Moral and informed choices

Warning: I talk about abortion, morals, and loss here, so if you think  you can’t handle that, for whatever reason (whether it is triggering to your own loss; you feel it might be judgemental of choice – and it will be, because this is an opinion column – or simply because you don’t want to read about abortion) that’s fine; don’t click the read more as I have put this behind a blog cut. If you do, however, you don’t get to be offended about my opinions.

This is, however, from the perspective of a woman who has lost two babies of her own, through stillbirth and SIDs. This is not a religious opinion either, but a purely factually scientific one which is admittedly against abortion.

I was bouncing around Twitter last night, because I was too tired to try for more intelligent or engaging …or, more accurately, longer things to read. Then I ran across this article from Live Action News.

Woman laughs before her ninth abortion – then she sees her aborted baby

I knew it would hurt to read. I read anyway – it felt important to do so. I did not find myself angry at the woman who had nine abortions, and I will explain why later. I sorrowed for her, felt terrible on her behalf, on behalf of the women who began weeping in response, in knowledge of what they had done, they’d chosen…

You see, they’d made those choices based on a lie. The lie that ‘it’s just a clump of cells. It’s not human. It won’t hurt anything.’ It is very much a lie; as in the stage of human foetal development, we stop being a ‘mere’ clump of cells and recognisably human at eight weeks gestational age – arguably, we stop being merely clumps of cells at 7 weeks gestational age.  At ten weeks, we stop being categorised as an embryo, and are a foetus.

I don’t know when y’all get taught this, but this was part of biology class, as well as health class for me when I was in second year high school. It’s considered – at least when I went to school in the Philippines – part of the basic knowledge everyone should have.

I read about human fetal development much earlier than that though; around 7 or 8, because I was going to have a baby brother soon, and being the inquisitive little girl, I asked a lot of questions, which my parents answered with a book called The Facts of Life. It’s a book aimed at children my age – a pop up book, and gave the biological descriptions of sex organs (with side-cut-out illustrations), how fertilisation occurred, with pop up illustration of egg and sperm cells. It continues on to talk about DNA and chromosomes, keeping it related to how this affects the development of the human life that is the focus of the book.

Book content pop up image of a human egg cell fertilised by human sperm cells, surrounded by descriptive and explanatory text.

Contents of the book, found on the Internet via Google Search, used here for illustrative purposes.

 

Image of how a baby fits head down into mother's pelvic bone

Contents of the book, found on the Internet via Google Search, used here for illustrative purposes

Illustrations above found via Google Image Search, used for illustrative purposes.

 

There is an updated version of the book found here.

It is 100% purely factual, describing in scientific but easily understood manner, what happens, from reproductive organs, to DNA, egg-embryo-fetus-birth stages, and post birth (expulsion of the placenta, cutting of the umbilical cord…) And it answered all my questions as a child. And my younger brother’s, who was more interested in the recognisably ‘baby’ pictures. We would take the book and refer to it, while sitting next to our mother, when the youngest was starting to kick, or as we tried to follow along how he might be developing per trimester.

Nothing about this is confrontational, or dirty, or moralistic. It’s pure scientific fact, pure knowledge, unquestionable. While we have added more to our knowledge of fetal development in terms of details or how much the infant is able to process from within the womb, the basic information has remained the same.

So, I knew, even at that very young age, that we started looking human at x point, that ball of cells was A point, and Embryo was B point, and so on. I understood, 100%, that a human egg, fertilised with a human sperm cell, is supposed to develop into a human being, and barring miscarriage due to unfortunate circumstances, will always develop into a human being.

This book also helped me way ahead of time not get scared of the changes brought about by puberty. “It’s just our bodies, maturing toward adult stage of development.” No more, no less. Though getting my period for the first time was unnerving, because “What’s this? MOOOOM!!! I …THINK? I wet-farted but I’m not sure because it doesn’t stink? I need new underwear.”

