I’ve been sitting on this blog topic for a while now, because I have a lot of thoughts and it’s controversial. I like to work through things when those two things collide. First of all, I’d just like to say that I do not like abortion. I don’t like to really think about the process of abortion, because I do not like it. In my perfect world, no woman would ever want or need one. But the world isn’t perfect. So we make due. I would also like to say that this post is about the movement as a whole, and not individual people whom I know. Most of the pro-lifers I know are genuinely kind people. However, there are aspects of their beliefs that I do not understand.
I cannot buy into the whole pro-life stance because it confuses me on a couple of different levels. It’s inconsistent. It contradicts itself. It approves of certain people who should not be approved of. It lies. It manipulates.
I have two main issues with the pro-life movement and its numerous organizations: 1) Its emotional manipulation and 2) Its inconsistency.
I’m not sure when the emotional manipulation began for the pro-life movement, but I’m betting a lot of it was sparked by “The Silent Scream,” an anti-abortion film made in the ’80s that is famous (or infamous) for its graphic visuals and videotape of an actual abortion on a sonogram. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist, was behind the film. During the showing of the abortion, he says, “We see the child`s mouth wide open in a silent scream. . . . It is moving away in an attempt, a pathetic attempt, to escape. . . . This child senses the most mortal danger imaginable.” This is just horrible, and not because it’s true. The fetus was 12 weeks old. Other medical experts denied the fetus’ ability to move with purpose and it’s unlikely that the part of the brain that perceives pain was even formed yet. It does not sense danger, it doesn’t know emotions. Don’t mistake my skepticism of Dr. Nathanson as callousness about abortion. Like I’ve said, I do not like abortion. I am not “pro-death.” I also do not like being manipulated. “The Silent Scream” is not an unbiased presentation of facts, it has an agenda, and could be called propaganda. This is why I am wary of pro-life and its aggressive attempts to hit upon my emotions; it has a very specific purpose and will not present ideas that contradict that purpose. Like the idea that fetuses can’t feel pain until a certain stage of development.
This is my problem: I don’t like child prostitution. I think it’s horrendous. Do I go around waving pictures of a child being raped? No. Why? Because it’s unnecessary and is more disturbing than anything else. It shocks people. It doesn’t necessarily move them to action. Now, this isn’t a great example, because pretty much everyone who isn’t crazy also doesn’t like child prostitution. Abortion is different, because a ton of people don’t think it’s that bad or that fetuses aren’t people yet, so pro-lifers wave around pictures to show that, yes, this is actually a pretty violent thing. I get it. A better example would be if I was protesting what happened in Abu Ghraib and other enhanced interrogation techniques, and had signs with pictures of soldiers and prisoners. Images like that mostly just shock people and don’t actually change anyone’s mind. It’s especially troublesome when emotional manipulation involves children. Lots of children are involved in pro-life events, and it disturbs me. I don’t think a six-year old boy who doesn’t know what a vagina or sex is should be holding a grotesque sign of an aborted fetus. That’s just the worst. Even those Pro-Life Across America signs with cute babies saying cute things bother me. People who get abortions rarely have problems with babies themselves. It’s the whole being pregnant and changing their entire lives thing. Seeing a sign with a baby is not going to convince them about anything; it could even have the reverse effect and harden their hearts further. Because they know they’re being manipulated.
This December, a suit was filed by the ACLU against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops because of a situation where a woman received improper medical care from a Catholic hospital. After 18 weeks, her water broke and she went to the only hospital in her county, which was Catholic. She was given medication for her pain and sent home. She returned the next morning with bleeding and was again told to go home. The third day, she went back yet again, where she miscarried and the baby died. Medical officials reviewed the case and concluded that the hospital should have informed the woman that her baby had next to no chance of surviving and that removing the fetus was an option. The hospital’s actions could have resulted in the woman developing a fatal infection. The ACLU decided to file the suit against the Conference instead of the hospital because this is only one of many cases where religious policies put upon Catholic hospitals has resulted in dangerous medical practices.
This is just one example of where the pro-life movement (especially in situations involving the Catholic church) is inconsistent in its claim that it values all life. Doctors have been excommunicated for performing emergency abortions to save the life of the mother. In Ireland, one of the strictest countries in terms of abortion law, a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant was told she was miscarrying baby, but was then denied an emergency termination. Despite the woman’s severe pain, the doctors said that they had to wait until the baby had no heartbeat. When they determined the baby had indeed died, they removed the fetus. Savita Halappanavar died four days later of a blood infection.
In the Dominican Republic, where all abortions are banned, 16-year old Rosa died after her cancer treatment was delayed 20 days because the chemotherapy could have terminated her pregnancy. The ban in the Dominican Republic made headlines in 2009 when it was put in place and received support from American pro-life groups. LifeNews, a popular pro-life website, quoted one of the Americans involved: “We have witnessed firsthand the grievous slaughter of innocent children in America, and we are committed to helping our friends in the Dominican Republic to avoid the same mistakes.”
Was he thinking about the women who might be affected by this ban? What about their lives? It’s easy to justify outright bans by saying how rare Rosa’s circumstances are, and even how rare pregnancy by rape or incest is, but that’s dangerous thinking. It erases all the women it does affect, which number thousands in the US alone. Each life is important, isn’t it? Or does that only apply to the unborn?
