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May 24, 2004

Seeds And Abortion

In the comments on Sowing The Seeds, The Emuse, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, points out that the statement "In order for parents to perceive children as unique beings, the parent had to see the child as a potential adult." might have some relevance to the abortion issue.

I thought the same thing while I was typing out the essay, though I figured it was lengthy enough already without bringing up abortion.

Given the technological advances in medicine, it's not only increasingly easy for parent's to emotionally invest in a child, but to do so to a fetus as well. Three-dimensional sonograms do more than just alert medical personnel to potential fetal problems, they allow modern parents to see the face of their child months before they would have less than ten years ago--triggering an emotional investment on their part literally before birth.

I was five months and I was very happy and excited I could not wait to see him in my arms. Here is this little boy who looks and feels so real and alive. He is so human in every way with his 10 fingers and toes. He flashed his gender. He had the hiccups and he was smiling. I was so happy that we had finally conceived this little boy.

So yes, the general trend towards greater emotional investment in one's child ought to affect abortion. To restate--hypothetically, the more emotional investment a society makes in its children, the lower the abortion rate ought to be within it.

It may be an untestable hypothesis, in that measuring societal investment in children is presumably as hard as quantifying love, yet it may be possible. One thing for sure--abortion rates have been dropping.

On possible area of measurement might a comparison of dollars spent on children's learning and development activities over the years. Surely all those Baby Einstein purchases mean something.

Another measurement might be the growth in the number of laws meant to protect children, or fetuses, since laws regarding them are current news. 20 years ago the murder of a pregnant woman was classified as a homicide. Now, in 29 states as well as on a federal level, it's much more than that, and women are increasingly likely to have run-ins with the law if they are seen as endangering the fetus within them.

In Salt Lake City, an acknowledged cocaine addict with a history of mental health problems resisted having the operation for about two weeks before acquiescing. One of the twins she was carrying died during the delay. The mother was charged with capital murder but ultimately pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of child endangerment and was sentenced to probation.

Last month, prosecutors in Pittsburgh charged an unlicensed midwife with involuntary manslaughter for failing to take a woman to the hospital when her baby began to be delivered feet-first. The child died two days later. The midwife said she had been trying to honor the mother’s wishes to have the baby at home.

The general historical trend in the West has been one where the number of “rights” perceived as fundamental not only increases over time, but are also extended to an ever-growing number of groups. In the early days of the U.S., for example, the right to vote was held only by white property-owners. Eventually the franchise was extended to non-landowners, black, women and 18-year-olds. Homosexuals were once jailed for their activities--now they agitate for marriage rights. Stories on animal rights make the news nearly every day. Given that trend, as well as the West's increasing emotional investment in its children, can an de-facto adoption of something very close to a fetal-rights agenda be that far away?

Certainly the pro-choice movement thinks so.

Endowing embryos and fetuses with legal rights is a key component of antichoice strategies to overturn Roe v. Wade. Their attempts to elevate the legal status of the fetus have taken two primary forms: (1) defining the fetus as a separate legal entity, primarily through legislation considering the fetus to be a separate victim of criminal offenses; and (2) punishing pregnant women for their behavior during pregnancy, primarily drug use.

The problem the pro-choice movement faces is that, while it can fight the legal symptoms of an increasing societal regard for fetuses, it can do nothing about actual source of that regard--the march of medical technology in the West. Thanks to advances as basic as vaccines and as advanced as 4d sonograms, parents have been able emotionally invest in their children at ever younger ages--so that now this can occur before a child is even born.

Abortion will always be with us. Certainly pro-life forces face their own technology challenges in that area. However, given a continued rate of increase in medical know-how and ever-greater societal investment in children, neither of which seems likely to experience a downturn any time soon, there's no reason to think the practice of will not become ever more rare, regardless of what the pro-life movement does or does not do.

Postscript: The abortion rate has also been falling in Russia since 1988, a date achingly close to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of democracy in Eastern Europe. Coincidence?

Posted by Bigwig at May 24, 2004 10:50 PM | TrackBack
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Hmm, interesting food for thought, Bigwig.

Posted by: Jim at May 24, 2004 11:50 PM

Excellent post.

It's no coincidence that the abortion rate began dropping in Russia in the late 1980's. For people to want to have children, they must have some faith in the future. The end of communism gave many Russian parents the ability to envision a world that would be worth living in.

That said, I also believe the drop is due to another phenomenon that began when the Soviet empire collapsed: The explosion of long-repressed religious activity in Russia. Religious women tend to have fewer abortions than non-religious women, and it is probably because those who can believe in an unseen God tend to have more faith than those who do not.

Posted by: Captain Holly at May 26, 2004 09:28 AM
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