What saddens me about abortion is that those who get pregnant and abort the child destroy every chance of happiness, love, excitement, growth, knowledge, friendship, etc. that child could ever have simply because it’s inconvenience. It’s more than a life, it’s a lifetime of experiences and future husbands and wives and mothers and fathers and friends that you’re aborting.1
I know so many wonderful children who would never have been born if not for abortion.
Take a lovely young girl I know – let’s call her Patty. Patty is bright and likes math and loves Steven Universe (but who doesn’t?). Patty’s mom had an abortion as a teenager, years before Patty was born. Because she had that abortion, her life went in certain directions – going to college, bouncing around like a young person, having free time for hobbies – that would have been different in uncountable ways if she had instead been a teenage parent.
But she did have an abortion. Her life went the way it went, and in her early 30s she met a great guy (through their shared hobby – a hobby that alternate-universe-teen-mom Patty would have had much less time for), married, and later on Patty was born. Patty would never have existed if Patty’s mom hadn’t gotten an abortion.
It’s true that when someone has an abortion, the potential for that particular egg-and-sperm combo to become a wonderful person with an amazing life ends. But it’s equally true that other potentially wonderful future people won’t happen if someone chooses NOT to have an abortion. That’s what making choices IS; some potential outcomes become canon – er, reality – while other potential outcomes never happen.
There’s no logical reason to believe that the child Patty’s mother aborted would have been more valuable, more important, or more wonderful than Patty herself is. This wouldn’t be a better world if Patty’s mother hadn’t had the freedom to control her own reproductive timing – a freedom that led, eventually, to Patty being born.
- The rest of Faith’s post, which I’m not quoting, sneered at people who have abortions for caring about their own “convenience.” Faith’s lack of empathy is appallingly common among pro-lifers. [↩]
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my abortion. I had that thought, the “I could be aborting a brilliant, wonderful person!” thought. For me at least, it was followed by the thought of “I could be aborting a serial killer”. Because if we’re going to rhapsodize about all the wonderful (potential) people we’re aborting, shouldn’t we think about all the terrible (potential) people too?
Or what about the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in stillbirth or spontaneous abortion? So statistically speaking 25% of those (potential) people we’re imagining wouldn’t exist anyway.
In the end, I do prioritize what actual, fully independent (by which I mean “already born”) people want and need more than fetuses who have a 75% chance of life (going by that statistic above). I’m fine with some people disagreeing with that, and doing what they like with their own bodies. But I get to make that choice for MY fully-sentient body, and if I did decide to get pregnant now and have a baby, it would definitely be in part because I aborted that earlier pregnancy. And while I might wonder what would have happened with the person that would have come from that earlier pregnancy, that is MY choice to decide to do – and as you say, trying to quantify which fetus would have created the “better” person…that is disgusting. And irrelevant. And changes nothing.
If I felt like mourning death (and blaming people for bad decisions), I think I’d rather mourn the deaths of the 20,000-45,000 people who die in the US every year from lack of health care. You know, the born, fully sentient people who are known and loved (often by many people), and have contributed to the world, but because our country would rather prioritize money and profits for the few over the health and well being of all, die needlessly. That is a tragedy and one that many anti-abortion* people often seem perfectly happy to ignore. Or if I want to spread my gaze further, there are the untold millions dying from war, genocide, starvation, poverty, or hatred each and every day. Again, this are fully living people who are loved and known and already have lives and are somehow less important to many anti-abortion people than fetuses.
*I can’t bring myself to call someone “pro-life” who isn’t also pro-universal health care and anti-death penalty. It’s too hypocritical for me.
I’m sure it must be some kind of logical fallacy to say that aborting a fetus is the same as destroying emotions that are so far only imagined to exist (the hypothetical happiness, etc of the hypothetical child). And if happiness, growth, education, friendships are so important to the author, why don’t they support these things when experienced by the parents? What if having the child prevents some of the “happiness, love, excitement, growth, knowledge, friendship, etc.” that the parents could experience in the future?
