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Hacking Away The Bullshit About Abortions

August 26, 2012

Imagine if you would, a law that would require all women regardless of age, body type, willingness, allergies, or really any circumstance you can imagine, to lay down upon a bar when a man demands it, remove their shirt, put salt on their breasts, a lime slice in their mouth, and tequila in their navel. This all so that the man can enjoy a shot of tequila off of the woman’s body.

That’s pretty fucked up, right?

I’ve always viewed the body shot as sort of the ultimate objectification of a woman, because you’re literally turning them into an object. I mean, in some ways you could argue that there are sexual undertones (licking breasts, grabbing the lime from their teeth, etc) but no matter what, the woman has been transformed into a vessel for the tequila (or other liquor). She is literally a cup.

Other things can be attached to this. Like I said, it can be exceedingly sexual. Yet, no matter what, she is a cup.

Now, like I said, it’s ridiculous to imagine a law that would require women to submit their bodies to becoming no more than cups. There is no reasoning, and no argument I feel that can be made that would make us all agree that this was a good idea.

Yet, when you turn a woman into a different type of object, it’s ok?

I am of course talking about when you turn a woman into an incubator.

As one of my professors in college once said, there’s little sense into talking about abortion as a medical ethics issue because a lot of the time the medicine behind it isn’t what’s important. He did also like the idea of just surveying everyone’s position and letting us enter into a grand melee against each other, but we didn’t feel it’d be very constructive.

Ultimately, conversations surrounding abortion are largely bullshit. This is because more often than not they revolve around wishful thinking. I’m not just talking about the ludicrous notion of women’s bodies being able to shut themselves down. I mean how we talk about the idea that every child that’s born gets born into a family that loves it. That every person who has the ability to become pregnant, has the ability to care for that child emotionally, physically, and financially, while dealing with all the other burdens of parenthood. The idea that if something grows inside of you for nine months you can just give it up for adoption without a second glance. The insane notion that orphanages are places where every child is guaranteed placement with a family.

If we hack that nonsense away we’re left with a few arguments.

You could argue that abortion was traditionally illegal. This is a lie, plain and simple yet I continue to see people discuss it. The idea that people didn’t abort children before Roe v. Wade ignores all of the back-alley abortion clinics that existed and were frequented that helped create the whole case in the first place. It also ignores the fact that people in the Roman empire had a herbal version of the morning after pill so effective they harvested it to extinction. Furthermore, it ignores the entire reason why abortions were banned in the first place.

Abortions were never banned because people feared for the “life,” growing inside the woman. That’s a fairly new idea. In traditional Jewish law for example, causing a woman to miscarry in her first six months was viewed as a crime that could be repaid like any other form of vandalism or property damage. There were some laws concerning avoiding aborting a child after the ‘quickening,’ began. In other words, if the baby could kick and be felt, than you probably shouldn’t abort it. Ultimately it was felt that if you wanted to abort the child, you’d probably decide long before it quickened. Once again, there was also a focus on avoiding pregnancy from the get go. Whether this was with some kind of crude condom or diaphragm, or the classic maneuver coitus interruptus.

We banned abortions in the United States because we were concerned over the life of the mother. Before the early to mid twentieth century, surgery was dangerous business. The idea of elective surgery was no different from taking your life into your hands. Removing a child from it’s mother is a procedure that will involve a lot of cutting, and blood, and scarring. It could also, at the time, leave lasting damage for the woman. So, it was banned.

This is why, when Roe v. Wade went before the judges they basically side-stepped the issue of abortions. In their eyes, medicine had improved and there was far less danger to the woman, so who cared? In the 7-2 majority opinion little talk of abortion is even made. The Dissenting opinion actually makes no reference to abortion at all but instead focuses on the notion of a “right to privacy,” which is a derived right rather than one explicitly stated in the constitution. Some people just don’t like that sort of thing.

