Mike the Mad Biologist

Abortion isn’t the lesser of two evils–it is a just and good thing. So says Reverend Katherine Ragsdale:

Let’s be very clear about this: when a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion — often a late-term abortion — to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion — there is not a tragedy in sight – only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember — abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

What really impresses me about Ragsdale is this bit:

The idea that abortion kills a child, she contends, reflects parental hopes and dreams for the child-to-be, not the reality of what the zygote or fetus actually is. (It is, in her words, “proleptic,” a theological term for anticipated realities that come to be treated as extant in the here and now.)

When pro-choice forces signal their partial acceptance of the abortion-as-child-murder idea, says Ragsdale — which they do when they speak of the “tragedy” of abortion — they may be motivated by political concerns, or by a desire to be respectful and conciliatory. But in the process, they’re ceding precious intellectual ground to abortion opponents, and backing themselves into a tactical corner: how, after all, can you effectively defend something for which you’re simultaneously apologizing?

What’s more, they’re also increasing the likelihood that women who do choose to have abortions will spend their lives tormented by needless guilt. “I suppose it’s possible for an intelligent, faithful person to still believe that there’s no moral difference between a zygote and a baby,” Ragsdale allows. “But there’s no reason for most of us to believe that. And I don’t.”

…”If you want a baby,” says Ragsdale, “and you’ve decorated the nursery, and bought the toys, and named the baby — and then they discover the baby’s organs are growing outside the body, and not only will the baby not survive, but the woman will be torn up trying to deliver it — there’s a tragedy. But the tragedy isn’t the abortion — the tragedy is that you needed one.

I know this won’t convince the hardcore anti-abortionists, but it refreshing to see someone refusing to cede the moral high ground.

Comments

  1. #1 The Science Pundit
    June 6, 2009

    I think that abortion is undesirable and we should try to lower the incidence of them for the same exact reason that I find any invasive surgery undesirable and prefer non-invasive solutions whenever possible.

  2. #2 Pineyman
    June 6, 2009

    Dunno Mike –

    I agree with all the arguments EXCEPT the “loving supportive family” one. I read that as “Whoops! A baby would cramp my lifestyle!” and to me, that is an infantile reason for an abortion. To me, a reason like that gives fundamentalists the ammo to portray anyone who disagrees with them as heartless murdering monsters.

    Maybe it’s my age (50) or my upbringing (RC, now agnostic), but I’d rather see the person carry the baby to term and allow childless couples to adopt, rather than an abortion of “convenience”.

    No matter what scenario I play in my head, I keep coming back to the same thing – a selfish attitude.

    Waiting to be flamed….

  3. #3 phisrow
    June 6, 2009

    @Pineyman: Even if we were to grant that it is an “infantile” reason(which I wouldn’t, pregnancy isn’t exactly a walk in the park in many cases), it would be irrelevant.

    If you subscribe to the “Oh noes, abortion is such a tragic tragedy for which we should all be very sorry” position, than you need a suitably weighty reason to abort. If you don’t, as above, then no such reason is needed.