Personally I just can’t get all worked up about the loss of a fantasy life that exists purely in someone’s imagination. If I do, I clearly have to worry about all the lives lost through condoms, the contraceptive pill, and a lack of continuous pregnancy in all capable people. Teenagers should become sexually active as soon as possible to enable more of the little people inside the eggs and sperms to experience growth and happiness. Preventing that is evil!
This is the part that always gets to me. Nine months of pregnancy culminating in childbirth is a HELL of a lot more than an "inconvenience". Many jobs that you don't think of as dangerous involve exposure to chemicals or lifting things that can be risky for many pregnant women. Even where there are laws in place protecting pregnant workers, one still risks losing one's job. A settlement five years down the line (or more) is cold comfort.
Pregnancy also still carries significant health risks, from death to preclampsia to a life time of incontenance.
Then there are the social implications of interacting with people, especially people at work, while being pregnant when you don't want to be, when who the father is is difficult to explain.
This is just such a massive fail of empathy.
“This is just such a massive fail of empathy.”
You can also look at it this way: Pro-life people think it’s a massive fail of empathy to kill a potential life. And then the mud-slinging starts on both sides.
I think I’m one of the few people who are fairly neutral on these issues. I wouldn’t get an abortion, but I just don’t care about other people who do. It’s up to your conscience and your beliefs.
And contrary to the “loss of reproductive rights” and “war on women” people, the right to an abortion is not going to be reversed in our lifetimes by the US Supreme Court. If fewer doctors want to perform these procedures, I guess that’s also their right.
And I also get sick of the arguments that pro-life people are misogynists who only want to control women. No, some of them really believe that you are taking a(n innocent) life and feel the same outrage as most people do towards murderers. What a nasty distortion of views.
Then why are they also almost always against birth control?
What on earth makes you believe that?
Many recent Supreme Court decisions on abortion have been fairly close votes, and they’ve all reduced protections against abortion regulations. (Or, putting it another way, increased the right of state governments to restrict abortion.) So what you’re claiming the Court would never do, is what they’ve already been doing. (Albeit gradually, not in a single fell swoop.)
Furthermore, many members of the Court are elderly. If a Republican wins the next Presidential election, he or she will almost certainly have the chance to replace at least one pro-choice vote on the Court with a pro-life vote. Which means the pro-life majority will have less need to be compromising in order to reach five votes.
Of course, it’s possible that a Democrat will win the next Presidential election, and get to replace one or two pro-lifers on the Supreme Court. That would be nice. But it’s hardly certain.
No, you’re actually not the special snowflake you think you are. I was raised Catholic. On an emotional level, I’d feel getting an abortion for myself like denying my son one of my kidneys if he needed it to stay alive. My choice, but… I just understand that my personal history and feelings are not universal. The people on the so-called “pro-life” side do not do that. I’m not looking to force anyone into getting an aboration. To the contrary, I’m in favor of policies that would make it easier for people to keep wanted, but unexpected pregnancies. The flip side of “pro-life” is not “pro-choice” – it is China’s two child policy.
That’s… not what’s happening at all, in terms of your “‘war on women’ people” and what they’re after. Pro-choice people would like pregnant people, if they require or desire it, access to those doctors who happily supply abortifacients and provide surgical abortions. Pro-choice people would like it if those same doctors were not targeted for assassination, their patients for blackmail and harassment. Pro-choice people would like everyone to have equal and unfettered access to all forms of contraception, to reduce the number of abortions performed because the pregnant person’s contraceptive method failed or because their preferred method was not readily available to them. Pro-choice people would like pregnant people to survive their pregnancies and labor, and for children to be born to only those people who want children. Pro-choice people do not want pregnant people to resort to suicide or self-harm in order to end a pregnancy. Pro-choice people want pregnant people and the fetuses they are carrying access to complete medical care and screening.
Not surprisingly, pro-choice people do not want anti-abortion medical professionals to come into close contact with pregnant people. Forcing them to do so would violate their rights and potentially endanger the health and safety of pregnant people.
