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Abortion and slavery: should we push our beliefs on others?

I just watched a bit of Creation Magazine Live (a creationist broadcast on Revelations channel) and they suddenly started talking about people whobelieve life starts at conception but don’t want to push their beliefs on others by making abortion illegal. They drew an analogy between that and saying ‘I’m against slavery but I don’t want to push my beliefs on others so let’s not make slavery illegal.’ Let’s pause for a moment and let that sink in.

OK, so slavery is a commensurable analogy for abortion?

Let’s recap on the significant differences in the issues, problems and questions surrounding slavery and abortion.

For (the historical) slavery, issues included: racism, abduction, capitalism, the possibility of increased unemployment if slaves were freed, the favouring of mulattoes (biracials) over blacks, leading to blacks/biracials seeing lighter skin and straighter hair as beautiful; the rapes and relationships that led to biracial peoples’ existence; Darwinism, trade, cultural genocide, displacement, identity, the economy, etc etc…slavery was a complex, multi-layered issue not only reducible to simple racism. (I’m not denying that racism allowed it all to happen – there are disturbing parrallels between the thinking that led to slavery and the thinking that led to Nazism, I’m just saying it was complex and left a very harmful historical aftertaste even after slavery was abolished, such as racism, the KKK, etc. Some African Americans claim that girls use relaxers and weaves due to ideals of white beauty that stem from the time of slavery when biracials were favoured by the masters, who were their fathers/relatives and by the community such as being allowed into church if their skin was lighter than a comparison object or if their hair could pass through a fine-tooth comb and other similar entry requirements.)

All of these issues are not present in abortion; it is actually a much less complex and far more ancient and traditional issue. The only similarity between the two is that they bothraise the question of whether the “victim” (African people and foetuses) are real people, though even this conclusion is somewhat clumsy and people can’t really be compared to foetuses; the foetuses do not feel pain, aren’t self-aware, capable of language, intelligence, civil rights movements etc, and aren’t abducted and traded so they can work halfway across the world.

Most importantly, there are issues with abortion that are not present in slavery: namely, there is a woman who does not want to bear a child. She may be very young, still in education, a rape victim, an incest victim, coerced into having sex by a boyfriend, initially wanting a baby but then spilt up with her partner, already has five kids with her husband, is in danger of honour killing if she is found pregnant, is on welfare/benefits and doesn’t want to raise a child while living off the state, wants to focus on her career, knows that she is unfit to be a mother, would be suicidal if forced to have this child (as happened when a 14 year old was raped by her friend’s father in Ireland. She got pregnant and, as is usual in Ireland, her parents decided to take her to the UK for an abortion, as it is illegal in Ireland. Her parents asked police if they should bring back the embryo’s DNA as proof against the rapist. The girl was given an injunction by the Court not to leave the country to get an abortion, so she became suicidal and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. The Supreme Court speedily heard the case and held that she could have legally had an abortion in Ireland all along, as her life was in danger.) There may be other reasons, such as medically being unable to bear a child without putting her health at risk, or having a baby with special needs which she doesn’t have the resources, emotional capability or time to meet; not wanting to have children, not wanting distant, abusive or rigidly conservative parents to know she is not a virgin, wanting to wait until a financially stable nuclear family is established before having children (mostly women who hold a traditional/conservative view of a family), as well as other reasons.

What gives anyone the right to decide for her?

According to the guys on Creation Magazine, the Bible does not actually say that abortion is wrong or give any endorsement or prescription for or against it.

Their entire position is based on the description of Rebekah’s unborn children as “children” not “foetuses”. If the scribe or leader who wrote this had used a different vernacular all those years ago, anti-abortionists might not exist today! The other piece that they rely on is in Genesis where God gives humans dominion over animals but not over humans, which they interpret to be a prescription against cloning and abortion…I can’t really infer that from the text, but whatever works for them.

These illogical, very weak arguments are all that the cream of the fundamentalist cult can come up with against abortion. Honestly, I can’t figure out why anyone still listens to the pro-lifes. I always saw them as a worthy adversary, but their arguments are fallacious and nearly all of them are Bible-based, which means that if you aren’t a fundamentalist Christian (ie read the Bible literally) those arguments fall flat. Funny how they could’ve used the Qur’an and Buddhist scriptures to back up anti-abortion views, too, but they didn’t.

Finally, just as it is offensive to compare non-comparable issues to the holocaust, (and, I should mention, using the word ‘crusade’ to mean a good thing) it is offensive to compare abortion to slavery. I barely know anything about slavery but I’m very, very sure that hundreds of years of suffering (which Christians used the Bible’s endorsements of slavery to justify, although Leviticus only permits owning slaves from neighbouring countries and the Bible advocated kindness towards slaves) should not be compared to abortion, even if you see abortion as killing. I’m horrified at murder and rape but I’d never compare those things to the holocaust or to any genocide or slavery, no matter how bad I feel for the victims and their families. The 14 year old rape victim above was raped and then persecuted by her own country’s legal system, but she wasn’t ‘persecuted like a Jew in the holocaust’ – that’s silly, and actually obscures the ethical, legal, social and human rights issues of this girl’s case. We need to keep things in perspective.

