Sunday, October 10, 2010

40 Days, love and hate

Today's entry on the 40 Days for Life blog is hard to read. It's a story of a volunteer trying desperately to reach a woman who was 13 weeks along in her pregnancy, and being unable to do so--of standing by when the woman returned for her appointment the next day and had her baby killed.

The woman's hatred for her unborn child was greater than the love and help being offered to her by more than two hundred people.

Now, the last time I spoke of abortion as an act of hatred, I got quite a response from people. The word ruffled some feathers. But I think that's because our culture doesn't really know what hatred is, anymore than we know what love is.

We tend to think of both love and hatred as feelings, emotional surges, chemical reactions in our bodies. Love is that nice warm happy feeling that makes us feel connected to people we're pleased to be around; hate is that cold dark ugly feeling we have for people we don't like anymore. It's a simplistic and childish view of both things--but it's about as emotionally deep as we get in modern America.

I can't, obviously, in a short post on a Sunday afternoon, get into the philosophical depth and richness behind both terms; but I can point out that from a deeper perspective, it is true to say that love is an act of the will in which the self so greatly seeks the good of the other that the self is willing to sacrifice the self in pursuit of that good, while hatred is an act of the will in which the self so greatly desires for evil to befall the other that the self is willing to sacrifice the other in pursuit of that evil.

So when I speak of the abortive mother's hatred of the unborn child she carries, I am using the term in that sense. I do not mean that the abortive woman dislikes babies, or feels anger or contempt for the child in her womb, or that this hatred has anything much to do with feelings at all. I do mean that from the moment the abortive woman learns of the presence of the child in her womb, she wishes nothing but evil to come to that child--she wishes, in fact, for the child to cease to live and to be (though not cease to exist: he exists, and she hates his very existence, but killing him will not change the fact of his existence at all--he will always be the child she killed).

So great is her desire for this particular evil, this cessation of life and being, that she is perfectly willing to sacrifice him to it. If she can only achieve this goal by paying a doctor to go inside her womb and cut her baby into tiny pieces and pull his shattered remains out of her body and dispose of his broken, bloody corpse as medical waste, that is fine--she will do it. She quite literally wants nothing to do with her child, and will not be able to satisfy her hatred by, for example, allowing him to remain in her womb for, say, 27 more weeks and then giving him up for adoption to a couple who will love him as their own. No, I have actually heard pro-abortion women say they'd rather have an abortion than give a baby up for adoption, because knowing their child was still "out there" somewhere would ruin their lives.

Now, in describing this kind of woman, I am not describing those whose testimony can be found in many places online and off--the women who wept and begged and sobbed their way through abortions, the women who didn't want to kill their babies and felt pushed into the act by others or by their own fear or sense of desperation, the women who masked the hatefulness of the actual act with pleas for the baby they were about to kill to forgive them. I am also not describing those so ignorant of the anatomy of human reproduction that they remain convinced that their unborn child of, say, six to twelve weeks gestation was a non-living blob of shapeless uterine tissue. I would venture to say that the former describes a whole lot of women, and the latter an unfortunate amount--but these descriptions don't fit all who abort their unborn children.

Sadly, there are others who quite coldly decide that the hatefulness of the act of abortion is perfectly satisfactory to them, that the baby they carry is not deserving of his life, and that seeing to it that he is dead and gone as soon as possible is the only way to deal with the ugly problem of his presence.

Something that is even sadder to me is that some of these women then go on to convince themselves that, really, the abortion was a loving act. They loved their boyfriends or husbands too much to burden them with a baby (or another baby, as the case might be). They loved their already-born children too much to inconvenience them with an unwanted brother or sister. They loved their parents too much to embarrass them with an out-of-wedlock grandchild.

But love isn't something we ration, and real love doesn't kill off the baby, the brother or sister, the grandchild for the crime of inconvenient existence. Whoever the abortive woman claims to love by the act of abortion, it is certain that the one person she hates--again, in the sense I explained above--is the child who, she has decided, simply must not continue to live, and bother everyone by his upsetting and embarrassing and inconvenient life. And that is the most hateful thing a woman can possibly decide about one of her own children.

UPDATE: I think there's still some confusion as to what I mean by this. If you think that hatred is only an emotion then you're not going to agree with my framework here; we'll have to come up with some other word meaning "I wish you were dead and I'm going to take steps to make it so," I guess.

