The risk of writing satire is that someone, say Adolph Hitler, will miss the point and take you literally. With that caveat, I offer this essay in the spirit of Jonathan Swift’s “A modest Proposal.” A friend warned me against publishing this piece, because it is too easy for someone to miss the point of the satire and take it as a serious proposal. Even as I post this, I know there are elitist out there already planning policies to implement what I consider satire. In fact, my morning paper today (3/30/2011) carried a story about a local public school nurse who was fired for telling a class of students that special needs kids should be euthanized. Satire is useful because it puts the spotlight on the possible through the use of exaggeration and prepares people for what could be possible if good people do nothing. I wrote this to illustrate how ridiculous the arguments for abortion are by simply moving them a little further up the timeline.
“My mother went to the hospital to have me aborted.” With this, the obnoxious but often funny 15-year-old student had my attention and my sympathy. “What a terrible thing to have to live with, knowing your mother’s first choice was to abort you,” I thought. “No wonder she’s a problem student in an alternative school.”
“So, what happened,” I asked.
“They wouldn’t do it, “she said, “because I was twelve-years-old.”
She had me, and I laughed, but on reflection, I realized that as with most humor, there is also a serious side. In this case, let’s call it retroactive-abortion.
Abortion has been part of a serious national discussion at least since Roe vs. Wade. So much so that the arguments have become stale. I can predict in advance what is going to be said on the subject at any given time. It’s time to take the discussion to a new level.
Though retroactive abortion may seem radical, it is no more so than Jonathan Swift, tongue in cheek, suggesting the Irish might eat their children to keep them from being a burden to their parents. Even as children were a burden in Ireland in 1729, so they are today, though in a different sort of way. The burden of gross ignorance, which is perpetuated through having babies, plagues us today.
We have tried to stamp it out with public education, but it grows faster than we can cure it and it continues to grow. Think about it a minute: The bright people marry other bright people and have an average of one and a half kids per couple. The ignorant mate with the ignorant and have a half dozen kids per couple. This portends a disastrous trend which can easily be solved by retroactive-abortion.
Here’s how it would work. When a child reaches five or six, do a thorough evaluation with doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, ministers, and educators. Determine its IQ and social and economic potential, and if it reaches a certain standard, grant it a birth certificate and legal status as a human being. If not, euthanize it because quality of modern life seems to matter more than life itself.
If you catch yourself cringing at the thought of this, don’t rush to judgment too fast. To begin with, we have never settled the argument as to when life begins, and hence when legal protection is required. At conception? Three months? Six months? Half way out of the birth canal? Birth? Why not just make it six years? Up to that time, it is just a bit of aging fetal tissue to be surgically terminated for the convenience of the mother, a private matter between a woman and her doctor, psychiatrist, social worker, and minister.
In fact, retroactive abortion has several advantages over normal abortion. To begin with, most religions have some sort of theology about an age of accountability. If a child dies before that age, it’s an automatic trip to paradise. So, we see what kind of kid we have, and if things don’t look too promising, send it on to paradise before it’s eternally too late.
“But it’s murder,” some might object. Let’s not be squeamish about this. Murder is just a matter of legal definition after all. We have all kinds of killing that are not classified as murder, including abortion. Law makers can define retroactive abortion as a medical procedure and everything will be fine.
I know people will abhor this idea. We used to abhor the idea of abortion, but we all got used to it. We have all gotten comfortable with the idea of slaughtering the innocent but somehow cringe at the idea of destroying fetal tissue that has aged a little and in the process, given us opportunity to make a reasonable judgment about its potential. After all, it’s all about quality of life. The right to life only matters if quality can be guaranteed. In time, we’ll also get use to retroactive-abortion.
The way things are now, we don’t mind killing something we haven’t yet seen and can’t adequately evaluate, but are squeamish about killing what we can know and evaluate and eliminate only if it will become a problem. We don’t mind killing a potential Einstein as long as we don’t know it, while fussing about euthanizing a predicable burden on society.
Even though this is a workable solution to rid society of the burden of ignorance, it might be tough to sell it to an unenlightened public. The first step in selling it would be to sell the idea of making it an exceptional thing. Make it legal if the health of the mother is in question. This would include mental and emotional health. By leaving the definition of health as a private matter between a woman and her doctor, the exception will soon become the rule and people will get use to it. In the first few years there would only be a few thousand retroactive abortions across the country. But, in time the count could easily be up to a million and a half a year and ignorance would begin to diminish significantly.
In case people get upset with the ever increasing number of exceptions, we need an emotional argument to sway the masses who might object. The way it stands now, if a mother wants to get rid of a burdensome kid, she has to put out a contract on him with some back alley butcher or hit man who will do the job. The mother has to risk doing business with undesirable people, which can get pretty messy and might even threaten her own life. Whenever anyone raises the issue of again making the practice illegal, just argue that to do so would be forcing mothers to again use the back alley butchers, putting their own lives at risk.
If the fuss to do away with the exception gets too loud, move a case to the United States Supreme Court and get a judge to find a constitutional right to privacy. If a judge digs around that “living” document long enough, he can find anything growing there.
Once the right to a retroactive abortion is established, the practice will become common place enough that we will begin to see ignorance diminish. In time, liberal thinking people well see that the real issue here is one of choice. The argument will no longer be one of killing, but rather one of choice. What fair minded person could be against choice? Who would deny a mother the freedom to choose? Since the ignorant respond readily to emotions and slogans, the practice of retroactive abortion will be safe.
If necessary, throw in the economic argument also. Retroactive abortion will bring drastic reductions in free and reduced school breakfasts and lunches, food stamps, subsidized housing, medicaid, welfare payments and costs related to incarceration. All this adds up to billions of dollars that can be used for more important things.
So even though my student had hooked me on a cruel sort of joke, like most jokes, there was a serious element to her humor. After all, twelve is a little old, even for a retroactive abortion. But five or six? It might be worth a thought.