Why Focus on Abortion?

 

This essay was first published, with illustrations, in Life Matters Journal Volume 5 Issue 5 — April 2017.

 

I think I’m not alone among pro-life advocates, in that people sometimes ask me, “Why only abortion? Why do you advocate on this issue only?” When pro-choicers ask me that question, it often takes the form of “Why don’t you talk about the problems of women?”

My first reply might be that I do not in fact ignore other issues. I have done a lot of pondering about the miserable treatment of women throughout most of history, in most of the world, and I have even ventured to write about a pro-life feminist approach toward rectifying all of that. I volunteer for an organization that works to lift people out of poverty.

Most of the pro-lifers I know actually do approach abortion with a holistic view of the world. But it is true that some of us, including me, do also spend a disproportionate amount of our advocacy time focused on the abortion issue specifically.

For me, this is because I feel that the pro-life cause, much more than any other cause, can be a vehicle for a higher human consciousness that will uplift us morally in how we respond to all issues, not only the abortion issue.

As Javier Cuadros wrote:

Science is a process of knowledge in which we penetrate ever deeper. . . . As the observations multiply . . . it is typical that the original appearances . . . are shown to be incorrect. The reality is different. . . . This is why I have always been puzzled about the reluctance of scientists to apply the same program of investigation to the nature of the human embryo. Are human embryos men and women and thus entitled to the inalienable right to life and respect for their dignity and physical integrity, or are they not? Here, many scientists . . . are for applying the simple criterion of appearances. No, [embryos] are not men and women, they say, because they do not look like a person. Agreed, they do not look like a developed human being. But the earth looks like it is stationary. . . . shape does not make a human being. It has been shown that the most fundamental element of the presence and identity of a human being is the existence of [complete human genetic information] . . .

 
Most people in the world, if we may indulge in broad strokes, have one of these two perceptions of the early unborn: 1) either they feel that the early unborn is not possessed of the moral value of other human beings because it doesn’t look like most of the human beings we know (or doesn’t seem quite as bright as most of the human beings we know, or some such criterion); or 2) they feel that the early unborn does have the same moral value as the other human beings we know because the genetic information it possesses has set it on an inexorable path – a path such that it will soon enough be a human being similar to others we know (if only somebody doesn’t kill it first).

And I think that among those who hold the second category of perception, there are also some who got there without an understanding of DNA and chromosomes. They got there simply by pondering deeply over some such thought as this: “A human life is one seamless process that has to start somewhere, and how can it be expected that it won’t start extremely small?”

Now, can we call either of the two perceptions better than the other? Well, the first perception is like a still picture. It is a perception of the organism as if it were frozen in time. The second perception is of a process. If you kill a small clump of cells lacking, perhaps, even a beating heart, it is correct to say that you are killing an organism whose life presently has little value; and that therefore the organism itself would – if no future lay ahead of it – have little value. But it is also correct to say that you are depriving that organism of the complete human life which has started in it as a process. We cannot deem that either perception is more scientific than the other. But obviously the perception of the process is a more complete perception.

The perception of the process is not necessarily more scientific, but it is more complete. It is richer. I think that perception helps explain the joy that we see on the faces of “the pro-life generation” at the March for Life and on almost every campus in the country. So for me, it reflects the higher consciousness that I spoke of above, a more evolved consciousness. It reflects a forward evolution in a person’s inner world. It reflects an expansion.

When Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage in 2012, after sixteen years in politics, he famously described that pivot of his as “an evolution.” Well, Mr. Obama, that’s great! Evolution is a liberating experience. Any one person’s moral evolution surely has wonderful consequences for us all. And now, Mr. Obama – and Hillary Clinton, and Cecile Richards, and Gloria Steinem – you have a chance to go on evolving, to evolve still more. Wouldn’t it be great to do so? The path is before you. We’ll all be cheering you on.

Though not wishing to minimize how big an evolutionary step it was for straight people to come to perceive gays as fully human, I think that coming to perceive embryos as fully human will be an even bigger step. It will also be a bigger step than coming to perceive other races as fully human, or other genders as fully human, or the differently abled as fully human. Why? Because – to get back to Cuadros above – gay people, and people of other races and genders, and the differently abled, look like persons. We can “apply the simple criterion of appearances.” Urgent though it is to advocate the causes of refugees and earthquake victims, at least society may be able to see them as human beings without our help – not so, it seems, for the unborn.

Moreover, let us remember Martin Luther King’s observation that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Unlike other groups that have won society’s respect, the preborn do not themselves strike the least fear in the hearts of those who would mistreat them. If rights are to be secured for them, it will be the first time in history that rights have been secured for a human group who could not fight back somewhat, or at least clamor shrilly. So coming to truly perceive the unborn as fully human, though completely in accord with science, will be a grander mental achievement than in the case of other groups. This last frontier of civil rights will be the most difficult. But by the same token it will represent a more significant expansion of consciousness.

