2006/06/29

A Question of Violence

A Question of Violence.

This is an article that I have been mulling over since the “offended” post.

The issue of abortion should not be debated in terms of “rights”, but in terms of violence, and in particular, the level of violence we are prepared to abide within the framework of our civilized societies.

Abortion has been present in organized civilizations for as long as societies have provided compelling reasons for a pregnancy to be unwanted. The reasons vary form one society to the next, and indeed form one person to the next, but they are compelling, or there would be no call for the service.

Many folk traditions have herbal concoctions that will terminate a pregnancy. These are not the quaint folk traditions that tourists travel the world to see; these are the traditions that were rarely discussed in polite company, and never made into a spectacle… and neither should they be. If there were no compelling reason to seek termination, this lore would not exist.

So, abortion has been with us for a long time. In our modern days of clinical and surgical medicine, we feel confident in surgical procedures where we may be less inclined to know about, or seek out, ancient folklore. Unfortunately, when a surgical procedure is illegal, the risks posed to the patient increase dramatically, risks including disease, sterility, or even death.

The gravity of the decision to terminate directly implies that the consequences of not doing so are graver than the removal of the spark of life from a developing child.

I’m not going to attempt to argue the morality of that decision.

Regardless of what I think of the decision to terminate in esoteric, moral, or religious terms, the fact remains that people weigh up their options and take the decision to terminate daily. And these people have always existed within civilized society.

People will take that decision whether it is legal or not.

I remember one of my schoolmates left town for a few weeks to have an abortion. She was pregnant to one of my other schoolmates. Broken condom. I was 16 at the time, and so were they. They were both nice kids, they never seemed to be the same after that. It was kept very quiet because it was still illegal back then. Rumour was, the abortion made her sterile. I remember talking with my classmate (the guy) about that possibility before the event. I know it haunted him for years afterwards. I don’t think she ever got over it. I’m not sure that she could have.

So, abortion laws and protests do not stop the act. They never have. The fact that illegal abortions are unsafe, high risk, enormously traumatic experiences doesn’t deter people from seeking them out.

Rights issues are entirely eclipsed by the facts.

The facts remain despite the arguments about the rights of unborn children, and the rights for women to decide what happens to them.

Women do abort, whether they have the right to or not. Whatever rights an unborn child may or may not have, these are terminated daily.

To solve the problem of abortion, one must first create a society in which every child, and every pregnancy, is welcome. Our society is far too violent for that to be the case any time soon.

We are far too concerned with making pronouncements on how other folks should live their lives to welcome every child born into our world. In many cases, we remain judgemental about those who have children out of wedlock, and for reasons I have never understood, blame the child for its situation.

We have yet to devise a mechanism to effectively support parents in the most important job they have- raising our children. Other countries are making inroads in this direction, the US is still sadly lacking.

There should be no question in anybody’s mind that abortion is an act of violence. It is. Irrevocable harm is done to healthy human tissue. Patients know it, practitioners know it, and even protestors know it.

The question is not one of rights, then, but one of control. How do we minimize the societal impact of an act of violence that will continue whether we condone it or not?


To make abortion illegal is to add significantly to the dangers inherent with surgical procedures. It puts our women of childbearing age at greater risk than legalization does. Those who survive an illegal abortion and are not sterile may well be marred for life by the trauma of an event for which they were not mentally and emotionally prepared.

It is my opinion that, as a society, we do better if those who find themselves weighing up the issue have a means for making this onerous choice with appropriate counselling, and in a facility that puts them at less risk of injury, sterility or death.

Less violence is done to our women as a society by allowing abortion than by banning it. It is a sad paradox, but there it is.

In my estimation, the violent people who display images of a dismembered foetus do a far greater violence in our society than those practitioners whose presence they protest.

The placard holders assault our entire community and desensitise our children to gruesome dismemberment. The ramifications of this act are profound. I don’t want to live in a community that is not disturbed by such images.

The practitioner is providing a discreet service, complete with counselling and support, for those members of our society who have weighed the gravity of their situation and find themselves without a viable compassionate alternative.

It is better that we face abortion and minimize the damage that it does in our society, than to hide from it and pretend it won’t happen because we told people not to do it.

The prohibitionist approach didn’t work for Moses and hasn’t worked any time since that I can tell.

No, our society is nowhere near compassionate enough to welcome every pregnancy. Our society is, sadly, not ready to dispense with abortion.

Take Care

Rod

3 comments:

maryd said...

I agree, and while nobody likes or wants to experience abortion, we could as a community, prevent more of them by making the morningafter pill more available and provide accurate and timely reproductive health education information available as well.

Rod said...

Anything that reduces the number of abortions in our society has to be a step in the right direction.

I know that there are folks who object to the morning after pill on various grounds, but its herbal equivalents have been with us forever, and it really only puts our women back on a par with their distant ancestors.

I don't mind that some people have religious objections to birth control and reproductive health education, what torques me off is that many of these same people insist on inflicting thier views on the rest of our society.

Rousing a rabble is not difficult if you use enough inflamatory language, and by rousing a rabble, the noisy minority make it difficult for the rest of us.

It happens on both ends of the spectrum on any hot-button issue. The real problem is, that rabble rousing makes good TV, and the voice of moderation goes entirely unheard.

Rod

Kate said...

I agree with everything you say here, Rod. It's a very rational argument. I would like to point out, though, that for most anti-abortionists, the matter is one of religious belief and that isn't a rational subject for those people.

Having talked with more than one anti-abortionist, I'd have to say it's all about control. The control of God and the control they, as God's messengers, feel they should have over society -- in God's name, of course.

Now, as someone who believes God -- in whatever form or by whatever name -- has a hand in things, I am not opposed to that idea, per se. What I do oppose is the idea that God only works within the confines of what these people want to and believe should happen. This belief limits God to the judgmental, narrow views they, themselves, hold.

Another thing I find interesting is how many of these anti-abortion demonstrators are unwilling to adopt one of the children they want to save. I also can't quite get my head around the fact that so many of them favor the death penalty. These two views seem to be contradictions to their anti-abortion stand.

I don't think anyone FAVORS abortion. Even those of us who support a woman's right to choose don't FAVOR this remedy. We just see it as preferable to the illegal alternative, which, as you say, Rod, will continue even if Roe v. Wade is shot down.