A Tsunami of Unwanted Children?

So much has been and is being written about reproductive choice that one is hard-pressed to say more.

From the fact that three Trump-backed jurists hand-picked by the conservative Federalist Society were swept onto the Supreme Court(SCOTUS) by Senator Mitch McConnell in a hypocritical move after denying Obama’s candidate, Merrick Garland, even a hearing, citing eight months until the election, but who then goes on to usher in Trump-backed, anti-abortionist Amy Coney Barrett a few days before Biden wins the election…

To the fact that these specially chosen conservative judges would cement an anti-Roe v. Wade majority and put 50 years of established human rights law at risk when the very trust of the Institution is predicated on opinions based on law rather than personal political opinion, and the fact that each appointee had acknowledged in their confirmation hearings that Roe v. Wade was established law...

To the fact that the leaked Alito opinion cites extensively a 17th Century English Judge, Sir Matthew Hale, who sentenced two witches to death and was the basis of the 20th Century “marital rape exemption.” Four hundred years later, marital rape is still treated as a lesser crime in 21 states. Hale further wrote that women who accuse men of rape should be doubted. His opinion was still being cited frequently as a rape defense until the mid-1950s.

Then there’s the fact that 60-70% of Americans support Roe. This does not mean that Americans like abortion. Responsible men and women who become pregnant each consider abortion carefully. It’s always a difficult decision. Like most men, who take responsibility for impregnating a woman, I have firsthand experience. It was a painful and carefully thought-out mutual decision based on where we were in our lives, our challenges, and consideration of our capacity to responsibly raise and nurture a child.

And as consistent polling indicates, the issue of reproductive freedom is not binary. There’s a spectrum of opinion on reproductive freedom, ranging from fundamentalist opposition to terminating a pregnancy at any stage to absolute freedom of choice by a woman or couple over whether to give birth to a child.

Many support reproductive choice but also want some restrictions. All but the most extreme opponents support abortion in cases of rape, incest or a risk to the life of the woman, especially since rape is a common tactic of war around the world. These rape victims have no medical recourse and must live with the psychological trauma of being made to give birth to the children of their enemies.

Roe does not promote abortion, it’s neutral on it, as would be a SCOTUS decision making appendectomies legal. The ruling is grounded in the fundamental right of privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment and simply gives men and women the right to make decisions about their own bodies, whether in terms of family planning or other health concerns.

 

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At the root of the overturning of this long-established right is a misogynistic effort to exert control over women’s bodies. With Roe gone, states will have more control over women’s bodies than a woman herself. Would men tolerate this?

In my view, there are two other deeply troubling elements in this discussion that signal badly for all sides.

The first is how deeply divided the country is on almost everything: voting rights, racial superiority / inferiority, religion, privacy rights, regulation, workers and consumer rights, the current extremes of wealth and poverty, and tax-supported community social safety net programs.

In the words of Yeats:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold:

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

 

We’ve lost our capacity for discourse and disagreement, our curiosity to learn new things and to understand the reasoning of those with whom we disagree. We fiercely guard and defend our opinions as if our lives depended on them. They become us, as we amuse ourselves to death absorbing fictitious worlds and celebrity influencers.

Our persona is, in fact, who we are, our life experience, our thoughts, emotions, our family and friend networks and our collective stories. But it’s fast becoming just what we support or oppose. We are a nation divided.

The second issue I find profoundly disturbing in the limiting pro/con abortion battle is that the children we already have, all the evidence tells us, are dealing with unprecedented emotional trauma. Our emergency rooms are filled with young people in crisis, dressed in paper clothing, sleeping on gurneys for days if not weeks. They are admitted with suicidal ideation and attempts, self-harm such as cutting, depression, and with eating disorders. And we have no capacity to refer them to either inpatient or outpatient services. Here at home, UVM Medical Center(UVMMC) has confirmed this saying, a good day is five to ten young people in the ER; a bad day is 20-30.

The Washington Post, the Atlantic, and the New York Times have all reported on this, as have countless medical journals.

Our young people are in trouble and we, their elders, are at least partly to blame. We are leaving them a world in which citizens can’t find common ground on vital issues and an environment that is already showing serious degradation. If “our young people are our future,” we must pay attention to their wellbeing.

If this seems a digression from the issue of Roe, try and imagine if abortion under all circumstances were made illegal. That would bring into the world about 890,000 new children each year, children who were not intended, not wanted, may not have a family, even a single parent. Some will be children of rape and incest. If our young people are in crisis now, imagine a tsunami of some 800-900,000 unwanted children a year with no roots in family, community, or no access to proper food, education and healthcare.

The sad irony is that many on the Christian conservative right or fundamentalists from other “pro-life” religions often oppose tax-funding social safety net programs, choosing instead to subscribe to the “by their bootstraps” model of upbringing and the “welfare queen” mirages of a community safety net.  Current data shows that 16% of all children in America are living in poverty and inflation is already escalating that number. Children and young people need grounding in family, community and rigorous education that prepares them for productive work and to participate in a functioning democracy. If we are letting down the children we have, what does that say about the unborn? Who will care for all these unplanned and unwanted children?

A further irony is that many far-right conservatives who oppose abortion also oppose contraception and would deny LGBTQ people their rights. Will these too be limited?

I was raised a Catholic and learned in Catechism that sexual thoughts, masturbation, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and contraception were all mortal sins that would condemn me to an eternity of hell-fire. To my knowledge, the Church has not modified its judgements on these “mortal sins,” judgments shared by most conservative religious doctrines  ̶  an irony given all religions’ legacy of sexual and physical abuse.

For God’s sake, let’s pay attention to the wellbeing of the young people in our lives now. They are our future. That to me is the meaning of “pro-life. “Let’s ensure that we bear children that we have the capacity to love, nurture, raise, and celebrate as they become the adults that will replace us.

Let’s all support Prop 5.

2 Responses to “A Tsunami of Unwanted Children?”

Beautifully said, Bill. I wish you could give this wider currency.

John

This is an excellent article. Needs to be in NY Times under Opinion.

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