A pro-life position taken on this basis will mean a greater connectedness with our origins and hence a greater connectedness with the universe. This connectedness will certainly spill over into all our activities and all our decisions. It will be a big evolutionary step, a step to what I called above “a higher human consciousness that will uplift us morally in how we respond to all issues, not only the abortion issue.”

I also said, however, that “the pro-life cause, much more than any other cause, can be a vehicle for a higher human consciousness.” The cause may seem clearly to be a way in which that higher consciousness gets expressed when one already has that consciousness, but is the cause also a vehicle for creating such a consciousness in those who don’t yet have it?

It is natural for the mind to try to confine one’s human family to a small circle. We fear having to care for people, or kinds of people, outside that circle. Our mental walls constructed around that circle, however, get smashed when confronted by facts that are incompatible with such encirclement, or confronted by incompatible, yet persuasive, viewpoints coming from people who command our respect. The smashing of our mental walls is an uncomfortable experience, a disturbing experience, but once one manages to grasp the idea that a human life is one seamless process, and hence equally valuable at all points in time, it is an idea that becomes very persuasive. It is a more complete view than to perceive the organism as if it were frozen in time. Moreover, once we include within the circle of our family people we had formerly excluded, we emerge with fewer fears than we had before. In this way also our minds expand. Thus the pro-life cause can be a vehicle for a higher human consciousness, and thus this, to me, is the issue to focus on.

People whom we do not respect, however, are unlikely to persuade us. Among other things, pro-life advocates who are to be persuasive must be people who truly have that expanded vision – which cannot be said of all pro-life advocates. I think that many religious people who are originally pro-life by virtue of rote religious doctrine later become prompted by their doctrines, or by other forces, to do some deep thinking of their own, and develop that expanded vision. But those who came to a pro-life position out of rote religious doctrine alone (without further reflection), not to mention those who came to it out of political opportunism, will not have that vision. Only those who genuinely have it will be able to articulate it in a way that touches non-believers; others may even create a big backlash among skeptics.

A few years back John Koenig coined the word “sonder,” a noun whose definition begins, “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own . . .” It is the ultimate sense of human connectedness, and as the founder of Life Matters Journal has pointed out, it is a state of mind out of which consistent pro-life behavior in all one’s actions must inevitably flow. I think that activism on behalf of the unborn can do more than anything else to further this outlook in the human race.

Now I have said a lot about establishing in people’s minds the perception that the unborn is a full-fledged member of our human family. But by now some will be asking, in order for the pro-life cause to prevail, will such convincing alone be sufficient? What about the bodily-rights position, which concedes for the sake of argument that the unborn is indeed fully human, yet claims a right to kill it nonetheless? But I think that the understanding that the preborn is a full-fledged member of our human family is, in fact, virtually sufficient. It seems to me almost always that those who concede for the sake of argument that the unborn is truly a human being, yet claim a right to kill, make that concession only for the sake of argument. Very few of them – perhaps only Naomi Wolf and Camille Paglia – have made that concession in their hearts. I think that almost anyone who really sees the unborn as our little sisters and brothers, will quickly dig a little deeper and discover the weaknesses in the bodily-rights argument.

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published. Back up your work as you type, in case of accidents.

Some future posts:

Life Panels

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

Not My Reality

 

A blog post for April Fool’s Day.

 

Disease. Old age. Death.

Social scientists at the University of Siddharth have identified three problems in modern life which they say are already causing severe strains and may erode public confidence if not addressed soon.

The project lead, Rakhesh Chowdury, explained that in an aging society, death, in particular, is likely to bring into question the reliability of life.

When asked what steps he recommended, he said he was encouraged by some recent grassroots initiatives, particularly the #NotMyReality movement.

On Wednesday we contacted a spokesman for the movement, who said that plans were under way for massive marches on all the capitals of the world. Pointing to recent developments in the US, he said that the Not My President movement was good, but predicted that it would be inadequate to address the full extent of the crisis. He pointed out that under previous administrations also there had been endemic disease, old age and death.

He claimed that a billion people would turn out for the marches on February 29. “This is an issue that cuts across partisan lines,” he said.

A conservative source agreed. “We’re going to make the Garden of Eden great again. If we can’t control our mortality, our wellness, and our age, what is the use in controlling our borders?”

