Along the same lines as last week's Tyler Clementi post, Monday's piece on the abortion debate spawned a surprising amount of healthy discussion among the Huffington Post peanut gallery. There were those who agreed with me -- which is interesting, because my overall point seemed mildly nebulous, even to me -- and of course those who ripped me to shreds. Since I really did seem to straddle the fence on this issue, it's tough to determine just which commenters I feel like I should want to vociferously respond to, but the following were the ones that struck a nerve with me in one way or another.
"I waited for the logic... but it was yet another subjective opinion by a male author. No logic here... What happens to the child after it is born? Is it born into a society that cares and nurtures it, or one that was just using it when it was a zygote only to abandon it after birth?"
What happens to a child after it's born is hugely important, and I actually do believe that there's an argument to be made that a fetus may be better off in the long run meeting a swift end than to face a life of being unloved and unwanted -- which is always a possibility. The problem, of course, is that nobody has a crystal ball that actually works; nobody can predict someone's future with 100% certainty.
"So many assumptions, Chez. Where to begin? No abortion isn't ordering a pizza, but then again, to me, it's not murder. The belief that a soul enters the fertilized egg at the moment of conception and becomes human is a religiously based belief. I don't share it. I think I have the right not to. The basis of Roe v. Wade is the idea that to be a human being whose life should be protected legally, you need to have a body that can viably survive outside the womb. I agree with that and feel I should be able to live my life in accordance with my own beliefs."
Two problems: First, I specifically stated that I don't believe in the religious argument for keeping a fetus alive no matter what; I don't go for the whole the-soul-is-created-at-conception thing. I thought I made that perfectly clear. Second, the claim that a fetus isn't truly "viable" until it can live without the assistance of its mother is a great argument at face value, until you consider that the point at which a child can survive outside of the womb -- and therefore officially be called a child -- varies greatly, and certainly advances in medical technology keep pushing that point further and further back toward the initial inception.
Speaking of which, this nice lady gets the argument I was trying to make about a fetus undeniably becoming a living human being relatively early in the process:
"I love this article. I believe that a woman should have the right to make decisions about her own body...but the problem is...is the fetus part of her body? A fetus is a seperate body within her body. Does she have the right to make decisions for it? I believe it is hypocritical, as a feminist, for me to demand that my full humanity be recognized, but then deny it to someone else! I believe women should be able to save their own lives if the fetus will physically kill them or they need chemo or the like...but I just can't justify any other reason for abortion...as the article states...this is a baby with its own brain waves, its own limbs, its own humanity. Religion does not even need to be brought into this...this is simply a human rights issue."
-- Laura Latora
She of course is quickly descended on by Rage-infected zombies:
"If you oppose abortion for yourself, then fine. But you cannot call yourself a feminist and in any way, deny another woman our right to decide for ourselves what happens to our own bodies. Whether or not the fetus is "separete" is beyond the point. In fact, whatever someone says about the fetus' so-called "humanity" is besides the point, if the woman does NOT WANT to be pregnant. No woman owes the use of her own body to a fetus. Just being pregnant is a huge sacrifice-one which no woman is obligated to incur if that is not her desire. It is a basic human rights issue that woman be allowed to make our own reproductive decisions. We are not in any way morally or even more, legally obligated to subordinate our entire lives to fetal survival if faced with a tragic, unwanted pregnancy. In other words, forcing a woman to sacrifice our own bodies to carry a pregnancy to term, is nothing less than involuntary servitude... We are not incubators."
-- VirginiaBlue, who goes on to say, in hilariously melodramatic fashion, "This is also a kind of rape, to legally force a woman to share her body with someone else, in this case, a fetus."
Right, except for one thing: If you accept that a fetus is a human being -- and for the most part I do, because as I said, I believe that at a certain point that's just fucking undeniable by anyone not looking for a way to rationalize a decision to terminate -- then whether you want it or not is irrelevant. It's life and you're extinguishing it. Simple as that. Also, if you believe that a fetus is human, then the inconvenience of your "sacrifice" in having to carry it will never trump the moral wrong done by ending the pregnancy.
Then there are the people who just let themselves and the moral argument completely off the hook by calling the embryo-fetus-whatever anything but a child:
"YOU CANNOT ASSIGN ANY "RIGHTS" TO A HUMAN ZYGOTE OR EMBROYO WITHOUT TAKING THEM FROM THE HOST ie the woman carrying said zygote. Period. End of story. If a zygote is given legal rights, they are taken from the woman, making her less than a fully functioning human with equal protection. Insisting that a woman carry a zygote to term takes away her rights to live her life as she choses. It says that once she is pregnant, all her personal rights are less than that of the zygote she carries, its needs supercede hers. This is completely unAmerican and unconstitional."
If you say zygote one more time, like Beetlejuice it'll appear in your living room.
"Sorry, a fetus looking like a baby does not make it a human life. Walk into a toy store and buy one of the numerous dolls that are made to look like babies. They look like babies, but have absolutely no human consciousness. The same is true of a fetus certainly before six or seven months. It has no more human consciousness than a chick inside an egg. You may be thrilled about carrying a 15 week fetus and like to imagine that it is a baby, but many women hate it and see it as a unwanted tissue growth. Your unscientific religious fantasies instilled in you by brutal women-hating priests should not interfere with a woman's right to control her body and her life."
I love people who listen. What part of "I'm a fucking atheist" didn't settle into the space between your ears? That said, here we see the same argumentative fallacy that threads through so many of these responses -- that a woman's desire to have the child can somehow tap the wooden puppet growing inside her and magically transform it into a real boy. I'll take the question of whether a fetus is or isn't a living human being completely out of it; it still doesn't change the fact that desire and intent have absolutely no impact on physical characteristics. It either is or isn't a child; your opinion of whether it is or isn't is irrelevant.
Speaking of which:
"How about this: It's NOT a kid in your belly unless you WANT it... It becomes human when IT'S WANTED ! ! !"
I rest my case.
As much as I, once again, had a difficult time buying into the following guy's ultra-pro-life stance, his points were essentially correct:
"I wonder if the guards at Auschwitz had a similar cognitive dissonance. Yes they must have thought, we are destroying life but doesn't Hitler have the right to choose? I realize that this is an extreme analogy but either you advocate killing human life or you advocate saving human life. There may have been a time before easily available birth control and the morning after contraceptives advertised daily on TV when abortion was a deplorable but understandable option. Today with the advent of better technology we know for sure that abortion is killing human life. Those people who deny this fact have something in common with those who deny evolution. Both groups are allowing personal beliefs to over ride proven science. Brain wave activity is a reasonable standard to go by. The ability to feel pain is another. At the point where a baby in the womb has brain wave activity and can feel pain it should have the constitutional rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
-- Warren Danzig
By the way, someone responds to him by saying, "In many cases abortions save lives," to which he responds, "And in every case it ends one."
I guess there really are no easy answers on this one.