In defence of Human Life on planet Earth
There is a striking similarity between coffee and the value of human lives. It is that, when asked, we profess a love for strong dark roasts and full, rich and meaningful human-lives; yet our money is mostly spend on low-fat sugary soy-lattes and very little of it is spend on either saving human lives or upholding their qualities.
According to Unicef 9.2 Million children die each year from preventable deaths. More than half related to diarrhoea-illnesses, malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia and preterm-birth ailments. Most of these could be prevented for the cost of an additional billion dollar. It doesn’t mean that there is not a lot of money invested in saving lives globally. The 2 billion raised in 2010 to combat malaria is quite a sum, although it falls wide off the mark from the estimated requirement of 6 billion annually. Just like with the soy-lattes a lot of the money we have is invested in clear denial to what we say we believe in. The unfinished F-35 joint-strike-fighter, controversially either the best or the worst warplane ever invented, cost 1 trillion dollar (= 1000 x $1 billion ) so far, with many more dollars pending. The B-2 stealth-bomber program cost $2.1 billion per aircraft to make and $3.5 million per month per plane to maintain. There are 20 planes left out of 21 made, which have been used for live-missions a total of 6 times in the last 2 decades.
While these examples certainly demonstrate that the U.S.A. spends mind-blowing amounts of money on defence, this is merely a difference in scale, not on principle. Of the 196 self-identified countries in the world most employ 4 to 300 soldiers per 1000 citizens. These armies continuously prepare to kill other people and in the past these preparations have had very profound effects illustrating our average disrespect for human life: during WWI Serbia lost 29% of its entire population; a full 3% of the world-population of the time was killed in WWII. Today that would mean 225 million people!
However such blatant disrespect for life is not limited to times of war. According to Amnesty International there are about 57 countries in the world (29% of all nations) that still sentence people to the death penalty. Worldwide there are also 6.2 intentional murders per 100.000 citizens every year. That’s half a million people right there! This statistic peaks on the American continent with a disturbing 16.3 murders per 100K residents. This in turn roughly matches a global average of 17.4 per 100.000 citizens, killed in traffic accidents every year. Clearly we care about these fatalities, we just don’t care enough to adapt the way we move from A to B so that fatalities are ruled out. If perhaps this sounds a little unrealistic consider this: by 1990 we knew all there was to know about preventing HIV infections and how to inform people of this; yet between 2000 and 2015 the number of infected rose from 28.9 million to 36.7 with new infection-rate about double the mortality of aids (1.1 million/year ). About half of the HIV -infected receive the anti-viral medicine.
The latter illustrates how the value of human lives is linked to the historical- and current- worldwide inequality. We say we care about human lives but the value is relative to the social-class one is in. The ‘Haves’ vs the ‘Haves-less’ and the ‘Haves-less’ vs the ‘Have-nothings’, where the ‘Haves-less’ are focussed on not becoming ‘Have-nothings’ and the ‘Haves’ primary concern is that there should be sufficient of both other groups and certainly not any more of their own. Today 85 people own as much as the entire lower half of the world. And although their wealth would only mean a $500 one-time raise per person, the difference in personal wealth is staggering as well as growing. It stands to reason that these 85 (and their 1% friends) can accrue fabulous amounts of political power just by deciding whom to lend money to. This inequality has been a major engine toward the reduction of the value of human lives.
We say we like dark coffee when we clearly don’t, we say we respect human lives when at the very least this respect is hopelessly selective. In fact one of the few times that we discuss the value of a human life at all is in the early phases when the concept ‘human life’ is still very ambiguous at best. In the coming years we can expect 211 million women to become pregnant every year and about 40 million of those will end up in abortion. In most years this is incidentally slightly below the number of miscarriages that will occur; over which rarely anyone else other than the mother sheds a tear. If unborn life were as important as adult-lives we should be losing more sleep over those miscarriages than over Ebola; but we don’t because they aren’t. If unborn life mattered at all those miscarriages should pain us at least as much as those abortions. Unless of course it was the deliberate choice -aspect of ending the life of the embryo that mattered with abortion. But then, how does this differ from all those other deliberate choices we make that, together with many adults, kill millions of children every year? Statistics most of us consider mere background noise. Isn’t the argument of the value of a human life, against abortion, a least a bit sanctimonious?
