Facebook…No, Big Government…No, Abortion!

Ah, Facebook.  It’s such a great way to touch bases with former students and stay updated on family far and wide.  It’s also a very odd place to get into political discussions.  Ultimately, you end up interacting with people who have no context to you other than opposing political views.  That’s not necessarily bad, it’s just…well, not an area for which there’s much established protocol.

I’ve watched it on my own wall, where tons of friends react to postings.  I know all of them.  I know what tends to motivate them; I know their lenses; I know a lot about them.  They know nothing about each other, and often make assumptions about each other that are way off the mark.

On other people’s walls, I am one of those commenters responding to people I don’t know in the least.  Take Dane’s Facebook page: We went to high school together, and our principle connection was a shared passion for Monty Python and Star Wars (episodes IV and V—VI wasn’t out yet).  He’s very conservative these days and posted the following on his Facebook: “‘A government big enough to supply you with everything you need is a government big enough to take away everything that you have…. The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases.’ Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).”

Alan, a guy I was in several classes with and a liberal, responded that he didn’t want a government that provided everything.  He just felt that government should level the playing field for the marginalized.  He complained that such ideas didn’t hold as much emotional appeal as conservative rugged individualism because they weren’t as gunslinger-sexy.  Alan, Dane, and I know each other, so I jumped in, agreeing with Alan, but teasing him a bit by bringing up The Magnificent Seven as an example of sexy gunslingers looking out for the little guy.  (At this point, I’ll skip all the subsequent discussion about The Magnificent Seven and The Seven Samurai with Hyon, another classmate.)

In pops Kelly, who says that liberals don’t look out for the very weakest—the unborn.  Um…I don’t know Kelly (though both Dane and Alan do), and this is a touchy subject, but I have to bring up something that really bothers me about the general conservative agenda, which appears to care deeply for the unborn, but kind of loses interest once they make their big entrance into the world of the independently breathing.  Naturally, I don’t understand professing to care for innocent unborn babies while your party is pushing for deep cuts to programs like WIC that assure adequate nutrition to children under five.  Bigger still, I don’t understand professing a desire to stop abortion while simultaneously pushing for abstinence-only sex ed, which delays sex an average of 5 months, but makes the couple half as likely to use contraceptives.  I did, however, clarify that I believe life begins at conception.  We have this as common ground.

Go back.  Reread Dane’s post.  Whoda thunk it would go here?

Kelly writes back.  He has adopted two children.  He wouldn’t have them if pregnant girls hadn’t given up their babies.  He’s a big proponent of adoption.  I can certainly get behind that.  But then we end up in this rather strange and complicated discussion.  Appropriately, he begins to message me, rather than posting on the wall, but he also requests to friend me.  Well, heck, there are all kinds of people on my friends list from my giant school that I barely know and many I’m not sure I know at all, so why not?

But here, the discussion becomes impossible to reach any consensus on.  He mentions that the pill acts as an abortifacient.  I do some research, and sure enough, my understanding of how the pill works is about 20 years behind the times.  When I was in high school and on the pill, it was Ortho Novum 150—a high enough dose to halt ovulation completely.  But it carried a lot of serious side effects, so the dose has been lowered.  Now, breakthrough ovulation can occur, but a fertilized egg cannot implant because the lining of the uterus is too thin because of the drug.


I find myself falling back to my beliefs regarding abortion when the mental or physical health of the mother is in serious jeopardy.  The mother is human, too.  Sometimes, one of them must be lost as collateral damage, and the woman has people who depend upon her, so her life is the one you save. It’s an ugly, complicated point of view, but it’s one we accept in war, isn’t it? How many people have we been willing to sacrifice in Afghanistan for our own security and peace of mind?  How many people have died in Iraq—not to protect our people but because it made us feel like we were doing something about a threat we couldn’t nail down?