Some expressed skepticism, however. “This has been going on for a long time,” said Jayprakash Mahato, a pan vendor in Calcutta. “We should have acted immediately after evolving from Homo erectus. Solving the problem now will require huge sacrifices, and I just don’t see the necessary political will in our current generation of leaders.”

Donations to the March may be made via PayPal at goodluck4568@gmail.com

© 2017

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published. Back up your work as you type, in case of accidents.

A Civilization That Was

 

A blog post for April Fool’s Day.

 

Beneath the sagebrush and grasses of what is now the Oregon high desert, there was once an advanced civilization, archeologists revealed on Friday.

Standing on the rim of one of a dozen recent excavations, Dr. Karuna Banerjee, leader of a team from the University of Minnesota, talked to reporters. Large-rimmed dark glasses protected her eyes from the fierce sunlight. She explained that the team had been able to deduce a lot from the art themes on the pottery of that vanished race, and from the minimal number of lethal weapons the team had unearthed. It was clear, she said, that they had been a well-educated people, and had developed their arts to a high degree. Technologically they had been unequalled for their time. They had had a culture that espoused tolerance, and values of mutual respect. “Overall,” she said, “I find it heartwarming to think of such a people, though a few things about them might raise eyebrows today.”

Banerjee particularly contrasted those people, whom her team had named the “Ivies,” with one tribe of their nearest neighbors. Those neighbors, she said, had been a warlike people, aggressive toward the “Ivies” and toward all their other neighbors. They had been unkind as well to those of their own people who were too fat, or weak, or differently abled. The researchers had dubbed that tribe the “Yokels.”

For the Ivies, those dull-witted neighbors of theirs, clinging to their spears and their religion, were sometimes a source of amusement. The martial contests of those people were not art, the Ivies said. In moments of pity, the Ivies would discuss how they might best be able to help those neighbors to “change their deep-seated religious beliefs.”

The most hilarious thing of all, to the sophisticated Ivies, was how those neighboring people would go into hissy fits about the joyful Ivy custom known as the “happy send-off.”

The “happy send-off” was entirely based on empirical reality. It is, after all, an observable and undeniable fact of the natural world that life leads to death. Therefore, the best way to celebrate life is simply to hasten death. “We’re living in the sixteenth century and we have no use for the superstitions of the past,” they would say. “We believe in science and rationality.”

In Ivy society, one out of every five children was selected to be given a happy send-off. The Ivies would organize outdoor concerts from time to time, and the participating bands would set up on the steps of that culture’s pyramidal temples. While the bands played and the populace swayed to the rhythm, some of the designated children would be led, one by one, to the top of the temple and “sent off.”

Sometimes the parents needed convincing. “It is not killing,” the Ivies would explain. “Nature is cyclical, and this is just speeding up your children’s life cycle. It nourishes the overall quality of Ivy life and improves the lives of all our other children.”

“And of our pets, too,” they would sometimes add.

Children who had been selected were nicknamed “raindrops” – by falling they would improve the lives of others – and were no longer considered people. “Why should they grow up as unwanted boys and girls?” the Ivies would say. “This is a win for everybody. We call it ‘send-off care.’ Have you got something against freedom and progress?” Most bands were happy to perform without remuneration, and the proceeds would go to support the white-coated personnel of the organization that performed the send-offs.

“If you don’t like send-offs,” the Ivies would say, “then don’t attend the concerts. But why spoil our lifestyle choices with your hypocritical rants? This is non-negotiable. Send-offs on demand – without apology!”

Banerjee was asked why such an advanced civilization had survived for such a short time. “There came a point,” she replied, “when nearly everyone in the society had played some role or other in the happy send-offs. The treatment of people as objects began to take more and more forms in that society, not only the happy send-offs. When that occurred, because of their long-time participation in the send-offs, those with a capacity for leadership were not in a position to criticize.

“There was no violent breakdown of society, no,” she went on. “Blood did not start flowing in the streets. But when people’s natural urge for idealism finds only such banal outlets, clamoring for ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ ‘my freedom,’ ‘my rights,’ cynicism grows and grows. The Ivies did not entirely lose their will to live, but they lost that necessary edge.”

Banerjee was asked what had happened to the Yokels. “They began to reflect,” she replied, “that if children should not be sacrificially objectified, maybe other forms of objectification are wrong also. Maybe we should treat everybody in our society better. Maybe we should stop our unjust wars. They learned to cooperate with other tribes.”

“They changed,” Banerjee said. “Their civilization lasted for a long time.”

Shadows lengthened over the high desert as the sun set. Dr. Banerjee folded her dark glasses and grew pensive. “I always feel we can learn a lot from these ancient civilizations,” she said.

© 2017

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published. Back up your work as you type, in case of accidents.

Some future posts:

Life Panels

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World