Assuming Positions

Allowing the state mechanisms of control over reproductive capacities may appear a good idea to pro-life people now, but doing so will serve the purposes of the state, and whoever controls the bulldozer of state policy. Regimes change. Abortion is a dreadful subject to tackle, and I tackle it reluctantly because I don't sense an honorable alternative. We were all babies once: does God, if He exists, know what He's allowing? I'm making observations, not assuming a position - or presenting an argument, not issuing judgment. I'll play lawyer, readers can play jury: whom shall we call on to play the part of judge?

Not long ago, someone enquired about my "position on abortion." The question implies that I have a personal obligation to make a political judgment in regard to the practice of abortion. It seems to go without saying that one should take sides on any divisive issue: that's a sinister hallmark of politics. Political thinking leads people to take sides on every contentious issue imaginable; peace requires that people find ways to sustain harmony. Harmony requires reciprocal respect between people, and nothing undermines respect so completely as the habit of confounding private opinions with appropriate foundations for public policies. Public policies expose everyone to the deplorable dangers of secondhand opinions; I see the toxic effects of political thinking everywhere. Increasingly so, as the "public" brashly invades new frontiers formerly regarded as private property, with little regard for the lives of native inhabitants. Unfortunately, some traditions never change.

Naturally, I have opinions in regard to abortion: personal opinions. Translating personal opinions into "positions for or against" requires political thinking, or an underlying idea that my private opinion has a place in forming public policy. Without political thinking, people would see the sheer absurdity of battling out private ideological issues in the arena of "public policy." When someone asks my personal opinion on an issue I'm willing to oblige, but please don't expect me to assume positions on public policy; I've made decent progress toward discarding old mental restraints imposed by habitual political thinking. Minding my own policies out of respect for liberty beats trying to impose them on anyone else at the expense of liberty.

I can honestly assume only one political position on the abortion issue: When a touchy matter involves me, or someone who depends on me, or someone who requests my advice, it constitutes my business. My private policies don't concern the public, and "public policies" exist because people with boundary issues choose to foist private opinions on the public via politics. Tolerating "public policy" intrusions into personal reproductive matters seems analogous not with having sex in the park, but with inviting the park into the privacy of our bedrooms. Respect for private property begins at home.

I'm ultimately concerned with protecting freedom, not preventing reproductive wrongs or defending a theoretical notion of "reproductive rights." A state armed with pre-emptive abortion laws owns a master key into the most sacred of sanctuaries: bedrooms, wombs, homes, medical records, doctor/patient and priest/parishioner relationships, and families.

A government intrusive enough to outlaw abortion also possesses mechanisms to set and enforce quotas or conditions on childbearing, and it might, given a cooperative political climate. Future generations deserve a better world than the one our politics would create (or destroy) for them. Many years ago at a family dinner the subject of abortion came up; I recall an awkward silence at the table when I commented that I believed abortion was wrong, but presuming to force my belief upon someone else was a greater wrong. Yes, I still believe that. My folks may still think I'm off the deep end, but I'm arguably more pro-choice than they are: I believe gun ownership falls into the "choice" category, too.

Using greater wrongs to prevent lesser ones is a constant theme in politics. It grieves me that abortion kills unborn children, but truthfully at best I can only speculate what sort of life an aborted child might have had. If I prevent an abortion, and the child is stillborn, or the mother dies in childbirth due to complications, am I responsible? If the child endures a tormented childhood, or her father commits suicide rather than support a family he never planned for, or a distraught postpartum mother drowns her in the bathtub, should I hold myself responsible? If the child grows up to be a new Hitler or Stalin, or a serial killer, am I responsible? Could I consider a parent responsible for a child he or she bore involuntarily as a consequence of my prohibitive actions, and absolve myself from guilt?

Never mind the "slouching 'round to judgment" roulette of law, let's be sane about this: Where does my responsibility end, and another's begin? Should I gamble with other people's lives at the expense of everyone's freedom? I think not. I'm pro-choice because I can't in good conscience bear the alternative: taking reproductive responsibility from people compelled to bear the consequences, and forcing innocent children to live with consequences I failed to foresee. Unborn babies can't speak for themselves, and someone speaking for them assumes a form of parental responsibility: one day, perhaps the courts will take that into consideration. You can't know a child's wishes until he's old enough to sue, and one successful paternity suit based on pro-life intervention could set a precedent.

