This post references this post.
I have to say that I’m impressed by you. And fascinated.
I’ve given the issue of abortion a great deal of thought in my life because I paid for an abortion when I was around 20 (that would be 37 years ago). I found my rationalizations then, but I don’t have any illusions about what I did.
I got a young girl pregnant whom I didn’t want to have a long-term relationship with. I convinced her that an abortion was the best choice. I paid the medical community to end the life of the perfectly healthy unborn child we’d conceived because I didn’t want to “ruin my life” by being stuck in a bad relationship and saddled with a child I wasn’t ready for. I am guilty of second-degree murder, but my government has given me a free pass. My conscience, however, hasn’t.
Now, I did have a religious upbringing, so that plays a part in my thinking. I still have a kind of faith, but it is less a doctrinal one and more a felt/spiritual one. Many years ago, I performed a kind of “grieving ritual.” I wrote a letter to that sacrificed child. I went to a place that held meaning for me, and I read the letter out loud, asking for forgiveness. I wept. I prayed. This was all I could do. I left it in the hands of the God I believed in and the spirit of the child.
I didn’t arrive at a Pro Choice position quickly or easily. And, if we imagine a continuum of thought on the matter that has a thousand degrees on it, I am “one click” past Pro Life and just into the Pro Choice position. I am the world’s most reluctant Pro Choicer. But, well, even though you respectfully and passionately disagree with my stance, at least you’ve read how I arrived at it.
Which leads me to the question, What makes you so passionate about this issue? Surely, you have a personal story. You don’t have to share it, but I have to say, I’d be very interested in hearing it. It just seems to me that you must have a personal connection to it since you have made it a central issue in your life.
The fact that you are not religious, makes you that much more fascinating to me. Because there are very utilitarian arguments that many atheists use to arrive at a Pro Choice position, but you’re having none of that. That intrigues me, and makes me wonder to what extent you are an outlier in the atheist community and if that is sometimes a hard place to be.
Anyway, beyond all that, I want to say that I respect you. And I appreciate that you can dialogue with me and stay respectful.
I’m not sure you can change my mind, but I hear your heart on the matter … and I think it’s beautiful.
We are able to have this dialogue for one reason: I was conceived and born shortly before the decriminalization of abortion in the United States following the unjust Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973, the same court that once upheld slavery. My little sister was not so fortunate. She was conceived just after America stripped prenatal children of their human rights.
My young misguided mother took advantage of an unjust law, just as you did, and brutally killed my sister in a dilation and evacuation abortion after 14 weeks of life. My mother made this decision after my sister’s father abandoned them to avoid responsibility, just as you did. My avatar shows the image of a child at my sister’s age when her limbs were ripped from her fragile body. Notice that it was my sister’s body that was violently attacked, not my mother’s. But this does not mean that my mother walked away unscathed. She, like you, has carried the crushing weight of having to forever live with what she has done. Having learned from her experience, she is now vehemently pro-life, fully divested of any rationalization for killing innocent children. She is, like me, a thousand degrees removed from the idea that some lives matter less than others.
I am also the parent to a child conceived through rape. Killing ‘rape babies’ is commonly used as a ploy to justify abortion. When people cite rape or incest as exceptions for killing prenatal human beings, I show them side-by-side images of two ultrasounds. When I challenge them to pick which one was conceived through rape, they are unable to do so. When I ask them which one should die, they begin to understand their hypocrisy. We cannot claim that children living inside the womb are equivalent to children living outside the womb and then make exceptions for who should live and who should die based on the manner of their conception. After all, if you wouldn’t kill a toddler conceived through rape, you shouldn’t kill that same child prior to their birth.
These are my most personal immediate links to the tragedy of abortion. In reality, however, every child killed is a personal affront to me. I literally feel revulsion every time I watch a pregnant mother carry her child into a Planned Parenthood and walk out a short while later with an empty womb. This impacts me no differently than if they were carrying their children in their arms to be killed. Human rights belong to every human, and paramount among those rights is the simple right to not be killed. And yes, I oppose capital punishment.