But that knowledge, knowing and understanding, was why I could never ever choose abortion. I knew what it meant. I knew what was being done. I knew that abortion meant killing the unborn human being. No hand-wave, no discussion of women’s reproductive choices or rights, changes that. No lie removes that fact, that undeniable truth of the facts of life. Similarly, when I became aware of sexual pleasure, it was never just the pleasure and fun; I knew that sex also was for the reason of reproduction, and the pleasure existed to encourage humans to go forth and multiply. Yeah, I know, I can hear the screeching about how that POV ‘reduces us to animals’ already, but it’s not the sex that elevates us from animals.

I read that story about ‘Angie’ and hurt for her. Because she didn’t know… or more accurately, didn’t know enough to understand until that awful, awful moment when she saw what she had done, what she had chosen… because, that’s not taught to her. Because instead, they’re taught that ‘it’s just a clump of cells.’ They’re not taught about foetal development, because then that would strip away the comforting lie that they’re ‘not killing a baby.’

I hurt for her, sorrowed for her, because at that moment, it became clear she understood what she had done, that it horrified her, that she understood the humanity of what she had aborted. The abortions were no longer ‘clumps of cells that weren’t yet babies that couldn’t feel or hurt that were removed from her uterus’ – they had, in that instant, become irrevocably humanised, and in the pieces of that baby she finally saw, torn to pieces, dead … she understood.

[Angie] remained frozen on the clinic floor. “That’s a baby,” she said, barely audible at first. “That was my baby,” she said. Her volume steadily increased as a torrent of words poured from her mouth, words that made everyone extremely uncomfortable. “What did I do? What did I do?” she said over and over and began to sob. Some of the girls in the recovery run began to weep along with her. Some covered their faces with their arms or buried their heads in the arms of the recliners.

Angie knew she’d killed her babies. So did the other women…girls… women… who were in the recovery area. They knew, without a doubt then, what they had chosen. What is always presented to them as their right, their choice.

I hurt, because she had made those choices without being told the whole truth, so that murdering her baby instead of birth control was easier and more palatable. Confronted with the gruesome truth, Angie flipped – from laughing about her abortions, to screaming that she wanted to take her baby home, to somehow, futilely, make amends for what she had done to her child.

Angie began begging the abortion workers to take her mutilated baby home with her. She did not want to part with her child, even though her child was dead. She pleaded with the workers to give in and let her have the baby. They refused. She continued to sob and wail in the bathroom, disrupting the entire facility.

The abortion workers finally went to her paperwork and found her emergency contact – the number the facility was supposed to call in the event of a life-threatening complication. They dialed the number and got her current boyfriend. He arrived at the clinic. It took him 45 minutes to coax Angie out of the bathroom. They both left the abortion facility in tears.

I don’t know how long ago that story was written down, related by an abortion worker who left the industry shortly after that event. Angie, the rest of the article says, never came back for another abortion.

I mourned for them, felt terrible for the lie they’d believed until knowledge could no longer keep them ignorant. Unlike the abortion workers who had been appalled at her earlier flippancy, her continued refusal to use birth control and use abortion instead… I kind of got it.

Condoms aren’t fun, or ‘sexy,’ and the pill can affect your moods, and is simply inconvenient, when compared to just popping into the clinic and getting an abortion. When birth control fails and well, there’s abortion as a back up to ‘scrape the clump of cells out’ why shouldn’t she have chosen it over all the inconveniences? Abortion wasn’t portrayed to her as a worse step, or a harder one, or risky in any way. It might have cost her some money, but clearly it weighed less of a cost – as long as she didn’t know that it was a baby being removed.

Angie was taught to take the easiest route, the most convenient one. Pregnancy? Gets in the way of fun, or gives you responsibilities, and you can ‘get rid of it before this time limit, no problems!’ Not “Pregnancy results in baby, your child.” Or rather, it was taught in a way – to her, and the other women there who witnessed her grief, her distress and horror, and shared in it – that the result of a pregnancy could be ignored as long as you got an abortion before (number) weeks, because ‘before then, it’s just a clump of cells.’ Given the progression of how abortion is made acceptable to a person, it’s clear that as far as Angie could see, she was being ‘responsible’ in the way that meant least amount of inconvenience to her, and her current boyfriend. And as far as society is concerned, they were being responsible. They weren’t having ‘pregnancies they couldn’t handle.’

