Saturday, October 04, 2008

Abortion is murder. Say what?!

Last night I talked to someone I hold near and dear to my heart. The subject of politics came up, specifically Sarah Palin. After listening I said with a questioning tone, So I take it you're Republicans then? Well, Matt is but I'm more of an independent and then for a reason that I know has to do with being impressionable, she went on to tell me that she thinks abortion is murder even in the case of rape and incest and that a vote on abortion should be put to the states.

I just about died.

This person is my sister. Even though we have our differences, I respect her enough to listen and to try to understand her perspective and why she holds it. I also think it is my responsibility to tell her mine and why I hold it, because she should respect me and my position and why I hold it. We don't have to agree with each other but I do expect her to think about what her position means.

I told her what I would tell anyone who got into it with me. I think government and other people have no business, indeed no right, to dictate that a woman must carry a pregnancy to term that arose through rape or incest. Forcing someone to endure a pregnancy, a medically risky proposition, is like raping them again.

She said abortion is murder.

I think what is aborted are just cells, sure they are alive — but so are bacteria, lichen, oak trees, slugs, kittens, Malamutes, convicts and cancer cells.

If abortion is murder, then so is killing someone's family pet and so is killing someone on death row.

If you think it's your right to tell someone else they have to continue to be pregnant when they are pregnant through rape or incest because to do otherwise is morally wrong because it's murder, then you better not eat meat, wear fur or support the death penalty.

Inflicting an unwanted pregnancy on a woman who has been raped is raping her again. That pregnancy can become a constant reminder of having been raped when coping with the effects of rape are already difficult enough. Why make it harder?

As I found out this morning when I set out to do some more research on the psychological consequences of abortion, I found that anti-abortion sites often cite bogus studies that supposedly support the existence of something called 'post-abortion syndrome.' This is supposedly supposed to convince us that it's harmful for women to have an abortion.

According to the APA, American Psychological Association, there is no evidence that abortion causes psychological harm. They based this decision on the best scientific research available. If you would like to read the actual research, it is summarized in the APA's 1992 publication, Psychological Factors in Abortion: A Review. The APA's position statement is available here.

Here's another way to look at the consequences of forcing a woman who conceives through rape - through the lens of evolutionary psychology. Because I am a responsible academic, I will preface this by pointing out that the subject of evolution and rape is a seriously controversial one in psychology. The popular opinion is that rape is a product of the socially constructed power differences between men and women and that it has nothing to do with sex and reproduction. I personally do not agree with that. I think rape is a product of power differences between men and women that are socially constructed and reinforced but also that those power differences arose from evolutionary forces, specifically sexual selection. Women still prefer to mate/pair with men who are wealthy and who are taller, bigger and more muscular. As long as they do, and have more babies with those men, that power difference will continue. When women no longer need to marry a wealthy man to live well, you'll see that change. Equal pay. That is a pro-woman issue too.

But back to rape and the evolutionary psychology of it. If rape is a behavior that has anything to do with a genetic predisposition or susceptibility to use sexual violence to assert power, then do you really want the rapist's offspring, possibly carrying the genes for that psychological susceptibility, to live and have the opportunity to rape and reproduce those genes? Yes, I know that implies something that sounds an awful lot like eugenics. Because it is. But remember, people practice eugenics everyday without realizing it. Most people don't marry just anyone or have children with just anyone. People choose their mates and choose them selectively. Deep down, selective mating is about selecting someone on the basis of what they look like and how they act, both of which are affected at some level by genetics. When you refuse to get sexually involved with a guy because he's not good-looking enough, lacks the smarts or ambition to advance his career, is alcoholic or developmentally delayed — you, whether you like it or not, are practicing a form of eugenics. So why make a fuss over extracting some cells from a woman's uterus?

Is it morally wrong to do that because, unlike cancer cells, they might grow up to do something good in this world? They might also grow up to be a serial killer. More likely, they will just be another cog in the wheel of life on this already overcrowded planet.

Some people, my sister included and I know so because she said so, think it's okay to force a woman to carry a rape pregnancy to term because she doesn't have to keep the child. As if having to keep the child is the fundamental problem... but okay, let's just say that it is for the sake of the argument. If you're going to try to make a woman, pregnant through rape who doesn't want to be pregnant, feel better by telling her she doesn't actually have to keep the child, that she can give it up for adoption, then you better have a better reason than 'it's morally wrong to have an abortion' and you better pay and pay dearly to give those unwanted children the best possible life and education. I don't see extreme anti-abortion people advocating for raising taxes to put more funding into the DHS or to pay for health care and education for children. And, even if they were, it would not make it acceptable to force a woman to be pregnant.

Now if you ask me, the pragmatic thing to do, the best thing to do for everyone involved, is to let the woman get an abortion if she wants one.


Anonymous said...

Very, very well crafted. Kudos, I could not have said it better. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

agree with you --- but one thing I find interesting is the concept of "double homicide" if a pregnant woman is murdered. I am personally conflicted because, like you, I believe a woman should have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. However if a pregnant woman is stabbed in her stomach and the fetus dies, I want to feel outraged in the sense that the assailant has murdered the baby.

I'm not disagreeing with you, just presenting a "sidecar" topic for discussion.

Because what if someone stabs a woman in the belly when she is pregnant and the baby dies. I guess we can't call it "murder". Right?

Field Notes said...

You know, that is an interesting thing to think about.