The fact that atheists are able to divorce themselves from religious fantasy yet construct one around abortion gives us a disturbing insight into the power of self delusion. Science is crystal clear on when our lives began — when we, as humans, came into being. Atheists pride themselves on their adherence to the laws of science, except when it comes to abortion. Suddenly, they are unable to distinguish between species, unable to understand basic biology, and then, in an attempt to assuage their cognitive dissonance, embrace ambiguous philosophical viewpoints on the meaning and value of life. In short, no, being an outlier in the atheist ‘community’ does not bother me at all. Denying the truth does.
Abortion is a heady topic. It gets right at the most fundamental human truths regarding life and death, right and wrong. Getting caught up in the power, the emotion, of this topic can be … exhausting, exhilarating, it can give us a purpose larger than ourselves (whichever side we are fighting for). I fight for no side, really. Still, I cannot escape the issue.
While you fight this good fight, please don’t neglect to love your own life, celebrate it, have as much fun, discover and share as much joy and love as you possibly can. Don’t let this dark issue consume you entirely. Give it its due. But don’t marinate in it so much that you can’t enjoy the gift of your own life.
If your activity has saved the lives of babies otherwise destined for the bio-hazard bin? That’s amazing and beautiful and I commend you!
I don’t know how old you are–but I’m just hoping that your mission doesn’t put you under too dark a cloud. Your baby sister (I believe in my heart)–and please forgive me if I upset you by invoking her memory, that is not my intent–would be proud of what you’re doing, but she would be sad if you didn’t “seize the day” as well, live your life fully, find the good, the beauty, the light (things she didn’t get to do).
Probably, I don’t need to say any of this to you. Probably, you’re already doing this and require no “warning.” But I offer it, nonetheless.
Missionary work–even for atheists–can be taxing and thankless. Take a break now and then. And Live!
Thank you for your warning, but I find that fighting for life is living. The ultimate love we can provide to this often broken world is the unrequited love shown to its ‘unwanted’ members.
Through my willingness to recognize the humanity of every human being, I have saved the lives of several people who will never know I existed. There are children walking (and crawling) on the surface of our little blue planet today because I would not relent in their defense. And I didn’t just save their individual lives, I saved the lives of their descendants who will now exist because of my faith in our species.
I just wish I could have been there for your child—for you. Just like I wish I could have been there for my sister, but I was too young and too unaware of the world around me. Now that I, like you, know what is happening all around me thousands of times a day, I will not rest. Nor will I ever rationalize my way out of caring for those being led to the slaughter.
I beg of you to also find the good, the beauty, the light, and live your life in honor of your forsaken child by saving those destined for his or her fate. Your gift of prose and personal connection to this ‘issue’ gives you a powerful voice. How you choose to use it will forever define you.
You have found your purpose, clearly. And it’s a noble one. I admire your single-minded, tenacious commitment.
I won’t try to debate you–you are (I believe) speaking truth, so debate is futile. The Pro Life position doesn’t just have better bumper stickers, it is actually both morally and scientifically right. The movement suffers credibility partly because a great plurality of its adherents come off as unstable religious nuts while its opponents appear to be rational, compassionate people who are deeply concerned about women’s rights. It also suffers for another reason.
It’s very, very difficult to convince people of something they don’t wish to believe. It is very, very difficult to convince people to give up their favorite “sins.”
We know smoking kills, but we smoke. We know obesity cuts years off our lives, but we keep the drive-thrus hopping as we order our Big Mac, fries, and Coke. We know sex should be sacred, but we’ve made it into a Dairy Queen treat to be shared with any willing partner we want to “hook up” with. We know kids need two parents, but we walk away from marriages for a younger, “hotter” partner. We know that thousands of young children die daily across the globe due to lack of access to clean water, but we do little to improve their situations because we’d rather have 600 dollar cell phones.
The people claiming to speak for God and all that’s holy turned out to be serial pedophiles. Our political heroes (JFK, MLK, Clinton) turned out to be serial philanderers.
Our “justice” system locks up non-violent drug offenders while expensive lawyers set rapists and murderers free. Cops and judges are dirtier than crime bosses.
We know abortion kills unborn babies. But we want to be able to f**k whoever we want, whenever we want, and still “have an out” if our licentiousness leads to an “unwanted pregnancy.” We use the rare extreme situations (danger to mother’s life, incest, severe deformity) to justify the most common situation (two consenting adults make a perfectly healthy baby that they don’t want/can’t afford/etcetera).
This is who we are.
It will require making us something else on a mass scale in order to put the “cat back in the bag” now that it’s been out since Roe v Wade.
