Abortion’s ideology has come to light
The news cycle in recent weeks has been filled with grim reports showing just how our fellow Americans view the most innocent members of our society: insignificant and disposable. First, we heard about the recently-passed New York law which allows abortion all the way until birth for any reason involving the “health of the mother.” This terminology encompasses such a wide scope, including “economic and social health,” as to render the limitation useless.
Effectively, abortions until birth are legal in New York for anyone who wants one. Then Virginia governor Ralph Northam gave an interview in which he seemed to advocate infanticide, saying:
“The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated, if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”
Gov. Northam seemed to suggest that a fully-grown, delivered infant with “severe deformities” or a terminal (non-viable) condition would either be given life support, or left to die as he or she is “kept comfortable.” Such a decision regarding the life of a baby outside the womb would be made at the discretion of the mother and doctors. He prefaced these comments by saying murdering an infant during, or apparently post-labor would only be allowed in the cases of “severe deformities,” or fetal non-viability, thereby categorizing human life in an eerily familiar way. To Gov. Northam, some lives are less valuable and precious than others, less worthy of protection by law, or perhaps better off not existing at all. This way of thinking had a well-known name in the early 20th century: eugenics.
In my experience as a pro-life advocate at the University of Georgia, I’ve heard many justifications for abortion and assisted suicide. I won’t suggest those spouting such justifications have any conception of where their reasoning finds its ideological roots, but nonetheless, the troubling fact is that the mindset of many people when it comes to life issues closely mirrors that of the Nazis. After the New York law and Gov. Northam’s comments, such a comparison can be readily drawn. The three most common justifications I hear for abortion can be summed up as “Cost, Compassion, and Choice”.
The cost objection comes in two forms. The first and more common one refers to a pregnant woman, say, in college, who doesn’t have the financial security to be able to pay for a newborn. Thankfully, in the pro-life community, there are many people willing to front the cost of a newborn child or even adopt. In this case, I refer the person to pregnancy resource centers and local charities. While the concern of cost preparedness is reasonable, taking a step back, we can observe a troubling ultimatum: Is life only worth protecting if it is affordable?
The implication becomes more troubling when spoken about in societal terms, which I have encountered more often when talking to my politically savvy peers. A person once asked me, “Would you rather pay for all the resources for pregnant women and children?” before rattling off a list of items including contraception, formula, childcare, daycare and housing, “or abortion?” Back and forth we went, while she continually emphasized the societal cost of providing welfare for all those lower income families. I paused, thinking of the implication she was making before carefully suggesting, “So, you’d rather low income people kill their children than have them be born into that environment?” She nodded her head and looked around a bit before saying, point-blank, “Yes.”
The New York Reproductive Health Act states that late-term abortion is allowed when, “the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” That sounds reasonable to a lot of people, but in law, every word has meaning and ambiguity is always purposeful. In an interview with pro-life advocate Lila Rose, former abortionist and lawyer Dr. Anthony Levatino offers a useful insight:
“What Roe [v. Wade] didn’t do was define the word ‘health.’ Doe v. Bolton did. It says that ‘health’ … includes a woman’s physical health. Okay, but it didn’t say how badly impaired her physical health had to be, for it to be a problem. It includes her ‘mental health.’ Okay, but again, how bad does her mental health have to be? … It includes her ‘economic health.’ How much money do you have to have to be economically healthy? Not defined. And, if that wasn’t enough, it includes her ‘social health.’ What in blazes does that mean?”
The New York law includes purposeful ambiguity so as to make its “limitations” on late-term abortion essentially meaningless. The law allows late-term abortion for practically any reason, including cost. Whether the objection to the pro-life position is the common example of a woman who feels the pressure of providing alone, or the cold, calculated assessment of the societal monetary cost of sustaining human life, there can be no price tag too high to preserve life. Pro-life advocates should make this crystal clear across the board, especially when it comes to babies and other vulnerable members of our society.
Many object to my mention of adoption by suggesting that a woman should not have to endure the pain of giving up a child, and that is why it is important she be allowed to pre-emptively murder it, instead. Before finding humor in the irony, consider that one of the greatest tragedies surrounding abortion is that within the discourse, such a concern for a woman’s emotional health is not given. “Is it good for a woman to get an abortion?” is apparently not a politically correct question, or something that supposed “pro-woman” feminists have never thought of. Rather, the most radical pro-choice advocates flippantly insist that abortions are no big deal. What a tragedy it is when a woman finds out differently, as many do, evidenced by post-abortive suicide statistics. This leads me to a brief but important aside:
According to a 1996 report published in British Medical Journal, Scandinavian women who aborted experienced a suicide rate nearly six times greater than women who delivered their babies. A 2001 study in Archives of Women’s Mental Health found a suicide rate 2.6 times greater for post-abortive American women. To be clear, American women who have had an abortion commit suicide doubly as often as those who haven’t had an abortion. Yet, those who meet me with objections to the pro-life position on the basis of compassion toward mother or child are strangely oblivious to this deeply troubling fact.
