Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

The Abortion Issue: Choice and Compassion

October 22, 2008

A recent episode of the CBS show Dr. Phil focused on men fighting for the right not to become a parent. That is, they demand the right to refuse to support or acknowledge a child they did not plan for, simply because of one night of sex. I personally found this episode disturbing, yet quite interesting, and telling, in many ways.

These men say they have been told by the legal system that they do not have the right to deny their parenthood. If they had sex that resulted in a baby, that’s it, they are a father and they have to take some kind of responsibility. Dr. Phil largely seemed to agree with this, saying it’s important to take responsibility for your actions and accept the consequences, especially when it comes to raising children. There are too many women struggling to raise children alone. And I could not agree more with Dr. Phil (which doesn’t happen everyday! Hehe). 🙂

That’s why I am quite confused. We as a society say men aren’t allowed to stop being fathers, no matter what they may want. Yet at the same time, we say women are permitted to deny their own parenthood, through abortion.

(Before you stop reading in disgust, let me just say that while I am pro-life, I am also a woman, and an Independent, and very much concerned with women’s issues and rights. I think women who have children in our society are not getting enough support or help, and that needs to change. This is still a very sexist society. But this also needs to be said…)

I was disturbed by the reactions of some of the guests on this Dr. Phil episode, their outright refusal to acknowledge a beautiful, innocent, needy child they helped bring into the world (though to be fair, I don’t know there full stories and only have the show to go on). I think both pro-life and pro-choice people would agree with me on this. But was I surprised? No…and none of us really should be.

In my opinion, this is what Roe vs. Wade has led to. In theory, it’s supposed to free a woman from being held down and subjagated in a sexist and unsupportive culture. But sadly, it has instead encouraged women (and now men) to fight against and vehemently deny their responsibilities to their children, in the name of choice. They say, if they don’t want to, they don’t have to. These men on Dr. Phil are only asking for the same rights women now have. The right to abandon a child they created. And no one is asking how the child feels…

Now I’m not saying rights, freedom, choice and personal power aren’t important, they are. But think of it this way. Those things are neutral concepts, neither good nor bad in themselves. Mother Teresa chose to help the needy. Suffragettes chose to fight for a women’s right to vote. Everyday people choose to help, care, share, defend and love. All very good and noble things.

On the other hand, Hitler chose to try and commit genocide. People chose to own slaves during The Civil War. Everyday people choose to steal, kill, hurt, bully and tease. Clearly, freedom and choice can be used to represent either good or bad. Perhaps choice, while important, isn’t quite enough.

Fans of the show Star Trek might recall the pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” where a crewman named Mitchell is given supernatural powers and becomes virtually god-like. He now has the power to do and choose whatever he wants. His supporter, Dr. Dehner, insists this could be “a wonderful thing…a forerunner for a new and better kind of human being.” With great power could come the ability to make a better, more peacful and more just world. Sounds logical.

But instead, Dehner and Captain Kirk are disturbed and surprised to see Mitchell using his new found abilities to inspire hurt and fear among the people he once called his friends. His fellow human beings are no longer important, no longer worth fighting for. No longer his responsibility.

As Captain Kirk observes, power means nothing…if it lacks compassion (“Above all else, a god needs compassion!”). No matter how powerful Mitchell gets, he is still human, still weak, as we all are. We have compassion and morals in our society in order to stop evil from occuring in the world. But Mitchell now rejects that. He is all-poweful, unstoppable…and he has chosen not to care.

Now, in no way am I comparing pro-choicers with the likes of Mitchell. All I’m saying is this: Just like Dr. Dehner, some people also hoped Roe vs. Wade would bring about a noble, positive change in the world. But as this Dr. Phil episode demonstrates to me, all it as done is give people the choice to avoid compassion.

Our society generally defends the rights of children to be cared for, by both parents. But if we tell adults that children are disposable before birth, how can we expect them to care for children after birth? I’m not sure we can have it both ways…

I know what the pro-choice argument might be. After birth, children are entitled to parental care and legal rights. But before birth, they are not yet human, not yet entitled to rights. What’s my response?

Well #1. It’s an oldie but a goodie. The argument that fetuses aren’t human is disturbingly similar to the argument used to justify slavery. In the play 1776, our founding fathers in the Continental Congress were fighting for independence from the tyranny of England. In the making of their declaration, they chose to uphold slavery, despite Thomas Jefferson’s insistence that slaves “are people who are being treated as property.” Ironic that those who fight for freedom, are often just as eager to fight for oppression of others…when it serves them.

