A Choice Not Chosen

Man and Abortion

Legal abortion distorts our decisionmaking and weakens our ability to communicate our true wishes.

This past summer I attended National Right To Life’s annual convention in Dallas. One of the last speakers of the conference was a woman who told of her own experience of abortion.

She had had two abortions in her youth, one while she was still a teen and a second in her early twenties. She had told her story before, but not in a while, and she did not offer it now as a perfect neat package of lessons learned. She was not fully certain of the meaning of all that had happened to her. She was now the mother of grown children, and she was pro-life, but she was still coming to grips with the psychological and interpersonal reverberations that her abortions had had and continued to have in her own life and in the lives of her family. Her talk ended but it was clear that her story was actually not yet over. I admired her transparency and earnestness. Her courage was so thoroughgoing and uncompromised that one almost forgot it was there.

One part of her account was especially vivid and telling. When she conceived the second time, she wanted to keep the child. But she determined that rather than ask the father if he were willing to support her and the baby, she would announce an intention to abort and then see if he opposed, which she wanted him to do. But he misread her signals. Wanting to embrace his fatherhood but also full of feminist/pro-choice notions, he accepted her “decision” to abort at face value. And that was that. The two reluctant aborters walked straight into the clinic tragically unaware of each other’s true wishes.

It ought to go without saying that a man should be able to understand a woman better than that. And surely a crisis pregnancy is not the moment for a woman to employ a psychological test rather than speak her true heart, as best as she can speak it. But such miscommunications are never quite accidental. They are the predictable impact that legal abortion makes on human interactions in a crisis pregnancy. Legal abortion creates an artificial, contrived “choice” where no choice naturally exists. For the conception of a child presents itself to human consciousness as an accomplished fact–a fact which the human will cannot alter. But now legal abortion intervenes, tells us the fact can be undone, and gives us a choice that differs in kind from every other choice we have ever made. It is no wonder that men and women tragically mishandle this choice, failing to communicate their true feelings, even though legal abortion is supposed to encourage just that.

Quite apart from the wrong it does to the unborn, legal abortion will never produce the world of well reasoned, emotionally satisfying decisions its advocates have long promised. It is too unnatural. It only bogs us down in a phony decisionmaking process–to abort or not to abort–when our minds and wills should be directed to questions that we are by nature and by experience better equipped to handle: How can we help this child? this mother? this father?

15 responses

  1. The term “pro-choice” has been used to indicate that the speaker is not advocating abortion per se, but only the option to abort. Since prenatal infanticide is the only issue under discussion, however, and since as my colleague argues it is not a genuine ethical option, can’t we use a more accurate lablel? Will “pro-abortion” do, after all?

    • But you would have to show that there is a genuine pro-abortion stance. The Chinese government might fit that category. Hard to see anybody else who does.

      • Yeah . . . . how about “pro-abortion legality”? That’s the most accurate label but it will never catch on. Too many syllables. We could shorten it to “pro-legality” and if that gains currency everyone will know what is being referenced, just as everyone knows which “choice” is at issue.

  2. That’s not logical – that because some people choose something they didn’t really want, there is therefore no real choice available to everybody else.

    • Many decisions go by the name of choice. But not all choices are created equal (in importance, duration of impact, psychic consequences, etc); and not all choices are equally human and natural. A natural, human choice is a choice among actions naturally suited to human beings and culturally familiar (eg., cereal or waffles?–both being edible; or, physician or teacher?–both being of known benefit to self/others). Legal abortion offers a choice that is unnatural and outside ordinary experience–pregnant women do not normally kill their unborn. The law may allow this sort of choice, and people may feel they have made a “real” choice in choosing it. And if they have chosen it before, or know others who have, it may make approaches to becoming ordinary to them. But even for that, the choice will never have the psychological solidity of true human choices.

      • It’s hardly outside human experience – there are manuals from Ancient Egypt describing how to induce abortion. In fact, I challenge you to name a culture or a period of history where abortions didn’t take place.

      • I suppose there are no cultures or periods of history in which rape did not take place, but we would not want to normalize it on those grounds. Also, it has been more common in some cultures than in others. The culture creates a climate of expectation that encourages or discourages certain behaviors.

  3. Kudos to Anthony Joseph and Sara Frear for spotlighting a critical issue seldom openly addressed in America’s abortion debates – the genuineness of the “pro-choice” position. In my many years of fighting in the educational, legal, and political arenas for the unborn child, I have yet to hear convincing evidence that there is really a “pro-choice” position.

    Francis Schaeffer taught us to dig into our worldviews and uncover the unarticulated, perhaps unrecognized, presuppositions upon which our acknowledged positions (i.e., “pro-life,” “pro-abortion,” or “pro-choice”) rest. Utilizing the presuppositional apologetics approach of Schaeffer and applying it to the issue of the nature of the unborn child, I contend that abortion is not an issue of “choice” because the unborn child has no choice whatsoever in the abortion decision-making process. How could “pro-choice” advocates refute this assertion? The two arguments I hear are:
    1. “The unborn child is not a human being/person, or at least not fully so.” But this presupposition also justifies a “pro-abortion” position.
    2. “The unborn child is a person/human life, but the mother’s choice trumps the child’s humanness/personhood.” But this argument forces someone to prioritize “persons,” determining who is to live and who is to die. And this presupposition also justifies a “pro-abortion” position.