  4. #4 Elf Eye
    June 6, 2009

    Pineyman,

    I’m 53 and a mother through adoption. If a pregnant woman wishes to make an adoption plan for the future infant, I would certainly be the last to object; but pregnancy makes great physical, emotional, and financial demands upon a mother, and if for any reason a woman feels incapable of meeting those demands, then it is indeed a blessing that abortion is available. Abortion was not an option for my daughter’s birth mother (Peru), and you might say, “Aren’t you glad that the mother had no opportunity to abort your daughter?” The answer is yes and no. Imagine that one month a couple are interrupted for some reason every time they try to have intercourse. Eventually, of course, the egg is sloughed off. The next month the couple do manage to have intercourse, and a child is conceived and nine months later is born. Do the couple spend any time at all grieving the fact that the child that could have been conceived the previous month never achieved existence? Most people laugh at the Monty Python “Every sperm is sacred” skit because they know that such a position is absurd. I love my daughter and therefore must be glad that she wasn’t aborted. On the other hand, had I never become her mother, I would be just as convinced that the daughter I DID adopt was the sweetest, most precious, most original child ever to have danced in a ballet recital–just as the mothers via birth sitting nearby are convinced that THEIR daughters are the sweetest, most precious, most original children–without wasting a moment’s thought upon all the daughters (and sons) they could have conceived had they managed to fertilize each and every egg that they ovulated from the moment of their first menses. It seems absolutely right to me that my daughter is my daughter–as if she had been destined to be my daughter–but I cannot deny that it would have seemed absolutely right if some other child had become my daughter. I guess my reasoning is a response not so much to your position as to an argument made by others: the but-what-if-you-abort-a-potential-Einstein argument, the ‘Einstein’ in this case being my daughter. Anyway, to conclude, if making an adoption plan is right for a woman, good. If not, adoption is a blessing.
    /rambling
    Elf Eye

  5. #5 JThompson
    June 6, 2009

    I think this is going to make the hardcore anti-abortionists absolutely furious.
    How dare someone speak for god? That’s their job!

    BTW, either my browser has gone insane or you forgot to close italics in there.

  6. #6 Pineyman
    June 6, 2009

    Elf Eye –

    I do not disagree with you. To bring a child into lifelong poverty & a hardscrabble life is a major burden. The needs of the expectant mother can also be an overwhelming burden.

    My argument is against the idea or thought that a person with all the privileges an American lifestyle (Middle class & above? Another discussion) brings, chooses abortion as their means of birth control. The fourth paragraph reads to me as hypocritical, with:

    “The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.”

    This, to me, is crap. It is self-serving. Another of “God’s gifts” is the ability to procreate. If you want to pick and choose “God’s gifts”, well I do believe there’s some words about that.

    That is my only point. I am not a religious zealot. I left the RCC partially because of their hypocritical stances. I have not joined any other church because I see them all as hypocritical. I call myself agnostic because that is the most comfortable label I can give myself.

    I also give you and your family great amounts of credit for your compassion and love. My wife and I have several friends who were unable to conceive and have adopted. They are beautiful as are their kids.

  7. #7 Pineyman
    June 6, 2009

    Phisrow –

    I have no idea what you are trying to say.

    What I am trying to say is that choosing abortion as your personal means of birth control is dehumanizing. There are many other forms of birth control & if you are utilizing “God’s gift of sexuality” than show some adult responsibility and use it. Don’t slough off responsibility to think ahead and then whoopsie…time for the doctor’s visit…

    To be perfectly clear – I am talking about privileged, comfortable people who have the resources to support and sustain themselves during the pregnancy and the child after it is born, but choose the abortion as a “do over”.

    And yes, I do know something about difficult pregnancies and/or births. My first child, a daughter now 11, was born 1 month premature. While my wife was in labor, her heartbeat and my daughter’s both became erratic whenever my wife had a contraction. It got to the point where the ob/gyn who was there when my wife was brought in (there were two, shift change in the middle of the labor) said to me one more and we do a C-section. My daughter was born on that “one more”. Move forward 18 months and on to my son’s birth. Another difficult time. In the middle, my wife screamed that something was wrong. The ob/gyn from from my daughter’s birth came of his own accord to assist his colleague (same practice) and they immediately had her in the emergency room. C-section. When they opened my wife up, they found my son, in his desire to be born, had ruptured her uterus. They delivered my son and spent quite a while trying to put my wife back together. Unfortunately they couldn’t and she ended up with a hysterectomy.

    So yes, I DO try to weigh all options/outcomes.

  8. #8 Monimonika
    June 6, 2009

    Pineyman,

    In what world is an abortion preferable as a means of birth control than condoms, pills, etc.? What’s your take on people who did not have access to conventional birth control? People who were not educated at all about birth control? People whose birth control had failed?