It’s been a criticism of the pro-life movement for a long time, that they only seem to care about fetuses, and as soon as that kid is born, it’s on its own. We’ve got pro-life politicians voting to restrict abortion and then in the same day, voting to cut food stamps and arguing against minimum wage. I’ve seen people mocking those who want higher wages by saying they deserve what they have, because they aren’t “skilled” enough to get more. So you’ve got a sixteen-year old girl who drops out of high school to raise the baby YOU wanted her to have, and then you’re saying she doesn’t really need those food stamps, and that she shouldn’t be earning more per hour at McDonald’s because “McDonald’s was never intended to be a career.” Oh, the compassion. Again, I’m not saying all pro-lifers are cold-hearted monsters. Most of the people I know would want to help the 16-year old mom and wouldn’t be jerks about it, but what I am saying is look at who you are voting for and look at the inconsistencies. They may wear the Pro-Life badge, but what else are they wearing? Do they actually care about people? Or are they just spouting some emotional tirades about thumb-sucking ultrasounds to get your check mark?
Another area where the pro-life movement is glaringly inconsistent is when it comes to sex education and contraception. Over and over again, abstinence-only education has been proven to fail. The idea that sex education promotes or hastens sexual activity among teens has also been proven false. Many Christian pro-life organizations continue to push for it. Face it: if someone is going to have sex, a teacher telling them not to is not going to change their mind. People also make mistakes and compromise their values. They need a safety net. You can’t just say that kids should learn about sex from their parents and that it’s not the school’s business, and then when the parents fail at that and a teenager gets pregnant, suddenly leap in the ring and start telling everyone what to do. Why so interested now and not before? Again, is it worth your time just because there’s a fetus involved?
Most people are also misinformed about contraception, and pro-life groups calling morning-after pills “abortion pills” (which do exist, but are not the same as morning-after) does not help. Christians all too often also promote (or at least passively approve) the idea that women who use contraception are “sluts.” A woman only needs to be having sex with one person to need birth control. So, relax. It’s not like every woman who gets her hands on birth control is going to lose her mind and start having sex with anything that moves. There aren’t some libido-boosting chemicals in those things. People also get upset at the idea that insurance will cover birth control and recently, that Obamacare will cover more women than ever before. Isn’t that a good thing? More birth control means less unwanted pregnancies means less abortions. This ties into the inconsistency thing for me – people get all red-faced about paying for birth control and then get super mad about abortions. One thing could have prevented the other, and if you really believe that abortion is murder, then paying for birth control is waaaaay less morally objectionable than having taxes go towards abortion (which they do not), so what is the real issue here? Is this really about saving babies, or is it about sex you don’t want women to have? It sounds like it’s about sex, especially when people say that getting pregnant is a “consequence” of having sex, so women should just deal with it and not get an abortion. I thought a baby was a blessing, not a punishment. Make up your mind. This is confusing to me. If I’m going to call myself pro-life, I don’t want all this extra “NO SEX FOR YOU” and “NO BIRTH CONTROL EITHER” hanging around.
Abortion should not be banned. Number one reason: it does not actually stop abortion. In Africa and Latin America (where most countries have very tight restrictions), abortion rates are about 29 per 1,000 and 32 per 1,000. In Western Europe (where abortion permitted on “broad grounds), the rate is 12 per 1,000. In countries where the restrictions are the most strict, abortions are also the most unsafe, so more women die. Now, these numbers are not to be blindly taken as truth (the Guttmacher Institute faces a decent amount of criticism because of its number-gathering methods in certain countries, though I found only one legit source that criticizes them, and then the rest are all pro-life/Christian websites and blogs, soooooo a little biased there), but I’m inclined to believe that in countries that are considered “developing” – where there’s a lack of modern medical care in rural areas, high poverty rates, little access to birth control, and very strict abortion laws – there are going to be a lot of abortions done unsafely (either self-induced or by non-professionals). If a woman wants to have an abortion, she will get an abortion. And she might die in the process.
Reason two – The women who are the most vulnerable and most at risk will be the ones to suffer most. I’m talking about pregnant women with cancer, rape victims, women at risk for infections, women who can’t bear the thought of their child being born only to suffer for a few hours and then die, women whose babies will be born dead….this is not emotional manipulation, these are facts. People can try and dismiss the statistics, and just focus on a teenager who made a mistake and wants a “quickie abortion,” but the reality is there is no one type of person who would ever want an abortion. That’s important to at least think about, to look at their stories, to hear their reasons, and not to just shame them and write them as “baby killers.” Who is that helping?
I also come across this thing where people are all like, “You care about this typhoon in Indonesia/any other horrible thing in the world? Well, babies are dying! Isn’t that worse?” Like it’s some kind of competition. Or this has happened a couple times, where I say how sad those polar bears commercials make me, or that Sarah McLachlan ad about the animals, and I get this aggressive “Abortion is the new Holocaust!” thrown in my face. Yesssss, that is also bad. Which is why I support more birth control, comprehensive sex education, and less shaming about children outside of marriage…what exactly do you think? And, as a head’s up, don’t go around calling things “the new Holocaust” or saying things are “like the Holocaust.” Because it’s not. It’s not the systematic extermination of a certain race and faith by a dictator, and yes, I do in fact know that Margaret Sanger was into eugenics, but did you know that organizations can change and not hold to every wacko idea that their founders had? Henry Ford was way into eugenics too, but we still buy Ford. Calm down.
Also, google “Pro life” and look at what comes up. A LOT of emotional appeals there. And shaming. Like that nice little bumper sticker that says, “The root cause of abortion is selfishness.” Really? Is it? Every time? Ok. I’ll stick that on the car of the politician who said that abortions in situations where the mother’s life is at risk are about “convenience.”