Let me tell you some things.
I used to investigate child abuse and neglect. I can tell you how to stop the vast majority of abortion in the world.
First, make knowledge and access to contraception widely available. Start teaching kids before they hit puberty. Teach them about domestic violence and coercion, and teach them not to coerce and rape. Create a strong, loving community where women and girls feel safe and supported in times of need. Because guess what? They aren’t. You know what happens to babies born under such circumstances? They get hurt, unnecessarily. They get sick, unnecessarily. They get removed from parents who love them but who are unprepared for the burden of a child. Resources? Honey, we try. There aren’t enough resources anywhere. There are waiting lists, and promises, and maybes. If the government itself can’t hook people up, what makes you think an impoverished single mom can handle it?
Abolish poverty. Do you have any idea how much childcare costs? Daycare can cost as much or more than monthly rent. They may be inadequately staffed. Getting a private nanny is a nice idea, but they don’t come cheap either. Relatives? Do they own a car? Does the bus run at the right times? Do they have jobs of their own they need to work just to keep the lights on? Are they going to stick around until you get off you convenience store shift at 4 AM? Do they have criminal histories that will make them unsuitable as caregivers when CPS pokes around? You gonna pay for that? Who’s going to pay for that?
End rape. I know your type errs on the side of blaming the woman, but I’ve seen little girls who’ve barely gotten their periods pregnant because somebody thought raping preteens was an awesome idea. You want to put a child through that? Or someone with a mental or physical inability for whom pregnancy would be frightening, painful or even life-threatening? I’ve seen nonverbal kids who had their feet sliced up by caregivers for no fucking reason at all, you think sexual abuse doesn’t happen either?
You say there’s lots of couples who want to adopt. Kiddo, what they want to adopt are healthy white babies, preferably untainted by the wombs and genetics of women with alcohol or drug dependencies. I’ve seen the kids they don’t want, who almost no one wants. You people focus only on the happy pink babies, the gigglers, the ones who grow and grow with no trouble. Those are not the kids who linger in foster care. Those are certainly not the older kids and teenagers who age out of foster care and then are thrown out in the streets, usually with an array of medical and mental health issues. Are they too old to count?
And yeah, I’ve seen the babies, little hand-sized things barely clinging to life. There’s no glory, no wonder there. There is no wonder in a pregnant woman with five dollars to her name, so deep in depression you wonder if she’ll be alive in a week. Therapy costs money. Medicine costs money. Food, clothes, electricity cost money. Government assistance is a pittance; poverty drives women and girls into situations where they are forced to rely on people who abuse them to survive. (I’ve been up in more hospitals than I can count.)
In each and every dark pit of desperation, I have never seen a pro-lifer. I ain’t never seen them babysitting, scrubbing floors, bringing over goods, handing mom $50 bucks a month or driving her to the pediatrician. I ain’t never seen them sitting up for hours with an autistic child who screams and rages so his mother can get some sleep while she rests up from working 14-hour days. I don’t see them fixing leaks in rundown houses or playing with a kid while the police prepare to interview her about her sexual abuse. They’re not paying for the funerals of babies and children who died after birth, when they truly do become independent organisms. And the crazy thing is they think they’ve already done their job, because the child was born!
Aphids give birth, girl. It’s no miracle. You want to speak for the weak? Get off your high horse and get your hands dirty helping the poor, the isolated, the ill and mentally ill women and mothers and their children who already breathe the dirty air. You are doing nothing, absolutely nothing, for children. You don’t have a flea’s comprehension of injustice. You are not doing shit for life until you get in there and fight that darkness. Until you understand that abortion is salvation in a world like ours. Does that sound too hard? Do you really think suffering post-birth is more permissible, less worthy of outrage?
“Pro-life” is simply a philosophy in which the only life worth saving is the one that can be saved by punishing a woman.
One of my neighbors was having a drunken argument over abortion on her balcony last night with her friend. I listened to it through the window as I fell asleep. This morning I was thinking about the standard pro-choice argumentation and talking points that my neighbor sloshed through and why it failed to reach the tequila-soaked Christian woman sputtering Bible verses. In trying to counter-act the idiotic label the conservatives put to their side of the debate, pro-life, liberals have called their argument pro-choice. The entire field of argumentation is set up on those terms, which are both dishonest, and either side can be easily toppled in those terms but neither side can gain further ground. We’ve framed the debate to be an eternal stalemate.
In the car this morning I thought of a different way to present the issue. I propose that neither a conservative or a liberal is pro-life and that both people, even if the liberal is a hardcore naturalist capital-A Atheist, both people are pro-spirit.
