To the Abortion Protester I Flipped Off
Yes, I could have ignored you just like I did on the other days. But you were so insistent about shaking your anti-abortion sign at me while I was trying to negotiate the turn without splashing you or hitting the pothole. And why did you drag your 10-year-old son out into the cold rainy weather to be with you? That’s borderline child abuse in my opinion. It seems symbolic of the fact that many who support your view spend more time, treasure, and talent on the unborn than the born. I suppose I could have stopped and tried to talk to you. But we both know how that would have turned out. Besides, I had an elderly sick relative who needed me more than you needed to hear what I have to say. Absent the ability to have a rational discussion about a very complex issue that you insist is simple, I used a gesture to express myself. I’m not proud of it, but you didn’t leave me much choice.
I do, however, admire your willingness to protest in support of your beliefs. I just think targeting Planned Parenthood is a poor choice since their mission is to prevent pregnancies that would then reduce abortion rates. And since 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, God or nature perform more abortions than Planned Parenthood. But reason has never been a pillar of the anti-abortion movement. (I refuse to call it by your chosen name because it is not favorable to any life I think is worth living.) Thousands of people, who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you or I, have debated the morality and ethics of both sides of the abortion issue for decades. We are unlikely to add anything new to the conversation. And nobody has changed anybody’s mind in the years since Roe versus Wade. But since you exercised your civic duty, I feel I owe you more than a finger for an explanation.
If we could talk, you would be surprised to discover that I agree with you that abortion is wrong. But that is as far as it goes. Without a doubt, you are confident in your moral and ethical foundations. You shouldn’t be. At best they are shaky. The Bible, for example, puts a much smaller monetary value on a developed fetus than on the mother. Which means the prophets did not value the fetus as much as the adult. At worst, you are undermining the very morals you think you are supporting. It is always a problem for moral crusaders. Forced morality is contrary to the virtuous life you want to model for your son. Those who are forced into virtue cannot then be virtuous. Exhibit A is the 9/11 hijackers. Some of them spent their preparation time for martyrdom in Vegas strip clubs drinking alcohol. These activities are forbidden in countries where Sharia law is enforced. But as soon as the morality police were in the rear view mirror, these “virtuous Muslims” plopped themselves right into dens of “Western decadence.”
The ability to make the “wrong choice” is at the heart of free will. Your whole dichotomy of virtue and sin, heaven and hell, vanishes if abortion becomes illegal. I know that you think you are saving the lives of innocent children. But you confuse potential with the actual. To illustrate, consider this: Is there a difference between a house and a home? Most people would say there is. But defining that difference is hard. We can all agree, however, that a pile of wood is not a house. It has the potential to be one, but it’s not actually there yet. Let’s examine the ethics of destroying a house. Most people would agree that burning something that doesn’t belong to you is ethically wrong. It’s probably wrong legally as well, but let’s leave the law out of this. Is there a moral difference between setting fire to a set of architectural plans, a pile of lumber, an empty house, and a fully occupied home? They are all wrong, but I am arguing that the first two represent a smaller moral error than the last two.
Let’s take the analogy a step further. Suppose it’s your plans or pile of lumber and you have a permit to burn them. Suppose you don’t like the plans or don’t like the kind of lumber that was delivered or you just can’t afford a house right now. You want to clear the lot and start over when the timing is better. Is it wrong? Should your neighbors be allowed to stop you? Now, I know your response would be that children aren’t property and my analogy is false. And even though children were in fact considered property until modern times, I agree with you. What I disagree with is the belief that a fetus is a child.
But the biggest fault I find in your protest is that the abortion war is over. Your side won. Protesting abortion is like running attack ads on Mitt Romney. He already lost. Of course the wealthy still have legal access to abortion. But they always had that access anyways. You will never succeed in taking it away from them. One sign of your victory is the Texas woman who was briefly charged with murder for ending a pregnancy with pills she bought on the Internet. Her medical problems and subsequent arrest will scare most poor women into carrying their pregnancy to term. And that’s why I flipped you off.
Sixty percent of women who seek abortions already have children. The rest are under age or have problem pregnancies. Who is going to take care of them? Who is going to offer them help? You and you movement have amplified these social problems by preventing the lower classes from having easy access to birth control and abortion. You have a moral and ethical obligation to help. But I’m betting you won’t. And even if you personally do, I guarantee the rest of your faction will not. And the injustice of that angers me. I understand your arguments thoroughly. Unfortunately, you will never understand my arguments since they won’t fit on a piece of cardboard or a bumper sticker. But I can express my feelings. All that takes is a finger.