The Abortion Debate is a Mess
Recognizing how we talk past one another
Two Competing Ideologies and Two Main Questions
There are two main forces in the abortion conversation: those who believe that life begins at conception (right) and those who believe that when life begins is subjective or arbitrary (left). The main question is: Is the unborn a member of the human family or not?
Really, this all important question is the fundamental one to answer. The Justices in 1973 when deciding Roe v. Wade declined to answer when life begins (more specifically when personhood beings) because they knew damn well that the answer in the affirmative of life beginning at conception would render the act of abortion unthinkable and immoral.
If the question is asked about whether the unborn is a member of the human family, then one possible answer is one the left cannot stomach: that abortion might, in fact, be the killing of an innocent human person (i.e. - murder). Yet, this is what motivates the pro-life movement. The wholesale slaughter of innocent human beings is simply an evil to be stopped with all vim and vigor. Because the question has a simple, science verified answer: yes, the unborn is a member of the human family and abortion is unthinkable.
The first question concerns the right of each human person to life. The secondary questions flow from the first. Among these are the questions of privacy and bodily autonomy. Generally, the right are trying to answer the first question and the left are ignoring the first question and focusing on the secondary questions. This has caused both sides to talk past one another much of the time.
The Left and the Media Ignore the First Question
So, if the question of personhood is a much avoided topic by those who describe themselves as “pro-choice” or, more recently, “pro abortion rights.” Admitting the controversy gets too close to the uncrossable line of perhaps ending the practice of abortion. To be clear, I do not think that many on the left do this intentionally or are even cognizant of it. However, when a truth is so glaring and inconvenient, the fallen human person will bend over backwards to avoid looking at it.
To see how this is playing out now in the mainstream media, who are complicit in this agenda-driving distraction, I would like to examine a few different articles and news stories. None of the main voices from the left address the first question of personhood. And, if they do, they make arguments that are nebulous and subjective, rather than based on sound science and philosophy.
Case #1 - Paul Krugman and the Republican “Extremism”
First, let us take a look at an article “Why Did Republicans Become So Extreme?” by Paul Krugman, published on June 27, 2022 online.
In the article, Mr. Krugman, a regular columnist for the Times paints the Republican Party with a broad brush without acknowledging the radical diversity of thought in the decidedly not monolithic modern G.O.P. I would argue that, while outliers have become more “extreme,” the party itself has expanded to be inclusive of those on the far right as well as some that are even left of center. In other words, the tent is big… very big… perhaps too big. The mere reality that there are Republicans who are pro-choice illustrates this point or that there are many Republicans who make too many concessions in the national abortion debate
The average conservative or Republican sees tangible extremism in the democratic socialism endorsed by the Democratic Party. Mr. Krugman acknowledges the “Marxist” label hurled at Democrats but does not give it much credence. Instead, he plays the word game of invoking Hitler, Mussolini, and the K.K.K. while admitting that the modern far-right extremists do not reach these standards in actuality. This sort of tactic is dirty. You draw up the ghost of a certain hateful extremist like Hitler and then mention someone like President Trump. But then you say something like: ‘oh, but he’s not Hitler.”
Mr. Krugman calls for the defeat of G.O.P. extremism, but he never quite explains what he means. What is so extreme? There is no dialogue desired or a tolerance for these ideas, to which there may derive some real merit. Diversity and tolerance reign supreme for the modern liberal, unless, of course, the object of that tolerance is a conservative… then to hell with them.
Of course, the extremism that he is referring to is, among other things, that Republican “extremists” want to end the practice of abortion. How then did the narrative become so twisted? Why does the left, by and large, think that conservatives want to see women harmed or killed? Because that is the narrative put forward elsewhere: that lack of access to abortion will lead to the death of many women, especially minorties. To investigate this, let us move on to another article.
Case #2 - Michele Goodwin and “Reproductive Justice” and the Constitution
In an Opinion Guest Essay from the New York Times, Ms. Michele Goodwin, a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, wrote the article “No, Justice Alito, Reproductive Justice Is in the Constitution.”
The first paragraph sets the tone for her essay: “Black women’s sexual subordination and forced pregnancies were foundational to slavery. If cotton was euphemistically king, Black women’s wealth-maximizing forced reproduction was queen.” And this, of course, is true. Women slaves were treated with little dignity and were forced to create more enslaved children that would eventually become enslaved men and women, and, therefore, assets to slave owners.
Ms. Goodwin then brings up the topic of “involuntary motherhood.” This argument is not new as it concerns abortion in the 21st Century. The argument begins that a large part of the passage of the 13th (outlaws slavery) and the 14th (equal protection under the law) Amendments ot the Constitution was to end the practice of forced pregnancy of black girls and women. On this point, I take no issue. The ending of this deplorable practice was a great thing. Ms. Goodwin is not the first to apply this idea of forced pregnancy to the modern abortion debate.
She claims that Justice Alito ignores the 13th and 14th Amendments when he wrote that the Constitution makes no reference to abortion. As such, she says, “Overturning the right to abortion reveals the court’s indefensible disregard for the lives of women, girls and people capable of pregancy (comment: I’m not even going to touch this one right now…), given the possible side effects and consequences of pregnancy, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, hemorrhaging, gestational hypertension, ectopic pregnancy and death. State-mandated pregnancy will exacerbate what are already alarming health and dignity harms, especially in states with horrific records of maternal mortality and morbidity.”
Ms. Goodwin then continues to share that women, especially Black women in the South, are far more likely to die of pregnancy complications than other demographics. I have no reason to believe that Ms. Goodwin is making up these statistics; so, I will grant them. That being said, this should NOT mean the death of the unborn, this should mean a rising of the level of care that all women receive during pregnancy. If there are issues with access to real health care for mother and baby, then we need to address this and shore up these shortfalls.
