Saturday, January 31, 2009

Culture Wars -- an unrealistic "solution"

Damon Linker in The New Republic suggests that liberals can end the culture wars by abandoning Roe v. Wade and allowing individual states to control reproduction. Aside from ending one big culture war and starting 50 little ones, Linker's theory is based on two profound misunderstandings.

The first is that the most dogmatic groups in any religion will tolerate views different from their own -- they won't. The second is a total misunderstanding of why abortion foes object to abortion.

The issue is not when "life" begins, since unfertilized eggs are already alive in a new-born female. Nor is the issue whether you are "pro-life" or not. The term "pro-life" is meaningless.

Everybody is PRO-LIFE, whether they are against all abortions, some, or none. People who believe in reproductive "choice" are not in favor of death, for heaven's sake; they simply do not believe that an egg, fertilized or not, constitutes a human being. They differ over when an embryo or fetus should be considered a human being, and in general believe that reproduction is a personal concern over which neither the Constitution nor a specific Congress ought to make decisions.

The issue is "ensoulment," or, whether the sperm implants a soul into the egg, or whether the embryo receives a soul at some later stage. Arguments over this topic go back millennia and are not about to be resolved any time soon.
Complex positions on abortion occur within Christianity, Judaism and other major religions.

Within Christianity, some people believe that souls were created by God before Time and are implanted within the fetus during development, the exact stage varying from implantation (6-8 days) to quickening (18-20 weeks) to brain waves (20-27 weeks) to viability (about 28 weeks). Both Plato and Aristotle believed that the embryo acquired a soul during fetal development, a position later adopted by St. Augustine, in contradistinction to some other early Church Fathers.
Another time-honored belief is that the soul enters the body at birth. This belief is founded on the Biblical verse in Genesis:
"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).

Culture wars on abortion cannot be stopped by one side's compromising on its most fundamental premises. Abortion foes oppose all abortions and make no exceptions. But their real agenda is revealed in their other positions: basically, they want to make sure women who engage in sexual activity are penalized by having a baby. Why else do these same people object to birth control education, information, medication, and devices? If reducing abortions were their real goal, they would support every possible family planning effort.

Linker refers to people who believe in reproductive choice as "liberals." These so-called liberals, however, may or may not think that all abortions are justified, may indeed disapprove of many abortions. But they do not oppose birth control, the morning-after pill, or complete sex education. Many of them believe that over-population, unloving parenting, and producing children for homes that cannot support them are immoral actions that victimize children. Many so-called liberals also have observed that people who do a poor job of supporting their children actually impose their reproductive choices on others, since taxpayers then have to cough up welfare payments, school taxes, and increased health care costs distributed across the populace. Yet these same "liberals" do not attempt to force legislators to impose their views on the public.

Americans do not and cannot agree on abortion, so the least antagonistic perspective is to agree that you will not dictate my reproductive choices if I don't dictate yours. No one is forced in the USA to have an abortion, not even the unmarried woman who just added eight likely unhealthy babies to her previous brood of six.

Culture wars won't stop when "pro-choice" advocates give up on their position. They will stop when we learn to tolerate each other's freedom to make individual choices. Period.

No comments:

Post a Comment