ethics philosophy

wisdom for a divisive issue

Obama’s recent statements on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, remind us all (like it or not) of the immensely divisive issue of abortion.  The article says…

Obama says everyone needs to work to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make.

Before sharing my (hopefully wise) perspective on the issue, I’ll just say that I agree and disagree with the above quote.  Indeed, the need to work together to prevent (or at least reduce) unintended (perhaps a better term than ‘un-wanted’?) pregnancies is most certainly at least some ground that all can stand on together.  But the statement that we should ‘support women and families in the choices they make’ is too vague.  Not all choices are good, therefore not all choices should be ‘supported’.  For example, many did not ‘support’ the decision to go into Iraq (and whatever position you hold on that matter, the point still stands – uncritical ‘support’ for just any decision would be advised by no one).

As for a brief – and I think wise – perspective on the issue, consider this:

What is needed most urgently with this issue is respect and self-government.

Respect in that…

  • Men who are raping or using women or simply leaving them alone and scared need a new-found respect for women.  Women are not sex objects.
  • Men need to respect the potential life they could be causing.  Sex, while fun, should not be reduced to recreation only.
  • Women who casually have unprotected sex (obviously rape does not apply here) need a new-found respect for their own bodies.  Stop letting men use you.
  • Women and men both need a healthy respect for the life-creating power of sex.  It’s not a game to play with, nor a drug to be controlled by.

…and self-government (or ‘self control’) in that…

  • Men and women need to self-govern their own body in general and their sexual desires in particular.  Laws and more government will not (nor could they) help people do this.

To any readers who potentially may have gone through an unwanted pregnancy and/or an abortion, the purpose here is not to condemn you or label you a killer.  Nobody plans to have an abortion or an unintended pregnancy, and your experience would be no different.

I don’t think we need a bunch of laws to change things.  I think we need wisdom.  Wisdom is simply to learn from our past, not to repeat it – to read life’s patterns well.  However, to learn from our past mistakes (and I continue to seek to learn from mine), we must at least acknowledge that there were actual mistakes made .

And by the way, all abortions happen because of a mistake – and most certainly not only the woman or only the man, but often (or always?) both.  The rapist makes the dehumanising mistake of failing to value the dignity of a human being – while (in at least some cases) some raped women have made the utterly tragic mistake of getting drunk at a party.  Those not emotionally or financially ‘ready’ make the unthinking mistake of having sex (‘protected’ or not) knowing what could – at least possibly – happen.   As a culture, we can also be to blame – making the devastating mistake of valuing so-called ‘sexual freedom’ (which often turns out to be not freedom of sexual expression, but slavery to sexual desire) above any notion whatsoever of – shock, horror – personal responsibility or – gasp – self control.

In summary, I don’t think laws (or much less Obama) can ‘fix’ this issue.  This issue will be fixed – person by person, family by family, community by community – by the learning and loving of wisdom (philosophy: philo[love] + sophia[wisdom]).  This wisdom – however hard for some to hear – will help infinitely more than passing some laws.

8 replies on “wisdom for a divisive issue”

Interesting post Dale

– I think by ‘support’ it doesn’t necessarily mean support the decision (morally) but support the person who made it, ie those that make bad decisions still need support in dealing with the consequences of that choice. As an example a thirteen year old student I taught had an abortion. She needed support afterwards from a variety of sources – without it there would’ve been the real risk of two lives gone.

-Respect: Its interesting you make different points for men and women when I think these apply to both. Some women have sex purely for recreation just as some men do and some women use men. Some men make poor decisions when drunk too.

-Self government: Quite a challenge there, I watched the movie Revolutionary Road last night. It dealt with, in part, abortion in the 50s. We have the advantage of much better contraception these days and yet is the abortion rate going down as a result – I’m not sure of the stats. What would be your solution in the days prior to contraception – only have sex twice in a lifetime or have 15 + kids?

PS: I do prefer ‘unintended’ to ‘unwanted’ – in fact we use the term ‘surprise’ when we refer to the pregnancy that resulted in our precious daughter.

Cheers, Jack

Cheers Jack,
I 120% agree with your thoughts re: ‘support’. It’s quite easy to a) support anything/everyone (just make ‘being nice’ your rule of life), and it’s also quite easy to b) be a real jerk and not support the choice or the person. The hard thing to do (when needed) is to support the person even if you don’t support the choice they’ve made (or are making).

I also fully agree about ‘respect’; yes, those are things that both men and women do.