I know that in developing countries, allowing women reproductive control raises everyone’s standard of living.  I know that a disproportionate number of my at-risk students came from parents who were teens when those kids were born.  I have seen the results of parenting conducted by kids who were at-risk themselves, lacking impulse control.  Very few of these kids give their babies up.  They say, “I can’t give my baby away.”

Kelly feels that girls should wait and boys should respect them, and sexually active couples should practice natural methods of contraception to “respect fertility.”  (He opposes all forms of artificial contraception.)  There comes a point where such a discussion can’t go any further.  I don’t understand the whole idea of “respecting fertility.”  To me that’s like “respecting digestion.”  It’s a physical process.  It’s not even as necessary as digestion to sustaining life.  If you don’t want babies, you should be allowed to prevent them in a safe, reliable fashion.

Expecting teens, whose brains are not fully developed, especially when it comes to impulse control (though their hormones are in full-swing), to use natural methods of birth control is utterly unrealistic.  As I said, many do not give up their babies, and there’s something creepy anyway about denying them access to practical contraceptives with the idea that this will have the added benefit of providing childless couples with plenty of children to adopt.  I teach these girls.  However much one may revere women as “a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body” (from one of Kelly’s posts), they are humans in their own right, with dreams, aspirations, and hearts.

I have taught children who were taken away from their very young birthparents too late to undo the damage done to them before social services became aware of what was happening.  I have taught the children of teen parents who become teen parents themselves.  Kelly says the government shouldn’t have to provide for these children.  The fathers should be forced to, and that will act as a powerful deterrent to teen sex.  Tell that to the girls I’ve taught—yes “girls,” as in more than one—whose babies’ fathers are in jail.

So if the pill means that there are zygotes out there that cannot implant, I guess I can live with that.  I’m not saying I don’t think that tiny collection of cells is human.  It’s not an easy conclusion to come to or to hold.  It is fraught with contradiction, and I am uncomfortable with it.  I can understand and even respect pro-life positions—even those that value the life of the baby over the life of the mother.  I understand and respect people who define humanity at some other point, such as the second trimester or viability outside the womb, though I find these definitions problematic.  I just think we all have to acknowledge that, no matter which side of the fence you’re on or to what degree you straddle it, there will be collateral damage.  No one should be entirely comfortable with their position.  There is no true moral high ground.

But…um…watch out for big government and enjoy The Magnificent Seven?

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Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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7 Responses to Facebook…No, Big Government…No, Abortion!

  1. Fowl Ideas says:

    Whenever I’m asked about my political persuasions my standard response is to state that I am neither liberal nor conservative. “I’m issue specific.”

    People have an instinctive need to belong somewhere and to identify with a group. That’s why you find people claiming to be Republicans or Democrats. In reality each individual has a variety of opinions, each one specific to a particular issue and not necessarily conforming to their stated political affiliations. This creates a situation where people attempt to publicly defend a political opinion while privately violating that very opinion either because they feel they need to or because they consider themselves to be above all those pesky restrictions the peasants have to put up with. When they get caught they can display an entertaining degree of creativity in their ability to rationalize their behavior. One of my favorite examples was when Jimmy Swaggart poured on the crocodile tears in front of a television audience after being caught with a prostitute in 1988, “Lord, I’ve sinned against you.”

    I still laugh whenever I think of it.

    I haven’t run across any examples, but I can certainly envision a scenario where a wealthy public figure is known for being very outspoken about his anti-abortion political opinion. Then…one day…his pretty, blonde haired, blue eyed, Aryan daughter is forcibly impregnated by a crack addicted member of a lower race. I bet you a dollar he quietly arranges for an abortion in a far away city where she won’t be recognized. Make it five dollars.

    And that’s just one more reason why those super intelligent aliens avoid landing here…

    “This is your captain speaking. As we pass through the solar system there are a number of interesting sights. If you’ll look out the left side of the spacecraft you’ll see Earth…yes that earth. Flight regulations forbid us from landing there.” The passengers began chittering exitedly. They’d heard the stories.

