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Friday, July 6, 2012

"Gnawing at my belly, chewing through my organs."

I've previously mentioned how most abortion advocates discuss the fetus in impersonal terms ("product of conception") while some go further and describe the fetus as an antagonist ("parasite").

I've had a few (albeit not many) people object to these suggestions, insisting that pro-choicers do understand the humanity of the fetus.  Some pro-choicers insist all women "know" "abortion kills an unborn child."

It blows my mind that a woman who fully believes abortion "kills an unborn child" would still choose abortion.  It makes more sense to me that a woman would choose abortion because she believes something like this:
I tried to imagine a living thing implanting itself inside of me and growing there, feeding off my energy. It was unreal. It was nine weeks old. I pictured the little alien form attaching itself to my uterine wall, cleaving to my insides. I touched my stomach and almost convinced myself I felt it gnawing at my belly, chewing through my organs; climbing up my esophagus to get a breath of fresh air. Pushing my uvula aside with its tiny red hand and sliding down my tongue like a Slip ‘N Slide. 
How creepy.  Maybe if I thought of a human fetus as a cannibalistic alien about to crawl out of my mouth, I'd be pro-choice too.

Shortly after, the author goes on to describe her 9-week-old fetus as an "expanding cluster of cells."  According to the Endowment for Human Development:
By 9 weeks thumb sucking2 begins and the fetus may swallow amniotic fluid.3 The fetus can also grasp an object,4 move the head forward and back, open and close the jaw, move the tongue, sigh,5 and stretch.6
The fetus shown in this bumper sticker is 6 weeks old:

Pictured: cannibalistic alien.
I'd like to believe that if the author knew more about her fetus's level of development, she would have made a different choice.  I'd like to believe that if we can make fetal development more common knowledge, we can reduce abortions.  Maybe in many cases that would be true, but it seems unlikely in this case.  The author related a conversation between her and her mom before her abortion:
“You’re really not going to change your mind?”
“Mom, I can’t. I’m 19. I’m in school.”
“I was in school too.”
“But I’m not ready.”
“You were ready to do it, weren’t you? Don’t you realize that baby has a beating heart?”
“…Maybe. But so do I.”
I'd also like to believe that if we supported better sex education and access to contraceptives, less women would be seeking abortions.  Maybe in many cases that would be true too, but it seems unlikely in this case.  As the author points out,
I remembered how earnestly, stupidly, I had insisted we use a condom each time. Like it made any goddamn difference.
Knowledge of fetal development and use of contraceptives didn't prevent this abortion.  I wonder if making it illegal would have.

9 comments:

Dolce said...

Well, getting rid of the idea that unborn babies are "cannibalistic" is pretty easy. Kids need to learn at a young age what being pregnant is, what the baby in the tummy is, how it grows, etc, that way the idea of having a person growing inside of someone isn't such a strange idea. I learned about fetal development and pregnancy in grade 1 at school, but I have a tonne of friends who in, high school, knew nothing about pregnancy and basically thought like the girl from the article.

Then I would say that we should encourage kids and teenagers to volunteer at daycares, babysitting services, and activities aimed at very young children (preferably newborns); that way they'd get experience with little kids and could interact with pregnant mums.

I would hope both those things would encourage people to see pregnancy as something natural and beautiful that involves another human life, not something that is "gnawing at your insides".

Pain is in the Ain is said...

Technically we're all blobs of cells so vote Republican.

LifeChoices said...

Better sex education and better access to contraceptives does help. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/opinion/birth-control-and-teenage-pregnancy.html

Honestly, condoms just aren't the most effective form of birth control (especially when user error is factored in). Good sex ed would've had her & her partner using condoms in addition to her using the Pill, or would've had her using an IUD or an implant.

Also, describing the fetus as an invader, and alien to her body, is not incompatible with understanding biology. As her conversation with her mother shows, she's been told that this is a "baby" with a "beating heart." That doesn't mean that she's wrong, that it's not also an invader.

The only other example I can give (other than science fiction) of a sentient being, a person, violating my bodily integrity is rape. When you're being raped, it doesn't that the other person is human, too. I would call it justifiable to kill to save yourself from rape. Of course it's easier to kill if you picture your rapist as inhuman--it's easier to defend yourself from any invader if you can imagine that they're not human. But that doesn't mean that inhumanity is necessary to justify killing in defense of yourself.

And knowing that your invader is innocent of intent doesn't excuse the invasion. No one has the right to make use of your body without your consent, whether they are using it for sex or for shelter or for food.

Anonymous said...

To compare an innocent unborn baby to a rapist is disgusting and abhorrent. Pregnancy is not a perversion of one's right, and an innocent unborn child should never be looked at in the same moral terms as a criminal with its own agency.

Like it or not, pregnancy is a completely natural consequence of sexual activity. I know a lot of pro-choicers have problems with the fact that babies can occasionally result from sex and feel that the entire concept of reproduction is a violation of the way they wish that things would be, but the truth is that this is the way that nature works. To treat the unwanted result as a perversion of the natural order that should never be allowed to exist is what's really abhorrent here.

If one really thinks that unborn babies and the process that generates them (pregnancy) belongs on the same moral status as a rapist, I don't think there's really anything we can do to stop it, other than encourage them to use birth control correctly and sterilize themselves as soon as possible if they think that pregnancy is such an outrageous disruption of the natural order. One could try to educate them that pregnancy and babies are completely natural and are not scary criminals, but I doubt that would work in this case. One can't fight such a hostile belief system that immediately rejects anything that disrupts their desires as a grave threat that needs to be expunged with malice.

Anonymous said...

It's not a moral judgment. It's a point about the violation of rights. If it helps you understand the point better, consider that a badly retarded person is committing the violation--someone you could not reasonably hold accountable for their actions. That person would still be violating someone else, even though technically they'd be innocent in the sense that they aren't trying to be malicious and don't realize they're harming anyone. Intent is irrelevant. It's the conflict of rights that has to be acknowledged. The woman has to consent to endure a nearly year-long medical condition that is not without risk. She can't be legally compelled. The author of the article promotes the idea of better education about fetal development. I have no objections to that. In fact, I think abortion should be considered with all the most accurate information available. Educating people and allowing them to make informed choices is far better than legislating that you have to allow your body to be violated--even by a person who may not be intending you harm.

Anonymous said...

How can an unborn child, not there be his/her own volition, be considered as a person causing harm? He/she is there due to the parents actions (sexual activity). Until people step up and take responsibility for their actions, this horrific massacre of the innocent will continue.

Anonymous said...

Also, women need to be punished for breaking the rules.

Anonymous said...

Yes, because pregnancy and childbirth are a basket of rainbows and kitties. No one EVER dies or has serious health complications from pregnancy and childbirth. And no one ever has tokophobia or a physical condition where carrying a child to term would kill them. And everyone loves children and will totally want babies when they are their owwwwwnnnnnn.

Bull. Fucking. Shit. You want to punish women for taking control of their sexuality. Fuck you.

Nulono said...

You're still talking about pregnancy as if it's somehow an act of the fetus. It's not. Pregnancy is initiated by the mother and father, and the fetus is just sort of along for the ride.

We're not talking about someone who isn't responsible for their actions; we're talking about someone who had absolutely no say in the matter whatsoever.