This is Part 3 of the Conservative Standpoint a serial post by Cole D.
Abortion is a complex mess to tackle. Yet, I will make the attempt. The issue is tangled both the morals of the family and the framework of medical ethics. Without being overly graphic and without an excessive amount of analysis I will do my best to frame why it is a conservative does, or should care about abortion. I am unfamiliar with the topic and therefore, this post shall be rooted in both speculation and hedging, but do not disregard it simply because I am out of my element. I am doing my best to gather a basic understanding and apply those principles to a world view of my own not provide a positive answer to all questions; perhaps then you as well as I may gain some insight from a study on the abortion dialogue.
First without graphic details what is abortion? According to Merriam-Webster it is, ‘the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.’ Conservatives seem most likely to object to the definition of a fetus in itself: often viewing it as a derogatory term that undermines the humanity of the unborn and simply a stipulation used by the pro-choice lobby to take recognition away from the human being in the womb.
Throughout history we cannot separate humanity from the procedure of abortion, however, we can acknowledge that it was likely exceedingly rare in most of the world and only became explosive after being introduced by Lenin to the Soviet Union—with the intent of putting women to work en-masse and destroying the family. Though pro-choice lobbyists fear a return to the days of violent coat-hanger abortions and impractical and filthy surgical procedures, the reality it seems has always been less explosive. Up until the 1960’s abortion was a small part of life in the western world, because the norms of marriage and the risk of infection or complication for the mother was high. Nevertheless, we have seen a transformation in the attitude of western man toward sex and this has changed the way we experience the advent of pregnancy and fear of childbirth in the western world.
The liberal position has, since Roe Vs Wade, dominated the discussion about the abortion. The debate has become, in essence, a question of abstract rights: what constitutes appropriate rights for both mother and child. In this case, the liberal position believes in the infallibility of the individuals' decision making divorced from its profound complications for the mother, her relationships, and society. This is erroneous and tenuous as all the liberal positions and makes mockery of the nuance and depth of human society. Instead of acknowledging the massacre of infants in utero the pro-choice lobby smothers dissent in the language of women's rights. The pro-choice lobby does this without acknowledging that the society and it’s permanently linked counterpart the state are the provider of those same rights and privileges. Evidence for this is given in the observation that rights have consistently evolved and expanded with the sphere of the state, and whenever we see regression from the size and complexity of the state, we in turn see a reduction in the individual’s actual and perceived autonomy.
Abortion seems dead and buried in Canada, where protections for newborns are limited, but still activists agitate for the expansion of clinics across the country, where inadequate access remains the primary complaint. Provinces, historically conservative, such as Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick have limited access to services because it is not what the people want. A journey it seems beyond one's own neighborhood is too costly for the privilege of ending a pregnancy. The conservative government has further fueled this stew of discontent, which concerned about the retention of power, will not discuss abortion in the House of Commons. Meanwhile the language of rights, and the normative perception of good, has advanced to such a state that Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has banned all candidates from voting independent of party line on abortion. Likewise, all Liberal candidates will be vetted for their stand on abortion before given a chance to run for a riding. Is the right individual paramount to the liberal and Liberal Party? The answer is only when it toes the party line, any divergence in opinion, any freedom of conscious will now be punished. . . the very essence of liberalism has to die in the name of a woman's right to choose.
However, what do Canadians themselves think? It seems that the majority, 59% wish to have some form of discussion on abortion according to a poll administered by the Canadian Institute of Marriage and the Family. Meanwhile, Roxanne's law, Bill C-510 (The bill legislated freedom from coercion toward abortion for the pregnant mother) was struck down in the House of Commons. Conservatives feared to discuss the issue or advocate for new legislation and instead they voted against a bill that many liberal colleagues supported. The bill, one that anyone could seemingly endorse, was denounced by the NDP. The Calgary Herald reported in November of 2010, “health critic Megan Leslie told the media over the weekend with regards to Bill C-510 that, "if we can open that door even a crack to this idea of fetal rights -- which in my opinion promotes anti-choice ideas -- that has an impact on women's rights and freedoms when it comes to the very personal decision about abortion." This language was used despite the fact that the bill was intended to protect the rights of the mother to choose motherhood. When the left uses the language of rights and personal autonomy, they feel entitled to tell you how to be free, and if a mother wishes for protection in her right to give birth to her baby, well that just does not seem to fit. In Canada we are stuck with political inaction at a time when some legal protection for the unborn is merited. The majority of Canadians in fact support this conclusion, but in a country with no legal regulations, since 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the original 1969 law implemented by Pierre Trudeau, we are left wondering why not. Most Canadian conservatives would be pleased to accept doctor approved abortion, which was instated during Pierre Trudeau's tenure.
