Hard questions

There comes a time when deeper questions about difficult issues need to be addressed. One could argue that the deepest of questions have already been asked about abortion, women's rights, the humanity of the unborn and whether abortion can go on being considered just another medical procedure. Unfortunately the framing of many such questions often create more barriers to discussion, than they do reasoned debate. When ideology gets in the way, even the most compassionate and intelligent people can appear to become incredibly closed minded and even hostile.

It is interesting that the point of commonality in terms of engendering public concern and compassion is usually centred on babies. We are in awe of pictures depicting the hand of an unborn baby reaching to be grasped by the surgeon who has just performed life saving surgery on the foetus even before it is born. We are shocked when the 'wrong' baby is accidentally terminated instead of its twin who was intended to die. We are horrified when stories of infanticide by abortionists are made public, because there seems to be something much more wrong with ending the life of a baby seconds after it leaves its mothers body, regardless of the intent of the procedure to get it there, than there is with ending that life a minute earlier, while still inside the mother.

When people are confronted with truths which include that the majority of women are having abortions because they lack the most basic of economic, social or relational supports to continue a pregnancy, or that most late term abortions are for the same reasons, they may cringe... they may experience some unidentifiable discomfort, but they then often fall back on the very tired rhetoric of 'womens choice'.

Over the past week here in the U.S. where I am currently visiting, much attention is being paid to a just released video of a senior doctor and abortionist who works for Planned Parenthood, having lunch and discussing the sale of body parts of aborted foetuses with someone she believes is a potential buyer for these products. The calm and nonchalant way in which she discusses the 'yield from a 17 weeker' to the high demand for livers and lower limbs while she sips wine and chews her food, must leave even the most hardened feeling uncomfortable. She suggests in the video that she compares the list of ordered body parts with the list of patients she has for the day and makes decisions about procedures based on these lists. She talks about the particular care she will take not to grasp or crush specific areas of the foetal body in order to avoid damage to a saleable product.

It appears that the Australian media has paid little attention to these unfolding events. Perhaps they think it can't happen in Australia. Perhaps they think it irrelevant to Australian women. On both counts, they couldn't be more wrong.

These events should force us to face the deep and difficult questions about abortion and the ways in which we are failing women. Questions that are not about women's rights, or even foetal rights necessarily, but questions about how it is that we can choose to remain so blind to the unmet needs of women who feel forced to choose abortion; questions about how it is that we enact laws to protect unborn animals just in case they may be sentient or experience pain, but ignore the science that tells us that unborn babies are likely to. We accept that a baby born at 24 weeks and in need of medical care should be treated like a human being and given that care, but we want to deny the same concern and care for a child of even greater gestation in the womb of its mother.

Now we have even more, and shocking evidence in front of us. The body parts of a foetus, even at only 17 weeks are saleable items. We are not talking about a few cells here and there. We are talking about lungs, hearts, livers, brains, even legs, all organs which are fully formed at only 8 weeks of pregnancy when most abortions are done. Women should know this information; they should not just be just advised to consider the nature of their unborn child, but encouraged to. It is not a matter of pitting the rights of women against their children. It is a matter of recognising that a woman's rights and her child's rights are intricately connected. She is not having an unused part of her body amputated or having her appendix out. Science tells us that the child within her has its own unique DNA containing the blueprint for its life and this will never be repeated again, no matter how many children the same woman goes on to have. Some may not believe this makes her child a person, or even human, but if selling human body parts does not require a human source, then what is it?

There is a woundedness that is so sad to see in every post abortive woman I have met who comes for help or who just wants someone to bear witness to her story. A woundedness that the religious might claim is spiritual, that counsellors may claim is about stigma, that some may concede is legitimate grief. I believe the woundedness is more significant than that. It is a wounding of the soul of a woman that has to do with the connectedness she has with the unborn she is forced to deny.

When a woman is forced to choose against her own innate biology, her natural protectiveness toward her unborn, her feminine identity in order to fit into a world that has failed to meet her real needs, there is a terrible price to pay. We cannot continue to talk about 'choice' where little exists. We cannot continue to tell women their unborn children are irrelevant when clearly they are not. If they were, why would we care about how their body parts are treated? Next time you see a newborn and marvel at the tiny fingers and toes, spare a thought for the women who are being forced to ignore these same tiny body parts inside them, in the name of choice. Spare a thought for the young woman who doesn't get a chance to hear information about her unborn before she is talked into an abortion as her 'best' option when she wonders how she'll ever manage university and a baby. Spare a thought for the thousands of women who have had abortions and later come to see that decision in a new and very painful light.

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