Many arguments I hear from my peers regarding children born into poverty or with disabilities are not cost-related, but instead suggest that a life in poverty, or a life with some differences or difficulty, is not worth living at all. The fact that it is not the child choosing to end their life in this case is apparently lost on them, and this same argument is significantly harder to combat when it comes to the issue of assisted suicide due to the weight the idea of personal autonomy or “freedom” is given in our culture, even if it means ending your own life. However, our culture doesn’t accept or promote all types of suicide, only assisted suicide in the specific cases of terminal medical conditions, disabilities, or even if the person wishes their family not be burdened by soaring medical costs. The first two justifications, in the case of both assisted suicide and abortion, make one’s happiness or the “easiness” life equivalent with the value of their life. Life isn’t always easy, and this comparison not only justifies and encourages suicide, but murder in the case of the pro-choice argument.
Despite its errors, it is a convincing argument, which is probably why the Nazis used it in their propaganda for the Aktion T4 program. This was the first atrocity the Nazis committed, the mass murder of the disabled, or those deemed “incurably sick.” How familiar that is to the justification for abortion and assisted suicide today. The Nazis’ administration of “mercy death” on the disabled should not be forgotten when people in our modern society think about where life derives its value. Is the value of human life inherent, or conditional on levels of happiness and hardship?
The most classic pro-choice argument is in the name: choice. Many modern pro-choice advocates have found it’s easier to discount the concessions they might give with regard to abortion. For instance, the pro-choice slogan used to be, “safe, legal, and rare.” Why rare? Today, pro-choice advocates see how the old slogan weakens their stance. Why should abortion be rare if there is nothing wrong with it? Therefore, the sole emphasis of the pro-choice campaign has become the freedom and autonomy of women.
The former disagreement between the two sides stemmed from one question: when does a fetus “become a life?” For myself and many pro-lifers, it is a life from conception, for the duration of the entire pregnancy. For others, it is at the point when a heartbeat can be detected. In light of recent laws proposed by many states, and New York’s Reproductive Health Act, a baby in the fetal stage is never a life. With the development of modern medical technology and science, we can see and make sense of the processes of fetal development, and provide detailed images and descriptions of the baby at each stage. Science is on the side of life. These technological developments have also caused the pro-choice side to avoid the topic of life altogether, and insist that choice or freedom is the most important value to uphold.
When we take a step back, what does this imply? It implies two things. First, it means that the value of life, or life itself, is determined at the whim of the woman who carries that life in her womb. If she wants the baby, it is a life. If she doesn’t, it is not. That doesn’t make much sense, so few arguing in favor of “choice” will go that far into the explanation of their thought process, but one did in a segment of “Philosophy Time With James Franco and Eliot Michaelson.” Yes, that James Franco. They interviewed Liz Harmon, a professor at Princeton University, who said an early fetus’ “moral status” depends on whether or not it “has a future,” which is determined by the woman. She was widely mocked for this view, which is why more often than not, pro-choice advocates disregard the idea that a fetus is a life altogether, contrary to scientific evidence.
The second implication is that abortion is always a woman’s choice, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, and life or “moral status” is irrelevant. Simply put, dehumanizing fetuses across all stages of pregnancy, with no conditions and no admissions, has become the driving force of the pro-choice campaign.
What we are experiencing now with laws, Gov. Northam’s comments, and mainstream pro-choice rhetoric is the effect of the idea that freedom should have value over life. If freedom has value over life, that life in question must be dehumanized to make this stance appear even somewhat permissible to anyone. That is what pro-choice advocates are doing, and that is what has been done throughout history to justify other atrocities. How can we counteract this mindset that individual freedom supersedes the right to life?
Selfless love is a place to start. It is what guides the activists at Students for Life of UGA, of which I am a part. Considering our role on a college campus, our primary goal is to inform women and their male friends of the resources and support available to pregnant women. Judgment is never to be placed, but patience given to pro-choice advocates and the utmost compassion, sympathy and love to post-abortive women.
The issue of abortion is often ignored, with people saying it’s “not their business.” Pro-choice advocates encourage this in keeping with their idea that abortion is simply an individual’s right and personal choice. The truth is, abortion effects everyone. It affects fathers, siblings, parents, and as evidenced by data, it most severely affects the mental health of post-abortive women themselves.
Abortion also affects those who have no personal connection to an aborted life or a post-abortive woman, impacting society as a whole. The justifications for abortion devalue human life at its most vulnerable stage. If we permit this, what might we permit toward the disabled, the sick and the poor? Devaluing human life in the womb is not happening in a vacuum. It affects how we perceive, and how we treat other human beings on a day to day basis. Being pro-life is about combating the force in our culture that has torn down the concept of human dignity and the reverence for human life. The most egregious example is human abortion, but it would be incredibly naive to think that abortion is where this cultural devaluation of life will stop.