Why George Orwell Was Pro-Life

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More than three decades after the legalization of abortion, the story line has barely changed. Granted, technology, especially the increasing sophistication of ultrasound, is altering the debate. But if some disinterested screenwriter right now were to turn the script into a movie, what would it most closely resemble? I’d put my money on Inherit the Wind, the 1960 film about the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, in which a public school teacher was accused, and later found guilty, of teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. In that two-dimensional movie, as in the abortion debate today, a religious right is pitted against an intellectual left.

Playing the role of Evangelical statesman William Jennings Bryan would be many pro-lifers. Both believe that the matter at hand can be discussed only in religious or theological terms. Playing the role of the rationalist lawyer Clarence Darrow would be the majority justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Both contend that any controversial view embraced by most of the world’s major religions is therefore religious in nature. As the court wrote in its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the anti-abortion view “is based on such reverence for the wonder of creation that any pregnancy ought to be welcomed and carried to term.” And playing the role of the skeptic H. L. Mencken would be the American media. They frequently characterize pro-lifers as “zealots” or, as in the January 17, 2002, case of Washington Post staff writer Rick Weiss, who wrote about opponents of all forms of human cloning, the Taliban.

So this is where the abortion debate stands. In a couple decades, however, technology is likely to transform it. And when it does, a future screenwriter will need to add another figure to the plot. My candidate for the role would be the pro-life English writer George Orwell (1903-1950). To be sure, Orwell is an unorthodox pick. He is best known as a prescient critic of Communism, as in Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949), and imperialism, as in Burmese Days (1934) and the essay “Shooting an Elephant” (1936). He was also a Socialist, as he made clear in The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia (1937). And yet Orwell consistently opposed abortion, abhorring the argument that it ought to be a private decision. As he wrote in the 1944 essay “The English People,” “In England of the last thirty years, it has seemed all too natural… that abortion, theoretically illegal, should be looked on as a mere peccadillo.”

But Orwell’s unorthodox pro-life stance is precisely why he’s the perfect choice. It undermines two of the main arguments against abortion foes. For one, Orwell showed that legal abortion could be opposed in exclusively moral and rational terms. His argument is also important in terms of identity: He proved that pro-lifers need not be personally religious. Except for a brief period in the early 1930s when he did attend church regularly, Orwell himself was agnostic. But this did nothing to change the substance of his argument.

Yet here again most of our intelligentsia say the exact opposite. To them, even if a person voices a moral and rational pro-life argument, he or she must be personally religious. As journalist Cynthia Gorney, author of Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars, said in a 1998 interview with Christianity Today, describing the early leaders of the anti-abortion movement: “Everything they knew in the world they knew as Catholics. They knew geometry as Catholics. They knew American history as Catholics. They knew catechism as Catholics.”

Orwell’s opposition to abortion therefore may seem surprising. It shouldn’t be. It simply belongs to an alternative pro-life tradition — one based on democratic and humanitarian principles. This fact highlights not only the populist nature of his philosophy and the pro-life position, but also the meritocratic elitism of our pro-choice journalists, judges, and intellectuals.


Inventing George Orwell

The claim that pro-lifers are personally religious was always weak; after all, plenty of non-religious people oppose the death penalty and war. In Orwell’s case, the most that can be said of him is that he felt comfortable within the Christian tradition. He was married and buried according to the rites of the Church of England and had his adopted son, Richard, baptized. But this is not the same as saying he was a true believer. Throughout his career he criticized the Christian belief in the soul’s immortality. What’s more, A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), the one religious novel he wrote, is about the loss of Christian faith; the heroine, Dorothy Hare, realizes at novel’s end that “faith and no faith are very much the same provided that one is doing what is customary, useful, and acceptable.” So the story of how he became pro-life doesn’t fit into the usual categories of personal identity: religion, gender, race, and so on.