Then again, children have always been third class citizens in our world. After all, they’re not the same as the grown ups who run the world. They aren’t as big as grown ups or as intelligent, they are outside of what we consider human. Let’s face it, as a species we do NOT have a good track record with those who are different. Children are also vulnerable, awkward and helpless. They, by their nature, require grown ups to stop being selfish and take responsibility. In this, we also have a poor track record.

John Lennon, a vocal advocate for women’s liberation in the ’70s, was once said to regret the fact that while women have a certain amount of rights, children seem to have absolutely none. I mean, think about what you see on the news everyday. Crimes committed against children, stories of physical and emotion abuse by parents, laws that fail to protect children. People given the power of life over death through abortion. A civilization is often judged by how it treats its most innocent. In this respect, America has a very long way to go. We cannot honestly claim to be a safe haven for children in our “great and free” nation. In many ways we are still stuck in the dark ages…

Many say the story of Hansel and Gretel is reminiscient of a time in history when parents purposely led their children out into the woods, never to be seen again.

Even the Roman Catholic Church has been guilty of this way of thinking, with their previously held belief in the existence of Limbo. For anyone unfamiliar, the idea is an unbaptized baby is unable to go to Heaven when it dies. But rather than go to Hell, it goes to a halfway point called Limbo. Sounds relatively harmless, even humorous nowadays. And some still look on this concept as a positive, at least the baby doesn’t go to Hell. But the basic principle of Limbo is that an unbaptized baby is unworthy, basically not yet human, and therefore unable to be with God in Heaven. Nevermind the fact that the baby is an innocent and has never harmed anyone (unlike many baptized grown ups). Limbo was just another way of denying children their humanity. And the Catholic Church is better off without it…

In another recent episode, Dr. Phil interviewed a woman who had paniced as a pregnant 16 year old and chosen to kill her baby. She said if she had known there were places to drop off abandoned babies, she would have done that instead. Now, I sympathize with his woman being young and scared, and I know she regrets her decision. And more publicity should be given to baby safe houses. But her ignorance of these safe havens does NOT excuse what she did.

We all have children in our lives, that are not our own, that we are fond of. A friend or relative’s child, a student, a camper, etc. With their innocence and cheerful spirits, these children make our lives a little brighter, a little easier, a little more happy. They are hope for the future as they grow and mature. Now imagine if you could go back in time, and it turns out a parent has made the choice to abort this child. They will never exist to make our day better, never exist to inspire home. Would you really stand by and accept this choice? As Captain Kirk said, above all, we need compassion.

Ironically, John Lennon was also quoted to have said, “But the women will liberate the children…”  With Roe v. Wade…clearly that has not happened…

Now having said that, I do not want to forget the rights of women in this argument. Abortion is often done not out of selfishness, but out of loss of hope. Women are in a very special, yet vulnerable position as the bearer of children in our world. More and more, women are left to raise their children alone. Their parents throw them out, their boyfriends abandon them, their bosses punish them for taking maternity leave. Families are so spread apart, women no longer have a grandmother or sister or aunt to help them out with daily needs. Another recent episode of Dr. Phil featured a woman who felt so inadequate and overwhelmed as a mother, she considered giving her young children away for their benefit. I can’t say I blame some women for being afraid.

That’s why pro-life groups, in my opinion, shouldn’t be wasting their time trying to overturn Roe vs. Wade (it won’t change much) or elect Republicans (who talk the talk but do nothing). We, both pro-life and pro-choice, should make the choice to help women and their babies. Make the choice to give them hope. 🙂

Well Obama is now the President. And while I admire his work to eliminate povery over the years, he has made it quite clear he has no interest in using his activism to lessen the number of abortions in this country. As a Catholic Bishop noted recently, people fought for years for Obama’s right to be president as an African American. But he himself is unwilling to defend the rights of the unborn. In a way, he is inadvertently taking a cue from the founding fathers who fought for freedom, while defending slavery. Obama is a very intelligent man, I hope someday he can give this issue a second thought. Despite everything, I do honestly wish him luck. 🙂

Not that I wanted McCain. The Republican candidates have been all talk and no action on the abortion issue. Not to mention they are largely responsible for the economic crisis we are now in, making it that much more difficult for young mothers.

While we’re on the topic of politics, I feel for all the people affected by Prop 8 in California, prohibiting gay marriage. That isn’t right, especially for couples already married and with children. I don’t blame people for protesting. But if gay marriage is an important issue (and it is), then defending innocent life (born or unborn) should be just as important.

We can’t just rely on our leaders to make things better. All we can do is take responsibilty and consequences for our own actions, and remember to support our fellow human beings, both mothers, fathers and babies alike. 🙂

Also see Sophie’s Dilemma–Don’t Make Them Choose.