My thoughts on the abortion issue...
I was born in Georgia in 1949 and grew up in central Georgia and south-central Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s. My father was a Southern Baptist preacher and my mother was a very conservative, straight-laced woman of the sort you would expect to marry a conservative Southern Baptist preacher.
My parents took me to an interesting array of backwoods Alabama churches where my father guest-preached all through my childhood and adolescence, places with names like Carlowville, Marion Junction and Wetumpka. Some of those backwoods churches still had slave lofts in them where antebellum slave owners sat their slaves during Sunday services. Those slave lofts were closed off and nobody ever went in them any more, but everybody knew they were there and what they had been used for.
We also had a regular church in my hometown where my mother and I were members. We attended that church on Sundays when my father was not with us, and sometimes he attended that church with us as well. I distinctly remember Sunday School discussions about a variety of subjects, including the issue of when the soul enters the body.
I was taught in that Southern Baptist church that the soul enters the body at birth, when God breathes the breath of life into the newborn infant's body. That is the moment when the doctor slaps the infant's behind to get respiration started, and then the infant starts crying. I was taught that the moment when the soul enters the body is that moment or perhaps one not more than a few minutes before, when the infant is still in the womb but just about to venture forth into the world. I distinctly remember Sunday School discussions among the Sunday School teacher and the other kids in the class. I distinctly remember that was the teaching about when life begins, the moment of birth when the soul enters the body.
There also is a secular institutional confirmation of that teaching in the fact that we all celebrate birthdays, not conception days. We all measure our age from the moment of our birth, and the state documents that confirmation by issuing a legal document called a birth certificate and begins to measure the individual's age from that moment. And later in life when other legal documents are issued by the state that also mark the birthday, not the moment of conception, as the beginning of that individual's life, documents such as driver's licenses, passports and Social Security cards.
We all tacitly agree with that means of marking the beginning of the individual's life when we say we're 30 years old on the date that is 30 years after our birth, when we celebrate our 21st birthday by going out drinking legally for the first time, when we observe other milestone birthdays such as 16 and 18 and 40 and 50 and 62 and 65. We all tacitly agree that our life started at the moment of our birthday, not at the moment of our conception. Pro-life people and pro-choice people all tacitly agree that the moment of birth marks the beginning of our lives.
Those Sunday School lessons that I remember were during the 1950s and 1960s, years before Roe vs. Wade. I don't go to church or Sunday School any more; the truth is, I am now almost an atheist, so I don't know what they say about this issue in Sunday School classes now, but in the world at large, I can tell that the religious people have subtly changed their teachings on this issue. Now, they don't seem to believe any more that an individual's life begins when God breathes the breath of life into the newborn infant's body at birth but instead nine months before that moment, the moment when the sperm cell fertilizes the egg in the woman's uterus. Is that the way it works? A sperm cell fertilizing an egg? Pardon me if I'm showing my ignorance here; I actually don't know the difference between an ovary and an egg and a zygote and an embryo, but the principle I'm trying to articulate is valid in any case, and that is that they have subtly changed their teachings in the wake of Roe vs. Wade. They didn't announce that they were going to change their teachings, they just started teaching something subtly but substantially different to try to make it get more in synch with their stated belief that abortion "murders babies."
I admit that this suspicion of mine is based on the half-century-old memories of just one individual and thus is itself somewhat suspect. So I am wondering, does anybody else have memories of Sunday School lessons from before Roe vs. Wade that would tend to corroborate mine?
All of this says little about my own beliefs about abortion, so let me say first that I do not have a dog in that hunt. I have never gotten a woman knocked up (I had a bicycle accident when I was 12 years old that left me sterile) and nobody else in my family has ever had that problem either. I do have a brother who has a 31-year-daughter, but she was planned and wanted. So the abortion issue does not affect me one way or the other and never has. But on philosophical, ideological and political grounds, I am firmly on the pro-choice side of the issue.
I actually would have some sympathy with the pro-life people's claim that abortion "murders babies" if they were consistent in that assertion -- that is, if everything they did and preached were in service of "saving babies' lives." But that's not what I see them doing. Instead, what they are doing seems to me to be motivated by a desire to keep people from having sex. And when people have sex anyway, the pro-lifers seem to want to make it fraught with all kinds of perils and pitfalls and onerous consequences.
