Thursday, June 17, 2010

The real pro-abortion argument has nothing to do with women's rights

The Washington Post has an atheist columnist in its "On Faith" section, named Susan Jacoby. Her last column, "The Reproductive Right," dealt with abortion, producing a long comment thread full of religious anti-abortion activists. Here's my comment, which didn't appear in the thread. I guess Jacoby or one of her minions found it inappropriate? offensive? I've re-read it and can't for the life of me figure out what could have gotten it rejected.

In particular I was responding to a comment by an anti-abortionist named Eric12345 who'd claimed that it was right and proper to call fetuses "unborn babies" and in general to use the language of his side's propaganda in any debate. So here, exclusively (though not by my intent), it is:

It does not depend on what you choose to call things, but on whether your choice of terms is true or false. I can choose to call you an ox, but saying so doesn’t make it so.

And in this case it is false to define all zygotes embryos and fetuses as people/human being/unborn babies or anything of the sort.

First, many fertilized eggs aren’t viable. What we misname “miscarriage” is the spontaneous abortion of non-viable fetuses in most cases.

Second, many nominally viable fetuses have no chance of surviving the fetal environment, due to a toxic biochemical mismatch between mother and fetus.

Third, many viable fetuses in viable natal environments have no chance of being born alive in a state of nature because of birthing issues. That means you could define such a fetus in a rich country as an “unborn baby” because medical intervention could save the baby’s life, while you couldn’t define it as an “unborn baby” in a poor country where such a fetus could not become a “born baby.”

Fourth, many viable fetuses in viable natal environment with a viable birthing process still have no chance of becoming a human baby because of genetic defects such as anencephaly—i.e. no brain above the brain stem. Many more have severe defects that give them no chance of surviving birth or more than a few hours or days beyond birth unless they’re fortunate enough to be born in a rich country. Again this would logically force you to vary your definition of that fetus based on the wealth of the country.

Fifth, even a zygote with a positive situation regarding all of these caveats may not be an “unborn baby” because monozygotic twins and chimeras don’t form at the moment of conception. So the trope “life begins at conception” isn’t true if that means a human life. And if it doesn’t it’s meaningless. After all, my gall bladder is alive, but you aren’t going to picket hospitals that perform gall bladder removal operations.

So calling every zygote/fetus an “unborn baby” or even a “potential human life” is not true.

That’s the problem, even beyond the fact that you can’t have a debate about anything unless both parties agree to use neutral terms for the debate. Otherwise it’s just a propaganda campaign

But there’s an underlying issue rarely raised by those who call themselves “pro-life” and “pro-choice:” overpopulation.

Currently the human race’s numbers are expanding at the rate of over 140 people a MINUTE. Even America—far from a third world country—has seen its population double in the last 60 years.

And we’re running out of potable water. It doesn’t look like it, but 60% of America’s water comes from ground water, and we’re overpumping it nationwide—as are most of the world’s other nations, including China. Overpumped porous aquifers collapse—permanently—so they cease to function as reservoirs. So not only are we running out of water, we’re reducing even the existing water supply.

At the same time the 6.8 billion humans on Earth today are causing the largest species die-off since the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, and even with these desperate efforts, one billion of those people are starving, by UN estimates.

You might not care about the unborn unless they’re human unborn, but we’re talking about ecocide. And people kind of depend on this planet to stay alive.

Consequently, in the larger perspective, those who call themselves “pro-life” are really pro-death, unintentionally.

Our procreative instincts were honed over the 100,000 years during which the human race numbered in the thousands, then the millions. Now we must go against our instincts if we want to survive. Instinctively I want every fetus to become a baby, and every baby to become a happy, healthy adult. But my instincts don’t match current circumstances. Neither do yours.

One last political note: right now, in Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo, a ten year old girl who’d been raped by her stepfather is being forced to carry the fetus to term, due to the control over the law exerted by the Catholic Church. This is routine in countries dominated by that bastion of “pro-life” belief. So please make sure to tell Americans that this is part of your agenda for this country. Otherwise aren’t your beliefs inconsistent?

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