Andino: Marching for life

Last Monday I attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C. with about a dozen other members of Choose Life at Yale. When we arrived at the Capitol we saw thousands of enthusiastic protesters. Among the groups were the ByzanTeens, whose banner bore a traditional Byzantine icon of Mary and St. Elizabeth with Jesus and John the Baptist visible in their wombs; Hare Krishna members, holding up signs that said “All life is sacred” and singing cheerful chants and banging their drums; the Cornell Coalition for Life, with whom we competed to see who could raise their banner higher for a group photo; and countless others.

Soon, a small group of pro-abortion protesters gathered to counter us, but were quickly drowned out by a horde of high school girls who chanted cheerleader-style rhymes about “loving babies.” The atmosphere was passionate but friendly, as men and women from every tribe and tongue peacefully protested the largest genocide in human history.

Perhaps I lost you at that last sentence. The typical line concerning abortion on a campus like Yale’s is rigid: we do not have a right to tell a woman what to do with her body. Abortion is a personal choice and a personal matter — so get your hands off of me. Many Yalies are against abortion in principle, but do not feel comfortable telling others what they should do in a difficult situation. Many are pragmatic; they oppose abortion, but think it should be legal so that young women can get the procedure done safely and not have to turn to dangerous back-alley abortions.

These arguments are all well-intentioned. But I believe that the stakes are far higher than all of the preceding. Neither myself nor my friends in CLAY are nutjobs who want to oppress women — in fact, many of our members are women. The agenda at the mostly-female march was to defend life, not to take away rights.

If the pro-life cause can be given a fair hearing, our community will hear an uncomfortable truth: abortion is infanticide. Although this debate is hard to have on-campus, and usually shouted down, discussion of abortion needs to be supplemented with some basic premises.

First, we ought to be clear on what we are defending or opposing. Have you ever watched an ultrasound video of an abortion taking place? If not, please do. Have you ever researched fetal development? By day 20, the heart, brain, spinal column and nervous system are almost complete and the eyes begin to form. Two days later, the heart begins to beat. By the end of the first month, blood is flowing through a vein system completely independent of its mother’s, and head, arms, legs, muscles and other organs are clearly visible. With each passing day, it looks more and more like an infant. Anybody who knows or sees this usually admits to second thoughts. Embryologists consistently voice their unease with abortion.

Whatever you may say about a fetus at these early stages, you certainly cannot say that it is “just a clump of cells.” Perhaps for a few days it does not look like a human, and has no distinguishable “personal” characteristics. It doesn’t take long before that argument becomes untenable. That “clump” will develop into an Eduardo-clump or Emilia-clump. That clump, which starts as a single cell, has its own unique, breathtakingly complex DNA code. The amount of information contained therein is equivalent to 50 sets of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is meant to be Eduardo from the moment of conception. My big nose, strangely shaped ears, and gangly frame all came into meaningful, organized being at the moment of my conception.

So, upon my return from the march, I invite all of our campus to calm down, lay down their arms, put aside politics for a second, and consider the abortion debate from the beginning. The pro-life cause is not out to oppress. We are, as our title suggests, there to protect life, specifically a portion of the population that many wrongly consider does not have a right to life. If we are anti-anything, we are anti-genocide.

We defend our position because there are simply some things individuals are not free to do in a liberal society. We cannot murder. We cannot commit infanticide if we decide that our kids are too much of a burden. If we look at the facts and clarify, visually and scientifically, what we mean when we talk about abortion, we will see that terminating a fetus does not fall within the bounds of personal freedom. Abortion is not a question of “choice,” but of murder — and I hope you will not take offense at me for fighting it.

Eduardo Andino is a sophomore in Trumbull College.

Comments

  • Hannah

    Although I personally support a woman’s right to choose, I’m glad that you are reigniting the debate on campus in a forum more productive than scare tactic “Baby Lucy” posters. That being said, I take great offense at an image that you repeatedly use and hope that you can revise your word choice to say what you mean, rather than what can serve as exaggeration.

    I applaud you for wanting to move beyond the politics of the abortion debate, but you dive right back into that conversation by using the word “genocide.” Genocide is not a politically neutral term, and every time someone throws it around in a context other than true genocide, it does great damage to past and future victims of genocide. Please keep this in mind as you continue to debate with your fellow Yalies and other citizens. Abortion is not genocide.

