October 07, 2007

Where's the outrage?

In church today, during the announcements we were exhorted to participate in the Life Chain this afternoon, an event where a lot of folks stand around and hold up "pro-life", i.e. anti-abortion, signs around the public square. Once, St. Pat's had a strong representation at this, but our numbers had dwindled; and thus the exhortation: "Where's the outrage, people?"

Where, indeed?

It was pointed out that there was a lot of outrage floating around over Michael Vick and the dogs, but that this was about 4,000 children being killed every day. Here's the thing, though: the outrage at the dogfighting is directed at a person, Michael Vick, who is judged to be a bad person for his actions. When you try to build some sort of outrage over abortion, though, you get a little stuck if you try to make it personal: as soon as you bring an actual woman—or girl—into the equation, pregnant and "in trouble", it seems difficult to sustain the personal outrage. Especially when the other half of the message is, purportedly, that We Welcome You And Will Help You Out. What are we getting outraged at, again?

Well, here's something to get a little outraged about: agitating for laws against abortion does nothing to resolve the underlying social justice issues. Even if these groups succeeded at making abortion illegal—which wouldn't stop it from happening, mind you—the people who feel cornered enough to be seeking an abortion in the first place are simply left hanging. For the most part, they're resorting to abortion because they think they don't have any other options, which may be an incorrect perception, but you better believe they're not coming to you to talk about it after all of this.

Here's another: Planned Parenthood has done far, far, far more to decrease the demand for abortion than any of these Life Chains ever did. No pregnant girl walks out of a PP clinic without knowing all her options, honestly evaluated—a bit of scruple that I suspect most illegal abortionists would lack, and that I know most "pro-life" activists lack—and a fair sight less get pregnant in the first place, because PP has gone to the trouble of educating them on their reproductive systems and giving them access to birth control. This is the responsibility of both the parents and the schools, but both groups are abdicating in droves... often at the instigation of various religious institutions.

Which brings me to another thing one could get outraged about. For all the rhetoric about the sanctity of life and the dignity of all humans and all that—and some institutions don't even bother with that much—there remains this bizarre disconnect when it comes to birth control.* That is, in the course of arguing that all couples should welcome new life, and therefore should not want to use birth control, these people forget that some people are not yet on board with this program, do not welcome new life, and are having sex anyway. These people should perhaps not want to use birth control, but the entirety of their situation rather indicates that they should use birth control. Anyone who glibly responds that they should just be abstaining from sex is complicit in the conversion of new life from "something to be welcomed" to "punishment for having sex". By hollowly prescribing and proscribing actions without first ensuring that the actions follow from a consistent belief system, these deeply misguided "pro-life" activists do far more to engender some of the very social ills they claim to be protesting against.

So, that's where the outrage is. I'll be skipping the Life Chain.

*Many outside the religious establishments claim this is all about power and misogyny. While that's undoubtedly true in some cases, I don't think it's universally so—I'm convinced that some people really do genuinely hold these beliefs, and that it really is a weird disconnect, rather than a more active case of rationalising a prejudice.

"Since we're still on our first round of batteries, we weren't sure what this meant in terms of recording time. The unit is rated to run 18 hours, but nobody who works with electronics takes these sorts of ratings as anything other than gentle fun, a brief diversion from the world of hard facts." --Shriram Krishnamurthi Posted by blahedo at 11:05pm on 7 Oct 2007

When last I read about abortion vs. contraception in Catholic theology, the disconnect was baked right in. Abortion, being a one time event, we hope, is something a person can show remorse for, ask forgiveness for, and do penance for, and then go and try to sin no more. However, birth control is something ongoing and so if someone continues to use it, they don't really qualify for forgiveness. I know you are right, that some who preach against contraception are just experiencing a weird disconnect, because I have read story after story about priests who, on learning the suffering of some of their parishioners just don't have it in them to rail against contraception quite so vehemently. Stories about wives who are likely to die if they get pregnant again. Widowers and motherless children who lost their mother to one too many pregnancy. But many of whom I hear rail against the evil of contraception are doing so out of hate rather than faith. I say this from the many conversations I have had with several of these people. Posted by lee at 6:56am on 8 Oct 2007
I'm shocked, shocked to learn that an institution which systematically excludes women from all positions of authority has a bizarre, non-reality-based approach to an issue which connects to female sexuality. It's almost as though when you get a bunch of guys who aren't getting any into a room, they create lousy policy about both women and getting some. Posted by Kimmitt at 10:49pm on 9 Oct 2007
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