    When you say, “show some adult responsibility”, I just hear, “take your punishment, idiot”.

    You yourself just described two life-threatening experiences your wife went through for pregnancies that she chose to go through with. Would being rich and privileged have made both of those pregnancies completely risk-free for your wife? According to your own words,

    I am talking about privileged, comfortable people who have the resources to support and sustain themselves during the pregnancy

    I guess that’s a callous “yes”.

  9. #9 monoboyzmom
    June 6, 2009

    Men cause unwanted pregnancies, yet since men don’t carry pregnancies, they cannot experience either carrying a fetus or aborting one. To me, it’s a woman’s rights issue, and the decision should be a private one, with no interference from outsiders.

  10. #10 Pineyman
    June 6, 2009

    Monimonika –

    Then you hear wrong.

    You ask in what world is an abortion preferable? When I was in college in the late 70′s a woman I knew, friend of the woman I was dating, used abortion three times over 2 years because she didn’t want to use birth control. That is wrong, callous and infantile. Even if she was totally ignorant of BC after the first, to use the same “method” twice more afterwards is idiotic.

    Read my previous posts again. My issue is with someone who advocates “God’s gift of sexuality”, but no advocating of responsibility. Read the quoted passage. Ragsdale is saying that hey, sex is fun, do it. And if a little hitch gets in the way, well heck we have this thing called abortion. And no matter how you want to slice it, that is irresponsible. And if you want to expand the argument, I would probably agree with you on every other point.

    But I do not agree that abortion is the front line cure-all for so called “adult behavior” amongst otherwise well established people.

    And I also agree with monoboyzmom @9. It is a serious, private issue. Ragsdale presents this instance as a casual option to get career and opportunity back on track.

  11. #11 Donna B.
    June 7, 2009

    What’s missing from the debate (in my opinion) is a screaming demand for easily accessible and inexpensive birth control for all women and education on how to use it properly.

    Equality in sexuality is not physiologically possible for women. Even with the best birth control, there is always some chance it won’t work. It is not equal even if the woman gets an abortion. They aren’t free (somebody pays) and they also carry some risk.

    I cannot understand how supporting a woman’s freedom to enjoy the gift of sexuality equates to abortion for career or lifestyle preferences. That stance denies a factor in the sexuality of women.

    If a woman truly does not ever want to have a baby, she should consider having her tubes tied. A woman who wants to preserve her ability to have a child must accept the possibility that it may not happen on the schedule she’s prepared.

    I certainly don’t want abortion to be illegal. I have no patience for those who oppose all abortions for merely religious reasons. They are wasting their energy protesting when they could be using it to help the woman described above who wants a child but needs help with education and services. They could make a serious dent in the numbers of one type of abortion.

  12. #12 anonymous
    June 7, 2009

    I think all of the situations flow from and illustrate the main point in a well thought out manner. Thank you for posting this as I would have otherwise missed my opportunity to read it.

  13. #13 Edward
    June 7, 2009

    I generally agree that having abortion available is a good thing. I long ago came to the intellectual conclusion that a fetus should have no rights until it is outside the mother, for many many reasons. However, the emotions can get complicated when one partner wants a child and the other doesn’t. Still, the fetus is really part of the mother’s body, so the choice is hers.

    As a both a religious person and as a scientist, it is the position of institutional opponents to abortion, like the Catholic Church, that I find morally reprehensible. With current technology, we cannot sustain the worlds current population with what we in the USA consider a modest lifestyle. Yet the Catholic Church is anti any kind of birth control, to the point that the Pope discourages people from using condoms to help fight the spread of AIDS. Then there is the associated opposition to stem cell research. As a scientist, I think that stem cell research offers the potential hope of cures for some diseases. I’m not 100% sure it will work out, but I think there is enough promise on many diseases that it would be immoral not to do the research.

