9 Ways to Beat the Patriarchal Christian Right on Abortion
Continued from previous page
· No-choice advocates say: Abortion is immoral. God hates abortion.
· We can say: For me, bringing a child into the world under bad circumstances is immoral. It violates my moral and spiritual values. / Whose god decides?
2. Challenge the personhood/fetus-as-baby concept both philosophically and visually. The history of humanity’s evolving ethical consciousness has focused on the question of who counts as a person, and if the arc bends toward justice it is because it is an arc of inclusion. Non-land-owning men, slaves, women, poor workers, children—our ancestors have fought and won personhood rights for each of these, and abortion foes are smart to invoke this tradition. But their ploy involves a sleight of hand. The civil rights tradition is built on what a “person” can think and feel. By contrast, the anti-choice move is about DNA, and it seeks to trigger visual instincts that make us feel protective toward anything that looks remotely like a baby, even a stuffed animal. In reality, the tissue removed during most abortions is minute, a gestational sac the size of a dime or quarter, which is surprising to people who have been exposed to anti-abortion propaganda. It strikes almost no-one as being the substance of “personhood.”
· They say: Abortion is murder. Abortion kills little babies.
· We can say: A person can think and feel. My cat can feel hungry or hurt or curious or content; an embryo cannot. / Thanks to better and better pregnancy tests, over 60 percent of abortions now occur before 9 weeks of gestation. Want to see what they actually look like?
3. Admit that the qualities of personhood begin to emerge during gestation. Pregnancy is no longer the black box it was at the time of Roe v. Wade. Ultrasound and photography have made fetal development visible, and research is beginning to offer a glimpse into the developing nervous system, with the potential to answer an important question: What, if anything, is a fetus capable of experiencing at different stages of development? Although this isn’t the only question in the ethics of abortion, it undeniably relevant. How we treat other living beings has long been guided by our knowledge of what they can experience and want. By implication, ethics change over the course of pregnancy. A fertilized egg may not a person except by religious definitions, but by broad human agreement a healthy newborn is, and in between is a continuum of becoming. Most Americans understand this argument morally and emotionally. The Roe trimester framework also codified it legally. Ethical credibility requires that we acknowledge and address the ethical complexities at stake.
· They say: A fetus is a baby. A baby is a living soul from the moment of conception.
· We can say: In nature, most fertilized eggs never become babies. A fetus is becoming a baby, grows into a baby, is a potential person,or is becoming a person.
4. Pin blame for high abortion rates where it belongs – on those who oppose contraception—and call out the immorality of their position because it causes expense and suffering. Unintended pregnancy is the main cause of abortion. Right now half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. For unmarried women under 30, that’s almost 70%. A third of those pregnancies end in abortion. The reality is that abortion is an expensive medical procedure. For the price of one abortion, we can provide a woman with the best contraceptive protection available, something that will be over 99% effective for up to twelve years. If every woman had information and access to state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives, half of abortions could go away before Barack Obama gets out of office.