About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pro-Life or Just Pro-Fetus?


It is a commonly held belief on the Left that the Right is all for rights for fetuses but once it is actually a baby, they could care less.  And unfortunately, this view is fairly accurate.  Conservatives want to outlaw abortion in all cases, even rape and incest, and even to save the life of the mother.  However, at the same time, they actively pursue policies that guarantee the perpetuation of abortion, by absolutely refusing to consider anything that would actually reduce the need for the procedure.

So, in light of the Hobby Lobby decision, which goes back to one of the specific root causes of abortion, I am writing this to call out the Right on it's hypocrisy.  If they want to actually limit the number of abortions, they need to begin to change positions on a number of things.

Before I continue, though, I just want to dispel one common myth, that women use abortion as birth control and that they do it lightly.  I have known a number of women who have had to have an abortion, and was one of the hardest decisions any of them ever made.  It is not something they did quickly, or without anguish.  However, in all of their cases, it was necessary, and they deserved to be treated respectfully for having to do what they did.  And in this, it is time to stop shaming women who chose to have an abortion.  It is their decision, and no one has a right to criticize or second guess them.  Period, end of story.

Also, we need to accept that abortion will always be a necessity.  When a woman is raped, she should not be forced to bear her rapist's baby.  If she chooses to, from her own belief system, that is also her decision.  But that must be her decision and hers alone.  To do otherwise is to essentially state that she was complicit in her own victimization, and that is absolutely unacceptable.  No woman (or man for that matter) deserves to be raped.

Also, when the woman's life is in danger, she should not be forced to continue a pregnancy that could kill her.  Many times, when a mother's life is threatened by a pregnancy, the fetus will not carry to term, or will suffer profound disability.  To forbid an abortion in this situation makes a clear statement that a woman's value is in her status as a walking womb.  No woman should  have to face her own death just for the possibility of giving birth.

Accepting that these types of abortions will always be a necessity, what could be done to reduce the others that don't fall into these categories?  First, we need to understand what situations cause the majority of abortions.

            1) Unplanned Pregnancy
            2) Financial instability
            3) A defective fetus (sorry to be so inconsiderate here, but I can't think of                                 any other way to describe this that isn't blunt) 
Often, it isn't even just one of these factors, often two or all three apply.  Like I said earlier, abortion is not something that isn't an anguishing decision for a woman, and often it takes several factors to put a woman in a spot where she chooses to terminate a pregnancy.

So how do you reduce the need for abortion?  Mitigate the circumstances that force it as the only rational choice.

First, make pregnancy something that is always a decision and never an occurrence.  This is where the Hobby Lobby decision really screws up.  In fact, I have seen a number of Right Wing bloggers say that contraception allows for consequence free sex, as if a baby was a punishment.  This attitude that if you screw around, you deserve to get pregnant is one of the most anti-child and anti-woman things I have ever heard.  Babies should always be a choice, never something imposed on you.  A baby in certain situation is basically an 18 year prison sentence that can ruin one (or two) people's lives.  I absolutely respect people who have an unplanned pregnancy and chose to have the baby, but that is their decision, no one forces them to.  However, outlawing abortion would turn an unplanned pregnancy into a prison sentence.

To mitigate this, two things are needed.  First easy and unrestricted access to effective and reliable contraception.  In all cases, at any age.  Coupled with that is the need for detailed and scientifically accurate sexual education that begins when people can potentially reproduce.  I know this will enflame a lot of people, but it is a simple fact.

We have artificially extended childhood for at least a decade beyond sexual maturity, and then expected children to abstain from their biological urges.  The human body is at it's most fertile, and the sex drive is at it's strongest in the late teens, yet we expect our adolescents to ignore all of those urges.  We compound that by making masturbation equally sinful, so they can't even get relief that way.

This goes against biological law and historic traditions.  Until the last century or two, a woman was of marriageable age as soon as she began to have her period.  This changed in the Victorian Period, but then, they fought it by depicting sex as terribly unpleasant and a duty that a woman must submit to.  This worked then, but now the cat is out of the bag, teenagers today know sex is fun and feels good.  Pandora's box is open.  (I'm sorry I couldn't resist)

Therefore, the only way to combat teenage, and actually any unplanned  pregnancy is to give people proper sex ed and to make sure that they can obtain contraception without shame or judgment.  The reality is that they will have sex regardless, but at least we can make it safe.

This is in direct conflict with the Right's view that STD's and Pregnancy are punishment for sex outside of marriage.   If they were truly serious about reducing the number of abortions, they would be insisting that everyone have access to proper knowledge.

The second reason for abortion is that the parents cannot afford to raise a baby in their current financial situation.  This could be easily changed with a whole host of "Liberal" solutions that are dead on arrival.

First, there is the student loan problem.  Many adults are delaying or even forgoing having children because of their debt from college.  The latest numbers indicate that people with a high debt burden  delay both children and house purchases until they are well into their thirties just because of the crushing burden of student loans.   Returning to low cost or even free higher education would dramatically reduce the financial encumbrances that make people unwilling to start families.

Second, we need to be able to have people support families on one income, or provide a long term, paid family leave.  This would allow a parent (mother OR father) to remain home with the baby for that critical first year.  The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide this sort of paid time.  Some countries even pay for people to have babies, which actually incentivizes  reproduction.  Even something as simple as setting a minimum wage above poverty level and indexing it to inflation would create a cushion of stability that would make a child more financially possible.

Third, we need to provide free daycare for all children above the age when paid family leave ends, say one year old.  This would allow parents to return to work and not have to work just to pay for day care.  I have one friend who quit her job after realizing that her family would actually have more money if she didn't work and didn't have to pay for a daycare.  Combine this with vigorous after school and summer programs for kids and you remove a huge financial burden.

And before you claim that you are shifting burdens from individuals to society, and the taxpayer is subsidizing the children, realize we already do that with welfare, food stamps and other social safety net programs.  This is just a more pro-active and dignified way to provide the help.

Finally, there is the issue of the health of the child, and how much it costs to care for and raise a disable child.  Also, how much of a grinding burden it is.  These are also easy issues to solve.  Universal, single payer health care, that has no lifetime limits or throws the bulk of the care burden onto the parents would ameliorate this problem. If a national insurance program provided in-home and lifetime care for a disabled child, there would be less reason to abort. 

Right now, many parents with handicapped children fear what will happen to their child when they die.  That is a very valid concern.  They can make sure their offspring is well cared for while they are healthy and functioning, but what happens after the parents are gone.  Sometimes siblings or other family will step up, but often the reality is that they know when they are gone, their child will know nothing but suffering in some sort of nursing home.  I would not want to sentence a child to that future, and that is a very responsible attitude.

So, in the end, you can embrace a suite of Liberal Social programs that would drastically reduce abortion, or you can try to force people to have children they don't want or can't care for.  And before you claim, just put them up for adoption, remember, there are far more children in foster care than there are forever homes for them, and very few people want to take on a handicapped child.  Also, unfortunately, many people don't want to adopt outside of their race, or at least adopt African American babies.  Instead they adopt from Eastern Europe, and the brown American babies languish in foster care.  I hate to be this blunt, but it is a sad fact.

Basically, my challenge to the Anti-Abortion crowd is put up or shut up.  Be actually Pro-Life, for the entirety of the child's life, or remain simply Pro-Fetus, and acknowledge that you could care less about actual babies,  you only care about an abstract idea.  Believe me, if God is actually Pro-Life, He does not stop caring once the baby is born, unlike a lot of people in this country.

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