Abortion: are you “for babies” or “for women”?

The abortion debate is so incendiary because, at its crudest, it pits suffering babies against suffering women.

Advocates on one side implore us to care for women, to consider what it’s like to experience unplanned pregnancies, to consider the plight of rape victims, to have compassion for those who just don’t know how they’ll cope. This is a justice issue!

Advocates on the other one side implore us to care for babies, to respect their right to life, to recognise their suffering, to stand up for them since they can’t stand up for themselves. This is a justice issue!

But are you seeing what I’m seeing?

  • Each side cares about justice.
  • Each side makes perfect sense in isolation.
  • Each justice choice has potentially unjust consequences.

So, you know what I think? I think each side needs to stop demonising the other. I think most of us would say we are both “for babies” and “for women” in our more sober moments. I think Jesus cared for both women and children in any case. So I think we need to listen more. But enough of me, what do you think?

7 thoughts on “Abortion: are you “for babies” or “for women”?

  1. I don’t think that they are equivalent, though.
    One lot says that “It is an enormous injustice to me that another person is alive upon the earth, and the only possible remedy for that injustice is to kill that person.”
    That is the same thinking that lies behind apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
    On the other hand, many of those who claim to be “pro-life” and oppose abortion also object to paying for healthcare for someone else via taxes. It’s actually precisely the same attitude. Don’t ask me to support the life of someone else.


  2. c) For men.
    d) All of the above.
    I’ll pick (d), thanks.
    Society seems to assume that in practice the interests of men, women and unborn children are in conflict, and that women face a choice over lesser of several evils. By making abortion virtually a form of contraception, “her choice”, it places all the pressure, guilt and trauma of unwanted pregnancy and abortion onto women, telling them that this is liberation from control and they should enjoy it.
    This situation mainly benefits irresponsible men. They receive all the benefits of patriarchy but bear none of its social responsibilities; and the same basic effect obtains: women and children matter less than social priorities, and they pay the price.
    We’d find better solutions if we looked for them.


  3. Well said Kalessin, the place of men in the picture is what I was thinking of and couldn’t articulate.
    Wouldn’t be good if abortion, animal rights, drugs, euthanasia, foreign aid, guns & health care were all described in terms of pro-choice and pro-life, and we piss off those who follow the stereotypical liberal or conservative patterns, because their views are now all over the page.
    In the SA state election we’ve had an anti-abortion upper house candidate whose posters of unborn children have been the target of fierce criticism. I haven’t read anyone saying so, but I wonder whether his idea was born at the 2002 election when a candidate was campaigning against inhumane farming pracitces (posters of pigs).


  4. I am assuming all of the above posts are written by men (aplogies if any of you are not… and I do actually know a lady called ‘Steve’)!
    I am female, but I have not had an abortion, although I have had children and I have known several women who have had one or more for various reasons, including my own mother. For the moment, I am not going to comment on the effect that abortion had on their physical or psychological health.
    In response to Steve: That’s a very interesting and provocative argument you make. As far as I have been able to understand it, part of the pro-abortion argument hinges on at what point one concedes a “person” as actually alive after conception. That’s why terms such as “tissue mass” are used instead of “embryo” or “foetus”. This has the effect of being less emotive and less likely to evoke the idea of murder etc.
    Overall, I think the pro-abortion arguments use dehumanizing tactics, as are points such as you raised about health-care responsibilities… basically a user-chooses, user-pays kind of mentality in our era when economic rationalism wrestles with issues of community compassion.
    Another thing that bothers me in this debate is the fact that the paternity factor is far too often ignored. So thanks, Kalessin, for commenting on that aspect. There’s probably been much less research done on the effect on men involved in the abortion stories. Mostly men are mentioned as the evilly caricatured abortionist medical practitioner, alongside the images of the social-witch or banal, female, back-yard practitioner that spring to mind when the word “abortion” is mentioned.
    It might be interesting to research just how many of the so-called unwanted pregnancies are actually of the “danger-to-mother” or “rape-victim” variety compared to how many are just a lifestyle/convenience “choice”…
    I think both sides of the argument need to stop “demonizing” and stop “dehumanizing” each other, and look more closely at the underlying issues about personal dignity, human relationships and community care that this controversial issue veils.


  5. I think other considerations besides the legalities and wrong and rights arguments need to be what is most merciful and compassionate on a case-by-case scenario.
    I appreciate that is a lot harder to apply in life and death situations.
    Nonetheless for Jesus, God’s `bottom line’ in the plucking of the ears of corn on the sabbath situation was mercy and compassion, not the “letter of the law”.
    Yeah, its not about eating on some religious day here, but about life and death. Nevertheless I think the key to working with this issue is finding out where God’s bottom line is, given that there are several parties directly effected by what choice is made – the baby, the mother and the father.
    To me this issue involves a lot of grey morally as well as black and white.
    I personally can see a clash of priorities regarding the justice and injustice sides of both arguments.
    Not for abortion myself perse, but can see times where a woman resorting to it is understandable and perhaps morally justifiable(e.g. having been raped, carrying the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life).
    Generally I think it is approached by both sides as a moral/legal issue, not a people issue – more to do with moralistic ideology rather than about genuine caring and compassion and mercy for the victims. It often becomes a stone throwing exercise in rhetoric from each side against the other “to make a point” or “in principle”.
    So I agree with Lucy’s final sentence in her post about locating dignity, compassion and mercy for the people most effected by abortion as the highest priority before our zeal for being on the `right side’ of this argument.


  6. Andrew
    I agree. Which is why I’m generally critical of Christians focussing on legislative action, even though I’m generally against abortion, particularly as a solution to unplanned pregnancy between consenting adults. Legislation reduces the conversation to an argument between absolutes. Women’s rights are important? Absolutely! Baby’s rights are important? Absolutly! How can we delegitimize either without deminishing our own humanity? We need to raise the conversation above the polarized “zero sum game” talk.


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