Friday, February 01, 2008

Abortion shouldn't be a political issue...

Over on CK's blog, he's gearing up for a month-long debate on an issue about which he feels very strongly. Abortion.

Totally unlike England, where the topic is wisely avoided, American politicians stake their political territory with their attitudes towards abortion.

No other social topic polorises the American people. CK himself admits that Democratic "financial and social policies would fly with most of the Christian right, but their stance on abortion forces them to vote predominately Republican."

It's a very thorny topic - so I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

When it comes to abortion, I have two positions.

  1. I do think abortion is wrong.
  2. I don't think abortion should be banned.
These two statements might seem to be contradictory, but they're not. You don't have to agree with or condone abortion to realise that it's a problem that won't be solved by some utterly ill-considered blanket ban.

A federal ban on abortion - which is what I'd imagine hard core conservatives like CK are calling for - is an utterly unrealistic, unconstitutional and downright stupid idea. And I'll tell you why.

Why Abortion is Wrong

When it comes to the morality of abortion, CK and I are on the same page.

It's really quite simple. When sperm and egg combine and create a viable zygote, a woman is considered 'pregnant.' That zygote soon becomes an embryo, a multicellular diploid eukaryote, which ideally imbeds itself in the endometrial lining of a woman's uterus.

Unless something's wrong with it (25% of all pregnancies end before 13 weeks) or an accident happens, that bundle of cells will grow into a fetus and then be born as a baby. To all intents and purposes, new life begins at the moment of conception.

An abortion terminates that pregnancy - and snuffs out that potential new life before it even has a chance to begin. While the pro-choice advocates try to shuffle around the cold hard reality of it, it's really as simple as that. An abortion stops a beating heart.

Advances in science mean a premature baby can be kept alive earlier and earlier now. On the other end of the spectrum, scientists can create embryos and grow them in test tubes and could, theoretically, produce babies entirely independently of a human womb. So you can't really gloss over what abortion actually is.

Now I have a robust attitude towards life and death, growing up on a farm and being a firm advocate of meat-eating and huntin' and fishin' and all the animal-slaughtering resultant therein. However, I also believe that if you're grown up enough to let your eggs and your sperm get within touching distance of each other, you're grown up enough to deal with the consequences.

I personally consider the 'pro-choice' decision to be no decision at all.

Why an Abortion Ban is wrong...

Despite that being my personal take on the abortion issue, I am strongly opposed to the Republican demand for a federal ban on abortions - or giving individual states the right to ban the procedure. There are several reasons for this.

An Abortion Ban won't End Abortion

Remember prohibition, anyone?

The abortionist is probably the world's second oldest profession - probably stemming from a need generated by the first! Throughout recorded history there have always been abortions and doubtless, there always will be in the future.

From medicine women giving herbs and tinctures to induce miscarriage, to midwives with coat-hangers doing a side business 'helping' careless girls - the history of abortion is pretty much as long as the history of civilisation.

Abortion has only been legal for the last half century - yet it was a flourishing business in America long before then. Frank Sinatra's mother, Dolly, used to perform abortions in pre-war Hoboken.

The simple fact is, as long as there is a demand for abortions, there will be people willing to supply them - legally or illegally. Last year, there were 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States alone. Conservatives who imagine a ban will end them overnight are delusional.

At least legal abortions are performed by licenced physicians in clean, clinical conditions. A woman visiting an abortion clinic is offered counseling to ensure she's fully aware of the ramifications of the decision she's making. As it is presently, woman having abortions are at least offered a safe environment in which to do so.

If conservatives successfully overturn Roe vs. Wade - the Supreme Court ruling that declared abortion a constitutionally protected right - the abortion industry would simply go underground.

1.2 million women every single year seek abortions. The vast majority of them would continue to do so even if abortion was made illegal. They only difference is, they'd have them performed by unlicenced physicians, in unsanitary conditions - without any form of accountability.

