Whatever your religious or philosophical background, most of us fall for the idea that humans are special somehow, that we are more than the sum of our biological components. Ok, you biologists out there may not agree, but the idea of the soul, whatever you may call it is an idea I sympathize with, if not fully embrace (I’ve studied a lot of biology).
Yet I do appreciate the sentiment, even so far as it reaches the unborn. Maybe that spark, whatever it is, happens at the moment of conception. Maybe that life is sacred, unique, suddenly, irreversibly human. If the pro-life movement wants to argue that united gametes are life, it’s hard to argue. We think in binary, after all, and if it’s not life, it’s certainly not death. If there is a third category, defining it proves to be elusive. What if the spark comes first and the flesh just grows around it?
If the human soul is intangible, science is ill-equipped to disprove its existence. That’s why it’s beautiful for us all to believe different things about the origins of humanness. Problems occur, of course, when politics get involved. Don’t they always? I think the political movement claiming ultimate authority as to when life begins has taken on a life of its own. And it all starts to fall apart when the movement fails to protect the very core of its belief system. It fails to protect the soul.
When Donald Trump claimed last week that he thought women who had abortions, were they illegal, should be punished. As distasteful as this idea may be, it’s not exactly illogical. As a society, we generally accept that people should be punished for committing crimes. But the pro-life movement responded immediately to disavow both the candidate and his statement. He back pedaled, as politicians who speak before they think (or learn anything about the abortion debate) are wont to do, but not before being schooled on what the pro-life movement really stands for.
NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed Marjorie Dannenfelser of the pro-life group, the Susan B. Anthony list, about this very issue, and she made her feelings on punishing women for abortions quite clear. “The pro-life movement has never, for a very good reason, promoted the idea that we punish women, she told Inskeep. “In fact, we believe that women are being punished before the abortion ever occurs. In other words, the early feminists believed this was the ultimate exploitation of women.” Abortion, in other words, is punishment enough.
I hardly see this argument as pro-woman. It implies that a woman is simply incapable of making the decision to terminate no matter how much she has thought through her options. Apparently, Ms. Dannenfelser thinks all women should be treated like underage children, legally incapable of consenting to what happens to their own bodies. Women should not even be respected enough to be held responsible for committing a crime.
But not only that, what about that spark we talked about? That unique human soul that is created at conception. The life that is so valuable that it is to be protected, even at the expense of the well-being or even the will of the mother. If it is a human life equal to all others, how can we excuse women for being too stupid to know any better? If a woman is convicted of killing her post-utero child, we expect her to go to jail. So giving women a pass on abortion just illustrates that the spark, however special it may be, is not valued the same way as a human life.
I also take issue with those who try to offer compromises in terms of “exceptions.” Many pro-lifers, trying to soften the image of absolutists, claim if a mother is raped or a victim of incest, then abortion should be allowed. In other words, if a man was responsible for the pregnancy, then it’s ok to terminate it. It’s only when a woman has consented to sex that an embryo is suddenly an irreplaceable human life. Abortion is murder or it isn’t. And the pro-life movement just proved to me that it’s not.
I’m calling you out. Your political stance is not about compassion. It’s not about protecting babies, and it’s certainly not about protecting women. It’s about control. And don’t bother to hide behind your religion. Or at least not the part where it defines life as occurring at conception. Where is that part exactly? I lost my bookmark. Now, if you mean the part where women should be property used only for the purpose of begetting progeny, then carry on.
To those of you who do believe abortion is murder period, that egg and sperm, once united, are so special that no one has the right to end that spark of a holy zygote: well maybe you and I can find some common ground. Maybe we can work together to end the stigma of single motherhood, to provide evidence based sex-education for all our kids, to give every baby that is born love and a home. If you are not willing to do that, then calling yourself pro-life is just a smokescreen for shaming and controlling women for making choices about their bodies