Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Views on Elective Abortion

Below is a world map denoting the national policies regarding elective abortion. As can be seen from the map, abortion on demand is mostly a condition predominant in Western, "first world" countries. From this perspective, restriction on abortion is seen to be weighted primarily toward Third World nations, in which religious or cultural traditions are rooted in pre-scientific or pre-modern viewpoints regarding the inviolability ("sacredness") of life, or in which women (as members of a class) have traditionally been relegated to an inferior position of authority or power.  

Legend transcription     Legal on request     Legal for maternal life, health, mental health, rape, fetal defects, and/or socioeconomic factors     Legal for or illegal with exception for maternal life, health, mental health, rape, and/or fetal defects     Illegal with exception for maternal life, health, mental health and/or rape     Illegal with exception for maternal life, health, and/or mental health     Illegal with no exceptions 
Abortion is not a new procedure, though its means and effectiveness remained primitive and dangerous right up until the 20th Century, when more scientific means of application were developed. Abortions, of a kind, were known to have been practiced since ancient times. With the arrival of safe and efficient abortion procedures, it has become more widespread, and has increasingly come under scrutiny.  The public acknowledgment of the desirability of legal abortion has been gradually increasing over the last century. Attempts around the world to legalize the availability of abortion have come up against various religious and ethical barriers, based on concepts of the sacredness of life at conception--regarded as holy--or on suppression of a women's right to determine the outcomes of her own pregnancies. 
The Catholic Church has traditionally lobbied against the practice of abortion, regarding conception as a holy event, not to be traduced by human intervention. If conception is a moment of divine grace, it's argued, then anyone who subscribes to this doctrine must accept that all abortions constitute an act of murder, and a sin against god. 
Never having been much of a religious person myself--my parents forced me to attend the Presbyterian Church for four years, though they never attended any church, to my knowledge--the idea of all life being sacred and inviolable was never a concept I thought of except in purely profane, philosophical/ethical terms. I grew up during a period in which violent conflict, and the prosecution of "necessary wars" resulting in mass death(s), was regarded as a social and political good. Killing bad people, or people who fought for evil reasons, was a good thing. Evil was a real force in the world, and in order to defeat it, violence was occasionally the last resort in the eternal struggle between virtuous, and non-virtuous individuals or groups. There were those who might attempt to attach religious significance or meanings to such conflict, but these kinds of meanings were outmoded in the modern world. Death was a necessary consequence of the prosecution of moral righteousness, and could be shown to be a healthy process, on a case by case basis. Otherwise, terrible consequences would occur.
Despite attempts by religious zealots, or right-wing extremists, to convince me otherwise, I continue, in late middle-age, to regard the so-called "preciousness" of, or right to life as a morally indefensible absolute. 
Much of the suffering in the world is a consequence not only of over-crowding and mindless increase, but of the conflicts which develop over the scarcity of resource or land. In the 19th Century, it was still possible to regard the earth almost as an infinite resource, in which mankind, no matter how fast it increased and spread, would never challenge natural limits. We now know, to our despair, how false that assumption was. 
The raw value of life is roughly proportional to the likelihood of its prevalence. We think nothing of killing hundreds, thousands, even millions of animals at a time, our only probable remorse being that this may, precipitously or over time, end up driving a species into total extinction, its existence only a memory. Each year, millions of humankind worldwide die from hunger, disease, violent conflict. We think nothing of hearing, for instance, that a thousand people died miserably last week in Eastern Africa. Que sera, tough luck, we think to ourselves. 
Yet we argue endlessly over the sacredness of fetuses. Fetuses, after all, are "innocent" and "helpless" victims. The propagation of life is indeed a miraculous process, designed by nature to perpetuate the descent of species over time. Like all animals, however, reproduction is designed to overcome the inherent moderation of numbers which limit all living things. If a species is to survive, its method of replication must be many times more efficient than mere maintenance, since the balance of available sustenance is never unlimited. The reason that all the living things now on the earth exist, is that their reproductive success overcame the challenges set before them. And that prevalence was also facilitated by adaptation, both genetic and circumstantial. In other words, our ability to reproduce, and to reproduce with alternative models, are what enabled us to survive.  
But what happens when you begin to overcome natural limits through the artificial elimination of enemies--such as predators, disease--or by obtaining easy availability of food and materiel? You change the ground-rules of descent. Man's manipulation of the environment has meant that we've created an artificial condition in which the natural limits to our increase have been moderated. This has led to our current "population explosion." And this in turn has led to a whole host of new problems, few of which seem immediately soluble. Our science and technology has facilitated a rapid expansion, but has provided us with precious few ultimate answers about how we might prevent even these impressive parameters from curtailing our continued profligacy. We've postponed armageddon, but we can't delay it forever.
Unlike the rest of the natural kingdom, humans have large, complex brains. We can see and understand the consequences of our acts, and have some control over our destinies. We know from nature that life is only as precious as its possessors can make it. The substance and value of the individual may be paramount in ethical or political terms, but in the grand scheme of life on this planet, individuals are relatively trivial. Henry David Thoreau is often quoted as saying that he wished "to live deliberately"--that is, to live with purpose and direction, to a given end. Clearly, as members of a successful species, we no longer need to pretend that the mindless increase of our numbers, promoted through our sexual drives and moral concepts of our own sacred value, are sufficient as a guide to conduct. Man doesn't need to preserve the notion of sexual union as a sacred event leading to a holy, inviolable conception. That idea may have seemed viable once, when humankind was of manageable extent, and growth seemed like a natural good. But people are not ants.   
First trimester abortions should remain an option available to all women. Men and women aren't just dumb animals. We can prevent conception, or we can terminate it, with equal rationality. It is not a devaluation of life to want to manage our numbers, either on the grand scale, or on the individual level. If we can, with good conscience, punish and kill each other as adults, then we have the moral authority to determine whether we shall, or shall not, add to our numbers. 
I regard ethical arguments based on the presumed value of the immature fetus to be nonsensical. A "human" the size of a pea, or smaller, does not weigh on my conscience. In a theoretical sense, life begins at inception. But nature isn't interested in theories. It only demands, that as a species, we prevail. There really isn't much question about that, anymore. We need to "want" to bring life into being, into the fullness of potential and affection. Accidents and rapes and unwanted babies are not "acts of god." We have brains, if only we will use them.      


