Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Rhetoric of Abortion (iv)

The last couple of posts have actually been a digression. As so often, what I thought interesting and important was largely uncommented on by my intelligent and forebearing readers (and I always like to assume on these occasions that qui tacet consentire videtur - not that I have any grounds for so thinking, but it is so much more appealing to my vanity to do so...) and a passing comment generated the debate; and ever fond of digressions, I willingly allowed myself to digress...

But what I had originally intended to do, and the task to which I return now, is to examine some of the slogans used by those with whom I disagree.

Let us start with 'Every child a wanted child.'

It sounds so right, so self-evidently unarguable: but in fact I believe it to be flawed both in theory and practice.

In practice, we find a generation that has grown up believing this - or at least having it rammed down its throat - has been a generation arguably unparalleled in its poor treatment of children.

Parents deprive children of stable family life in the interests of self- fulfillment, liberation, or lust. Parents view children as fashion accessories, or lifestyle choices, and treat them accordingly: parade them when it is desirable to do so, and park them out of the way (in front of the TV, with the child minder, at the nursery...) when they are no longer needed to be shown. Parents shack up with other adults, not related to their children, exposing them to a high risk of abuse (for that is what the studies show, when they say most child abuse occurs in the home: most is at the hands of a parent's lover who is not the natural parent of the children - and a short reflection on the emotional dynamics of such dysfunctional households will reveal why that may be the case).

This practical reality flows from one of the theoretical flaws of the slogan. To proclaim that 'every child should be a wanted child' puts children and our relationship with them into the wrong category in our thinking. Children are not objects, to be wanted (or not), like handbags or iPads. Children are blessings, gifts, to be cherished and for which we should be grateful. We should not think that we are in a position to have an opinion (wanted or not wanted) about them. If we are married, that is a vocation to parenthood, in the natural way of things. If we have no such vocation, we should not behave, sexually, as though we have.

Another theoretical flaw is the conflation of the notion of a 'wanted' pregnancy with a wanted child. Many a pregnancy that was, at least initially, an unpleasant surprise (though again even that betrays a flawed way of thinking) has produced a child who is loved and valued. But the abortion industry thrives on hiding that truth.

So next time you hear that slogan, take the time to unpick it and expose the flawed thinking behind it - and in particular educate the young about this: for I think it will be our children's generation who will sort out this terrible business.


Ttony said...

Glad you got back on track! ;-)

I come back more and more to the fact that we allow our opponents to define the field on which we engage, and that we have to try to change the terms of engagement.

But I don't think it will be any better in our children's generation: I think it will get a lot worse first. remember the discovery this year of a load of new-born babies' bodies outside what had been a brothel in Roman times? Wait until the baby is born and then kill it effienctly: we haven't caught up with that yet, in the UK at least.

Ben Trovato said...


I think you are quite right about not accepting the terms of the debate as framed by others.

As for the new-born babies, don't think that neo-natal killing isn't already practiced in the UK, because it certianly is, in a number of guises: some very direct (live born children in abortion clinics left to die) some slightly (though not much) more subtle: handicapped children put on a 'sedate and feed on demand' regimen - where, as they are sedated, they don't demand...

Mike Cliffson said...

"Children are blessings"
Good on yer, mate.

ps As you say, silence betokens consent!

Part-time Pilgrim said...


I am not sure this IS the right track. I think the best counter to the "every child a wanted child" is a dispassionate reminder of the science - that by the time abortion is considered as a possible "solution" it's too late. A human individual exists. Relentless logic can be helpful too - what if an older child is no longer wanted? Is it acceptable to kill it? If not how is it acceptable to kill a human being in utero?

You're right - shouting child murderer will be dismissed as "emotionalism" but your discussion in this post will be dimissed as idealistic. Your post describes clearly the Catholic ideal for family life. As evangelisation it's good stuff (and maybe that's what you are aiming at) but for challenging abortion dispassionate science and logical ethics are best.

Mike Cliffson said...

@part-time Pilgrim:
What's best? For whom?
Sanctity,first and foremost, obviously. Do you follow lifesitenews, the stories of women who were going to have an abortiona nd didn't, Who did and have been coinverted since, the abortion will medics who have come over, often very personal and different.
And this particular one , every child a wanted child, is so prevalent among the general public, that, given people, testimony catequesis, shoting matches, all human interaction- I don't think it's reducible to a single formula. ,

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Best for convincing people that abortion is wrong is what I mean by best.
My reading of accounts of people changing their minds about abortion centre on a dawning of the reality of what they are doing - i.e an acceptance that human life begins at conception and abortion involves the destruction of human life. This realisation does not happen as a result of being called a "child murderer" (emotions running too high for rational thought) or due to challenging slogans that distract from this reality (every child a wanted child is one) but by keeping the arguments on "our" grounds - the rational and scientific ones.

Ben Trovato said...

I think a lot depends on context. PTP may well be right in some situations, but I am mindful too of the need to keep 'our side' galvanised, and that is certainly one of the functions of rhetoric.

Further, there is some evidence that confrontation with the truth, when accompanied by compassion, can also lead to a radical change of heart.

As ever, the challenge for Christians is managing to stay true to Caritas and Veritas.