    The definition of genocide according to the UN Convention on Genocide:

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    Although there is mention of children and of mass murder, genocide is the targeted annihilation of a group. Abortion is too general to be labeled genocide. It is used by women not to extinguish a specific demographic, be it ethnicity, race or religion. Abortion can happen in genocide and it is gruesome and horrific and a complete violation of human rights. But this is not the common practice of abortion in the States. Labeling it as such launches you right back into a politically charged debate and does little to advance your argument. Doing so damages the prospects of real genocide victims.

    Please keep this in mind as you engage in a healthy and de-politicized debate.

  • Y_2011

    @Hannah,

    Except of course for babies with Downs syndrome.

  • Hannah

    @Y_2011

    Except of course that fetuses with Downs syndrome are not: “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” You’re trying to change the definition of genocide to fit something you care about. There are other terms to use. Genocide is not one of them.

  • commentator

    Abortion is not infanticide. Period. Nature itself aborts millions of fetuses every day. A huge proportion of pregnancies end before the women are aware they are pregnant. 20% of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage, with those undiagnosed it’s more like 50%.

    But if you are against murder, maybe you could do a thing or two about this country no longer attacking other nations randomly and killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process.

  • joe29sb

    “By day 20, the heart, brain, spinal column and nervous system are almost complete”

    Really? Your brain was almost fully developed 20 days after conception? C’mon… I have no interest in vilifying you for your opinion or stopping you from passionately arguing your beliefs. That’s wonderful! On the other hand, it’s annoying when anti-choice advocates are disconnected from reality.

  • RexMottram08

    @commentator,

    Surely you can differentiate between dying of natural causes and murder?!?!

  • RexMottram08

    Abortion = genocide.

    It targets female and disabled unborn children with stunning emphasis.

  • okraven

    Thank you. I just have to say that life is simply too precious to waste. Come on, just take a step back from all of the politics and look at the reality of this issue: potential human lives are purposely being destroyed. Aren’t we grateful that we were given the opportunity to live? Aren’t we thankful that our mothers decided to give us life?

    Gianna Jessen, saline abortion survivor: “If abortion is merely about women’s rights… then what were mine? My life was being snuffed out in the name of women’s rights.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPF1FhCMPuQ

  • ChicagoWriter

    Hannah’s comment on the proper use of the word “genocide” is correct and important for a rational debate on the subject

    Without speaking for him, I would guess that the writer means to say that abortion is mass murder.

    That, at least, is a debatable proposition. But “genocide” is not simply another word for mass murder, as Hannah correctly points out.

    That abortion is genocide is not debatable because “genocide” has an extremely specific and precise definition which, as Hannah correctly points out (@Rex: females and disabled unborn children are not members of “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”) does not apply to abortion.

  • commentator

    Yes, I can certainly can differentiate between murder and death of natural causes. In the case I am describing, it’s neither.

  • Andreology

    Whether or not “genocide” is the correct term, there are too many precious lives being killed.

  • Andreology

    @commentator: yes, nature aborts fetuses, but this does not make medically induced abortion a morally neutral act. My mother will die some day, but this does not make it right for me to kill her. Is there human life in a fetus? Yes. Does it become more and more like murder to take that life as the fetus matures? Yes. It may be difficult to say at exactly what point the inchoate mass of cells becomes a human being, but when in doubt, we should err on the side of protecting that life.

  • commentator

    “My mother will die some day, but this does not make it right for me to kill her.”
    I’ve already answered this.

    “Does it become more and more like murder to take that life as the fetus matures? Yes.”

    Well, is it a murder or does it become ‘more like a murder’ over time? Luckily, the vast, vast majority of abortions take place so early in the pregnancy (in the US 88% by 12 weeks) that it takes a very stretched and misguided notion of ‘life’ to call it murder.

    Although I will certainly object to terminating a viable fetus, the fact is that a 10-week old fetus is little more than biological material with the potential of developing into a human being. It is certainly not a human being, since it lacks the necessary attributes. So, no murder there.

  • Andreology

    I am glad that you would support restrictions on terminating a viable fetus. Not everyone does.

  • penny_lane

    This column, like so many other commentaries by pro-lifers, was completely devoid of any consideration for the situation of the mother. Requiring women by law to remain pregnant no matter what without their volition–requiring them to put themselves themselves through the associated health risks (which, even now, include death) and at serious economic disadvantage (pregnant women are still discriminated against by employers at all social strata)–would be a serious human rights violation. Pregnancy is a dangerous, expensive burden, and no one has the right to force anyone to endure it.