History has shown that illegally performed abortions have a very high rate of infection, injury and death. If conservatives overturned the ban on abortions, they wouldn't save the lives of 'all' the babies. They'd just add a large number of young women to the death toll.

This is the number one reason why a ban on abortion is stupid. You don't have to like abortion - but you do have to accept the reality of the situation.

It's the conservatives' fault...

Abortion 'friendly' England is famed for it's high rate of teenage pregnancy. However, it's interesting to note that the real figures for unplanned teenage pregnancy are actually much higher in the United States - more than double.

Head down south to Texas and that percentage rate shoots up to be more than three times the figure in England - almost sixty girls out of a thousand wind up pregnant. Statistically, that means a higher percentage girls are having abortions in Texas too.

And why? Well, ironically, it's the fault of the same people calling for an abortion ban! Conservative policies are often to blame for unplanned pregnancies in the first place!

Take, for example, sex education. In modern society - with depictions of sexually active teenagers all over the television and movie screens - it's an accepted fact that youngsters are going to sexually experiment.

Yet abortion-hating conservatives also demand that teenagers are given 'abstinence only' sexual education. They're not told about contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases or condoms. Instead, the conservatives believe teenagers should simply be instructed to 'keep it in their pants' until the day they walk down the aisle.

Yet mountains of research has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that abstinence only sexual education does not work. Kids are just as likely to be sexually active after receiving abstinence only sexual education as kids who were taught about the 'bells and whistles' of responsible sex.

The only difference is that 'abstinence only' kids don't use protection.

How conservatives could ever imagine that abstinence only sexual education works is beyond me. The only thing I do understand is that this policy directly contributes to unplanned pregnancies.

Conservatives are a driving force behind the demand for abortions.

I'll tell you what to do, but I sure ain't helping...

Another way in which conservative policies directly contribute to the number of abortions performed in America regards their attitudes towards welfare.

In England, 17% of all pregnancies are terminated. In the United States, that figure is 22%. Why is the figure so much higher in America, where 50% of the population is supposedly against abortion?

The answer is easy - and directly linked to the number one reason why women have abortions. "I can't support a baby right now."

Britain's 'nanny state' policies reward single teenage mothers. Having a baby means a council house, welfare cheque and child support. For many teenage girls in lower class parts of the country, having a baby is seen as career choice. Women are 'set for life' if they knock out a couple of sprogs by age 20.

It's not an admirable policy - but it explains why more women in Britain are willing to follow their pregnancy through than in America.

Because rightly or wrong, America has a considerably smaller welfare system and the state is not going to be there to support every single mother. An unplanned pregnancy often means a woman simply can't support herself or her new baby - driving women towards having abortions simply because they have no other choice.

And ironically, it's conservative policies that drive this demand for abortions. The Republican's are the party of 'small government' in which Americans are expected to fend for themselves in matters of welfare and healthcare.

Republicans angrily insist that pregnant women carry their pregnancies to term - but then refuse to support them when they do. It's utterly contradictory and hypocritical. The pro-life conservatives cry that 'all life is sacred' as long as it's not their life and they're not expected to pay for it.

I'm not saying it's a good idea - I myself have conservative financial values - but if the conservatives REALLY wanted to reduce the number of women having abortions, they'd be there to offer them support. If a woman is driven to an abortion clinic because she 'can't support a baby,' a true pro-life campaigner would reach into their pocket and pay the rent cheque and grocery bill that this new mother can't.

But, of course, that's not how most conservatives think. They limit their appraisal of abortion to moral condemnation and angry jundgementalism. They never think of the consequences of their actions.

1.2 Million Served...

Zooming out and looking at the big picture, there are some other serious ramifications behind a conservative call for a blanket ban on abortions.

Last year, 1.2 million women had an abortion. Imagine, for a second, the inconceivable notion of 1.2 million women with unplanned pregnancies actually carrying them to term every single year!

