Monday, August 25, 2008

The A-Word

Three images.



Inner city. Overwhelming, grinding poverty.

Suburban church. Fresh, clean faces piling in to vans, heading in to the city. Trying to help. A good thing. Really. Until...

Seventeen year old girl. Pregnant. Church group convinces her not to have an abortion. Suburban housewife takes the time to talk her through it, take her to pre-natal care. At least they're willing to follow up for the moment, but where will they be after the child is born?

A funeral. The baby's daddy, a kid himself, shot in the street.

Cemetary. Tiny boxes all in a row, covered in dirt like a mass grave. Infant mortality is tremendously high.

Funerals shouldn't prominently feature government workers and backhoes.

Government jobs program. One thousand summer jobs. Six thousand show up.

Warehouse full of handouts. Workers try to hand out baby clothes, diapers, help children learn the first steps of taking care of children. A woman in charge, says she sent a message all across Memphis, got one donation.

Suburban mother tells the camera she's now realized just how much her own children have. Seems like it hasn't entirely registered that the inner city girl now has even less than she had before.



WTTW studios. Interview show. Interviewee has written a book on China, on the struggles for an open culture. There's a blind lawyer out in the country fighting against the government's forced abortions for women who have had more than one child.


Wheaton, IL.

Coffee shop.

Teenagers in line for five dollar coffees. One girl has a shirt. On the back it asks a rhetorical question, something like, "Wouldn't it be better if a woman had a child in her arms instead of on her conscience?" She doesn't have to turn around for me to know what's on the front. Those two words that only belong together in the minds of those who don't know what either one means.

Abortion. Holocaust.

She doesn't have a fucking clue.


The entire anti-abortion movement in the United States pretty much runs off of a fantasy. It basically assumes that every child born in this world is born with the rights and privileges of the anti-abortion activists themselves when that is absolutely not the case.

Let's be honest, the average anti-abortion activist is the sort of person who has all the time and resources in the world to go out and protest abortions, whereas a lot of the people who are forced to bear their vitriol don't.

And even in the case of the undoubtedly kind and well-meaning Memphis housewife above, she has the time to go in and talk to a young girl and convince her to keep a baby that the girl cannot well afford.

I doubt that the woman in Memphis would have gone out protesting with pictures of aborted fetuses and hate-filled literature and in making sure the girl got pre-natal care she did a hell of a lot more than the people with the signs have ever done, but nobody actually helped the poor pregnant girl.

Abortion is a horrible thing. I'm against it on the general principle of the whole thing. But is it actually worse than the alternative if the alternative is leaving that poor child in the exact conditions that brought it in to the world in the first place? Is bringing that child in to the world really an act of mercy?

Now, we absolutely cannot turn to the Chinese solution. Even if abortion were the absolute correct decision in such a situation we cannot force it on anyone. But taking it away and pretending that everything will be great doesn't really seem like a good idea, either.
Actions have consequences. I almost wanted to ask that girl if she had any idea that there were people who couldn't afford to raise children, couldn't get jobs, and would be sentencing those babies to a horrible life. But there's no way that would have been worthwhile.

You can't change the world by starting a fruitless argument with the people who have bought the t-shirt. You've got to deal with the people who are making the t-shirt. Then again, the image of those good, caring church people getting back in the van, heading back out to the suburbs and being reminded of just how blessed they are is haunting.

Isn't that what modern America has turned Heaven in to? Isn't Heaven a gigantic, gated community where all of the struggles stay outside and no one has to think about those who are in the outer darkness, weeping and gnashing their teeth?

Maybe there is a Hell. Maybe it's the inner cities of Memphis, Chicago, New York, and London. Maybe it's the shanty-towns piling up for miles in sub-Saharan Africa.

Something to think about, I guess...


The Cynic Sage said...


Couldn't have put it better.

GailVortex said...

Beautifully and thoughtfully put.

Fiat Lex said...


All that storytelling and soul-searching has improved your game, Geds. Told ya so. :D

big a said...

"Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom that said he was in love
He said, "Don't worry about a thing, baby doll
I'm the man you've been dreaming of."
But 3 months later he say he won't date her or return her calls
And she swear, "God damn, if I find that man I'm cuttin' off his balls."
And then she heads for the clinic and
she gets some static walking through the door
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner
and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to have to choose"

-Everlast, What It's Like

The correlation between abortion and the Holocaust is indeed preposterous. I remember seeing a similar campaign from PETA a few years ago setting photos of cow stockades next to photos of the crematoriums of Auschwitz with the tagline "The Holocaust on Your Plate".
It seems to me that the Holocaust has become the new popular "ultimate" deregotary comparison in much the same veign as how "Fuck" is considered the ultimate english curse word. Unfortunately, while a percentage of the population would indeed be offended with your flagrant use of "fuck", this crass collection of syllables doesn't represent the systematic annihilation of some 7-11 million people (depending on your definition and sources of data). Any competent historian will tell you that there are other body counts that are bigger, but the combination of The Holocaust's recency, it's european location, and the number of people who emigrated to America to tell the tale genuinely makes bringing up the Holocaust sort of the ultimate trump card in the U.S.
However, when a Fundie or PETA member compares something contemporary to The Holocaust they are attempting to draw attention to their issue's severity while ignoring the severity of the association they've invoked - it's an incredibly poor sensationalist tactic that has been attempted countless times by countless organizations over the past 30-40 years. Fortunately, most people are smarter than your average Fundie or PETA member, recognize this bullshit for what it is, and have the good sense to instead be offended that someone would escalate something so out of proportion with no right or rational reason to do so.

I don't support abortion personally, but I also don't support the blanket condemnation of something I have no way of personally understanding for both physiological and experiential reasons. I certainly don't support any manner of government interference into the issue. More than all that, however, I don't support the idea that anyone who isn't vehemently anti-abortion is an amoral spawn of satan. If you're looking for an issue more comparable to The Holocaust, try that one.