Through many years, my grief has grown and over the last week in particular, I’ve read numerous posts and tweets, watched and heard scores of news stories, and processed personal and group narratives filled with both facts and rhetoric on the seemingly endless debate surrounding Roe v. Wade.
For the most part on this blog, I have tried to avoid wading into those waters. Not because of cowardice but I lack the delicate eloquence and I’m a thoroughly inadequate apologist. I am creative, a whimsical writer, a poet who tries to make sense of the world in fourteen lines; where do eloquence and apologia fit into whimsy and sonnets?!
I reiterate, this is not a post I wished to write, though I make no bones about the fact I am staunchly pro-life. My reluctance to be drawn into this debate stems from knowing there are people of good will on both sides of this tense divide and I’m not inclined to cast aspersions on either faction. (However, I readily cede knee-jerk, doctrinaire adherents also populate both factions.)
I suppose dipping my toe into this pond now means I should prepare the deflector shields on my rebel Millenium Falcon to withstand the round of volleys inevitably lobbed against perceived traitors to one or the other cause célèbre.
I’m ready, though still figuratively dragging my feet.
I read Chris Martin’s An Open Letter to the President. I scanned through the comments; some agreed with his post, while others excoriated him. Another post, Abort Nation − Burst, by Trent Lewin from November 24, 2013 (similar in content to Martin’s) also engages the unborn child’s perspective.
Mindful Digression’s post on the subject came on January 14th, but I hadn’t read it until Monday or Tuesday of this week. There were a multitude of others (here, here, here) and insufficient time (yet) to read or re-read them all.
I also watched Brit Hume’s comments in defense of life. His weak summation to “… see what science tells us” bewildered me. Author Meaghan Winter in a 2013 New Yorker article explains (more successfully than Hume, in my view) how impossibly intractable the public debate over abortion remains. “Of all the battles in our half-century culture war, perhaps none seems further from being resolved, in our laws and in our consciences, than abortion.”
Our former president (and former governor of my state) Bill Clinton tried to bridge the culture war divide to which Winter refers. Clinton called for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.” His surgeon general, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, expanded Clinton’s position, noting her priority was “to make sure every child born in America is a planned, wanted child.”
The qualifiers of both Clinton and Elders imply an uncomfortable truth about abortion − it’s undesirable, it’s a failure. To parrot a prolife phrase, every abortion stops a beating heart. Both sides willingly acknowledge levels of unease.
Nevertheless, no woman in America needs my permission (or yours, whoever you may be) to obtain an abortion; based on Roe, the government has already decreed a woman’s freedom to become unpregnant.
But thankfully, in this country, we’re still able to change and rethink laws and practices we realize are doing harm to our nation. I say thankfully, because one lesson seared into the country’s consciousness, amid considerable anguish, division and a destructive war, was that all living, breathing individuals are worthy of the descriptor human. Not so before Dred Scott.
For too long, the discourse on abortion has been muddled and driven by anger and fear (strong emotions). Some of the commenters in Martin’s post exhibit those emotions. Pro-lifers who rail at abortion proponents, calling them murderers, are equally guilty of debasing what should be an honest conversation.
Isn’t it time − more than forty years after Roe − that we attempt to raise the level of debate? When half the population (females) dismiss and denigrate what the other half says about abortion (whether pro or con), we’re not having an honest discussion. Just because a man doesn’t come equipped with a uterus, he is nonetheless capable of intelligent thought about our shared humanness!
Furthermore, it should be self-evident that a pregnant woman’s heartbeat is distinctly separate and unique from the fetal heartbeat. Why have women permitted themselves to be deluded (lied to) with ridiculous arguments denying the individual and separate humanity of an unborn child? Are we (in the female gender) so insanely gullible?
We often cushion bad news with our children, believing they don’t need to be crushed by harsh realities. One of the marks of adult maturity is a willingness to face and cope with unvarnished truth. “Give it to me straight” is the parlance. Are grown women so fragile they need to shelter behind euphemistic phrases about the harsh reality of abortion?
To my knowledge, neither history nor The National Enquirer has ever documented a pregnant woman giving birth to a squirrel. An unborn baby/fetus holds within his or her miniature frame every scintilla of humanness as that encompassed by Dred Scott (and all who came before or after him). In other words, Brit Hume’s appeals for answers from science have been resolved!
The question is − and of necessity, should be − whether or not we (women, men, our nation) are willing to ascribe to humanness what it actually is − humanity!
There’s another aspect of this debate I’ve yet to address. No, my comments in this post are most assuredly NOT an attempt to impose a religious view on non-religious folks. (I daresay, only humans are capable of reading this post, so that means you.) In the context of this post, religion has nothing to do with one’s humanness.
To be sure, some suggest the zygote is intrinsically less human than a newborn or a five-year-old child. That argument begs the question: how so? When you’re human by definition, are there levels (a scale of 1 to 5, say) to define your humanity? How does this scale differ from the arguments that kept Dred Scott enslaved?
I have no illusion that anything I’ve said will alter this debate. But I am bound by a deep sense of sorrow to give voice to the unfathomable loss of humanity in our world. John Donne penned the words: “No man is an island entire of itself … any man’s death diminishes me …”
Because of their humanness, I weep for those who have died. More than that, my tears fall freely for the dreadful ways in which those deaths have diminished me and for the incomprehensible toll this diminishment has wreaked on our humanity.
“Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”