By skinny_vanilla and SusanBAwesome
Originally posted January 30, 2012
January 22 marked the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. It was also National Sanctity of Human Life Day, something Ronald Reagan started in 1984 to combat the decision regarding Roe. Or something.
Pastor John Piper, of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, took it upon himself to publish a list of 15 things we should all consider before we get abortions. Though one of our very own already eloquently summed up what was wrong with the article (“1/3 of it is religious and not everyone follows your narrow interpretation of religion, 1/3 of it is flat out lies, and 1/3 of it is Fuck You Asshole”), we are going to go a little more in-depth with our analysis.
Let’s get started.
1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother’s womb (except in the case of abortion).
skinny_vanilla: The issue with a man “killing” the contents of a womb derives from the fact that it is violating the woman’s right to her body and her desire to carry the baby to term. This is the imperative difference between the two. In the case of someone else “killing” a fetus without the consent of the pregnant woman, they are forcing their choice on her body. In the case of abortion, the pregnant woman maintains control of the decision of how her own body is used. If the violation of someone else’s body to use it in a way other than that person sees fit is the same as that person making the choice–even if the result is the same–wouldn’t this argument conclude that rape is the same as consensual sex?
2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.
SusanBAwesome: A woman who has fetal surgery is choosing to continue her pregnancy. A woman who chooses to have an abortion does not want to continue hers. Do you know what those women have in common? Choice.
3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is still legal beyond this limit.
skinny_vanilla: There are many reasons a woman may not be receive an abortion until later in the pregnancy. Undetected pregnancy, lack of health care, family pressures, mandatory wait periods, limited access to affordable clinics, denial, depression, and time spent making the decision could all delay the procedure. A woman’s body does not become any less her own domain, nor does she lose the ability to make an informed decision, as pregnancy continues.
SusanBAwesome: What Pastor Piper is proposing is impossible. He would have us believe a baby born this early is completely capable of surviving. A fetus cannot survive on its own at 23 or 24 weeks. There would have to be medical intervention in order to keep the baby breathing since the lungs are not fully developed yet.
4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.
SusanBAwesome: But I thought these Wonder Babies were living on their own? Keeping someone alive via breathing machines and the like is a little different from actually being alive. I guess the quality of a person’s life does not really matter as long as that person is still technically alive.
5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.
skinny_vanilla: I have personally never heard the argument, from pro- or anti-choice groups, of “size” being a determining factor of personhood. Developmental stage yes, never size. Typically the discussion about developmental stage centers around either the invasiveness and expense that increases further into the gestational period or an arbitrary baseline of what fetal development entitles the contents of a womb to personhood (often times the heartbeat is used). See point 3 about the developmental stage argument.
As far as personhood is concerned, I would agree there is no difference between a one week old and a six year old. There is a huge difference between a 20 week fetus and a one week old in that a one week old could reasonably be kept alive by any competent person (not one specific individual) without necessitating the use of a specific individual’s body–this is not true of a 20 week fetus.
6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.
SusanBAwesome: Well, yeah, no one is saying a person with diminished reasoning powers is not actually a person. That three-month-old is a person because a woman, most likely with developed reasoning powers, chose to go through pregnancy and bear it. Other women, who also have developed reasoning powers, choose to terminate their pregnancies. It does not make a fetus a person just because it will someday have developed reasoning powers if the mother chooses to carry it to term.
7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.
skinny_vanilla: I find it interesting that in the argument for evolution, the genetic similarities between humans and apes are so easily dismissed but when it comes to abortion, genetic makeup absolutely positively qualifies that cluster of cells as someone with equal rights.
SusanBAwesome: You mean to tell me that when two organisms with human DNA have sex and a zygote results, that zygote also has human DNA? Well, I simply don’t believe you.
No, but seriously. It is not like women choosing to have abortions think they are aborting a puppy or a kitten. Knowing that humans are only able to produce other humans is pretty basic knowledge and I would venture to guess it is universally known among adults. None of this is groundbreaking.
8. Ultrasounds have given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, and responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.
SusanBAwesome: Virtually all abortions happen after week 8? That’s weird. I have this handy little graph that says 61.8% happen before week 9. So are we to believe almost all abortions are occurring between week 8 and 9? I kind of doubt it.
