Friday, June 24, 2011

Sarah Response

I will answer you point by point, for the most part. I just did a word count on this and it's almost 2000 words, so hang in there. I have to split it into two; Facebook told me it was too long.

Your four differences are as follows: size, development level, environment, and degree of dependency.

Size: You said the fact that a newborn baby that weighs about 8 pounds and a fetus or embryo can weigh nearly nothing shouldn't make a difference, and that men being bigger than women shouldn't make a difference either.

What makes the difference in the baby is a brain and a heart and lungs and bones and all the things that make you essentially human (and heavier. Brains are a pretty substantial human element). An embryo doesn't have any of those characteristics.

And your comment on men vs. women - I'll keep it short, because I could talk to you about this for days and it is almost a different issue (not quite!), but men DO have more rights than women. Not that that's a good thing, but it's been true as long as there have been patriarchal societies. Women still make less per dollar than men. Women are still denied job opportunities and raises because they are women (look up what's going on with Wal-Mart right now). Women have to worry about verbal and sexual harassment, both in public and at the workplace - if you think this is no longer a reality, I can tell you that it's happened to me. Women are still taught to guard themselves against rape. And this is just in the United States. It's a lot worse in most other places around the globe. Men have more power than women, world-wide (not that they should), and size does have something to do with it.

Level of development: First of all, the level of intellectual maturity is not a bell curve. Once you hit peak intellectual/physical maturity in your 20s, you pretty much level off. You may droop just a little, but mostly you stay constant. The only time at which an 80 year old performs at the same level as a 2 year old is the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

And 20-year-olds DO have more rights than a 15-year-old or a 5-year-old or a 2-year-old, and rightly so! They can drive and drink and smoke and consent to sex and vote and sign their name to things and buy houses and rent cars and serve in the military and have way, way more rights than a child does. Technically, at present, you have more rights than I do, because I'm 17 still. And if you want to make the point that 80-year-olds have fewer rights - not in so many words, but there are many families in which the children take the car keys from their parents when they become elderly, and the elderly often go to live at places where they're taken care of, or need to otherwise be taken care of - there does come a point where their freedom becomes limited. Not that I'm advocating for that, but there is a modicum of truth to it.

Also, when I think of what a "person" is, I think that it has five senses (though sometimes less), a brain, heart, lungs, bones, colon, and pancreas, breathes air, has an ability to process memory, makes decisions, and reasons (among other things, but my schema would make one very long page of qualities). A baby has most, if not all of these things. An 18-year-old has all of these things. Every living person of every race and creed and whatever else has these things. (They might not always be good decision makers, and they might not reason very well, and they may be missing one or more of their senses, but they generally have the rest of these qualities.)

Embryos and early-stage fetuses do not.

All this to say -- the level of development is very relevant.

Environment: When you are walking into and out of a building, you are not making any difference to the life of another person (unless you're hitting them with the door, obviously, or someone is holding the door open for you). You are an autonomous individual. Pretty much you can go wherever you want. When a baby is in the birth canal, they are not autonomous. They feed off the mother. She makes a lot of incredible sacrifices to her child - giving up her body, giving up her job, giving up alcohol and coffee, giving up going out on weekends, giving up thousands of dollars to put towards its care, giving up personal comfort, giving up all the clothes that she is currently able to wear, and occasionally giving up her health or her life. When you walk into and out of a building, you are not putting that kind of immense burden on a person, unless the doorlady is birthing you across the threshold. And even then, you're probably not walking.

Degree of dependency: This is not part of the pro-choice argument, usually, except for the argument I made earlier - a woman has to undergo an incredible amount of sacrifice to have a child - an amount of sacrifice that you, being male, will never understand. This is not a slight against you at all, it's just me saying honestly: you will never understand the physical consequences of childbirth, because you can't. Sometimes it's a sacrifice that a woman just cannot handle, physically, mentally, or economically. Generally a pacemaker doesn't suffer through helping a person with a heart defect, unless somebody's forgotten to put batteries in it.

You put the Planned Parenthood debate this way:

"If the unborn are human beings, then they are entitled to the same right to life enjoyed by born human beings. If this is the case, then Planned Parenthood is a mass murderer and should definitely not be supported by taxpayers, regardless of how many other services they may provide."

First of all, tax-payers don't provide the funding for abortions at Planned Parenthood. At all. Not a penny.

Second of all, most of your taxes DO go to support the mass murder of innocent people: they go to the United States defense budget.

Wait, you might argue, doesn't the defense budget keep us safe? Isn't that important?

It does, and it is! Like your argument against Planned Parenthood, even if 97% of what a company or group does is good and helps the people (keeps us safe, even!), it shouldn't matter if a small percentage of what they do causes "assassinations." But your taxes go to this every day. If you want to make sure that none of your taxes go to the ending of one innocent life...don't pay your taxes. (Please pay your taxes. I would rather not see you in prison.)