Children deserve to grow up in a world where personal actions entail responsibility for consequences: a sane world, where private policy prevails over public policy-making mayhem. Children stand to gain the most from inheriting a society created by and for free and responsible adults. Children won't inherit liberties adults refuse to preserve, or learn to bear responsibilities their parents ditched along the way. Institutionalized child welfare schemes may prevent tragedies like abortion by cracking down on parental rights and responsibilities, but children grow up to become parents themselves; will they thank us for such protection or curse us for it? Will our kids be grateful the guy next door was spared abortion, raised in public housing by a mother who didn't want him, never knew a father aside from Uncle Sam, and carries a chip the size of Montana on his shoulder? I'm all for free market alternatives to abortion - alternatives compatible with a free society.

Prohibiting abortion represents a redistribution scheme of social responsibility, and the tragic social repercussions of any prohibition parallel the disastrous economic effects of wealth distribution schemes. Abortion services, like drugs, will remain on the market whether obtained legally or not. Nature declares us all deserving of capital punishment in the end: who can appeal nature's judgments? God/nature handles law enforcement more efficiently and impartially than man can, and it's futile to question the wisdom of verdicts beyond our ability to appeal. Doesn't leaving law enforcement up to God or nature make better sense than making crimes of life/death choices that necessitate seizing a sovereign individual's bodily autonomy? If you can't visualize confronting the awful specter of life as an adult ward of the state at the interpolated demand of unborn offspring, for heaven's sake why put other adults into that damnable position? Like Jacob Marley, we forge our chains in life; we may deceive ourselves by believing only other people will wear them.

Property rights begin with ownership of one's body, or they end there: aborted as a result of public policies forcibly imposed by political bodies upon human bodies. Endangering the very basis of a free, peaceful, and prosperous civilization to save lives that haven't drawn breath yet seems like the most tragic and ultimately preventable abortion of all.

I would not willingly choose birth into a society that treasured my rights for the first 9 months of life by trashing my adulthood rights over the course of a potential 70 or 80 years of mature existence. I'd rather prospective parents had the freedom to abort me than spend my lifetime wondering why on earth they chose to give me birth at all - I'd honor my father and mother enough to want that choice left entirely in their hands. I'd rather be denied a life than rescued for an unwanted half-life as fallout from a campaign to protect dependent children against independent parents' choices.

In case of reincarnation, please don't save me from abortion - save me from a world where we're increasingly responsible for other people's choices, and decreasingly responsible for making our own choices; increasingly dependent on state power, and decreasingly able to achieve maturity and independence. Death is inevitable, and an equal opportunity destroyer - death can't be the harshest fate life keeps in the drawer for human beings: give me death or give me liberty, but please don't give me a life without autonomy; I'd sooner choose abortion - my lifetime, not simply my birth, lies at stake.

Children grow up, and adults give birth to children; natural families consist of multiple generations. Giving rights to children unable to exercise responsibility requires taking responsibility away from adults unable to exercise rights. Rights and responsibilities redistributed from independent adults to dependent children leave us all in no-sense land where children are legally tried as adults, and parents are presumed unfit for guardianship of their offspring. Who benefits? Ironically, the state likes to consider us all dependent upon it, but the state is even more dependent on us: it needs to keep adults fixated on the safety of children, or adults might grow up and host tea parties for independence's sake.

As long as adults accept endangered species status, children don't stand much chance of inheriting needed survival skills from their parents. The bottom line choice lies between a self-selecting gene pool in the capable hands of God, nature, and sovereign individuals, or a gene pool hopelessly muddied by politics and helplessly marching into the widening, bloodthirsty maws of the state. Pro-life and pro-choice folks both make good points. A child isn't a choice, but a child's life depends on her parent's choices. Does it make sense to separate a child from her parent's choices? Whose parental rights remain intact in the process? A child isn't a pie chart, children don't come in slices: the question is, who gets the child, and why would anyone prefer a slice to "all or nothing"?

A child in the womb isn't precisely a pie in someone else's oven; anyone would agree it would be wrong to steal an oven because you want to bake someone else's pie in it. I see no high moral ground in stealing the use of any body to protect a child because you can't steal only a womb. It might be kinder to preemptively steal wombs than preempt bodily autonomy: I can't think of a more direct path to Huxley's Brave New World, though.

Solomon once presided over a memorable case involving two mothers disputing maternal rights. He's not here to judge today. The one judge I'd trust doesn't enforce man's laws: I daresay that's not reasonable to expect. My ultimate vision of purgatory would consist of a relentless cycle where we continually return to encounter our own laws, judgments, and enforcements in different bodies and circumstances: That sounds rather like the "do unto others" concept often referred to as "karma" to me.

Thank you; I have nothing further to say at the moment, your honor. Good karma to us all, ladies and gentlemen: and, please the court, may the best judge preside.

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