Irony? Hypocrisy? Double standard? No term fits the need to describe the situation where a person who believes in the right to life for a zygote a few days old or a fetus a few days older still is prepared to take the life of another who wants to abort it.
Most people who subscribe to the anti-abortion movement do not believe in killing the abortion doctor and cases of people of this belief killing a woman who has had an abortion are rare. But they are prepared to attach a social stigma to a woman who has had an abortion, one that would last for the lifetime of the woman and even potentially impact the lives of any children she might have in the future.
The anti-abortion or Right To Life movement bases its whole argument against abortion on the emotional issue of morality. They claim it's morally wrong to end the life of a newly conceived human. They claim it's a sin.
They have no problem eating a potato, which had more advanced life within it at the time it was wrenched from the ground than an aborted fetus. For them, killing a potato is not a moral issue, aborting a human life is. Killing one form of life, they say, is a sin, whereas killing another is quite acceptable. Perhaps because they stand to gain personally from the nutrition gained by eating the potato.
Bacteria, billions of which live within our bodies and help us hold onto the very fabric of our life and without which what we think of as life could not exist, benefit from the disposal of an aborted fetus. Starving existing bacteria and preventing the multiplication of bacterial life forms that would follow the eating of the aborted fetus are not issue for them. For anti-abortionists, that kind of killing is not on their radar. Maybe because they are the ones doing it.
For the Right To Life folks, the human form of life is far more important than any other life form. This may seen natural because the Right To Life people are humans. They have a vested interest in the survival and increase in number of their kind, as explained by evolution theory.
The problem--at its foundation--is that morality is based entirely on emotion. Though humans make claims based on morality they say came to them from God, God remains silent on the issue to everyone except the believers. Those believers, in most cases, belong to a form of religion. All religions, as a close examination of any of them readily reveals, were creations of humankind.
No evidence exists that any religion is supported by God. No evidence exists that any religion ever began with God as its foundation, despite the fact that hundreds of religions in the world today claim exactly that. In every religion, one or a very small number of people claim that God has given them direction. That claim cannot be reproduced by others not of the religion, nor has it been reproduced by other members of the same religion that made the claim.
God, they say, is for everyone. But God only speaks directly to one or a very few who claim they have a special relationship with him. The hypocrisy of that never seems to dawn on the believers.
Morality is a human creation, directly related to attempts by religions to influence the character and behaviour of their followers and others who are not of their belief set.
Morality is based on emotion. As scientist and author Carl Sagan said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves." Or, in the case of religions that ask their followers to believe while providing no evidence to support their claims or making their God accessible to every believer, we allow ourselves to be fooled.
Abortion is an ethical issue, not a moral one. The difference is that ethical issues allow everyone to participate in the careful scrutiny of evidence and arguments in order to winnow out a conclusion or opinions, whereas moral issues are solved merely by having the leader or a religion make a statement and make it dogma for the followers of that religion. Believers of a religion are asked to believe the dictates of its dogma as well, its moral code.
Moralists claim that the abortion doctor and the woman who allows herself to be aborted are sinners and life-takers. They believe that because that is what they have been taught by the perpetrators of the morality plot.
The aborted life, they claim, has a right to life. What kind of life, they never allow to become an issue or to come under examination.
A woman aborts because she believes that she cannot provide the necessities of life to her future child. Those necessities do not include just food and shelter, as the anti-abortionists say they could be provided through social assistance. The anti-abortionists are prepared to increase the socio-economic class we know as poverty immensely by preventing newly conceived lives from being snuffed. Look at the people who are mired in poverty today and you will find families led by single mothers well represented.
Setting aside the issue of increasing the rate of poverty by disallowing abortions, let's look at the lives of the children who would be allowed to live if abortion were prevented. The children are at the heart of the abortion issue, though the Right to Life people never seem to want it to be discussed.
A child raised by a mother and/or father who doesn't want it. A child raised by a mother or father who has almost no information, knowledge or skills in parenting. A child raised by a parent who may well be scared to death of the child because he or she doesn't know what to do with it. A child raised by a parent whose only source of income is the welfare of the state. Usually the parent cannot provide the lessons of life the child needs because the parent has not experienced or learned them herself, or himself.
Everyone agrees that women who get pregnant when they don't want a child made a mistake. A mistake should not be multiplied into a living hell for a child who was raised by a parent who does not have the tools or the skills or the finances to provide full parenting to it. All because moralists insist that the mother must pay for her mistake. Must the child suffer for a lifetime as well?
My parents wanted me. It was what they had been taught young adults should do, get married and have children. However, my parents had no idea about parenting skills. I never played with another child until I was six years old. My parents never played with me themselves because they didn't know how. When I was around three, my father told my mother than I may be mentally deranged because I had invented a fictional character to play with. That character was a cow I kept behind the dining room door.