Rather it hinges on out-of-favor sociological concepts: social class and occupation. Orwell was like no one so much as some of the characters in Faulkner’s Flags in the Dust (1929) — a member of a displaced, slightly corrupt elite looking for a place in the modern world — except that unlike them, he found it in the bourgeois and blue-collar traditions of early 20th-century England.

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903, in Motihari, Bengal. His family was Anglo-Indian, and they belonged to a genteel tradition that has no direct equivalent in modern America. Most of our families are bourgeois: The father and/or mother work for the private sector and orient their non-working hours around family life. But whereas our class system is based on money and education, Edwardian England was still mostly based on family lineage, land, and social status. In this system, the gentility was part of the elite. They served as a kind of warrior and priestly class. The father served the Church of England or the Empire and held family life secondary. Mr. Blair, Eric’s father, was typical in this regard. He worked for the Indian government’s opium department and barely saw Eric until he was eight years old.

Eric’s early life appears to have been representative of this elite tradition. He learned how to shoot a rifle in childhood, attended “public” (i.e., private) boarding school starting at age eight, and joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma at 19. Indeed, throughout his life, Blair retained a bit of the English gentility’s moral code. He was physically courageous (in World War I, a higher percentage of upper-class men died than did those from the lower classes); he fought as a soldier in Spain. And he was public spirited, as his writing career testifies.

Later, Blair largely broke with his elite heritage, and part of the reason was social. As the empire began to fade, the gentility fell into decline. Blair memorably captured his social change in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937): “I never open one of Kipling’s books or go into one of the huge dull shops which were once the favorite haunt of the upper-middle class, without thinking, ‘Change and decay in all around I see.'”

The other reason Blair largely broke with his genteel tradition was moral. During his five years as a policeman in Burma, he witnessed firsthand and was horrified by the Empire’s systematic racism and oppression. “Shooting an Elephant” is all about how the rule of empire forces people into cruelty. Similarly, his novel Burmese Days (1934) depicts the racism, snobbery, and stupidity of the Anglo-Indian class. His five-year tour of duty up, he returned home in 1927 deeply repentant. “I was conscious of an immense weight of guilt that I had got to expiate,” he wrote in Wigan Pier. “I felt that I had got to escape not merely from imperialism but from every form of man’s dominion over man.”

For atonement Blair lived off and on for the next four years among the homeless and poor of Paris and London. His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), recounts the indignity and privation of such a life, although it does so with humor. Just before the book’s publication, Blair adopted a pseudonym: George Orwell. The name change symbolized his new identity, but for several years, from about 1928 to 1936, it wasn’t clear what that identity was.

Initially, he despised the values of the middle classes or bourgeoisie — the shopkeepers, merchants, and professionals whose rise to power is chronicled in the novels of Charles Dickens. Even though they were leveling the playing field in British society, these developments appeared to him to open the floodgates to money and greed. He could not have put this change in values more forcefully than he did in the prologue to Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936): The word “love” in St. Paul’s famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage is replaced with the word “money” — “Money suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not itself…”

By contrast, Orwell admired much of working-class life, especially its fraternity and grittiness. In Down and Out, A Clergyman’s Daughter, and Wigan Pier, the genteel character comes into contact with the working class and embraces parts of its proletarian tradition. But he also recognized that he didn’t fully belong to it either. He spoke with an upper-class accent and had the manners and habits of a gentleman, as he recounted in the great second half of Wigan Pier.

Orwell liked the independence of the bohemian tradition. Indeed, for most of his career he was a freelance writer for small, low-paying Socialist publications. But he also recognized its emotional and physical poverty. In the early 1930s he lived at home and held a string of odd jobs as a teacher and private tutor. Finally, in March 1935, he met his future wife, Eileen O’Shaugnessy, a graduate student in psychology at University College London, and by June 1936 they were married. Orwell’s identity was finally beginning to take shape with this first acceptance of bourgeois life.