And when those pro-lifers' goals are at odds with each other -- those goals being their stated one to "save babies" and their unstated one to keep people from having sex -- they will come down on the side of the unstated goal every time. Promoting contraceptives and family planning would unquestionably reduce unwanted pregnancies and thus cut down significantly on the demand for abortions, which you would think would be something they would very much favor. As Bill Clinton used to say, making abortion "safe, legal and RARE." But instead, the pro-lifers strenuously oppose contraceptives and family planning and condoms and birth control pills because of their unstated goal, that they don't want people to be able to have sex without inconvenient consequences. If you try to tell them that they should promote contraceptives and family planning because that will have the effect of preventing abortions, they will try to argue that people will have more sex then and that will cause a greater likelihood of unwanted pregnancies. Those are rationalizations and excuses, of course. I would like to ask them, do you think that people having sex is actually a WORSE thing than what you call "murdering babies"? Because they seem to.
I also have some problems with the pro-choice side of this issue. I don't believe what they say, that abortion opponents want to "control women's lives," is the whole story. That probably is part of it, but nobody ever mentions the fact that when a woman gets knocked up and doesn't want to be, it's a problem for the man too. Yes, if she is unable to terminate her pregnancy, she will be "sentenced to nine months of hard labor," but both she and the man who knocked her up will be sentenced to 21 years of hard labor in the form of the bills, burdens and responsibilities that are the consequences of being parents. So BOTH the man's and the woman's lives are being controlled if the pro-lifers have their way, but as I said above, the REAL reason the pro-lifers have such a big problem with abortion is that they are just simply trying to keep people from having sex. This seems as obvious to me as the nose in front of my face, and yet nobody on either side of the abortion issue ever mentions it. It's the elephant in the room that everybody ignores. WHY?
I am firmly pro-choice, but I would have a lot more sympathy for the pro-life position if they would stop being even MORE opposed to anything that they perceive as making it easier for people to have sex without conception occurring. Because they really do seem to be MORE against that than what they calling "murdering babies."
I posted this about three weeks ago on Thom Hartmann's site but haven't posted here at DU in several years. I'm going to start posting here again, starting with several posts I have made recently on Hartmann's site.
and honestly, those people are NOT "pro-life" - they don't care about the welfare of the mothers OR the children - they ONLY care about forced birth
I have much the same upbringing that you described, without the clergy being a family member, and having been raised in southern Texas.
My only real comment is that I believe that abortion should be private. I believe the Republicans have cleverly brought this issue back into the spotlight, used its emotional impact and succeeded in getting those who can be manipulated easily to vote to end a woman's right to choose. I don't believe that, even for them (i.e., the Republican leaders) that this is as much an ethical issue, as it is a political ploy. I seriously doubt were it one of their wives, sisters, daughters who desired and needed an abortion that they would be so emphatic that an abortion not occur.
The "nine months of hard labor" is incumbent on the woman because she cannot put the pregnancy away. Physical appearance chances, etc. The father can, and many times does, simply disappear from the picture.
All that said, I am vehemently pro choice because I remember women dying from botched abortions before Roe v. Wade, and I vehemently believe that making abortion illegal or inaccessible will NOT keep it from happening.
The decision to have an abortion should be between a woman and her health care advisor and anyone else who she chooses to involve. Beyond that, it is no one else's business.
Hamsterjill, I wasn't talking about irresponsible men who disappear and don't live up to their responsibilities. I was talking about the responsible and decent ones who do. In those cases parenthood becomes a burden for the man as well as for the woman. Nobody ever acknowledges this about the man, only about the woman. I think it's sexist to talk about the woman's right to reproductive freedom and ignore the man's equal right to the same thing.
For the same reason, I believe that abortion is a decision that should be between the woman, her health care provider, the man, and anyone else the prospective parents choose to involve. Because the woman is not the only person who stands to become a parent. The man faces that possibility, too. He doesn't have to endure the nine months of hard labor, but both he and the woman have to take on the 21 years of bills, burdens and responsibilities of parenthood.
I so agree with your comment that abortion should be private. There really is something wrong with it being so much in the political spotlight. -- Ron
I am curious what you mean. Thank you for clarifying.
I understand your point of view, and see your reasoning.
I disagree, in part, however. If there is a conflict as to a woman wanting to have an abortion and a man wanting her not to have one - my opinion is that the choice should be up to the woman because pregnancy involves her body.
I'm not sure that's even a fair statement were the tables reversed (i.e., a woman wanting not to have an abortion and a man wanting her to have one), but we don't live in a perfect world.
Either way (and I think you and I are still much in agreement on the issue), the discussion, choice and ultimate resolution should be a private affair, not a political platform. I'm sure that we can also agree that the way the Republican party has "shamed sex" is not a healthy way of dealing with a natural, human act, and their attitude has done great damage to the teaching and availability of birth control - which should be paramount for EITHER side of the issue.
