What's Missing from the Abortion Debate:
In a recent article, I hinted what my views on abortions are. Truth is, I don’t really have a strong opinion and I believe what we really need, as a society and as individuals who are facing the dilemma of abortions, is a thorough understanding of everything at stake. And what I find lacking in most articles that I read about this hot subject lately, is a deep discourse. One which could actually guide us in making an informed decision.
Pro-life advocates suggest that as soon as the embryo has formed (or shortly thereafter), it is a human baby, and as such, terminating its life equals murder.
Pro-choice supporters claim that during the first few months of development, the embryo hasn’t developed into a human being yet. It is still an integral part of the woman’s body and she can choose its destiny.
The debate is presented as a strong dichotomy between those two factions. As if these two are direct opposites. Whereas in a healthy debate, these could be complementing views that should be appreciated for the ethical code they represent.
Diving deeper into the discussion.
Thus shall not kill.
Why do we not kill? Yes, there’s a law against killing others. But why? What is the reason behind it? Why is caring for life so fundamentally strong in our morals? It is usually due to the fact that we can see ourselves as the other. And since we do not want to die, we assume no one else wants to die. However, one can easily see that killing is not an issue so long as that which we kill is considered inferior in consciousness. If we believe that the subject does not oppose death, or has no understanding/fear of it, we usually don’t think it’s wrong to kill it. Every single one of us kills many life forms throughout the day. Our bodies fight invaders which they deem to be a threat to its wellbeing. Most of us step on a few ants occasionally without feeling much remorse. Killing mosquitoes is considered completely OK. Not to mention the killing of many animals in order to provide for food and clothing. So it’s not really the killing that our society has an issue with. It’s the intentional killing of a being that is considered conscious enough. Namely, aware enough for us to feel sorry for it.
Now the question is: is the newly formed embryo conscious enough? Is it aware of its being alive and does it fear death?
I personally assume this awareness has a strong connection to brain development. Typing “stages of fetus development” into Google and this is the first article I came across. According to the information presented here,
Research has shown that the production of neurons begins around day 42 after conception and is mostly complete sometime around the middle of pregnancy.
Stages of Prenatal Development, Verywellmind.com
Coupling science and the way our conscience operates, I would say that terminating the life of an embryo, at least until it starts producing neurons (meaning, roughly 42 days after conception) should not be an issue for most of us.
Following this logic, I would think that having an abortion before week 6 should be a non-issue.
But many people — including those who passed the recent Abortions Bill in Alabama, view things differently.
What if life does start at conception?
First, let me say that I do not disagree. I actually have the exact same view: a new life starts at conception. It’s the question of how to value this life that I was addressing in my last paragraph that makes me feel OK with termination at the first few weeks of pregnancy.
But I have many close friends that believe that as soon as conception happens, we should not take matters into our own hands.
There are those who are influenced by religious views: God gave us this life, and He is the only one who is allowed to take it away. If that’s what you believe, let me just ask you a few more questions. Is this the same God that gave us free will? The same God that allowed for modern medicine (and ancient wisdom, might I add), to develop? If so, this same God could clearly realize that we will execute our free will, using the means we were allowed to develop, in order to make decisions that are best for our future. So basically, God is allowing us to make this decision for ourselves.
And for those who have other spiritual beliefs, including internal convictions that life should not be terminated, I want to add another dimension to the argument of the awareness of the life about to be killed.
If we agree that we do not have an issue with killing a life form that has an inferior awareness to ours, then the main difference between killing an embryo to killing a mosquito is its potential.
If we kill a mosquito, we have stopped its life and that’s all.
If we kill an embryo, we destroy the potential it has to develop into something greater. Much greater. It could, perhaps, become the next Mahatma Gandhi. This is a very strong argument and I want to say that I hear you.
Which brings me to the next discussion.
Where is this baby going to grow up?
This baby will grow up in an environment in which it is not welcomed. And although there are plenty of people who grow up in conditions that are less than optimal and become inspiring leaders, there are also enough children in this world growing up knowing that their parents do not want them.
What I am saying here is, if the unwanted baby is going to grow knowing that it was not loved, not welcomed, not desired — how big is that baby’s potential to develop into a great world leader? At least the type of leader that you want to see in our world? I know it’s possible, and still, the chances are slim.
With the new abortion bill passed in Alabama, even rape victims are not allowed an abortion.
Have you ever seen a rape victim loving her child? I know some do, sure.
And many do not.
