There is no issue in American politics like abortion. There is no issue as divisive that affects as many as deeply as abortion. Every year, millions of lives will be impacted by abortion. Primarily, the impact falls on the mother and the ‘being’ in the womb. But also, the father, the grandparents, the siblings, the friends, the children born and children yet to be born one sibling short. In many political debates, the discussion relates to diverging means of reaching the same end: a prosperous America. But in abortion there cannot be the success of one side without the other failing. Either abortion itself is an evil or a good of sorts, with no real ground in between. Further, the scope of abortion is enormous and often philosophized into oblivion by both sides of the argument.
In this piece I will look at only a few statistics concerning abortion in order to draw out a more proper paradigm with which to understand the issue. We all rationalize abortion, pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike. To some extent it is necessary. Most of us, regardless of our opinion on the issue, ignore that millions of–at least potential–persons have been barred from life. Arguments aside, the scope of abortion boggles the mind if one actually sits with the topic long enough to wrestle with the enormity of the numbers at play. Over 55 million abortions have legally taken place since Roe v. Wade, a number never fully considered. This article will attempt to dive into the issue seriously.
As a pro-lifer, I know that I rationalize or ignore the breadth of abortion. I do not know how I would be able to live life if every moment I was made aware that there are people I would have known, friends I would have made, had the institution of abortion ended. The largest metro area in the world, Tokyo at 38 million, houses a population less than the number of abortions in the US. In New York, an estimated 33% of pregnancies ended with an abortion in 2014.
For every two school buses you see in New York, one is missing.
In all of the information, misinformation, philosophical debates of personhood, and general ire that animates discussion of abortion, it is too uncommon to pause and remember that over 55 million fetuses that would have been as human as you or me in the span of months, will never become so.
Understanding the scope of abortion is not only something that is good for my fellow pro-lifers, but those who are pro-choice as well. Let me make the pro-choice assumption that the fetus is not to be considered a human life. With this assumption there is still no denying that the fetus will develop into a fully-fledged person given the natural course of things. That itself is enough reason that this potential life should not be ended carelessly, and it is becoming on every person who enters the abortion debate to consider the numbers involved.
We do not need to assume that a fetus is a person to know that abortion is a dark and uncomfortable topic.
Life is hard; there are many struggles that afflict every person. Life is unfair; it is undeniable that for some life is harder than for others. A child born into an impoverished family in Somalia will endure a great deal more hardship than the children of a middle class American family. This child will be offered fewer opportunities, looked down upon by others, and treated as lesser than the future university graduate. Oftentimes this struggle is internalized by the child, impacting its future and nearly condemning it to a life in which the cycle of poverty and suffering continues.
In 2017 I went on a mission trip to Haiti to help a group of sisters teach kids during the summer. I saw many children who would make a majority of the poor in America look rich. Many of the children I taught lived in destroyed buildings and tent cities. These children would eat every piece of food we gave them, down to the last grain. There was a young woman, not more than 14, who was attending the school with her 3 year-old daughter. Yet in spite of this background, I remember that my classroom was filled with the excitement, laughing, crying, and drama one would expect from children in any classroom in the world. Life, despite the worst it can throw at you, is beautiful. Hardships are many and unfair, yet the choice of determining which lives should be allowed to exist and which lives should not be allowed is not ours to make.
The other day, I recorded a podcast on Piece of Mind with my brother on the issue of abortion. After the podcast, he told me that the most effective thing I said was the call for people on all sides of this issue to take it seriously. The stakes are high, and debate on abortion touches the fundamental question of what it means to be a person. This debate impacts millions of ‘potential’ lives. To treat the issue lightly and fail to take into consideration the serious implications of your beliefs will only result in continuing suffering on the part of the child, the mother, and all involved.
Evil prospers in confusion and willful ignorance. Man has the unique power to rationalize evil, to do horrific things while justifying those actions to himself. Realizing our own potential for darkness makes realization of that potential all the less likely, increasing our ability to achieve our potential for good.