    Thus, the same presuppositions undergird both the “pro-choice” and “pro-abortion” positions. Furthermore, both presuppositions attack fundamental truths about “personhood” – that the “sanctity of human life” and “dignity of the individual” characterize the unborn child as fully as all other human beings. How, then, is being “pro-choice” really any different from being “pro-abortion’? I wonder how this question would have been answered by the more than 55 million unborn children who, since 1973, never had the opportunity to live among the rest of us Americans because their mothers exercised their “right to choose an abortion”?

    • Easy question to answer. Being ‘pro abortion’ suggests someone would actively want people to have abortions. The Chinese government is pro abortion. Pro choice means it’s the choice of a pregnant woman whether to continue her pregnancy or not. The foetus can’t, by definition, have a choice, since it has not awareness or cognition with which to make a choice.

      • A fetus does have awareness sweetie. Have you not taken any type of higher education courses? When an abortion goes underway the fetus RUNS or FLEES within the womb from being shredded to pieces and sucked into the trash like it is as worthless as a sheet of paper. Why do you think women will not watch it as it takes place? Killing a child because you can not see it does not justify your barbaric actions. If you are not willing to decapitate and dismember your child after it is outside of you, why would you do it while it is still within you; clinging to you for support, nourishment, love and life? Abortion is LEGALIZED murder, and deep inside every single woman and man alike in this world knows it. Hey I have an idea, how about all you of legalized murderers teach yourself and your children the importance of BIRTH CONTROL and abstain from sexual intercourse if you are so selfish and unprepared that you would kill a child so you would not need to have it. God bless all of your souls and those of the innocent children destroyed by your selfishness and irresponsibility.

      • Sweetie?

        Information is always good. So is education e.g. learning the difference between a response and a reflex.

        I am glad we can, at least, agree on the need for birth control. I’ve never understand why so many members of the pro life side of the debate seem so vehemently opposed to sex education and full access to contraception and reproductive care, to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

  4. Easy answers, but wrong ones. First, debating over definitions can quickly become counter-productive, so I address my recent wording only by way of clarification. The world of technology provides us with stunning insight into prenatal life, including establishing that the unborn child is quite aware of his/her surroundings in the mother’s body –AND – that this child senses pain or other unpleasant stimuli and reacts to escape them. “Choice,” as I used the word (and this use is a common one), denotes the opportunity to take different actions in response to a stimuli. A baby undergoing the horrible squeeze and jerk of the abortionist’s forceps or stab of the knife has no opportunity to respond to these indescribably excruciating stimuli and escape them. In this sense, the child has no “choice. “

    Second, the heart of the debate is untouched in “bodycrimes’” reply – the unavoidable and core issue of the presuppositions held by “pro-choice/pro-abortion” advocates. These positions are rooted in the same degrading and dehumanizing presuppositions about the nature of the unborn child. How the two positions are genuinely and fundamentally different thus remains unexplained. Presuppositional engagement is necessary – even the U. S. Supreme Court bowed to that inevitability in its horrendous Roe v. Wade decision. The Court majority admitted that if the “personhood” of the unborn child “is established, the appellant’s case [i.e., Jane Roe’s pro-abortion case], of course, collapse, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment.” And in the next paragraph, the Court majority clearly articulated its presupposition re: personhood, by declaring that “the word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.” The Court thus clearly identified what it was “persuaded” is the nature of the unborn child and what was its view of the inseparable connection between that presupposition and constitutional rights.

    When the definitions of key words are murky, and presuppositions are unarticulated, meaningful dialog and debate grind to a half. Such appears to be the status of many of America’s abortion debates today.

    • This breaks my heart for these women and their baeibs. We have four adopted children that we are very thankful to God for. I know God’s heart must also be broken. Please help us all Lord to end this evil in China and the U.S. And everywhere else people do not respect life. In Jesus name I agree with everyone who will pray with me concerning this terrible EVIL. Thank you Lord.

  5. With regard to the question about (artificial) birth control, the opposition to its use is based on natural law philosophy. I think that meditating on the design of our bodies makes this teaching intuitively clear. In using contraception a woman is going against the normal, healthy functioning of her own body. How can this be healthy? When people do similar things with food we say that they have an eating disorder. I have argued in other settings that we live in a profoundly sexually disordered society.

    Another problem is that acceptance of birth control led directly to acceptance of abortion in our country. Legally, both practices were grounded in the idea of a right to privacy. Philosophically, they are rooted in a similar tendency to view our bodies as an impediment to authentic living rather than as an integral part of ourselves.

    I support, not “sex education” that assumes the normality of contraception, but chastity education that integrates our sexuality with our entire experience.

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