Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Real "Debate"

Thank goodness Obama’s speech at Notre Dame is over. Now can we please stop hearing that ridiculous, misleading phrase “the debate about abortion”?

There’s no debate. Where’s the debate? Like making and selling alcoholic beverages, abortion was once illegal in this country, and now it’s not. Making it illegal didn’t work. It didn’t stop abortions from occurring. It only made them more dangerous—just as outlawing alcohol only made drinking more dangerous. (During Prohibition, thousands of people each year died or were blinded from the effects of wood alcohol.)

No one who has a lick of sense is suggesting that the Supreme Court should reverse itself and prohibit abortion again. It’s not going to happen. Get over it.

By the same token, no one—least of all President Obama—is saying that abortion is a “good” thing, either. In some cases, it may be the lesser of two evils, but it’s never a good thing. How many women do you suppose deliberately go out and get pregnant every year so they can have an abortion? Pro-choice isn’t pro-abortion. Pro-choice simply acknowledges that the decision to bear a child is a private, not a public, decision.

There are other “bad,” destructive things we allow people to do in America. Take smoking, for instance. Smoking causes illness and death to human organisms. We may not approve of people’s choosing to tar their lungs and raise their blood pressure; however, as long others don’t have to breathe the smoke, we recognize smoking as a personal, not a public, choice.

If American Catholics want to decrease the number of aborted fetuses, let them start with their own church. The antiquated, irrational opposition of the Catholic Church to contraception is probably the single biggest factor responsible for unwanted pregnancies—and, hence, for abortions—in the world.

Sure, the Pope in Rome and happily married Catholic women can say, “Unmarried girls and women shouldn’t have sex, and married couples shouldn’t limit the size of their families.” Fine. But that’s not realistic. It’s not going to happen. Get over it.

Those who, in their ignorance, protested the appearance of President Obama at Notre Dame because of his rational, common-sense position on issues related to reproduction would have been far better off spending their time and energy to support effective family planning. A contribution to Planned Parenthood—which counsels women on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies—is more likely to prevent abortion than all the marching and protesting in the world.

If Catholics and members of other conservative religions want to do something to make the world a safer place for the unborn, more of them should be engaged in a matter worth debating: whether it’s not long past time that their church changed its antiquated, destructive position on contraception—the best and most realistic method of reproductive choice.

Resolved: That abstinence from sex should not be the only option human beings have for avoiding pregnancy.

Let them debate that.


The Tarquin said...

Well, these days it's not often that I say this, but I totally agree.

At the risk of engaging in unnecessary religious irony: "Amen!"

The evidence is in and abstinence-only sex ed loses. Contraceptives work. If you want to decrease abortions, increase the adoption of birth control measures.

That people can both believe abortion is murder and still deny contraception as a viable option despite all the evidence that it's an effective way to stop pregnancy leads me to the uncomfortable conclusion that they love their pitiful theology more than they hate murder.

Which, needless to say, make no God damned sense to me.

But anyway. Great post.

Citizen Jane said...

Thanks for you comments!

Anonymous said...

Your comments in the first five paragraphs are excellent and could be expanded upon -- for example, following Mr. Obama's suggestion that we pursue rational discussion of controversial issues. After all, we can't adequately respond to arguments that we refuse to understand and in a civilized society, rational discussion should be the basis for democratic processes.

But why did you have to turn your remarks into a diatribe against the Catholic church? They're far from being the only ones opposed to abortion. Many who oppose abortion do so on non-religious philosophical or moral grounds. (Yes, you can be moral without being religious.) And some who oppose contraception do so out of a belief that life begins when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, thus believing that contraceptive forms that work by prohibiting implantation of this fertilized egg is also murder. Again, we need to listen to and respect their positions even if we strongly disagree.

To me, the issue is not only how to avoid unwanted pregnancies, but also, what is being done to support and encourage women who do find themselves experiencing an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. And this is one place where the pro-choice and pro-life camps could definitely work together. Providing support of various types (financial, emotional, social) would be a good place for pro-choicers to show that they really believe in more choices than just abortion, and pro-lifers that they really do stand for life and all the consequences that arise from unplanned pregnancies.

