The Foggy Mysticism of Pro-Choice Rhetoric

I’m told that Christians hate science and go for mystical mumbo jumbo. But when the topic turns to abortion, it’s fascinating that prochoice rhetoric instantly turns to blather about the “mystery” of when human life begins and what human life is: all that stuff that is just so far above Obama’s pay grade that he has no idea what to say, all that stuff about “ensoulment” that so preoccupies and befuddles Nancy Pelosi. It’s all such misty and mysterious and fogbound and Cloud of Unknowingy stuff! Meanwhile, Christians are going, “Yo! 46 Chromosomes! It’s human. Conception is when the organism began. Here: watch this National Geographic documentary if you have any questions.”

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  • Joseph

    Yep. One debate I had with a couple of pro-choicers in a pub where I stuck to pure science to make my pro-life argument resulted in the amazing denial of scientific fact on their part with the response, “Well… science is just another man’s bible”.
    With that, the conversation ended.

    • Imrahil

      … preferably (though I say it as shouldn’t, away from safe distance) with: “Why, yes, certainly! And I believe in either. You, apparently, believe in neither. Do you see any common ground between us?”

  • Such blatant irrationality indicates a collision of absolutes. In this case: (1) the absolute social/political/economic equality, independence, and self-determination of the individual, no matter what sex; and (2) the absolute right to life of every human being, no matter how small. If we want to reduce abortion, we’ve got to find a way to resolve that impasse.

    • zoltan

      You resolve it by denying (1).

      • You resolve it by denying (1).

        The problem being that denying (1) in the case of abortion disproportionately affects women, who must go through the rigors of childbearing and who are more naturally tied to their offspring. Hence, society discriminates against women. That’s why President Obama famously described his daughter’s potential crisis pregnancy as a punishment from society.

        Conservatives and liberals have no common or rational way of addressing this discrimination against women. Liberals want to either provide for the women with welfare payments – which further privilege the men who are thus relieved of the burden of providing for the children they sire – or else “remove the punishment” from the women by aborting their children. Conservatives want to structure society so that women are cared for by their families but continually undermine their own solution both by promoting family-destroying economic policies and by indulging in the fatuous rhetoric of individual freedom whenever they need to score political points.

        • zoltan

          Discrimination isn’t wrong as long as it’s just. Childbearing is a special gift from God that comes with suffering and joys. By arguing that it is wrong for (some) women to have to live differently because of how God created them, they are denying a facet of creation. Freedom must have certain restrictions, it is not boundless and outside of the natural law. It is to be understood within Catholic theology and the social kingship of Christ.

          Conservatives and liberals can’t figure this out because they worship the separation of church and state as well as a radical individualism that denies religious and social duty. Some transmit the sola scriptura of Protestants to the Constitution. It is a special disease of America.

          • I 100% percent agree with you. I’m just trying to help people understand the difficulty the other side finds itself in. It doesn’t love baby-slaughter. It just doesn’t see how it can affirm the full dignity and equality of women in our particular system without abortion.

          • IRVCath

            Well, given that the founders of our present government were in large part anti-clerical and certainly virulentlyanti-Catholic (one of their grievances, laid in the Declaration of Independence, was the fact that Westminster had allowed Catholic Quebeckers the right to hold civil office like Protestants), not that surprising.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Rather, I would say that !2) and (1) are complements of each other. e.g. that the human being, no matter how small, has the right to that absolute Social/political/economic equality, independence and self-determination of the individual. There is an apparent conflict, except that a mother who recognizes that equality in her child will respect it and allow the process of life to come to fruition. However, when (1) is interpreted in an Ayn Rand way, some get to the conclusion that the mother does not “owe” anything to anybody else, including her unborn child, and should have the right to let her live children starve to death if she so chooses not to feed them, just as much as she is deemed to have the right to abort an unborn child. As such, our current laws are inconsistent with Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” since a parent can still be charged with neglect, or not providing the necessaries of life.
      Actually, it might be one way to help people realize the abomination of abortion by starting to claim that a parent should be free to kill any one of his or her children, at any time in the life of the child (including adulthood) if it is established that such child retains any claim at all on the parents… Most people still naturally recoil at the idea of murdering children, so to show how the “absolute” no (1) can be expanded to that extent might be helpful in some instances.

