnormalities that may prompt a woman or family to seek termination of the pregnancy.
Abortion is an emotionally charged subject. It is a topic rife with opinion and value judgments. The problem is that the controversy surrounding the subject is for the most part fomented and kept in the limelight not by those people who have the abortions, but by those people who believe that no one should be able to have one.
Whatever their motivation, people who advocate for the fetus uniformly do so because they sincerely believe they are speaking out against murder, as well as a philosophy that life starts at conception. This is a personal ethical and moral value judgment. It is also rhetorical.
Unfortunately, the opinion that all pregnancies, from time of conception, should go to term is one that completely negates the wishes of the mother who has to bear the burden of birth, or of the couple who has to bear the burden of child rearing. It is an opinion that also condemns an inseminated rape victim to live with lifetime evidence and a living memory of the crime, or a woman advised of a serious fetal abnormality to live with the guilt and the burden of being obligated to take care of a freak of nature.
This is all rolled up into a medieval religious concept that life is fated or predestined; meaning that all lots in life however they might be cast must become a personal cross to bear. It is a conservative religious dogma that discounts the ability of modern science to potentially militate against disaster.
When I was a second year medical student at Tufts, as part of our genetics class, we were taken to a relatively secret facility that housed and kept alive some of these genetic mishaps. These poor souls included children with no brains, (such as Trisomy13), Kleeblattschadel syndrome skulls, absent limbs, missing parts, serious inborn errors of metabolism, or grotesquely malformed body parts; all of whom had become wards of the state and who uniformly had no hope for any quality of life whatsoever.
Reading about them was one thing. Seeing them was entirely something else. Most of them only existed as bed ridden non-cognizant, non-self sufficient breathing blobs of flesh. They could barely be categorized as human and made a Downs Syndrome victim seem to be something relatively good by comparison. It was horrible.
Forgetting the enormous cost to society to keep these beings alive, I could not even begin to imagine the pain, the guilt, the loss of self-esteem and the fear a woman has when she bears one of these monsters; especially when genetic counseling could have successfully advised against it. Another sad fact is that some of these women who go on to delivery actually believe then there is something innately wrong with themselves, which leads them to harbor great reservations about attempting another pregnancy.
The Right to Life movement is deeply rooted in arch political conservatism, New Right Christianity and in Old World Catholicism.
The Catholics have their own agenda. Cleverly disguised behind the ridiculous tenet that a woman’s duty is to help create an army for Jesus, although not being actually necessary since the last day of the Crusades, the real reason is relatively transparent: The more Catholics, the more potential financial exploitation.
I could never understand why, especially in third world Latin American or in other hopelessly impoverished Catholic countries, the Church insists on and the devout laity subscribes to, unlimited procreation. Meanwhile, as these poor people struggle to feed themselves, the celibate Pope flies around in a private jet drinking fine 10-point wine and eating filet mignon. After all, everyone has his own cross to bear and also knows it is very hard work indeed to be in charge of supervising a large family of global misery, while never having had to raise a child yourself.
Far right political conservative philosophy, which often goes hand in hand with Bible Belt Christianity, is harder to explain. Their proscriptions against abortion seem to be rooted in perverse interpretations of the Bible, yet not at all in the teachings of Jesus, who probably did not even know what an abortion was. Obviously for him, there was no such thing.
At an even more absurd extreme we are even beginning to see cases of pharmacists and rape counselors refusing to give women the “morning after pill” because of their personal religious beliefs. These people are crossing a dangerous line that pits supposedly non-judgmental professionalism, tainted by personal opinions, against personal rights that should not even enter the public domain. What’s the next step? A pharmacist who believes that natural selection should intervene in cases of pneumonia, diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension then refuses to fill prescriptions for these maladies.
There are even other more practical reasons not to restrict human abortion. The world is already overpopulated while its population continues to grow at a geometric rate.
In 1 AD there were 300 million people on the planet. In 1000 AD there were 310 million people. There are now, in 2013 AD, 7.125 billion people living on this planet, with a majority of those people living in filth, in squalor, in abject poverty, or only in marginally supportive environments. In retrospect some rational form of parental planning, including birth control as well as abortion, could have vastly improved the lot in life for some of these poor people, as well as improving the quality that derives from limiting family sizes.
That plays into another third world human foible: that a man’s virility is directly related to how many children he sires. This type of cultural thinking is Neanderthal. There are also a significant number of unwanted children of neglect and abuse walking the streets of modern America, who although genetically intact will sometimes behave as though they too were subhuman.
