Today is the second day in a row that I've been greeted at lunch downtown by the trucks with the aborted fetuses on them that look like spaggetti-o's with the word CHOICE written real big on the side. This is the kind of thing that necessitates no-cruising laws which our downtown is apparently sorely lacking. Really, any rolling billboard is a tremendous eye-sore and a hi-jacking of public space, but these Anti-Abortion rolling propaganda trucks have gone too far!
What the abortion debate needs is less scare-tactics, less propaganda, less PR campaigning and less brow-beating from BOTH sides. What it needs is some honest, science-based analysis and consensus. Beyond that, if the matter of life being a soul that is connected to, but developed independent of the physical body is your hang up, well you can understand why people will be skeptical. On the one hand, the debate is dominated mostly by fundamentalist Christians and ardent religious followers who believe that abortion is tantamount to murder. When you look at that position, it's easy to understand why they resort to terrorism and propaganda: to people who believe that the soul of the person comes into being and should be protected from conception, abortion is essentially murder and they are just standing up for the unborn the way human rights activists stand up for war victims. The irony of the fact that many of the SAME PEOPLE who campaign so strongly against abortion also support the Republican-led war on Iraq is not lost on me, but that's a topic for another day. On the other hand, you have adamant pro-choice women's rights activists who act like any suggestion that abortion is wrong is equal to rejecting the notion of women's rights and propping up the partriarchal structure even further. Where is the common sense?
I mean, that's where this whole debate crumbles into lunacy. People who hate religious zealots or have issues with Chrsitianity immediately just accuse the pro-life movement of being crazy Christians. The pro-life people stoop to calling the pro-choice people murderers and baby-killers and suddenly, it's not about the issue, it's about the people raising the issue. It doesn't bother me that the men driving these trucks looked like your fairly average middle-aged, church-going guys... they probably were and that's fine. I believe they have a right to think or believe or even talk about whatever they want. However, it makes me angry that these guys and the people who put up the money to support them can't see how fruitless and counter-productive their propaganda campaign is.
Seeing giant 16 ft photos of dead human tissue is not helping anyone decide how they feel about abortion. If anything, it's further scaring the people who already agree that abortion is wrong and it's further alienating the people who believe that abortion is okay. How is this helping?
When I boil it down, it comes down to a few fairly straightforward but complicated questions.
- When does life begin?
- What lives are deserving of protection?
- How do you balance the interests of the mother with that of the child?
That's really it, as far as I can tell, and each question you answer gives you a further, more difficult question. For instance, question 1 is a real kicker, and its one we don't have a scientific answer for. The development of a fetus is pretty standard, but it's not universally the same so there is no precise moment at which you can definitively say for all pregnancies that the fetus is 'a person'. Is it a person because it has human dna? Is it a person when it has a brain? When it resembles a human? When it has measurable activity in the brain? When it's a viable organism that could live outside of the mother? All of these are jumping off points that have their defenses, but unless you answer this question, you aren't ready to talk about the others. In my mind, this is what the pro-choice movement neglects to see. They seem to largely ignore this question and skip to the third question about the mother's rights. That's a tough one too, but it's something that's not even worth getting to unless you have a solid answer for the first two questions.
Almost no-one would agree that infanticide is okay if the life of the baby will inconvenience the mother, but it's a curious situation that we universally extend that protection only after the baby is out of the womb. And therin lies the problem with these billboard trucks: they are making a spiritual plea using scientific evidence. To me, a mass of bloody proto-human parts is disgusting and potentially tragic, but if I'm not convinced that it's really a 'person', that is, if I don't believe there's an independent soul, then all that billboard is doing is making me sick. Animal rights activists try to fight the same fight by showing animals instead of meat when talking about meat, but at the end of the day, if you don't believe animals are deserving of a right not to be slaugthered for meat, then those pictures of little baby chics aren't really doing much. I just wish that people on both sides of these kinds of issues could calm down a bit, rationalize, and talk about what the problems are. Of course in this country, as in many others, the war of public opinion is fought with shock tactics and hyperbole and always will be.