I don’t disagree (but I also don’t care what they “feel”), but you’re right that most self-described pro-life people’s beliefs about what constitutes murder and when it ought to be illegal are selective and contradictory. If you have to qualify your ‘victim’ as necessarily innocent (emotionally-charged but substantively bankrupt ephemeron) in order that their life be considered and treated as sacred, you’re hardly pro-life. And as kate says, it’s not pro-fetus to force unwilling or incapable people into bearing and raising children they don’t want, not pro-fetus to deny pregnant people healthcare, not pro-fetus to resist implementing parental leave standards, not pro-fetus to imprison pregnant people for miscarriages or drug use, not pro-fetus to deny someone an abortion and then whisk their newly-born children off to social services, and certainly not pro-fetus to deny children a comprehensive sexual education that will enable them to plan (or not) for their own family someday, further reducing the number of abortions needed.
Taken as a whole, the pro-life position is anti-human. The notion that being agnostic about abortions is a rational or healthily skeptical position is risible and offensive. You only have to observe the world around you with an empathic eye to know that there are myriad solutions to the too-many-abortions-for-my-liking* quandary, and none of them involve tricking or coercing pregnant people into not having an abortion. And it’s certainly not defensible to argue that somebody’s distaste for a common medical procedure is reason enough to deny everyone else, when necessary, a late-term abortion, without which they (and the fetus!) will perish. Consigning people (and fetuses) to death because medicine revolts you is not pro-life behavior.
*I like them all because there’s nothing to dislike about medicine, but I sympathize with people who’ve had one not because they didn’t want a child but because their life depended on it or because the fetus was not viable
So you’re pro-choice, then, yes?
I’ve often thought that if you really care about maximizing potential life — if you’re really pro-life — then the real foe is not abortion; it’s chastity.
But if you feel that way, why are you wasting time reading blogs when you could be more productively occupied? (Unless you’re a really great multi-tasker?)
There’s actually a science fiction book about a society with exactly that attitude toward potential people – that people have a duty to maximize human reproduction and bring as many into existence as possible. It’s “The World Inside” by Robert Silverberg, and yes, it’s a dystopian novel. I haven’t read it myself though…
It can certainly feel that way sometimes because the most extreme views tend to be the most loudly expressed but it’s not true that opposition to abortion is normally paired with opposition to birth control. There was a survey conducted by Gallup in 2012 which found only 8 percent of Americans found birth control to be morally wrong while 51 percent of the same sample found abortion to be morally wrong.
That’s a pretty substantial number of people who take issue with abortion and don’t take issue with birth control.
Activists who are working to make abortion illegal are also almost always against birth control. Why do you think that is?
As I said in my first post, the most extreme views tend to be the most loudly expressed. Another way of saying that is that on any issue activists tend to have more extreme views than the rank and file.
While I didn’t pull the context, your comment that I quoted was in response to a comment stating:
While the views of pro-life activists may be more extreme, the idea that pro-life people are almost always against birth control isn’t right.
I think it sort of depends on which kind of birth control we’re discussing. It’s true that nearly all people who are anti-birth-control in general are pro-life, but those are rare. (As the survey Fibi linked to earlier showed). Relatively few people would be against condoms, for example. (Although there are some.)
But when it comes to what the leadership of the pro-life movement supports – both in terms of what high elected pro-life politicians say and do, and in terms of what mainstream pro-life organizations support. But they do it in a very measured, careful way, because they’re not stupid and they care about being politically palatable. (As do mainstream pro-choice orgs, of course.)
From Contraception Is Not Abortion: The Strategic Campaign of Antiabortion Groups to Persuade the Public Otherwise:
The idea that personhood begins at fertilization is inherently anti-birth control, even though many rank-and-file pro-lifers may not think of it that way.
Also, the most effective way to reduce abortion would be to give away the most effective, long-term forms of birth control – long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) – for free. (Although I just linked to one study, multiple studies have found the same thing.) But I’ve never met a pro-lifer who supports providing free LARCs, and virtually all elected pro-life officials would passionately oppose such a program.
I find this show of priorities impossible to reconcile with the oft-stated pro-life belief that abortion is the same as baby-murder, just as bad as what Hitler did to Jews, etc..
