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Hard choices for a hard reality

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
January 30, 2003


"The command "Be fruitful and multiply" was promulgated, according to our authorities, when the population of the world consisted of two people." — William Ralph Inge

Every year, to mark the anniversary of Roe v.s Wade, Americans on both sides of the abortion issue ritually wallow in anthropocentric rhetoric debating the sanctity of human life and individual freedoms. From year to year the arguments vary little, and opinions change only in the level of their intensity. This year has been no different.

The current strategy du jour of the Anti-abortion forces are efforts to prohibit ‘partial birth abortions." Which is all well and good except for the fact that, if I may state the obvious, first month or last, all abortions are partial birth. Anyone who denies the fact that a fetus is a life in the making is being intellectually dishonest. That said, I consider myself to be not only pro-life, but pro-abortion as well. In other words I am unabashedly pro-choice.

What I would like to see when abortion is debated is a consideration of what life is like for an unwanted child, or a child born to into drug induced poverty, or to unfit parents. I bet if you were to ask them, Susan Smith, Andrea Yates, and Susan Eubanks, all mothers who murdered their children, would define themselves as pro-life. Such homicides should be considered partial life abortions.

I often wonder if those religiously opposed to abortion, equally reject the use of fertility drugs, invitrofertilization, and other reproductive technologies. It seems to me playing God at both ends of the life spectrum, would be considered equally wrong by those of faith.

To be honest my beliefs have little to do with human life and personal freedoms, and everything to do with ecological health and environmental sustainability. As grim as it is, abortion is a valid form of birth control, and in a world of 7 billion people, the mere thought of banning abortions fills me with a sense of dread. Without self-imposed limitations, human populations will be reduced through famine, disease and wars over resources.

In support of their position, pro-life advocates are quick to announce that in the thirty years Roe v.s. Wade has been on the books, 43 million lives have been lost to abortion. Although meant to shock and repulse, this statistic leaves me with a sense of relief. 43 million people represents a lot of mouths to feed, mountains of natural resources required to support them and a whole lot pollution.

Also lost in the abortion debate, is the question of how we, as a species, have reached a point where purposely removing a fetus is even considered. Not wanting to bring a child into the world speaks volumes about the world. Considering the rate of poverty, malnutrition, exploitation and abuse facing the majority of the world's children, who's to say termination is not in the best interest of the unborn child.

Population is a problem; there is no way around it.

Here in California potable water is becoming increasing scarce, imagine another 43 million people competing for a turn at the tap. Unemployment rates continue to climb, as do the number of people in prison and the amount of habitat cleared to make room for the growing numbers of humans.

Sooner or later Americans will be forced to control population. Contraception is probably the least controversial, homosexuality the most natural. And if there were not so much social stigmatism attached to it, remaining childless would be an option more people would choose. Unfortunately in a capitalist culture making babies is paramount to ensuring the next generation of consumers.

Once upon a time a strategy of maximum reproduction made biological sense to ensure survival as a species. It was a tough world, and evolution was a matter of a achieving a balance between life and death. In the days of pre-civilized predation, more babies made more sense. This is no longer the case. As a species we are facing a hard reality. Without a strategy of minimum reproduction, sheer momentum will throw humanity up against an evolutionary wall.

Abortion is an ugly reality. But then again so are death, disease, and famine associated with overpopulation. Hopefully western culture will be able to take a good long look at itself. And when that finally happens maybe we can evolve to a place where children are no longer seen as moral obligations to be forced on those better left alone.

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