From time to time I take time to comment on articles in on-line newspapers such as the Washington Post. Abortion is one of the topics where I usually end up in a back and forth discussion with someone that goes by pseudonym, “GentlySmilingJaws.” She is a passionate supporter of the right to abortion and her main arguments come to down these convictions:
A woman cannot be fully autonomous or free if she does not have complete control over her own body. Forced pregnancy is enslavement.
Sex is intended for either pleasure, intimate bonding of two committed couples OR (not AND) creating life. There is no responsibility for the naturally designed consequences of sex. You choose to have sex without consequences and then whether or not to remain pregnant afterward.
The baby does not become living or human until she or he exits the birth canal, so there is no other living human being involved in an abortion decision and abortion does not end the life of a real living human being but only a potential human being.
Even if there were another living human being involved, no one has the right to force themselves on a woman to use her body, and the woman's right to control her own body is superior to the rights or life of someone using her body – similar to forced organ donation. The idea that there is some responsibility for making the original decision to create a life that would be dependent is unreasonable.
Objective science on when a new living human being begins to exist is dismissed as incorrect. Objective medical science that there is no other point in the development process that a new unique human being becomes human or alive after conception is rejected. The reality that "fetus" is a medical term for a stage of development (development that will continue long after birth) of an already living human being and not a term for a potential living human being is denied. The reality of the violent and brutal nature of the abortion procedure and the fact that it ends the life of a living human being is a lie. The idea that sex is naturally designed to create life and should be responsibly practiced by a committed couple ready for the responsibility of that new life is amusingly wrong. Over many years of objectively discussing each point with “Gently,” she has never conceded a single point about science, the meaning and purpose of sex, responsibility, choices along the way, and the inhumane nature of the procedure of abortion itself.
I was thinking about a story that I heard at an Apologetics course I took from Patrick Madrid, Peter Kreeft, and Ken Hensley. Ken told the story of Procrustes and His Magical Bed. Procrustes offered strangers passing his house on the side of the road the hospitality of a meal and a night’s rest in a magical bed that he guaranteed would perfectly fit the size of any stranger who lay on it. What Procrustes did not tell them was the method he used to achieve this magic. He would stretch any stranger on a rack if they were too short for the bed and cut off the legs of those who were too long. The story has a moral or truth that we should all watch out for. We tend not to be totally honest with ourselves and will often look for what fits our belief of what is truth. If something doesn’t align, we cut off the parts that don’t fit and stretch the things that almost fit to confirm our belief. It is human nature to be like Procrustes (name means “one who stretches”) but when it comes to matters of human life, it is so important to honestly validate our assumptions and beliefs.
I can appreciate the desire to fight for women’s rights and I can empathize with the scary nature of a young woman finding herself pregnant before she is prepared to deal with the consequences of that reality. Young men have often acted irresponsibly and without consequences as they have used young women before they were committed to her. These young women (and most abortions occur for women between 18-19 and after failed contraception) are often left with the consequences. Developing a culture that has encouraged women to be more like irresponsible 19-year-old boys was never the path to healthy freedom or happiness. Unfortunately, young girls have not been taught about the reality of sex outside of a committed relationship. The consequences of this culture has exploded over the past fifty years - breakdown in intimacy and marriage relationships, an epidemic of growth of STDs with almost 20 million new cases per year, undeniable increases in unhappiness, depression, stress and anxiety, increase risks of cancer and lowering of fertility due to multiple partners. The fallacy of “safe sex” has left women more objectified, at higher health risks, and economically and spiritually depressed as the meaning and purpose of sex, marriage, and life itself have been reduced.
GentlySmilingJaws has been practicing more than a bit of “Procrustes Magical Bed” in her responses, rarely being willing to validate key assumptions about life itself and the impact on the women she claims to represent. I have tried to take time to step back to make sure I double check objective sources and that I don't filter the other person’s points through my preconceived notions of their intent. Abortion impacts the life of the new living human being, the pregnant woman involved, and the humanity of society itself. When we don’t verify the actual impact on these parties, stretching some facts and cutting out what does not fit what we want to hear, we put our own philosophies and agendas ahead of truth and life itself.