ALL of those women there, as far as they were aware, as far as modern liberalised society cared, were being sexually responsible. So the condemnation, the appalled abortion clinic workers, their willing that Angie have ‘a sense of shame’ – was incongruous. Why should Angie, or any of the women going there to have abortions ‘have a sense of shame’ – when they are told, by society and by feminists, they have ‘nothing to feel ashamed about’ and that ‘they are making the right choice’? The women are repeatedly told ‘it’s not a baby, it’s a clump of cells’ so why was there even the expectation of remorse or shame? And the fact is, it’s because even then, those abortion workers have the awareness of what they’re doing is in fact, ending human life, killing babies. But yet, somehow, despite the fact that they are repeatedly telling those women, and believing in the lie, this woman was supposed to feel guilt, when somehow even one abortion wasn’t supposed to bring guilt, or shame, or remorse. If one doesn’t matter, why should, logically, reasonably, any number of abortions ‘matter’ or ‘bring guilt’ or ‘remorse’ or ‘shame’?

But the women? The men who accept that their women, their wives or girlfriends are having abortions because either their birth control failed or they didn’t use any? They weren’t ‘inflicting another unwanted pregnancy’ on society; or ‘making their lives worse or harder.’

Except that last part isn’t true, not for those women, not for Angie, or her boyfriend, now that they know the truth. It’s not true for any of the women who at some point in their lives, had an abortion, and then regretted it because they found out what they’d really done.

13 weeks is a fully formed, recognisable human being. Angie, and her boyfriend, and all those other women, finally recognised what they were really responsible for.

From Wikipedia (I know, I know.)

Weeks 13 to 16

Gestational age: 12 weeks and 0 days until 15 weeks and 6 days old.

Embryonic age: 10 weeks and 0 days until 13 weeks and 6 days old.

  • The fetus reaches a length of about 15 cm (6 inches).
  • A fine hair called lanugo develops on the head.
  • Fetal skin is almost transparent.
  • More muscle tissue and bones have developed, and the bones become harder.
  • The fetus makes active movements.
  • Sucking motions are made with the mouth.
  • Meconium is made in the intestinal tract.
  • The liver and pancreas produce fluid secretions.
  • From week 13, sex prediction by obstetric ultrasonography is almost 100% accurate.[15]
  • At week 15, main development of external genitalia is finished.

There’s plenty of organs already present, and functioning. They are visibly human, and biologically so. “Clump of cells’ descriptor is a lie from 6 weeks onward – and I’m being generous there, because the usual image for ‘clump of cells’ is the blastocyst stage, which is 4 weeks gestational age – and most women, with normal menstrual cycles, don’t realise they’re pregnant until six weeks of gestational age.

Week 21

Gestational age: 20 weeks old.

Embryonic age: 18 weeks old.

  • The fetus reaches a length of 20 cm (8 inches).
  • Lanugo covers the entire body.
  • Eyebrows and eyelashes appear.
  • Nails appear on fingers and toes.
  • The fetus is more active with increased muscle development.
  • Quickening” usually occurs (the mother and others can feel the fetus moving).
  • The fetal heartbeat can be heard with a stethoscope.

Yet, people are told ‘it’s just a clump of cells, not human’ even at this stage. Or ‘It’s not viable.’

Week 23

Gestational age: 22 weeks old.

Embryonic age: 20 weeks old.

  • The foetus reaches a length of 28 cm (11.2 inches).
  • The foetus weighs about 500g.
  • Eyebrows and eyelashes are well formed.
  • All of the eye components are developed.
  • The foetus has a hand and startle reflex.
  • Footprints and fingerprints continue forming.
  • Alveoli (air sacs) are forming in lungs.

Week 26

Gestational age: 24 weeks old.

Embryonic age: Week nr 25. 24 weeks old.

  • The foetus reaches a length of 38 cm (15 inches).
  • The foetus weighs about 1.2 kg (2 lb 11 oz).
  • The brain develops rapidly.
  • The nervous system develops enough to control some body functions.
  • The eyelids open and close.
  • The cochleae are now developed, though the myelin sheaths in neural portion of the auditory system will continue to develop until 18 months after birth.
  • The respiratory system, while immature, has developed to the point where gas exchange is possible.