The ‘value of life’ argument can also be employed in the other direction, against the pro-life, anti-choice, supporters. History points out that it is not the supply of abortions that creates the demand, it is the demand that creates the supply. Because abortions are rarely done frivolously the demand for them is not flexible either. Meaning that people have abortions because the need them, not just because they are convenient. Given that 1 in 40 illegal abortions is fatal, this implies that instead of a choice between allowing abortions or saving 40 million embryos the actual choice is between ending 40 million pregnancies and a choice to also kill a million women or not. The fact that the anti-choice proponents seem rather indifferent to this fact suggests that ‘value of life’ is the slogan, not the actual motivation. I maintain that apart of the obvious religious motivations that are fed to the masses, also reasons of class-entrenchment are at play.
Middle-class families, people who have obtained food- and job-security, spend 29% of their income on raising children. Even though these people don’t necessarily buy more luxuries for their kids, this percentage has risen in the last decade. As one would expect, higher income families, specifically the ‘1%-ers’, spend more on their children than the middle class. At least, in nominal amounts. With respect to the percentages of their income however, even if they buy the kid a Ferrari, they tend to spend but a miniscule fraction of their income on child-rearing. For example: The King of Belgium receives a tax-payers dotation of €11 million, with another €18 million for ‘costs’ pertaining the function. This royal income allows/stimulated the King to have 4 children while, in contrast, those actually paying for that dotation often can’t afford even 1 and rarely more than 2. To have any more children than that usually comes with a severe drop in the absolute investment per child, resulting in compromised formative years and life-sentences to living on or below the poverty-line. While for the ‘1%’ the investment per child does not drop during the formative years, having many siblings does condemn the off-spring to the class of the ‘Haves-less’ level simply because there is less to inherit per child upon death. This ‘downside’ to the ‘Haves’ however is on average offset by the advantages of high birth-rates in maintaining the current social stratification and increasing inequality. We must also not forget the age-old tradition of unloading part of the ‘Haves’-s fertility directly into the ‘Have-nothing’ population.
Thanks to anti-conception and abortion the number of children in a family has today become a choice, giving rise to the notion of ‘family-planning’. But it certainly isn’t exclusively a choice. Anti-conception isn’t perfect and abortion is not universally available and to various degrees restricted. We also shouldn’t ignore the amount of people, often powerful people, which wish to abolish both anti-conception and abortion on purported moral grounds. I have come here to argue that the facts of reality as we know them morally very much oblige the opposite and should urge us to expand on their availability and proper implementation.
Keep it in your pants
There are those that argue that the only way of restricting the number of children one has, should be by restricting the number of times a person has intercourse. These are usually the same people that consider intercourse a suspect activity and not (like breathing, eating and bowel-movements) a evolved biological urge; one has about as much chance of ‘resisting’ as any of the others. Yes, obviously, being without oxygen or being constipated can kill a person in a way that living without sex can’t. But the argument being made is not that it wouldn’t kill you if you held your breath for 4 minutes, the argument made is that you could, do it if you really wanted to, which is not true. No one has ever been able to commit suicide by simply holding their breath even when a more gruesome death was eminent. No one thinks that someone should be able to hold back the vomiting reflex when it’s triggered, while the process that evolved this reflex is the same process that instilled us with sexual desires. The idea that you should or could indefinitely postpone sexual gratification is obviously lacking, historically demonstrated as unrealistic and probably mentally unhealthy in the long run. Remember, evolution does not care about the individual organism, or even about the species, it cares about the genes. Without the organism, genes die. Therefore natural selection has pressured organisms in behaviour that avoids death, like breathing and drinking. Without sex, genes die as well. With these in mind it is also irrelevant that the required period of hydration is less than that of breathing or that the period in which you require food is longer than the length of time you can go without water or that your sexual gratification is less often needed than eating is. There is an average periodicity in satisfying all these biological needs, which also happen to change with age; and straying too far from the mid-point (eating too much or too little) is problematic for any of them.
Saying you should only have sex in order to procreate is a valid personal opinion to have but it is also on par with saying one should only ever eat the same hyper-balanced grub since the objective of eating is to ‘not-starve’ and not to actually enjoy having a nice meal. Likewise everyone should breath the same biologically-optimal amount of times and not breath more often when stressed, or more deeply in an attempt to relax. Anything else should be considered as morally reprehensible as masturbation, which is incidentally often done for much the same reason as breathing deeply: to relieve stress.
