Dusty Roads

A Kiwi living in the new Zimbabwe

Making a choice

September 9, 2017

I would like to make a deal with the leader of the Labour Party.

I will vote for you, Jacinda Ardern, if you can convince me that decriminalising abortion will not take the lives of a more living human beings.

I don’t want to believe it does, after all. The implications for many women I know and love are, if abortion takes an innocent human life, almost unutterable. But the implications are worse for the child, and that’s why it is important I know, absolutely, before I can vote for you.

From my years of reading about this issue one thing sticks out: those who support abortion argue about women’s rights and protection. Those who oppose abortion do so because they say it ends the life of a living human being.

That second claim seems to me to be rather astonishing. Women have rights and need protecting, of course. But if the thing inside our womb is also a living human being, then it too has rights and needs protecting, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that.

The question then, that I absolutely MUST answer, is whether the thing produced by the combining of an egg and a sperm, and which spends nine months growing inside a woman’s womb, is in fact, a living human being.

Some tell me it is just an embryo, or a foetus. However, this doesn’t describe what species something belongs to. It simply describes a stage of growth. So if two human beings reproduce, it logically follows that they produce a human embryo or foetus. As the pro-life atheist Christopher Hitchens says, as a member of the human species, it then ought to have all the rights, including the right to life, that the rest of us enjoy.

Others have told me the thing is just part of a woman’s body. But the thing has its own unique DNA, quite different to the DNA replicated identically inside every other cell belonging to the individual we call its mother. In other words, it has its own individual biological identity. And that makes sense to me, because we know that a woman does not go on to give birth to a bit of her own body, but rather to another individual, nine months later. We also know that a woman cannot have an abortion unless she is pregnant; the same state by which she produces another individual.

But is this individual human alive? Well, if it isn’t alive, why do we need to have an abortion? We have abortions because that thing inside us is growing from the moment of conception, and growth is one of the signs of life, according to my 6th form biology class. Age, viability, or any other philosophical or biological measure by which we attempt to claim something is alive only leads to horrible ethical conundrums. For example, if the ability to survive outside the womb alone determines whether you are alive or not, then young children, the very old, and the disabled, are not alive and we may do as we please with them.

Some say the fact another living human being is involved doesn’t matter: That women simply need protecting from the way things used to be. But we don’t live in a society that looks anything like it did when abortion was illegal. Besides, who says that the rights and protections of a mother and her child are mutually exclusive?

You talked about choice on Monday night, Ardern. But if abortion involves ending the lives of human being, I can’t vote for you.

Like the child, I would have no choice.

This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz

 

 

 

When losing means you won

September 2, 2017

Sometimes victory can look a lot like defeat. This week the New Zealand pro-life movement had perhaps one of its most important victories in years, but I doubt they realised it, because it looked a lot like defeat.

It came in the form of the Pro Life Club’s disaffiliation from the Auckland University Students’ Association. Not only was the club disaffiliated, but clubs with “a similar ideology” are banned from joining the association in future. That rather broad, loose wording, which might include any number of clubs, is yet to come under the steady eye of the law, so the game is not over yet.

But at this stage it is looking remarkably like the underdog came out on top, and for several reasons.

The least important is that there are over 40,000 students at Auckland University. How many of them belong to the Auckland University Students’ Association I could not find out. But only 2,700 turned out for the vote. If that is the entirety of the AUSA membership, it doesn’t say much for the Association. If it is only a small portion of the AUSA, it doesn’t say much for the members.

About 1600 turned out to vote in favour of disaffiliation, and about 1000 turned out to vote against. What happened to the other 100, heaven knows. The journalist certainly didn’t, otherwise he would have told us.

All-in-all though, the numbers surprised me. They really aren’t that bad for a club that is meant to represent ideas long-since regarded as ridiculous.

But the bigger picture is the more important one. Because, of course, the Students for Choice have finally shown that they are, in fact, not.

They are the Students Against Choice. That is because they are against those who disagree with them. And if you are against those who disagree with you, you absolutely must be against choice. After all, we only have choice when we have two or more options that really, truly differ from one another. We have a very poor choice in foods if all that lies on our plates are apples. Throw on an orange and we’ve got something different. We have got real, honest choice.

That’s the horrible thing about being pro-choice (in the truest sense of the word). It means being  ‘”pro” your opponent. It means fighting for his or her rights as much as you fight for your own.

Doing in your opponent is simply not an option. It is, in fact, the underarm bowl of (in this case) student politics.

And underarm bowls don’t go down well with Joe Public. We are a tolerant nation, you see. We abide by the motto “live and let live”. Minority groups can scrap among themselves over who is right and who is wrong, but at the end of the day, what we all really want is a fair fight.

The moment one little group starts picking off the competition, they start looking mighty mean. They start looking scary, even. Worse, the victim starts looking harmless, and rather deserving of our pity and support.

That’s why the Pro Life Club, which exited dejectedly from the field this week, ought rather to be celebrating.

In the eyes of Average Joe, they have just become the victims of an underarm bowl. Even better, their opponents are the perpetrators, and are starting to look rather mean-spirited and narrow-minded in spite of their name.

And in this debate, winning over the public is far more important than winning an affiliation vote.

There is one final reason, though, why the Pro Life Club ought to celebrate: Your opponent only sends an underarm bowl your way when they really, truly believe you have a good shot at winning the game.

Like I said, sometimes defeat is a victory.