Embracing Middle-Class Values

What does this shift in value systems have to do with Orwell’s pro-life views? In embracing the stability of middle-class married life, Orwell was also accepting middle-class values — duty, prudence, honesty. While it didn’t mean embracing religion, Orwell felt more respect for and connection with his bourgeois peers than his genteel past. His 1936 novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying was a sign of that relationship: “Keep the Red Flag Flying” was the traditional slogan of the British Labour Party. By substituting the word “red” with aspidistra, a green-leafed plant that survives in harsh climates, he was praising hardiness and thrift, two qualities of the proletarian and bourgeois traditions. It would be in this novel of bourgeois values that Orwell would lay out his humanistic case against abortion.

Gordon Comstock, the 29-year-old protagonist in Aspidistra, is much like Orwell himself at the time. Gordon comes from a shabby genteel family struggling in a money-dominated society and chooses a bohemian lifestyle early on. Chucking his well-paying advertising job, he tries to become a poet, supporting himself as a bookshop assistant. But Gordon has little success. After selling one poem to a magazine, he squanders his money through drinking and debauchery. And three-quarters through the novel, Gordon faces a much bigger problem: His girlfriend, Rosemary, announces unexpectedly that she’s pregnant with their child. Both are confused. “He did not think of the baby as a living creature,” a horrified Gordon reacts. “[I]t was a disaster, pure and simple.”

The same dilemma has confronted other characters in literature before, but what distinguishes Gordon’s decision is not simply that he chooses life — it’s the way he does it. After the shock of Rosemary’s pregnancy wears off, Gordon consults science and reason to make sense of the situation — but never religion. Once he recognizes the unborn child’s humanity, he consciously identifies with working-class values.

Gordon calls Rosemary to tell her to keep the baby, and she’s elated. He promises to get his old job back as an ad writer and marry her — the bohemian is finally settling down. On the way home, he comes upon a neighborhood populated by small clerks, commercial travelers, and shop assistants. Looking around, he muses, “The lower-middle-class people in there, behind their lace curtains, with their children and their scraps of furniture and their aspidistras — they lived by the money code, sure enough, and yet they contrived to keep their decency…. They had their standards, their inviolable points of honour. They ‘kept themselves respectable’ — kept the aspidistra flying.”

Gordon sheds his artistic values; he throws down the drain a major poem he’d been working on, symbolic of his change. Earlier, Gordon had commented that, in contrast, shabby genteel families did not value the bearing and raising of children. Reflecting on his own shabby genteel relatives, none of whom had children, he concludes, “It was noticeable even then that they had lost all impulse to reproduce themselves…. They were one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle classes, in which nothing ever happens.” We know that Gordon has embraced the working class by the last sentence of the book: “Well, once again things were happening in the Comstock family.”

But Orwell didn’t just consider these values to be relative. They were absolutely, universally good. As Orwell biographers Peter Stansky and William Abrahams have suggested, Aspidistra is an affirmation of life over the modern age’s death wish. Indeed, unique among Orwell’s nine novels, the protagonist in Aspidistra overcomes large social forces and achieves happiness and self-knowledge as a result. Contrast this outcome with those in Burmese Days, A Clergyman’s Daughter, Coming Up for Air, Animal Farm, and 1984. In those novels the chief characters either are spiritually crushed, resigned, or wind up dead, beaten down by the bleakness of modernity.


The ‘Poor Ugly Thing’

The myth that the pro-life position is rooted merely in religious and theological views was blasted by Orwell. In Aspidistra, Gordon opposes abortion out of a commitment to reason and moral conscience alone.