To be clear I am not advocating the unrestraint fulfilling of natural urges. If you are on a hulled submarine the amount you breathe is not simply a personal choice. When food is rationed, eating more than your share is definitely immoral. Likewise it is not merely a matter of personal choice when and where and with whom, if anyone, you satisfy your sexual urges. Specifically regarding intercourse there is certainly an argument to be made that it should not only be about satisfying urges; that there are prerequisite conditions regarding intimacy and a desire to match your partners’ goals before engaging in the act. In other words, there should not only be agreement regarding the principle, time and place of intercourse but also a significant alignment concerning the reasons for having intercourse. When you are a man and you’re having sex for the tension-release and bragging-rights, while she is hoping for a baby, things will likely not work out. When they say you should talk before having sex, this is what they mean! Still, having an orgasm with someone can considerably strengthen emotional ties, as the endorphins released during the process literally mould your brain. It helps create bonds that overcome the cultural, social and political differences across which meaningful relations must necessarily be build. The fact that merely the English language has many, MANY ways of indicating intercourse may underline the mix of motivations that is sandwiched between ‘fornicating’ and ‘making love’. I argue that when these motives align and the acts are between consenting adults that there is nothing intrinsically immoral about any of them.
The notion that these sexual pressures should be resisted for moral reasons is irrational since they are as much a part of evolution as any of the other natural urges. But evolution is not intelligent design. It can steer a system towards a point of stability but this point is rarely also the optimum. Therefore the urge to eat outpaces our need for calories, resulting in average overweight in people with internet-connections (as a brute delineation of spendable income and low activity rates). And while obesity is a relatively recent problem, the urge to have intercourse has always outpaced our ability to actually raise the children we conceive. In the past this meant famine, luck and disease would decide who would procreate and largely keep the world-population on a very slight incline. Although evolution is the cornerstone of life in nature, there is a massive amount of miserable dying involved in maintaining it ‘naturally’.
With the industrial revolution our ability to rape the Earth for resources has sky-rocketed. For a significant portion of the planet this meant that famine would no longer keep procreation in check. And while life-expectancy is objectively longer today than in the Bronze-age to many it just means that the misery is spread over a life that subjectively seems even longer than it actually is. And while this ‘improvement’ is not without some caveats it is clear that with 7.5 billion people on this planet this resource-rapture-strategy is on a direct collision-course with History. It is doubtful that we will be able to entirely avoid the collapse of this humanity-bubble that we have created, but surely the actions we take today to relieve the pressure and slow-down the crash will make all the difference between a radically changed humanity or an eradicated one.
There are religious fanatics that believe every fertile human egg cell needs to become a person. In the U.S.A these organisations are known for buying the unfertilised eggs that fertility-clinics otherwise would discard. Other religious people, like Ann Coulter, say that the earth was given to man by God to populate until ‘there was standing-room only’. These are the type of Pro-Life-people that think you will get more gold by killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Having more of us on the planet doesn’t mean we have a better chance of fighting off extinction, quite the contrary. With 6% of all humans ever born still alive today it doesn’t take a mathematician to see that any severe famine or illness or climate shift will generate more misery than ever before and trump (no pun intended, although perhaps not inappropriate) the so called Dark Ages on such a huge nominal scale, that no one is going to care which age was worse in a relative perspective.
Here is a thing you will not often hear a liberal say: I think life starts with conception. A fertilized egg quite rapidly starts cell-division, which in a single-cell organism is sufficient to call it ‘alive’. There are also other things that are as small that are also alive, take for instance bacteria and fire-ants. Viruses on the other hand, despite being subject to selective-reproduction, are not alive since they don’t auto-reproduce. I do not think however that embryos are infused with an ‘immortal soul’. I think the ‘immortal soul’ is a religious construction, a relic meme from when we didn’t understand our own brains, without a basis in reality and counter to both logic and observations regarding brain-lesions. However, if I was wrong and embryos were infused with such a thing, I would think this would have to count more as a pro-choice argument. It is now commonly believed among Christians that the souls of unborn babies go straight to heaven when they die. If that is correct it means that for the same doctrine Christians could argue that every single embryo should be aborted instead of none, since this maximizes the number of souls going up into heaven. Although such a policy would clearly end our species, this in itself is entirely consistent with everything told about ‘The Rapture’; with The Innocent ascending and leaving all us sinners behind. Considering there are Christian splinter groups lobbying for a deliberate nuclear Armageddon for much the same reason, I don’t think I’m being too unrealistic to think such a cult possible.
