My plan for February is to write a post each day, the topic taken from/inspired by Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day. I’m trying to venture outside of the usual subjects I write about (i.e., religion), and this seems like a good exercise to get new ideas going.
Doyenne. noun, a woman who is the senior member, as in age or rank, of a group, class, profession, etc.
It’s always interesting to see which Facebook posts of mine go relatively unnoticed, and which ones cause an uproar. The other day I posted this YouTube video from Second City:
In case you hadn’t heard, last month Rick Santorum gave an interview with Piers Morgan where he attempted to “clarify” his position on abortion (especially in the case of rape and incest) in which he said the following:
As horrible as the way that that son or daughter was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn’t, it will always be her child. . . And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time I think [is] the right approach [;] to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you. . . I can’t think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.
In short: Rape sucks. Give her a hug and tell her to buck up and push. Then ask what she’s planning to name the baby. Does it have its father’s eyes/nose/chin?
The gist of the flurry of comments that followed was that while the sentiment may sound harsh, it’s a complex issue, but abortion is never right, and children are a gift from god. If there’s one topic Evangelicals will never fail to speak up about, it’s abortion.
Even a year ago my own position on this was evolving. Up until last year, or maybe a bit before, I’ve always been solidly pro-life. Life was a gift from god and humans have no right to make those kinds of decisions concerning it. This is ironic, considering how many Christians are pro-death penalty and how many people their god has commanded other people to kill in horrific ways over the centuries.
It’s one of the many areas of ethics that has undergone significant revision since my coming out as an atheist. And right now, it’s this: while life is a rare thing in the universe, we seem to be the only species on earth that is able to manage its own sexual reproduction. Unlike animals, we can choose how, when and if to reproduce. We are under no divine mandate to bring each and every fertilized ovum to full-term.
Now let me stop a moment and point out that I currently have a four-year old roommate (the son of my two married, adult roommates). My younger sister has a one-and-a-half year-old son. Most of my friends have multiple kids. Hell, I have friends who have kids going into kindergarten and first grade. This isn’t a neutral, academic issue for me. My views have palpable, real-life ramifications.
Basically, I don’t believe human life has any purpose other than that which we as humans define it with. A shorthand way of saying this might be: Humans are made, not born.
What I think is happening here is that we’ve confused ‘potential’ for life with the ‘right’ to life. By the Christian definition, every miscarriage should be prosecuted as manslaughter, but functionally, a fetus is neither innocent or guilty. At the moment of conception it’s a conglomeration of mutating cells, and by the time that a pregnancy is detectable, it’s still largely animal—pre-human, void of consciousness. We anthropomorphise that grouping of cells and project intentions and feelings on to it that likely aren’t there. It’s all Instinct.
This may sound like rationalization for abortion, and perhaps it is. But from a logical standpoint, the simplest solution is to terminate a “rape/incest pregnancy” before the situation becomes more complicated than it already is. By any definition, the fetus is not yet “human.” There is no god to bestow automatic personhood, and no one’s rights are being violated. The zygote does not have opinions, and the fact is that we can’t ask it if it would like to live or not. We are under no divine obligation to protect it, especially in cases where the pregnancy was induced by force rather than by the woman’s choice.
The only person whose rights are being violated is the woman who is being forced to carry the fetus (a parasite by any definition) that she never asked for to full term. And, to be sure, this is a huge decision for the woman. Santorum claims that a rape victim just needs the support and care of her community. But no one can take on the radical physiological changes that take place during pregnancy—not to speak of the wild hormonal changes—or the agonies of labor and childbirth for her. She must face these alone. To be realistic, women have faced this reality since the beginning of time, when there was no rape. Males “took” women without impunity, and getting pregnant was just a hazard of being female.
And we know better now.
However sympathetically they couch it, Santorum and those who share his views on this issue fundamentally view women in this barbaric way. Ironically, it’s godless atheists and humanists who have women’s best interests in mind—not theists. The only person who should have a say over what happens to a woman’s body is the woman herself.
It’s funny how different this issue looks outside of the Christian bubble. It’s much more nuanced and shaded out here.
And that’s the point. We can’t just decide these issues for each other. Each case is unequivocally unique. We have to decide together.