Abortion has been a regular topic here recently, but with the passage of increasingly draconian anti-abortion bills by state governments, mostly in the South, what was a simmering dispute has been reignited into a firestorm all over the country.
Republicans have always used abortion to stir up their base, but this time, there is a growing pushback from Democrats. Even moderate Democratic Presidential candidates are getting pressure. Joe Biden, a centrist candidate, has now come out advocating repeal of the Hyde Amendment, as have several other Presidential hopefuls. This could become the major issue of the election next year, and it could result in record voter turnout. Traditionally, that has favored Democratic candidates.
I am going to restate the issues surrounding abortion in a little different format, using two case studies based on abortion situations. First, I will present the situation, and then a dialogue will follow. The participants will be PC (Pro-Choice) and AC (Anti-Choice). I chose these two names because the other commonly used descriptions are controversial and confrontational:
Pro-Life – Everybody is pro-life. This a clever little piece of passive-aggressive advocacy, implying that anybody who doesn’t agree with them is anti-life.
Pro-Abortion – Nobody is pro-abortion. Pro-choice is not pro-abortion. It is pro-choice.
Anti-Abortion – an accurate description that is considered negative and confrontational by people who identify themselves as Pro-Life.
Forced Birth – same as above.
A frequent commenter here, C Peterson, suggested that Pro-Choice and Anti-Choice were the best, most accurate, and least inflammatory names for the two sides. I have decided to use them.
I will try to make the comments by both PC and AC fair statements of the two sides of the issue as I understand them, but I acknowledge that I am biased on the PC side. Call me out if you think I have failed to make the dialogue fair.
So here we go:
A young couple, recently married after a long relationship while they were in college, are both starting their professional careers, she as a teacher, he as an engineer. All during school, they dated, and planned to get married after graduation. They abstained from sex, fearing that an accidental pregnancy would force them to get married and leave college, torpedoing their career plans. Now, after years of being poor, they are finally making some money, and they decide to hold off on having a family for a few years, so they can do some travelling and enjoy their new economic status. Then, they want to establish a financial base…buy a house and a nice car, before starting a family. They are careful about contraception, but something goes wrong and she discovers that she is pregnant. They decide to have an abortion when the fetus is six weeks old.
AC: They had a plan, but God had a different plan. They should suck it up and take responsibility for their actions. Human life is sacred, and the fetus is a human being. Destroying it is a mortal sin, and murder.
PC: Whether the fetus is a human being at six weeks is a matter of opinion. You are entitled to yours, but you are not entitled to inflict it on others. Laws that prohibit her right to choose to have an abortion are a violation of her human rights.
A young woman is returning home in the evening. She is accosted by members of a gang, assaulted and raped. (The gang members are all Republicans, US citizens and Trump supporters.) After a few weeks, she discovers that she is pregnant. She immediately arranges for an abortion.
AC: A terrible situation. Abortion is the lesser of the two evils. Carrying an unwanted fetus to term, and dealing with the baby afterwards would be a terrible ordeal to inflict on an already traumatized victim of a crime.
PC: You are right that abortion is the right action, but I must ask, why isn’t this part of God’s plan, just as it was in Case 1? You say human life is sacred, and the fetus is a human being. If you believe that, you should be opposed to abortion in either case. The fact that you are not shows that your decision is not based on the sacred life of the fetus. It is based on your moral judgment of the woman. If the sexual encounter that resulted in the fetus was consensual, then you say abortion is wrong, but if it was forced, then abortion is okay. That distinction has nothing to do with the sacredness of the life of the fetus. (More on this issue later.)
PC: In Case 1, you say God intervened, and imposed his own plan. In Case 2, you say things happen that God does not choose. Which is it?
AC: We cannot know the infinite mind of the Lord. He has his reasons.
AC’s position on abortion for rape victims is common amongst anti-choicers, but a significant segment disagrees, and they take the opposite position from that taken by AC in Case 2. They insist on the prohibition of abortion in both cases. Their position can be summarized as follows:
Killing a fetus is equivalent to murder, so it makes no difference if the conception was the result of voluntary or forced sex. The fetus is the same. It does not carry the guilt of the rapist. Neither should be aborted.
Pro-choicers would reply as follows:
If abortion is prohibited in either case, a woman will be the unwilling carrier of a fetus that she does not want, and the result will be the birth of an unwanted child. In Case 2, AC stated that abortion was “the lesser of two evils.” Is an unwanted child that is abused or neglected a “lesser evil” than abortion? Is destroying or disrupting the lives of two people a “lesser evil” than destroying a worm-sized fetus? Opinions can vary on this, but the decision should be left to the only people affected by it.
Although the issue is fought on moral grounds, it is really a political issue. Many “single issue” voters cast their ballots for Trump because he was avowedly anti-choice, and Hillary was pro-choice. Republicans have established a “litmus test” for all political candidates or judicial appointments. Pro-choice candidates need not apply. With so much at stake in this country, it is a shame that this single issue so dominates our politics. There is no “right” answer. There can only be compromises, but the Religious Right has doubled down on this, and is pushing to create a confrontation in the Supreme Court and a decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which asserts the right of all women to obtain an abortion. There have always been limitations on this with regard to late term abortions. Up until recently, opponents of abortion have taken an incremental approach, whittling away at the cut-off when abortions are prohibited or greatly curtailed, and limiting facilities where abortions are performed. But since Trump was elected, and Republicans gained a majority in Congress (now only the Senate) the strategy has changed to direct confrontation with the intent to overturn Roe, and allow states to enact outright bans on abortion. They are no longer seeking compromise. They are going for the brass ring.
If they are successful, women in many states will be helpless and hopeless if they are faced with an unwanted pregnancy. I hope that voters are aware of this danger and vote accordingly next year.
Meanwhile our politics are dumbed down as candidates use the issue to enlist support, and our political parties seek to promote confrontations that will “solidify their base.”
There is so much more that is far more important that we should be considering when we cast our votes.