By the Numbers – Implications

No word from R yet, but he did have time to post a smear piece about Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger, naturally. Assert, but don’t engage – CSOP (Christian Standard Operating Procedure.) But it got me thinking again, because that’s what I do. I drink and I think things.tyrion-lannister-drinking

One of the key tactics of the Evangelical Anti-Choice crowd is to build a straw-man of the Pro-Choice position. 

They purposely use emotionally charged words such as murder and genocide in order to deflect the conversation from rational discourse. They also go out of their way to misrepresent the Pro-Choice position by falsely asserting that we think abortion is good, rather than a healthcare outcome. They seek to overlay it with moral outrage to avoid having to answer questions that challenge the simplistic platitudes they are fed from the pulpit.

I literally just had this happen on R’s thread.


This is why I try and bring the conversation over here. I can control a bit more the threading and avoid kneejerk interlocutors from muddying up the conversation with this sort of nonsense.

So thinking some of this through, I took a couple threads of thought that are related to key issues of the Pro-Choice position. I came up with two questions for R, which he’s welcome to address here if he so chooses. I don’t expect him to follow-through at this point, but who knows. He’s not often one to shy away from a scrap.

And I have to say again that I’m discussing it because it is an issue that bears discussion and that the conclusions people reach has an impact on the political climate of our society – especially in the case of Evangelical one-issue voters who vote on this issue to the economic detriment of everyone around them. However, I’m a guy, and in the end I really don’t have any say on the issue. I believe it is a woman’s choice and that interfering with that violates her personal autonomy. More on that in a bit.

The first question, which I also posed to Stan (he dodged it, rather poorly, of course:)

Do you support an individual’s right to use contraception?

…and question two:

Hypothetical: A one-day-old child is dying and need a liver transplant. You are the only match in the world. Can the government force you to donate part of your liver to save this baby’s life?

Both of these questions address different aspects of the Anti-Choice position.

My reasoning on the first question – Do you support an individual’s right to use contraception? – goes back to my previous article in one sense, and I’m going to assume a Christian cosmology for the sake of argument.

Jane Doe decides to have sex with her male partner. It happens to be her day of ovulation, so she is fertile. She uses contraception. As a result of her contraception use, their sexual encounter prevents sperm and egg from meeting. The outcome is:

  • She had a sexual encounter.
  • The sexual encounter did not result in pregnancy.
  • She avoided the “natural consequence” of a sexual encounter.
  • No child was born.

Jill Smith also decides to have sex with her male partner. It also happens to be her day of ovulation, so she too is fertile. She does not use contraception. As a result, sperm and egg meet and she becomes pregnant. For her own reasons, she decides she cannot carry the child to term and opts to have an abortion. The outcome is:

  • She had a sexual encounter.
  • The sexual encounter did result in pregnancy.
  • She opted to have an abortion.
  • She avoided the “natural consequence” of a sexual encounter.
  • No child was born.

In the real world, there is literally no outward difference in the outcome of these two scenarios. Both women had a sexual encounter (which, by the way, is a personal right and absolutely nobody’s business – another boundary with which religious people have a serious problem respecting.) Both women avoided what Christians see as the “natural consequence” of their sexual activity. No child was born nine months later. In reality, nobody even knows that a pregnancy was either avoided or ended.

In Christian theology, however, the second scenario resulted in a fully formed person, spiritually speaking. Upon the abortion, this person’s soul therefore was translated directly to Heaven, into the presence of Jesus Christ for eternity.

Therefore the singular difference between the two scenarios is that, in the second one, there is now an additional individual living in eternal bliss in heaven for eternity.

If leading individuals to a saving faith in Christ is so important as to literally be Christ’s final instruction before His ascension into Heaven, then you would think that allowing for an additional individual to live forever in Heaven would be an appreciably better outcome than preventing a person who would otherwise be born from ever existing. In the first scenario, Jane Doe prevented the creation of a person to live in Heaven forever. She actually circumvented the right to any life at all, even one that didn’t include a temporal existence prior to Heaven.

Why is that better? Why is it alright to prevent a soul from existing, but not alright to send the soul straight to Heaven?

Again, this metaphorical story can be carried to absurd extremes, such as Stan tried to pull, supporting the idea that it would be better to murder your children before the age of accountability rather than take the chance they’ll grow up to be non-believers. Sadly, some believers to take it to this extreme, such as the infamous Andrea Yates.

Clearly we’re not taking anything that far. The truth is, it would make more sense for a Humanist to be “Pro-Life” and oppose abortion, such as one of my regular readers. Though I disagree with her, I think her reasoning is far more sensible than the outrage charged rhetoric folks like my friend R, or the abovementioned Stan like to indulge in.

But this folds into the second question, which focuses on bodily autonomy. That question – Hypothetical: A one-day-old child is dying and need a liver transplant. You are the only match in the world. Can the government force you to donate part of your liver to save this baby’s life? – cuts across several ethical issues that have to be addressed. But the key one is this:

Nobody can legally force you to give any part of your body, blood, organs, anything, no matter whose life is as stake.