Rather than a debate, let's have a discussion: How can we as a society work to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and properly address the needs of the women and infants so that there are better options than abortion?

Citizen Jane said...

Dear A,

Your point about there being different kinds of birth control is very well taken. A method that provides a barrier between egg and sperm and prevents conception is a very different matter from one that may cause destruction of a fertilized egg. Rather than dismissing all contraceptives as equally unacceptable, it might be constructive for the Catholic Church to expand the discussion.

I also agree that it's very important to provide counseling and support to women and girls become pregnant unexpectedly.

I'm sorry if I singled out the Catholic Church as being particularly irresponsible in terms of its position. I believe I did say, "and other conservative religions." However, I focused on the Catholic Church for three reasons: 1) It's the largest and most influential of the churches that formally oppose contraception; 2) The discussion was prompted by the protests against Obama at Notre Dame; and 3) I wrote recently about the Pope's irrational and irresponsible condemnation of condom use in AIDs-plagued Africa.

Certainly many Catholics are rational, compassionate, and tolerant of others' points of view. However, the Pope speaks for them all.

Anonymous said...

Well, no, many good Catholics don't feel that the pope speaks for them on the issue of birth control. And, in fact, the teachings of the church require one to follow one's "well formed conscience" on issues where they may differ from the official church position.

However, you missed my point, which is that we need to discuss, not debate, and that there are a number of valid positions that should be explored if Americans truly want to address the entire abortion question.

Citizen Jane said...

I'm sure you're right and that many Catholics do "follow their well-formed conscience." I just didn't know that the Church officially sanctioned it.

And I do see your point--discussion is so much nicer and more productive than "debate"--which has a "win-lose" connotation. I suppose in every great faith, there are those who are dogmatic and feel that they speak for God and those who are humble enough to know they don't have all the answers. The dogmatic ones, unfortunately, tend to make the headlines. (The others can enjoy a good discussion over coffee.)

Idna said...

I'm a little troubled by the all of above entries on this subject. There's all this talk of how to avoid pregnancy ... different kinds birth control and abortion, and not a word about irresponsible behavior. Statements like, "it's very important to provide counseling and support to women and girls [who] become pregnant unexpectedly." Unexpectledly? Do these people need a lesson on the birds and bees?

For all the pooh-poohing and ridicule of abstinence in this forum, maybe we should examine how we got to this place. Our sexualized society has taken an act that was meant for procreation and made it into a form of entertainment. Hooking-up, friends-with-benefits, etc. are just the latest terms used to show how trivial and irresponsible having intercourse has become.

The wide use of contraceptives and then the legalization of abortion just made it a lot easier and more widespread to have irresponsible sex. Along with this came AIDS and a lot of other STD's. (Maybe this is why Churches warned against contraceptives in the first place.)

Then there's the all important issue of whether abortion is morally wrong or not. How can there ever be agreement or "concensus" on a thing like this? You either believe that it is murder or you think it's just another form of birth control. I'm a little confused by the statement that abortion should be "legal, but rare." Why? If you see nothing wrong with it, why should it be rare?

This following quote really bothered me. "Like making and selling alcoholic beverages, abortion was once illegal in this country, and now it’s not." End of discussion. Likening a baby's life to bottle of booze? I just don't get it.

"Once it was illegal, now it's legal." Fallable human beings made it "legal". Some of the Supreme Court Justices who voted to legalize abortion, second guessed themselves later and wished they had not voted for it. "Roe" (Norma McCorvey) has also been working to reverse Roe vs Wade for well over a decade.

This is a very difficult topic to discuss. There are lots of babies born to irresponsible people who abuse and neglect them. Would those babies have been better off having had their lives ended in utero? Is life ours to take? Is life important enough to fight about? Or is our convenience more important? Lots of questions.

Bashing the Catholic Church or debating that it's impossible for people to refrain from casual sex is really not the point. Is it? The question of abortion goes much deeper.

Citizen Jane said...