Neither of us is pro-life.
You (the hypothetical “you” that protests at Planned Parenthood every Sunday after church) believe that from the moment a husband’s sperm touches his (notice the possessives) wife’s egg, that spermy little egg is alive and a human. I believe that while that egg and that sperm are both technically “alive” even before they meet, they are not the type of life that has rights trumping those of the mother. You believe that any method of preventing sperm from reaching an egg is morally wrong and that any sexual act whose end-goal is not to make a baby is a terrible sin. I believe that everyone should take every measure to prevent children born into inhospitable environments or constant pain, and that people should use their sexy parts for whatever non-rapey purpose they deem appropriate. Yet neither of us is any better at protecting life than the other one.
No one will disagree with me that people are alive as well as horses, pigs, cats, mice, fleas, mites, E. coli, rhinovirus, sea cucumbers, English cucumbers, oak trees, and dandelions are alive. All of these things are living things and they can all be classified taxonomically, or on the Tree of Life. Even the most hardcore vegan kills 99.999% of the life I kill to survive on a daily basis. They wash their hands, flea-bomb their apartments, and eat broccoli, so they destroy life. They’ve only stopped killing the tiny percent of a percent of the life the rest of us kill that we would consider large and mobile. We all kill billions of bacteria and dozens of plants and animals a day to keep ourselves alive. Anyone who claims a pro-life stance is an idiot, neither one of us is an idiot, and so neither one of us can reasonably make that claim.
Now, if not life, what are we trying to save? What are we in favor of? I think we can borrow the word spirit to describe what that is.
We are both pro-spirit.
What distinguishes us from most other animals, plants, and bacteria? Why are we one of the only types of terrestrial life capable of formulating the concept of defining life and protecting it? We have the intellectual capacity to learn, experience reality, feel emotions and pain, and form relationships and bonds. I think it is perfectly reasonable to co-opt the word spirit for this since our vocabulary mostly predates the study of neurology and psychology and it fits the term well. Basically, it means that which makes you, you. (In that you are intelligent enough to have a concept of “I”.) I think it is entirely appropriate for me to call my wealth of experiences and thought, and the relationships I’ve formed with other people, my spirit. We are not the only species that have this kind of spirit, and I think our protection of spirit should extend to these species as well. This would include some primates and possibly other mammals, but I’m not yet convinced.
You believe in the original definition of spirit, the one that derives from the Bronze Age. It still means that which makes you you, but you believe that is it relates (although people with your belief are always fuzzy on what this relation is) to something outside of yourself and even outside of nature. You probably believe that your spirit is given to you by your god and that only humans (or, with some people, that only some humans) have one. Your definition of spirit is supernatural and metaphysical. Your definition hinges on not only the existence of a higher power but a higher creator who formed the universe and has ongoing creative powers over all new individuals. (Or at least those who have the ability to fathom “I”.)
With my definition, I can’t semantically prove that the word spirit is the best choice, but I can prove that all of the components of that definition are true. We know enough about neurology to understand how humans learn and experience reality. We can study the stuff of thought and we know how humans and other intelligent creatures can create relationships and bonds. These components of a naturalistic spirit are well documented and testable, and most of our modern achievements in philosophy, psychology, and medicine depend on our having certain amounts of knowledge of this spirit. Spirit, being in large part cognition and relationship building, is not something a spermy egg cell can have. It is not something a blastocyst can have. It is not something a fetus with an open neural tube can have. It is something a baby begins developing the moment it looks out at the world and reacts to its mother’s face, the doctor’s hand, and the dazzling roar of light and sound of the world it has just entered. A newborn child is beginning its first relationships and soaking in its first prototypical perceptions of reality. The child now has a spirit.
Your definition does not rest on testable hypotheses, nor does it have ramifications in the real world. No branch of science depends on your definition of spirit and no branch of science has been able to test and prove your hypotheses, although there have been many failures and the successful tests work as if there is nothing real which is supernatural. The onus is on you to prove that there is a spirit, whether it be a connection to things that exists outside of nature or a part of your mind that is capable of surviving death and walking with angels. The onus is on you to also prove the mechanism from which this spirit comes. If it’s a god, it is your responsibility to prove that this god exists. If it’s a part of some universal consciousness, it is up to you to show that this consciousness is real. Until these things happen, your definition of spirit is an untestable hypothesis and has no business intruding into politics and law, branches of human knowledge that are predicated on using the scientific method to determine and legislate what is real and proven. We do not pass laws to protect things that can’t be proven to exist.
quod erat demonstrandum
I also have a working definition of soul: