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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Killing Babies

I used to be pro-choice.

I'm neither proud, nor ashamed of that. It was the product of wishful thinking; to wit, that a fetus in the womb was fundamentally different from a baby at the moment of birth.

The problem isn't one of Christian theology, nor the sentimental "why didn't you let me be born" ads. It's medical science as we have it today, and an ethical system that's rooted in logic and fair play, as well as faith.

A fetus in the womb begins as a 'collection of cells', but differentiation and specialization of those cells occurs quite soon, and before long there is a physical structure with recognizable human components.

Still later, those components begin to work in a fashion that the layman can recognize. The fetus moves; it sucks its thumb. It responds both visibly (through ultrasound) and physiologically (through measured parameters like heart rate) to stimuli (for example, the choice of music made by the mother). And yes, the fetus has a beating heart.

A beating heart which is in fact, or in potential, stopped by abortion.

For a time, I could make a distinction between stopping a heart which was actually beating, and a 'collection of cells' which would one day form a heart. Unfortunately for me, that distinction was pretty weak, for the simple fact that the cells in question would, if left alone, have an overwhelming statistical likelihood of becoming that beating heart.

Is it wrong to curtail potential? Our society thinks so; we have mandatory schooling for children. In the past, and even today in many countries, kids can be largely unschooled and made to work early, and inexpensively. But our laws protect their potential. There's the precedent.

My next argument was viability; a fetus that could not live outside the mother's body might be alive, but we as a society have no obligation to preserve that life. Again, precedent comes roaring in to unseat me; we can't disconnect comatose patients from life support on a whim, and we can never do it if they are expected to make a full recovery. A baby is normally expected to make a 'full recovery' from the prenatal state.

There are other arguments; the idea that it's a woman's "right to choose" goes away when the fetus is accorded a status equivalent to personhood, and passing both the 'potential' and 'viability' tests seems to qualify it. It's unfortunate, because it places a special burden on women; but men and women are different. I could try to sugar-coat that by saying that women have a higher responsibility, but having listened to young women, desperate because they're pregnant far too young, I think I'll refrain from that crass condescension.

The argument that abortion is a viable way to control population is far too chilling to be seriously admissible.

And for me, all that's enough. I changed.

If you're a Chirstian, Muslim, or Jew, you really don't have a choice; your Scriptures, if you accept them at all, give clear indication that the Almighty considers a fetus to be a child/ God "knows you" before you're born. John the Baptist "leapt for joy" in his mother's womb.

If you;'re Buddhist, it's even worse, because in a cycle of birth and rebirth, there isn't much downtime, and in an abortion you're delaying another soul by preventing it from attaining the karma which leads to Nirvana in the potential life. That accumulates bad karma for you, the supporter of abortion, and may guarantee rebirth at a lower level. Think 'housefly'.

The most troubling aspect of a change in attitude is being unsympathetic to women who've been raped, or are the victims of incest; a forced pregnancy carried to term is injury piled on injury. I can coldly say that crimes have consequences, and victims, and that it's incumbent on society to prevent the crime in the future by making the penalties terrifying. The Saudis are pretty good at this; so are various countries in Latin America, rather untroubled by the ACLU and ruminations on the rights of criminals.

It's no confort for the victim today, though, and in the same tone I would say that society can't help, within the guidelines and laws that govern its survival. I won't say I feel their pain. I don't. I can't.

And I'm sorry.

As a post-script, in looking for an image to accompany this post I did a Google search for 'abortion' images. What I saw seared my soul. There's no picture today. I just can't.

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