This article was originally published on Stuff.co.nz

 

 

 

Yes to life

March 21, 2017

The Labour Party got it right. New Zealand’s abortion laws do need an overhaul.

All of the evidence points to our society having changed in the forty years since the procedure became legal.

As I’ve previously written, we made aborting calves illegal three years ago on the basis that it was “inhumane” and forced vets to breech their duty of care. It is now obvious that this logic also applies to human babies.

The incredible advances in technology and science have given us the ability to peer into the womb and study its contents in detail. Social media and search engines have made this information available to all of us.

And what that science tells us, in the words of one secular humanist, is that from day one that clump of cells is an individual member of the human species. By week two that new member of our species has the beginnings of its own brain. By week six its very own heart is beating.

That is why secular humanists, feminists and others beyond the church walls now openly oppose abortion.

We know too, thanks to a recent poll by ALRANZ – New Zealand’s pro abortion lobby group – that support for abortion is lowest when it is about choice only.

The most critical part of the report, for those who believe in life, is that it asked 1000 people about their support for abortion in different situations.

These situations ranged from the mother’s life being endangered by the pregnancy, to the mother simply not wanting to be a mum.

As the extremity of the scenario decreased, so too did the support for abortion. In fact, by the time that respondents were asked whether abortion should be available for those who just don’t want to be a mum, support had plummeted from 77 per cent (when a mother’s life is endangered) to 51 per cent.

That means half of the country is either opposed or is unconvinced, by the claim that abortion is merely a choice.

Ironically, supporters of abortion say the law needs changing to make it easier for those women who just want access to the choice.

But most importantly we know the law is out of date because babies in the womb are no longer voiceless. The survivors of abortions performed in the 1970s and 1980s are now old enough and confident enough to speak out. In fact, they are even setting up groups, like The Abortion Survivors Network, which requires members to have documentation supporting their story.

And those stories are harrowing – they have survived saline abortions meant to essentially burn them to death in the womb, or procedures meant to cut them into pieces inside the womb, before they were removed.

Overwhelmingly they say that they are thankful to have been given life, and they plead for us to give that right to every unborn child. Many of those most prominent voices, like Melissa Ohden or Josiah Presley, say they forgive the women who tried to abort them, and hold no grudge – they simply want every child to have a chance at life.

So yes, we need to change our laws. We need women seeking an abortion to no longer be seen as criminals, but rather the doctors willing to perform these procedures.

We need to strengthen the law and make it clear that abortion is only there as a last resort in a desperate situation.

And we need to re-target funding to adoption services and support, to make sure our country is known for its compassion – for both mother and baby. We also need to increase support for women going through a crisis pregnancy.

Most of all, we need to stop pretending that death is a moderate solution, and start giving the right to life to all members of our species.

This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz

When being progressive is regressive

January 31, 2017

The irony was almost unbearable. Amidst the swaying crowd of protestors placards were heaved up from the ground and held high overhead. Slowly, steadily, 1000 humans began to move along Queen Street.

And as they did so, smiling grandly beneath the words they had scrawled upon bits of wood or cardboard, they were filled with a sense of jubilation.

They were here, under the shining sun, and they were going to make a difference.

It’s just that it was all so confusing.

The signs didn’t help matters. There was one proclaiming “my body my rights”. It didn’t mention any responsibilities, which usually precede rights, but that wasn’t the confusing part. Apparently the slogan is one of those commonly used arguments that prove abortion is ok. Of course, if it was our body being aborted, we wouldn’t be alive, so I’m going to assume someone missed a word out and the sign should have read “my baby’s body, my rights”.

That made me feel a little edgy, I’ll admit. After all, demanding the right to kill the little body inside your own body didn’t quite fit with the dignified air of moral superiority and compassion with which the demand was made. It was a bit too incongruous for me.

I felt the same about a sign that read “Sex is beautiful, reproduction is optional”. It didn’t sound so nice when I put thought about what it really meant: “Sex is beautiful, babies are optional”. I didn’t particularly want the right to kill my baby.

Another sign popped into view and this one read “I won’t tolerate intolerance”. I couldn’t quite figure out what to make of it. Was this woman saying she couldn’t tolerate herself? How does one not tolerate oneself? Ought we all be following her example to be good, liberal, feminist progressives? And most puzzlingly, how were we to create a society free of intolerance if we were all desperately busy not tolerating?

Yet another sign read “Our strength is in diversity”. “Excuse me,” I asked the woman, “does that mean I’m allowed to have a different opinion on abortion because the signs are doing a wonderful job of convincing me it’s not a good idea?” She said diversity of opinion was fine so long as we all had the same opinion.

I had rather a tough time trying to work that out, and in the end I gave up. I turned my mind to wondering whether it was possible to have diversity without diversity of thought, and decided that it wasn’t.

What baffled me most of all was that the Women’s March on Washington didn’t actually end up in Washington. It ended in Myers Park.

Not a police officer was in sight, according to the MC, “because women are perceived to be safe”. I felt again the strong pangs of uncertainty. Was that a compliment or a horrid, sexist remark by our men and women in blue? Should the crowd react by proving the stereotype, or by smashing things and hitting people to prove such sexism wrong?

I must confess I missed most of the speeches from then on. I was too busy thinking that there was no use trying, it was quite evident I would never make a good feminist, liberal, progressive.

I tuned back in as the crowd was being told that “today gives us an opportunity to just begin”. And then everyone went home.

Actually, I thought to myself, I’m not sure that I want to fit in.

This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz