Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Beyond Choice?!?!??!!?

Yesterday, I was reading my most recent issue (Nov. 2004) of Science & Theology News, which was for the most part, somewhat blah. Then I ran across a review in the Bookends section. James C. Peterson reviewed the book by Alexander Sanger, Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century. The review begins:

‘We got over our shame with birth control. It is time we did so with abortion,’ closes Beyond Choice by Alexander Sanger. As the grandson of birth control activist Margaret Sanger and chairman of the International Planned Parenthood Council, Sanger advocates seeing abortion as another form of birth control. Since contraception is accepted without stigma in most circles, he thinks abortion should be as well. Both are reproductive options that Sanger believes are moral and even essential to human survival.

This appeal to human survival is Sanger’s central argument for the morality and necessity of abortion. He is convinced that the key for the protection of abortion rights is to shift public perception from abortion as anti-life to abortion as a tool for shaping humanity….

Imagine… abortion as a tool for shaping humanity. Further in the article Peterson writes, “Sanger argues that abortion offers the best cost-benefit ratio for society, the pregnant woman and possibly her partner.” So the shaping that occurs is one that is mostly a cost-benefit analysis of whether or not the pregnancy “hurts or helps the reproductive strategies that the man and woman are pursuing.” Of course what are the benefits? Are children simply one more item on a list of goods on the market for us to decide whether or not we consume them? What kind of shaping is happening when a pregnancy is given the thumbs-up or down on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis. Surely, this approach would shape humanity, but in the process of shaping, we can either improve the product or malform it.

The problems here are many. Sanger tries to place the decision in the context of helping humanity survive. But at the center is still the couple, and maybe only the woman, deciding if this pregnancy meets her needs. This rationale is not meant to advance or help anyone but the couple decide if they should keep the child or not.

Rather than turn to abortion to shape humanity, how about turning to other practices like equal pay for women in the workplace? Affordable childcare? More than a token six or twelve week maternity leave? Like parenthood, it would seem that these are all practices that could, if done correctly, be self-sacrificing, rather than self-exalting. The well-being of the other is placed at the center of the decision, and not the well-being of the individual.

Throughout it all, Sanger seems to abandon the notion of the dignity inherent in all human beings. Reducing the decision to keep or terminate a pregnancy to the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, which is most likely motivated by emotive reasoning, fails to see the life of the child as human.

This rationale will certainly shape humanity… into an even more twisted and malformed version of what it has already become.

Grace and Peace.


Anonymous said...

Okay, to agree with the abortion should be a cost-analysis decision would be absurd, on the face. For the women I know who have had an abortion, that decision was never made without some soul searching. To boil that decision down to simply whether that is cost-effective right now is to trivialize the seriousness of this choice. However, whether one wants to trivialize it or not, finances, and future finances, will play a disproportianite role in that choice, and I think that it would take much, much more than what Brian offers here to make abortion a poor financial choice. First, the financial burden on the woman lies not just in the birthing but in the time a child takes. If a woman is a career-minded woman, a child will more than likely prevent her further advancement. If she is working for the minimum-wage, even if she were to get affordable childcare, would she still be able to raise a child? Secondly, these examples are only true in developed countries. What about poorer nations where there are no safety nets? The financial burden of a child, or one more child, could break a family. So, I think dismissing the abortion-finance relationship is a mistake because it is clearly a major factor in the decision to bring a pregnancy to full term. It is also clear to me that it would take a massive shift of public resources to remove the financial-burden issue out of the abortion issue.

Phillip said...

I still think Sanger's comment, "abortion as a tool for shaping humanity" ranks as one of the most disturbing comments I think I've ever heard.

How about LOVE as a tool for shaping humanity?

How about selfless behavior as a tool for shaping humanity?

I'm just speechless (typeless) at the thought that anyone could think abortion is a way to shape or form human destiny on earth. Such an attitude may at some level be cast in the light of caring for "the least of these," but I think it ultimately stems from the most uncaring, self-centered view of humanity I can imagine.

Pulling off the idea that abortion could shape humanity (and for the better, I assume he'd say) is just as ludicrous as the idea that nothing but abstinence education will prevent people from needing abortions in the first place.

Brian said...


I offered only several thoughts off the top of my head, and I think they would all be helpful in shaping us as a "culture of life." (John Paul II's language, not mine, but I find it very helpful)

What I was arguing about is Sanger's advocacy of abortion as birth control. He believes it will shape humanity for the better. When the weak and powerless are abandoned because of financial considerations, or even career considerations, society can only be malformed. To be honest, I don't think either political party here in the U.S. is truly pro-life. Neither of them see the big picture.

I don't try to dismiss the financial aspect of a child. I think as a society we don't have good practices in place that will help us get rid of the false choices presented to us. For instance, it is a false choice being presented when a child is abandoned in favor of a career... ok, it should be a false choice. What we need are ways that children do not hinder advancement in a career. To say that and then make women feel as if they have to choose between life and advancement, is inherently sexist. It is one more lie set forth by society that keeps women down.

Instead, our roles as Christians should be more about shaping our responses to these that break stranglehold, and free us from the oppression of lies that we fed. Instead of cooperating with the lies, work against them in ways that might not seem to work. Women who feel that they cannot keep their children, should be given options that help them put their children up for adoption. Truly pro-life families should see it as their duty and obligation to adopt and raise these children.

The fact that someone(Sanger) can claim abortion is not shameful, is a lie. The woman who undergoes the abortion does not carry the burden of the shame, rather society does, for not providing the nurture and support in the first. It is therefore the duty of the Church to step in and reshape the thinking about that.