Thursday, October 16, 2008


By Jordan Bubin

So Respect Life Week (Oct 5-12) is over. The pro-lifers on campus ran around sporting purple buttons with the slogan “former fetus” on them, conveniently advertising their nuttiness from a safe distance. Originally, I had thought the buttons were a joke; I hadn’t realized they had a political purpose until I paid more attention to who was wearing them. My mistake, of course; the logic behind the buttons is obviously impeccable—I am a former fetus, therefore I oppose abortion, because…

Actually, I’m stumped. What is the logic there? The New York Times pointed out Monday that referendums on abortion are back on the ballot in three states for November. South Dakota’s jumped back into the fray; California has an initiative to require parental consent, but Colorado’s gone all out, with a move to redefine “person” to include “any human being from the point of fertilization.” Colorado’s my favorite, since to me, it showcases the full lunacy—and hypocrisy—of the idea that life starts at conception.

If we’re going to buckle down and play with the idea that life starts the second a sperm manages to bust into an egg, then there’s going to be some serious changes. If a pregnant woman and relevant man are now a three-person family, does the woman get to claim the fetus as a dependent for tax purposes? Do pregnant mothers have to pay for an extra person when renting a hotel room? What about the millions of children kept locked away in freezers in in vitro fertilization clinics?

Perhaps these outcomes seem crazy. What about the idea of women charged with abuse, negligence, or murder for not treating the people in their bellies correctly? Regina McKnight, a mentally handicapped woman, was given 12 years in prison for homicide. She had used cocaine while pregnant, and her child was stillborn. Gabriela Flores, a migrant farmworker mother of three, took Cyotec tablets to have an abortion (they contain misopristol, a substance found in RU-486), for which the state of South Carolina attempted to charge her with murder, in hopes of seeking the death penalty. We need not only consider abortions---if a baby is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, can the mother be charged for abusing her child in utero?

There are two things to be noted here. First of all, the standard for a parent’s actions to qualify as abuse is horrifyingly low—as a social worker this summer, I saw a case where a woman gave birth to her child into the toilet, defecated on the newborn, and then went to take a nap while the baby screamed in the toilet, none of which qualified as abuse—so the idea that the state would pay enough attention to prevent woman from getting to Pilates class for the sake of the newborn is ludicrous. At the same time, the point remains that, when life is considered to begin at conception, women get to spend nine months as incubators.

Second, of course many of these outcomes seem crazy—but they are at least logically consistent with the idea that life starts at conception. This seems to the basis for plenty of pro-life rhetoric. Are anti-abortion advocates ready to deal with all the consequences of that declaration, and award to fetuses all the privileges we grant to life after birth?

I’m sure few of the people mindlessly sporting their purple “former fetus” buttons also support broad state-sponsored social service programs for pregnant mothers, or welfare for struggling mothers. I’m sure none of them are in favor of granting tax credits and benefits to families for their fetuses. Compassion for the weakest among us—the poor widdle fetuses—is bullfudge when it’s only compassion if one is talking about prosecuting doctors who perform abortions and the women who receive them.

So what is the logic behind the “former fetus” buttons? As a former fetus, I oppose abortion out of compassion? Love? These reasons don’t really hold out; but I guess that was never the point anyway. It’s easier to get behind meaningless slogans than anything else.


At October 21, 2008 at 11:39 PM , Blogger COA said...

I would guess the "logic" behind the buttons is that we shouldn't be so quick to support the "murder" of unborn children since we were all fetuses at one point. Or something. To be honest, I'm not really bothered by the view that life begins at conception from a philosophical standpoint. It's when this view starts to make its way into public policy that I get worried/annoyed. Either way, it's always good to see more guys standing up for the reproductive rights of women! Keep up the good work, Jordan!



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