  14. #14 llewelly
    June 7, 2009

    Pineyman:

    I agree with all the arguments EXCEPT the “loving supportive family” one. I read that as “Whoops! A baby would cramp my lifestyle!” and to me, that is an infantile reason for an abortion.

    I read your words as an example of someone who has been conned by one of the most deceitful strawmen in the whole controversy: the idea that women who get abortions for ‘infantile’ reasons account for a significant portion of abortions. All available evidence indicates the reverse is true.

  15. #15 Monimonika
    June 7, 2009

    Pineyman,

    What really ticks me off about what you wrote is that you detailed what dangers your wife faced in order to have her and your two children, yet also say that women (who, unlike your admirable wife, do not have the strong incentive of wanting children thus the willingness to face the risks) have no excuse not to go through with their pregnancies if they are “privileged” and “well established”.

    To you, potential health complications, consequences, and even the non-fatal (but definitely not pleasant) effects, and ever-lasting aftereffects of pregnancy somehow magically disappear for these women in the face of “money”.

    So you knew a single woman who preferred abortion over having to have birth control cramp her sex life. Yes, I agree that she’s an idiot (must have had a lot of disposable cash to back up her idiocy)[*]. Yes, we have the right to berate her (but not because pregnancy has some kind of sanctity).

    However, do you seriously think forcing her to go through with pregnancy would be anything other than a “punishment”? Do you really know if this idiot woman, if forced to give birth, would’ve “taken responsibility” and learned from the experience? Or does the idea of her being miserable with an unwanted pregnancy, and later child, satisfy a secret wish to have her suffer for her idiocy?

    [*]Of course, for all I know, she could have been indoctrinated into thinking birth control is a bad thing, while later rationalizing abortion as acceptable given the circumstances of each of her pregnancies. Yes, it’s still idiotic, but it’s the kind of cognitive dissonance that can easily come about due to the “cultural tabooing of anything sex-related” crashing into “human sexuality”.

  16. #16 Constance Reader
    June 8, 2009

    Donna B:

    First, it is very difficult to find a physician willing to perform elective sterilization on men and women of childbearing age.

    Second, there is medical evidence suggesting that elective sterilization prior to the onset of menopause is correlated with a higher risk for various cancers.

    Therefore, elective sterilization is not necessarily a viable option.

  17. #17 Pineyman
    June 8, 2009

    Monimonika –

    You continue to hear me wrong. Why?

    I DO NOT OBJECT TO ABORTION WHEN THE WOMAN’S LIFE OR HEALTH IS IN DANGER.

    Is that clear enough?

    I DO NOT OBJECT TO ABORTION WHEN IT LEADS TO GRINDING POVERTY OR INCREASES SUCH.

    Clear?

    I NEVER SAID PREGNANCY WAS SANCTIFIED.

    Clear?

    I ALSO DO NOT OBECT WHEN THE WOMAN HAS BEEN RAPED OR A VICTIM OF INCEST.

    Okay?

    I NEVER SAID I WANTED TO FORCE A WOMAN THROUGH PREGNANCY.

    Still with me?

    My only objection, which you continue to misconstrue, is having an abortion of convenience, rather than utilizing any other means of prevention. People who decide they are going to perform an “adult” act, yet look to the easiest way out after not having done some basic investigation of preventatives, is to me infantile.

    NOTE: I DID NOT SAY THEY THEREFORE HAVE TO CARRY THE CHILD TO TERM.

    To be even clearer, my objection is a person of some degree of influence stating that abortion is a “Gift from God” without saying anything about preventative measures.

    I am beginning to think you protest to much.

    And I am waiting on your rant against Donna B regarding tube tying……

  18. #18 Monimonika
    June 9, 2009

    Pineyman,

    First and foremost, I apologize for saying (or at least heavily implying) that you want to force some women to go through with pregnancy. Obviously, that is not the case, and I crossed the line with that. I am sorry.

    However, your latest comment brings me a somewhat clearer view of what it is that is irking me about your reasoning.