It wasn’t even on track to become a major political issue until Nixon saw a chance to win the votes of the religious. Thanks to abortion, Nixon was able to sway religious voters away from the Democratic party, and begin one of the longest and most dangerous political hot button issues of the past several decades.

So, tradition is obviously not a very good argument. Not that arguing for tradition in most cases ever is a good one but in the case of abortion in particular it just makes no sense. So we can cut it away too.

Which leaves us the question of when life begins.

It’s hard to create a satisfactory answer for that because we have to come up with a definition for life. If life is just a beating heart than we’d also have to address issues like euthanasia, and the rights of coma patients. If life isn’t a beating heart than we raise more difficult questions.

Human life could be defined as a sense of self-awareness, the idea of being sapient and sentient. This is how we separate ourselves from other animals, so clearly it is a definitely part of the definition of human life, of personhood. However, this would raise prickly questions about chimpanzees, bonobos, dolphins, extremely young human children, and humans with mental issues. If you’re human but can’t comprehend the world you live in or yourself, then you wouldn’t be a person? What of children that aren’t old enough to express themselves? Are they people? What about the bonobo that does express himself and expresses his self-awareness, his fear of mortality, and all the things that we associate with being a person? Is that bonobo a person?

Is Chewbacca from Star Wars a person? What about Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation?

What, ultimately, is the measure of a man?

Is it mere membership in the species Homo sapiens sapiens or is it something more than that?

We must then ask how we judge this life? What makes this life worth living, what makes this life good?

I feel that people who oppose abortion, seem to be of the opinion that it is the genetic material of Homo sapiens sapiens that makes the life. Furthermore, the idea that all life is sacred.

This causes me to once again turn toward euthanasia, and more importantly the concept of a right to die. Personally, I would never want my body to continue on, and for there to be a financial burden on my loved ones if there was little chance for me to wake up from a coma. I also don’t want to live if my mental faculties were several harmed and diminished. Yet, all life, at least as defined by people opposing abortion, is sacred.

However, not all life is equal, is it?

One would think that that’s the implication. If life is sacred, then all life is sacred equally.

We can’t sacrifice a life though, for any reason.

The woman who becomes pregnant ceases to be a woman, she is a life incubator. Her life is suddenly not as equal to the child’s. I look at the girl in the Dominican Republic who died because they feared treating her leukemia could kill her unborn child. Her life wasn’t as sacred as the unborn “person’s,” so they both died.

This is the moment where we realize that the idea of life being sacred, being something that we cannot lose is also bunk. It’s all wrapped up in wishful thinking.

Life is a beautiful thing and we shouldn’t get in the way of its processes because we are mere mortals. Life, as in the the thing that we live on a daily basis, is complicated. The real world forces us to make actual decisions and face actual problems.

I’d love to live in a world where we could teleport zygotes out of women with no harm to them or the embryo and plant them into some sort of magical incubation machine. That in this world there are people yearning for a child, ready and waiting to take this new life into their family. In this perfect world, the child also grows up with a puppy that never dies and it’s a sunny seventy two degrees every day.

In that world no one goes hungry, every child learns to read, and there is no suffering.

That world is also an impossible utopia.
In the real world here’s what really happens when you put the potential of life, over a life being lived:

You are immediately discrediting everything that person has done, could do, and will do, because you’ve decided that their worth is only based in their uterus. Furthermore, you have rendered them an object. Their accomplishments have no merit, their dreams mean nothing, and their life is forfeit. Objects don’t accomplish things, nor do they have dreams, and objects are certainly not alive. They are nothing more than an incubator. An incubator that is also subject to moral judgment. Not only can this incubator not take any willful action against the life growing within it, any action that can be defined as “negligent,” can be subject to punishments.

A woman is not a jar that you shove a baby into.

Of course their lot is somehow worse than jars, because I wouldn’t get angry at a jar for failing to protect its contents.

When you hack away all the other aspects of the conversation, that’s the question you’re left with: are woman jars?

Are women people or objects?

I’d like to believe that in the twenty-first century we would have answered that by now.

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