    It would be an absolute shame for the United States to incorporate any such requirement of anyone into its legal system. I don’t think anyone thinks abortion is a good thing, so I will say to you what I say to all pro-lifers: rather than wasting your efforts on unjust legislation, put your time and energy into the prevention of unwanted pregnancy. Champion the cause of non-abstinence-based sex education. Support social programs that empower women to insist on birth control, particularly those in low-income communities, and also support the subsidies that can ensure that it’s available. Do anything and everything you can to make it so that all pregnancies are expected and welcomed. That is the real way to end abortion. Nothing decided in a courtroom will do half as well.

  • RexMottram08

    @penny_lane,

    We prefer to do many things: end government funding of abortion, prohibit abortion by law, continue to provide for adoption, health care and child care services.

    Contraception/non-abstinence sex ed is overwhelmingly supported by Planned Parenthood…. why??? Because it leads to more sex and more pregnancies and more abortions…. PP is Big Business profiting off women.

  • ShaveTheWhales

    @Rex No, it won’t lead to MORE sex. Planned Parenthood will lead to better educated partners who will know to use contraception. Without PP, the number of abortions would INCREASE because of the lack of non-abstinence-based education.

  • b

    I’ll disagree with you, Rex, that contraception / non-abstinence sex ed somehow leads to more pregnancies (and thus more abortions) that abstinence education. For that to be true, given the availability of condoms and their effectiveness, abstinence education would have to be wildly successful, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    But getting to the bigger issue, preventing abortion by law, let me first state that while I believe in choice, I think it should be a carefully considered choice, and one made only in rare situations – we can agree that reducing the number of abortions is a noble goal, I think. However, prohibiting it is a horrible idea. What of the case of the 9-year old Brazilian girl who was raped and pregnant with twins, and had an abortion? [1] Many Catholics in Brazil were angry about that, and abortion IS illegal in Brazil except for cases of rape and endangerment to the woman, both of which applied here. Would exceptions like this be made? Yes? Because many people were still irate there.

    How about the guy whose wife was taken in for an abortion and they, on what they self-describe as one of their worst days ever, were heckled by pro-life demonstrators about the horrible thing they were doing? Never mind the case that the baby wouldn’t live – the doctors said there was zero chance for survival because the baby had no bladder or kidneys. [2] Should that wife had had to continue with the pregnancy, knowing the whole time her child (they had named her already) was going to be dead almost immediately? They WANT children, and were cursed with this horrible fate. I’ve not been in their shoes, but I wouldn’t want to tell the people who spent days and nights in emotional agony that their chance to ease their pain is not available to them.

    I’ve known a few people who have had abortions. Not once has it been a whimsical decision. Sometimes there are valid reasons for making the choice.

    [1] : http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1883598,00.html
    [2] : http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/confronting-life/

  • River Tam

    +1 to Mr. Andino.

  • JZ

    @Hannah: ‘Except of course that fetuses with Downs syndrome are not: “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” You’re trying to change the definition of genocide to fit something you care about. There are other terms to use. Genocide is not one of them.’

    Ok. Fair enough, but then it’s the murder of the “unfit.” Doesn’t make it that much better. You should be a little more careful. You sound like we shouldn’t care about the high rates of abortion for Down’s syndrome babies…

  • ShaveTheWhales

    @JZ: You’re completely disregarding what Hannah’s point was: that genocide is not the correct word to be throwing around here, including Down Syndrome babies. And you’re only taking one side of the debate for pro-life: the “murder of the unfit.” Sure, parents want to spare their children a difficult and short life, but that’s not always the case. Proponents of the pro-choice stance can just as easily say that abortion is about saving mothers from potential miscarriages and condemn pro-life supporters as advocates for the murder of mothers.
    Also, the comment about Hannah ‘sounding’ like she dismissed the Down Syndrome abortions is both irrelevant to her point and untrue. Quit steering the conversation to a presently irrelevant topic just to sound right.

  • Eduardo_Andino

    I want to say thanks to everybody who has posted a response to the article. The conversation has remained diplomatic, and that’s a big relief. A few responses I wanted to make:

    First to Hannah, I understand your concern about keeping definitions correct. However, I am confused at the fact that you would take “great offense” at my use of the word “genocide.” Although the UN might define it along racial and religious grounds, I think we can all agree that abortion is in fact, as your provided definition states, “(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” Further, abortion is in fact directed towards a particular portion of the population, the unborn. And it is done for similar reasons to other genocides: to eliminate the “undesirable elements.” I would say that the inclination to discount a particular group from among those with rights to life does more “damage to past and future victims of genocide,” as you say, as that is precisely how all genocides find their justification.

