What's Progressive about Abortion?
It used to be that supporting abortion as a member of the Democratic Party was in style, but according to Tom Perez, the Democratic Party chairman, it is now compulsory. He has said pro-life Democrats are not welcome in the party. Whatever happened to diversity? This abortion stance is so rigid that it is beginning to look like their raison d'etre. But in the collectivist mindset, how can this unsavory practice be doing the most good for the most people? Let us explore some issues.
For more than two thousand years, some women have wanted to terminate their pregnancies. Terminating a pregnancy belies the real truth that one is terminating a fetal life. In the ancient world, a surgical abortion would have been impractical and dangerous. There would have been a high incidence of hemorrhage and fatal septicemia. Some women allowed their abdomens to be beaten to enhance a pregnancy loss, but this ran the danger of uterine rupture or abruptio placenta, both fatal before modern surgery. So most women resorted to abortifacients, and most were herbal. There is no verifiable evidence that these nostrums and potions had much efficacy. One reads about using the oil of pennyroyal, or tansy, or the now extinct silphium, but there is no real data. A lot of anecdotal success probably relied on the natural spontaneous abortion rate of at least 20-30%. In extremis, some women swallowed doses of turpentine or mercury. Most women who did not want the baby carried it to term rather than succumb to these horrendous methods.
The ancient Greeks and Romans had another solution for the unwanted life: infanticide. To be sure, they did not call it that, but it was a passive form of murder. Unwanted infants were left exposed to the elements to die of hypothermia, starvation or predation. The paterfamilias held the ultimate power and decided which boys were not fit and which girls were just too many girls. The Spartans had a more institutional system. The father brought the newborn to the ruling elders, and they decided which were to be exterminated. The other Greek city-states were appalled by the Spartan tradition, but not because of the infanticide. The Spartan system eliminated the father's right to choose. (Does that sound familiar?) So the cradle of Western civilization had no compassion for the occupants of the cradle. The exceptions in Europe were the Etruscans and ancient Germans. They raised all of their children.
But starting about two thousand years ago, Western Europe began to go topsy-turvy over its attitude toward children and the unborn. This revolutionary change was the adoption of Judeo-Christian values. From its earliest history, the Jewish nation abhorred child sacrifice. This is one of the reasons why the Canaanites were considered an abomination worthy of extermination. They sacrificed infants and children up to the age of four to the god Moloch. The children were burned alive.
But it goes beyond the proscription of child sacrifice. It was understood that the child in the womb and the born child were part of the same continuum. There were not separate words for "fetus" and "child." A woman was pregnant with child, not pregnant with fetus. The Ten Commandments do not condemn abortion because they already condemn murder. Both David and Jeremiah were told that God knew them in the womb. God would not speak of knowing a lump of lifeless flesh. This dovetails completely with the Jewish tradition of taking care of widows, orphans, and the poor.
Christianity continued this ethic and was probably a greater influence because of its adoption throughout the entire Roman world. Christians also recognized human life in the womb. Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth shortly after she was informed she was pregnant with Jesus. Elizabeth's baby in utero, John the Baptist, jumped for joy at the recognition of Jesus in Mary's womb. Like the Jewish tradition, this confirms personhood. And there was another dimension. Jesus told his disciples to bring the children to him, and he exhorted them to be more childlike. For the first time, children were cherished for being children and were allowed to have a childhood. And children were safe in the womb, with few exceptions, for almost two thousand years. This, it would seem, was real human progress.
Everything changed in the twentieth century. With advances in surgery, one could have an abortion procedure and hope to survive. Although abortion was illegal, many self-proclaimed visionaries began promoting it as part of the program of family planning. Margaret Sanger, the patron saint of Planned Parenthood, paved the way for abortion throughout the United States. She leaves a complicated legacy. Her apologists insist she was a champion of women's rights, especially the poor. Her detractors rightfully point out the she was a leading figure in American eugenics. She believed in racial purity and that all misfits should be sterilized. It is difficult to put a positive spin on her own statements. In the journal The Birth Control Review, in 1919, she published an article entitled "Birth Control and Racial Betterment."
Many American eugenicists were irked by Hitler commandeering their movement. He also believed in racial purity. And the left now has a very short memory of ever supporting such notions.
Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, legalized abortion on the nonexistent constitutional principle of a right to privacy. In the last 50 years, 1.5 billion – I repeat: billion – abortions have been committed around the world. The enormity of this is staggering. In America, 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 abortions have been done. A full 12.5% of American women have had abortions, but there are 233 induced abortions per 1,000 live births. That means that some women are using abortion as primary birth control. Between 2007 and 2010, in America, 36% of abortions were against black babies and 21% Hispanic. These two groups make up less than twenty percent of our population. It sounds as though Margaret Sanger's descendant minions are working on her goals of racial purity.
Considering the Judeo-Christian tradition of the recognition of the fetus as fully human, one well versed in this tradition will not acknowledge a "right" to choose the fetus's death. The fetus was not given a vote. You are free to choose any other surgery or life choice that does not infringe on others.
There is one subset of women who are pro-choice (pro-abortion) who don't really care if the fetus is human. In true collectivist fashion, it is an inconvenient life and must be exterminated. It does not fit the collective. Curiously, this is the only instance in the collectivist mindset where individuality is honored. But what if the collectivist state decides it wants to increase the birth rate and outlaws abortion? There goes the vaunted right to choose. Collectivism is not a very friendly bed partner.
I would contend that most women who have an abortion are not flippant about their choices. They need to find a rationale to assuage guilt and to not feel like despicable people. The problem is that every mental construct has a plausible refutation. Some feel that a zygote is not human because he does not look like one. But he has a complete and uniquely human and individual genome. The zygote is a cornerstone, with a complete blueprint of a human, and just needs the Carpenter to finish building. Some feel that the fetus is not human until he can be felt in the womb at 16-18 weeks. That is an ancient notion of quickening. But we now know that the fetus is moving less than four weeks from conception and can be seen by ultrasound. Some say the fetus is not human until he can live outside the womb. That means that a 30-week baby in utero in 1950 was not human, but a 24-week baby in utero today is. Some say the fetus is not human until he is born and takes the first breath. But that requires some magical thinking. Why would a single breath of air suddenly imbue one with all the attributes of humanity?
And the law is schizophrenic on the subject. If the fetus is not human, how can you be charged with a double homicide if you kill a pregnant woman? If you do a 24-week partial-birth abortion and rip the fetus in pieces, it is just an abortion. If the child is delivered spontaneously alive during an abortion procedure and you strangle him, then it is murder.
All in all, the abortion debacle is a hot mess. One can trace it to the rejection of Judeo-Christian principles, especially promulgated by the collectivist left. We are in the midst of a new Dark Age as regards to respect for all human life. Abortion may be part of the progressive agenda, but it is not progress.