    Even though nowhere in my comments did I accuse you of wanting women who are either threatened physically, mentally, and/or financially by pregnancy to not have abortions, you bothered to list those out as reasons you would agree that abortion is necessary. Unfortunately, you did not follow up those extreme (“GRINDING POVERTY” grinding?) reasons with other reasons that may not be so much on the extreme side.

    My only objection, which you continue to misconstrue, is having an abortion of convenience, rather than utilizing any other means of prevention.

    While I can understand what you’re saying here, and I can sympathize with it, I can’t help but notice that you seem to be looking at the reasons of how some women got pregnant (as well as there financial and health situations) in order to judge if they have enough of a SOB STORY to justify getting an abortion. If their stories do not live up to your personal standards, you deem them “infantile” and “irresponsible”, and you think that they “ought” to “take responsibility” (aka, forgo the abortion).

    When I say, “ought”, I do not mean that you would like to FORCE these women. I just mean that you personally think that it’s what these women should rather do, and you understand that the most you can do is throw in your two cents. However, those two cents are pretty damn painful to those being told that their reasons for having an abortion are not good enough. It’s just a little slip down the slope from your thoughts to back when women had to go in front of a judge in order to plead for an abortion.

    Thankfully, women in the US have the right (though not always the actual opportunity) to have an abortion for any reason (within the early stages of pregnancy, at least) as well as not having to explain their reasons to someone (like you). They do not have to listen to that someone judge their reasons as “legitimate” (aka, the consequences of continued pregnancy had damn better be HORRIFIC), or simply “for convenience” (“You just don’t wanna? You cowardly, selfish, dim-witted, slut.”).

    What seems merely “convenient” to one person, may be “life-changing” for someone else. And you gotta admit that pregnancy by itself can be life-changing, let alone adding another person to the list of adoptable kids (and thus further lessening the chances for the other kids still on the list, a lot having been on it for years and will only get out of it by becoming adults).

    Adoption is wonderful (when enough willing parents can be found, that is), but it shouldn’t be the ONLY MEASURE considered when facing an unwanted pregnancy (of the type you loathe, of course). Other measures (to prevent having to care for a child) can be taken, ya know?

    Let’s go into an analogy. It’s not a great one, but I’m just going to use it to explain another, separate point of mine.

    Let’s say there is a man. This man is quite reckless, and often does dangerous amateur stunts without using any protective gear, nor does he seek any advice from professionals. This man gets hurt sometimes while performing his ill-planned stunts and not only goes to the hospital to heal, but also gets cosmetic surgery to fix any scarring or disfigurement. The man has a very supportive, doting, rich family and a sizable inheritance guaranteeing that he would not have to work a single day of his life.

    Now, I think we can agree that this man is an idiot, especially since he purposely does not use protective gear. We can make the argument that he really ought to wear protective gear rather than depend solely on the hospital and cosmetic surgery when things go wrong.

    However, would you then automatically say that this man ought to forgo cosmetic surgery after he has once again injured himself? The hospital stay would be necessary for HEALTH reasons, but the cosmetic surgery is not really necessary, right? I mean, he won’t suffer GRINDING POVERTY if he doesn’t get rid of the scars (especially since he doesn’t need to go to any job interviews). It’s not like his injuries were NOT HIS FAULT, or done to him BY SOMEONE ELSE.

    Would it even cross your mind to focus on whether the man is justified in having cosmetic surgery or not? The man’s still an idiot and really should become more responsible. But is this idea of “responsibility” the same as the “responsibility” you mentioned in regards to pregnancy?

    Given that you insist that what you object to is the non-use of other preventative measures other than abortion, I tried looking back to see if your “take responsibility” could be taken to mean something other than, “forgo the abortion”. Alas, you were quite clear on what you meant from the start.

    Well, I am glad that we agree that no one has the right to force women through unwanted pregnancies. It’s just down to differences in what we personally think are “ideal” choices given certain situations. I have said my bit, and will now go to bed for the night.