On self-government, a couple further thoughts…
1) we don’t actually have to go back to the 50’s, we can just look at certain parts of the world now which don’t have our types of contraception. Eventually, this conversation leads to the quite difficult and multi-faceted subject of over-population, etc. But at a local level, I do think our compartmentalised ‘1 family unit per 1 housing unit’ western lifestyle (which contrasts hugely from other cultures – multi-generation, more communal style) makes it harder for us to have larger families. We’re busier, away from home more (more ‘upwardly mobile’, etc.); so largely (and without trying to be simplistic) you could put it down to a trade-off. Of course, I don’t think it’s immoral (in principle) to choose a lifestyle with 1-2 kids instead of a 12-15 kid, communal lifestyle.
2) It comes down to our responsibility to be aware of our own lifestyle (about which westerners have more of a choice than in the developing world), and ‘self-governing’ ourselves sexually (and financially, relationally, etc., etc.) to have an appropriate number of children. I think the thought of any kind of self-control is just especially unwelcome in our more individualistic, ‘me and my rights/satisfaction/preferences/style/options/etc.’ kind of culture. I’m rambling…

And yes, ‘surprises’ can often turn out to be the most precious things! For example, in the case of a ‘mistake’ resulting in an ‘un-intended’ teenage (i.e. 17-yr old) pregnancy (17 being an early age only in our culture!), the little bub is still a very precious life, which is to be valued, nurtured and cared for like any other! :)

Good points Dale and yep its a real challenge to support a person when you don’t support their choice. In the case of my student I was aware that she may view my compassion as endorsing her choice. In saying that, her ‘choice’ was a choice that was really made by several people and that’s why I like your last paragraph in the original post. Things may’ve been different if her mother wasn’t a drug addict and she hadnt been in the care of a grandparent who was trying hard but was unaware she was sneaking out at night and unaware of the pregnancy and abortion, things may’ve been different if I’d been allowed to tell that grandparent, things may’ve been different if she hadn’t been brought up around alcohol abuse, things may’ve been different if the teenage boy who fathered the baby had been supportive, things may’ve been different if she hadn’t been moved around so much and had some long term solid friendships, things may’ve been different if she had a higher self esteem…things may’ve been different.

Sooooo true, Jack,
That story highlights just how important (and fragile!) family and community are, and how strong the immediate effects of something like drug addiction can be – not only the drug addict’s life, but various ones around them.
Your slogan (very apt) ‘things may’ve been different’ is spot on. And for every one of those instances where ‘things may’ve been different’, we can see an opportunity (or ‘vocation’/calling/’election’) to be the ones through whom the difference comes.
This is why it is so disappointing to me to see Christians all up-in-arms about legislation and/or voting for the correct presidential candidate, instead of doing the difficult (yet vital) work of ‘being the difference’ in all of those kinds of scenarios your last comment represents (and more). It’s a lot easier to push through an anti-abortion law, than to sit patiently, caringly, understandingly and lovingly with someone in a tough spot. (I must also add that it’s also easy to tell them –as I’ve actually heard been said– ‘whatever you decide will be the right choice’…; not helpful)

I believe, as a society, we have forgotten to emphasize “choices have consequences”. Sometimes the unintended consequences follow one for a long time. Abortion has become an “easy out” for the unintended consequences of actions, whether consensual or forced. I put that in quotes for a reason. Nothing about abortion is ever easy, and those who chose it still suffer consequences in a different way. But we have lost the integrity to chose “right” versus “easy”.

In my locality, there are at least 3 agencies/organizations who will take in pregnant teens and adults to help them through a pregnancy. In turn, they offer counseling, adoption aid if that’s chosen, and the wonderful support you mention. If family cannot do this, then these agencies are a reliable alternative. If anything, I believe we need to support these supporters.

Wonderful post. Thank you. (I found you via “Mind, Soul, and Body”)


Hi Robin! (sorry for the delay, your comment got held up in spam for some reason!?)
It really is such a delicate issue, yet as (obviously) important as human life itself. And what’s at stake is not only the physical life of the pre-born, but also the quality of life for mother/father, family and friends around them (which –as we saw in the example Jack referred to above in the comments– can so often have such a powerful influence on the life/circumstances/choices of the mother/father).
I fully agree about your notion of abortion being an ‘easy out’ (especially in the [many] cases where it is simply used as contraception), and also appreciated your truthful reflection that nothing about abortion is ‘easy’.
Thanks for the visit and comment!

((note from Dale: I’m leaving the text of this spam comment up, because I think it is pretty stinking hilarious!!))
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