I was lying in bed this morning, listening to the Morning Joe Show on MSNBC on the tellie, trying to go back to sleep after my wife woke me up with…well, the TV. I had a pillow over my head trying to muffle the sound, when I heard him say that there was a new, surprising statistic that came out recently about abortion. I cracked a little space between my ears and the pillow.
He said that after decades of progress in which the percentage of people polled had somewhat steadily reported that they were more in favor of abortions, or as he styled it , were “pro-choice”, a recent poll indicates that the trend seems to be reversing. Apparently, the percentage of pro-choice people dropped by six points while the percentage of the so-call pro-life folks (actually, anti- abortion) increased by three points. I’m not sure where the other three points went to (presumably undecided). While this doesn’t really seem to be all that alarming, since the percentages are pretty close to acceptable standards of deviation and error, and the steady progress he assumed was really a haphazard up-and-down movement on the graph, Scarborough, in his usual inimitable fashion, felt like he had to expound on the answer to this reversal, as if it was really profound news. This is what morning talk show hosts do.
According to him, the technology and medicine surrounding the field of OB/GYN had increased tremendously since 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade, in numerous ways. Not only has the age of viability decreased a good bit, allowing babies to be born earlier, and survive their premature birth, but advances in imaging technology allow us now to peer into the womb in almost 3D Technicolor relief, giving us a much greater appreciation for the humanity within. He thinks that people who look at their children in such realistic detail are becoming more anti-abortion. While there may be something to that, it doesn’t do a lot to advance or set back the argument for or against abortion.
On the whole, with some exceptions, babies who are aborted are unwanted, mistakes of the “heat of the moment”, and the pregnancies are terminated by women who truly feel, after a lot of serious thought, that it is not in their best interests or that of the child’s to be brought into the world at that time. It is a choice they make, and one only they can make, or at least that’s how they feel. There is no alternative, other than having the child, which to them is not a viable alternative. Society really does very little for poor, single mothers, and if they also happen to be non-white, adoption is not really a widespread alternative either. And don’t forget that republicans in Congress and state legislatures are attempting (and succeeding) to dismantle the very small safety nets in place.
There is no doubt in their mind, I’m sure, that the lump of cells in their womb is a potential child, but knowing that, and seeing their options (or the dearth thereof) they still choose to terminate.
If they could see the child in all its full grown glory, it may be that some might have a different opinion. Hence all the current proposed legislation designed to force the women to look at trans-vaginal sonogram pictures, or wait for a proscribed period of time while reading literature with graphic pictures. Or being read statements of discouragement from doctors under penalty of law. All of this is designed to make them change their minds. Maybe it’s a good thing for some women, too. I can’t say with any certainty, sitting here at my keyboard, that any woman’s choice to terminate is made with all the possible amounts of knowledge that the best of society can muster to be at her disposal to help her make such a difficult decision.
But that’s the point of the pro-choice argument, isn’t it? No one can say that, except the woman at the helm of the decision-making process. Not some legislator in Richmond VA, or a pastor in East Podhunk, NC. Not even the woman’s spouse, though I imagine any woman who’s married to a supporting husband will naturally seek the counsel of that spouse, since he has far more stake in the process than a legislator or pastor.
The pro-choice position says we can’t know what’s right for any individual woman, or for that matter, the potential child, but we do know that the person with the greatest stake in the matter is on top of it, is an adult (for the most part) and is presumed capable of making the right decision. A pro-life person, on the other hand, says that he/she DOES know what’s right for those women they’ve never even met, and will never meet, and not only that, what they believe is right should be forced on those women against their will.
If medical technology simply allows more people to think like that, then that’s a by-product of medical technology I can live with, because in the end, that same medical technology will save the lives of babies and mothers that would have died in 1973 – babies who ARE wanted, and mothers who have families and others who love them and want them to survive. Frankly, though, that has little effect on the decision making process, and I doubt it explains the supposed anomalies in Morning Joe’s statistics. I would tend to think that it’s merely a product of the recent attention women’s rights have been receiving in this political year. It’ll bounce back after the election.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not unsympathetic to what amounts to a visceral reaction to abortion. I saw a client’s 2 day old baby at a support hearing yesterday, and he was such a helpless, albeit cute, little creature, (my latent maternal feelings tended to flood my senses); to think that a child’s potentiality can be snuffed out at the whim of a single mother is hard to accept. If I was pregnant woman, I don’t know that I could make that decision.
But until we live in a society that values all life, including the life we have now, here, on this planet; until we stop executing human beings for crimes without absolute certainty of guilt (an impossibility, by the way), and in an unfair and racially discriminatory manner; until we stop killing our fellow humans in wars over natural resources, by leaders that think in terms of killing innocent bystanders as “collateral damage” (humans are our most precious natural resource); until we have in place social structures that can act as safety nets for single, pregnant women who know that don’t have the ability to raise a child for 18 years; until we create a more equitable culture that values life based on modern notions of humanity rather than those of a 3000 year old book written by ignorant goat-herders at the beginning of the iron age ; until, in short, abortion is the only issue involving questions of life and death we have that still perplexes us, then I have no problem with allowing women to make a choice that many find repugnant. If society broadcasts the message that life is not sacrosanct in so many other instances, then it’s hypocritical for society to condemn women to unwanted pregnancies; especially in a society that seems to encourage sexual relations in all it does, from fashion, to marketing, to advertising, to mass entertainment. Human reproduction is a fact of life, and the biological imperative of sexual relations will always be with us.
Abortion is a necessary option when the religiously delusional among us refuse to acknowledge that sex and birth control go hand in hand while at the same time dictate that the results of sex are sacrosanct, then completely fail to provide for the products of birth to survive in this world.