Today is the March for Life, a mostly religiously impelled protest against abortion (and occasionally on various kinds of euthanasia) in D.C.. In honor of all the women and men who are hurt by the false-witness and libel that this event spreads I’ve decided to tackle some of the most egregious lies they tell.
Abortion is not the equivalent of murdering a child. It isn’t. And even the staunchest Catholics agrees with me. You know how I know that? Because what child-murderer is offered a “retreat” as a way to atone for their sin? What child-murderer is a good candidate for writing a book, being a guest on a talk show, or starting a ministry? What child-murderer would ever be allowed to have continued custody of their other children?
The whole idea is appalling. Can you imagine a host greeting a guest on a talk show, “So my producers tell me you killed your two sons, ages 7 and 4. You’ve come to see that that was a wrong decision. Tell us about it.” Or imagine the book blurb, “Planned Parenthood lied to me. They told me not to worry about staving my infant to death. It was just a bundle of cells after all. I starved three of my own children this way before I saw the light.” You would not be edified by this kind of material, no, you’d be horrified and call the cops.
We instinctively recognize a difference between fetuses and actual children. Of course, fetuses are important, you’d never get a baby without having a fetus first, but as a whole we recognize fetal life as having differing values depending on its development. Miscarriage is a terrible event in a wanted pregnancy, and I don’t want to deny anyone’s pain or sense of loss no matter how far along you were, but society will treat a woman who’s miscarried differently depending on that very factor. A woman who loses a pregnancy in the first trimester? It’s treated as a hiccup, a delay in her baby-making plans. No one expects much grief, just to get back on the horse and try again. Second trimester loses are more serious. There’s probably been an ultrasound, the parents have a picture of the fetus and they may know it’s gender. People close to the couple help them grieve. A third trimester, or even worse a stillborn, is treated nearly like the loss of a child. There may be a funeral and a grave. The couple may miss work to process their grief. Everyone walks on eggshells around them, brings casseroles to their house, and feels their loss with them. The fetus’s value increases the more and more it is like a baby.
But that changing value is exactly my point. A fertilized egg becomes a baby. It takes on the value of a human life. But it doesn’t start that way.
Let me give you another example. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had an abortion. How can I be unsure of that, you may ask. I’ve never known I was pregnant then done something to terminate the pregnancy. In fact, I think it’s likely that I haven’t ever been pregnant. But since up to half of all pregnancies are spontaneously aborted, usually before a woman would have any sign she’s pregnant, I just don’t know. I think I’ve avoided any lost pregnancies by being really diligent in taking my pill everyday and relying on it to do exactly what it is supposed to do, prevent me from getting pregnant. The religious right that calls my pill an “abortifacient” believes that the pill simply causes fertilized eggs to be unceremoniously cast out from my inhospitable uterus. They don’t suggest how often this happens (medical doctors put the chances somewhere around, “never”) but let’s assume it happens maybe once a year. These folks would have me guilty for the murder of approximately five children. Obviously, that’s simply not the fact. I have a clear conscience and a clear criminal record. I am no Andrea Yates. Even if I had caused five very early stage abortions by taking oral contraceptives it is nothing like killing children.
Yet the religious right wants to equate all fetal and child life, whether it is a just fertilized egg, a fetus with it’s own heartbeat, or a baby babbling in its highchair. They say that they believe that depriving any of these life is exactly the same crime. But in no way do their actions bear this out. I contend that there is no way to look at a discarded canister of eggs fertilized for a couple’s in vitro process with the same profound grief as seeing twenty agonizingly small caskets in Newton. Fertilized eggs are not yet babies. Fetuses are not yet children.
The statistic is that one in three women will get an abortion in her lifetime. I know more than three women, so I probably know a few people who’ve had an abortion. But I don’t know any murders. I don’t know anyone who could bring themselves to kill a child or who wouldn’t grieve profoundly for losing a child to illness or accident.
Women who get abortions aren’t murdering babies. Doctors who perform abortions aren’t murdering babies. Families and friends who support women who choose abortion aren’t co-conspiritors in baby-murder. Political and civic groups that support women’s right to choose aren’t condoning baby-murder. Abortion does not equal murder.
Abortion does not equal murder, no matter how terribly the protestors today slander women who’ve made this choice for their lives and the men who support them.