Saturday, September 13, 2003

A Beautiful Mass Of Fetal Tissue Picture

Anyone who can look at this picture and not be moved should have their pulse checked or their brain studied. This is the latest improvement in ultrasound fetal scanning. It can show babies as young as eight weeks moving and reacting in the womb. You can read more details here.

What does this mean? Well, for starters, it's hard to call this baby a "mass of fetal tissue." It is recognisably human and it reacts to stimulae both internal and external. The US mass media will probably handle this with kid gloves, to avoid helping the pro-life movement, if it even gets much coverage at all. The pro-lifers, in turn, will trumpet this from the rooftops. Most of the rest of us will just stare in awe and wonder.

Oliver Kamm had a great post on the way that abortion was radicalised by the way it was handled thirty years ago. He notes that:
In 1973, in Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that there was a constitutional right to an abortion, and thereby ensured that a workable political settlement could not be reached.

I am a supporter of permissive abortion legislation, with the emphasis on legislation. By circumventing the political argument altogether, the Court ensured that the passionately-held views on the other side had no legislative outlet. This has proved disastrous. If the Supreme Court had kept out of it, then the abortion issue could have been settled state-by-state in exactly the way that it has, for all practical purposes, been resolved in Europe.

There is a strongly-held minority view here that abortion is morally wrong and should be severely restricted. That view has ample opportunity to gain support in the political parties and the national legislatures. It always remains a minority view, however, because of the great swathe of public opinion that considers availability of abortion as a necessary recourse in ensuring the stability and happiness of family life, and regards the moral implications as a matter for private decision – and indeed that sometimes moral considerations dictate that abortion is the right course.
I think he's nailed it on the head here. Just look at the aftermath of the 2002 Presidential Supreme Court ruling. Same thing, on a different scale; the battle goes on.

There is also the problem that the polar opposites control the debate. Either you are for abortion in all circumstances, or against it in all circumstances. There is no middle ground. That's wrong. Poll after poll shows that Americans want abortion to be available, but restricted; that there are dreadful times when the decision must be made to end a pregnancy. But in the current social climate abortion has become the means to handling a problem resulting from earlier problems not addressed. Roughly 90+% of all abortions are made for convenience, to end the "accidental" pregnancy that happened to a sexually active person. Thanks to the ruinous Sexual Revolution we have gone from fearing the consequences of sexual behavior to viewing them -- all of them, disease, injury, children, family disruption, career disruption, emotional damge -- as nuisances to be "handled." Abortion is untouchable, but everything surrounding it must be changed to accomodate its ease of use, its quick fix to a welter of causes still extant.

There is a different ground I think is better. We view pregnancy as a special case of individuality, since there are two (or more) individuals linked here. The State presumes for the life of the weakest party to act in its behalf, while simultaneously recognising a limited right of autonomy to the mother, in this condition. Therefore, a woman does have the right to control herself and have an abortion, but the State has the right to make sure it is not frivolous, if that's the right word.

Presently, many of the feminist Left view any intrusion by government as the thin wedge of ending abortion, period. They will understandably fight this, as they already do. The prolifers (which I do not consider myself to be, so much as anti-abortion) will work to use the momentum of change to end all abortion. This must be fought, too.

It goes back to the licentiousness of the Sexual Revolution. Sex was divorced from procreation. Instead of men picking up some of the healthy fear of pregnancy that women used to have, women developed the libidinous non-consequentiality of men while remaining stuck with the consequences anyway. We live in that world today, with more than a million abortions a year; with families travelling to China, Korea and Eastern Europe to find babies to adopt; with sexuality injected almost everywhere; with children being sexualised.

Fear is not a bad thing. It keeps you from eating strange, poisonous foods. It keeps you from sticking your finger into the electrical socket, just to see. It used to keep you from going too far with that strange woman or man. Fear, like it or not, brought some measure of responsibility. Having removed the fear, we never found alternate means of teaching meaningful responsility.

Note that my opinions expressed here are still works in progress. I don't think I've quite nailed the political landscape I envision. So I reserve the right to modify it in the future.

Sadly, this may all be moot anyway in very short order. It won't be many more decades before we develop artificial wombs so that no women need carry her pregnancy to term if she chooses not to. In our capitalistic, libidinous, self-driven, worry-free culture, we'll see strange permutations. We can currently contract out our child-raising, and look at the effects it has both on the attitudes of parents who look to others to raise children and to the children who are forced to view attachment to one set of adults as counterproductive to emotional health in a flexible environment. Sever the last meaningful link in those lives and we are adrift on bizarre, unchartable seas of individualism with no boundaries in sight

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