Thank you for a meaningful exchange on the topic.
There is a pro-choice group, for example.
Are you serious? If so, here's a brief overview.
An ovary is the organ in females where eggs develop. Eggs contain half the chromosomes necessary to become a (pick an animal), when fertilized by a sperm, provided by the male. A fertilized egg is a zygote, in scientific language. Zygotes are also part of plant development, but since you are talking about humans, I'll stick to that. An embryo is the developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after fertilization.
Human woman has ovaries that contain eggs, typically one matures every month. If the mature egg is fertilized by a sperm, it is called a zygote and starts dividing. If it implants, attaches, to the woman's uterus, it is then called an embryo for until 8 weeks after it was fertilized.
Chickens have ovaries, and they lay eggs which we eat.
I also have some problems with the pro-choice side of this issue. I don't believe what they say, that abortion opponents want to "control women's lives," is the whole story. That probably is part of it, but nobody ever mentions the fact that when a woman gets knocked up and doesn't want to be, it's a problem for the man too.
First off, stop using the term "knocked up" and you will be taken more seriously. Secondly, you have a problem that pro-choicers say anti-choicers want to "control women's lives" because having a child affects men as well? You seem to be saying that anti-choicers also want to control men's lives, is this right? How is this in any way a problem with supporting choice?
I don't think you've read much pro-choice materials or writings because this is often talked about. Anti-choicers want to control women's lives. They want to keep them from having sex. They package it up in being oh so concerned about "unborn children" but it's obvious to most of us, not any elephant in the room at all.
Uppityperson, thanks for the tip about the pro-choice forum. I imagine I would've posted this there if I'd known about it. I used to hang around DU a lot a few years ago but haven't in the past several years and don't know my way around here that well any more.
Thanks also the lesson on human reproduction. I read it all through and forgot it all almost as soon as I finished reading it.
I don't have any problem with the term "knocked up" but you're the second poster who has said that here, so if it bothers some other people, that's probably a reason for me to try to resist the inclination to say that any more.
No, I wasn't saying that anti-choicers also want to control men's lives. I don't believe I even suggested that. I think you just read that into my comments. I was saying that when abortion opponents succeed in preventing an abortion, it has the effect of controlling the man's life, as well as the woman's. It has that effect, whether it's the abortion opponents' intention or not. I also didn't even imply that this poses a problem with supporting choice. I think it's clear on reading through my whole original post in its entirety that I support choice. It's clear, or it should be.
I haven't read much pro-choice materials. As I said, it's not really my issue anyway, I don't have a dog in that hunt, the issue never has had any real effect on me in my life. But I do watch a lot of liberal and progressive TV -- Free Speech TV, Rachel Maddow -- and listen to a lot of liberal and progressive talk radio, mostly what's on WCPT, I listen online, and on Sirius Satellite Radio in my car. I listen particularly to a LOT of Thom Hartmann. And I never hear anybody acknowledge that point, that abortion opponents are actually not so much about "saving babies" as they are about keeping people from having sex. When progressive talkers discuss this issue, they always talk about "a woman's right to choose" or a woman's right to reproductive freedom, never about the man's right to those same things, and never about that elephant in the room. I call Hartmann's radio show every once in a while. One of these days I'll bring up that subject on his show.
First of all, you don't have to understand the difference between an ovary and an egg and a zygote and an embryo. Life does NOT begin at conception regardless of what the forced-birthers would have you believe. Both the sperm and the egg are live human tissue that have the potential to become a human being assuming all the right conditions are met. Trying to ascribe some kind of abstract spiritual meaning at some specific point in the reproductive process will never be anything more than an arbitrary and capricious attempt to make some kind of half-fast emotional argument into something resembling reason, but utterly fails in that regard.
Next, abortion is a viable medical procedure and just like every other viable medical procedure is nobody's business except the patient and the doctor. No matter who says it, the idea of making abortion "safe, legal and RARE" is nonsense. The only consideration worth a bucket of warm spit is making abortion legal. It's already safer than the alternative and abortion needs to happen as often as the patient and doctor decides it needs to happen. The legal roadblocks to abortion are already far too many and completely unnecessary and their attempt is simply to insert government between the doctor and patient relationship where it has no business in the first place.
I am glad that my original post has sparked so much discussion on this subject. I think it's always a good thing to talk things out.
