I’m away from my desk for the next several days. Even we professional gripers need to take a break once in awhile. I’ll be republishing a few posts from the previous year for the next week or so. This post was first published on Oct. 26, 2011.
Rebecca Kiessling’s existence resulted from a tragic event. Conceived after her mother’s rape more than 40 years ago, she was born after her mother sought two abortions and later gave her up for adoption. Now an attorney and a mother of five, she actively supports the “personhood” movement, which seeks to give all fertilized eggs the same rights as newborns.
Kiessling vigorously supports Proposition 26 in Mississippi, which redefines the beginning of human life as the moment of conception. Mississippians will vote on the amendment in November.
To peruse Kiessling’s website, and other materials supporting the amendment, is to witness the unapologetic confluence of cultural hot-buttons, appeals to emotion, and religious dogma. These are difficult reads for those who value honest debate, solid evidence and clear thinking, and not because they challenge the conscience.
Kiessling’s “Conceived in Rape” campaign conflates two emotional issues into one grotesque quagmire of conversation. Either issue alone requires delicate care, careful thought and considered approach to navigate, none of which is evident in her vapid mantra, “A baby is not the worst thing that can happen to a woman after rape.”
This volatile mixture of rape and abortion generates some indelicate questions. How are we to view her mother’s rape when, without its occurrence, Kiessling would not exist? If I could have, I would have prevented the rape, but that would have “doomed” Kiessling. Where does one construct the moral partition between right and wrong, here?
From the required event needed for Kiessling’s existence – the assault on her mother – there are also non-events needed to ensure her existence. Non-events create and prevent the existence of innumerable human beings. What if my parents, an hour before my conception, decided to go to sleep? This theoretical desire for extra rest would have been detrimental to my future. Their decision to use birth control at that time would be equally as devastating.
This vantage point atop the high mountain of our current lives provides an all-too-cloudy view of the events that shape our beginnings. Our mental intuitions are ill-suited to reflect in this way. For instance, my wife and I had the opportunity to view our youngest child’s genetic profile. What would we have done if severe Down Syndrome were diagnosed? If our choice were to abort, would we have been aborting our current son? No, of course not, because our current son does not have a chromosomal abnormality. Events move forward, while our emotional intuitions gaze back – thus many an incorrect analysis.
Every person on this planet has a specific configuration of genes that makes them who they are. There is only one, single precise point at which these genes form, and that’s when egg and sperm meet. If my wife would have hiccupped during the moment of conception, perhaps a different egg and a different sperm would have joined, and our son would be . . . a completely different boy. Imagining our son’s non-existence – and our own – is nigh impossible; it does not compute.
This is the vexing nature of past events and non-events – to focus on only one, or two, as Kiessling does, is to deny the others and beg the question: What does rape have to do with it? Why focus on abortion? When considering the staggering range of possibilities between being and non-being, Kiessling overemphasizes and improperly mixes two from a multitude.
Thus it is clear that her existential view of her past is certainly distorted by religion. Someone should tell Kiessling’s god that the practice of abortion is immoral, for this deity is extremely effective at the practice. Spontaneous abortion – miscarriage – is extremely high. A conservative estimate puts the rate of miscarriages at 25 percent of all pregnancies. It has been said that this fact makes god the most prolific abortionist in history.
Also, these religious “personhood” proponents like to sprinkle their websites with pictures of the unborn with fully-developed limbs and heads. This deceitful bait-and-switch is a pragmatic one, for they desire to bestow rights on an organism no larger than a period at the end of this sentence. One has a difficult time anthropomorphizing punctuation marks.
For me, it’s easier to see where a human being isn’t, than where a human being is, in the womb. A small clump of a few hundred cells is not yet a human being. As we move forward in the pregnancy, I will admit that demarcation becomes more difficult. This is were the religious insert the idea of a soul, which I reject on evidential grounds.
Rape has as much to do with abortion as does a hiccup during intercourse. Pity is understandable, but please, set it aside while the adults are speaking. Religion? Look, I’m willing to listen, but not to iron-age ideas from an alleged being who communicates with chisel and stone.
It’s time to grow up and discuss how to birth happy and healthy babies. To do this we need to use the modern tools of adults, and not childish methods and ideas.