Right now, the conservatives are bitching about the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants entering the country every year. Imagine what would happen if a group as large as the population of Dallas, Texas turned up in our maternity wards as well?

Constitutional Hypocrisy

Let's not forget the possibly most important reason why a ban on abortion is an idiotic idea. Because the Supreme Court - the highest court of law in the United States - said a ban on abortion is fundamentally unconstitutional.

According to the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade, banning abortions violates the Fourteenth Amendment. That ruling means that no state or national legislative body can ban abortions. You don't have to like it, but it's the law.

Conservatives who oppose abortion want to elect a president who will appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court - and hope that one of them will overrule Roe vs. Wade. There's nothing like bypassing the democratic process when you've got an axe to grind, eh?

Let's not beat around the (George) Bush. It's very clearly established in the Constitution that judges are not supposed to legislate from the benches. Making laws is the job of Congress and the Senate - and those laws must fit within the confines of the Constitution.

If conservatives want to pass a law banning abortions, they're damn well going to have to do it through the legislative, facing the scrutiny of this nation's elected representatives. Screwing around with Supreme Court is unconstitutional and unAmerican.

Conservatives may decry people burning the American flag, but apparently they're more than willing to stomp all over it to get what they want.

Just plain dumb...

And, finally, there's just the very unlikable face of the pro-life conservative movement, who undermine the morality of their argument each and every day with offensive and hypocritical actions.

Life is sacred, say the conservatives. Yet fervant anti-abortionists shoot doctors dead outside abortion clinics. Conservatives still support the death penalty. The right wing only 'Support our Troops' as far as sending them abroad to be shot at by Islamic fundamentalists.

I really don't like being lectured about the sanctity of life by people whose hands are practically dripping with blood.

The Solution

It's not all bad news. There is hope for the conservatives and for a rational, practical campaign to eliminate the need for abortions. Those who are pro-life have to look at the big picture and decide which values are more important to them - and what they're willing to sacrifice to help stamp out the demand for abortions in the United States.

Because banning them won't work - but long term changes might.

There are two main keys to reducing the number of abortions - and hopefully setting a precedent that will see the demand for pregnancy termination practically reduced to zero.

  • Adequate sex education for teenagers - so they know how to avoid an unplanned pregnancy if they're sexually active (and two out of three are.)
  • Adequate resources for poor mothers - so if a woman finds herself pregnant, she doesn't need to worry about paying for a roof over her head or affording food and medical bills.

The downside, of course, is that conservatives are going to have to put up with higher taxes to pay for this - and they're going to have to get off their blinkered high horse about decent sex education.

Whether or not the average conservative is willing to make that sacrifice is a question I can't answer - but until they're willing to, women will still seek abortions (legally or not.)


ck said...

Your initial comment can easily be rewritten:
I do think murder is wrong.
I do not think murder should be banned.

Also, to the best of my knowledge the 1.2 million figure is for 2004 (the latest year I could find!).

I fully acknowledge it won't end abortion, but I'd rather it be something we as a country are ashamed of rather then something we embrace.

In the end if the pro-abortion movement is so strong on it they can open their pocket book and provide trips to Canada for these folks.

Now the abstinence only debate... I support abstinence being PART of a sexual education course. I am not in favor of that only being taught. But the governor of my state actually has banned ANY abstinence teachings in school. There is a balance.

And out of fairness, I am 29, my wife is 28, my son is 11... do the math.

Its a shame that its an 'accepted fact' that teens will have sex. I grew up in a Godless house, my children are in a God led house and I will have an expectation of them not having babies in high school.

Fixing it... welfare isn't the answer. Now some training and providing for the mom while she is turning her life around is.. that is a form of welfare, but what happened in this country is that people had babies to get checks. You have to have something in place to stop that. Back when Bill Clinton was president there was a welfare reform act passed that in large part dealt with much of this issue.

Republican's aren't against welfare, they are against the abuse of it.

