Sunday, August 5, 2012

Abortion for eugenics and other reasons

     Recently, I was asked if I thought it was intolerant to believe abortion was wrong, even in the cases of rape, incest, or saving the mother's life.  My answer was that you're intolerant if you force that belief on others, by which I mean legislating your beliefs or intimidating or bullying people into your way of thinking.  You have a right to believe however you want.  However, there are a few things we touched on that bear consideration.

     To get my stance on abortion out of the way: I see abortion as an equality issue.  I've written about the subject before; I used to be emotional about it because I'm adopted, but as I matured, I realized it wasn't about me and my perceived right to exist--it was about women and the right not be an incubator for a life that might kill them, or for the children of men who might have raped them, or  the offspring of relatives who had sexual relations with them, or the babies of guys who may have pressured them into sex and won't stick around.  The pregnancy might be a mistake born of drunken revelry, or it may be that the urge to have sex was strong and the woman didn't think about the possible consequences.  It might be the result of the rare circumstance where birth control didn't work.  It's also about the fact that women who think about the life-long consequences of having an unwanted child get scared.  Scared women might poison themselves, grab a twisted coat hanger, or find some other means to terminate the pregnancies themselves, and allowing that reality to exist again is wrong.  It's about women making private decisions with their doctors about their own health.

   The most we men might be legally obligated to do in regard to an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy is support the child financially.  We don't have to go through the physical changes involved.  We don't have to go through the pain--I'm told the epidural medication helps, but afterwards, there is soreness, hemorrhoids caused by the pushing, possible mental issues, lack of sleep, an inability to work for a time and to find affordable child care when it is time to go back, difficulty finding a job that is flexible with the things that go along with having children...we men don't have to stick around for the non-physical issues women have to deal with when they decide to carry a pregnancy to term.  Be that as it may, so many of my gender want to make it a moral issue about killing babies.  That's what this article is really about.

     What bothers me so much about those who believe that abortion is about murder is not their belief; it's two moral contradictions that usually go along with it.  First, there's the legislation of "sin".  If you believe abortion is murder, that's your belief--it's not necessarily shared by everyone.  Is it your right to stand in judgment of everyone else and force them to refrain from "sinning"?  Is it your right to make it so that scared women endanger their own lives by terminating pregnancies by homemade methods?  I think legislating morality is, in itself, immoral; forcing people to live according to your beliefs speaks of arrogance and totalitarianism, not of moral conviction.  I had a friend say recently, "You can't legislate morality," and I agree with him.

    The second moral contradiction, quite frankly, is the one that infuriates me the most.  Most people who want to legislate away the right to safe and legal abortion also have no desire to pay for the results of unwanted pregnancy, even if that unwanted pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or saving the mother's life. Most never talk about the difficulties of keeping a child when you're not financially stable and too young to have begun a career.  Most don't want to talk about helping with child care.  Most don't want to provide health care--and there can be dire financial consequences when a pregnancy has complications when the mother has no health insurance.

     There is a third moral question I want to bring up, and this part will explain the title of this article.  The person who asked me if I thought he was intolerant brought up his child with Down Syndrome, and said people were having abortions to avoid the potential of having a special needs child.  I have a special needs child myself, so I can relate to the emotion involved.  I wouldn't trade my daughter for anything, but there are some considerations we need to take here.  Children with special needs require special care.  Not all day cares will take children with special needs, and my child's autism comes with behavior issues that make it especially difficult to find adequate child care.  She can't mainstream in school for the same reason, even though she keeps up academically.  Now, if I had known my child was going to have autism, would I have tried to persuade my wife (now ex) to have an abortion?  No, probably not.  However, it would certainly have allowed me to prepare some more for all of the therapy my child needs, especially the financial resources.

    I am fortunate enough to have a job that provides benefits.  Even so, the co-pays add up quickly.  Child care is still extremely difficult to find, and since my child stays with me, I understand the difficulties of being a single parent.  People who are qualified to take care of children with autism have services that are cost-prohibitive.  Now, I understand that if I made less than half the salary I make now, I could get services through Medicaid.  Whether those services are totally adequate, I don't know.  What I do know is that those who are above that income level where they can receive services and below mine will have a really difficult time finding adequate help for their special needs children, and those without benefits will find it cost-prohibitive to do so (I find it cost-prohibitive, and I only have to pay co-pays!).

    So now...knowing the difficulties that go along with having special needs children, what does it say about people who think it's morally wrong for a woman who knows her child will have special needs to get an abortion and also is unwilling to fund the services necessary to help that mother and her child with therapy and child care costs?  If you're willing to legislate away the right of women to a safe and legal abortion, then be willing to fund the services for women who have children with needs they did not plan for--even if the pregnancy was wanted.  My wife and I planned our child.   We did not plan on her having special needs.  We didn't even know for the first couple years.  In any case, I don't have a desire to legislate away the choice of women to have an abortion, whatever the reason.  Do I think some instances may be immoral?  Sure.  I think if  you want to terminate a pregnancy because the resulting child will have brown eyes instead of blue, or black hair instead of red, or some other such reason, you're probably not the kind of person I'd want to be around.  Will I legislate access to abortion away because I feel this way?  No.  And special's hard to look at my daughter and say it's okay to abort a child if you know the child will have special needs...but any choice regarding pregnancy, especially one with unplanned consequences, is difficult.  I think it's better to carry the child to term and give him or her up for adoption if you find out the child you're expecting is going to have special needs, and you can't handle the costs and stress involved, but again, I am not going to make that choice for women--especially when the people who want to take that choice away would rather not provide assistance for the mothers who have those children.

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