So Faith is pro-teen sex right? Just think about all that possible happiness, love, excitement, growth, knowledge, friendship, etc. that people are destroying by stopping young teenagers getting jiggy with it.
What’s that? Something, something, marriage, something, something, stable environment better for children? Yeah, no shit.
I’m not sure if that has to do with being anti-abortion though. Most elected officials who are anti-abortion also track with being fiscally conservative and often have that “No hand-outs for deadbeats!” platform (because low-income people are of course all just lazy bums who refuse to get a “real” job. ). I think at least some of the reason that LARCs wouldn’t take off is because they’ve be viewed as free hand-outs for deadbeats.
Which is fucking ridiculous. For the record, I absolutely don’t believe that low/no-income people are deadbeats, having had many friends go through horrible job struggles in this economy. But for the sake of argument, even if I were, it makes logical sense to make sure that people who care barely afford to take care of themselves don’t have children that they also can’t take care of. I know the flaw in my argument is that I am thinking logically; most of these anti-abortion/anti-hand-outs politicians are more about self-righteous pats on the back and pandering to people who have extremist black-and-white views that have nothing to do with logic, and entirely to do with control and hatred for people who don’t share their beliefs.
“But I’ve never met a pro-lifer who supports providing free LARCs …”
OK, now you’ve met one. On-line.
Great! So there’s something we agree on.
Here’s a question for you: Do you disagree with my anecdotal experience, that most pro-lifers who have heard of the idea oppose providing free LARCs as a way of reducing abortion?
And do you disagree with my impression that members of Congress who are supported by mainstream pro-life orgs, are opposed to ideas like providing free LARCs?
I totally get that. But… it still seems like they’re prioritizing the wrong thing, if they really consider abortion to be mass baby-murder. They keep on saying that this issue is so important, more important than the freedom of women to make choices, because BABIES GETTING KILLED O GOD THE TRAGEDY.
Which, okay, I disagree with them, but at least I can comprehend that argument. But then those same people (pro-life politicians), though their acts, indicate that BABIES GETTING KILLED O GOD THE TRAGEDY is for them a less important commitment than avoiding a relatively small increase in social services. And they don’t seem to be getting any perceptible pushback on this from the big pro-life groups.
If they really believe that abortion is mass baby-murder, then why isn’t a huge reduction in baby-murder worth bending a little bit on social spending? It doesn’t make sense.
That’s why I said that the problem with my argument is that it involves logic. Logically, you are correct. Likewise (correct me if I’m wrong), we’re both assuming that the most important thing to them really IS babies getting killed (and FTR, I feel a lot like you. I don’t agree with that concept, but I understand why this would be such a vital issue for someone who truly does believe that a soul is formed at conception, and thus we’re killing innocent people).
In the case of the LARCs, the one that I know the most about is the copper IUD, which I have. However, I believe it works by stopping implantation, not stopping conception. So that would make it useless to someone truly concerned about the murder of innocent life.
I’m unaware of whether or not there are any other easy LARCs out there.
But I digress…the point I wanted to make is that we’re taking at face value that saving the innocent baby souls is the absolute most important thing to some politicians (and people), and I don’t think that’s the case. I think for many politicians, it is just another form of control. One that they can really tear at the heartstrings of those who DO believe that, and DO believe it is a deeply important issue and would be willing to overlook things they don’t agree with, because stopping the non-believers from killing little baby souls is the most important thing they can imagine.
And that is why I think that a lot of them are full of shit. At the heart, I think it’s about control. Control on a lot of levels. Because giving away free LARCs would be against another key belief that many anti-abortion people espouse, those of sexual morality. Giving away free LARCs would encourage people to live in sinful ways and have sex out of wedlock or for the enjoyment of it only (oh, the horror) and while that’s not *quite* as bad as murdering innocent baby souls, it’s supposedly a sign of being a horrible immoral person.
There’s a whole connected paradigm of morality policing and control all tied together there and they’re trying (I believe) to push that full agenda of control and moral policing. Thus, giving away free LARCs would violate aspects of that, and them losing control on that front wouldn’t be worth all the innocent baby souls that wouldn’t get murdered.