It’s not just the women who are told the lie. The men are, too. Angie’s boyfriend crying with her as they left, showed that he too understood, and grieved, and was horrified.

But to me, the greatest highlight was because of Angie’s reaction… the reaction of the women in the recovery area, and her boyfriend.

They were horrified by the reality of abortion. Angie’s my baby and What did I do? What did I do? highlights that awareness, that horror. It stripped away the mental ‘safe space’ that the women who would go to the clinic to have abortions, and that the abortion clinic workers had created, a willing suspension of disbelief, to be able to buy into the fiction that ‘they aren’t killing babies.’

It’s why, ultimately, they decreed afterward, they shouldn’t show the women what had been killed, what remains afterward.

Or why there was even a discussion that in abortions, the ultrasound isn’t used or that the woman isn’t shown what is being removed, or what the baby looks like – it was ultimately presented, I recall, as being ‘cruel’ to the women, or ‘unfairly coercing’ of the women that they should see the foetus, – unfairly coercing, because the women in question might not decide to go on ahead with the abortion, when confronted with the reality of the human being inside of them.

Because if they were confronted with that humanity, they’d have to live with the knowledge of having had chosen murder, you see.

Logically, reasonably, this makes no sense. Factually it holds no water. A woman who chooses abortion always chooses to kill her child, another human being – regardless of the reasons, even if the choosing is meant mercifully. The ‘reason’ given is meant to ‘shield’ the woman from the knowledge of her actions.

I find this stance foolish, and ultimately infantilising of the women and men. Angie and those women, and her boyfriend regret their choices, and actions, and they are not shielded from the knowledge, because they’d first believed in a lie. Or worse, that they cannot handle or deal with the knowledge. Are these people supposed to be adults, or not? If they are unable to handle the knowledge or awareness, why then are they supposed to take on the burdens of sex, and the results, and all of it? Are you man or woman enough to handle it?!

The taking of innocent and helpless life is immoral, yes – even the abortion workers understand that but have been taught not to care, or that it is wrong of them to judge. But I find that compounding this with the with-holding of knowledge and understanding, so that the women undergoing this are basically making uninformed decisions that supposedly is a lesser burden on the women and society as a whole.

What if, knowing what I do, what I consider really very basic knowledge, necessary knowledge, Angie, and those women had not chosen to abort? Perhaps Angie would have been much more careful and perhaps she would have used more birth control (which is perfectly fine with me! I have no moral objections to that!) – and considered the ramifications of getting pregnant despite that more firmly – as I know birth control is not 100% preventative and can in fact fail.

Perhaps she would not have had to see the dismembered body of her baby to realise what she had been doing all this while, if, perhaps, when she was younger, before she’d had sex, been given something as simple as a pop up book that taught and informed about the realities of sex, and pregnancy. I sorrow deeply for her, because she has to live with that knowledge, that she killed nine babies, and laughed because she didn’t know any better – and that was a much bigger burden, than all the niggardly little inconveniences.

Shame? She is shamed, she is carrying guilt and she is remorseful. But that does not stop the spreading of the lie, the omitting of information, to spare feelings, to make the choosing of abortion easier, to ease a woman’s conscience, ‘it’s just a cluster of cells.’ She is now distressed much more than if she had been shown beforehand, an ultrasound of the child she carried the first time she walked into an abortion clinic.

Perhaps if she had seen, then yes, she might not have chosen to abort. Perhaps her life would be more difficult, since she has a life other than her own that she is responsible for. Perhaps though, she might have done what those abortion workers illogically wished she would do: grow up, take better sexual responsibility, be more adult. Because of that grief, and that horror, I think Angie could have made better choices, was, perhaps, a better person than merely someone who went in for 9 abortions.

Some of the pro-life people who read this might think me too soft-hearted on someone who chose to abort so many times, instead of taking birth control. I already explained that she’d bought in completely into the ‘reproductive health’ rhetoric, the feminist chant of ‘it’s her right’, accompanied by ‘it’s a bunch of cells.’ Angie’s horror when the veil of the comforting lie was removed indicates that, at least, she might not have chosen to abort had she known before that abortion meant killing a baby.