 
 

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“Yay abortion”: complexities of the pro-choice stance, pro-life welfare queens and Tam Lin

‘Pro-choice’ tends to be used as an umbrella term to cover absolutely anyone who isn’t an anti-abortion activist. But within this position there are widely differing stances.

1. There is seeing abortion as a necessary evil (I fall into this category)

2. There is being against abortion (pro-life) but not interfering in others’ lives by making it illegal for all women to have one

3. There is ‘true’ pro-choice, i.e. believing everyone should have an abortion whenever they want it

As well as every nuance in between! And to complicate things further, some pro-choice people are opposed to abortion after the first trimester, or four, six, or however many months, no matter whether they are in positions 1, 2 or 3.

And just to make things even more complex, people may be position 1 for certain situations and other positions for different situations. Take me, for example. Overall, I’m position 1. But I see abortion in regards to teenage pregnancy as a mixed blessing, because teens having abortions only reinforces the idea that they shouldn’t be having children or are too stupid/immature/irresponsible to have children. Also, a lot of teens abort because they have been indoctrinated into believing teenage parenthood is a ‘bad’ thing, a social evil, or that it will affect them going to university (it won’t. I know parents who are at university. You get extra student loans and grants if you have a child as well as benefits and child tax credit.) So, I am more towards being opposed to abortion regarding teenage pregnancy.

So being pro-choice means different things to different people. Some, like me, may actually agree with the pro-life arguments. The only argument the pro-lifers seem able to come up with is that abortion is killing, an argument that amazingly has managed to survive in the U.S., probably because abortion was finally achieved through a Su[preme Court decisin (Roe v Wade) and not a law passed by elected officials, which means it may have been harder for Americans to accept, and also easier to challenge.  Anyway, ridiculous as the argument obviously is – not even counting the fact that it is tied to religion, and only one religion at that – I do accept it. Abortion is killing, because not only does life start at conception, but the egg and sperm were alive prior to conception. And so what if it is killing? We kill plants, ants, slugs and spiders, and (with the exception of plants) they can feel pain, and are much bigger and more developed than a zygote or early-stage embryo. We kill other living cells in our own bodies when we wax our legs, get a nose job or scrape our knees. So yeah, abortion is killing, as is scraping your knee. Of course, the potentiality for growth is the diference between a zygote and another cell, which is why I think of abortion as a necessary evil instead of something to be celebrated.

However, the pro-lifers really confuse me with their activism. I know people who are 100% against abortion, but they’d never dream of trying to interfere with someone else’s life. If you’re against murder, don’t murder. If you’re against abortion, don’t have one. Even if you’re a welfare mom with six kids because you won’t abort, I will pay taxes for your kids out of respect for your beliefs and your right not to have an abortion. If your baby will be born a junkie, you have the right not to have an abortion. I don’t care how much of a burden on the state your kids will be. I don’t care if you are too doped up to use contraception and so you have twenty kids. If you’re against it, nobody can force it on you.

So why the activism? Why the intervention in others’ lives and the destruction of their freedom and right? All you have to do is not have an abortion if you are pregnant.

Weirdly enough, those who are most against teenage pregnancy are also against abortion, which is illogical. If you are against teenage pregnancy, you should be promoting abortion. (Not that I’m personally in favour of either encouraging ordiscouraging abortion, adoption or keeping the baby – it’s the woman’s choice and nobody else can make that choice because only she understands her own situation and what it feels like being her.)

Another odd fact about abortion is that the right-wingers constantly reinforce the idea that abortion is a new phenomenon brought on by the permissiveness of the 1960’s/the women’s movement/the liberals/secular society/the devil. Actually, abortion is thousands of years old, if not hundreds of thousands. It has variously been permitted and regulated throughut the ages from the Babylonians to the Romans and every other age – even the Victorians had illegal abortions. In ancient China herbs were taken to abort. In the old Scottish ballad Tam Lin, the protagonist is told by her mother to have an abortion by eating a leaf from a certain type of tree, but Tam Lin (the father of the baby) stops her, asking her instead to win him from the Faery Queen so he can live with her and “be your bairn’s father”. The woman agrees, meaning that she actually wanted her baby but only sought abortion out of not wanting to be a single parent, a situation which remains much the same in Scotland today where lone mothers are also stigmatised.

The stigma against lone mothers perpetuated by the right wingers will only lead to more abortions, which they also hate for some reason. Again, this is another illogical move.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Feminism, Literature

 

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