The question of abortion, whether it is a mother’s choice or a child’s murder, has divided society along very clear lines. Answers to this controversial question have always been either black or white; yes or no; pro-choice or pro-life.
Where does the opposition to abortion come from? What are the arguments that support this opposition?
For the greatest part the opponents of abortion belong to various religious factions. The moral and religious argument that these traditionalists propose is based on the concept of the sacred and divine nature of human life. “Only God has the power of life and death,” say the pro-lifers. “Man must not destroy what he cannot create.”
Digging for secular roots to the pro-life argument is an often fruitless search. To the rational and secular person abortion is an uncomfortable topic at worst. Some see abortion as a necessary evil. Others see it as an inalienable right of a woman. For the most part, rationalists tend to support a woman’s choice to have or not have a baby as being her business and none of theirs.
At first glance this debate may seem like a unique product of the modern age yet, upon looking at it from a wider perspective, a pattern seems to appear. In many ways, the debate of pro-choice vs pro-life is merely an evolution of the conflict between rights and morals, reason and religion, materialism and spiritualism.
For it is the right to life, that greatest and most important of fundamental human rights, that is being debated here. It is the woman’s right to choose her own life that empowers her to opt for an abortion. But what of the child’s rights? When does the right to life begin? Does not a baby in the womb have a right to live? To feel the sun on his back? To breathe fresh air into his lungs? One is led to answer that yes, it does.
But what about when the mother is incapable of caring for the child? What about a family so deeply steeped in poverty that they would be ruined by having one more mouth to feed? The unfortunate and sobering answer is that, in such a case, the child is already dead. Poverty has robbed him of his life and rights.
In the inhumane system that is our inheritance, rights are the monopoly of the rich. This is the hypocrisy that lies beneath the moral mask of capitalist pro-lifers. Ever so quick to condemn a starving mother for opting to abort her baby and judge her a murderer, these moral warriors feel no remorse in turning a blind eye to the societal marionette that has forced her choice.
To the thinking socialist, abortion, like so many ‘social evils’, is a point of debate purely because of the capitalist nature of modern society. Religion and reason, the two armies at war in this battlefield, are after all two of the most powerful weapons in the bourgeois arsenal of class warfare.
Reason is the nuclear bomb that blew apart the chains of feudalism and enabled the bourgeoisie to rise to power. Upon achieving this liberation, the bourgeois were quick to use religion to anaesthetise the proletariat and keep them from demanding their rights. Seen through a socialist perspective, the various ‘social evils’ (abortion, drug abuse, racism etc) are a product of the conflict between the uncontrollable forces unleashed by the bourgeois to aid them in their triumph. In a socialist and proletarian world these ‘evils’, just like so many others, would be rendered insignificant.
Under capitalism there can be no universality of rights and morality. Rights are only for the rich and morality is only for the poor. Bourgeois democracy is but an oligarchy in disguise, bourgeois religion a siren song that distracts from the inherent hypocrisies and double standards that abound in this wretched society. There can be no humanity here.
Here dead mothers give birth to dead children. Here a woman cannot even choose what happens to her body. Her only lot in life is to helplessly watch as religious morality and economic reality turn her choices into a perverted game of tug-o-war.