    Aside:

    I am beginning to think you protest to much.

    This over-used phrase is up there alongside “activist judge” in utter meaninglessness when making an argument. Try telling me, in plain words, what specific things you’re trying to imply about me with that phrase.

  19. #19 Monimonika
    June 9, 2009

    Oh, and here’s my response to Donna B’s tube-tying comment (which I had skimmed past without realizing it before):

    The real world is not an ideal place. There are many factors that complicate things (ignorance, short-sightedness, superstitions, natural counter intuitive behaviors, herd mentality, culture, etc.) and there is nothing out there that carries absolutely zero risk of harm to humans beings. All we humans can do is try to find solutions that carry the most benefits for the least risk.

    You say abortion carries risk and is not free. Well, so is the surgery to get your tubes tied! Birth control pills and condoms are not free, either. Even with education, highly improbable (note: but not impossible) things can happen and pregnancy (or worse) can still occur. All we can do is stumble along and use our limited understanding of our world to hopefully make the right decisions and handle unpleasant realities that come our way anyway, both individually and as groups.

    I certainly don’t want abortion to be illegal. I have no patience for those who oppose all abortions for merely religious reasons. They are wasting their energy protesting when they could be using it to help the woman described above who wants a child but needs help with education and services. They could make a serious dent in the numbers of one type of abortion.

    *drops all antagonism and raises fists above head*
    W00T! Yeah! Total agreement here!
    *cheering* *\(^o^)/*

  20. #20 mortedarthur
    June 10, 2009

    Maybe the anti-abortion crowd should be called the forced-pregnancy crowd. I find it strange that men should be the ones to dictate what a woman should do with her body… after all, men don’t carry a zygote around for almost a year. It’s also interesting that Rev. Ragsdale calls sexuality as God’s gift, unlike the hordes of sexually repressed moral-highgrounders who claim God as their own.

  21. #21 TomJoe
    June 10, 2009

    Donna B: What’s missing from the debate (in my opinion) is a screaming demand for easily accessible and inexpensive birth control for all women and education on how to use it properly.

    Errr, doesn’t every Planned Parenthood (there are multiple of them in every state I’ve ever lived in) give free birth control to anyone who comes in and asks for it, and the reason they can do so is because they’re federally funded? Am I missing something?

  22. #22 Zan
    June 12, 2009

    Pineyman:

    I had an abortion of convenience.

    My pill failed. It failed because my doctor did not take my weight into account when prescribing it.

    I then got pregnant while taking it and subsequently had an abortion. I fucking celebrated on my abortion day.

    I’m 20, I’m with a steady boyfriend, we live together and have plenty of money if ever we actually wanted a child.

    However, without my abortion I would have also had to stop going to college for a fairly long time to have the damn baby and recover, as well as take time off from my job that may well get me replaced. Oh and I’d have to stop drinking and smoking pot and doing things I wanted to do with my life during the pregnancy and after.

    The morning sickness I had while waiting for my abortion was debilitating, I could not even keep water down and resorted to smoking copious amounts of pot so I would be able to eat and drink.

    It was most definitely convenient for me.

    A kid would definitely cramp my lifestyle. So I got rid of it in the first trimester.

    I also loathe children, if I had borne that foetus to term, I would have resented it and what it did to my body for the rest of it’s life. Adoption or no. It would not have been fair to the kid had I brought it into the world.

    No person who has an abortion because of these reasons or even reasons more petty and selfish than mine deserves your shaming. In addition, not all of us who have abortions of convenience do so because we’re too retarded to use proper birth control.

    I would do it again three times over just for fun except that my very short pregnancy was hell and I don’t want to repeat it.

    As for getting my tubes tied, nobody will preform that procedure for me at my age. “I might change my mind they say”.

    Damn if they aren’t right about that, but I’d rather have my tubes tied now and adopt if I ever change my mind than have to go through another pregnancy ever again.

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