Ms. Goodwin’s argument, I think, is the strongest argument today for abortion in our country. I do not find it ultimately compelling nor is it founded on solid principles. However, this argument that lack of access to abortion will kill thousands of women has a strong emotional power. This is why we have witnessed so many frantic people after the reversal of Roe v. Wade. But, again, this argument is a secondary argument that ignores the first question: is the unborn a member of the human family or not?
Ultimately, I would ask Ms. Goodwin: why does the 14th Amendment, especially of equal protection under the law, not apply to the person in the womb? Ironically, I hold, and other conservatives hold, that abortion is analogous to the chattel slavery of the American past.
Case #3 - Ken Dilanian and the Civil War
Ken Dilanian at NBC wrote an article on June 27, 2022 entitled “There’s another War Between the States coming over abortion.” This provocative title rightly points to the legal battles now embroiling each state over abortion policies.
I do not have much commentary on this short article other than to say that I am disconcerted over the overt referencing of the Civil War. Quoting Ariela Gross, a law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law (I wonder why it’s always Californians…), Mr. Dilanian reports,
“‘What we had in the years leading up to the Civil War was a failure of what lawyers call comity, the idea that states will respect other states’ laws’ for reasons of courtesy, consideration and mutual respect… ‘That starts to break down when you have these really stark differences over an issue involving a fundamental right, and that’s what happened in the years leading up to the Civil War.’”
Comity is certainly something to be desired; otherwise, our nation would fall apart. However, is comity possible when innocent children are being killed by their mothers? Should we allow this abominable practice, if we have the ability to work to end it? Further, there is this notion that abortion is a “fundamental right.” It is not and cannot be. Murder is not a fundamental right and never will be.
So, it would seem, based on this article, that war is inevitable. Obviously, I hope not. And I do believe that the conversion of our nation is possible. But it will take a radical reorienting to undo the damage that 50 years of Roe v. Wade has wrought.
Case #4 - The Insanity of “My Body, My Choice”
The argument of “my body, my choice” is insane, based on what we know about biology. The child in the womb is a human being with DNA distinct from mother and father. This person, albeit very, very small at the beginning, is a person with inalienable rights, especially life. The child in the womb is not a part of the mother’s body. There is a fundamental distinction between mother and child.
Intuitively, we do know this. When a pregnant woman is murdered, the murderer is charge with double homicide. An ultrasound technician, at a certain point, will say with joy to the mother: “it’s a boy!” If there is a boy within the body of the woman, it would seem we are referring to two different individuals.
Just a few days ago, one “abortion rights” demonstrator at the Supreme Court named Amanda Herring held her 1-year-old son Abraham outside of the barricades. She also was very clearly in the late stages of pregnancy with her shirt exposing her belly. On it she had written: “NOT YET A HUMAN.” My question is simple: Then what the hell is it?
As @LadyDaemontus said so eloquently on Twitter about this woman’s provocative display: “See, people need to remember that many becoming pro-life -were- originally pro-choice and it’s -this- shit right here that convinced me (and others) to shift. Safe, Legal, Rare. That’s what THEY promised. What we got? Wide, unashamed hatred towards motherhood & children.”
We Need to Go Back to Biology Class
Of course, the child growing in the womb is a human person. I have seen very intelligent people post images such as the ingredients of a cake sitting separately on a counter and saying: “Look, it’s a cake.” They are mocking the idea that the one-cell zygote is a baby. There is a glaring problem with their logic however. One an egg cell and sperm cell unite and fertilization occurs, then you have a new organism. This is basic biology.
After that first moment of conception, there is clearly a change in size of the new organism, a gradual change in level of development, a change of environment and location upon birth, and an ever-lessening degree of dependency. Changes in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency (S.L.E.D., if you want a helpful acronym to remember it) do not change the nature of the organism itself: it is a human person from the first moment of conception.
A question I would ask anyone touting the “my body, my choice” argument is: How can you justify abortion without also justifying infanticide? Inevitably, any argument based on dependency, feeling pain, breathing air, surviving outside the womb, et cetera, all are predicated on a philosophical misunderstanding of defining what a thing is or is not and boils down to really awful biology.
Imagine, for example, a thirty-year-old person who has severe mental handicaps who is completely dependent on a caregiver, who can only breathe with the assistance of a machine, and has such an awful immune system that they have to live in a bubble - according to many pro-choice arguments, we should be able to murder this person - but euthanasia is a topic for another day.
Two Questions - Get the Priorities Right
So, in sum, we have two questions: 1) when does human life begin? and 2) what are the limits of privacy and bodily autonomy?
To answer the first question: Life begins at conception, and, therefore, abortion is immoral, unthinkable, and unjustifiable under ANY circumstances. Perhaps I will do another article sometime to discuss the caveats that many pro-choicers and weak pro-lifers bring up.
To answer the second question: there is no quick answer. These exceptionally important questions must be discussed. More practically, the pro-life movement needs to do everything possible to decrease maternal morbidity until abortion is more of a risk than nine months of pregnancy and childbirth. A lot of this will come from good prenatal care, solid vitamins, exceptional hospital care, and long term postpartum care for mother and child.
Further, we need to go back to biology class and understand that there are two individuals in one location when a mother is pregnant with a child. We need to respect the privacy of conversations between mother and doctor, but we can never allow murder to be a real option. Imagine going to a divorce lawyer and the lawyer saying, “don’t worry, we can take care of him for you. That will be a lot easier…”
We have to keep first things first and second things second. Stop killing children, then we can fix all of the other problems.