Eye for an Eye: The Bible, Abortion and Bullshit.
And now we listen to that popular tune: Abortion and the Bible. Great combo, huh? Handling this topic, I run the risk of pissing nearly everyone off, right and left, liberal and conservative, sensible and insane. Oh well! I’ve never been unwilling to be a dick if the situation really called for it. Truly, I created this blog to not only explain what I think but to actually clarify it to myself. Nothing forces one to think about an idea like writing about it. But I also want to generate some serious discussion here so don’t be shy about what you think. Negative or positive, I want to hear it in detail and depth!
“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
In all my life, I never actually knew what this verse said. Basically, it’s this: If in a struggle you harm a pregnant women or her fetus then you will suffer a similar fate. That’s it! I had always thought that this retribution was meant for any injury to anyone, but it is obvious with all the preceding passages that this is not really so. It seems only a protection for pregnancy. Actually if you read it carefully, it seems more of a protection for the husband because he is the one to make any demand for compensation. Now Christians may say that she is still the one covered, but ask yourselves this. If the man doing the knocking down is the husband, does she still have the protection? My cynical bastard of a heart doubts it. It really does.
Abortion is inevitably a contentious topic in our pro-choice and anti-choice world. It is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that everyone will talk about, but seldom outside of well trod paths. The left has their clearly defined mantras and the right… is bat-shit insane, I mean, has theirs too. We as a society need to step outside these boundaries, and taking an untravelled path bothers me not a whit. More people need to.
Look at the verse again. This passage would seem to place a value on the fetus, and for the Christians this gives them yet another divine rational for their stances, however extreme. To them this is clearly a divine prohibition against abortion, a prohibition backed by the death penalty readily explaining the murders of several family planning doctors around the country in the last twenty years. Let me be clear here. I don’t now and never will give two shits about what Zeus, Apollo, Shiva, Thor, Baal, Garfield the cat, Archie Andrews, or any other fictional character thinks of abortion or any other topic. Casper the Friendly Ghost’s opinion on global warming or economic collapse or abortion is less than useless, as is Yahweh the Unfriendly God’s. Fiction is fiction.
That said, I believe it is a mistake to give a fetus no value whatsoever. It is wrong for the pro-choice side of the issue to be reluctant to grant these on the basis of the slippery slope argument. We are screwing up here. Bear with me please. Fetuses who are wanted or who are going to be born need to have rights and protections. A pregnant woman bringing a child to term cannot have the right to drink or do drugs at will for this can certainly negatively affect her child, a future citizen. On the other hand, men cannot get away with hitting or abusing women and causing abortions then only being charged with simple assault.
Historically, pro-choice has gotten by part of this issue by the declaration that the rights of the fetus and the right of the mother are synonymous. The mother has full authority to decide the fate of the child. To a large extent, I have to agree. The woman being the most affected by any choice made, must be the arbiter of her own life and any life she chooses to bring in the world. But the choice not to terminate the pregnancy must be one of great responsibility. Once the mother decides to carry that child into the world, she must also bear the burden of taking care of herself thus taking care of her child, a future sentient being. Any person thrown unasked into this world must have as a basic protection the right to come in with as clean a slate as possible, and this right must be carefully enshrined in our culture and law. If you have ever seen the terrible results of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or infant meth addiction, you’ll know how horrifying this issue can be. These cases — cases where a fully developed child not can result but will result — must be viewed differently. An unwanted fetus is just that, a mere collection of cells, but one that will soon to be a person has to have protections under our law. It is foolish to demand that every fetus be born, but it’s essential to demand that every fetus that will be born be given every protection possible.
Some of the rationale for this is our human right to put value into the things we choose, but a larger part is society’s responsibility to future human beings who will one day live independent lives in this world. The case where they will live in this world is vastly more important than if they will not. Abortion isn’t the important issue here. Caring for the multitudes who are brought into this beautiful world is.
In addition, it is the right of the mother to put great value on a fetus in an effort to bring it to term. One of the great things about superstition-free humanity is that we can deem as worthy the things we choose. Although I am a firm believer of a biologically and naturally selected morality, I also believe that we value many things because we make a choice, a choice of what to treasure. This is the true potential of humanity, not blind faith in a bronze-age work of fiction. The beauty about atheism is that we are not shackled to a cold hard God who tortures people for violations of arcane laws or slays sentient beings because of sexual preference. Theists fear this liberation assuming as correct their religion’s gloomy view of humankind. That is humans without God will rapidly devolve into savagery. History shows me that the opposite is more often true. This freedom terrifies them, but I find it quite liberating. I and society as a whole says what is moral behavior and what is not. Regardless of what many think, this is what we have always done. It’s just that in the past, for good or ill, we have limited ethical authority to a class of priests. But no longer. Now there is no need to reckon back to savage laws written before concepts such as democracy and equality were invented. We as society choose to place value in a fetus that will eventually become a fellow member, but only then. Without that choice and without that future a fetus is nothing more that a few cells.
It comes down to this. If children are to be born and assume their burden of existence, then every care must be taken for their well being. Life is difficult enough without having the deck stacked against them. But if they are not to be born, they are not to be, end of story. Whether we are going to have a healthy functional human being at the end or just dead matter isn’t the issue. Either is more acceptable than having a neglected, abused and dysfunctional person damaged from a lack of love or care or caution.
Intentions and results are everything. Fertilization and conception are nothing. A fetus’s importance or value lies in its outcome not in its origin.