I am not really picking a fight with Pete Spiliakos, but have less hope on the matter of arguing the abortion question than he does. Actually, there is nothing I would like better than to be able to revivify the public argument about human life. I don’t think the problem is that “Public opinion on abortion is likely to remain ambivalent, incoherent, and somewhat open to persuasion.” People do not want to hear about it because the matter is both too big and too small for concern.
Recently, in Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams says, “So What if Abortion Ends Life?: I believe that life starts at conception. And it’s never stopped me from being pro-choice”. Life? So what? She’s a mother and notes that “The majority of women who have abortions – and one in three American women will – are already mothers.” Anyone who worries about when life begins is a “wingnut”.
But we make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise.
I am not sure, but I think she is saying there is no right to life when other things are in the balance, like “reproductive rights” and whether or not there will still be money in the family budget for vacations and Friday evenings out. That reminded me of reading about an MTV special, No Easy Decision, spun off from 16 and Pregnant, and an unforgettable quote that I find repeated in this review, “No one is pro-abortion … but you have to do what’s right,” she concluded. “I wouldn’t choose abortion as a first option for anyone, but it was the best decision for me,” she said. “I know I’ll make it through.”
Of course, the child the girl aborted did not make it through, but there I am, talking like a wingnut again, as if the one life counted more than the lifestyle that would be lost.
Yesterday, I read about “Where Have All the Babies Gone?” from Newsweek, of all places, which is not only about America’s decreasing (and hence aging) population, but also why people are not having children. As one woman quoted in the article puts is, “I feel like my life is not stable enough, and I don’t think I necessarily want it to be … Kids, they change your entire life. That’s the name of the game. And that’s not something I’m interested in doing.”
Postfamilial America is in ascendancy as the fertility rate among women has plummeted, since the 2008 economic crisis and the Great Recession that followed, to its lowest level since reliable numbers were first kept in 1920. That downturn has put the U.S. fertility rate increasingly in line with those in other developed economies—suggesting that even if the economy rebounds, the birthrate may not. For many individual women considering their own lives and careers, children have become a choice, rather than an inevitable milestone—and one that comes with more costs than benefits.
People really cannot be bothered with children. God knows, they are a bother and change your life. People have other expectations, orientations, preoccupations, and do not care if about the humanity of late term fetuses, having accepted the slippery slope that beings at the conception — that is the problem as far as they are concerned and no answer at all. The Newsweek story speaks to the demographic problems that will follow. I do not see that people who do not care about destroying life will care about the future Kotkin and Siegal predict. They are busy worrying about what is right for themselves at the moment. How do we argue against that? If, as Williams said, we can choose for ourselves when we will believe that life begins (and really, who cares) then all things being relative, the demographics of an aging population, much less the morality of taking a human life, all those big things things, pale in relation to the small matter of whether or not a minor medical procedure can prevent a woman from having to change her life, which she can already barely manage.
I would suggest that it will take an awareness of something much larger than the self to make abortion evidently wrong. For a society of people wherein the self is all, we “wingnuts” have no argument in politics.