I’m not proposing Christians should take this stance I’m only trying to illustrate that their wide-spread die-hard anti-choice-stance is more of a historical accident than hard-coded at the root of their religious doctrine. Which is why I think they should be more nuanced about it. After all, the same people that argue so ardently to protect embryos between 1 and 36 weeks old have no reservations against killing doctors, which are themselves in fact 2000 week old embryos. Just by linear extraction alone, killing a mid-life adult would be equivalent to killing about 120 late-term embryos. But human bodies do not scale linearly. A fully grown man is not just 120 times bigger than an embryo, he is exponentially bigger. Also his functionalities are exponentially bigger, which allows him to feel pain and panic, love and hate, hope and despair. A grown person is a self-aware autonomous machine where an embryo is a fast-growing non-autonomous bio-chemical reaction that is rapidly going through the evolutionary phases from fish to mammal. Most pregnancies that are terminated are done before the embryo measures half the size of a human appendix. And yes, that embryo will have a little heart, and tiny fingers; it will also have gill-slits and a tail like a fish. Very frequently, in 20% of the cases actually, the chemical-reactions will not reach stability and the embryo will miscarriage. For theists, I guess, the take-away must be that God doesn’t care that much about embryos. More secular people will remark that when a miscarriage leaves the woman’s body, it does not look like the father at all. However I should not be too facetious with respect to spontaneous abortions. There are well-known hormonal reactions that make the loss of a pregnancy a very traumatic event. Unfortunately these hormones don’t discriminate between wanted or unwanted pregnancies or between wilful or involuntary terminations. Which is why a woman will feel equally destressed from an abortion as from a miscarriage, with the difference being that in the former case large parts of society will consider her suffering insufficient and would even contribute to it, as a punishment, if possible.
While I would agree that a zygote becomes alive as soon as it starts cell-division I do not agree that all life is equal in an absolute sense. We all have crushed that annoying ‘swat-team’ of ants that suddenly rushed our arm like it was mount-Everest. If you’re a Quaker you might have felt bad about it, but I personally didn’t mind in particular. I do honestly regret putting salt around that snail on summer-camp (back in the day) as it was unnecessary and cruel, however spectacular and entertaining otherwise. As a society we generally applaud high kill-rates in our anti-biotics and condone (if not support) a meat industry despite its often rampant cruelty. Even about fully-developed, loved and cherished human lives we are not particularly coy. Between wars, murder, accidents and disease there is ample choices society has made that allow for human lives to be lost. Few among us literally lose sleep over it. ‘It is for the greater good’, ‘part of the best possible society’.
Unless you are an evolution-denying creationist you cannot maintain the religious position that frowns on sex as an activity independent from reproduction. To do so would require condemning any urge-satisfying that goes beyond the utilitarian. On my positive days I assume that religious suspicion for the physical act of carnal-pleasure stems from an over-reaction against al the ways in which the enormous pressure of sex can destabilize society. Sex with the wrong person, for the wrong reasons or with insufficient respect for the needs of the person you are doing it with, will severely mess-up all other social activities. On my more sceptical days (and they are legion) I just think that priests needed something to declare Enemy against which to b*tch and with which to instil a sense of shortcoming and shame in their flock, mostly as a means of coercion.
Regardless the stance of the Catholic Church, sex is going to happen because of evolution. Unless someone can hold his breath for 15 minutes, arguing indefinite abstinence is just hypocrisy. If you are within a certain age bracket; regardless of any vows, assurances or pledges you might have taken; you may perhaps avoid intercourse, but you are still getting sexual gratification one way or another and you are not fooling anyone! And often enough, because I imagine masturbation is difficult to organise within the context of a relationship, that sex is going to be intercourse. The position of the Catholic Church regarding anti-conception is therefore nothing short of criminal. Not only keeping in mind that, given the inevitability of sex, that only condoms prevent the spreading of pandemic STD’s; but also because poverty reduces the number of alternative activities for intercourse. Televisions and Nintendo PlayStations reduce birth-rates considerably. The poor therefore will have a lot more children, whom at their turn will be deprived of the necessary investments that could elevate them from poverty. The poor beget the poor. It is a vicious cycle that, according to some, is deliberately maintained since it enables the growth of inequality that the elite have based their power upon.