  2. JohnSherck says:

    I’ve been more or less ignoring Facebook for the past month or so (and it’s amazing how much time doing so has added to the day!), but earlier this year one of my friends sent a Facebook message to me and two of her other friends–a former co-worker and a friend from high school) and basically said “hey, I think you three would like each other, so I’m introducing you.” We became Facebook friends and we do, in fact, have a good deal of common interests, so I found myself chiming in on their threads to argue with people I don’t know, just as you have been.

    As for abortion, since I don’t believe in a soul as separate from a mind, my threshold for life is a little bit later than what the two of you agreed on. My understanding is that a fetus does not become neurologically active until the 5th month. Earlier than that, it seems clear that the fetus cannot feel pain (or anything else) prior to this. Thus, I have no issue with elective abortion before the fifth month.

    That said, we could also stand to do a much better job of educating our youth so that they don’t have to make those kinds of decisions about aborting or not, about keeping the baby or not. I agree with what you’ve said above about young people, but would just add that it’s not just high school kids. My wife worked in residential life at a public university in a very conservative part of the country (South Dakota). This university’s health center would only give out condoms to married couples and recommended pulling out as a viable form of birth control, basically as good as condoms. My wife had several girls in her dorm become pregnant, so she brought in a nurse to talk to them about safe sex… and got in trouble for it. She was told that the girls at the school were not sexually active but that she was encouraging them to have sex by bringing in someone to talk to them about it. Never mind the girls who were already pregnant. Several of them dropped out of college to raise their children and may never have finished. I’m sure that’s better for everyone than if they had learned how to use a condom properly or, God forbid, not been brainwashed about the evils of abortion.

    • admin says:

      Actually, John, I think I’d be a lot more comfortable with abortion if I were certain the soul was separate from the body. Then I could just figure the soul would move on to another body or go directly to the Great Beyond. That’s actually something I don’t get about Christian objection to abortion. Doesn’t the baby’s soul go straight to heaven? Surely God doesn’t dispatch it to the lake of fire? Why is that so bad? For myself, I worry that you’re terminating an individual’s one crack at life. Of course, if I follow that to its logical conclusion, then we should be busily trying to make sure every little ovum and every little sperm gets a shot, and that’s not a good idea. It’s unsustainable; not every producer of sperm or ova is a great candidate for being a parent; and people would have to start procreating awfully young. Besides that, everyone would have hordes of children, and very few people pull that off well.

      See, this is why I’m so conflicted. Take any of this to its logical conclusion and you can determine that abortion is absolutely no biggie and that any form of birth control is a human rights violation, all at the same time!

  3. Fowl Ideas says:

    Human life is precious. That’s why healthcare is treated like any other product sold at whatever price the market will bear.

  4. I have to chuckle on your assessment of Facebook because it is spot on. I think I have had more uncomfortable discussions on political subjects with people I “know” than I’ve had with people I’ve met through blogging (like you and John). Maybe it’s just that within our group we have learned to interact with a level of respect and openness whether we agree on the subject matter or not. I have been appalled at some of the name calling and assumptions that “friends” have made about other “friends.”

    Your conflict and logical conclusions are mine and many others. I am of the mind that we all die. I grew up listening to my grandmother’s WWII stories. People being carted off to gas chambers. Female family members being raped. Everyone starving. Then later watching family members who die of wasting diseases. There are a million ways to die, some of them truly horrible. I’m not willing to make the emotional investment in assigning fertilized cells loving parents, or a fulfilling life because with almost 7 billion humans on this planet I am very aware of mans inhumanity toward man and the other horrors that conscious fully aware beings are being subject to daily.

    I think the best we can do is make responsible choices that we each alone can live with. I’m not allowed to make your choices for you, you aren’t allowed to make my choices for me. Our government shouldn’t make our choices for us either. Like your friend, it should be the governments role to make sure we are able to access the rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

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