Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fetus Versus Child

I have two friends with whom I have frequent political debates on Facebook. Actually, I guess Friends isn't exactly the right word for people you know only through FB, especially when your only link is a passionate interest in politics and more especially, when you violently disagree on every issue. I don't know a better term though so I'll stick with friends.

My two friends are both rabidly conservative while they consider me idiotically liberal. I accuse them of wanting to go back to the days of aristocrats and peons. They accuse me of yearning to live in a Nanny State. At least one of them believes Barack Obama, Kenyan, pulled the wool over our eyes about his place of birth to get elected.

None of us pull any punches. We all have thick skins and can take the heat or we'd have headed off into the sunset with our wounded feelings by now. We range the gamut of subjects from Libya to taxes to gay marriage to health care to Sarah Palin to unions.

In our most recent exchange, one of them stated with anger that if I had my way, a stranger could take his 12-year-old daughter to have an abortion without his knowledge.

Our of curiosity, I asked what he would do if , say, his 12-year-old was molested and got pregnant as a result. Would he insist she have the baby?

His answer was: "of course, would a grandfather murder his grandchild simply because of the circumstances of its conception?"

I backed off because we were starting to venture into a realm too personal for even barely dispassionate discussion. Our beliefs in this matter were so far apart that we could never find even a shred of common ground. If I had responded, I doubt I could have kept my horror at his attitude from showing.

I find it stunning that this basically good man would be willing to sacrifice the life of a living, breathing, feeling, thinking human being, his own daughter, for the sake of an unconscious fertilized egg. He would judge the value of a small blob of tissue higher on the scale of deserving consideration than a little girl who can laugh and cry and feel pain and confusion and love.

Can a man even have any clue how traumatic nine months of pregnancy and then the birth of a baby can be, even for mature women, even for women who were happily pregnant, much less a child who is barely out of babyhood herself? Can he even begin to imagine what being pregnant would mean to this little girl? The physical shock of your formerly lithe and obedient body turning on you, becoming heavy and unwieldy and slow when you should be out there twisting and turning on the volleyball court like the pre-teen you are? Or the emotional upheaval? The jeering and/or teasing by other kids (and even some thoughtless adults) at the sight of pregnant 12-year-old? A little girl forced to face womanhood too soon, not only psychically wounded by a molester but who must now cope with the additional burden of carrying and giving birth to a child. And what about afterwards? Can a 12-year-old simply forget, ever, that she's a mother. Let Mom and Dad raise the child or put it up for adoption but that doesn't alter the fact of its maternity. Can she ever overcome the memories of being victimized when she produced a living reminder? Her abuser will be inextricably tied to her forever, no matter how much she'd like to escape his awful presence.

This father seemed so cruelly blase to me, as if what I see as a negatively cataclysmic event in a child's life was just something that has to be be got through, like a sprained ankle.

Truly, if you put a 12-year-old child on one scale and a fetus on another, do they have exactly the same moral weight? If the child and a test tube containing a fertilized eggs were in a house on fire, would you even have to hesitate for a moment about which to save first? Can you look at a petri dish and have the same feelings for your "grandchild" as you do for your daughter when she winds her arms around your neck and says, "I love you, Daddy?'

I suppose my friend's stance is based on religion but it seems like a form of sexism to me, as if a female is, first and foremost, a child-bearing vessel, regardless of how she came to be with child. God's will, don't you know, and if she has to suffer, so be it.

We're so far apart on this issue, we can't even glimpse each other from where we're at.