I will remind you at this point that Hobby-Lobby won a case before the Supreme Court that exempted them (and all other employers) from contributing for anti-conception covered by Obamacare based solely on their religious conviction. I wonder if they would have argued the same point had there also been a law obliging employers to pledge a college-scholarship for their employees’ off-spring.
Human beings are obviously not universally responsible with how they go about satisfying natural urges. If they were the candy & cake-industry would starve to death. No one would be overweight, no one would crave to go outside for a good hit of fresh air to breathe, everyone would hydrate sufficiently and alcohol would only be used for cleaning shiny metal objects. Any of these vices should disqualify their perpetrators from morally condemning anyone else with regard to sexuality, as long as the sexual acts happen within the confines as described by law. And yet it seems to me that among the Christians throwing stones, that few are themselves free from sin on all the other fronts.
Down and dirty
While anti-conception should be readily available, affordable in all its shapes and sizes it isn’t enough. Ignoring the fact that anti-conception has an established fail-rate. This rate is increased upon by the inability of people to properly apply the means to their fullest effectiveness. Taking only the proof of how collectively bad we are just in applying anti-biotics, as an example. I hope most of you will agree that putting that condom on that banana is not a very good approximation for the real situation. Doing it in real-life in less illuminated circumstances, possibly stressed and embarrassed, on an object that doesn’t at all react like a banana. In the movies, when they care to set a good example, the girl always asks if the guy has “A” condom. In my experience if you only have 1 condom, you have a problem! And that problem is usually addressed with optimism rather than contingencies.
We could certainly be less irresponsible with anti-conception and indeed if we were, there would be less need for abortions. The anti-choice people would be wrong to argue though, that pregnancy is a just punishment for those who don’t use or misuse anti-conception. After all it is largely due to their lobbying that sex-education is so scarce and illegal in many places. If sex were more treated like a valid part of life, instead of demonized and shamed (without promoting necessarily pornography or boundless indulgence) perhaps we would be better informed both theoretically as well as practically about how to do it well.
All the Kings Horses and all the Kings Men
When we think about massive- and demographically significant mortality we can’t help but think of the big three: famine, disease and war. When we think of ‘true grid’ we think of iconic images such as ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ against the Russian guns in Crimea; repeated until there were no more horses left to charge with. And yet all the Kings Horses and all the Kings Men on average did not risk anything as close to death as getting pregnant. In pre-industrialized societies, which means for most of our own history, 1 in 20 childbirths had a deadly outcome for the mother. This seems rather harsh until you realise that each woman actually had on average four children, meaning that a mind-blowing 20% of women throughout history has died in childbirth. A staggering 60 million people were killed in WWII, which is something no one can make light of, and yet still this number pales with the scores of women that died in peace-time, doing what they were biologically mandated to do. With modern medicine these numbers have improved significantly but even today they differ enormously between the countries with the most advanced medicine in the world. The U.S.A. closing the ranks of civilised nations with 4 times the maternal mortality of Italy and twice that of Albania, Poland and Hungary (Guardian 2010). Which means that becoming a soldier is still today often a much safer proposition than getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term.
While there are some that would always trade a woman’s life for a chance at one of those cute little diaper-stuffers, it is mathematically irrational to take chances when the potential gain is less than the stakes. It is, in fact, the very definition of ‘gambling’, to stake bets at a higher risk than the odds multiplied by the reward. The anti-choice side is thus gambling with peoples’ lives. If the potential reward is a wanted child with a high-chance of a future in which he/she can full-fill his/her maximum potential and to the benefit of the community, then the risk is probably acceptable. At least plenty of parents in the world seem to think so and I tend to agree. But when the reward to society is an unhappy, under-invested, under-developed and under-socialised adult then there is no reward to speak off (or even a negative one) for a risk not worth having. Take into account that while abortion costs society the potential human ingrained in a few cubic millimetres of cells, a pregnancy carried to term presents a risk-cost to both the mother as well as to any existing children that this mother may already have. Finally, economists also recognise a thing called an ‘opportunity-cost’. Where by taking the lesser reward of two potentials the difference between the rewards is factored in as a cost. A woman who drops out of University to give birth to a child loses the opportunity to give birth to a descendant of someone with a college-degree on a later date. Because the second has a much higher probability of contributing in a positive way to society than the first, the decision not to abort the first child presents as a cost on society.
It is not only the case that babies are conceived because people will satisfy their carnal lusts disregarding all consequences. Sometimes two people engage in intercourse for different reasons. It is not just a stereotype that women with a child-wish are frequently abandoned by the man who impregnated them, which then forces them to abort. For the working-poor raising a baby is just not as simple as setting up auto-pay for the nanny. A lot is riding on circumstances remaining stable from the moment the decision to have a baby was made. But life is cruel, husbands can die, family support can fall-away or jobs can be lost. Today it takes increasingly more of parents to give a child a fighting chance in this world and just timing alone (when it is born) can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Most women that have abortions also give birth to other babies later in life. I would submit that the net-happiness is always higher because of this decision.
With 7.5 billion competitors the world is increasingly competitive for children. Which makes it relatively harder to be born burdened with severe handicap. Medical science now has advanced to a point where it can detect many anomalies early in a foetus’ life. Depending on the condition parents may choose to spare the child such a miserable life by ending it prematurely. Finally, babies are also conceived because often enough men force women into having intercourse. This form of coercion needn’t only be physical (though very often is) and may very well even fall shy of being illegal, the fact of the matter remains that many of the conceptions are not only unintentional but also involuntary. Please note, that for all these reasons for aborting a pregnancy, that adoption is hardly if ever a solution. Adoption hardly guarantees the child a full-development and really only solves the ‘keeping alive’ problem after birth, which is in most cases not the real problem parents are facing.
One can’t be involved in this discussion around abortion for too long before understanding that much of the indignation on the anti-choice side is not so much motivated by the perceived suffering of the pre-human or the religious sensitivities surrounding the Soul. Much of it has to do with their view on the role of women in society. It, for instance, shouldn’t matter at all that a human baby is grown inside a woman’s belly instead of, like with seahorses, in a pouch of the man. But who can claim that the pro-life side would be as ardent if instead of the woman, the man was ‘stuck with the baby’ or ‘knocked up’? Much of the distain for unwanted pregnancies stems from the fallacy that women not only don’t desire sex but even that they shouldn’t desire it. Sex, to them, is a gift a woman gives a man within the confines of marriage and when a woman, ostensibly, has urges of her own this makes her a whore. The unwanted pregnancy thus becoming a ‘Mark of Cain’ the woman should not be able to wash away. Nothing can illustrate this whorrification of unwanted pregnancies more than President Trump stating he believed women should be punished for having abortions. But if women should be punished for having entertainment-sex than clearly a man with children with different mothers has been doing the same thing. Does he then not deserve this punishment also? The fact that Trump managed to scrape enough states together for an electoral win should show how this religion-based opinion reverberates within both the uneducated ‘have-nothings’ and the Machiavellian ‘1%’ of the country. It is clear that like Melania Trump, women should know that their place is to either be suppliers of marital sex and babies, or to be whores for when men want the sex without the babies. To men, these woman-roles are not necessarily mutually exclusive either.
When pregnancy is no longer a chain to either shackle a woman to a man or to a detrimental future, men lose their power over women. Incidentally we might need to admit that while ‘choice’ empowers women, that men don’t have this choice and are ‘on the hook’ (at least financially) for whatever the woman decides. While this is partially justified because of the physical risk laying with the woman, not all justification for abortion is based on maternal mortality. Therefore it is to some limited extend reasonable to argue that also men should be able to dissolve themselves from unwanted pregnancies. Ideally one would hope that this choice not take the form of abandonment it has throughout the ages. Being a partially abandoned child myself, I certainly do not support this ‘solution’ although it is hard (perhaps impossible) to come up with any optimal alternative.
The demonization of sex and the serfdom of women is why rational arguments involving embryonic development versus social consequences do not affect anti-choice opinions much. That this opinion is more linked to politics regarding the social organisation of our communities and less with the morality regarding the taking of lives explains why “pro-life” fundamentalists have killed people in the past and more often than not are also ‘pro-death-penalty’ and for taking aggressive military actions abroad. If environmentalists reacted in the same way they would burn the forest around the lumber-mill for the sake of a single tree and favour the cutting down of millennial sequoia’s over the demise of spruce-saplings.