Now, it’s true that sometimes momentous cultural shifts happen. Many of us didn’t want to give up our free slave labor. After a war that cost three quarters of a million lives, slavery was ultimately abolished. Yet, all these years later, we’re still fighting that war with institutional racism. Even that cultural shift has proven to be glacial in its forward progression.
This is who we are.
None of these “inconvenient truths” make killing unborn babies acceptable. All of the Pro Choice arguments are indeed rationalizations (some of them contain important truths, but none of them truly “justify” abortion). And this applies to the arguments I use that place me (just barely) inside the Pro Choice camp. It is moral hypocrisy, which I have already admitted.
You have changed the minds of individuals. Which makes you awesome! Your dedication has saved lives. This is a great accomplishment! Don’t ever stop. (I’m confident you won’t.)
If you are the spark that leads to a global fire wherein a formerly self-centered humanity “repents” of its deep, deep selfishness?
Well, then, I will be saluting you from my living room chair while the president pins the medal of honor on you. I will stand up and say, “She was right. I’ll be damned.” And I’ll raise a cold brew to toast your victory and humanity’s victory over the plague of its colossal, centuries-long selfishness.
I wish you well with that. I know that medals are not your motivation, but your task is indeed that monumental, I think.
Because it’s not your intent, nor fruitful, to debate points we seem to completely agree on, I will only focus on the one thing we don’t agree on. Directly and intentionally killing millions of innocent children will never be the lesser evil. Of the examples of human frailty you so vividly provided, abortion stands alone as the sole destroyer of not only human life, but of humanity itself, both on scale and perversion.
You seem to believe that because we have so many shortcomings it is futile to exert ourselves in overcoming their root cause. Selfishness is an asset when used in moderation. In fact, reflecting on our hunter-gatherer days, selfishness led to the survival of the fittest. But something has changed, something contrary to desired evolutionary outcomes. Our survival mechanism has become a runaway train resulting in the destruction of our own young. Something has clearly gone horribly wrong and it must be corrected at all cost.
History has demonstrated time and time again that humans can turn away from their greatest failings and rise above their self-induced tragedies. Occasionally, this turn comes from within without a shot fired, but as you’ve pointed out, culture shifts of this magnitude typically involve extreme violence and loss of life. Ridding the world of the social and psychological cancer of abortion can take either path, though I suspect it will ultimately collapse under its own weight for three primary reasons:
- Pro-life people have more children than those who support killing them in the womb and those children are generally raised to respect human life. Over time, the political will to outlaw abortion will overtake the depraved desire to continue it. This is evolotionary self-correction, again — survival of the fittest.
- Internet connected smartphones with embedded high definition cameras coupled with pervasive social media access has made the mass media’s collusion with the abortion industry’s effort to hide the truth an impossible task. Watching moving images of an abortionist ripping a child apart is a gut-punch to their euphemism laced propaganda.
- As anatomical imaging technology continues to advance, the veil is being cast aside. A window is opening to the womb making those who deny the humanity of prenatal children seem as foolish as those who deny the curvature of the Earth. Leveraging the technology described in the previous point, more and more people are awakening to who and what they once were.
I have no expectations that I alone will be the spark that ignites this awakening, nor is that my goal. I prefer to think of myself as a burning ember and those I reach as dry kindling. With enough time and exposure, hearts and minds will begin to smolder and ignite with a willingness to not only accept the truth, but to codify that truth into law.
Killing our own young on an industrial scale is not who we are.
And after a short while of getting to know you, it’s not who you are. The last word is yours…
Thank you for this dialogue. I value it, truly. You are intelligent and articulate, and you’ve made me take a closer look at my thinking on this profound moral question. So, thank you for both the conversation and the re-examination.
I don’t suppose it’s too hard to see that I view human history through a rather cynical, dystopian lens. If we are simply large-brained primates (as the atheist is forced to believe), the miracle is not that we have so often acted (and are still so often acting) abysmally amorally … the miracle is that we are moral at all.
Non-human animals preserve their own as an instinct, not a moral imperative. And, frequently enough, female and male animals kill their young, usually as a means of survival or future breeding considerations.
Morality is uniquely human, a social construct we can blame on the “accidental” enlarging of the brain to the point that we contemplate silly notions such as beauty, justice, faith, hope, and love.