Now that we have cleared that up, let’s talk about Pastor Piper’s guilt trip. Okay, so the fetus is developing. That is usually what happens during gestation. It still does not mean it has the functioning systems required to live outside the womb and therefore is still a fetus, not a person. A beating heart does not magically make someone a person, despite how much it has been romanticized in our culture.
9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.
SusanBAwesome: For me, the argument for carrying the fetus and then giving it up for adoption is one of the most infuriating. We are women, not incubators. When a woman chooses to go through with a pregnancy, she is voluntarily giving up her womb for those 40 weeks. She is voluntarily choosing to be taken on that roller coaster ride of hormones that occur before and after pregnancy. That is her choice.
The woman is still required to go through the pregnancy and then birth the baby. You guys, I haven’t done it myself and neither has Pastor Piper, but it looks incredibly hard. I cannot imagine telling another woman she must go through all of that pain and suffering just to give her baby away. Though I imagine it’s easy to tell someone to go through that if there’s no chance of you ever having to suffer through it.
While adoption may seem like an easy way to solve the problem of pregnancy, it is actually worse for the mother’s mental health than if she’d had an abortion. Many mothers will mourn the loss of the child they gave up for the rest of their lives. If the pregnancy and adoption were kept secret, there is the added fear of the child eventually wanting to find the birth mother and exposing her private matters. An adoption is not as effortless as some would make it seem. Like most things in life, emotions are tied in, and they get messy.
To Pastor Piper’s point that bearing a child does less harm than aborting, I call bullshit. Yes, there are always people willing to adopt babies. But you’d better hope your baby is white, healthy and able-bodied. And if no one wants your baby because it is not the right color or has some type of defect? Where will it go? Foster care? Oh, great. What a life to give a child. The child will most likely be at a higher risk for lifelong poverty, drug addiction, abuse, etc. It is not a big secret the foster care system can be a bleak place. Pastor Piper can promote adoption until he’s blue in the face, but unless he’s willing to pony up and make sure that child lives a life where it is adequately provided for, he will not make a convert out of me.
Forget about the fetus. What about the
incubator woman? Abortion is 11 times safer than childbirth. Wouldn’t that make abortion more just?
10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.
skinny_vanilla: Ah, yes, the pregnancy as punishment argument! These whores deserve what they get! Le sigh. This argument makes the huge assumption that the pregnant woman and womb contents are on equal footing when it comes to rights, which is a big jump.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that we agree on that point and apply it to another scenario. Icy day, woman goes out for a drive. Her car is properly maintained, she is a licensed and insured driver, and she is obeying all traffic laws. Her car slips on a patch of black ice, and she ends up hitting another car. The driver of the other car survives but sustains extensive injuries. The driver will needs an organ transplant or two–the woman is a match! But to donate she’ll have to undergo surgeries and spend weeks in the hospital away from work, her family, and prior engagements. Technically, though she took precautions, she is the responsible party. Should she be required by law to offer her body and time and sacrifice other obligations because of this? And what about in the cases of rape, abuse, and incest? The pregnant woman is responsible?
11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.
SusanBAwesome: A clinical abortion is not harmful. It is a legal medical procedure performed by skilled doctors. As mentioned before, giving birth is 11 times more likely to kill a woman than an abortion. And fewer than 0.3% of women having abortions sustain any type of complication that requires hospitalization. Of course the longer a woman waits to have an abortion, the higher her risk for complications becomes, but 88% of abortions occur before 12 weeks. Overall, it sounds pretty safe to me. It definitely sounds safer compared to the way it was when abortions were illegal.
I know, I know. Pastor Piper isn’t concerned with the
incubator’s woman’s safety. He is talking about the fetus…which is not yet considered a person. So, yeah. Let’s focus on the one who is actually recognized as a person under the 14th Amendment.
12. The outcast, the disadvantaged, and the exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.
SusanBAwesome: Why does this apply to a fetus but not to a woman? By forcing his beliefs on us, not only is he telling us we are less than fully human and incapable of making the best decision for ourselves, he is taking away our voice. Once again the most important person in this equation is tossed aside.
Does Pastor Piper plan on helping these mothers care for their children after they are born? Or is he only willing to be their voice while they are in utero? Babies are expensive. The reasons for having an abortion vary, but the expense of having a child and then having to provide for it is a huge deciding factor. 42% of women who have had abortions have incomes that are below the federal poverty level. People with views like Pastor Piper’s want women to birth all the babies, but you know when we do, they will blame the women for being poor and vilify the women for having to seek assistance from the state.
