Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No Compassion For Pregnant Women

She is there, and you probably do not notice her. She is a woman with a problem, a problem you cannot see and which she does not advertise. It could be a woman on a subway car, in the cubicle next to yours, sitting by herself at a cafe... you have no way of knowing. She is pregnant.

And she's not sure she wants to be.

The reason could be that she cannot support a child. Or that the father would not support her in any way. Or, perhaps, it was "not supposed to happen." Maybe, it was the result of indiscretion, or worse, the result of an assault. Whatever the reason, she may be confused, feeling vulnerable, and unable to come to a clear decision. It's still early in the pregnancy -- what to do?

Many of us will never know this feeling, If, like me, you are a man, you will never be forced to make this decision. It is perhaps the most personal decision a woman can make, as it involves a life growing inside her, a life that, in the beginning, she may not even know is there. It will tax reason and belief and logic to come to a decision. Given the gravity of the situation, it is best that there be support and not recrimination.

But some would have you believe that what is best for her is to speak to her about the mortal danger to her soul, how she would be "killing a baby," and to question her sanity and competence to make such a decision. They would relieve her of the burden by threatening her, pressuring her to take a course of action that may very well leave her limited or no options in the future. They would be more concerned with the present than the future. Their short-sighted and misguided attempts to "help" this woman would be nothing short of moral bullying.

It is easy, from the outside, to decide what is right in such a situation, to force the issue into the narrow confines of black-and-white certainty. No one wants to think of human life becoming an easily disposable commodity, but the flip-side of that is to sanctify and venerate such life beyond any realistic measure. To worship a fetus, to promote its life over the life of the mother who carries it, supplies it with a safe environment and the nutrients to allow it to grow to term, is to reduce the mother to a simple vessel, an incubator, and nothing more.

Why should we, beings capable of rational thought, strip away the humanity of a mother? What gives the fetus inside her a greater share of our compassion and care than the very person who will bring that life into the world? Without the mother, there is no child, and yet it as if the fetus obtains its full humanity from the moment of conception, even though it would be months before it could even survive outside the womb, and even then, only with great difficulty. The mother is not a shell to be discarded or a husk to be removed; she is the reason the child will come into the world. It is to her protection and health and well-being we should be directing our energies.

Whatever our personal feelings on the matter may be, the misguided effort to simply fill the world is a destructive and futile one. Even now, fully one-sixth of the population of the planet does not get enough to eat or does not have clean water to drink. It is not enough to simply bring new lives into the world, if they cannot be provided for properly. A child needs food, clothing, shelter, education, and protection, all things which take resources. Many already do not have enough of those resources themselves; to impose upon them the extra burden of another mouth to feed is to potentially condemn a "precious child" to a life of deprivation, want, neglect, or, sadly, abuse.

If, indeed, human life is to be considered precious, then our energies should be turned toward making the world a child enters the best world possible, eliminating poverty, disease, and war, and providing every human with equal rights and equal protection under the law. To invest all out efforts into protecting potential human life, while paying lip service to actual human life, is a folly our society cannot afford to support.