However, I would like to show an example, from this forum, of the sort of things that I mean when I talk about hatred of the unborn. I'm not linking directly to people's quotes or citing their usernames here, but you can see for yourself at the link above that I'm not making these up:
  • I had mine after my 3rd child, and with my husband's fetus. It has been 5 years now. Never had a pang of guilt. I did it because I didn't want to take away from my 3 kids that we already have. THEY are my life and my priority.
  • I had an abortion and I'll never feel ashamed for it. The guy that got me pregnant, that I was engaged to at the time, cut and run as soon as he saw the pregnancy test. I was in college at the time as well.
  • Yes, abortion is painful but it shouldn't be punishment. Our bodies are our own, they are not factories, farms or warehouses. I've been through therapeutic abortion, miscarriage, childbirth and motherhood. I don't regret any of my choices.
  • I had an abortion three years ago. While I think about it fairly often, I never second-guess my choice. It's what I needed, and it sounds like it's what you need, too. Be prepared for the crazy change in your hormones. Your body was gearing up to grow a fetus, and when it's suddenly not anymore, things can get interesting. Think PMS-like feelings, but more so. You'll be sore, so try to make some time to lay around and feel crappy. But you'll get through this. You're strong enough to determine and act on your own behalf, in spite of a lack of support from your community, so I know you'll be strong enough to get through the aftermath. If you're feeling too alone, check out Ms. Magazine. They have a running list, so to speak, of women who have had abortions. All the women on the list (myself included) have signed to let other women know they're not alone.
  • i had an abortion 2 years ago. i was dating a [removed] and it was my 25th birthday. i got the twilight sedation, but i have a high tolerance for drugs and it didn't knock me out...was just loopy. i was awake for everything and it really wasn't so bad. they gave me vicodin for the pain and it just felt like bad period cramps for about 2 days afterwards. it was the best decision i ever made, having a baby with that guy at that time would have ruined my life and the kids life.
And then there's this whole site, I'm Not Sorry, which is full of so-called "positive" stories from women who have aborted (a quick scan reveals that many have aborted more than once). I'll just share the beginning of one woman's story:
I did it before and I’d do it again. I am not ashamed or embarrassed. My children know that I have had an abortion. It is not a secret part of my life. I would advise anyone to do it. Abortion should be covered by insurance, by Medicaid/care, supplied by the “state”. Cheap and available to any woman for any or no reason whatsoever. Although abortion is legal in this country, most women do not have access to safe and affordable abortion, some medical schools no longer even teach doctors this important element of women’s health.
These post-abortive women show no acknowledgment whatsoever--and certainly no regrets--that they ended the life of the unborn human being growing inside of them. I don't know what to call that except "hatred," especially when compared to the grief and tears of women I've known who have miscarried a little one--and the grief and tears of other abortive women who sincerely mourned their misguided "choice." Perhaps there is a different word--but, again, I don't know a good word in the English language for "I'm going to kill you as quickly as possible and then ignore the fact that you ever lived for the rest of my life."

UPDATE TWO: One more time: abortion is an act of hatred. Can we not at least agree that the direct, intentional killing of an innocent person is an act of hatred? Saying that does not mean that we don't all have deep sympathy for any woman who has suffered because of abortion, or that we are speaking primarily about the woman's feelings, or any such thing. But I'm not quite sure what's so hard to grasp about the idea that killing somebody--deliberately, intentionally--is fundamentally an act of hatred.

I'm sorry if this is too easily misunderstood, but we're already hearing from the pro-euthanasia people that killing an elderly or disabled relative--or helping them kill themselves--is really a "loving" choice. It's very important that we are clear that it is not, no matter what the appearances might be.

UPDATE THREE: I'm still feeling like I haven't successfully gotten my point across here. But I don't have the time to keep defining things. Christ tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves; a woman's unborn child is much more than her neighbor. That's the principle from which I'm operating, anyway.

Comments are closed.


priest's wife said...

Another hard-core, wonderful post!

L. said...

I don't agree that a lack of love = hatred.

"....hatred is an act of the will in which the self so greatly desires for evil to befall the other."

Early in our marriage, I was once unexpectedly pregnant with a very much unwanted baby -- unwanted by me, that is. My husband wanted children, so it would have been born, and I imagine I would have resigned myself to the pregnancy and then grown to love it after it was born. But I miscarried almost immediately, about 7 weeks. My overwhelming emotion was relief that my problem situation was over, and had resolved itself in the best way possible.

I would have to say, I did not "hate" my dead baby, but according to this definition, I did.

Rebecca in CA said...

But L did you so desire the disappearance of the child that you would have killed it if you had not miscarried? Seems like what you're describing is not an act of the will but your emotions.