J said...

First trimester abortions should remain an option available to all women.

Agreed, Sir F. Indeed, make it mandatory in some cases. Crimefighter!

That said late, or later term pose some issues. When health risks, or the other laundry list problems arise, they should be allowed.

The "honey, I decided to abort our baby today" types of A's --bad joss. That's what stirs up the good xtian psychopaths

Ed Baker said...

well I suppose that all of those religious and political The Holier Than Thou groups WILL be

non-stop adopting those Boarder Babies?

Kirby Olson said...

Once you allow the murder of babies, you completely discredit any notion of human rights for anyone at all.

From that point, it's only a matter of time that concentration camps are put in place, and undesirables (Republicans, perhaps?, or some other hated group?), are murdered en masse.

I grant that there are too many people, but would prefer other kinds of birth control.

I also think we need to develop more humane standards for the destruction of animals.

There are way too many deer. Without predators, they are gobbling up all the greenery. But are helicopter gunships the answer?

I agree that we do need to manage our environment better, and this includes downsizing the human population. But we also need to maintain human rights to life, liberty, health, and property in doing so, or we will lose all bearings.

Your equation between capital punishment and abortion (we do this, so why not do that), sets a very dangerous and slippery precedent that could be used to disappear all kinds of people including your poet Larry Eigner for failure to meet the expectations of the able-bodied elite.

Be more careful, bro.

Curtis Faville said...


Nowhere did I "equate capital punishment and abortion"--nor do I make either action dependent upon the other; that's just a debater's fall-back. One is the legal taking of life by the state, the other is the decision by an individual woman to terminate a fetus.

I don't regard a fetus as having "rights" under the law. A fetus acquires "rights" when it is born. Period. Persuasive arguments can be brought forward to justify putting barriers to abortion after, say, 8 or 10 weeks, but these can't have legally binding consequences.

I won't debate the issue on religious grounds, as that takes us into the realm of the speculative, irrational and supernatural--areas which have no bearing on legal issues. As long as you live in a society, you either follow its rules, or go somewhere else. History is moving against you, here, Kirby.

Kirby Olson said...

Those "irrational" areas not only do have a bearing on legal issues, but the ten commandments are the very basis for all of our laws.

Thou shall not steal?

Thou shall not kill?

Ever hear of those?

All American and English law derives from the ten commandments.

Oh my goodness!

Without the ten commandments this country is going to go rudderless.

Some 80% of Americans still consider themselves Christian. Another five percent are Jewish.

Only about 4% are thorough-going atheist-communist-secularist goof-ups!

We have not yet completely lost our moorings, sir!

We have never had a secular president, and we never will in our lifetimes. Nobody can be elected president without talking about their faith in God.

It's not possible. The electorate for that kind of secularist nonsense is a fraction of a fraction and will never get traction!

Our laws are Christian, and were in Lincoln's time, and will be for another thousand years.

This is why a growing number of people will connect the dots and ultimately outlaw abortion.

One more judge and we will have the Supreme court back to the Bible for its surest sense of right and wrong.

And come November, all the secularists will be looking for jobs again in Congress.

Oh my goodness!

J said...