Even when you are deceased, if you did not volitionally donate your body to be harvested to benefit unhealthy individuals, they cannot take your organs, despite the fact that doing so could be the difference between life and death for possibly several people.

Trust me when I say that the Christian Right is almost rabid about individual rights, at least when it comes to the practice of their religion. In fact, they are so focused on their individual rights that they become blind to boundaries and start to think they are allowed to practice their religion on others, unwilling or no. So I guarantee you that any honest Christian will assert that it is their right to do as they will with their body.

Yet in the scenario in question two, you have a tiny baby who will die immediately without a donation of part of the Christian’s liver. Now, I actually think that, faced with such a decision, people like my friend R would actually choose to help the child.

But for this conversation, the important thing isn’t that they help, it’s that they choose. They give permission. Despite there being another life that requires their help, they cannot be coerced in any official way. They can either choose to help or to not help.

In the same way, nobody can coerce or force a woman to give up her bodily autonomy. Doing so creates a double-standard that conservative would otherwise tolerate except that it feeds their moral overbearance and patriarchal urge to control women and their sexuality, or perhaps via their sexuality. Only in the last century have women come out of the shadow of their historical position as chattel, as the property of the men in their lives, and the choice as to whether and when to bear children is a key and inalienable personal right. To pretend that someone outside themselves should have any say over their bodies in any way is to deny their individual personhood and autonomy.

And with the temptation some Christians might feel to claim they would surrender their autonomy on this point, we could carry the analogy a few more steps along. For instance, this baby would require constant blood transfusions for nine months, and would require the individual to go to regular doctor appointments monthly, then biweekly, then weekly. Then afterward, due to the medical procedures, the Christian would be required to house and wholly financially support this baby for the next 18 years, due to this particular match. They must always be available and must ensure their constant, daily support and safety with little regard to their own. I wonder when the metaphor would cease to be amusing for them.

There’s nothing cut and dried, of course. Issues of viability and the squishy concept of what constitutes the beginning of life in the first place will always be avenues of discussion. For myself, I will err on the side of the individual to determine how, why, and when they will give access to any part of their body to any other person for any reason. Their decisions and determinations may be somewhat different than my personal ones would be, were I the one making the choice, but I must recognize that I’m not the one making the choice, and, in the end, it is and must remain, a choice.

2 thoughts on “By the Numbers – Implications

  1. But couldn’t it be argued in the case of the day old child, the person choosing to give or not give of their liver has no responsibility for that baby in the first place? It’s just some anonymous baby unconnected to them in any way. Whereas for a pregnancy, there was no coercion to engage in sex, knowing the possibility for creating a child. The choice was made, thereby placing responsibility for that creation squarely on the shoulders of the two sexual partners.

    I could agree with your analogy if the woman was raped and conceived. Being coerced from the get go, she has the “right” to refuse the consequences.

    Mind you, I’m only challenging your analogy, not your conclusion. I do personally think having a limit on when an abortion could be performed based on what we know about life expectancies of preemies isn’t unreasonable. There is a point where a fetus is viable outside of the womb, so why is it considered a clump of cells if it’s unwanted and a life worth doing everything medically possible to bring forth if it’s wanted? I like compromises wherever possible, so if we were to insist on mothers going through with their pregnancies, we should also insist on safeguard guarantees for the quality of life for mother and child beyond the birth, where life is actually lived. IOW, food, shelter, healthcare, etc., paid for by those who insist she have the baby.

    I would never force such a thing, though. As I said, I just like trying to find compromises where possible, and I feel a VERY strong empathy with both sides of this issue. The bottom line is, childbirth is dangerous, and the care of a child is a tremendous, long-lasting responsibility. The only one with the right to choose whether or not to go through with it is the woman who risks her life to bring another one into the world.

    • Hi there: I take your meaning, but I think in some ways my illustration is even more apt, because my friend, and his ilk, are more than happy to continually inject themselves into the very personal and private decisions of women who are not remotely connected to them, advocating for “babies” they have absolutely no connection or responsibility for, and for whom they historically take exactly zero responsibility for and bristle at any suggestion that they or their tax dollars should.

      And perhaps there’s no particular coercion to have sex, but lets not forget that it is an actual drive, that we as humans have, at differing levels perhaps, an actual need and an instinctual drive to have sex, and while it seems nobody will die from the lack of it (unlike food, water, etc.) I don’t think it fair to downplay it to simply some sort of purely rational, volitional decision. It comes close to the abstinence-only crowd’s line of thinking.

      And while I think everyone finds the viability details reasonable in a general sense, I think the pro-choice position of leaving the decision purely in the woman’s hands is to avoid this slippery-slope chipping away at their healthcare rights that we’re seeing in conservative states now, that lead to the specific stupidity of thinking that Trump displayed in last night’s debates, with zero understanding and no compassion for why and how women who need late-term abortions seek them and how vicious and vile it is for idiots like them to go around spewing baby-killing rhetoric when they will never have to walk even ten feet in their shoes, and frankly would probably lack the compassion to even try.

      I think you and I mostly agree on where the choice and burden should and does lie, but I appreciate your thoughts on it 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s