L. said...

Exactly, Rebecca -- those were my emotions, and hatred is an emotion. Hatred itself is not an act of will -- it's the emotion from which acts of will sometimes spring.

No, I don't believe I would have aborted the baby, since my husband had wanted kids right away (whereas I wanted to wait until I paid back my student loans before we had children). But who knows, I might have -- I didn't have much time to think about it, because I miscarried just a few days after seeing the heartbeat in the ultrasound.

In fact, my husband believed I had an abortion, because of the way I acted before and after I lost it. I was pregnant, I went to the doctor, and then I was no longer pregnant. I admit, it looked very, very suspicious! ;)

While my abortion was spontaneous, I think the experience gave me insight into why some women do decide to have abortions.

Pentimento said...

Erin, have you ever had a conversation with a woman who's had an abortion? (That's a silly question, actually, because you undoubtedly have, whether you were aware of it at the time or not. After all, a good few of them are sitting in the pews with you each week at Sunday Mass.)

You might want to get to know one or two, and propose to them your theory of a "hatefulness [that is] perfectly satisfactory to them." They might tell you the sad truth that those who have never known love have no idea how to love. Perhaps the lack of real love -- the opposite of the real hate that you propose -- in our families and our culture has something to do with the tragic choice made by these hateful women.

Please pray for all post-abortive women, myself included.

Red Cardigan said...

Pentimento, I have had conversations with post-abortive women, and have spent most of the time just listening. To tell you the truth, most came, as I said in this post, from what I believe are the vast majority of post-abortive women, women who closed their eyes to the reality of abortion as a hate-act because of the pressure they were under, the threats they were under, the fear they carried with them, the anguish they felt. Most today carry a different kind of anguish--the anguish of wishing with all their hearts that they could travel back in time and respond in love to that little one's presence.

The point of this post was to show that there are other women out there, who spread the message that abortion is no big deal, that it doesn't really matter if the baby has fingerprints or a beating heart if the mother doesn't want her, that abortion is a perfectly valid moral "choice" that no woman should ever feel any hurt or anguish over at all. And what troubles me the most about this is that there are a lot of young women listening--women who will hear those words of enmity against the unborn and remember only those words and that enmity if they are ever faced with a crisis pregnancy.

The more women speak out loudly to tell others how much they regret their abortions, how they didn't understand that they were really killing their child, how they don't want any other woman to suffer the hell they have suffered--the harder it gets for these other post-abortive women to shrug and say--or write--"no big deal, get it over with, girl!" as they did on two message boards I linked to in recent posts. Those women are still placing a great deal of emotional distance between themselves and the child they killed (who, they insist, wasn't a child, and wouldn't have counted if she had been). I think that kind of hatred (again, using it as I did in the post) comes from a very dark and empty place--but when the women around them whom they can influence are, as you said, deprived of love, how hard it is to resist that cold, dark emptiness involved in "getting rid of the problem."

I hope this makes sense--I'm not pulling out loaded emotional words to hurt anybody. I've not personally met the women who write about their abortions as a sort of ho-hum inconvenience (or the sort who wryly Twittered her experiences while she was aborting via RU-486). But there are more of them than we would like to believe, and they are so, so lost--as some of them later admit, when they do confront the ugly truth and seek reconciliation and healing from God.

L. said...

Again, I guess I just can't get my head around this defintion of "hate."

You speak of "the grief and tears of women I've known who have miscarried a little one" -- do those of us who were grateful not to be pregnant anymore fit in your definition of "hate," because we didn't feel any grief and didn't shed any tears?

My actions were different, but my emotions were essentially the same, and I don't think it was "hate."

L. said...

I think "a total lack of love" is different from "hatred."

I felt no love for the dead baby I was happy to spontaeously abort. But I didn't hate it.

romishgraffiti said...

I think this demonstrates the paucity of the "crying into the microphone" approach to anti-abortion: we end up with the implied bad logic of "I don't feel regets for my abortion, therefore it is morally acceptable to deliberately kill another innocent human being if one's feelings about the burden of having the child outweigh the feelings of killing her."

Anonymous said...

Since none of us are God, we do not ever know the future.

Therefore, we can never say the words "having a child would have ruined my life," because you simply do not know if that is true or not.

L. said...

"I do mean that from the moment the abortive woman learns of the presence of the child in her womb, she wishes nothing but evil to come to that child--she wishes, in fact, for the child to cease to live and to be."