      • “Rather, I would say that !2) and (1) are complements of each other.”

        Yup. We need to stop believing the lie that there is some sort of zero sum game between mother and child. We can and should help and protect both.

  • I keep running into, “It may be ‘human’, but not a person”. Science goes out the window from there trying to debate personhood. Some use science only when it is convenient. Catholics use science when it is appropriate.

    • Imrahil

      Frankly, I fail to see that it makes any difference whether or not the definition of “person” should be such as applying to an embryo. An embryo is a person in the one case, and a future person in the other (I hear that Catholic anthropologists refer to the state of the “person-in-development” as a “pre-person”). In either case, it follows by logical morality that you must not kill him, so let’s not get diverted by side-issues.

    • Andy

      I’ll bite how is that distinction explained – human but not a person? Is that like dead, but alive?

      • If I have some of your skin tissue still alive, it is human (via DNA), but not a person. I counter by asking, when exactly did YOU become a person? It gets real weird from there.

        • I have a very good friend with whom I agree on almost everything except abortion. I asked point-blank once when exactly a fetus becomes a human being in her mind, and she completely dodged the question. Too many do.

        • Andy

          Wow – I am so lost here – I find this all but impossible to understand – a human is not a person – what then is a person? I know there is no answer to this – other than the human was ordained by God, so we should not destroy it. Thank you for the explanation though.

          • Marthe Lépine

            I think that some people have been trying to claim that the child becomes a person only when s/he has reached a certain level of development, such as being able to express him/herself, or giving signs of having a will of his/her own, or any other arbitrary stage. If my memory is correct, that kind of idea comes from those people who are beginning to write about a possibility of getting “post-delivery abortions”…

  • Allison Grace

    Now we get, “Well it’s human but it’s living inside me so I can kill it.”

    • I once debated a person who argued with all seriousness that a fetus is like a rapist in that it is using the woman’s body without her permission, and so it was ok to kill it.

      • orual’s kindred

        I’ve come across this sentiment several times. I wonder why some fetuses are then permitted to live. Does this mean that some women okay with having their uterus being used without their permission? I have yet to hear of women who wanted to be raped giving their rapists a pass, though, so I’m curious about what the difference is.

        • Marthe Lépine

          I think one of the differences is that, when a child had been “desired” and thus permitted to live, a mother will use the word “baby” from the start, while if the child is not “desired”, e.g. the pregnancy was not “planned” and could be “terminated”, it is called a “fetus”. (Actually, this is not my own original idea, I have read it somewhere a while ago.) How often have you heard a happily pregnant woman announce the presence of a fetus within her or discuss the growth of her fetus with her friends?(For example: “I felt my fetus’ first kick today.”)

          • orual’s kindred

            Which I would think means that the question of a fetus becoming a person depends on a woman’s varying emotions. This is a remarkable political power to be claimed by a select group (and recognized by others). I find it interesting that no other demographic makes a similar bid to social influence. I would think there are groups which would have more legal cause than an individual with a specific set of reproductive organs determining whether an entity has rights. This reasoning is certainly not common in rape cases; women claiming to having their individual preference disregarded is the more popular recourse. And yet whether a fetus is a baby or not hangs on their desires. I’m not sure there is an example of women thinking with their emotions more illustrative than this.