    With all due respect, I would ask you to consider the following: I think you take offense not because you find some definitional inconsistency, and I could easily substitute genocide with mass murder or slaughter of innocents to satisfy your request. Rather, you take offense precisely because you see it as a charged political or moral issue, with consequences for your own political and moral views. If there was not something big at stake for you personally in refraining from calling our current attitude towards abortion genocidal, you would not be as upset. Seeing it for what it is can be tough, as it entails reconsidering many other issues. I say this respectfully but honestly, not with malice or bitterness. Please do not take it as anything other than a challenge for you to face your views honestly and see whether I do not have a point.

    To Commentator, I would first like to point out that what the United States does in other countries is irrelevant to whether abortion is wrong. Nevertheless, you might be surprised to see what many pro-lifers think about war. There is a reason I mentioned the Byzantine Catholics and Hare Krishna at the beginning of the article. Not all on our side are Dick Cheneys and the like.

    As for your second comment, about the status of a 10-week infant, I would refer you to the following: http://twomakesfour.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/cst800.jpg

    Keep in mind that 10 weeks is 70 days.

    Finally, to Penny_Lane and ShaveTheWhales, I would just quickly like to refer you to the following article, on the link between contraception use and increased abortion rates:
    http://www.lifenews.com/2011/01/03/study-abortions-double-in-spain-despite-increased-contrapcetion/

  • commentator

    Eduardo,

    The links you provide really speak for themselves. You are pointing us to a clearly ideologically driven website which selectively reports on the results of a scientific study. The author takes from the study what he likes, but dismisses the study’s conclusions as ‘laughable’. In fact, the accusation that results are ‘laughable’ is taken from a conservative author whose website includes among its rules that ‘no Blasphemy will be tolerated’. This is very typical of the so-called ‘pro life’ movement, which essentially consists of people who are trying to produce scientific (usually pseudo-scientific) justification for their predetermined dogmatic attitudes, attitudes that will persist in spite of all rational evidence to the contrary.

    As for the argument about the correlation between abortion and contraception, you should familiarize yourself with some actual scientific literature on the subject:
    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/2900603.html

    But let me quote another author on the subject:

    “Human behaviour being what it is, however, there will always be non-use of contraception, mishaps when using contraception, and requests for abortion. A non-judgmental approach to women and men in such predicaments by all health care professionals is essential.”

    Being against abortion is like being against the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

  • penny_lane

    Yeah, the person who wrote that article wasn’t pushing an agenda at all. Refresh me on my basic statistics….Correlation implies what now?

  • penny_lane

    Also, Hannah is correct. In order for legal abortion to be considered tantamount to genocide, we would have to be deliberately advocating the killing or mistreatment of all unborn children. I hope I don’t have to point out how laughable that is. Your calls to depoliticized discussion look increasingly disingenuous the more you throw around such charged terms.

  • okraven

    @ penny_lane:
    “Pregnancy is a dangerous, expensive burden, and no one has the right to force anyone to endure it.”
    I’m sorry, whatever happened to personal responsibility? Here’s an idea: don’t have sex until you are ready to parent a child. No one has the right to force anyone to endure it? YOU chose to have sex! YOU chose to take that risk even if you used protection! And I know people will be all over this like, “What about rape?” I get it. There are obviously exceptions to this idea of the choice to have sex. But far too often today people simply don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.
    Once again, I’d like to reference Gianna Jessen, saline abortion survivor: “If abortion is merely about women’s rights… then what were mine? My life was being snuffed out in the name of women’s rights.” I guess I just don’t understand how the burden of pregnancy becomes becomes an excuse to snuff out a life. Once again, there are obvious exceptions (like when a woman’s life is in danger) but generally speaking…

  • commentator

    “Here’s an idea: don’t have sex until you are ready to parent a child.”

    Here’s an idea for you: face the fact that people have always had sex, do have sex, and will have sex regardless of its reproductive function. Period. So, what all you bigoted moralizers need to do is to come to terms with human nature and stop imposing your unrealistic fairy-tale expectations on the rest of us.

  • b

    @okraven:

    I can’t speak for the other people here arguing the pro-choice position, but for me, one part of the disagreement on the issue is in the characterization you give of ‘snuffing out a life’. I can certainly agree that a newborn baby is a human life. I don’t view a single, fertilized cell as a human life, much in the same way that I don’t think a seed is the same as a tree. One may become the other given time, but we don’t hold an acorn and say, “Look at this amazing oak tree!”. Getting back to the issue of humans, I can honestly say I’m not sure where that point is – is it when the brain forms? When pain can be felt? When memories exist? What does it mean to be ‘human’?