Or so I assume from those times when I read anti-abortion propganda that goes into depth describing the full set of “values” that are tied together.
The explanation I’ve gotten from a conservative blogger we both know is that this logic amounts to “extortion” (his words). As in, “Give us free stuff or we kill our babies.” On that basis the policy of providing free contraception to prevent abortion should be rejected.
No, I didn’t think that rebuttal made sense either, but you’d probably be better at articulating why.
To me, the problem with that argument is that it assumes an invisible middle step – give us free stuff, or we will ((maliciously choose to become pregnant and then)) kill our babies. Whether or not the “free stuff” was on the table, people can and would engage in sex anyway. So the risk of unwanted pregnancy is there whether any extortion is happening or not, and fetuses are being aborted whether any extortion is happening or not.
I don’t know if the word “extort” is usually extended to include people asserting their intention to continue doing what they’ve already been doing because the alternative (abstinence) is a burden, but offering to use harm-reduction tactics if they’re made more available to them. I certainly wouldn’t use the word that way.
Or, more succinctly I guess, the extortion argument is trying to position abortion as a tactic used to get birth control, when it’s the other way around – birth control is a tactic used to avoid pregnancy and possible abortion.
Sarah, thank you, that puts it very well.
Chris, I don’t remember that “extortion” argument, but I’m guessing that it was Jack at Ethics Alarms?
@Chris: Who on Earth is “we”?
A formal definition of extortion has thus far eluded a lot of smart people. But I like the rule of thumb that asks whether you want someone to offer you the deal in question. In this case, women are not having abortions because they hope it will get them free contraception. Women were desperately seeking illegal abortions when free contraception (I assume) could not even be proposed. So this is kind of like denouncing parachutes because “they’re just what gravity would want us to do.” Someone seems to be overdoing the conspiracy theory style of thinking.
So, basically what Sarah said.
Sarah and hf, thanks for the replies–they both helped clarify my thinking on the issue.
Hf, “we” referred to Amp and I.
Amp, yes, it was Jack who put forward that argument.
I like that “just what gravity wants us to do” analogy! I’m going to try to remember it.
The whole argument that abortion kills a person is a religious-based one. It depends on believing that a person exists before the relevant personality generating brain-structures form (i.e. that a fetus has a soul). Many (most?) devout Christians believe that ensoulment happens a significant time before birth. If they believe that ensoulment happens at conception, then their opposition to birth control that prevents implantation is logical (although it still imposes their religious beliefs on everyone else).
I also agree that the observable behavior of many anti-abortion groups is diametrically opposed to the belief that abortion is murder. A number of commenters mention policies which are likely to reduce the number of abortions (free birth control, economic support to single mothers, maternity leave, enhanced access to and reduced cost for daycare, etc), none of which are suggested, supported, or pushed for by the most prominent anti-abortion groups. If activists really thought that abortion is murder, supporting programs they may perceive as immoral is the lesser of two evils. But almost no one actually behaves that way. Furthermore, supporting exceptions in the case of rape or incest (used to make anti-abortion legislation politically palatable) is also inconsistent with this belief.
The “abortion-is-murder” argument looks like justification after the fact to me.
Jane Doh @29:
Hold on a minute. Your second sentence imported the notion of a soul to prove your first sentence (that it is a religious-based argument).
That is not necessarily the case. Once fertilization occurs, you have a complete and unique set of human DNA. At that point, so many things might be said about that “person” if only we could know them. Male or female, hair color, eye color, height, weight, whether he will go bald, when she will get gray hair, risks for all sorts of cancers, or other diseases; perhaps even what the person will look like. If DNA is important to what we are as individuals, it is all there at fertilization. It is like Aristotle’s acorn, the oak tree is sitting inside trying to get out and the fetus is just some old person getting started on his way to dying of heart disease at 63 (if only we will let him).
Would it, therefore, be all right to abort all but one of identical twins/triplets/etc? After all, you’ve preserved the unique DNA.