After Rosemary announces the news of her unplanned pregnancy and says she’s considering an abortion, Gordon is “disgust[ed]” by the thought of such an action. His response is instinctual; he’s “going with his gut.” Despite the easy allure of such an approach, it’s a shaky way of making a decision. People’s instincts vary, and often our knowledge is faulty or partial; no one recommends going with your gut in choosing a car or stocks. Yet these are the very reasons that many people, including intellectuals, favor abortion rights. In Christopher Hitchens’s mostly absurd 1995 book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, he justified support for legal abortion during the first trimester this way: “[I]f a fertilized egg is fully human, then all terminations of pregnancy at any stage and for any reason are to be regarded as murder. This offends against the natural or instinctive feeling in favor of the pregnant women and the occupant of her womb, because it blurs the distinction between an embryonic group of cells and a human with a central nervous system.” (Indeed, in his later book, Why Orwell Matters, Hitchens attributes Orwell’s pro-life stance to his “reliance on the instinctual.” Talk about projecting your values.)

By contrast, Gordon isn’t satisfied with his gut. Besieged by questions about pregnancy, he seeks a surer foundation for his decision. He walks to the nearest public library and finds a book on human embryology, where he sees pictures of a six-week- and a nine-week-old fetus. In other words, he is using the scientific method. He is obtaining verifiable results by reasoning logically from observed facts. Looking at the pictures prompts these thoughts:

His baby had seemed real to him from the moment when Rosemary spoke of abortion.… But here was the actual process taking place. Here was the poor ugly thing, no bigger than a gooseberry, that he had created by his heedless act. Its future — its continued existence perhaps — depended on him. Besides, it was a bit of himself — it was himself. Dare one dodge such a responsibility as that?

It’s important to note what Gordon does not do here. He doesn’t see a priest or consult the Bible, as most of our intelligentsia would assume. Nor does he talk to his parents or neighbors, relying on their authority. Instead the basis of his decision is empirical and scientific. That Orwell would look to science and reason isn’t surprising. One can safely say that throughout his career he practiced the scientific method, drawing logical conclusions from facts observed in everyday life. As he wrote in the October 26, 1945, essay “What Is Science,” “Clearly, scientific education ought to mean the implanting of a rational, skeptical, experimental habit of mind. It ought to mean acquiring a method — a method that can be used on any problem that one meets — and not simply piling up a lot of facts.”

But science is no value in and of itself; it’s a tool we use to make decisions. As the above passage indicates, Gordon’s scientific understanding leads to a change in his moral values. He is moved by pity; he contrasts “the poor ugly thing” with his “heedless act.” He is moved by a sense of duty; the “continued existence” of the embryo “depend[s]” on his decision not to abort. And he is moved by his realization of the embryo’s essential humanity: “[I]t was himself.”

Appeals to pity, duty, and humanity — these are not exclusive to right-wing Christian theology. They are essential ingredients in the human conscience. All of us have one. It’s when we numb or lop off our conscience that deciding to abort becomes much easier.


The Revolt of the Meritocrats

Of course, Orwell isn’t the only intellectual who’s been simultaneously pro-life and non-religious. So have, as I understand them, Nat Hentoff and Ken Kesey — not to mention the Hippocratic Oath in medicine or the United Nations’s 1948 Charter on Human Rights. Although the list is short, it does represent a particular tradition within the pro-life cause, and one that most of our intelligentsia invariably ignores.

Indeed, it’s useful to turn the tables on our pro-choice journalists, judges, and intellectuals and look at their identities. What are the common threads among people like Louis Menand, the majority justices on the Supreme Court, Cynthia Gorney, and John Irving? They’re part of the mandarin or meritocratic elite. They went to Ivy League schools and became symbolic analysts. Their virtue is their belief in opportunity and diversity. But their weakness is their general lack of a sense of duty, moral conscience, and, oddly enough, scientific reasoning.

They assume that neither Orwell nor pro-lifers are being scientific or rational. In fact, these meritocrats are themselves relying on instinct. They put little stock in moral conscience, and their own is decidedly wobbly. By contrast, adherence to strict principles is central to religious believers and to Orwell, once called by the novelist V. S. Pritchett “the wintry conscience of a generation.”

This is not to say that the pro-choice cause is elitist; most women who have the 1.3 million abortions in this country every year come from the ranks of the poor and working class. But its theoretical foundation is certainly not populist. It’s not based on reason, moral conscience, or the very values of the class it claims to represent.

