As we enter a new year, it’s not fun to look back on 2014, a tumultuous year that saw quite a bit of hardships. If we learned anything from 2014, it’s namely that human life is decreasing in value. We saw that a man throwing his hands up and attempting to reason with another human being has no right to life so long as the person being unreasonable has a badge. We learned that being white and carrying a gun in an open carry state will gather police attention, but not kill you, while being black in that same state and carrying a BB gun will result in your death, regardless of age. We learned that Planned Parenthood can celebrate the termination of 327,653 human lives by their own hands. We witnessed that people who are appalled by the previous statistic are likewise willing to defend the use of torture – even against innocent people – by the CIA, are willing to support drone strikes, are willing to support endless warfare, and still support the death penalty even though at least 4% of those on death row are innocent. All the while, people complained about “Obamacare,” helping the homeless, or enacting policies to help eradicate poverty.
Sadly, as I’ve pointed out before, “pro-life” is a bit of a misnomer as a movement. After all, how can one be “pro-life” on matters of abortion, but still advocate the destruction of life outside the womb? The cornerstone of any argument against abortion begins with the idea that humans have intrinsic value by mere fact that they exist; what good does it do us if we support positions that contradict such a viewpoint? More to the issue of being against abortion (with exception to the rarest of cases, such as the life of the mother), what good does it do to cry out about the value of the life in the womb, but then do all we can to disavow that life once born?
In the case of a mother being too poor to take care of the child, or to receive proper pre and post-natal treatment, or to obtain daycare so she can keep working or get a better education, or any of the other lists of things that cause women to consider abortion, what has the conservative side done? What have conservatives done to eliminate the conditions that would make abortion an option? See, the greatest irony is that most modern conservatives aren’t actually conservative. Some might say they’re “classically liberal” because they’re against war (such as Rand Paul), but even then that’s not an appropriate description. Modern conservatives are, in many ways, no different than modern liberals; both ascribe to a form of individualism when it’s convenient for their cases. For liberals, individualism comes into play mostly with the abortion argument, whereas for conservatives it comes into play for just about everything except social issues (but heavily on economic issues).
One can look to classical conservatives coming out of England in the 18th and 19th centuries and see a much different “conservative” than what we see today: They were anti-slavery, anti-segregation, pro-government spending on the poor, pro-social justice, anti-war, pro-civil rights, and so on. They were against government waste, against a large government in cases where a large government isn’t necessary (such as education), and supported local community involvement in instances where the government wasn’t needed. More importantly, they didn’t buy into individualism. They had the audacity to believe that we had ethical obligations to each other and that sometimes those obligations even surpassed our obligations to ourselves. Under such a system the individual doesn’t reign supreme.
The issue concerning the morality of abortion hinges upon individualism. If the right to my bodily autonomy is the absolute good then there can be no case ever made against abortion. Yet, if the right to my bodily autonomy is the absolute good, then there can never be a case made for me being ethically obligated to other people. If my help would in some way damage me as a person, or make me feel damaged in the very least, then I would have no need to help. If I see that my corporation is damaging the environment, but that damage does no harm to me personally and ceasing that damage would lose me money (which could potentially harm me, or hold me back from my aspirations), then what ethical obligation do I have to stop damaging the environment? Thus, using individualism backfires on pro-choice proponents because individualism, when applied consistently across the board, doesn’t allow for liberal causes (a point that left-leaning libertarians and followers of Ayn Rand aptly illuminate).
Yet, “pro-life” proponents are in the same boat. Many are ardent conservatives who would wish to see healthcare dismantled, medicaid defunded, welfare eradicated, food stamps obsolete, continuous and never-ceasing warfare, and yet claim to be “pro-life.” They embrace the mantra of individualism in all cases except abortion; you are free to do what you will with your business and employees (it/they are your property), with your money (your property), but not with your body (a logical break).
Those who are against abortion because they see it as the taking of a human life must realize that bringing a legal end to abortions simply is not on the horizon, and even if it were that would still be a tragedy. Now, I have not pulled a full 180 and am suddenly arguing in favor of keeping abortion on demand legal, but rather I am being a realist and pointing out that while ending abortion would be a good, the consequences would be an evil. Yet, many conservatives have offered little in the way of helping to create a system that makes most abortions completely unnecessary.
Consider the following:
Imagine a system where prenatal care is free of charge for the woman (for those without insurance). Already, the United States is ranked 55th in the world when it comes to infant mortality (in 2006 we were ranked 27th). Every single nation ahead of us has something in place for those who cannot afford pre-natal care; we do not even though it’s proven that prenatal care dramatically helps decrease infant mortality. How is such stance against healthcare for pregnant women “pro-life?”
We can also consider that we’ve done almost nothing to fix the issue of maternity leave within the United States. Fact is, we’re ranked dead last among industrialized nations when it comes to maternity leave. Thus, women are forced to face the choice of having a baby or having a career. This isn’t to mention the price of daycare or attempting to get a better education. In some cases, women are young when they become pregnant and it interrupts them going to school or finding a reliable job. They can’t afford the daycare so they’re stuck in minimum wage jobs; some women see this future and choose abortion over fear of the future.