I don’t mean that as a “gotcha”: what we think of as human has to do with far more than DNA. It is true that, at fertilization, an embryo that would make it to term must have a (nearly) complete set of human DNA; but imbuing the possibly-unique set of DNA with the meaning “person” is a moral or religious argument, not a scientific one, because science can’t answer what (or when) a person is and isn’t.
DNA is certainly important. It is not, however, quite as determinative as many people believe. Identical twins have different fingerprints and retinal patterns. And there are instances of identical twin pairs where one twin is trans and one is not. The most well-known is probably Nicole and Jonas Maines.
Growth and development is an extremely complex process. Even restricting our view to genetic expression, the whole study of epigenetics shows us that genetic expression can be environmentally changed, and that those changes can be inherited – apparently the reproductive process can reproduce not only the switchboard, but to some extent, the switch positions. Then factor in prenatal environment, and various post-natal environmental factors, and what we don’t understand is vast.
Worth bearing in mind.
No. Why would it?
Well, actually, I think it all boils down to a legal argument. We are trying to define legally when someone is a person. And, we all have different arguments to try to pin-point what should bear on the legal question.
And, no, Grace, I don’t think DNA is everything. Of course, there are environmental factors that have a big impact. I think DNA is a lot, though. And, I just brought it up to rebut the “it all comes down to the soul” argument. So much of our life is laid out in the womb and it takes us a lifetime to figure out what some of those are.
True, but a fetus is not a person. There is a long way between a collection of DNA in a cell, a collection of said cells, the biochemical machinery implementing those genes, and a person. Because there is no point at which any independent measure can say “this is a person”, for the most part the law has been using the point of viability outside the womb as a marker (primarily due to the lack of anything else that people can agree on). And the vast, vast majority of abortions occur well before viability is even on the table.
I do believe that many people believe that abortion is morally wrong. There is a huge difference between morally wrong and murder, and most people behave that way. IMHO, that is why few people actually behave as if they think abortion is murder. I stand by my belief that this idea (that abortion is murder) is tied up in religious definitions of personhood, and that like many religiously defined things, many people say one thing and behave differently.
Jane Doh @ 34:
True, but a fetus is not a person.
Look, you can believe whatever the fuck you want, but don’t spew bullshit.
Look, I believe a fertilized egg is a person.
Some people say implantation is necessary..
Some people, like Amp, I think, believe that the ability to feel or remember or have some cognition, defines personhood.
Some think viability is the key.
Some think birth is the key to personhood.
Many cultures are fine with infanticide in the early stages of “life”.
I am fine with all those definitions, though I disagree with most of them. But don’t fucking get on your God damn high horse and declare that a fetus is not a person. That is begging the question.
And, if you want to stand by your idea that abortion is a religious issue, I will call your bluff. Any murder of any person is not a moral issue. It should not even be called murder, because that has a negative connotation.
Big picture: everyone of us dies. You can think opposition to abortion is all about religion. You are wrong. Much of it is, but not all of it.
Jut, I never said that all opposition to abortion is religious. Just that the idea that a fetus is a person is. You can believe that a fetus is a person all you like, but why should you get to impose that belief on me? Why is your definition of person-hood more important than mine? I will not try to convince you that you are wrong, because I don’t really care that you believe a fertilized egg is a person (although I think that is as ridiculous as you think my beliefs are) UNLESS you try to use that belief to curtail my ability to control my body. I am not even sure I would ever have an abortion–to date I have luckily not been in a situation where I would have had to make that decision. But I want to be the one who decides. I’ve been pregnant. It has major health impacts, even if everything goes well. Why is a potential life more important than my existing one?
Back to the original post–I do not believe that abortion is murder. Most people do not act as if they believe that abortion is murder either, regardless of what they claim. If this were so, IVF would be illegal due to all the killing involved in creating and discarding embryos. There are very few abortion opponents who want to outlaw (or restrict) IVF. Statements about the wonderful people who are aborted are an appeal to emotion about a medical procedure most people find distasteful (whether religious or not) that ignore the needs of the person who is already here and possibly the needs of their dependents.