A few days ago, the lower house of the Argentinian parliament voted to legalise abortion. While the legislation has yet to pass the Argentinian Senate (where the vote is expected to be on a knife edge), the celebrations from the pro-choice side were familiar, to anybody who lived through the Irish referendum of 2018:
Cheers erupted in the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, after the country's lower house voted to pass a bill legalizing abortion—a measure that will next go through the Senate. https://t.co/jn5t4MuYoX pic.twitter.com/QAvzHlCb3E
— ABC News (@ABC) December 12, 2020
There are many things that pro-choice, and pro-life, people, do not understand about each other. Pro-choice people will regularly tell you that they cannot understand how pro-life people can place an unborn child, perhaps at an early stage of development, on the same moral plane as a fully grown, adult, human woman. Pro-life people will tell you that they do not understand how the exact same unborn child can be a much-wanted baby, or an unwanted clump of cells with no rights whatever, with its moral status depending entirely on the feelings of its mother. There is, after all, no other entity on earth whose rights and moral status depends solely on what somebody else feels about it.
But there is nothing – nothing – that pro life people understand less than celebrations like the ones in the video above.
We are, after all, repeatedly told that abortion is a grave issue, and a serious moral choice. When pro-choice campaigners campaign, they tell us that abortion is not a matter of celebration, but of sorrow. “Nobody celebrates abortion” is a regular claim, in the heat of debate.
But then, as soon as the law changes, we get scenes of raucus celebration, whooping, crying, and joy?
It is, needless to say, hard to swallow.
Perhaps, in the mind of pro-choice campaigners, the celebrations are not celebrations of abortion, but of liberation. Many of them, after all, have been raised to believe that they have spent their lives under the jackboot of religious and conservative oppression, denied control over their own bodies. With the right to terminate a pregnancy, in this worldview, comes an end to tyranny, and a new dawn for liberty. But the liberty to do what? To end an inconvenient life?
The celebrations are not rooted in reality, but in an unpleasant and dishonest caricature of their opponents. Pro-life people, in this imagination, are horrendous, inquisitorial torturers who would, given the chance, tie a woman down for nine months and deny her all control over her body until she produced a baby. They are people who care nothing for the welfare of women, and see them only as breathing vessels for the production of sons.
If such people had been defeated, then the celebrations would make sense.
But since Pro-Life people aren’t like that at all, the celebrations are a grievous and upsetting insult, and reveal more about the delusion and self-deception of those celebrating than they do about the debate which has just taken place.
After all, taken at their own word, pro-choicers and pro-lifers agree on far more than they purport to disagree on. We agree, for example, that abortion isn’t something any woman aspires to. We agree that in an ideal world, very few, or no, abortions would happen, or be considered necessary. We agree that pregnant women should be supported, and protected, and given every possible assistance.
The only actual issue of disagreement is whether, in the final analysis, it is legitimate, and whether it should be legal, to take a life to solve a problem. Pro-choicers believe that it is. Pro-lifers believe that there are other, better options, which lead to less suffering, and less regret, and less sorrow, for everyone.
And to many of us, scenes of tears and joy and singing don’t come across as rejoicing in liberty, but instead as scenes of rejoicing in death.
There are things in the abortion debate that are indisputable. One of them is that the sole objective of an abortion, from the point of view both of the pregnant woman, and the person carrying out the abortion, is to end the life of a living human being. Abortion has no other, or secondary, objective. The procedure itself is not concerned with a woman’s mental health, or her physical wellbeing. It does not alleviate financial worries, or make a feckless father loyal, or reverse a terrible diagnosis. The only thing it accomplishes is to take a life that was growing, and end it.
There is, clearly, an ongoing debate about whether abortions are sometimes necessary, and whether they should be legal. In that debate, people on both sides have deeply and honestly held views.
But there is, and should be, no debate about whether abortion is something to rejoice in. It is also legal, for example, to put a sick dog to sleep.
Nobody, in their right mind, would take to the streets to cheer and whoop in celebration that dogs can be put to sleep. So why on earth do they do it to greet the news that unborn babies can meet a similar, though less humane, fate?