An Anti-Abortion Meme & My Reply
A friend posted this meme, as an expression of his anti-abortion convictions. I respect his views, but don’t share them, and am not persuaded by this poster. Here’s why:
1. A zygote is formed at conception, usually (but not always) with complete DNA. Yes, it’s “alive,” but has from the start about a one-third chance of implanting and surviving for more than a day or two.
The majority of fertilized “living” zygotes is aborted, i.e., killed, ruthlessly by “Mother” Nature, but unintentionally by the women carrying them. In my moral calculations, the zygote is mostly like a set of architectural plans for a house. A specific house; but not yet a house.
2. The line of “viability” (as my non-lawyer’s mind grasps it) was only provisionally drawn by Roe. It does not surprise or dismay me that science has pushed it back a bit since 1973.
Yet there’s still a line, even if in individual situations it may be blurry or wavering.
My bias is toward preserving life in tough cases, but parents & docs will continue to be called on to make tough, responsible existential calls.
Life (& death) is like that, and there is no guarantee that those involved will be exempted from wondering “What if?” even after they’ve all done their best.
And 3. Notwithstanding my bias toward preserving life, I am clear that legal bans on abortion are bad & counterproductive public policy, in much the same way that Prohibition was the wrong answer to the “right” question of alcohol abuse (a question still very much with us, and still essentially unanswered).
Most Americans today have very little notion of just how disastrously deep and lasting was the social damage done by Prohibition. A useful summary of twelve major adverse effects of the “experiment” are given here. They include the creation of organized crime, permanent corruption of much law enforcement and politics, and far more. A key quote:
Prohibition was a massively failed attempt at legislating morality. The government’s role is to protect citizens and their property — not legislate what people are allowed to do for recreation, who they can love, or what kind of sex they can have.
We spend billions of dollars a year on “the war on drugs” and have only defeat to show for it. Meanwhile, the police and courts are tied up with people whose only crime was enjoying or selling a recreational drug.
4. I see the expression in the original meme image as one of chagrin at the realization that the black-and-white frameworks & “answers” to these questions don’t fit actual life.
I not only recognize it. I remember when I first saw that expression: in my mirror.
PS. If readers want more on this loaded topic, here’s a lengthy essay I wrote in another century — 1988 — which described in much more detail the evolution of my thinking on this matter. It’s called “Abortion and Civil War,” and while much has changed in the intervening 25-plus years, I pretty much stand by the arguments offered there.