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Some Brief Thoughts on Abortion
ABORTION--Americans confront the issue daily; the debate informs our politics, our religious beliefs, our very morality. The word warrants bold-faced capitalization on paper and despair in hearts. But do we understand it? The Oxford English Dictionary online defines abortion as:
noun 1 the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy. 2 the natural expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently. 3 (informal, derogatory) something imperfectly planned or made.
We utilize the first definition almost exclusively. The second definition is a lark; a fetus cannot "survive independently." Nowhere--outside of an uber-libertarian acid trip--can one imagine a newborn, bindle in tow, striking out on its own to find gainful employment and become a self-made infant. The third definition, though a delightful way to insult someone's outfit, is not pertinent to this discussion.
Sticking--for now--with the first definition, we enter into the classic moral debate: When does life begin? Evangelicals believe human life starts a half-hour before conception, while looking at gay porn. Other pro-lifers have a more moderate view that life begins when the fetus more resembles a human child than a creepy chicken-beaked thing or an indiscernible clump of dividing cells.
Whatever your personal view on abortion, we can all agree that as pregnancy enters its final stages, the moral stakes are raised considerably. Pro-choicers can even weep at the thought of a huge-bellied woman terminating her pregnancy at the local drive-thru abortion hut. We have a federal law against so-called late term "partial birth" abortions. But is birth itself an arbitrary delineation? How different is a fetus at twenty-weeks of gestation from a one-week old infant?
It's my contention that there isn't any.
Let us turn to the second definition provided by Oxford. Human babies are extremely vulnerable and underdeveloped. They need incessant care well into their early years. A baby horse, by contrast, is fully capable of running toward food and away from predators the moment it drops to the dirt. Not a full-grown, full-speed horse, but deft enough to make human babies look like crap.
Of course, I'm abusing the second definition. Most would take it to mean the termination of a fetus before it is able to "survive independently" of the mother's body. It may thrive under constant medical attention in an incubator, perhaps. Not truly "independent" but close enough. We will return to these thoughts later.
Why shouldn't a woman's right to choose extend to the sixth or seventh trimester? Does a one-year-old have a better chance of true independent survival than a zygote? Why should the same one-year old possess a more fundamental "right to life" than a fetus in-utero?
For those who think this may be a rhetorical flourish, used to illustrate a pro-life viewpoint, you are mistaken.
Let's face it: fetuses and babies are not real people. They are people in the making, which is why the argument against abortion holds any weight whatsoever. If fetus A is to become a sanctified life in baby B, then A = B, and therefore: A is a sanctified life. This is a sound argument, but it begs the question: What's so great about life?
As a society we don't use biological life as the litmus test of a thing's "sanctity;" cows, chickens, and even potatoes are alive. Of course, we're talking about human life. Then one must ask: what is it about humans that make us so dern special? The answer is self-evident: our minds.
It's important to note that human infants do not have human minds. The deliciously complex brain activity that gives rise to reason, reflection, and memory in adult minds isn't yet hardwired into an infant's gray matter. Babies are not conscious beings. A six-month old child has no more a sense of mental acuity than a chicken or a potato. Babies should be regarded as property. Even Republicans could get behind that.
The minds of babies--or lack thereof--make them into metaphysical riddles. Did YOU exist when you were an infant? Or were YOU still being constructed? You are an agent of rational thought, capable of looking forward and backward in time with your mind. Babies are not rational agents. And YOU did not properly exist until your brain was about three or four years old, roughly the time of your first memories.
Simply put, babies are robots. As they age, their DNA instructs the brain to build the elaborate physical networks prerequisite to what we would call being human, or having a consciously human experience. Before that point, they are not cognizant beings and should be dealt with accordingly.
"Still," you say, "If infant A will become adult human B and adult human B is a clear example of "sanctified" life, then A = B, and therefore: A is sanctified life." This is faulty reasoning.
We simply do not value adult life, as countless atrocities can illustrate. Our society devalues the "sanctity" of life after a certain age--the age of one-second. And after eighteen-years, forget about it.
"Still," you contest. "Even if babies aren't truly human and can be slaughtered at will with no remorse, all this argument does is arbitrarily move up the age of acceptable killing. When do children become ‘fully human' and ‘fully hardwired' for human consciousness? Where does this slippery slope end?" Well, that is the exciting part of this theory: many human brains don't fully develop physically until the later teen years! It gives the phrase "teenage abortion" a whole new twist.
However, teens are capable of independent survival, thus cannot by definition be aborted. A cunning five-year old may also be up to the task. This definition should not be our moral compass on abortion. As we've seen above, the true determinant of a life's "sanctity" is to be found in its human consciousness.
It's not enough to say something is alive and should be kept so. Even before fertilization, an ovum is, strictly speaking, alive. So is a potato. We have no problem when either "dies." What we're concerned about, as always, is human life, which I have defined here as a cognizant agent.
Therefore, a simple solution to the abortion debate is obvious: Ask the fetus, baby, toddler or teen in question whether or not it minds being aborted. Barring the obvious exception of the odd deaf-mute, this task will more than serve its purpose. If they express the desire to continue living, it is immoral to terminate their lives. If the question posed is beyond the offspring's ken, it may be morally aborted, whether in-utero or ex-utero. Surely, if a hitherto unknown species of monkey could answer the same question, we'd be morally obligated not to eat it. The same ethical principle applies.
The very defenselessness of human infants mentioned above is what inspires the impassioned ideology that strives to give voice to those who have none, to stand up for those who cannot. This assumes too much. Who ever said a baby wants to live, or has any opinions whatsoever? They don't.
In summation, babies and fetuses are robotic, inhuman property, the fate of which should be solely determined by its owner or owners. And although this has been but a loose sketch of a new ethics toward ex-uterine abortion, I hope this essay has been comprehensive enough to shift the debate somewhat in favor of killing toddlers.
I fucking hate toddlers.
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