Irresponsible people do have sex--as do responsible people. Addicts have sex. Impoverished and mentally ill people have sex. People who don't, for whatever reason, have long-term partners have sex. Sex is part of the human experience, and say what you will, the vast majority of sexual acts will occur among people who, for one reason or another, shouldn't have or aren't ready to have kids. That's why promoting safe sex and contraception is so important.

People who are not, for whatever reason, ready to have children but are sexually active shouldn't be "punished" by having babies--or getting AIDS.

If those who preach abstinence would instead preach safe sex, they might be able to do some good. It's much easier to persuade a person to use a condom than to persuade them to refrain from expressing their natural sexuality.

Of those babies born to children, addicts, the mentally ill, or AIDs-infected mothers in the Africa, you ask, "Would those babies have been better off having had their lives ended in utero?" A much more relevant question would be, "Would they, their parents, and the world be better off if they had never been conceived?"

Idna said...

And the answer to your last question is yes. So let's promote sterilization, because irresponsible people aren't going to use contraceptives anyway.

Instead of using tax payer money to pay for abortions, let's pay for tubal ligations and vasectomies. When you give money away for an activity, you get more of it! That means more abortions the way things stand today. So this "Let's make abortion more rare" by throwing money at it, ain't gonna work.

I think that there should be mandatory sterilization of a lot of the "irresponsible" groups that you list - the mentally ill, the addicts, those with AIDS, those who abuse and neglect kids, etc.

Just WAIT til the ACLU gets a whiff of that!!! They'll be out there screaming their heads off. Can't take away their RIGHT to have kids.

I don't see them screaming about the RIGHT to LIFE of a late term fetus. It's all very upside down.

Anonymous said...

So it all gets back to Mr. Obama's initial question: How can we reduce unwanted pregnancies so as to avoid abortions? Abstinence has been well-proven not to work. Read literature, the Bible if you're religious, or look at the world. It may for some, and it's definitely worth encouraging for many reasons other than birth deterrence. Stronger marriages seem to result when couples are committed to virginity until marriage, for example. But we have to be realistic. Even in the pre-birth-control 50s when extramarital pregnancy was a disgrace socially, it happened. Remember the homes for unwed mothers? And marriages that were just a little bit late (or the first child's birth just a little bit too early)? It's fortunate that there are a lot of options these days.

As a society, let's talk about them and see what works for our multicultural nation.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments about encouraging and supporting women to make some choice other than abortion. If there is no medical reason to abort the fetus or the pregnancy is not the result of rape or child abuse where the mother has already been tramatized, would it be so wrong to ask the mother to carry the child to term? We talk about choice. After all, except in cases of rape/abuse, the mother did make a least once choice -- to have sex -- and possibly a second choice -- to have unprotected sex. None of the current laws I know about require the birth mother to keep the child. I am troubled by this notion that we are "punishing" a woman by asking her to bear the child.

Let's concentrate on removing some of the "punishment." Certainly, there is no longer any social stigma, so that punishment has gone away. I would much rather see tax money going to unwed mothers for such things as good prenatal care, group homes where she can interact with others who are in the same situation. In other words, just help her stay the course for 9 months, then she is free. Giving up a baby is not an easy thing to do. Just look at all the women who want to reconnect with children they gave up for adoption. At least, though, we as a society and the mother as an individual have given the baby a chance. We just wouldn't have to lose all the potential of the unborn.

Citizen Jane said...

Well, we all seem to agree that women who choose to bring children into the world--regardless of the circumstances--should receive support and help to make good decisions for the baby.

And Idna, we agree on something! I'm not at all sure that procreation should always be a "right." Babies should have rights, too. I'm sure we'd quibble about the details, but I think we can agree that under certain extreme circumstances, people don't have the "right" to conceive.

Some years ago, there was a case in Arizona in which, if I remember correctly, a woman was convicted of homicide by abuse. The judge handed down a two-part sentence: a few years if the woman agreed to a tubal ligation, decades if she didn't. I thought it was a Solomon-like decision. If she didn't give up her right to procreate, she could just sit in jail until her biological clock ran out. Made sense to me!

Unfortunately, a higher court reversed the decision, and she was released at the earlier date. (We can only hope she experienced an early menopause.)