I recently spent a few months with a baby that was born as a result of a violent rape. Her mom did her best to love her — and could not. This baby, born into an upper-class family with a few siblings who knew nothing of the incident, had enough food to keep her tummy full and enough love from her family to keep her smiling. But her mom was struggling to connect with her. Her baby was a living reminder of the cruelty she has endured.
This story has a semi-sweet ending. With the mother in constant therapy to help her bond to her child, the child is doing relatively alright. But this mother also chose to have this baby. She’s investing a lot of effort in order to be able to give that baby what came naturally to her with her other children: motherly love.
And how about those children who grow up and the mother is just a little less capable? Do you think they will lead a happy life? Or do you think it doesn’t matter if they are miserable, and making their close relatives miserable by merely existing — as long as they are simply alive? Before you suggest life should be protected, please look at the price you are willing to pay. Can you afford to be actively involved to help make the child’s life better? If your answer is no, please do not force it into its much-less-than-optimal life.
Who should make the decision of bringing a child into the world?
One of my friends is a Mauri woman. She grew up in New Zealand and her upbringing was heavily influenced by the traditional Mauri ways.
She once told me that the whole tribe is involved in the decision of creating a new baby, looking into the available resources and if bringing a new human to the family is in everyone’s best interest. This decision is taking into consideration the entire tribe. The future parents have a say, but they respect the tribe’s decision.
In these tribes, the responsibility for caring for the child lies with the entire tribe.
In contrast, in our modern Western society, taking care of our children is lying solely on the parents. The parents can ask for help (usually grandparents are expected to help to some degree), but the responsibility is 100% upon the parents, no matter what. Children, as much as we love and adore them, are a burden. Parents need to provide everything for them by themselves, and if the parents don’t do their job well enough, they could be punished by law.
It sounds outrageous to me that the responsibility of caring for the baby is completely on the parents, and yet we do not allow them to decide if they can afford to make the sacrifices to provide it with the best life they can give it.
Shouldn’t they pay for not being careful enough?
Another aspect of the abortion debate is, assuming that someone made a mistake and that’s the reason they fell pregnant to start with. And having the baby is what they need to pay for their mistake. Obviously, this does not apply in rape scenarios (I admit, the fact that rape victims are not excluded from some of the new Abortions Bill completely infuriates me), but for those who had consensual sex.
Well, this argument would assume that either:
- There’s a contraception method that is completely 100% foolproof (there isn’t); or that
- People should only engage in sex if they want to (or at least OK with) having children.
We can reduce the risk of an unwanted pregnancy by better educating ourselves about contraceptives and investing some time to study and fully understand which one is best for us and how to use it more diligently, for sure. But let’s face it, not many people actually do that. And even those who do use their contraceptive 100% perfectly, there is always the tiny percentage of failure.
And another thing. Let’s assume it was a mistake. Let’s imagine a very plausible scenario where the couple knew all about their perfect contraceptive but in the heat of the moment, they just couldn’t be bothered. Do you think that forcing them to bring a baby into the world and having to care for it for the rest of their lives, even if they truly do not want it, is a punishment that is equal to their “crime”?
Now, how about expecting people to not have sex just for the sake of pleasure? To be honest with you, I have a suspicion that most of those people supporting the Abortions Bill are those who believe sex should only happen for reproduction purposes. People who think that having sex for fun and enjoyment is a sin. It’s OK, these people are entitled to this opinion. But forcing this on other people? Well. As someone who strongly believes what happens in between two consenting adults is entirely up to them, this whole concept of controlling other people’s sex preferences is utterly ridiculous to me.
How about an abortion after week 6?
I mentioned before that the production of neurons starts roughly at week 6. So before that stage, abortion does not feel like killing. It’s a very undeveloped life form.
And looking at the same quote, the neurons production ends roughly halfway through the pregnancy. At that stage, abortion is out of the question. But what about all the time in between? These are the grey area weeks.
When it comes to the grey area, the discussion becomes more complex.
I mean, when having an unplanned pregnancy, many women do not realize they are pregnant until much later than week 6.
For this, I will not pretend to have an answer.
I think that no matter what the stage of pregnancy is, we need to have a discussion with the future parents. They need to understand the developmental stage of the embryo/fetus. We need to help them see how and if they think they can have the baby. And help them weight all the aspects of their decision and to let them make up their mind. And the most important part of this is that we need to back them up and support the decision all the way even if we think we would have chosen differently.
I really hope this debate will continue, and if you have anything to add or an experience to share, please leave a kind comment to let us know.