That’s a baby,” she said, barely audible at first. “That was my baby,” she said. Her volume steadily increased as a torrent of words poured from her mouth, words that made everyone extremely uncomfortable. “What did I do? What did I do?” she said over and over and began to sob. Some of the girls in the recovery run began to weep along with her. Some covered their faces with their arms or buried their heads in the arms of the recliners.

I wept for her, sorrowing for her, that she regretted, that she hurt. Her baby. I cannot imagine even closely that horror she felt, that regret, guilt, shame, for choices that cannot ever be undone. Those women, regretting… I lost two babies, as I mentioned before, and I am forever hurting at the loss of those two wonderful babies, but to have to live with the knowing ‘I chose to kill my child’ … I cannot imagine the grief, the regret.

It hurts. I have no words for how it hurts, and how angry it makes me because they were lied to.

You cannot, I think, take ultimate, full responsibility for your choices and actions unless you are fully informed. I don’t speak of the ‘ignorance of the law’ clauses, but rather, the personal choices all women and men are supposed to make about their bodies, their lives, their sexual choices and actions, if information is withheld to make a horrible option seem more palatable.

And this isn’t a stance I take for abortion alone. I think women and men SHOULD be fully informed about the pros and the cons – of sex, of pregnancy, and parenthood.

Women should be informed about the risks – that they can have incredible bodily changes, that those bodily changes might be extreme, that the hormones can have permanent changes on how we feel, how we behave, or process our food – or they might not, but could later on. That every pregnancy is different. That the sex we so enjoy can and often does result in pregnancy will have a high chance of resulting in babies that become children and that those children will need us to grow the hell up and take care of them. That pregnancy and birthing can still kill women. That pregnancy sometimes results in a wanted child dying before he or she is born… or that babies can die even after they’re born and held warm and safe in our arms and forever in our hearts, despite us doing ‘everything right and doing our best.’ That yes, the baby stops being a clump of cells, no matter what they’re told, before eight weeks of pregnancy has passed, and to weigh that unpalatable reality of ‘do I kill my baby, or do I give him or her up for adoption?’

Men should be informed about the risks their girlfriends, or wives or sisters and mothers take… as well as know the risks they take in siring a child in this modern age. That they can have their children taken away from them if a relationship falls apart. That a one night stand can result in a child they need to support. Or perhaps result in a child they never see, that is given away for adoption, or killed, despite what he may wish or decide or want. That sometimes things won’t be easy if they do choose fatherhood and being responsible for the child; and that they risk losing their children even then. That they should watch out for post-partum psychosis and depression, because of the often catastrophic results that brings – and that it’s NOT wrong to ask for help, nor shameful to do so. Or ‘What if she dies? What if my child dies?’

And that ultimately, both men and women should be taught it’s wrong to take out the worst option on the child. That child didn’t have a say in this, they are the result of choices made by two people. They shouldn’t be seen as ‘inconveniences’ or ‘burdens’ or ‘not human’ or ‘distressing’. Women shouldn’t see abortion as an out – nor should men! The responsible thing to do is to use birth control – and if that fails, well, have a plan for that. Your girlfriend/boyfriend doesn’t want the kid afterward? Single parenthood is not a horrible thing – it’s not easy but it’s not horrible. Women and men should not use the child as a weapon against the heart of another. Those children have hearts too, and they’re hurt if they’re used like objects.

They are not clumps of cells, all involved. We are people. As long as we have not harmed anyone maliciously, wilfully, or negligently, we are not deserving of punishment, nor of death.

With every single death via abortion, I think we lessen our own capability for humanity. Throughout the ages, there never was a worse crime than the killing of children, for to kill children was to kill our own future, personally, or as humans.

To choose abortion, despite the knowledge, then yes, the person making that choice, should, responsibly, make such a choice with full understanding of what she or he support. Anything else is minimisation of what it truly costs. This might seem ‘unfair’ or ‘cruel to the woman’ – but considering that the one who dies in such a gruesome, inhumane manner is not her, why is that awful understanding not considered the minimum price she, and her partner must make?