After witnessing the paradoxical pronunciations of our liberal politicians, we are left to construct a rebuttal. Now it is up to the conservative to understand why the liberal perspective is as myopic as it is harmful, we must first turn our gaze toward the mother, and her rights as well as her duties to both the unborn and her family. There is no doubt that a mother’s right predominates, but this must be tempered. All children wanted or unwanted are products of a relationship between two people and therefore it only seems reasonable that the exclusivity of a mother's right to choose should not infringe upon the life of the child. The father will be subject of later discussion. If abortion is here to stay, then we must ensure that it does not cause undue suffering and hardship for both the mother and child. However, we would like to see such a procedure only when necessary. Therapeutic abortions for those who suffer undue harm because of rape and incest should see no loss of rights to terminate the pregnancy. However, to terminate at will for matters of convenience is a cruelty. All abortions are sickeningly violent procedures, hence why it is nearly impossible to show images of fetuses, because to see the fetus is to recognize a likelihood of pain and suffering of something human. Doctors are approaching a consensus on fetal pain. Around 20 weeks is viewed as the standard time when the nerves have developed to a capacity in which stimulus may be acutely felt. Plausibly, then, we may deny abortion after the 20 week period, except on the grounds of a crisis.
To digress, this issue is important because 20 weeks is approaching survivability for the unborn. I myself was born extremely premature, approx 24 weeks, and I have lived a healthy and happy life, despite an extended stay in an incubator.
So does the mother have a duty to anyone but herself in the choice to abort? Yes she does she has obligations to her child, not to cause it undue pain; she has obligations to her lover who made such a child possible; she has obligations to avoid harm to herself, and she has obligations to her own mother. She is obliged to her mother because her mother likely did not carry her own daughter to term on a strictly voluntary basis, but instead grew to love her. Implied in this is a respect for the future the mother experienced this, trusted it, and in turn created a beautiful life.
Nevertheless, the personal duties and obligations inherent in motherhood do not play the only part in the abortion debate. Those who argue on behalf of the expansion of abortion rights are insistent that children raised by a mother without means, and a mother who would rather have not had the baby will devastate society; there may be some truth here, but then we must ask why that is.
Women with no means have been having children and raising children successfully for thousands of years, the majority have not grown to be delinquent children, and this begs the question of how they did so: the answer family. However, now with divorce on the rise, along with the continued adolescence of individualism, paired with long work hours and poor wages—the legacy of the service industry revolution and globalization—more and more mothers lacking funds for daycare centres and lacking familial support wish to abandon their baby.
This begs another question. Are mothers becoming poorer mothers because of abortion? Instead of raising insolent children, are they harming themselves to the detriment of their future family? The evidence at least in some instances seems to support this conclusion. We it seems have traded one potential ill for another certain ill.
Social Illness and mental illness plagues mothers who elect for abortion. Recent research has found that divorce is more likely for women who have aborted in the past. 25% of women who have had abortions over 35 are divorced or separated. Only 19% of those who did not have an abortion are missing a spouse. These failed marriages lead to a majority of post abortive women raising children without the biological father and the children themselves suffer. The majority of women who had an abortion are not, by their late thirties, in their first marriage. Likewise, the same research discovered that women who had abortions were twice as likely to never marry and have twice as many lifetime sexual partners. Perhaps the findings are correlative, but they are alarming regardless.
This trend continues beyond married life where we see the mother's mental well being fail and serve as the driver for future family disunity and failure. Approximately 25% of American women experienced sexual dysfunction within six months of their abortion. This dysfunction was often attributed to the sex act being, “tainted,” by its association with death. Dr. Priscilla Coleman has spent much of her life researching the link between abortion and mental illness and believes we may conclude that 10-30% of post abortion women experienced enduring mental distress. Stress Coleman believes can inflict great harm on any pre-existing family unit, and may often serve as a catalyst for divorce.
The apogee of this research is the finding that 42% of post-abortive women experienced major depression by the age of 25. Many others, a much higher percentage than the national average reported suicide ideation, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Will these women make good mothers? You do not need to be wealthy to raise a child, but you do need a healthy mind and a healthy family two things post-abortion women often lose.
