It’s a matter of time now. In a few weeks or a few months at most, the abortion debate will become a part of this election’s ‘hot button’ issues. It is with that in mind that we will republish three posts on the subject. What follows are portions of the second post, originally posted on February 20, 2007. See our first post, Ready, Aim And Fire On Abortion. Yesterday, we published our second post on abortion, It's A Tough Life. What follows is our third and last installment.
Shrinkwrapped's series on abortion provides a particularly useful and non emotional look into one of this nation's great divides.
His four part series is a readable and cogent dissection of the impact abortion has had on American culture and society. He takes no position on abortion, other than to look at the effects of abortion.
In Part I, Shrinkwrapped sets up the parameters that will contain his observations:
Please note that I am not taking a moral stand for or against abortion. I fully understand the view of those who believe, for religious or moral reasons, that life begins at conception. I also appreciate the views of those who believe that an unwanted pregnancy in certain circumstances, due to bad luck or irresponsibility, can be a personal disaster for the parent(s) and the child(ren). I would like to set those questions aside for the moment and concentrate on what abortion means to those who have been affected by it; perhaps through such a discussion, the moral and ethical arguments can become clearer.
Part II begins to address definitions:
For a couple who desire a child, life begins before conception. A couple trying to become pregnant find that each month, if the woman has her menses, there is a small feeling of loss; the hoped for and already loved child has not appeared. When, finally, the woman determines she is pregnant, often responding to barely conscious and unconscious bodily signals that herald the changes taking place within, the child begins to take on a reality, a life of its own. By the time of "quickening", typically in the fourth month or thereabouts, the child is already a baby in the minds of the parents. There is no question that wanted children are psychologically already babies from very early in the sequence. Furthermore, a wanted child is the repository of all that is best in the couple. They imbue the soon-to-be infant with all sorts of possibilities and qualities. Most first time parents have significant anxiety over their ability to parent and raise a child, but there is no question that from the moment of the positive EPT, reinforced each step of the way (heartbeat, sonograms, movement), the woman is carrying a person, not a fetus, and not a clump of cells.
Contrast this with an unwanted pregnancy. The language and the psychological processes couldn’t be more different. The future abortion is dehumanized from the start. It is a clump of cells or a fetus. It is the repository of all that is rejected and ambivalent in the parents.
In Part III, Shrinkwrapped delicately attempts too
...tackle the most problematic aspect of abortion on demand, its effect on the generations of children who have grown up in its shadow...
The difficulty for our post-Roe children is that a child growing up in a culture that supports abortion on demand is a child growing up in a culture where even a wanted child is treated (by the larger society, certainly not by all parents) as a commodity. This, of course, fits right into the unconscious agenda of the narcissist, who views the importance of every relationship as hinging on how the other person affects him. Even children who grow up in families which for religious or other reasons are pro-life, recognizes that the surrounding society, for all the lip service that is offered to the notion that our children are our most precious possessors of the future, does not value children in the most basic way possible. For children whose parents are pro-choice, the problem is more difficult. For those children whose mothers have had abortions, the problem becomes acute. The idea that your parents have chosen to have a particular number of children is not at issue; the idea that your parents have parents decided to abort a potential sibling is a significant issue, made more so when done in a perfunctory manner as a matter of course. Such a "choice" unavoidably conveys the message that a child’s life is hostage to the parent’s desires.
Consider the impact of a child growing up in a society which believes that a child is a gift from the Deity. A child in such a culture knows that their surround considers them precious above and beyond the love they may receive from their all too human and fallible parent. While such an "archaic" notion opens one up to ridicule in the precincts of sophisticated thought where the liberal pro-choice views hold sway, it was the prevailing wisdom not that long ago. In contrast, a child who is growing up in a culture which idealizes the freedom of women to abort for no more reason than her comfort or convenience, is a culture that fundamentally does not value children. Children who experience themselves as commodities whose existence serves the needs of others, have a natural tendency to treat themselves and others as mere "need satisfying objects."
Part IV is Shrinkwrapped's final installment. His look at the effects of abortion moves from the clinical/academic types of discussion to a 'boots on the ground' experience.
He makes no grand, sweeping conclusions about abortion. He does not attempt to predict global weather patterns. Instead, he looks out his window and says,
'It's raining. What kind of actions must we take to keep ourselves dry? What kind of environment can we create for ourselves that will limit the damage too much exposure to the elements?'
