Friday, April 6

What Do Pro-Lifers Want From Women?

As a woman of childbearing age, I have a vested interest in the birth control flap going on right now. It's an issue I've followed for years, and one that only persists, I think, because the two sides never actually speak to each other. They get by too often on vagueness and rhetoric that has barely changed since I was born, 2 years after roe v wade.  It's time for that to end. So, here, I would like to challenge some of the arguments I hear most often from those who identify as "Pro-Life", concerning the rights of the unborn. And I hope those of you who are Pro-Life will present the arguments you do find compelling in the comments, or help me with nuances I might not be describing correctly. I will do my best to update this post and address them, because this needs to be a conversation. The marketing just fails all of us.

1: Life begins at conception.
I agree. There is no doubt that the cells dividing after sperm meets egg are alive. But... What does that mean for the rest of us? This argument is presented as though that should be the only consideration the law need make. But let's examine that. For starters, this life resides inside someone else.  And it is invisible. And the person who carries it might not even know it is there. So, what duty does someone owe any microscopic, invisible stranger? I'm seriously asking, because it's not obvious to me and I want someone who actually believes this to explain how this should all work.

2: This life is human life.
So it's a human life. OK, what does that mean? What is this new human entitled to? The threshold pro-life advocates are claiming is, in fact, stupendously low. It is, "don't murder it." And that is not like the duty we owe any other human being. Even touching another person without their consent qualifies as "assault" under the law. So other things like a forceps birth or a c-section are flat out illegal if that thing inside the pregnant lady is a person. And I don't mean to be harsh about that. I actually have a 1 year old son. And he was not on board with our birth plan, so he had to be dragged out by a team of professionals. He consented to none of that. Now, as a happy mom to be, I was thrilled to do whatever I could to make sure he was as healthy as possible. I gave up not just alcohol, but sushi and cold cuts too, because listeria can be fatal to unborn babies. I even started flossing because dental diseases can cause miscarriage. Now, my point here is not to run for mother of the year (unless that's actually a thing, in which case I'm totally in), but to ask, what do Pro-lifers want out of unhappy pregnant ladies? What they are asking for would be unique in our laws, because normally, you don't owe another person any rights to your body. If your brother will die without a kidney, and you don't want to donate yours, that is your right.* And how will they know which women are pregnant, since you only show for about 1/2 of the 9 months, unless you are exceptionally lucky like I was, and give birth to a toddler? Are very young fetuses not entitled to protection? Will every woman of childbearing age have to submit to pregnancy tests so you can tell where these vulnerable children are? Can they still smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol? Lest you think these are crazy things to wonder about, consider two stories from the past years...

A woman was arrested in Iowa, because she was pregnant and fell down the stairs. When she went to the emergency room, she told the nurses about all the troubles she was having at home (she was unemployed and her marriage wasn't doing well and she was pregnant with a third child... who would skip an opportunity for free therapy?). And because she told the nurse that she had considered abortion and adoption before finally electing to keep her child, she went to jail, on the suspicion that she threw herself down the stairs in an attempt to abort the pregnancy. Two days later, they let her out because Iowa's law against feticide is only applicable in the third trimester. There was no evidence she ever intended to harm her child.

A pregnant woman in Florida was held against her will by her doctor. The mother of two toddlers had gone in because she was worried she was in premature labor at 25 weeks. She wasn't, but the doctor she saw recommended up to 15 weeks of bedrest. When she asked for another option, since obviously you have a hard time supporting your family and caring for two small children when you're not supposed to um, move... the hospital had her confined and got a court order from the county to keep her at the hospital, for the sake of her fetus.  She wasn't allowed to even seek a second opinion. She was held for 3 days before an emergency c-section delivered a dead child. Let's be clear about this again... she went to the hospital, was forced to follow her doctor's advice against her will, and the baby died anyway. The incredible things to me are that 1) people commenting on the article still think that somehow, it's still the mother's fault and 2) Dr. Bures-Forsthoefel is still employed.

The lesson here is that, even if you are doing everything right, pregnant women don't deserve to be trusted. This is just one of the abhorrent comments I found about the above story:
"my daughter just miscarried her first baby.. and this ho.. won't follow doctor's orders to protect another human life? I hope they did a hysterectomy on this person.. so she never has to worry about this or waste our tax dollars again on another court hearing.."

That's right... if your Dr. orders to on bedrest and you ask for another option, you deserve to have your uterus taken away after you're held against your will in a hospital, away from your already born kids as you miscarry.