And yes, her partner. Yes, she is the one who bears the child; but what if he is willing to care for a child she might not want to raise but is unwilling to murder? She could surrender the child to him, or give up the child to adoption, if they are both unwilling or unable to care for the child? No pregnancy ever happens flying solo; it takes two for it to happen at all.

The choices that open up and become acceptable when faced with a gruesome, cruel truth -Do I murder this baby? – are numerous, but not easy. Life is not easy, nor is it fair.

Life finds a way.

What makes us who we are is based on the choices we make, whether we choose good or evil, right or wrong, knowing what those choices are as we make them, what makes us moral. We are responsible for our choices, and for the results. This is one of the important things that makes us human, separates us from animals, raises us to sentience.

The right to live is not removed by mere inconvenience.

 

 

 

Note: Edited only to correct spelling or formatting errors,  or where I might have trailed off and not finished a sentence abruptly. It happens sometimes, when I think I’ve written it all and already started on the next thought.

10 thoughts on “Moral and informed choices

  1. Wyldkat

    BRAVO!! Very well said. You have managed, in one article, to do what many anti-abortion speakers have not – explain what is really happening in a non-confrontational, purely scientific manner.

    Any objections to sharing?

    1. R.K. Modena Post author

      I actually mentioned this to my Mom, and she reminisced about how I came downstairs one morning as a two year old or so, and asked them, is in order to make me… “Daddy had to insert his penis into Mommy’s vagina so his sperm could fertilise her egg.”

      After a moment of shocked silence, Dad said ‘yes, but that is something you do only with someone you love very much.’

      To which my reply was ‘okay,’ my Mom remembers, then I wandered off again. I got into the encyclopedia, it turns out, and that was a… rather memorable start to their morning.

        1. R.K. Modena Post author

          Parents both recount that I started reading at 9 months. I don’t remember ever learning how to read; which is an obstacle when it comes to teaching children how to read. Never was bored too; I mean how could you be bored when reading about dinosaurs?!

          Okay I’d get bored if I ran out of something to read… then I started daydreaming… hm. Maybe I never did get bored.

        2. R.K. Modena Post author

          My youngest brother was a similar sort of hair raising to have. His ‘thing’ was to ask my Dad’s colleagues and friends visiting the apartment in Paris ‘complicated questions.’ Things like ‘if you were God for one day, what would you do’ or ‘if you could travel back in time would you kill Hitler, why or why not?’ The 6+ years were… probably my parents having to scramble quite a bit.

            1. R.K. Modena Post author

              He was a kid who liked to sit down and think a lot. He came up with a fictional story about his concept of Hell, where souls were either food or currency to the demons, and they were engaged in an endless war vying for power, influence and control, and the stories followed the points of view of the different clans involved.

              When asked why demons, he replied “Angels don’t disobey; if they did they wouldn’t be angels, they’d fall. So they’d be pretty boring to write about.” He had a point… and the hierarchies bear no resemblance to Catholic hell, nor to The Divine Comedy, so they let him continue. He wrote and drew the stories.

              I sometimes wonder what happened to the stories, and how it ended. I’ll have to ask him, but he’s so busy with work…

    2. R.K. Modena Post author

      Blast. Hit send by mistake.

      Now, going by my mom’s recounting, I was definitely precocious, but the book I mention above is aimed at children, giving only the facts, and the dryest nuts and bolts descriptions of the sexual organs. The reproductive organs were only interesting to us kids coz they did something awesome from a kid’s perspective: make more kids! More playmates!!! And the youngest was cute when he finally came home. Mom had no shortage of willing helpers with the diapers… how proud we were, doing Big Sibling jobs like keep the baby entertained, or fed, or helping with cleaning him (only if it was a wet nappy, though) … we used to fight about whose turn it was to do what!

      The more ‘bothersome’ bits that usually worry moralists gets very easily mitigated if you show the kids other examples of reproduction in the natural world. This neatly demystifies the whole concept of sex as something ‘every living creature needs to do to continue the species’ – but you’ll probably have to make sure that the littles don’t end up calling pollen ‘plant sperm.’ They’re not technically wrong, but by insisting on proper terminology it is easier to keep from being innocently embarrassing.

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