Instead, the pro-choice worldview is a kind of secular elitism. Its basis is what Orwell, in a 1944 essay on the artist Salvador Dali, called “the benefit of clergy,” where the elites exempt themselves from moral laws that bind “ordinary” people. This is exactly right: How else to characterize the position articulated by former New York Governor Mario Cuomo: “I’m personally opposed to abortion but don’t want to impose my views on others”?

Orwell had no use for such relativism and equivocation. The truth of the matter was obvious to him, easily grasped by anyone who chose to look at the situation with a clear eye and a scientific mind. As he explained in “Benefit of Clergy,” “One can see how false this view is if it extends to ordinary crime…. No one would say that a pregnant woman ought to be able to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted.”

If only the pro-abortion elites, so busy with dismissing the pro-life cause for being irrational, could see the truth as clearly as Orwell.

 

This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Crisis Magazine.

Mark Stricherz

By

Mark Stricherz is the author of Why the Democrats Are Blue: Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People's Party.

  • John Jakubczyk

    That many in the pro-life movement do not use the rational scientific and non-religious argument as our default position has been a problem over the years in advancing the pro-life position. Fortunately for me I learned in high school biology class the objective evidence identifying the unborn child as a human being. This evidence, together with understanding of law and ethics, formed the basis for the moral imperative to protect innocent human life. The religious argument was merely a confirmation of the complementary nature of faith and reason. The consistent historical recognition that innocent human life was a good to be protected is one of the great contributions of the Church to the modern age.

    I also enjoyed learning about Orwell’s other works and look forward to a time when I may peruse them for further insight on his thinking. Thank you Mark, for an interesting article.

  • jetpilot

    What a brilliant article and rich illumination of this relatively unknown side of Orwell!

    I do however have one main crticism – the author seems to take a great deal of comfort that abortion can be opposed exclusively on “non-religious” grounds, with Orwell as exhibit A. The whole article is one massive sigh of relief that pro-life advocates can at last be freed from the “religious” corner that their opponents take delight in painting them in to.

    To quote, “The myth that the pro-life position is rooted merely in religious and theological views was blasted by Orwell. In Aspidistra, Gordon opposes abortion out of a commitment to reason and moral conscience alone.”

    It is a basic tenet of the Church, put forward by innumerable Fathers and Saints such as Aquinas that the moral conscience is a God-given compass that all human beings have been imbued with by their Creator. So moral conscience is not divorced from God, and if God is a central character in “religion” then it is not divorced from “religion” either.

    Hence Aquinas argues that if all men were of good will and true to their conscience(s), the logical and consistent conclusion they would all make would be the truth as revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

    Christ indeed is the fullness of the Truth. Any other “truth” can only be half or part truth at best. Therefore Orwell, while being able to see the truth of the sanctity of human life as revealed to him by his God-given moral conscience, was, sadly, blind in regard to the full truth in his dogged adherence to atheism.

  • Jesurgislac

    As the author justly notes, he was an upper-middle-class Englishman living at a time when abortion was not legal. He does not appear to have had close female friends, and his background was conventional as far as religion was concerned. Orwell expressed the conventional views of his time: he was unorthodox only in bringing the subject up at all.

    A woman’s right to choose abortion is a human rights issue. Women have the right not to be forced through pregnancy and childbirth against their will. It’s as simple as that.

    The idea that “being pro-choice” makes you part of an “intellectual elite” is something that I think would astonish the many women in the US who have chose to have abortions, who are de facto pro-choice, and who are so instinctively: they know, whatever pro-lifers tell them, that their bodies are their own and that no one else has the right to force them to have a baby against their will. This does not make them part of any “elite” – it just makes them human.

  • jetpilot

    In reply to Jesurgislac – firstly, Orwell did, in fact have a number of women acquaintances, a lot of them very close. A simple search in Wikipedia will show this.

