The patriarchal Catholic Church claims to be pro-Life. But is it pro-Life? Or is it pro-Birth? A Catholic Benedictine sister outed the pro-Life movement. Her position: the pro-life crowd shows little if any ongoing interest in life after birth. They’re pro-birth, but not pro-life. Legislators who enact laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion, but then stand firm against funding programs that assist the mother and her baby once the child is born are not pro-life. Too often the goal of anti-abortion advocates is for the fetus to make it to birth. Birth is the important value, life not so much.
I propose the starting point for deciphering this puzzle is to look at our desire as human beings for immortality. We want to defy death believing that there is a spiritual continuation of who we are after our bodies shut down. We want death to be a new beginning.
A great deal of effort goes into seeking an answer to the question what comes next. A question we presently lack the capacity to answer. We honestly do not know what if anything happens following death.
Are we going down the wrong path when we pursue the spiritual avenue for the answer? Ironically is it instead our bodies that continue to exist? Consider that our genes are passed from parent to child. If the answer to immortality lies here, then why don’t we think about the passing on of our DNA as a type of immortality? Perhaps because it is not me the individual who achieves immortality, but rather me genetically that is passed on and on. This immortality does not give me reward or punishment as promised by some religions. Regardless, our DNA does live on in our progeny and is a recognizable path to immortality.
If biology provides a path to achieve immortality, arguably biology takes on new meaning. Our bodies which are often viewed as inferior to our intellectual/spiritual life are elevated. When sex is viewed as our path to immortality, sex becomes far more than erotic pleasure. If we are to grasp this quest for immortality, exploration of our sexuality takes on new importance.
I propose that given the male’s role in reproduction he is more inclined to support pro-birth. The female is inclined to support pro-life given her role. The male’s strategy is both quantitative and qualitative in assuring the continuance of his genes. The female is confined to the qualitative strategy.
The human male has an abundant renewable supply of sperm. Given the opportunity the human male can potentially impregnate several females in any one day with low to no negative impact on his body other than fatigue. After he impregnates the female, he is free to leave. This isn’t necessarily the best choice, but it is a choice available to him.
By contrast the female supplies a nutritious rich egg and the use of her body for nine months. She produces typically one egg a month, and if impregnated, she will give birth to a full term baby nine months later. Her likelihood of reproducing is reduced at best to once every nine to ten months. If she has multiple births she can do slightly better. Additionally pregnancy and childbirth are not without risk. The bottom line, males have a quantitative edge in reproduction which the female does not share.
The female has no alternative, her presence is required at the birth of her child. If she wants to abandon the child or give the baby up for adoption, her action is required. This is after months of intimate awareness of the growth of the baby and her experience at birth.
There is no requirement that the father be present at the birth of his child. He has the option of being totally uninvolved with his offspring. He may impregnate multiple females relying on some portion of these females to produce full term babies and nurture and raise them so they will continue his genes in new progeny. The father is not excluded from the role of nurturer, but he can avoid whatever responsibility he has. He can take his chances that some of the females that he impregnates will successfully raise his progeny and his genes will continue to exist.
The male has both a quantitative and qualitative strategy available to him to insure the continuance of his DNA. When pursuing the quantitative route he may attempt to limit any interference with his opportunity of impregnating females (birth control), and once the female is impregnated he will want to prohibit termination of the fertilized egg (abortion).
The female is restricted to the qualitative route. Since she is limited in the number of offspring she can produce and has a meaningful investment already by the time of birth, she typically makes the most of her investment and raises the child. She is far less likely to terminate her relationship with her baby.. Even if her choice is to not raise the child, she does not by this action significantly increase the number of offspring she can produce.
The bottom line: those wittingly or unwittingly who would prohibit birth control and abortion are enabling the male’s strategy of a quantitative approach to reproduction.
In summary, I write not only to put forward a biological explanation for the inconsistency of those who interfere in women’s reproductive choices and then not follow through with assistance after the baby is born. I write also to advocate that women be able to choose birth control and abortion which can be a part of their reproductive qualitative strategy. A woman best knows when she is able to take on the awesome responsibility of pregnancy, birth and child rearing.
And one last thought … everyone involved in raising a child can benefit from support.
Winifred Nathan BA, MSW, JD, is a retired attorney. Her resume includes in chronological order sworn police officer, mother, social worker, and psychotherapist. Her bachelor degree was in philosophy and sociology. She lives with her husband in South Carolina but her heart is in Wisconsin where she was born, raised and lived for most of her life. She was born a feminist.
13 thoughts on “Why Pro-Life Stops at Birth: Who Really Supports Life and Why by Winifred Nathan”
Winifred Nathan, this is the sanest thing I have read about the whole “pro-life” double-speak-debacle. Thank you for taking the sentimental hysteria out of the argument and making it real. Bless you.
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Reblogged this on aunt polly's rants and commented:
Common sense, here. I couldn’t agree more.
A logical, reasonable, and factual argument. Has no one ever expressed these ideas before? I keep hearing about men and religions and (alas) even some women who proclaim themselves to be “pro-life.” But after a child is born, either wanted or unwanted, who’s going to take care of that child? You give an excellent argument. But will any patriarch (male or female) pay attention??
Thanks for this eye-opening, brain-stirring post.
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Many of my thoughts are influenced by Charles Darwin, particularly his writing about sexual selection in the Origin of Species and the Descent of Man, and Richard Dawkins the British evolutionary biologist. Some of this thinking shows up in this piece of writing.
You nail the issue with these words : Legislators who enact laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion, but then stand firm against funding programs that assist the mother and her baby once the child is born are not pro-life. What a crazymaker. Anyone who is pro – life is at this point participating in the delusion that this planet can continue to sustain the explosion of humans that are taking over the Earth and destroying ALL LIFE. I find your arguments sound. However, how can we continue to argue these philosophical points when we have so many starving children in the world? If we are serious about honoring the sanctity of life we need to restrict HUMAN reproduction. Period.
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Yesterday on YouTube, (where there are some very good videos including talks by the Benedictine Sister Winifred mentions at the beginning of this post), I came across a Monty Python song: Every Sperm is Sacred https://youtu.be/nal8YXIesA8
Somewhat irreverent but very true!
“The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” is a quote from one of our Prime Ministers. (Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau) Neither does the leadership of a church – especially one so lopsided. I think the roots of the “pro-life” thinking go back to Genesis 38, where Onam is “killed by G-d” for spilling his sperm on the earth rather than impregnating his widowed sister-in-law and “raising up children” for his deceased brother’s line. We no longer need to create more people. Be better to improve the ones we already are.
I have been saying this for years and appreciate this well-articulated essay. I actually will discuss abortion with people who are anti-abortion as long as they are 1) antiwar, 2) anti-capital punishment, and 3) very supportive of public housing, education, nutrition, and health care for everyone. I will not discuss abortion with people who go to rallies in Kansas carrying signs that say “Support Our Unborn Troops” (this actually happened), who want to deny the coverage of basic needs to other people, and who prefer to have their conversations with those who cannot talk back, such as fetuses and people on life support.
Actually, the idea that we on the pro-life side don’t care what happens to babies once they’re born is wrong. It is the pro-life side that has set up pregnancy centers all over the country, enabling women to find ways and resources to raise their children, or put them up for adoption.
One such center is located near my house. They take in young pregnant women, house them, clothe them, feed them, help them with continuing medical care, and ensure that they are well supplied with diapers, clothes, and formula. They help direct those women to all kinds of community resources, including job training, higher education, housing, child care, etc.