From the pen of Kirby O:

""Many of them come in uninvited speaking lousy English, and insisting that their culture remain intact, refusing to assimilate. They bring with them crime, stupid habits, and bad posture. Many don't even know the ten commandments, or observe them only in the breach.""

Change that to german, have some short austrian clown with a bad mustache bark it, and--
Der Fuhrer Kirby!

That rant sort of explains Olson's entire resentful existence

(it's important to expose genuine right-wing nutbags, Sir Faville...however quotidian it may seem to some in the Lit. biz).

Kirby Olson said...

Curtis, all law in the west commences when God hands Moses the Ten Commandments.

Therefore, law is naturally religious, and comes out of our religious heritage.

To deny this is to deny law itself.

Thou shalt not kill, for instance, is one commandment. It's a rather important commandment. Murder is still outlawed.

It is not outlawed in every society. It is celebrate for instance by headhunting societies. Try that around here and see what happens.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

These are still rather large commandments. About 80% of the country is Christian. Another 5% or so is Jewish. We have some other religions. Only about 3% of the country is atheistical.

So it's a very tiny group that you belong to. This group tends to congregate in a few large cities and so they think they are dominant. But try to find such a person in any mid-size or small town in the midwest of this country.

We have never had an atheist president. We never will have one.

Our country is not secular. Enshrined in the Constitution itself, in almost every sentence, is a sense that GOD MADE THIS COUNTRY, and that GOD made these laws.

I don't know how the secularists managed to pass the abortion laws that allow people to off their children. It's not right.

People who are worried that there are too many people should kill themselves, not children! It's only fair.

J said...

First Amendment.

Separation clause.

Jefferson/Madison/Franklin, even John Adams routinely disparaged biblical inerrancy, calvinists, and the fundamentalist windbags of the day (ie enthusiasm, as Madison called it).

Now, the good part: no claim about history is necessarily true--no one can prove Washington crossed the Delaware. It's probably true--many witnesses, but not axiomatic . A fortiori, no supernatural claims from ancient religious texts in foreign or extinct languages are necessarily true. They are not verifiable either. And since they contain supernatural events, they are---at least according to rationalists and non-dogmatists, not admissable as evidence. That was the view of the Founding fathers (Not only philosophers or historans).

(For that matter, Kirby O's daily anti-rationalist poem-rant has nothing to do with an argument or reason at all, and not really worth responding to. Like most in the born-again bum-beat-poet ring, he never learned what a valid argument is, or wrote a research paper, apparently, instead focusing on odes or his avorite Andre Breton vision...)

Kirby Olson said...

J is so stupid he has never even understood the first amendment. I wonder if he can even feed himself.

J said...

Step in a ring, loudmouth--KO time

Olson's so stupid, he posts Breton next to Luther, not understanding either (and real surrealists... got yr number, little man).

Curtis Faville said...

Okay, you guys, keep it clean. No kidney punches, no butting, no shots below the belt.

Now go back to your corners and come out fighting in the next round!

Kirby Olson said...

Curtis, i would do this if I thought there was ANYTHING at all to be learned from it.

Unfortunately, the guy is a broken record, very rigid, and dumb, to boot.

J said...

I said step in the ring, puto. Kirby DOA! Not about schooldays, maricon--Yr going to be terminated soon, Fox boy.

The point contra- the inerrancy of scripture (ie, dogma not admissable as evidence) comes from Hume, and french encyclopedists, poet-maricon--and upheld by Jefferson & Co.

Your ad auctoritas, uh attempt at ad auctoritas doesn't count for anything. Nor do yr little chapbook-finger paintings.

You can't write, chump,much less reason.


Kirby Olson said...

Curtis, I believe that your commenter made a death threat against me when he said that I would be terminated.

Do you support this kind of speech?

It's unclear to me why this particular individual has been cyber-stalking me for five years. I do think this particular sentence of his should be reported to the blogspot heads.

I don't think hiding behind an anonymous moniker and making death threats should be permitted, and I do think you should report it.

Curtis Faville said...

Kirby, I don't think it's a "credible" threat.

The more you argue with people who are provoking you, the more fuel you give them.

If you don't want to interact with J, then don't.

I can't take sides on this stuff.

J said...

No, it was in reference to yr job teaching fingerpainting for the state, Kirby Grrl. Terminated. As in, pink-slipped.

Either way, the punk's incapable of rational discussion or disputation, CF, his little paranoia and J-Edgar snitch act aside--inept at the typical WASP religious justifications. Like, prove a soul exists...(whoop. I doubt he knows Descartes' writing from Dick Cheney for that matter...)

Let's not forget Olson has routinely approved of Foxnews, Limbaugh, Bush/Cheney, Pat Robertson, Ayn Rand, etc (though he's even incompetent with respect to Randian sophistries---Aynnie was no sunday schooler).