    Men of good will would have no difficulty with the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion. By good will I mean those who are really true to their consciences and are reasoning logically and consistently. Aquinas showed this (not particularly in relation to abortion, but to Catholic Truth in general) in his Summa Theologica.

    With respect, your statement that a woman’s right to an abortion is a human rights issue is flawed because there is another human involved here. Their (the fetus’) human rights are completely ignored by abortion rights advocates. The use of “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion” is also a deliberately disingenuous ploy by abortion rights advocates to ignore the weaker party in the “choice” that is being made by the stronger party. The weaker party has no “choice” in the matter at all.

    The only way to justify this way of thinking is to deny there is another party involved at all. This is to deny the humanity of the fetus. To do this, one must necessarily not be of good will, or have a severely compromised conscience, or be illogical in one’s thinking, or some combination of the above.

    The argument about “their bodies being their own” is also specious because this does not tell the whole truth. Yes, indeed their bodies are their own, but there is another body within their’s that is an independent entity (they have their own blood supply, organs, etc.) except for the nourishment that the mother provides. This person’s body is also his/her own, but they are conveniently left out with the canard, “my body is my own”.

    Indeed inasmuch as the fetus requires parental nourishment to stay alive, there is very little difference between it and a very young baby who also requires constant care and nourishment. A person of good will and conscience would be able to see that if the argument about “not being forced to bring a baby to term” was accepted, it would logically follow that one could similarly justify infanticide, or at the very least, the wilfull neglect of an infant resulting in their death, because if I should not be forced to have my body used to gestate a human being, why should I be forced to use my body (my resources of energy, money, etc) to keep another human being (only slightly older) alive?

    Pro-abortionists argue a magical status change from lump of tissue to human being with legal status upon birth, however they should admit, if they were of good will and had a viable conscience, that this sudden change of status argument is wilfully deceitful. We know that babies have been born at around 20 weeks (half the normal gestation for a human) and have not just survived, but thrived. In fact, the pro-abortionists cannot even decide exactly when this magical status change happens. Is it when the baby fully emerges, is it when the umbilical cord is cut? These morbid questions are only asked by the confused consciences of those who because of their lack of good will have lost all touch with the truth. They have no bearings, no point of reference. They make it up as they go along. According to that arch pro-abortionist Barbara Boxer, a child is fully human only when it is taken home. Does that mean if it is killed on the way home it is not murder?

    Orwell expressed the views he did because, as his works attest, he was not afraid to think consistently, logically, with good conscience and good will, not because he was “expressing the conventional views of his time”.

  • Jesurgislac

    First of all, you have a point about Orwell’s women friends. Though from the public schoolboys of that era whom I have been acquainted with, that he counted them as close friends did not mean they would talk to him about how they felt about the threat of unwanted pregnancy in the era when abortion was illegal.

    With respect, your statement that a woman’s right to an abortion is a human rights issue is flawed because there is another human involved here. Their (the fetus’) human rights are completely ignored by abortion rights advocates.

    That is because the fetus’s human rights do not include the right to make use of another human’s body against her will. No human has that right. Therefore, in the question of whether a woman shall have the right to terminate or continue a pregnancy, her decision is paramount: her body, her right not to be used against her will.

    The argument about “their bodies being their own” is also specious because this does not tell the whole truth. Yes, indeed their bodies are their own, but there is another body within their’s that is an independent entity

    Really? Okay, in that case, there can be no difficulty about removing the fetus. As an independent entity, the fetus cannot need anything from the pregnant woman: she can remove the independent entity and hand that independent entity on to another person’s body.

    This is biologically ridiculous. The fetus does not hang there mid-air, independent: a fetus is making use of a woman’s entire bodily resources, potentially at risk of her life, quite possibly at risk to her health.

    Further, with all due respect; the fetus is, even after developing a cerebral cortex, literally unconscious until birth due to low oxygen levels in the blood. The fetus can make no decisions. All claimed rights for the fetus to “exercise” are in fact claimed rights by others – fathers, husbands, governments, churches – to make use of the woman’s body, using the fetus as a justification.

