The topic of abortion has become one of the most heated issues of our time. As a male, I have felt hesitant to be openly vocal about an issue that seemingly affects women far more than men. In addition to that, I’m also not very well-read when it comes to issues of health or biology. But the more I’ve listened to both sides of the issue, the more I’ve been finding that it is virtually impossible to safety-net everything without some kind of grave compromise. Wherever individual rights or privileges are granted, sometimes it comes at the expense of others.
Which leads me to wonder, at what point does a human being acquire individual rights?
I think most of us remember fighting with our parents or guardians in our adolescent years while trying to figure out our identity. But for those of us who are parents, I think we have a tendency to view our children as an extension of ourselves. It’s an easy thing to do because we see a lot of ourselves in them. We see our mannerisms, sense of humor, stubbornness and our passions become more and more evident in them as they grow older. We also see our own weaknesses genetically remanifest themselves in our kids as they experience hardship and make mistakes of their own. When we raise our kids we hope to see them avoid making the same mistakes we made in the past and become independent and successful in life.
Because of this, I think it’s easy to create an image in our minds as for what type of evidence for ‘successful parenting’ might look like. When our kids make choices that seemingly contradict our expectations, we might react out of cognitive dissonance and sometimes try to ‘correct’ what we think went wrong. Without realizing it, sometimes this may be expressed through trying to coerce our kids into doing what we want them to do – whether it’s what they do for fun, what career to pursue, where to live or who to date or marry, there’s always something kids will fight about with their parents.
And we should know, too, because we were once adolescents who also fought with our own parents or guardians as well.
As bad as it sounds, when it comes to developing independence from our caretakers, I think it all comes down to a sense of entitlement. In some ways, parents can feel like they ‘own’ or feel entitled to do what they will with their children. Perhaps this is one of many reasons why transitioning into adult life can be so tumultuous. This is especially evident as kids evolve into teenagers as they struggle to discover their own identities while parents struggle with learning how to respect their kid’s boundaries – leaving them to grapple with the thought,
‘When did they ever become individuals with minds and lives of their own?’
If parents can view their kids less like individuals and more like pieces of themselves even as they grow into adulthood, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to have this same mindset towards our children even before they are born. In fact, even the mere knowledge of pregnancy can seem so surreal at times that it’s hard to wrap our minds around the fact that there’s another life growing inside of them; especially if we happen to start having children in our late teens or early twenties when our brains are still not quite fully developed and we are still in the process of figuring out who we are. One could perhaps say the feeling parents may have of their kids being an extension of themselves begins right at conception.
This isn’t to say that everyone views children as commodities, but there really is a powerful sentiment behind the phrase, ‘My body, my choice!’
The overall issue of abortion rights comes down to two things: perspective and entitlement. Most of those who believe abortion is progressive for women’s rights do not believe life begins at conception. For them, human rights begins at the moment of birth – although even then the lines are blurred, especially considering some places in the world allow termination during labor. If the fetus is just a clump of cells to them, or even a silhouette of a baby tied to a placenta in the mother’s uterus, it is nowhere near comparable to a born baby or even a migrant child being separated from their parents at the border. Both situations are absolutely awful and I am in no way condoning the separation of children from their loved ones. I can understand how such a view could reject the idea that a ‘potential’ child is equally human as a ‘born’ child. But if life truly begins at conception, and there truly is an actual physical human being in the womb, the two scenarios can be compared. But the glaring difference is the migrant child would more likely have a chance at reuniting with their parents while the unborn child (after being horrifically dismembered) may never have the opportunity to meet theirs.
The free and unlimited access to abortion seems to do the complete opposite of empowering women and human equality. It communicates a message that says women are not strong enough to do what their bodies are biologically capable of doing and renders human life to be disposable. It also enables unruly men to further objectify women, all the while making society believe that men are untrainable and doomed to be slaves to their own carnal desires.
For a culture that is hyper-sexualized to the point where killing another life seems like the only viable option towards preserving the comforts of consequence-free sex, something is truly wrong. It is a sheer travesty that we live in such a sexually permissive and irresponsible time that we feel we can resort to killing unborn babies as a fail-safe method of birth control.
It is a failure of the culture we live in.
My heart aches for those women who have felt compelled to believe abortion to be the only viable option. In many ways, I feel like it’s not only a failure of men who lack moral virtue, but it also seems to go back to how privileged, westernized parents treat their children as individuals. In a capitalistic society that values wealth and personal status, the expectations brought upon young people by their parents can make them weigh their worth as though an unplanned pregnancy is an inconvenience to a successful life and a perpetual smear on their reputation.
But until we start viewing the unborn as human individuals and respecting their own autonomy at the moment of conception, they will always be at the mercy of our own sense of entitlement.