In 2015 I went to Facebook to share a dilemma I thought appropriate to the day:
On Earth Day, I challenge you to consider whether you value and protect human life more than that of flora & fauna. Sadly, many of the same well-intentioned people who support organizations like Green Peace and PETA are silent against (or vocally supportive of) the killing of tiny, invaluable human lives in the womb. I don’t often bring up this topic, but it has weighed too heavily on my mind. Do you see the double standard here, friends?
Really wonderful dialogue ensued, where people calmly yet passionately argued for why they supported abortion. But their arguments fell short of hitting all the rational points to be consistent and thoroughgoing. Here was some of my reply:
I hope I didn’t come off as aloof or against environmental concerns. I just think the human one to be more immediate. Babies will die today.
Your stance is very similar to what mine was until I heard a very important argument. Essentially, if we can agree that the fetus at any stage is a human (embryology tells us it is, along with common sense — heart beat, personal blood type, unique DNA: all there from conception or shortly thereafter) then we must make decisions about killing it on par with decisions about killing a toddler. We would never kill a toddler for the crimes of its father (rape, incest). Nor would we kill a 6-month-old if we found out she had a serious, but previously unforeseen medical issue. We would instead offer the very best life care.
The only instance where abortion seems the lesser of two evils is when the pregnant woman’s life is in immediate danger and it is either mom & baby both die, or baby is aborted to save mother. I cannot see any other reason to kill a child, regardless of its size, level of dependence, location (in the uterus or 6 inches further, out of the birth canal — makes no difference), or level of development.
I am very glad there are people like you reminding mankind to be good stewards of creation, both the flora and the fauna. I could do more myself in both areas, but I could do more in a lot of areas, so that’s not saying much.
I simply think that the plight of animals has a more powerful voice behind it, and is subscribed to by a wider pool of humans — liberals, conservatives, theists, atheists — it is hard to deny that animals should be treated better than they are, and more close to home, hard to say no to adopting that cute puppy at the kill shelter. (I know it goes beyond this, but just as an example.)
I also notice that Earth Day is celebrated in droves. Corporations and governments have plans in place for better stewardship of our environment.
But only select groups speak out for the unborn, and those voices are quickly snuffed by whoever has the louder microphone — regardless of the soundness of that speaker’s campaign.
It is not a dichotomy of choices of which type of life to support — either unborn human, or plant, or animal — but I would argue that there is a hierarchy to the importance of those lives, and a discussion of that hierarchy is missing in the public square. If a baby, an endangered animal, and a rare orchid were drowning in the same body of water, there is an order in which they ought to be saved. Does that make sense?
The following year, I returned to the subject:
Happy Earth Day. Last year I got some calm pushback (and I’m grateful that I did) for hijacking this day to talk about preborn. And guess what? Imma do it again!
A documentary called “Unlocking the Cage” premiered at Sundance this January. It’s produced by the Nonhuman Rights Project, and is super important in its role of continuing the conversation about the unethical treatment of animals. I’m down with that conversation; let me be clear. Good stewardship of creation — flora and fauna alike — is very important. And some people share my same view of reality hold this cause most near & dear to them. Again, I’m down. The story of these particular chimps told in the film is heartbreaking. Someone should speak up for them.
I’m wondering if those of you who would find the cause of the Nonhuman Rights Project appealing, are using a type of thinking to reach that conclusion which you don’t care to apply, or have never thought to apply, that same line of thinking to the plight of the unborn.
Picture a documentary about a particular fetus who has been through all the trials and uncertainties of the first few weeks of life in the womb, only to be on the brink of murder by the hands of a “healthcare provider” with the permission of its own mother. Do you think such a doc would get a Sundance film festival premier shown “to a packed house and a standing, cheering ovation,” and then be “shown around the world on HBO in July”?
From your personal perspective, dear reader, can you tell me why or why not? (This is not rhetorical. Take a stand. Let’s talk it out.)
This time, a couple responses were more spirited. One gal challenged me, “You will not get the discussion you want because people who are pro-life so harshly judge others for their decisions, and lack so much empathy, that it’s not worth having a conversation. It won’t be a conversation. It will be a battle about why ‘pro-life’ is right. You hate abortion? You know who hates it more? The woman who decides to have one.”
I realize when I invite dialogue it may come off as instigation or antagonizing, which may not foster dialogue. Yet here we are, even if your reason was to explain why I’m not seeing results. Those negative perceptions are not my goal, of course, but I think even the most sincere tone in a question on abortion, if my view on the issue is known outright, might be quickly considered judgmental and lacking empathy (though keep in mind that broadly labeling pro-lifers as judgmental and empathy-lacking is itself a passage of judgement by the person making that call, so it levels the playing field a little bit. Passing judgment is simply part of living in a world of disagreement, and it can be done with grace.)
I’ll say that I have people very close in my life who have made this decision — not while I’ve known them, but that doesn’t make the difficulty any less describable by these people. I do empathize with the loss, and I feel horribly that any natal mother ever feels so cornered that this choice seems the only one.
But the reason I wrote a non-empathetic invitation to talk was that it misses my point.
My point was not about the emotion. My point was about the logic. While I realize the two are inseparable in the moment, we’re not in the moment while I write on this. Emotion has a heavy hand to sometimes override reason; so in preempting the reason discussion in a hypothetical, I’m hoping we can examine it more simply.
My point is that no emotional appeal would ever excuse a parent from taking the life of a toddler — even a handicapped, unwanted, unplanned, expensive, emotionally & psychologically taxing toddler who is a product of rape. And yet a younger version of that child is allowed to be (even through tears and after a tumultuous decision process) killed for reasons like those. Still further, many who would grant a parent the right to do that also applaud the attempts to grant personhood rights to life & safety to chimpanzees!
And so I’m again scratching my head at why this hiccup in logic is overlooked time and again. I’m not condemning, I am trying to understand and encourage clear thinking.
On this Earth Day, I’d like to see if I can open this dialogue again — this time with the community of Medium readership, rather than the small bubble of social media.