I lived in a rural area, a farming area where cattle were the most plentiful form of life I saw in the few times I was taken in the family car for some visit to town. I saw children the odd time, not usually. But the children I saw were playing. As I had no concept of what playing was, I could not create a fictional child friend. A fictional cow friend was the best I could do. The best I knew how to do.
I was also never read to, never included in an adult conversation, never included in a parent-child conversation because none ever happened. I was a prisoner of life. My parents loved me, I guess. But they didn't know how to show that love, so I couldn't be sure. They weren't mean to me, except when they almost starved me because they insisted upon leaving me at the kitchen table because I could not and would not eat canned corn and I chose to starve instead. I detested corn, while my father loved it, so he could not understand why his child should not be forced to eat it.
I grew up in a family where I was wanted, but my parents had no parenting skills. I can honestly say that it took me 60 years to recover from my first six years with no parenting and no contact with other children. Many unwanted children of today may not recover.
I didn't become a criminal, though my background provided me with the potential for it. I considered it as an occupation at one time, but chose against it. Not because my parents talked me out of it, because they never gave me parent-to-child advice. I chose not to be a criminal because I didn't know how and didn't have the mentor to show me. There was no right-wrong decision made, just a utilitarian one based on the cold hard facts: I had no way to learn how to be a competent criminal.
Almost every criminal behind bars today can be shown to be and have been in their formative years backward or slow in both social and emotional development, the same problems I had growing up and in my first few decades as an adult. Almost everyone who takes Prozac, other mood altering prescriptions drugs, illegal drugs or an excess of alcohol on a regular basis can be shown to have deficiencies in their social or emotional development (often both).
Somehow, I missed all that. I was lucky in that way. But I lived for most of my life in a kind of prison that someone who has not experienced it could never understand. I was not a real person. Not real enough.
That is the kind of life that anti-abortionists would create for far more people than live it today, if abortion were banned and unwanted children or children born to parents who lack parenting skills and sufficient financial means to raise them adequately were allowed to happen. They could have social or psychological problems. They could have axes to grind.
The effects on the health care and social services systems of people with social and emotional deficiencies or malformations in our communities is so staggeringly large that it may not even be possible to calculate it. The consequences of having these people in positions where they can influence political decisions such as those relating to war or capital punishment is unknowable. The imagination allows us to consider how our society has been influenced by people who grew up in families where they did not receive proper assistance with their social and emotional development. Few do that because it's uncomfortable.
Where a political decision could affect whether or not people with low levels of intelligence are born and allowed to be supported for their lifetimes by the social systems of our communities, the decision is somehow clear. Where children will be born into families that don't want them, can't support them financially, do not have the parenting skills to raise them properly and that will condemn them to a life of incompleteness and social and emotional ineptitude, the decision seems to be made harder by those whose investment in the abortion issue is purely emotional. Emotional. Let every child conceived live, no matter what the consequences.
All it takes to become a parent is the ability and circumstance to have sex with someone of the opposite gender. For those who oppose abortion, that too is sufficient background for them to raise the children that result from those few moments of hormonal excitement.
Each of us must consider the ethics of this issue. However, as someone who spent 60 years learning how to be a child, learning what an adolescent of 16 should know but having agonized with the lack of skills and knowledge for so long, the morality of bringing an unwanted child into the world is clear to me.
Now consider what I passed along to my children, and they will pass along to their own kids. Knowing nothing about what a child should learn and what a parent should do while I was raising my own kids, I will tell you and they would tell you that I failed them badly. However, that confession doesn't make them better parents. We do not even have the social structure in our society to provide them with what they need to know as parents. Why I lacked in knowledge, they will lack as parents as well.
The question surrounding abortion should not be whether or not a conceived fetus should be allowed to have life. The question should be what kind of life they would have if they were allowed to be born. Not good.
In the courts, ignorance of the law is not accepted as an excuse for violating that law. In life, ignorance of parenting skills and child development is accepted as sufficient reason to let a child be born and raised in a social and emotional prison.
The same people who cry that science must never be allowed to produce cloned babies or to use genetic manipulation to produce children of superior skills or intelligence will happily and eagerly permit young adults who are ignorant of parenting skills to raise children who may be socially and emotionally defective or underdeveloped for life.
The existence or non-existence of life is not the critical issue surrounding abortion. The most important criteria have to do with the quality of life to which unwanted children would be subjected.
That is cruelty as egregious as genocide or murder. That is inhumane treatment of our fellow humans.
From a morality standpoint, abortion--a one-time event--is the main issue. Ethically, preventing abortions of unwanted children is an issue that extends over many lifetimes and generations.
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who are socially and emotionally developed as much as they are intellectually and physically developed.
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