The Church is also very involved. At present, Apologia Church of Tempe, AZ not only posts up outside of abortion clinics, but they offer a variety of resources to women that include arranging an adoption of the baby, all at no cost to the mother. They even have a legal team on standby, ready to facilitate those adoptions. To date, they have saved dozens of babies, and are doing their level best to ensure that those babies live and grow up well. Their Pastor, Jeff Durbin, will gladly show pictures of those babies to any who ask. Several churches across the nation have begun to follow their example, and have begun to come up with similar numbers of babies saved. Does that sound like we don’t care?
The day I see you lobbying for national health care, public housing, free education, and adequate nutrition for all PLUS against war and all forms of militarism is the day I will believe that you are “pro-life.” Until then, you are just another person wanting to control women’s bodies and choices. And from what I have seen in this life, those who want to control others are usually NOT in control of themselves.
The Brookings Institute has conducted a study which shows that the three primary things a person can do to avoid being permanently poor in this country are a) obtain at least a high school diploma, b) find and keep a full-time job, and c) wait until at least the age of 21 before getting married and having children. While there are dozens of other things one can do to avoid being permanently poor, these are the three primary things their study suggests one can do. According to their study, 98% of people who follow those steps will move solidly into the middle class.
With all of that in mind, our efforts on behalf of women and babies are centered around the idea that they need to be free and independent. National healthcare, and public housing are all a form of institutional dependence, and are counterproductive to our goals. If you want to be dependent upon the state for your survival, that’s on you. Might I recommend North Korea? I hear the weather is nice this time of year. Mind the inevitable human rights abuses, though. They can get rather ugly.
As for adequate nutrition, are you aware that food stamps can be used to purchase seed for food gardening? People have the means to see to their own good nutrition simply by planting and maintaining their own gardens. In fact, many of the urban neighborhoods in my area actually have community gardens.
Of course, we Christians have another way we help with this area. Go on YouTube and check out the Urban Farming Guys as an example of what I’mreferring to.
They are a ministry that chose to go into the worst neighborhood in Kansas City, MO and teach people how to start their own urban farms. Since their inception, the neighborhood has experienced quite the turnaround.
In addition to teaching them how to grow their own food, they have built a place called “Maker’s Space”, which they use to train locals in useful skills like cooking, basic carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and even have educational programs that allow the locals to obtain higher education and job training. As a result, the neighborhood has experienced a dramatic drop in violent crime rates, unemployment, and all of the other social ills that come with grinding poverty and the types of social programs you espouse.
Now, I hate to burst your bubble, but there is a biblical distinction between murder and most types of warfare. As a Christian, I am obligated to seek out the peaceful solution, but sometimes the peaceful solution isn’t available.
Abortion is the deliberate and unjustified taking of a human life. As such, it is murder. Killing, as is found in warfare, is not typically murder. Having served in an active war zone, I can attest to that fact.
Now, I’m going to tell you something you might not have known. Jesus is not a pacifist. If He were a pacifist, then His actions in the Old Testament, along with what He is described as doing in the Book of Revelation, wouldn’t make a bit of sense.
Overall, your attempt at the Hegelian dialectic is commendable, but misplaced. What this boils down to is the fact that your side and mine similar goals, but can’t agree on how to achieve it; mostly due to the fact that my side doesn’t consider the slaughter of innocents to be a viable option.
Omigod, you know someone has no argument when they descend to suggesting one move to North Korea. Laughable! And if you think Jesus advocated WAR, WAR, WAR, then you have studied a different Jesus than the one I know and love. Just to let you know, I’m done here as I do not waste my time debating [you can fill in this blank].
As you’ve apparently deleted my response, I will say this and then move on. With two comments, I’ve managed to pile holes in the narrative. All you’ve done is demonstrate that you have no cogent argument. I abhor and speak out against murder in any form, and you’re complicit in mass murder, to the tune of more than 308 million dead since Roe v Wade. That number includes surgical abortion procedures as well as chemical. That’s nearly the entire current U.S. population, and a lot of blood on the hands of people like you. Go ahead and continue believing that you won’t one day stand before the Lord and face His judgment.
Oh, and I’m generally excellent at maintaining my own self-control. It comes with age and experience.