13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.
skinny_vanilla:I hope everyone stretched before reading this because we’re about to jump to conclusions! Pastor Piper assumes that, in a country with a right to Freedom of Religion (which absolutely includes the right to no religion), you believe in the same God he does, you believe in the same religious doctrine, you have the same faith in the infallibility of that doctrine, you believe in the same interpretation, and you believe your belief in this doctrine supersedes your ability to make an informed decision about your life, future, and well-being. He is also counting on the fact that you, like him, will take “Thou shalt not kill” to definitely mean fetuses but anyone killed in the name of God (has he read the Old Testament? Heard of the Crusades? War?) totally permissible. Religious beliefs have no place–none–in public policy, but even on an interpersonal level this argument is faulty because it assumes the same decision making basis, and if this were true the same conclusion would already have been reached. For someone who does not hold the same beliefs, she would have to first accept all of the qualifications to arrive at the same conclusion.
14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.
skinny_vanilla: I do think most people who work in these clinics genuinely believe they are doing the right thing. However, I vehemently deny they are doing meeting “every need they can.” They meet every need that best serves their mission, sure. Here are things they “can” do, which they infamously do not: Inform women that abortion is a lower risk than labor and delivery, inform them of the permanent changes they’ll experience, set realistic expectations of the cost and commitment of raising a child, offer testimonials, both positive and negative, or women who have chosen to abort, birthed and offered the baby for adoption, or carried the pregnancy to term and kept the baby.
Even if they did do everything they could to help women make an informed decision, they cannot: Experience the woman’s morning sickness, sciatica, heartburn, indigestion, back pain, or any other in a long list of ailments that come with pregnancy. They cannot ensure mental health, which may be compromised by the hormones fluctuations caused by pregnancy. They cannot fill in for a woman in the workplace, nor take over her other responsibilities to her friends and community. They cannot fill her role in her already existing family, nor give her more hours in the day to spend with children she may already have. They cannot experience her labor, any possible complications, or any feeling of loss after giving birth and offering the child up for adoption. They cannot be up every 3 hours for feedings, cannot ease exhaustion, and cannot mitigate post-partum depression. They will not be responsible for that woman or child (if the woman decides to carry and have the baby). The only thing they can do is offer information and support, but in many, if not most, cases the only thing they do do is offer one-sided arguments and pressure.
15. Jesus Christ can forgive all sins and will give all who trust in him the help they need to do everything that life requires.
skinny_vanilla: Back to the religious argument. Everything under point 13 would still apply seeing as how you would have to “buy into” the existence of Jesus as “Savior” and that including the ability to offer forgiveness. Again, this is a huge assumption in belief to project on someone else. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the woman agrees with this. Wouldn’t trusting in Jesus include trusting that if a higher power allows the ability to have an abortion, electing to have one is a valid option? Many people choose to rely on both their faith and the medical community to address medical conditions, why would stopping this process be any different? Is it okay to use medical intervention to stop an egg and sperm from meeting? To stop implantation? To use the rhythm method, which relies on medical knowledge? If so, what then is the jump between those family planning methods and abortion?
I’m reminded of an old joke, something along the lines of: A man is told there is a hurricane coming and prays to God to save him. As the clouds roll in, his neighbor drives by and offers him a ride out of town. The man declines, saying God will save him. Storm comes, and there’s heavy flooding. A rescue boat comes by the man’s house; he declines help saying God will save him. The area is heavily hit. A rescue helicopter comes by trying to evacuate the man. “No,” the man says, “God will save me.” The man dies and gets to heaven, “God, I’m so happy to be here but I thought you would save me!” God responds, “I sent a truck, a boat, and a helicopter–what more did you need?!”
I consider myself pro-life and pro-choice. Babies are great when they are wanted and can be properly cared for financially, emotionally, and developmentally. If a woman finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and decides to carry the pregnancy resulting in her raising the child or adoption, that is wonderful and hopefully she is able to find any support she may need. However, the decision to stop the process of pregnancy should unquestionably be the choice of the woman subjected to it, and her choice alone. She should be able to have open access to as much information on each option as she can get, and no matter what her conclusion, she should not be made to feel ashamed or threatened for taking ownership of her decision.