Thursday, July 11, 2013

"The Miracle of Abortion"

Remember watching those awkward sex education videos when you were about eleven? Ever have to watch a live birth one?

The satirical online newspaper, The Onion, parodies the adolescent awkwardness of learning about sex with its article "8th-Grade Health Class Squirms Throughout Entire Screening Of 'Miracle Of Abortion'." Some excerpts and thoughts:

"During the video’s first 20 minutes, as the patient and various surgical tools were prepped for the procedure, the only noise reportedly made by the students was the sound of anxious fidgeting as they repositioned themselves in their seats. While many grew red in the face and giggled audibly at the first sight of the woman’s genitals, the chuckles are said to have quickly turned into gasps and groans of revulsion as the film approached its climactic scene of embryo evacuation." 

Abortion rights proponents decry the use of graphic abortion photos as disturbing and irrelevant. As they point out, photos of open heart surgery could likewise look disturbing or disgusting, but that doesn't necessarily mean open heart surgery is immoral.

But the revulsion we feel when seeing an abortion is fundamentally different from the squeamishness of watching an open heart surgery; it is the revulsion of watching a death. Our reaction is not based solely on "grossness" but also on an understanding of the meaning behind the disgust. It's like the difference between watching a surgeon break a kid's leg in order to set it so it will grow properly and watching an abusive parent break a kid's leg. Yeah, they're both "gross," but they are entirely different and appropriately elicit different responses. I expect parents would feel very differently about allowing their children to watch one situation versus the other. It's not about being gross, it's about being horribly violent.

On the other hand, we do provide people--including our children and teenagers--with specific descriptions, photos, and sometimes video of the reproductive/birthing process. That information can also be disturbing and disgusting to kids, but as they become old enough to be sexually active it's important they understand how their bodies work and what can happen as a result of their actions. Or, as The Onion puts it...

“Every year, there’s a lot of uneasiness when I show this video,” Flannery said. “I recognize it’s uncomfortable for kids their age to watch, but as they start to become aware of their own sexuality, it’s important they see what actually happens to the female body during abortion.”

Again, The Onion is a satirical newspaper. Still I couldn't help but think, as I read the above, what a sad thought it is--as if abortion is so inevitable that we need to educate children on exactly how it works. And yet, in reality, is that so far off? Abortion isn't exactly a rare event. Depending on which organization you look to for estimates, there are between 780,000 to 1,200,000 abortions in the US every year. According to Guttmacher, by age 45 about 1 in 3 American women have had an abortion. As Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post put it:
We have indeed come a long way from Roe v. Wade. In the early days of legal abortion, nearly everyone insisted the procedure wasn't intended as birth control. Millions of abortions later, original intent is laughable. Even Bill Clinton's call for abortion to be safe, legal and rare has a fairy tale quality by today's standards.
(You should read her whole piece, by the way. It was excellent.)

Again, from The Onion:

In both the moments leading up to and immediately following the screening of the film, health teacher Diane Flannery, 53, is said to have reminded the unsettled students that the events depicted on screen were 100 percent real, and simply a natural part of life and sexual behavior.

I don't know about "natural." But "common"? Sadly, yes.


Janet Susan said...

Good distinction. It's fascinating to me how those who support abortion are so against viewing it or speaking of it for what it really is. I wonder if graphic descriptions of the various abortion techniques as part of sex education for junior high students would have any impact on the choice of abortion.

Jameson Graber said...

I admit that my blood starts pumping faster when the issue of abortion images comes up. Images were all it took to make me pro-life. So when someone tells me I just need to "get over it" (as has happened on more than one occasion) I admit I start to snap. Something inside me wants to throttle people and ask, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

Abortion is a very depressing issue for me, mostly because it makes me realize how non-universal our moral intuitions are.

Jan said...

I recently challenged friends to read Dr. Nathanson's The Hand of God, and one guy said "I've seen the gruesome photos." As if that's a reason not to debate with pro-lifers.

Hey, guess what? Abortion is GRUESOME!

Crystal Kupper said...

If abortion is no big deal, like all my pro-choice friends contend, then why is looking at it so bad? Why not know what actually happens?

DJ said...

So shouldn't they be against war photos showing US soldiers pissing on Muslims, drone striking innocent civilians, and Muslims decapitating US soldiers and other Muslims? I suppose the photos are all irrelevant and shouldn't change anyone's opinions of the war.

Histpoli Buff said...

Can't believe fit would happen!

Anita said...

Keeping the ugly and horrific realities of abortion sanitized and in the dark makes it easier to support. It's that simple. As I get older and more vocal about my own rights and my own opinions on many issues like abortion, I find it comforting to know that there are many out there in my own party who actually don't support abortion or how it's performed. I wish the media wouldn't marginalize such voices. Grateful for this blog.

ockraz said...

"there are between 780,000 to 1,200,000 abortions in the US every year"

The first number is CDC and always majorly underrepresents the total. They rely on state data and some states don't report - for example California doesn't and it has 20-25% of the national total.

DianaG2 said...

Wow, that is a REALLY GOOD POINT!

If they see it, they will know for sure what a big deal it really is!

DianaG2 said...

Good point also!! You guys are awesome.

DianaG2 said...

The Gestapo also kept their dirty little deeds secret and in the dark. The German people did not know what was going on in those death camps.

Alden Smith said...

If abortionist cant stand the images then get out of the debate.

Alden Smith said...

Out of site out of mind

Nancy said...

Well, I wonder if our moral intuitions are not universal??

Sometimes, I think, "Methinks the pro-choicer doth protest too much."

Meaning: Denial? Desperation? Terror? Where is this rage coming from? I've never been in a discussion with a pro-choice person who wasn't calling names and insulting me

A few pro-lifers have done this, as well, of course, but it seems pretty rare for pro-lifers to be so unreasonable.

DianaG2 said...

Yes, so true.