My thoughts on it are not very well developed on it, but my husband, who is a very thoughtful human being, says his inclination is to treat the homicide of a pregnant woman as a case of aggravated murder. And, by extension, any crime against a woman who is pregnant could be treated as 'aggravated' whether it is assault, criminal threatening, or manslaughter that way there is room for making the penalties stiffer, such as increased prison time.

Anonymous said...

that was such a well written blog. thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, but I am 100% against abortion unless the pregnancy is unviable (i.e. if the embryo implants in the fallopian tube) and there is a death risk to the life of the mother.

In all other circumstances, I firmly and wholly believe that the baby deserves a right to live. It's not his or her fault how they were brought into the world, and no matter what that is, they deserve a chance. To me, it is not a human's (any human's) choice to decide to terminate their life on the basis that they may or may not have a good life, they may or may not be poor, they may or may not have a family, etc.

Jmo. :)

Anonymous said...

And is it a victim's fault she was raped? If I'm ever unfortunate enough to be in that position again (yes, again), I'll be sure to pack up the kid and send it to you (the previous commenter).

Thank you, 'field notes', for a very thoughtful article.

T.Allen-Mercado said...

..."then you better not eat meat, wear fur or support the death penalty."...spray pesticides, use roach baits, kill cockroaches, spiders etc.

I fully support a woman's right to choose, whatever her reason. As a parent I know firsthand that the decision to have a child or an abortion is not one by which anyone comes upon lightly. The feeling of having made the best decision for you at the end of the birth or the procedure to remove "embryonic cells" is one *you'll* live with for the rest of *your* life. Long after Jack and Jill Conservative Republicans' campaigns and careers are over.

Great post, I agree with you 100%.

Pegasus Handmade Soaps said...

Very well said and agree with your view point. There will always be people who don't agree with you. It is just awful to force someone to conceive a child out of such a brutal attack. Its just so wrong. It should be her choice and her choice alone. Great post.

Anonymous said...

An interesting article I read was on the side of continuing the pregnancy in a case of rape/ incest.

It stated that often times, an incest victim will undergo an abortion and the truth of her molestation does not come to light because the evidence of it is taken away, and that the she will be able to have a chance of help by giving birth to the evidence of the root of the problem. Also, that a person who is raped/ a victim of incest, could also have distress over having an abortion, which I do personally know people that have been affected by this.

I am personally against abortion, but I do think that those who experiance rape/incest induced pregnancies should be allowed the choice to terminate the pregnancy before the fetus develops the ability to feel pain.

Jennifer said...

I applaud you for sharing your views. Very nice!

Eveline said...

Although I agree with you on the most part, killing someone on death row IS murder. I never understood how you can punish a murderer by killing him.

Field Notes said...

We are in agreement on the death penalty - I think it's murder. Those on death row are certainly not a conglomeration of cells - they are fully-fledged human beings.

The death penalty is really another issue but it is one that I brought up because I perceive the proponents of it to also be opponents of abortion.

punchanella said...

great post!

so just to offer an additional point of view... i spend a TON of time with that ball of cells that is an early postimplantation embryo and EARLIER, when it's only 1, 2 or 8-cells big! and i can tell you that the people in the infertility clinic WOULD consider me smashing one to be murder... so indeed, balls of cells have meaning in different contexts.

having said that, and having been pregnant, i certainly wouldn't abort under normal circumstances personally, but in the instance of rape or incest... i would. it's an amazing experience to carry the union of two people within you, and carrying part of an asshole tha violated you is a sadness i can't imagine...

my point and my belief?... the choice should be mine.

Alison said...

yay!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!
The day that every single anti-choice person PROMISES they will give up their salaries and savings to help begin to pay for what damage unwanted babies ie: PEOPLE have brought to (or rather, taken from) this world I will start listening. That will never happen ( because... "oh wait, give up my money for those poor little babies that were almost MURDERED!???..." suddenly, it's NOT their responsibility! hmm... interesting double standard, no?) so I will continue to support every woman's right to reproduce at her will. I'm also thinking about leaving my estate to some organization that will provide free vasectomies and encourage men to have them. I'm sick of it being all about the woman's responsibility to protect ourselves (everyone, really) from unwanted pregnancy.

daisycakessoap said...

Thanks for sharing your thought-provoking essay. I think there is something to get in it from both sides of the isle.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this

Anonymous said...

I really can't condone abortion in the case of a woman using it as a method of careless birth control, because I do believe that it is a life they are terminating. HOWEVER, there are so many other reasons a woman might want or need an abortion, including pregnancy following rape. My health deteriorated permanently during the course of my pregnancies, but they were wanted pregnancies. I would never condone forcing any woman to go through what I went through, especially if she did nothing whatsoever to get herself pregnant in the first place. Thank you for a very well-written and thought-provoking article.

MellyGirl2007 said...

I would love to know who would care for all the unaborted children? Surely not the pro-lifers.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the well written post.

Virginia Burnett said...

What a great post. I appreciate your carefully crafted words and thoughts and I agree with you wholeheartedly! I also appreciate punchinella's input.

A baby should be born of love - a true union of two consenting and cooperting individuals. I cannot imagine the terror and fury of carrying to term a pregnancy that was a result of rape. No one who has any compassion would try to force that upon a woman.

My son is adopted and I am glad that I will be able to tell him that his birth parents were young and unprepared for parenthood. They are unselfish and love him enough to give him an opportunity to be raised by the stable, loving family. I cannot imagine how it would be if someday I had to tell him that his birth mother was raped and that he came into this world as a result of some violent, hateful crime.

Thank you for giving me a chance to think about this issue in this context. I've been enriched.

Field Notes said...

Thank you so much for your comment Virginia.