    I think that had Orwell lived long enough, he would have recognized the justice of feminism – the right of everyone, male or female, to the basic human rights. He wrote with passion against the concept that so many pro-lifers promote, that a human body can be made use of by the state, used till broken. He wrote strongly against the idea that a human being can be treated as a thing to be used. He saw the nature of fascism that we see in so much of the pro-life movement – the boot coming down on the human face, forever. The pro-life movement puts the boot down on women, so often, and – just as in the 1984 society – wants women to love the Big Brother state that makes use of them in this way.

  • jetpilot

    I realise this forum is not meant for a back and forth, but the above response is crying out for one last reply from me, after which I will desist.

    1. In quoting back my argument about the fetus being an independent entity, you conveniently left out the second part of my statement, which acknowledged that it depends on the mother for life. It is independent in the sense that it is a distinct person with its own identity, but of course it needs the sustenance that the mother provides. This is independence strictly in the sense of personhood, not physical dependence.

    2. And this is precisely the case with the very young infant (you conveniently ignored this) who also depends on the mother (and father to a lesser extent) for everything. In fact the inconvenience to the mother of caring for a newborn is in many ways much more onerous than simply carrying a fetus to term. The newborn has to be pyhsically fed, bathed and put to bed, whereas the fetus does all that by itself in-vitro. A newborn can interrupt your sleep many times a night, gets sick and needs to be taken to hospital…none of that happens with the fetus. If there was any truth at all (which there isn’t of course) to the argument that “being forced” to have one’s body used for someone else is grounds to kill the one who is “forcing” themselves on you, then there could not be anything wrong with wilfull neglect of an infant leading to the infant’s death, because by any reasonable measure the infant demands just as much if not more bodily (physical, psychological and financial) resources than a fetus.

    3. Exactly the same logical extension should apply to the “fetus can make no decisions” argument…if it were true. Of course it is not, because neither can a 1 day old child make any decisions. Yet it is a crime to kill it.

    4. This leads to the next point – when does a fetus become a human with the same rights as you and me? You avoided this as well, so I don’t know on what grounds you justify killing the unborn while condemning the killing of a newborn (I assume this is where you stand?).

    5. Your depiction of the fetus as “unconscious” is patently wrong. It has been documented in scientific literature going back to the turn of the last century, and would be confirmed by any pediatrician or gynaecologist worth his salt, that the fetus is very much conscious in the womb. It responds to all sorts of stimuli – music, motion, different foods the mother eats, sudden sounds, touching, to name but a few.

    6. Lastly, your depiction of the pro-life movement as “the boot coming down on the human face” would be laughable if it wasn’t so reprehensible. The real “boot coming down on the human face” is the conversion of women (including girls as young as 12) into the contraceptive-filled sexual playthings of men, with absolutely no regard for the sanctity of their womanhood, or the respect due to those whom God has ordained worthy of being handmaids in his creation.

    There is a distinct lack of love, even hatred, in your hostility to the human fetus, that does not bode well for your regard for humanity in general. The pro-life movement loves human beings, all human beings, period. We don’t play women off against men, fathers against mothers, wives against husbands…that’s your gig, and with the deepest sincerity I’d like to wish you all the worst in your efforts in this area.

  • Jesurgislac

    1. At no point do you appear to realize that a woman is an independent entity. That she is a distinct person. That she is not an incubator for the purpose of carrying fetuses, without free will or needs of her own. Pregnancy will permanently change a woman’s body: can permanently damage a woman’s health: does kill about half a million women a year. Women do not deserve to be treated as incubators. No human being deserves to be treated as a machine for the use of the state to work until they are carted off to the knackers: see Animal Farm and the way the pigs treated Boxer.