            • Marthe Lépine

              I agree with you.A life and death decision such as abortion should be based on more than emotions. But I am afraid that it is often the case, unfortunately.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Now that I have a little more time to write, I would like to add that a huge part of the problem is that pro-abortion “counsellors” and businesses like Planned Parenthood target women at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable. It is well known that a period of crisis, when emotions are strong, is the worst time to make life-changing decisions. If I remember correctly, it is said that any pregnancy, particularly at the beginning, does have an effect on a woman’s moods and emotions, because of the changes in her body. Worse if the pregnancy comes as a crisis. But with pressures to get an abortion as soon as possible, a woman is not really allowed to take the time to think through her decision and its consequences. It seems to me that many women, maybe even a majority, might decide against having an abortion once they had a chance to let, or make, their emotions stop taking control of their thought processes, and will bitterly regret a decision to have an abortion made too quickly. Of course, I can only talk about this, and I would not really know how to improve that situation… I guess all I can do for now is pray to support the efforts that other people are making.

  • James Isabella

    From a scientific point of view, I would think it would be easy to discern when the fruit of a conception is a separate human being. Does the object have its own unique DNA, or is it the DNA of the mother?

    Can anyone say exactly when DNA forms after fertilization? At the blastocyst stage?

    • silicasandra

      It’s at the zygote stage, which is before the blastocyst:

      When people say “fertilized egg,” this is usually what they mean (though it’s not entirely accurate, per image above.) The zygote starts as a single cell, and has DNA from both parents.

  • Mike Blackadder

    Yup, excellent observation Mark. Maybe the ‘best’ example that I’ve heard was the suggestion that the baby who is being aborted is spiritually assenting to being killed in solidarity with their mother!

  • Joe

    The mysticism won’t last. Eventually, it will become the recklessly nihilistic belief that human life has the value that *people* assign to it, not God. Mysticism will give way (and perhaps already has) to a complete scientific detachment.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Actually, we are almost there already. But that argument is stated in economic terms, therefore is considered by a lot of people as “cast in concrete” and perfectly reasonable, in spite of what has been repeatedly said by the Church in over a century: A worker’s pay is only a measure of the value that people assign to the type of work being done, whether or not the worker can support himself or his family with those wages…

      • IRVCath

        Right. There are a lot of people who take the “Freakonomics view” (not necessarily their view, but it is built on their analysis) that because abortion killed off a lot of potential criminals (mostly the poor, in this frame of mind) that consequently drove down our crime rates, therefore abortion is good because lowering crime rates (and money spent on the upkeep of the poor generally whether or not they are law-abiding) is good.

        Which reminds me of the Mitchell and Webb sketch about how just because something achieves the desired result, we should not do it. Yet how many are tone-deaf on these and other issues? More than you may think.

  • spiritually indecisive

    I don’t think the issue is to do with “whether or not a foetus is human”, but more along the lines of “whether or not a foetus
    is a person”. One of my pro-choice friends described it using a small
    thought experiment – “A fire has broken out inside an IVF clinic. There
    is a small child unconscious on the floor, and a tray of frozen embryos
    in the freezer. You have time either to rescue the (one) child or the (many) ‘snowflake babies’ on the tray. Which do you save?”

    I had to admit that I would save the child over the embryos every time, which helped me to understand his viewpoint that there is a distinction between what a foetus is and what a “real” person is – regardless of whether or not they are both “human” 🙂

    • MTM

      Answering “Which do you save?” is a start, but isn’t there much more to it than answering “yes” or “no” in evaluating a human’s personhood? Replace the tray of embryos with an old man. Which do you save, the child, or the old man? Silly question: If one answers, “I’d save the child”, does that mean the old man isn’t a “real” person?

      Whether one would save a human being in a frantic, life-threatening situation can hardly be the determining factor in whether those human beings are persons, or are at least valuable in themselves. The more important questions are, why would you save the born child vs. the embryos, and would that really be the best response? Would there be any reason to save the embryos, for the embryos’ sake, and why or why not? Is there a sliding scale of personhood, where a human is more of a human at one stage of development and less of a human at another?

      Additionally, this thought experiment deals with choosing what life to save. Elective abortion, in contrast, deals with whether one may choose to intentionally kill another human being at an early stage of development. Elective abortion always deals with choosing to kill a human being. If you look at the stats, it very rarely also touches on the question of whether to save one’s life.

      Of course I don’t expect you to answer all these questions–that sort of thing is far better discussed in person–but just to think about them.