That is, in fact, exactly how I felt, abut my own unwanted pregnancy, if you substitute "out of my body" for "evil."

Pentimento said...

Nonetheless, those who counsel abortion-seeking women on the frontlines never (at least in my experience) condemn them for what you point out as their apparent hatred and their bloodlust. An example, from Chris Slattery's EMC workers in the Bronx (the county with the highest abortion rate in America, incidentally, and my former home):

"Women never choose abortion because they feel empowered. Oftentimes, during counseling sessions a deeper issue will become evident.

In a striking example of this, I met a girl who was about as abortion minded as they come - incredibly scared and fragile. After talking for a while we got to the root issue in her decision that she wanted to choose death. Her brother had died about a month ago (approximately the same time she conceived), and this was the reason she was in a pit of despair."

If you scratched the surface of the "I'm not sorry" woman, you might find something that surprised you, perhaps even something that would fill you with compassion for her. In the meantime, be grateful to God that you were raised to know the truth; few are so fortunate.

Red Cardigan said...

Pentimento, I've added another update which I hope clarifies things, but in all honesty I'm a little surprised here. I have great sympathy for women who have been hurt by abortion. That doesn't change the intrinsic reality of the act itself.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

This will strike a few nerves too, but the thoughtful analysis of "hatred" suggests another perspective to me.

A year or two ago, I read an article in Sojourners. It was written by a man who advocated that "overturning Roe v. Wade" was not a very productive pro-life strategy. He went to some lengths to establish his pro-life credentials: his wife had contracted rubella while pregnant. Neither of them ever considered abortion. Their son was born blind, brain-damaged, and lacking a few other normal human capacities.

I respect their right to make that decision, and that they were fully prepared to live up to all the responsibility it entailed. I consider their choice an act of unparalleled cruelty. How could anyone deliberately choose to grow their baby from such blasted and damaged tissue? If there were a therapy to reach into every cell and repair the damage, that would be good. But there isn't.

The usual "pro-life" response is, would I choose to kill a two year old who is similarly damaged? No, they are already here. They are already a person. But, I am not willing to impose upon a yet-to-be-born child a lifetime of preventible suffering by blithely ignoring the savage impact of an infection on fetal tissue. That is, in my view, a kind of hatred and arrogance.

I can agree that the direct, intentional killing of an innocent person is an act of hatred. I do not agree that aborting badly ravaged fetal tissue, so different from what God intended us to be, due to the unfortunate intervention of a pathogen, is killing, or killing of a person, at all.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, that "badly ravaged fetal tissue" is.their.son.

We're all not what God intended us to be. The Fall changed everything. But "Thou shalt not kill" wasn't, and still isn't, a suggestion.

Nameless Cynic said...

Your problem, dear Erin, is that you start from a flawed premise. And so any conclusion drawn from it is likely to be equally flawed.

Your belief, which is intensely important to you, is that life begins as soon as the sex act is consummated. As soon as the egg is fertilized, that is a human being.

Not everyone believes as you do. There are too many factors under contention, and while you believe this egg/sperm relationship to be an incontestable fact, other people hold other opinions.

But (and this is where things get tricky) you feel very strongly that your opinion is primary, and cancels out all others. And the fact that your opinion is supported by other members of your religion buoys you up, and makes you believe that this is a possibility.

(This, incidentally, is also how the Taliban feel. Just a thought.)

Now, coming from this viewpoint, because a fetus is (in your opinion, but you believe everyone must share it) a human being, then therefore, any "murder" of this "human being" can only come from hatred.

Here's an analogy. It's not a direct correlation (as you'll see), but it's a parallel situation.

You're sitting in a restaurant, enjoying a steak, and a PETA member sits down beside you, fixes you with a bloodshot eyeball, and proceeds to explain that, since you not only allowed that cow to be killed, but are now eating the bloody flesh of the murdered innocent (and their voice rises to a fevered pitch at this stage) you must have hated that cow!

Hatred doesn't enter into the picture, but Mr PETA, who believes firmly in the sanctity of all life, doesn't see it that way. And this colors his perception of how you must believe.

This is extremely similar to the riotously funny belief in the minds of many religious types that atheists must "hate Jesus." Because they hold the belief that Jesus is real, anyone denying that reality must actually know the "truth," and simply be denying it out of hate.

It's an idiotic notion, but you'd be surprised how widespread it seems to be among those on the religious fringes.

Red Cardigan said...