Major Nikon, I absolutely agree with everything you said, EXCEPT when you said Bill Clinton's comment that abortion should be "safe legal and RARE" is nonsense. In the first place, when the former president said that, he was trying to show the abortion opponents that there is a way for their concerns to be met and for the concerns of people on the side of reproductive freedom to be met at the same time. In the second place, I've always thought that abortion is the worst possible method of birth control. It's the only one that's post-conception. All the other methods of birth control are pre-conception. Well, except for the morning-after pill. All of those pre-conception methods of birth control have so much less potential to be messy, and they have the added benefit of addressing the problem of an unintended and inconvenient pregnancy even before it becomes a problem. Which is why it should appeal to the anti-abortion people, if "saving babies" really were what they're all about. But that's not what they're about, as I said. "Saving babies" is their spoken goal, but what they're really all about is their unspoken goal of keeping people from having sex. And that's why they oppose family planning and contraception. Abortion should be the LAST option when facing an unintended pregnancy. You seem to be promoting it almost as a FIRST option.
Especially since those batshit crazy interests have zero desire to compromise on anything. The IUD is also a post-conception family planning solution which along with plan B are NOT considered an abortion by anyone north of a room temperature IQ. Those aforementioned batshit crazy interests are uncompromisingly against all post-conception options and most pre-conception options with the exception of just not fucking. They are also a very small segment of the population.
I'm promoting abortion as whatever option the patient and the doctor decide it is. As I said, it's just that simple. I'm also all for promoting all other methods of family planning that are safe and effective.
If you want to go down the road of trying to figure out what should be the FIRST option, then please let me know what that should be because I'm all ears. However, if so you should be able to offer some kind of rational and reasoned argument that doesn't involve abstract hocus pocus notions of when life begins, because arguments that include "because god said so" just don't interest me all that much.
Major Nikon, I think there is very little difference between you and me on this issue, although I do think your attitude toward the anti-abortion people is more harsh than mine.
However, I'd like to respond to what you said here: "if so you should be able to offer some kind of rational and reasoned argument that doesn't involve abstract hocus pocus notions of when life begins," because I think you misunderstand my motivation in discussing that subject in my original post. You apparently are under the impression that I discussed that subject because I wanted to offer my own opinion on the issue of "when life begins." The reason I discussed that subject in my original post was because I wanted to illustrate the largely overlooked point that the anti-abortion people have been inconsistent on this issue before and after Roe vs. Wade. They were teaching something substantially different about that issue before Roe vs. Wade than what they've been teaching about it after Roe vs. Wade. And that calls into question their honesty in now claiming that abortion "murders babies" when, according to their pre-Roe vs. Wade teachings, a six-week-old fetus isn't a baby.
That's another issue, actually, one I forgot about when I wrote my original post. They have been allowed to re-define a six-week-old fetus as a "baby." They should not have been allowed to get away with that. If the soul enters the body at birth, when "God breathes the breath of life" into the newborn infant's body AT THAT MOMENT, as I was taught in Sunday School classes in Southern Baptist churches in the 1950s and 1960s, years BEFORE Roe vs. Wade, then their argument that aborting a six-week-old fetus "murders a baby" is the kind of hogwash you are claiming it is. Because there isn't anybody in that six-week-old fetus yet. Nobody has moved in there yet. According to THEIR belief system PRE-Roe vs. Wade. Which calls into question the legitimacy of their arguments now, POST-Roe vs. Wade. Do you understand now the point I was trying to make?
When I wrote the original post and posted it, I was hoping somebody who also has memories of PRE-Roe vs. Wade Sunday School class teachings on this issue would write a response corroborating my recollections. Because, as I admitted, the 55-year-old memories of just one individual are not as reliable as those of several individuals. In other words, I'd like to know that I'm right.
You write that you agree with Clinton's desire for abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare" without offering much explanation other than you seem to think abortion should be something other than a first option. This suggests to me you wish some sort of control over the process beyond simply leaving it up to the patient and doctor.
No, I do not share your Sunday school memories as mine were within the Unitarian church which was quite different than conservative Christian groups, but my remembrances of their position both pre and post Roe v Wade is the Southern Baptist convention embraced Roe v Wade. One of the lawyers who argued Roe v Wade was a Southern Baptist from my home state of Texas which is where the case originated. Their position really didn't change much until years after when they eventually aligned with Catholic groups and embraced the "life begins at conception" nonsense.
The standard of fetal viability which eventually came from Roe v Wade actually wasn't all that popular with anyone, and it most certainly is arbitrary. It was just seen by some jurists as a compromise between an outright ban and anything goes.