Roe v. Wade was a bad decision. It was very bad, legally doesn't hold water. Abortion should have been a legislative issue in 1973, just as it should be today. We can't let bad decisions dictate our decisions today.

I also will touch on what I see as a distinct difference between the death penalty, war, and abortion.

Finally you missed two major things that would be part of the fix:
1. If abortion wasn't allowed you'd see a lot less unplanned pregnancies. They'd know that there was no easy out.
2. Adoption. As you may know I've adopted one child and hope to start the process for another this year. The adoption laws SUCK, and need to be fixed to make it easier to adopt a child.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi CK!

I think:

"I do think murder is wrong.
I do not think murder should be banned." exactly applicable to the totally contradictory conservative attutide towards the death penalty. Either life is sacred or it isn't. Make up your damn minds.

Hopefully your kids WON'T be having babies in High School! Whether they'll be having sex or not is something you have less control over.

You might see fewer unplanned pregnancies if you ban abortion - but even guessing a 50% reduction still means 600,000 of them a year.

and finally, you're absolutely right about adoption. I didn't mention it, but it's a great point. Adoption is a good compromise for families who want children and women who don't. It's a pity there's so much investment in artificial fertilization when a logical answer is just to promote adoption for childless couples.

I'll be interested to read your opinions in your blog.

Kitty said...

Here in the UK, politicians don't tend to ally themselves to any particular stance on abortion. Though our ex Prime Minister, Mr Blair did, I think, state he was personally opposed to it, but would never seek to make it illegal. In this country an abortion has to be judged as being necessary by two different doctors before it can happen. But it does happen.

ck said...

I would be 100% understanding of a person who was against abortion, war, and the death penalty... but the truth is its generally a 2 out of three thing.

Republican's for 2 out of 3, democrats against 2 out of 3....

My big distinction, and I do make this on my blog is that one targets guilty people where the other targets the innocent.

I life I'd certainly like to see no need for any of these, but the death penalty and war are not fully condemned in scripture... which is where I make my basis for not being against those.

Its honestly not solely about life, but about innocent life.

Roland Hulme said...

hi Kitty!

I remember Blair mentioning the issue. All of parliament twiddled their thumbs nervously for a while!!

Hey CK,

If it's innocent life we're talking about, I think it's worth remembering that 7% of all death row inmates are pardoned (possibly suggesting that 7% of all executed people are innocent of the crimes for which they were killed) and 'war' often involves bombing that kills innocent civilians.

did you see the post below this one? I gave you a well deserved nod.

ck said...

Yes I saw it. Thanks.

And I do fully acknowledge that there is some innocent life in war and death penalty, we (the US) do take extreme and expensive measures to prevent that... and as our technology improves these numbers drop every year.

That is why I used the word 'targets', because the primary target are guilty folks.

As for war, and lets get specific here... do you think more or less innocent people are dying in Iraq each year now that Saddam is gone?

Saddam wanted to get rid of a whole religious sect...

Roland Hulme said...

There's logic in what you say about war and innocent victims - although I'm surprised that Christians would accept ANY innocent lives lost.

The death penalty is just dumb. War is often a neccessity. The death penalty is just a cruel luxury. If a single innocent person might be executed, it's reason enough to end capital punishment immediately.

Surely as a Christian you don't value the ensured execution of a guilty man as being more important that running the risk of murdering an innocent one?

ck said...

Don't confuse me with Christians as a whole... some of them wouldn't like being compared to me and vice versa ;-) These are purely my views. But I am logical when it comes to things in understanding that the fact that we live in a sinful and fallen world means that innocent people will die. Nobody, atheist or Christian, wants innocent people to die...

I will say the death penalty needs to be reworked... not eliminated, but reworked.

Reverse_Vampyr said...

Good post.

I still find it odd that as a society we condone abortion, yet if someone kills a pregnant woman (intentionally or accidentally) they are charged with the murder of the woman AND the fetus. Kinda contradictory, huh?

ck said...

It sure is! It's either wrong to kill a baby in the womb or its not.