Don't be ridiculous, NC! Life doesn't begin when the sex act is consummated. Life, for all mammals, begins when two haploid cells, the female ovum and the male sperm cell, unite into a diploid cell which is not a part of either parent organism, but is, in fact, an entirely new organism, genetically distinct from the parent organisms. For humans, this zygote will reach the blastocyst stage after about four days, then we will call her an embryo, then a fetus, then a neonate, then a toddler, then a pre-adolescent, then an adolescent, then an adult, and then a senior, as she reaches all of these different stages of human development.

There's no point anywhere on this continuum where she isn't both human and alive--but I think it's rather cute how you assert that it's merely my "belief" that she's a human being. It's not a belief--it's science. Just as a bovine embryo is a cow, and a bovine fetus is a cow, and a bovine newborn is a cow, and a bovine calf is a cow--but hopefully you get the point.

There's no classification branch for mammals in the pre-birth ages which makes them somehow something other than what they actually are. It's a nice little fiction to pretend that just because the fetus is still inside her mother, sucking her thumb, hiccuping, and reacting to noises and other stimuli, she's not *actually* a human being, but will magically become one at birth--but it's unscientific, and I see no reason why I should be held to such a silly belief.

Now, I have no trouble telling human beings from cows, though as a matter of fact I don't eat cows (troubled by how they're raised and the money spent and a whole host of other issues). But if I did, I would agree with the PETA accuser that to eat the cow I must at least agree with those who hated the cow enough to kill it--that is, with those who saw the cow's life as disposable, not particularly important, and not worthy of protection. Of course, unless you think there are people snacking on human fetuses out there we don't have a perfect analogy, since to eat the cow I didn't personally have to kill it--but you yourself acknowledge the limits of the analogy, so we'll leave it at that.

I think human beings are worth a bit more, evolutionarily speaking (leaving aside my religious beliefs for a moment) than cattle. You don't, and that's okay, but I can't pretend I'd ever be swayed by your point of view, because to me it seems rather illogical.

L. said...

"... the direct, intentional killing of an innocent person is an act of hatred."

Well, no. It certainly can be, but intent matters. This is why the U.S. legal system considers intent, and differentiates between different types of killing.

If I were to face a truly life-threatening pregnancy, I imagine I would likely seek an abortion. My feelings toward the baby would be sadness, nothing akin to hatred -- and my feelings for the act itself would be self-preservation, not hatred for myself or the baby.

I think sin is always a failure to love -- but failure to love is not always a sin. If that makes any sense.....

I believe everyone -- both pro-life and "pro-aborts" -- can agree that a crisis pregnancy is worth avoiding in the first place if possible, and that abortion is never a desirable outcome to a happy situation, and is worth avoiding. Even the majority of people who lack any moral qualms about abortion seem to find the procedures expensive, invasive, distateful and nothing anyone wants to be a situation to choose.

Is it enough for a "pro-abort" to say, abortion is undesirable?

Pentimento said...

Erin: "Pentimento, I've added another update which I hope clarifies things, but in all honesty I'm a little surprised here."

I'm inferring, since you've addressed me, that something I wrote is the cause of your surprise, but you don't explain what it is, or why.

"I have great sympathy for women who have been hurt by abortion."

If this is so, it's unclear from your post or your subsequent comments. It seems, rather, that you have great sympathy for *some* of the women who've been hurt by abortion, but not others.

"That doesn't change the intrinsic reality of the act itself."

And your attribution of hatred to some procurers of abortion doesn't change the intrinsic reality that even the ones for whom you appear, here, to have no sympathy (interestingly, you say nothing about the men involved) are grievously hurt by it, whether they know it or not.

The CCC exhorts us to consider other people's actions in the best possible light. I grant you that this is especially challenging when it comes to an act that's intrinsically evil, but I interpret this injunction to mean that we have to search, sometimes hard and deep, for motives. It appears to me that you haven't done that, at least in this post.

And I say it again -- if abortion has always been anathema to you, if you could never, ever have considered it, then thank God for the great good fortune you have had in being raised in a place where the Truth was known and taught, and for the great good fortune you have in knowing and teaching it yourself. Not many are so fortunate, and probably none of the hateful women you posit here were. It takes a lot of damage and sickness to hate in the way that you describe, but we are required to love the damaged and the sick -- indeed, to love the evil. What that looks like in action, I have no idea. It's a terrifying thought.

Pentimento said...

Just to clarify, I meant that we are required to love the evil person, not the evil act.

Lauretta said...

Would it help to have a definition of hate:

intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

If you say an intense aversion due to fear, then Red's premise could seem to be valid.