Facebook Affirmations, Vol. V: Pro-Life

In my news feed on Facebook I will be served a daily dose of Christian affirmations from friends.  In this series of posts, which I call “Facebook Affirmations™,” I will post and discuss some of these gems. Here’s the affirmation for today:

Pro-Life Facebook Post
Think of the children!

I don’t often weigh in on abortion because my views on it are complicated and it’s an even more controversial topic than religion.  Since I will never personally know the joy — or terror — of being pregnant I feel that any view I adopt regarding a woman’s reproductive rights ought to be every bit as compassionate as it is logical.  Ultimately I feel it comes down to an individual woman’s right to decide whether or not her body will be used as an incubator for a potential human being.  Let’s discuss the post above.

First, I have no problems with pro-life people.  I’m pro-life* myself and that’s why I oppose war and the death penalty.  I can completely understand why a person would be vehemently against slaughtering babies wholesale.  The problem is that these people have a warped view of exactly what legalized abortion means.  Here are some myths perpetuated by pro-life people:

  1. Abortion means murdering a baby!
    Well, not quite.  The problem with this statement is how it forces a strict, black-and-white view of a topic that is very gray.  Any pregnancy starts out as an egg and sperm and must be attached to the uterine wall to even count as a viable pregnancy.  Those fertilized eggs that never attach to the uterine wall could be considered abortions if one were to take a very strict view of the process (especially when discussing at what point a “soul” is injected), but I doubt that pro-life people would count these failed pregnancies in their numbers. Most fertilized eggs that attach themselves to the woman’s body outside of the uterus (an ectopic pregnancy) cause an immediate health risk to the woman and never become viable pregnancies anyway, yet they could also be considered abortions.  I doubt, however, that these abortions are considered in the numbers of pro-life people. Any fertilized egg that attaches itself to the uterine wall and begins to divide and grow normally could spontaneously abort for any number of reasons unrelated to the intentional actions of another human being.  Every single one of these is an abortion but I also doubt that these are considered in the numbers of pro-life people. Given the scenarios above, the number of purposeful, medically performed abortions is extremely tiny in comparison.  When you consider the sheer number of eggs and sperm meeting on a daily basis, medical abortions are a drop in the ocean.
  2. Abortion stops a beating heart!
    Again, not quite.  Obviously, performing an abortion after the heart is formed and begins pumping blood would entail stopping the heart from pumping blood.  However, most medical abortions are performed during the first trimester before a heart is formed [I’ve since been corrected by Lisa, who rightly informed me that a heart is formed during the first trimester].  Only a small fraction of abortions are performed later on in the pregnancy and nearly all of those abortions are performed either because of severe impairments in the fetus or conditions that threaten the life of the mother.  It’s not as though women who have “late term” abortions just decide on a whim one day that they don’t want to be pregnant anymore.Dr. Warren Hern wrote an article in response to the numbers game pro-life groups play.
  3. God is pro-life!
    Not really.  Statistically speaking, god performs more abortions than anybody on the planet.  If the religious view is that god is in charge of the universe and that he imbues each fertilized egg with a soul, then the blood of every single naturally-aborted pregnancy (approximately 1/3 of all pregnancies worldwide) is on his hands.  By comparison, it is estimated that only 2% of women in the United States have had a medical abortion not performed by god.

Second, the “definition” of abortion given to the child in this instance is so drastically simplified that it hardly counts as a viable definition.  It uses inflammatory language (“a woman has her baby killed“) to evoke an emotional response and, as such, is not objective.  An abortion is not always an intentional act, and is not generally performed on viable human beings that can be rightly considered “babies.”  Would you consider a ball of cells a baby?  Can it survive outside of the mother’s uterus?  What, exactly, constitutes a baby?

Embryonic Development at Week 3
Embryonic development at week 3, when heart tissue begins to form.

I wonder if the child would have had the stated reaction if the definition his mother gave was more along the lines of, “the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability [1]” or in layman’s terms, “when a woman stops her pregnancy or the pregnancy naturally ends before the baby has the ability to live on its own.”  Who can say?  Obviously, this seven year old boy is scarred and biased now because his mother didn’t speak to him about it rationally and allow him to come to his own conclusion.  Also, the seven year old boy will never in his life be faced with a situation where he has to decide whether or not to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and live with the consequences of the decision either way.

Third, it comes as no surprise that this story is related by a religious person who has in all likelihood emotionally scarred their child already with talk of Hell, eternal torture by burning, the dark and sinful nature of all humans, and the cruel torture and murder of god’s son.  Why not just pile on some more horror and disgust while you’re at it?  Since your child already thinks he’s a worthless sinner, what’s the worst that could happen?  On second hand, forget it.  The worst that could happen is your child growing up to become a Republican senator and writing legislation to put an end to women’s reproductive rights.  That’s scary.

You’re wrong about your child “getting it.”  Your child doesn’t get it at all.  He only understands the very skewed view you’ve pushed on him and is under the impression that there are a bunch of women out there taking hammers to their baby’s skulls as they take their first breath outside of their mommies’ bellies.  Your child is living in a horror movie right now and doesn’t have a clue as to the motives of loving parents who have to make the immensely difficult and traumatizing choice to compassionately end a pregnancy because carrying it to term would either result in a natural abortion anyway or a painful, horrifying couple of days or weeks for a deformed baby who will die after being born.  Your child doesn’t “get it.”  And neither do you.

I think the government, at least somewhat, does get it.  They are beginning to realize that laws limiting access to proper medical abortions result in more injuries and fatalities of women who had to seek out help through other channels but would have otherwise made an informed decision in a sterile, healthy environment.  They are beginning to realize that emotional language, like your “definition” above, has no place in legislation when women’s health and women’s lives are on the line.  They are beginning to realize that domain over a woman’s body does not belong to the government.  I think we’re heading in the right direction.

If the reality of the situation were that 50% of American women were dancing into abortion clinics because they had a one-night stand and didn’t want to ruin their lifestyle with a baby then I’d side with you, 100%.  Obviously we would have a problem.  This is not, however, the reality of the situation.  A relatively very small number of women in this country have had, or have even considered, abortions and even fewer of those women have had abortions late in the pregnancy when it would be necessary to stop a beating heart.  An even fewer number of those women have decided to have that “late term” abortion without an immediate medical necessity.  You do the math, but do it the right way.  Don’t do it like this dishonest pro-life blog (they conveniently ignored every single number that disagreed with their preconceived conclusion).

3% + my emotions = 91%

Do I think it’s tragic when babies die?  Yes.  Do I wish that there were no need to end pregnancies?  Of course.  Do I think that there are women out there who have had abortions in the past for not-so-good reasons?  Yeah.  Just don’t make the mistake of punishing every woman in this country by stripping away their rights because you feel that hasty, uninformed generalizations based on a select few, out-of-the-ordinary cases are all the “fact” you need to vote against a woman’s right to choose.

* By “pro-life” I mean I oppose the willful destruction of a viable, autonomous human being for any reason other than the preservation of the life of a second viable, autonomous human being due to an immediate threat posed by the first.

Related

2 comments

  1. Factually false…

    “However, most medical abortions are performed during the first trimester before a heart is formed”

    An embryoscopy video from the Endowment for Human Development (http://www.EHD.org) showing a 6 week-old unborn baby with beating heart.

    Only 3 weeks and 1 day after fertilization – the heart begins to beat. By 4 weeks, the heart typically beats between 105 and 121 times per minute.
    http://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit4.php#fb1

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