Monday, 30 December 2013

The sensitive topic of abortion

Okay, so I know this is a really controversial topic, but think it is one that needs to be discussed more. I think it is discussed by people who already agree with each other, but not among those who disagree with each other. And when it is discussed in mixed company, it is rarely discussed helpfully. I think it’s often angry people not listening to each other, rather than people listening to each other and willing to be convinced.  I think it is a discussion worth having for my generation in particular because in the world I grew up in it felt like everyone already made their decision and it was too controversial to talk about, so my generation wasn’t really given space to have the discussion that happened in the 70's. I don’t remember discussing it as a part of a social studies class, for example. I also used the word "unborn" in a recent post and I felt the need to unpack why I used that word in the context of "the vulnerable".  

Here's my position. I believe that a child growing in a womb is life. That life should be valued.

Our society has attempted to remove procreation from sex. It has been largely successful because of the development of contraceptive technologies. This separation doesn’t make sense from a biological point of view and I don’t think it makes sense from a social or spiritual point of view either. I’m not saying that every sexual act has to be geared toward procreation, but in general when we are dealing with sex we are dealing with the elements of procreation- sperm, eggs, and wombs. Sex, in general, is what leads to babies. Pregnancy as a topic on TV sitcoms is likely to be treated as an STD. It is treated as an unexpected and negative consequence of recreational sex. So, just as one might go and get pills from a doctor to clear up an STD, or have an operation to remove a cancerous cyst, one might deal similarly with a pregnancy. My primary worry hear is the disregard for life as a natural consequence of a particular and (in general) willing act.

I also know there are all kinds of other issues that get mixed in here- miscarriage (where the life is naturally ended by the body), rape (where sex is not willing), extrauteran gestation (where the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother). I’m actually not completely that black and white on this topic. I’m not saying that an abortion should never be performed. If the mother’s life will be seriously endangered, then I would probably recommend the action. Though, I would still say that the life that is ended in the act should be respected. I would even suggest a funeral service to recognize the death. There are situations where discernment and prayer and wise guidance is needed. I suspect the majority of abortions that are performed are not about saving the life of the mother, or dealing with the consequences of a rape.  

Our society is teaching our children that sex is about recreation and we are giving little guidance to them about this besides being “safe”. We don’t seem to be talking about the meaning, purpose, and effects of sex. We are more concerned with technique and preventing teen pregnancy and STDs. I suspect the majority of abortions are about birth control. As a teen I remember having friends who used abortion in this way. I know one friend who had 5 abortions. For her it was birth control. It wasn’t about rape or health. It was birth control. I don’t actually remember the ethics of it ever coming up in my group of friends. I also doubt that anyone in the health care system broached the topic of ethics with her.

One of the reasons I think people get angry on this topic is that it is often treated in an overly individualistic manner. It is treated as an individual choice and therefore an individual sin. Abortion, however, is more of a communal sin than an individual sin. We have created a culture that does not welcome children. Children are an inconvenience. They prevent us from working or going to school. They cost money to care for. Extended families have broken down in the pursuit of ‘success’ and career. So grandparents and aunts and uncles, are often not available to assist. (Sometimes grandparents have disappeared to Arizona or Florida.) We have created a culture where sex is about recreation and so males feel free to use women for their own gratification (even if it is consensual sex). Commitment to a child is not foreseen and not desired, so males often feel little reason to stick it out and are often shocked that they have some sort of financial responsibility to the child if the woman decides not to have an abortion. We have created a culture that places an extraordinary about of pressure on young mothers to have abortions.

So whose sin is it? Every one of us who has not bought groceries for a single mother. Every one of us who has not volunteered to care for and love a child while their mother works or goes to school. Every one of us who has contributed to a culture of recreational sex without consequences. Every one of us who has treated children as an inconvenience and nuisance. In general, this sin is on us as a culture. The young mothers who have abortions as a form of birth control are acting according to the pressures we have placed on them as a society.

What would it be like to be a part of a culture that welcomed children into our midst and celebrated over them as the future generation? What if we treated them as the people who will eventually take over our society as teachers, scientists, and health care workers? Why do we treat children as an inconvenience when we will all rely on them in the future?  

I know that’s a selfish way to think about them, but that’s the society we’ve created. In a consumerist culture where we are primarily concerned with “what I’ll get out of it” perhaps we need to be reminded of who will be taking care of us in the long term care facility where many of us will end up. Who will your doctor be? What kind of a society did they grow up in? Did they grow up in a culture where life was measured in terms of its productivity and inconvenience? When you are ‘non-productive’ and laying in a bed consuming society’s resources who will be caring for you and how will they value you? Will you be valuable because there is life in you? Or will you be not valued because you are “useless” to our society?     

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