    If you try to answer that by saying it’s the moment the egg is fertilized then let’s explore a simple hypothetical situation: a gas leak in a local hospital, and you have a limited enough time to save lives – you simply can’t reach everyone. Given the choice between rescuing a family of four or, say, a number of frozen, fertilized embryos from a fertility clinic in the hospital, what would you do? I’d rescue the family; to me they’re ‘worth more’ even at only four lives than the ten potential lives of the embryos. Even if we take embryos out of it, we still make these sorts of judgments – rescue a young girl or a young boy, most men rescue the girl. Old man or young boy? Most go for the young boy. If family is in there, that also influences things. At which point does the potential human life outweigh an actual life? Beats me. For me, if the choice were a thousand fertilized eggs or one seven year old girl, I’d still rescue the girl. I don’t wish to see the eggs destroyed, especially since they’re most likely ‘wanted’ (being part of a fertility program) but I still value the living girl with memories and relationships more than the ‘seeds’.

    [...more...]

  • b

    [ ...continued... ]

    If you don’t like that example because it’s life-or-death, consider that we -you and I- could also save lives (living people, with relationships, thoughts, memories, etc., which I think I just showed most of us value even more than embryos) that are currently fading fast due to malnutrition by simply giving our money that we might otherwise spend on, say, an upcoming Valentine’s Day date to organizations that provide food and shelter. Why don’t we? It’s a good question, honestly – thinking about it now, and writing about it like this, it sounds quite cold, doesn’t it. In fact, chances are, I will go donate a bit… but you know what? I could always do more. So can you. But we strike a cruel balance between our own comfort and the lives of people we don’t know. We all, every day, make judgments on the value of human life. And we don’t always agree on the costs involved.

    For that reason, I try not to be too strict in condemning others for making difficult decisions based on their own lives. We can all agree that ‘abortion for fun’ is a pretty sad idea, but I’m inclined to think it’s far, far less common than people think. I only have my own experience to go on, but the people I know who have gotten abortions agonized over the decision. (And some agonized and didn’t do it.) I’m not in their shoes, so as long as their decision doesn’t fall grotesquely to the side of aborting a living child, I’m inclined to give them some leeway in their choice. Hence, I’m pro-choice.

    (Written from the hip, so forgive me for any minor mistakes.)

  • tc2013

    Inability to distinguish that Hare Krishna is a cult rather than a legitimate religious group (and that calling them out as an ally definitely way hurts your cause) is apparently indicative of the same kind of thinking that is unable to distinguish an individual woman making a heartbreaking decision from “genocide.” We’ve discussed this before, Eduardo, and one would think by now that you would realize that jumping to that level of inflammatory rhetoric isn’t going to win you any converts or any genuine discussion.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Isn’t “viability” really a eugenics euphemism for “breedability?

    Would Toulouse-Lautrec, Helen Keller or even Lord Byron make it through the womb-photography test?

    We only want “lovable” babies.

    “The injustice of it is almost perfect! The wrong people going hungry, the wrong people being loved, the wrong people dying” John Osbourne, Look Back in Anger

    http://sexandabortion.blogspot.com

  • The Anti-Yale

    correction: Helen Keller’s condition was brought on at 19 months. I should have phrased it” a Toulouse-Lautrec, a Helen Keller, or even a Lord Byron.”

  • penny_lane

    okraven- I really hate the sentiment that a woman should be forced to bear and raise a child as a lesson in responsibility. Choosing not to bring a child into the world if you’re not ready for one is a very responsible decision.

  • The Anti-Yale

    The smug elitism of the womb. Country-club coital commitment.

  • ShaveTheWhales

    @The Anti-Yale: Cool story, bro.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “It is meant to be Eduardo from the moment of conception. ”

    Then why is one in every 2000 births a baby born with BOTH sets of genitalia?

  • ds747

    lol @ The Anti-Yale – your incessant string of utterly useless comments in the YDN never ceases to amaze me.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Happy to oblige you.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Noto Bene:

    I thought the “fated” or “indeterminate” status of the zygote/embryo/fetus was central to the abortion argument.

    A claim of gender-fate at conception is simply incorrect.

    http://sexandabortion.blogspot.com

  • ohno

    “we do not have a right to tell a woman what to do with her body.”

    And column should have stopped here.