It is incredibly hypocritical, then, for a pro-life person to argue against abortions while simultaneously supporting military action in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Over 100 thousand innocent people have been killed by US troops in the past 10 years, people with families and memories and the capability to think and feel and reason and suffer and grieve. I don't know what your stance on the war is, but until pro-life protesters oppose the war as vehemently as they oppose abortion, I will have doubts in their firm belief in the sanctity of life.
Next point - yes, an embryo does have most of the "ingredients" to be a person. It has DNA. It still needs nutrients and time to become viable. You say that it is impossible to say that a viable fetus is more human than a conceived embryo (clearly it is possible, because that's what I'm saying). But that's like saying that an acorn is no less an oak tree than an oak tree. There are fundamental differences between the acorn and the tree that would make you sad to see a tree cut down but not even phased to turn the acorn into an elementary school craft project, even though the acorn has all the ingredients it needs to be a tree, besides nutrients and time. I'm not saying that people and trees deserve the same respect (though trees deserve a little more than they've been getting, since they keep us alive), but the concept is similar. If not for the mother, and what she gives to the embryo to make it a fetus, there is no child.

The comparison you draw between abortion and bank robbery is completely unfair. Abortion is not about power or inciting fear. Abortion is not done out of malice. Abortion is not done out of pride or monetary greed. Bank robberies never happen because the perpetrator has been raped, or because the perpetrator is dying and couldn't live another hour without robbing a bank. The difference between having a safe abortion and feeling like you have no other option besides throwing yourself down the stairs is the difference between keeping a woman alive and healthy and her potential death. If you're so concerned about keeping people alive because life is important and sacred, this should hold for people of any age or circumstance, including women who feel like they have no other option.

The other equivalency you draw, between abortion and slavery, is inaccurate. Like a bank robbery, abortion is not about power or greed, and unlike slavery, it's not about racism. Abortion is not about forcing people to live lives they don't want (in fact, it's usually the opposite). Abortion is not laden with the implications of thousands of years of race-based violent crime and cruelty and fear. In fact, to make this comparison is insensitive in that it minimizes the truth of what slavery did to the US and what slavery is still doing in other places in the world.

And about your last paragraph - you state that abortion is a question of morality. It makes me wonder if you believe that I -- and many other people who are pro-choice -- am immoral. It's almost an accusatory statement, and certainly a blast to someone's character, to tell them that they're not a good person (since generally, that's what morality implies). It's possible for us to disagree on this issue and still both be good people. Moreover, it's possible to be an anti-abortion person (or a pro-choice person!) and be a huge tool. Being on one side of this issue or another does not determine your morality.

And I agree - it's been cathartic for me to be able to take this time to write out my beliefs in this way, and to be able to share them with you. It's also been good for me to see where you're coming from, so I appreciate you taking the time (by the time this is over, I will have written you a novel and a half) to read. My mom thinks that we should post this back and forth on a blog somewhere - what do you think about that?



  1. Sarah, I am also a seventeen year old woman, yet I am adamantly against abortion. Firstly, I believe as Joe does: that abstinence is the way to go and that abortion is murder. If a young woman decides to have intercourse, naturally, she should be ready to accept the consequences. I cannot comprehend how it would ever be acceptable to kill another to right the mistakes one has made. The child should not suffer for the mother and father's errors. Now, I believe that you have posed the question, "What about rape?" Well, these cases are extremely rare; I believe less than one percent of abortions are rapes. Rape is an awful, horrible violation of a woman's body, but speaking as woman, murder is not the answer. You may think that I am an extreme Republican for this statement, but I am a vegetarian opposing the death penalty, and in many ways, Democratic. Where I do not agree with liberal doctrine is in the disturbingly commonplace abortion issue. Killing innocents can never be justified, and I intend to become a lawyer to ensure that it will never be justified again. Oh, by the way, the woman who set up Planned Parenthood was a crazy, psycho racist who set up the organization to rid the world of diversity-look it up. Also, the woman for abortion in the landmark case Roe v. Wade later felt remorse for her participation and became a strong pro-life supporter and Catholic! She has truly seen the light! I am proud to call myself pro-life, for I do not harm animals (my vegetarianism), criminals (very much against the death penalty), and most importantly, innocent humans (gotta love babies!).

  2. Allison - do you think a young man has to suffer the same consequences for the same premarital sex? It really saddens me to see another teenage girl saying "well, if she didn't want the consequences, she shouldn't have done it." You're putting all the blame on your peers! Women are shamed for having premarital sex - they get called sluts, they get called whores, their reputations are often damaged. They can also get pregnant - the onus is almost entirely on the young woman in this situation. Do you see how this is problematic?

    I am also a vegetarian opposing the death penalty. I think there's a fundamental difference between a being that can feel and a cluster of cells that can't. Out of curiosity, do you side with the Republicans because of this one issue?

    And I never said I consider Margaret Sanger to be a personal hero, so I don't know where you and Joe seem to be getting that. I appreciate Planned Parenthood for what it does now.

  3. You know what, Sarah? I didn't say that men were to be exalted for getting a woman pregnant. It really saddens ME to see another teenage girl saying, "Well, if two people created a baby, it is a girl's right to kill that child." Clearly you have not read my comment in depth, for I state that a child should not have to suffer for the parent's mistakes, not just the woman's. I think you are very mistaken as to why to oppose the death penalty; I am way more pro-life than anti-death penalty. This is why: innocent children (who by the way, should never, ever be referred to as "a cluster of cells") versus mass murderers? Obviously, I care more for the kids. Yeah, there's a fundamental difference between the two, and the difference is that one has committed murder (or some other atrocity) and one could be murdered. Let me clarify one last thing, so you can completely comprehend my stance on this. Young women who are pregnant and decide to keep their child should be treated with love and respect for their hard decision. Young women who decide to abort their child should be counseled, for statistics show that 9 out of 10 women regret their abortions. Killing never should be an option.