The toll they take on the rest of society because of crime, theft, disruption of schools, drug dealing and gang intimidation is an incalculable, unfortunate consequence that is not necessarily their own fault. The blame lies with our society as well as our culture and in a country as wealthy as the United States there is no excuse for the ensuing vicious cycle that follows when in time it becomes these lost souls turn to breed. Also as a direct result of a global population explosion, planetary resources and animal habitats are shrinking, species are disappearing at a rate of 50,000 per year, and economic wars are perpetrated while human suffering is pandemic.
Loss of plant ecology in the shrinking deforested Amazon basin deprives the world of many as yet undiscovered possible plant related disease cures, as well as having unforeseen effects on global climatology. If it does not simply accelerate the problem, loss of this rain forest will make the issue of global warming look small in comparison. Rather than advocating for uncontrolled human reproduction, intelligent people in wealthier countries should advocate for the quality of life and not for the quantity of it.
There should also be an acute awareness that animals as well as humans should have a Right to Life and that unchecked human reproduction makes no sense for the long term survival of the human species itself if we destroy every living plant or animal that lives around us.
What makes human life more sanctified and worth more than any other? How can a hunter justify stalking and then shooting any other one of God’s innocent creatures? How does one explain the justification of a Right to Life advocate murdering the doctor who works at the Planned Parenthood Clinic? Try to explain the perverted logic behind that paradox or how it relates to Moses’ Sixth Commandment.
Better yet, since the Right to Life movement seems to be intimately linked to the far political right, it is not unusual to have the same people who advocate against abortion are the same ones who have no moral or ethical issue with supporting and promoting America’s involvement in what seems to be an endless string of murderous modern international conflicts. Raise a baby to carry a gun so he can join the Army and go out to shoot someone else’s baby.
Then to make matters worse, the campaign to end legalized abortion has become tied to prohibitions against the stem cell research that can potentially cure or ameliorate some of our species worst diseases, including ones like Diabetes or the Alzheimer’s disease that has ruined my mother. No, let’s not lift those awful crosses off anyone’s back, because as a means of buying a ticket to heaven, suffering is the way one atones for one’s sins.
A law written on a piece of paper can never change human nature. So while we are at it then, let’s also bring back the barbaric green soap or the coat hanger abortion, because just like the failure of Prohibition to stop people from drinking alcohol, people will always find a way to get what they want.
The Red Chinese Communist government has been called “Godless.” When it comes to population control it should be called “Enlightened.” Determining what percentage of land would be required to feed and support the country’s population, while knowing that land is finite, the government established a policy of zero population growth. Citizens are only allowed to have one child and as heartless or as monolithic that policy may seem to be, it may in the long run be the only thing that keeps that country from seeking a war of territorial imperative that could dwarf the last two great ones. The nations of the world could learn a lesson from the Chinese in seeking a more global reappraisal of the finite nature of all our planetary resources, much of which will never become renewable.
A woman’s right to choose as well as to choose it in a way that is safe, should be preserved and private. This includes the right to enjoy all the resources available at Planned Parenthood clinics: Counselling, education regarding contraception (probably the ideal solution), and unwanted pregnancy termination. At the same time, late term abortion, with the exception of an abnormal amniotic fluid testing result, should be prohibited. Certainly a woman should know within a few weeks of conception whether or not she wants a child or later on if it is doomed to a serious genetic fault.
Choice is a deeply personal decision that has no place in the arena of National politics. It does not even belong in the arena of religion either. It is something that is basically no one else’s business.
To be really fair, anyone passing judgment on another person’s right to decide for himself whether or not to bring a life into this world, should first be required to adopt and raise an unwanted child of the ghetto or the third world. Or better yet, a vegetating genetic human deformity languishing in the ward of some unknown clinic that dedicates itself to the documentation, cataloguing, and the study of biological human freaks.
Then taking it to yet an even higher level, every prospective parent should be required to first pass a test, and then get a License to Reproduce, which would be granted only after he or she could fully demonstrate an understanding of the realistically intellectual, emotional and financial requirements that come with the otherwise romantic notion of having a baby. Why not? You need to have a license for everything else. Even for driving cars; which abort about 50,000 lives a year on our highways.
Taking God at his word in Genesis when he tells Adam and Eve to go forth, multiply and fill the Earth does not play out in practical terms when the only thing left to eat on the planet may be your own dog, horse or next-door neighbor and his children.
That is unless he gets the jump on you: and eats you first.
Eat or be eaten
|Some facts obtained from Planned Parenthood at http://www.ppacca.org|
|World population figures from Wikipedia|
|Species decline from an article by Dan Olsen of the Minnesota Public Radio|