I am a man.
And because I am a man, I will never give birth.
Not to another human being, anyway.
It is widely believed that we men have no voice in the abortion debate, unless it's a voice that further deprives the unborn of theirs. And to a certain extent, I respect the fact that as a male, I will never understand the emotions and psychsosematic dynamics that take place in a woman who is pregnant. So I confine my public dialog on the subject to facts and logic, and let the multitudes of women who are confidently pro-life address the more nuanced arguments of pro-choicers.
For example, I didn't even bother to address on my blog the Congressional skirmish this week over the House of Representative's vote to make abortion illegal after the 22nd week. The House vote is impotent, since the Senate will not go along with it, and it's based on flawed science and goofy logic about when a fetus can experience pain. Texas Republican Michael Burgess went so far as to embarrass his entire state by claiming that as a professional OB/GYN, he's witnessed male fetuses masturbate.
Talk about lending credibility to a serious argument! I'm just relieved somebody hasn't taken Burgess' fallacy to its illogical conclusion by extrapolating it to mean that men are sexually uncontrollable.
This is a serious debate, people. And it's a debate about people, not concepts or romanticized ideals about life or the marvel of human pregnancy.
Which brings me back to having a logical voice in the abortion debate, and specifically, my incredulous reaction to an op-ed in today's New York Times by Judy Nicastro, who writes about what she considers to be her brave decision to abort a son at his 23rd week. Her opinions were intended to bolster support for the call by liberals to squelch continued tinkering with the timeframes within which abortion is legal. But with all due respect to the agony she professes to have had over her decision, her story drips with the same problematic hubris as Burgess' masturbation theory.
For one thing, Nicastro starts off her piece by attempting to compare good parenting to being pro-choice. "I believe parenthood starts before conception, at the moment you decide you want a child," she rhapsodizes, as if pro-life advocates would hoot in disdain at the thought. If she really wanted to match her preaching to her audience, Nicastro should be patronizing the urban men scrounging their hoods for "baby mammas" instead of Times readers who likely ration their flings with unprotected sex like they do swigs of soda.
Then she tells us she served on Seattle's city council. For whatever that's worth. It just kinda seems to hang there at the beginning of her article, as if her stint in public service contributed to the horror story coming next. She then got married, and had one child in a process that apparently was completely healthy and uncomplicated.
Two years later, she became pregnant again, but with twins this time. A boy and a girl! Unfortunately, during their 20th week, during her ultrasound, a heart defect in the boy was detected, which led to a diagnosis of a herniated diaphragm, which meant that his chest's organs were not developing properly. He had a hole in his diaphragm, only one lung chamber had formed, and it was only 20% of what it should have been at the time. He would be on multiple life support machines for an undetermined period of time after birth, and who knew how many other complications there would be.
By this point, after all of the additional test and consultations, Nicastro and her husband had one week to make a decision to abort, since in Washington state, abortions are illegal after the 24th week.
"The thought of hearing him gasp for air and linger in pain was our nightmare," Nicastro recounts, depicting a scenario that would scare any parent. But then she assuages her fears by rationalizing the killing of her son the next day. "We made sure our son was not born only to suffer," she plaintively writes. "He died in a warm and loving place, inside me."
Except that her son, had he been born with the fullness of these debilitating conditions - or worse, would not have been born "only to suffer." Is life all about pleasure, ease, and comfort? Would the Nicastro family not have been a warm and loving environment for him?
Nicastro admits that they took a steep risk in permitting a procedure that could also have killed their healthy daughter. Which begs the question: so, they were willing to kill both of their unborn children because one of them had health issues? What kind of parenthood is that?
"My little boy partially dissolved into me," Nicastro romanticizes of her abortion, "and I like to think his soul is in his sister."
And what is his sister going to think when she learns that she could have died in Nicastro's womb, right next to her twin brother?
To a certain extent, Nicastro's story is a public account of a private family tragedy. Even if they'd allowed their son to live, and he was born with the problems their doctors diagnosed, we all would likely call the situation "tragic," because we wouldn't wish such conditions on anybody. Read through Nicastro's op-ed quickly, and in the blur of emotions and descriptions of peril, even the staunchest pro-lifer might feel pangs of remorse over the incomprehensible health trials God allows His creation to endure.
I understand how, to pro-choicers, my logic gets murky here.
Some would say that just as it strikes them as unfair for God to allow fetuses to develop such awful conditions, it's unfair for pro-lifers to buttress our animosity towards abortion based on faith in a God Who can use all things for His glory and our good. Because that's what we pro-life Christ-followers would say, isn't it? Somehow, had this little boy lived, and was forced to endure such hardships, we would find some comfort and purpose in God's mysterious plans for such hardships.
People who don't share our faith, however, won't share our optimism over life's extreme pains. This is a major part of the pro-life debate that simply can't be explained or rationalized to people who do not share our faith in Christ. And while this reality is something we believers in Christ cannot accept, it's something we need to respect. We need to model the compassion of Christ, particularly in our public dialog on these types of conversations, even as we pray the the Holy Spirit can use us despite our inadequacies.
In a way, it's kinda like how we'd have prayed for that little boy and his parents, if he'd been allowed to be born despite whatever physical obstacles were before them.
Frankly, though, if liberal outlets like the Times wants to posit stronger anecdotal challenges to our faith response to medical complications during pregnancies, they need to find more compelling stories than Nicastro's. She was over 40 when she conceived her first child, and all of her pregnancies relied upon in vitro fertilization. Now, I have friends who were in a similar situation, but frankly, they are adamantly pro-life, and were staunchly committed to bringing into the world whatever their pregnancies produced. For parents who are not willing to take both the risks and rewards of such a biological gamble, what merit can be found in their stories of aborting deformed fetuses?
Call me cold-hearted and cruel if you like, but just as Nicastro's somber story attempts to put a personal face on late-term abortion, it also explains how parenthood really requires more blatant integrity than what she attempts to portray in her opening paragraph.
The fact that her second son is now in Heaven with his Creator is the only affirmative persuasion I get from her misguided advocacy.