With the ascent of Donald Trump to the presidency, the subsequent Women’s March on Washington, and the upcoming March for Life, there’s been no shortage of social issues brought to our daily attention by the media. Naturally, one of the big ones is abortion. As a millennial less than two years shy of 30, I feel that this country is shifting towards the secular side of such issues, which is showing itself in my fellow millennials. Although I’m not necessarily opposed to this secular shift, I feel that it may be leading some of us the wrong way on the issue of abortion.
Why? Because I believe that abortion seriously undermines the integrity of human life. Sure, a fetus may not know what’s about to happen to them, but neither would a newborn baby. Should we let them be aborted too? One might say, “Well, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever get to that point.” That may (or may not) be true, but my experience with history is that people govern themselves primarily through habit, which does change over time. Even if today we’re not predisposed to ending the lives of born children, our acceptance of abortion would certainly open the door to that years down the line.
Let’s look at one relevant example of habit changing over time. Italian historian Paolo L. Bernardini says in his book Voglio Morire (2013) that suicide grew more common in his country starting around the beginning of the 19th century. From the Renaissance until then it is thought to have been quite rare in Italy. Bernardini argues that thanks in part to the social upheaval in Europe during that time, Italians began to think of suicide in a more honorable and liberating sense. He postulates that the French Revolution, occurring between 1789 and 1799, brought secular cultural ideals to the deeply Catholic neighboring Italian nations. This consequently reduced their peoples’ aversion to suicide. A “culture of death,” as Bernardini calls it, then emerged in Italy after the country’s unification in 1861, expressing itself both in the arts and in physical death. It saw the number of suicides dramatically increase between 1880 and 1915, in which year the number of suicides reached its highest of the period at 3,092 – 85 per million Italians. This is close to the worldwide median rate of 87 in 2012.
What does all this have to do with abortion? I refer back to my statement that people govern themselves primarily through habit, which can change over time. A people can gradually become accustomed to practices that they previously looked upon with abhorrence. The same thing can happen right here in our country. According to a Gallup article, Americans’ approval rating of euthanasia is now at 69 percent, almost twice what it was in 1950.
There are, of course, other instances throughout history of cultures that have regularly practiced suicide, infanticide and other types of killing. The ancient Greeks commonly engaged in exposure – leaving a baby to die by abandonment – even though they rejected the concept of human sacrifice. The North Koreans, because of racial prejudices against the Chinese, have forcefully aborted the children of repatriated North Korean mothers impregnated by Chinese men. It’s likely that a sizable number of such cultures hadn’t always engaged in these actions.
It is for those reasons that I think one need not be religious to be against abortion. Our society is indeed becoming more secular. But even though my fellow millennials tend to take a secular stance on issues such as gay marriage – which I take on that as well, but that’s for another time – that doesn’t mean we have to place any less value on human life.
In fact, according to a survey from Marist College published this year, 52 percent of women favor at least limiting abortions to rare cases such as rape, incest and saving the mother’s life. Also, a study by Students for Life found that last year, 53 percent of millennials supported restriction on abortion in all or most cases. That was a 9 percent increase from the figure for 2012 in the same study.
Nevertheless, many of my friends in that age range insist that abortion is about letting a woman have her right to choose. This argument sounds appealing but again it begs the question, should they also have the right to choose to abort a newborn? For that matter, should we all have the right to abort a person of any age? The very reason that we are forbidden by law to commit murder is because if we were not, all of our lives would be at a far greater risk. Though on a less extreme scale, the same principle applies to abortion.
For those who may wonder, I’m not against women using contraception to prevent a pregnancy. As for to an abortion ban… well, I’ll let the ladies at Feminists for Life field this one: http://www.feministsforlife.org/what-about-rape/
Whatever viewpoint we have on the issue of abortion, we absolutely must keep the woman’s feelings in mind. We must offer them comfort and support when they have become pregnant either willfully or through rape. We must value her life as well as the life of the child she carries, no matter if that child is a fully-grown baby or a cluster of a few cells.