During a session in the midst of the episode, while Susan was complaining of her loneliness, that no one would ever love her because of what a terrible person she was, and how her hostility drove everyone away, some barely conscious awareness led me to ask when she had had her abortion. I don’t recall the exact circumstances in the session, but the question felt organic, as if it arose from the material, though I could not describe precisely what chain of associations by Susan or myself led to this. She was silent for quite a while, an unusual state for Susan, and then tentatively offered that she had her abortion in April, 10 years ago. Inexplicably, for the first time in her treatment, Susan began to cry. She told me the baby had been in its fourth month and she was convinced, though never told, that it was a girl. She never told anyone that she had actually named the baby Cynthia. She recalled a moment of sadness, with a clear mental image of an infant baby girl, in a pink dress with bows in her blond hair, and then put Cynthia out of her mind. She became overwhelmed with tears and sadness. She told me that lately she had been fixated on little blond girls and now understood why. With a start she realized that almost every girl she had ever had a fling with was blond. Over the course of several weeks, Susan explored her feelings about her abortion. She had never realized it was still alive within her. She had killed her child and could understand why no one would ever see her as worthwhile or lovable. How could she have done something so terrible. She hadn’t even thought of it at the time. She had just done it.
The reverberations of the event were felt and worked through over the course of another 2 years in her analysis. She learned, another barely repressed memory, that her mother had had an abortion when she was 4 years old. Her mother did not want to lose her slim figure, of which she was so proud. Susan began to understand her tendency to gain weight as related to unconscious wishes to become pregnant again, as well as to differentiate herself from her mother, who championed a woman’s right to choose.
Like it or not, the issue of abortion is one of the Great Divides of the Americal political landscape.
One of the great tragedies of this divide is that both sides of the abortion debate have politicized the debate. Abortion has been used by both sides as a lightening rod to attract or repel voters of all stripes.
We are going to look at both sides of the coin.
Pro life supporters need to realize that having a baby is not like having puppies. Until there is a guarantee that there will be enough volunteers to adopt, raise and care for millions of children put up for adoption, abortion will remain a real option for women who might otherwise agree with pro life sentiments. We cannot insist that women have babies they are unable or willing to care for and then walk away.
No rational adult likes abortion as a form of contraception, save for the bitter feminists who don't really care about women or children to begin with. That said, until women that are faced with making a choice believe that having that child isn't a choice between bad and disastrous, not much will change in how many view abortion.
Hillary Clinton noted that
Seven percent of American women who do not use contraception accoint for 53 percent of all unintended pregnancies.
See Safe, Legal And Never, Hillary Clinton's anti abortion strategy. Irrespective of your opinion on Hillary Clinton, she raises issues that need to be a part of new discussion on Roe v Wade and what are issues that surround abortion that need to be discussed. As the author of the article notes,
I've heard a few liberals complain that this message is too preachy and encroaches on the sexuality of teenagers...Many profound things are at stake in the abortion debate. Afternoon delight isn't high on the list.
While overturning Roe V Wade is unlikely, that does not mean the issues of abortion cannot and should not be revisited.
Partial birth abortion (most often a form of contraception used by women who could not be bothered to deal with their pregnancy earlier) needs to be banned. Unless the mother of the child is at risk, there is no reason for the procedure to be performed on a full term fetus.
It is ironic that supporters of partial birth abortion usually rail against capital punishment.
Contraception needs to fully funded and be to made available t both women and men, if we are as a society, serious about eliminating or reducing the number of abortions performed in this country each year.
Sex education is as important as religious and moral instruction. The biggest part of real sex education is the discussion of values, choices, respect and responsibility. While sex education that focuses on bananas and condoms are a part of the program, they are a small part of the program. Our identities are not shaped by our genitalia, but rather, by our character. Will kids have sex? Yes, as they have since time began. Let's at least teach them about character and emotional maturity are also components of intimacy.
No one wants their kids to grow up and be identified and appreciated for their sexual proclivities only.
Like it or not, girls need to learn that they and they alone are responsible for their bodies. If prevailing culture has no problem with girls and women obsessing over their sexuality and appearance, they must acknowledge that they are responsible for their sexuality if and when their clothes come off.
It is unfair, perhaps, that when it's all said and done, women are indeed responsible for contraception. Whether it is God or biology that is to blame, is irrelevant, because in the end, it is women who get pregnant (the flip side being that women who want to get pregnant wouldn't change that for anything).
If a woman is unhappy with that state of affairs, sterilization is an option. Abortion is not an 'alternative' to irresponsible behavior anymore than abortion is a valid expression of any kind of political ideology.
The nature of the national abortion debate is a cancer that has attacked the political, moral and social fabric of this nation- and a generation of Americans on both sides of the political divide have been made to pay the price.