In an attempt to assess the intangible effects of abortion on the well-being of society, we must examine the effects on the greater zeitgeist. In Canada abortions are not tracked, and Canada has no precise statistics but an estimate of one hundred thousand annually for most of the 21st century is considered close. A million children every ten years is not an insignificant number in a country of thirty five million. Yet, statisticians believe this is the lowest the figure has been since the 1980s, which itself is alarming. Peter Hitchens noticed a similar trend in Britain in his book, 'The Abolition of Britain.' recognizing that abortion rates went up with legalization and stayed up, only now with the advent of the morning after pill have the numbers begun to fall. Likewise, in the Soviet Union for many years, abortions outnumbered live births; why is this so? What changed in the mindset of population once abortion became accessible?
Abortions rise can be traced to the acceptance of promiscuity from the 1960’s onward. Christianity declined; marriage disappeared; birth control became common, and promiscuity legitimized. Social norms shifted from chastity to free love, sure, we do not call it free love anymore but the ethos remains the same in the western world: if it feels good do it, and think about the cost later.
The goal is not to trace the social transformation of the 1960-1970’s but rather to acknowledge that the progressive forces of the world drove a sea change in the our sexual mindset precisely when technology enabled such revolution to occur.
Combined with the observation one can see that the notion of responsibility has changed, and likewise the notion of shame and stigma. Due to our technological mastery of fertility: our access to in vitro treatments and our slew of chemical contraceptives we now take for granted the idea that sex will not lead to pregnancy. We only expect one outcome from our sexual choices and that is the one we desire. Pregnancy arrives when we decide it is time, not when it should or may. The link between sex and procreation has been annihilated and replaced by sex for recreation. Being responsible has now become the mother's task and being responsible means sexually activity at a young age and outside of marriage all the while avoiding pregnancy.
Having sex in unmarried partnership or as part of a fling or hookup is not considered irresponsible as it once was, but failing to avoid conception is irresponsible. This is important because it means mothers are now shamed for the act of “getting pregnant.” Stigma has shifted from actions: premarital and irresponsible sex, to circumstances: carrying a child. The mothers who would have once experienced a groundswell of support from friends and family find themselves ostracized instead: many seek abortions.
This same trap extends to fathers. Fathers find themselves stigmatized or slandered if they disagree with abortion or desire to have some say in the future of their children. At the same time, the father is legally helpless in most countries when the mother chooses abortion. The father has no say and zero consent is required to terminate the pregnancy. This leaves the pregnancy itself detached from the father who is no longer carried into the fold immediately by circumstance instead he dare not become attached to his child if it may not survive. Furthermore, fathers avoid commitment to the mother and child further worsening an already desperate situation this is because any attempt to raise the child by the mother is often seen as a decision she could have avoided. She could have aborted the child. If the father does not want the baby and has no option or yet the mother had the opportunity to discard the child, then she is the only culpable party. Mothers become abandoned children lack fathers because she had a chance to end it and did not. Fathers, find themselves just as alienated as mothers in the world of abortion.
Abortion begs a handful of final questions first of which is, why should conservatives care? This seems self-explanatory and perhaps it is, but it still demands some form of conclusion. I see the reason to care lying not just in the sacerdotal character of human life at all stages nor in the act of abortion being the culmination of the liberal individualist ethos. An ethos where living it means the harm principle is quietly dismissed as too limiting on the individuals who is pursuing their own interpretation of Maslow’s self-actualization at the expense of another's life. Finally, the conservative needs to care because the orthodoxy of abortion is now forced upon us by the state, meanwhile such an action as abortion as was earlier demonstrated is part and parcel of the destruction of our society's family culture. The same family culture that serves as the foundation of both our institutions and our obligation bound human milieu.
This conclusion leaves one more thought that ought to be addressed: is there a solution? Some form or direction in which the conservative can direct their actions and activism? Yes, perhaps there is. I can see no reason why abortion should be available for anything beyond therapeutic reasons. The western world has all the cheap band-aid solutions it needs to destroy pregnancy forever if only the person themselves could maintain their contraceptive regiment, and likewise we have adoption as a sure solution to those children who are stuck without the means to be raised appropriately. Adoption is the true solution as it provides the option of parentage without the extermination of abortion, but this would cause discomfort or trauma and therefore is infeasible to the selfish.
However, beyond the fact that abortion is a poor option, and other solutions remain better positioned to offer a humanitarian option for the unborn we still have a final issue. Marriage is dying in the west. Families are crumbling and the individual is all. This leaves a populace uncritical of the destruction of human life and the last resort becomes the first resort. We have as conservatives a duty to bring abortion dialogue to the public fore and not be silenced; we need to write our representatives and let them know that no consensus exists. We must inform the world of the perverse incentives acting on people and families. We must not let the atomization of society be the end of the fight, but rather push back toward the sacred in society: the family and the well-being of both mothers and their children. This means that thought must change, the zeitgeist must change, but it is possible.