Monday, August 21, 2006

If Abortion Was Killing It Would Be a Non-Issue

One of the comments that a Grove woman made that stuck with me had to do with her concern over her Catholic Obstetrician. Now, Norma is a prominent figure in the Republican party in OK. She is not someone who I would picture saying something so intriguing about the dangers pregnant women faced or continue to face (which admittedly shows my own prejudice and false assumptions). I asked her to say more about what was concerning about her doctor's Catholicism. She said she was worried that if it came down to her or the baby, he would choose the baby. I pressed on.

"What was his answer?"

"He said I would try to save both."

"Did you ask him again?," I followed up.


Then she said, "I could always have more babies if something happened to me."

I have been puzzled by this exchange ever since. So, today I asked a colleague what she made of this. And, she told me about the stories that surrounded Catholic doctors and hospitals in the 50s. Her mother was an Obstetrics nurse in a Catholic hospital and explained that many people worried, back then, that the physician would save the child over the mother. I guess everyone knew of some story involving a motherless child, now raised by a grieving father. I had no idea that this was an abiding concern for many young mothers. And this story reminds me again, how we need to look at the abortion issue from the lens of a time before Roe, a time before birth control, and a time before women had the kind of social and economic power they do now.

I was mulling over this story when I saw a man driving this car in Baltimore.

Right before I saw this car, bedecked with Pro-life rhetoric and a Maryland Right to Life special license plate, I was thinking about how distinctive peoples' reasoning seems to be about abortion. Basically, my point was if most people really believed that abortion was murder (which is the specific moral wrong that those who object to it from a religious standpoint assert), then abortion would quite simply be a non-issue. I mean, c'mon. No one tolerates or even likes a rapist or child pornographer. But, you can not only like, but love a woman who had an abortion. You might disagree with what she did. You might find it morally repugnant. But, except for a select few, you can't imagine people absolutely wanting to rip apart a woman who terminated a pregnancy.

I wanted to ask this gentleman, driving the car with the "Real Love Rejects Abortion," and "Abortion Kills Babies Worldwide," what he would think of Norma's story about fearing her Catholic doctor. Is abortion really killing? Would you need to advertise so strenuously this extreme view if most people thought it was killing? I mean, can you imagine bumper stickers on cars that said "Rapists Suck." Or "Rapists Destroy Women's Souls Every Day." No. Of course not. But, the Pro-life movement thinks it is perfectly reasonable to construe abortion as killing. This kind of pithy sound byte approach to moral argument is painfully mistaken to me now, after embarking on this project. For example, the bumper sticker refers to abortion being a practice that kills 400 babies a day. What a unforgivable way of potraying difficult and distressing decisions that women across the globe--many of which are victims of brutal rapes or are starving. I used to just be annoyed at this pro-life rhetoric. Now I am just plain disgusted and embarrassed by its simple-mindedness.

I wonder what Norma's reaction would be to those bumper stickers? When I asked her what she would do if OK passed a bill to ban all abortions, even those necessary to saving the mother's life, she said: "Well, I wouldn't really like it. But, it wouldn't affect me and I would try as best as I could to honor it since it would be a law."

Again, I am perplexed. How can one tell this personal story of fearing your OBGYN doctor, and the fact that he might let you die to save your child, and then acquiese, albeit reluctantly, to a law banning abortion. The fact that she could make this decision and honor the activities of her political party only further illustrates to me how odd moral reasoning is over abortion. For her to forget her own fear and shrug it off and say, "well, I would try to honor the law as best as I could" is baffling. It is as if abortion is not a real thing. Or, that she can be of two minds: if the law bans ABORTION--the political football of our time--then I will honor it. But, if a young mother is scared of her physician choosing to save the baby at the expense of the mother, well, that is horrific.