Abortion and the Earth
By Kelpie Wilson
t r u t h o u t | Environment Editor
Tuesday 29 January 2008
On this recent thirty-fifth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, pro-choice activists are calling for a new approach to the issue.
Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Free Choice, and Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, wrote in an OpEd article in The Los Angeles Times: "Our vigorous defense of the right to choose needs to be accompanied by greater openness regarding the real conflict between life and choice, between rights and responsibility. It is time for a serious reassessment of how to think about abortion in a world that is radically changed from 1973."
Kissling and Michelman acknowledge that the anti-choice movement has made great inroads into the consciousness of America, which now has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the developed world. Part of the success of the anti-abortion message comes down to advances in technology, they say. The ubiquitous ultrasound images of fetuses and the survival of premature babies at earlier and earlier stages has established the unborn as a category of persons with rights in the minds of many people.
As the specter of back alley abortions recedes and women no longer die by the thousands from botched abortions, the old arguments about a woman's life and her right to autonomy over her own body are holding less sway. Kissling and Michelman warn: "If pro-choice values are to regain the moral high ground, genuine discussion about these challenges needs to take place within the movement."
The moral arguments about abortion rarely consider the physical limits of the planet, but if they did, and if abortion were put into the context of the long history of human attempts to avoid starvation by regulating population growth, we might come to a different conclusion about what "pro-life" really means.
An increased awareness of the fetus and its rights is not the only change in the moral landscape of reproduction since 1973. The other change that must be acknowledged is that we have far exceeded the capacity of the planet to sustain our numbers, and that human life and civilization are now deeply threatened by resource depletion, toxic pollution and climate catastrophe. Already, shortages of food, fuel and water are making it difficult to meet the basic needs of the 6.5 billion people on the planet and no one has any idea how we will feed the 9.1 billion people projected to be here by 2050.
Many women and couples in Japan who have terminated a pregnancy choose to honor the soul of the child through a practice called mizuko jizo. In this ritual the parents purchase a doll, adorn it and enshrine it in a temple, where it is cared for by priests.