Thursday, October 28, 2010

Images Of Dead Fetuses Are Just Becoming So Much Scenery

Driving past the local planned parenthood today, it occurred to me that I have become desensitized to the graphic photos of aborted fetuses that pro-life advocates are constantly posting in front of the building. I'm pretty sure this isn't good for their cause.

The pro-life movement is a mess. Aside from reveling in making my kids look at gory photos as we walk to the park, their message is  inextricably woven into their religion, and correlating (incredibly silly) views on homosexuality, condom use, and stem cell research; this is too bad, because there are actually salient ethical arguments to be made for many pro-life positions: no blown up images of mutilated babies or religious silliness required.

Of course, these ethical dilemmas are for individuals to consider before making a choice that is ultimately theirs. There are too many variables and too many individual considerations to be made regarding the termination of pregnancies for one sweeping, national ban to make sense.

For a good example of the kind of nuances and individual considerations that create a need for national access to safe, legal abortions (and the inability or unwillingness of certain pro-lifers to appreciate such considerations), check out this piece over at Alternet entitled, 'What Happened When I Yelled Back at "Christians" Calling My Wife A Murderer'.


"After extensive testing at a renowned Boston hospital three weeks earlier, we were told our baby had Sirenomelia. Otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome, it’s a rare (one in every 100,000 pregnancies) congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together. Worse than that, our baby had no bladder or kidneys. Our doctors told us there was zero chance for survival."

"I’m not a religious person and I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will never forget that sound. And I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure she’d never make it again."

here's the dad confronting the activists:

That's some powerful stuff, and is pretty revealing--and pretty damning--of the simplistic, subtle-as-a-hammer approach of many pro-life activists.

There is a solid argument to be made that abortion becomes an increasingly immoral choice as a pregnancy progresses. It is also clear that rationalizing away what is occurring during an abortion--especially later on in pregnancy--as the simple removal of 'unwanted tissue' is intellectually dishonest. But holding up gruesome images in front of planned parenthood, or comparing abortion to a national holocaust--or to slavery--isn't an appropriate way to frame the debate. Ethically, the argument about abortion should be more closely tied to the argument about whether or not folks should be able to choose euthanasia, or have euthanasia chosen for them if they are not able to make that choice themselves. A gigantic framed image of Jesus doesn't insert anything into the argument. If the pro-life movement were serious about their issue, they would untangle it from their religion, their views on gay marriage and stem cell research, and would focus on prevention by advocating better sex education in schools, the empowerment of women, and the eradication of poverty and homelessness. Give people more options, and they're less likely to get stuck in bad situations.

Determining what points in a pregnancy should correlate with what laws (if any) is very difficult. So is weighing the well-being of all parties involved in such a decision. Answering these ethical questions are tough, and thus are not likely to be solved by tormenting women with shouted insults and creepy visuals as they make a tough decision that only they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

cross posted at Daily Kos.


the elegant ape said...

Let's for the sake of argument that sentient life begins at fertilization. Not a view I agree with but one I can understand.
I can understand this easier then the exception for incest or rape. Either it is a person or it isn't.
When the sperm combines w/t the egg and becomes a zygote and is granted the rights of a person independent legally of the mother who supports it.
(This is the pro life position as I understand it.)
So logically a woman once pregnant will under penalty of law would have to carry the pregnancy to term.
This is where this goes....
1. Mandatory testing of all women on the onset of puberty. If they are able to conceive no matter what age. They must be tested monthly to ensure the safety of the "person" they could be carrying.
2. All women monitored until menopause to protect any "persons."
3. If monitoring is to labor intensive all to be placed on mandatory birth control. And then would apply to bear children..
4. All women who are pregnant will be monitored on diet. NO alcohol, cigarettes,caffeine, excessive exercise ects. To protect the "Person".
5. The pregnancy being now mandatory
the state will be responsible for the child to be raised and nurtured in a environment conducive to the "person."
That is where that could go....

Willie Y said...

As I have always said, comprehensive sex education, starting a very young age would go a long way in reducing unwanted pregnancy's. Just preaching abstinence is not the way to go. If you want to reduce abortions,let's get real.

