Abortion: Some Questions

In your own language

Eduardo del Buey
Foto: Afp
La Jornada Maya

Tuesday May 21, 2019

Abortion is one of those issues that creates deep divisions within families and in society.

To some, a woman’s right to control her body is inviolable. To others, a fetus’s right to life is sacrosanct.

As a debating point, unless guided solely by religious belief, many in the developed world have come to feel that it is up to each of us to examine our own consciences and act accordingly.

But when the issue enters into the realm of politics, it concerns every male and female citizen with a right to vote. And when it becomes an issue of one gender or belief exerting power over another, it becomes controversial and requires serious reflection by all members of society.

I will not presume to have any answers. That is not the purpose of this writing.

Rather, I have questions that relate to this issue that should be on everybody’s mind.

In the first place, does life begin at conception or at birth?

At conception, and for an indeterminate period of time afterwards, the fetus cannot survive on its own outside of the womb. If, as some claim, removing it is murder, then isn’t removing tubes and ventilators from people incapable of sustaining life on their own after an accident or a stroke, for example, murder as well? After all, the inability to sustain life is the same in both cases, yet the decisions might be viewed differently.

Secondly, if one is pro-life, is one so from conception to birth, or from conception to death? If the former, then one is contradictory. If the latter, then this requires an overhaul of our system of governance, since child support laws and other social welfare legislation will have to consider the education, health requirements, and other costs of raising a child that must be codified so that penalties for failing to follow the law can be applied.

It strikes me as odd that many of those on the extreme right who claim to be pro-life are also the first to terminate health, welfare, and education programs for children as soon as they are born. Should birth control not be universally and freely obtainable to prevent unwanted pregnancies?

And is slashing food stamps and free lunches in schools for poor children by these same pro-life legislators, as well as eliminating after-school programs that occupy their free time and provide them with opportunities to explore and enhance their creativity pro-life?

Why do pro life legislators also cut or eliminate funding for the teaching of sex education in classrooms, when this type of education can go a long way towards teaching students about how to use their bodies? Why do they ban contraceptive devices in schools in order to avoid teen age pregnancies? Aren’t these contradictions that lead to the need for the abortions that they so diligently oppose? Has abstinence ever worked?

Is abandoning children to their own devices by cancelling after school programs pro-life? By eliminating these essential programs that can enhance their creativity and positive experiences rather than simply setting children free and unsupervised after school, are we not depriving these children of an opportunity to eventually break free of the bonds of poverty and create a better and more productive life for themselves and thus contribute to society?

If pro-life wins the abortion debate, should society not ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop and grow into productive citizens? Should single mothers not enjoy a legal framework in which fathers either provide adequate child support or face stiff jail sentences? Should a society that deems abortion to be a crime not provide the socio-economic framework to provide for the children born of women whom society has prevented from exercising control over their own bodies?

If women don’t have the right to control their reproductive organs, why should men? Today, vasectomies are fully reversible, so that men who have them can procreate at a time of their choosing.

If a women-led legislature passed a law stating that all males must be vasectomized at age 12, then there would be no unwanted pregnancies and no need for abortions since men and women would be equal partners in avoiding them.

If this makes my male readers cringe, think of how women feel when a chamber full of men decides what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Can you now begin to see the picture?

Another question. If life begins at conception, are fathers liable for child support as of that date? Are they co-responsible for all related expenditures both during and after pregnancy? And if they are and fail to provide it, should they not be charged and imprisoned immediately for non-payment until they do make acceptable financial arrangements?

After all, if the life of a child is to be sustained from conception to age 21, then both parents should share equal responsibility. And with today’s DNA testing, fatherhood is no longer in doubt.

The consequences of free sex can no longer be free for men if they are not free for women.

The question remains: do we have the right to decide what we do with our bodies, and, at what point does that right end?

As well, in Argentina recently an eleven-year-old girl who was raped by a 65-year-old man was forced to give birth. Is this more or less civilized behavior than allowing a minor her to terminate the unwanted pregnancy?

On May 15th, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, signed a law that prohibits abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.

Moreover, in many states of the United States, the rapist actually has parental rights and can sue for visitation rights. According to the Boston Herald, Arizona is among a handful of states that have no laws at all to prevent rapists from seeking custody and visitation. Sounds terrible, but Massachusetts law permits a rapist to seek custody and visitation.

If a rapist has parental rights, is society condemning the unwilling and violated mother to a lifetime of hell? And, is society saying that criminals now have rights over the lives of their victims and can benefit from the proceeds of their crimes?

In some countries like El Salvador, a woman who suffers a miscarriage can be jailed since she is assumed to have aborted her baby. Is this not further persecution?

I would also ask if it is right that the prescription and the coverage of the cost of erectile medication by the government and insurance companies that enable men to effectively control their own bodies should be viewed differently from those same governments and insurers refusing to cover the costs of female contraceptives on religious or “moral” grounds? Does this not promote a deeper inequality between the sexes and empower men sexually?

Finally, I would ask if, in a secular society, religious beliefs should enter into legislative decisions. After all, if this is the case, should Muslims not be allowed multiple spouses in non-Muslim countries since this is a major tenet of their religious beliefs? Where does religion end and government begin? And whose religion counts in matters of state?

As I said at the outset, I have neither the chutzpah nor the hubris to either offer answers or, even worse, try to impose my views on others.

I simply remind readers that, in 1967, then Canadian Justice Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau introduced legislation de-criminalizing homosexuality between consenting adults and facilitating divorce. When asked why, he replied that the state had no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

I would go one step further and ask if the state has any place in the ovaries or the testicles of the nation.

The arguments about whether life begins at conception or at birth is a question that those in favor of and those against abortion will continue to debate for the foreseeable future. In my opinion, the question as to whether women have the right to decide upon what they do with their bodies will also continue to haunt us.

In the meanwhile, let me ask readers if the control that some men in power seem to seek over a woman’s body responds to real concern over the fate of the unborn, or whether it is simply another manifestation of the misogyny that has governed most human societies since the dawn of history?

At this very moment that the abortion battle grows politically, especially in the United States, those same legislators on the right who advocate pro-life policies are mounting a military offensive against Iran in the Persian Gulf that seems to parallel the one that former president George W. Bush’s administration (another right-wing pro-life group of political leaders) mounted in 2003 against Iraq, with devastating consequences that plague all of us to this very day.

So, is their fight in the case of abortion one that is pro-life in every sense of the word or is it simply a manifestation of power aimed at maintaining male dominance over the species? I ask because in October 2017 ABC News reported that Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after a report surfaced earlier that week that he had asked an extramarital lover to end her pregnancy. He was not the first Republican vehemently pro-life legislator in the United States to ask a lover or spouse to abort his child.

Finally, if anti-abortion legislation is implemented, will it only serve to stop legal abortions, since unsafe and potentially deadly illegal abortions will continue to take place just as they did when abortion was illegal, with fatal consequences for women? Or will it be accompanied by the kind of social legislation that can preclude the need for abortion by providing women with all of the material, legal, and social conditions required to give birth to and raise a child?

More food for thought, no?

What do you think?

edelbuey@gmail.com