Most of us feel bad when we hurt someone’s feelings. We all (I like to think) have consciences; though, obviously, they are not discoverable organs in the body, but rather a set of beliefs about right and wrong usually passed down from parents and society.
Natural selection ought to have reached its zenith in a supremely intelligent raptor, some kind of undefeatable tribe of ruthless killing machines roaming the Earth, more intellectually and physiologically fit with each generation.
Instead we (human beings) are evolution’s zenith. Frail, easily-confused, easily-distracted, poetry-loving, bongo-beating, yogurt-eating, spiritually-hungry, purpose-seeking, bipedal freaks with opposing thumbs. Once we’ve got food, clothing, and shelter, we are bloody conscious nightmares who long to be “liked” and “approved of.” We want to find out “who we are,” and we want 39 flavors of ice cream and 6,000 ways to f**k.
Which is why I believe in God, in my own freakish, ridiculous way.
(The following is just my bullshit. I’m not preaching to you or trying to convert you, I’m just telling you what I believe. I understand that lots of brilliant people in lab coats believe they have the “right” answers to the doubts I raise here. So, read on with that in mind, please.)
I see no First Cause sufficient to result in humankind, much less the mad variety of animal life that seems to find a way to exist in the most uninhabitable places.
That infinitely dense matter (from which all things came) is the Cosmic Zygote. It unfolded to be precisely and only what it was programmed to be. It HAD to result in humanity, because all the ingredients were there, just waiting for all the inevitable (perfect, precise) conditions to arise as that matter flew out into an infinite universe.
The first cause of life must be living. The first cause of intellect must possess intelligence. The first cause of conscience must have a conscience. Random forces do not incrementally build the human mind or human reproductive systems or ocular systems, unless they are pre-programmed to do so. I don’t care how long you wait, I don’t care how many mutations (which are almost always bad, not good) there are … you and I are not chance occurrences.
You care about people killing unborn babies NOT because it violates some evolutionary imperative, but because it breaks your heart. A heart fashioned by Love itself.
I paid doctors and nurses to kill my unborn son. That thought hurts my heart, because it is programmed to know killing is wrong … yet I made that choice because I was weak and selfish and I allowed myself to believe the bullshit I wanted to believe so I could escape the consequences of my shitty decisions.
I asked God to forgive me. I asked my “disappeared” son to forgive me. I believe they both did. I have forgiven myself (though I still pick up that burden and carry it sometimes).
I have a son and a daughter. Now in their thirties. Of course, they are more precious to me than anything on this planet (along with my 3 granddaughters). I would lay my life down for any of them without a thought if it came to it. Because this is what love does, when it comes to fruition, when it isn’t caught up in its own pain and selfishness.
I had a vasectomy after my second child was born. Even if the vasectomy reversed itself (which happens, “recanalization,” but it’s very rare), I will never participate in an abortion. I’ve made my peace with all that to the extent a person can.
But believing that starting tomorrow we should hold down every pregnant child, girl, and woman and make them give birth … that is a separate leap in thinking; one I’m not yet prepared to make (even though I see clearly the horrors of abortion). Perhaps I will one day. But not today.
Fighting this good fight is your calling. Maybe it’s mine too. I don’t know. But not today.
While I am a million miles away from a Biblical literalist, I do believe that the Bible contains a wealth of profound wisdom (and some weird bullshit as well).
I believe we, all of us, are “divided” as Christianity teaches. We have both a spirit nature and a “flesh” nature.
The good doctor who is volunteering to immunize children in a third world country will go home and continue an affair with his neighbor’s wife. The cop who helps deliver a baby in a taxi cab in the morning will beat a kid senseless for no good reason in the afternoon. We are saints and sinners.
This is who we are.
We are capable of great and selfless good. We’re capable of sacrificing our lives to save a drowning child we don’t know. And we’re capable of killing our unborn babies.
“I close my eyes, so I can’t see.”
Maybe the undeniable visual evidence wrought by technology will begin to change more and more minds. I hope you’re right about that.
I believe abortion will become unnecessary before it will become unlawful. I believe that technology will make that happen, not moral revelation. But, again, I hope I’m wrong and you’re right.
May you help save more and more lives. May your light ignite an ever-increasing light of hope and light and peace.
For more insight, visit Jim Wormington: Author, Journalist, Earthling
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