    2. You ignore (because you have to) that in trying to compare a newborn baby to a fetus, you are ignoring very distinct biological changes. I’m aware that this is a common pro-life trope, to remain unaware of exactly how a woman can, if she chooses, create a baby from a fertilized egg, and how a fetus is distinctly, biologically different from even a newborn baby. But nevertheless: there is a real difference, and trying to ignore it, when the information is freely available for anyone who truly wishes to learn, does appear to be wilful ignorance. A newborn baby is not a fetus.

    3. My point about “the fetus can make no decisions” was on the point that people who claim to be acting on the fetus’s behalf are invariably doing so to exercise control over the woman’s body. You cannot make medical/healthcare decisions for a fetus without also making them for a woman (or a girl). No one has a right to make medical/healthcare decisions for the woman on her behalf so long as she is conscious and able to express her wishes. Therefore, no one but the woman can make medical/healthcare decisions on behalf of the fetus – because anyone else who tried to would be making them for the woman, overriding her judgement and conscience, and that would be wrong.

    3.1 It is not a crime to decide to take a newborn baby off lifesupport if, in the judgement of the parents and medical professionals, the newborn baby cannot live without lifesupport.
    3.2 It is a crime to take a healthy newborn baby and remove organs from the baby – even organs the baby will be able to live without – even for the purpose of saving another baby’s life.

    As above, a newborn baby is not a fetus. But: the pregnant woman is the lifesupport system for a fetus. She is not a machine: she has the right to decide for herself to remove the fetus from her. She has the right, just as any other human does, to decide her organs will not be used against her will, not even to save the life of the fetus she is carrying.

    The argument that she has no right, that she can be used against her will for the purpose of saving a human life, goes beyond Orwell’s 1984 nightmare right into the Larry Niven sci-fi in which people can be condemned to organ banks. Women are not organ banks.

    4. No human being has the right to use another human being’s body against his or her will. It does not matter when a person decides that a fetus becomes a legally distinct human being, because the woman is always a human being. Nothing can be done to her body without her consent: she cannot be enslaved or used against her will without being in breach of a dozen human rights codes. Claiming full human rights for the fetus does not take away the woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy.

    5. Sorry, you’re just wrong. Seriously. Obviously a fetus can’t be conscious in any sense at all until the cerebral cortex develops, some weeks into the second trimester, but even after that, as I said earlier, the fetus is biologically distinct from a newborn baby in a number of ways, and one of them is that the fetus doesn’t breathe. Even after lungs develop (which is relatively late in development; one reason a fetus is not viable until 22-24 weeks is the lung development) they are not used. Fetuses “breathe” by oxygen exchange via the placenta: the low levels of oxygen in the fetus’s blood mean that even after a cerebral cortex develops, week 15 or thereabouts, the cortex never gets enough oxygen to “wake”. A fetus is effectively asleep till birth.

    6. The pro-life movement is a political movement, with a terrorist wing, with the fixed goal of doing harm to women via female health needs. Pro-lifers attack women’s health clinics, attack doctors who support women, attack healthcare provision for women, attack pre-natal and post-natal care – attack both physically and politically, denying funding, denying support, and do it all with Big Brotherish language about “love”. Half a million women a year die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. Ten million women a year suffer permanent damage due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. Women need family planning clinics: women need access to safe, legal abortion: women need to be able to control their own fertility by access to contraception: women need pre-natal and post-natal healthcare. These are desperate human needs, and the pro-life movement not only does not provide them while talking up the “rights of the fetus”, as if the best way to provide and protect fetuses was not to provide for women! – but also attacks organizations, such as Amnesty International, which came out in defense of a raped woman’s right to choose abortion and her right to medical treatment after an illegal abortion, or Marie Stopes Foundation, which provides family planning and healthcare to pregnant women round the world. Yes, I do perceive the pro-life movement as a boot coming down on a human face. I hope not forever.

    Finally, I find it objectionable that you perceive my concern for women as “hostility to the human fetus”. I perceive no concern for women – and thus no real concern for fetuses – in the pro-life movement’s actions, policy, and public statements.

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