That in many civilised countries around the world abortion is a choice that is not entirely out of the question is not a reason to think this an issue no longer. In Belgium, for instance, it was instated only over a constitutional crisis in which the King (great-uncle to the present King) chose ‘temporary legal incompetence’ over having to sign the bill. In the U.S.A. the right is largely based on the precedence from a Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Still this decision did not prevent states like Texas to recently administrate the sh*t out of abortions in their state, to the point that they are now nominally legal but realistically unobtainable except for those with considerable spending power. The current President of the U.S.A., the same one who thinks that (still legal) abortion should be punished (and who BTW shows 0 respect for either human rights or The Constitution), is now in the process of nominating his first justice to the Supreme Court. If he gets to nominate a second, the consequences of that new SCOTUS body will cast a shadow over the social fabric of the U.S. society many decades after Trump has died. Furthermore we can expect this ruling to embolden conservatives in Europe to roll back their own, often very restricted abortion rights even further. They claim it is out of a respect for life that they do this. But they don’t respect life and the result, if not the objective, is very much the opposite.
The main glimmer of light is that SCOTUS does not MAKE the laws. This means that if enough minds can be swayed on the reasons why a civilised society needs to use its knife where it does the least harm, that congress can make laws that overrule any decision by the supreme court from entrenching itself. It is but a small glimmer of hope.
Ancient Sparta had a place, a ravine, where those new-borns deemed unfit or too weak would be thrown down in, as decided by the political authorities and in spite of any pleading of the mother. A Roman man was free to recognize his children or abandon them. The unrecognised foundlings were systematically enslaved by an Empire in constant state of energy-crisis. In all major Roman cities prostitution was institutionalised. Archaeological excavations today identify those brothels from centuries-past purely by the mass-graves of discarded infants in their gardens. Christianity, in its turn, did away with a large part of this infanticide, replacing it only with ravaging child-mortality and lower standards of living. We are now at a place where a lot of this excruciating misery can be prevented, by preventing most unwanted pregnancies and by aborting embryos before they become sentient beings whenever prevention fails. Though I would not argue the latter solution to be so ideal as to become complacent or frivolous about it. I find it manifestly; and by a wide margin more humane than anything that ever preceded it. We shouldn’t retreat from this accomplishment!
It is not a coincidence that our society, were companies search the globe for cheap labour, mirrors that of the Roman Empire in constant search for more slaves. High-birth-rates then filled the stock of slaves, today it prevents the social-promotion of the ‘Have-nothing’ – offspring. With the transport-revolution the competition for those ‘Have-nothings’ has gone Global and the winners are those countries (India, China, USA) who paradoxically have the most people who themselves have nothing. Ideally these people are religious as a way to motivate them to work hard, for an after-life that doesn’t exist. The same religion also serves to instil a sense of shame around evolved sexual needs and helps to demonize abortion; although to do so requires a specific interpretation that could easily be turned around. When religious arguments fail, the ‘value of human life’ argument takes over. But as an argument against abortion this does not hold. Large indifference regarding miscarriages and still-births demonstrate that unborn-life is widely regarded as less valuable than developed life. Many of us are also indifferent to the millions of preventable deaths among developed human beings. Some are even large promotors of those fatalities with huge investments in weapons and a gratuitous stance regarding their use. Sex is not a crime and you do not deserve to be punished for it any more than you deserve a punishment for breathing. It certainly should not fall on the shoulders of a child whose birth was miss-timed to inherit the punishment of a miserable underprivileged life. And although the embryo does not deserve a punishment any more than the child does, this is demonstrably and by a huge margin a lesser suffering, if one could even call it that. All throughout history we have sacrificed cats and dogs on altars as offerings to the gods. To argue on basis of religion that it is immoral to kill something not a fraction as sentient as a cat, to spare it a lifetime of living handicapped be it physically, socially or financially, is hypocrisy pure and simple.
Instead of demonizing sex and abortion we should maximize the prevention of abortion by normalising sex, increasing sex-education, reducing inequality, reducing the cost of anti-conception and stimulating their copious and proper use. We should prevent abortion, which in the best of circumstances still has a 0.06% mortality, if for no other reason than for the same reason why you should not hunt on a full stomach and why you should be professional and respectful when slaughtering a cow. It may be necessary to kill some things so other things can live, but we shouldn’t be happy to do it. Still the religious try malevolently to make this seem like a fight of good against evil. They try to paint us black to their white. Yet rational people know all too well that to defend human life on Earth, or any life for that matter, you must live in the grey. In a world where we can only opt to do least harm it takes a nuanced and balanced view on everything.
While pro-choice thus must live in The Grey, it is hopefully abundantly clear that the anti-choice lives in The Dark!