3. Abortion is murder.
If that's true, what are miscarriages? What about embryos who don't survive as part of fertility treatments? I'm really asking. If Pro-Lifers want fetuses to be protected and have rights, they cannot pick and choose which fetuses the law can ignore. Is that how it works for babies? The answer is no. You don't get to have 3 kids, then only 1 with no questions asked. Nor should you. But who will be charged with murder in cases where embryos die? The doctor? The mother? These are legitimate questions that the Pro-Life contingent has not addressed. And I understand that it is much more exciting to go to clinics and try to "save" the babies you believe are in jeopardy, but someone has to sort through these details if the law is going to take the unborn into account. When a born child disappears, the police investigate. When a fetus disappears, what happens? Does the law then presume the mother is guilty? Why or why not? And what is the threshold for her to be at fault? How many cigarettes can she have? How many glasses of wine? How many cans of tuna? Didn't you know? Mercury can cause miscarriage or birth defects too. How about bologna sandwiches? Like I said, cold cuts can spread listeria just like sushi. Will these things be evidence in a murder trial? This is far bigger than any simple sign with a blown up photo of a dead fetus.

I wish there was more I could discuss from the Pro-Life side, but so far, that's the bulk of what I've heard. For many, their only concern is for the babies, and the woman becomes invisible. I'm not trying to be harsh about that; how else can you read comments like this?

"Despite all the nonsense words and creatures he made up just so that his stories would rhyme, a lot of Dr. Seuss' books are good metaphors for world issues. "Horton Hears a Who", for example, I think is about abortion because the whos on the dandelion fluff are like unborn babies: they can't be seen but we know that they exist and that they're living beings. So Horton represents a pro-life advocate and he is being persecuted by people who don't believe that the fluff contains living creatures and want to destroy the fluff. "The Lorax" is obviously an environmental story. " Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" and "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish", however, are just plain stupid and pointless."

I'm a ball of lint. I'm not even alive anymore, I'm just a piece of real estate with precious cargo. Or I'm a potential murderer. Neither does justice to the very real problem of pregnancy and the law.

So fitting he's an elephant too...
And don't get me wrong, I want people to be concerned about children and their welfare. That's a great impulse in civilized society. But every child lucky enough to grow up will someday consider how they want to construct their own families. I am pro-gay marriage because I think people should have the right to legally join their life to their chosen partner. I oppose China's One Child policy as vociferously as I oppose banning abortion, because you should be able to have as many children as you feel you need to complete your family. I don't agree with what the Duggars, for example, have done, but I will defend their right to do it with everything I have if anyone ever tried to tell them they could not have another baby. That's why I identify as Pro-Choice. But more recently, I am identifying as Pro-Bodily Sovereignty, because that's what the abortion issue is really about. We must be careful and clear about what we want in this debate, and what I want is the certainty that I will not be cut open against my will. I want the certainty that my doctors will listen to me, as a patient, instead of treating me as an object. I want my rights to remain intact, even if I am loaning my body to someone else for a brief time. Those are rights that seem to be taken for granted by the Pro-Life individuals I've spoken to. But it's clear that they can and do evaporate when a woman becomes pregnant. 20 years ago, Angela Carder was a pregnant cancer patient, who was forced to undergo a c-section by court order, sought by a hospital that never even consulted the doctor treating her cancer. They took her into surgery as she said over and over, "I do not want this." She and her baby both died. That is the real result of this terrible argument that pits doctors against their patients. The Pro-Life side must acknowledge these concerns with the same seriousness they seem to have for baby-saving, instead of pretending that every pregnant woman, even the unhappy ones, are just vessels filled with the miracle of life.

*Yes, that's actually been argued in court. A few times:


Penguinchao said...

This may seem strange, considering I am very Pro-Lofe, but I agree with what you are saying. These arguments that the Pro-Life side often puts forth are very sloppy and irresponsible. Simply calling abortion murder is not an argument, but an assertion. The way the formula of logic goes is that on assertions, the speaker must defend, but on arguments the opposing view must demonstrate.

"Abortion is murder!"
"well why?" is simply the appropriate response, because no reason has been given.

Premise 1: Taking a human life without just cause is murder
Premise 2: A fetus is an equal person to you and I and possesses the same rights.
Conclusion: Having an abortion other than medical reasons is murder because it is an unjust taking of life.

I personally think when debating this issue, words like hate and murder should be left out, all it does is piss off the other side.

There are much better arguments for the case against abortion out there, but the sad fact is not many pro-lifers know them. A great video to demonstrate the Good arguments are on the video "Understanding the Times" by Scott Klusendorf. I highly recommend it to pro-lifers because it is a good tool, amd to pro-choices because it helps understand the other side at some of its best.

bs said...

thanks for commenting! i will have to check out that video. and if you happen to wander back, i have a question for you... do you think there are ways to protect fetuses without compromising millions of women's rights? i honestly don't think there are. the reason i think women should be entitled to choose their medical care, including abortion, is because doctors and medicine are not perfect. there are times when they believe a fetus needs to be delivered via c-section, yet it turns out to not be necessary. there are times they believe a mother's life is jeopardized and she wants to stick it out despite their advice. those realities need to be recognized.