Lodo Grdzak said...

I've always found it a sign of mental/chemical imbalance when I meet men with extremely strong opinions on the abortion subject. Women I can fully understand having very strong, personal feelings--but men? Hate to use the old whoever smealt it/dealt it argument, but it seems to me like those men must be feeling guilty about something. I mean, there are thousands of kids looking for foster homes as well as kids in juvenile detention and orphanages. How much time do those male protesters spend working or volunteering with those kids? No one doubts or argues about their existence or validity as full-fledged humans. So what're you doing for them? How often do those Pro-Life males spend protesting death penalty hearings? And how hard do they push for mandatory health care benefits for minors?

Very strange those male Pro-lifers.

Spencer Troxell said...

Saying that a man can't have an opinion about abortion is like saying a person who has never served in the military shouldn't have an opinion about foreign policy.

Understanding and taking a stand on the issue of when it's okay to take a life, and when life actually begins is relevant to everyone. I don't think having a penis entitles you to take a pass on this issue.

Lodo Grdzak said...

Im not saying a man can't have an opinion on the subject--I certainly do. But how worked up are you really supposed to get about something that--even in the most extreme situation, you're still at least one degree separated.

As an example, what if I told you a woman in China just lost her baby during childbirth. Are you gonna start crying? Gonna stay home and not take the kids out to the ballpark? Is it going to destroy your day? For that woman's family and maybe neighbors, yeah, I'll bet their grieving. But for someone with absolutely no connection to her, living in another country, how emotionally effected (affected?) can you genuinely be? Or should be?

Now, imagine that same woman (that you don't know) lives in Washington State and you're, where Spence?--Ohio? Again, are you gonna stay home in bed crying cause a woman in Washington state lost her baby?

If you find out that same woman might have an abortion, would you drive to Washington State to stop it? If so, I'd say you may have too much time on your hands and you might want to get your own life before poking your nose into others.

Finally, you consistently phrase this abortion issue as "when is it okay to take a life?" I've seen you do that in the past as well. But for most pro-choicers that's not the question. Not by a longshot. The question is, when does a grown, adult woman's life, liberty, and personal body become subservient to a potential "life" still in gestation that hasn't even separated itself from her body. I'd answer, never. A woman's body is hers and hers alone and the idea that a fetus still in gestation is an adult woman's equal is a major insult.

But in all honesty, I don't really care (nor do I think I should).

Spencer Troxell said...

'when does a grown, adult woman's life, liberty, and personal body become subservient to a potential "life" still in gestation that hasn't even separated itself from her body. I'd answer, never.'

I agree that this is also an important consideration, but I don't think you're doing your argument any service by pretending that a fetus isn't a life. It's a complicated issue, and that's why I'm inclined to be pro-choice. So what the equation boils down to is does the life of the fetus outweigh the liberty of the mother? Or is it even less clear cut than that, with the two sides of the teeter-totter reaching a kind of equilibrium as the fetus gets closer to viability?

You can pretend that this is all very simple, but I'm not sure it is. The whole point of this post is that of all the issues that people can choose to be loud and simpleminded about, this is probably one of the worst ones to pick.

Lodo Grdzak said...

I dont know Spence. When you look at the social policies of this country; and look at the way we as a species treat each other on a daily basis, this whole abortion issue seems manufactured.

One thing that's particularly comical about the pro-lifers (and this may be a digression) is that they always refer to these fetuses as though they're going to be the 2nd coming of Christ. As though, unlike regular humans, these fetuses are all gonna be super-kind, super-talented, generous, and good.

Well no offense; but why can't you flip that argument? Why can't you ask "How much would/could this amazing 15 year old girl accomplish if she weren't saddled down for life by that one mistake she made one night? " Assuming it was a mistake and she wasn't raped or manipulated or...whatever.

No offense, but I really feel the whole "controversy" is stupid. When a baby is born, it enters the world. If it hasn't entered the world, hasn't. It isn't that complicated until you get a bunch of religious a-holes sticking their nose into shot that's none of their business.