A Matter of Choice

Choice. It seems so simple. In this particular case, I am referring to the choice to give birth or not. It should be a simple thing, only women can do it, only women should be able to decide. It rarely ends up that way though. Take myself, if I had the choice, I would say that every woman under the age of 18 should have a mandatory abortion… but I will come back to that. I want to speak to some of the other views that irritate me. If there is one thing i will stand up for it is choice, so lets spend a minute defining that.

Choice. There are a few definitions in online and print dictionaries, the one I will focus on, mostly because the other pertinent ones are able to be encapsulated by this focus, is this one from Merriam-Webster, whose wording I personally like: Choice: the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities : the opportunity or power to make a decision (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/choice) A poignant choice of words (pun intended). The Opportunity or Power… very specific. There’s an inherent nowness to those words. A prescience of presentness if you will. To mince words, and get into semantics a bit, any way you want to push the definitions (check the websites and print, this applies to all numbered definitions as far as I can tell) in order to make it about a future choice, you have to put a modifier on the word, like I just did. That is blatant implication of immediate present within the very word, and since words describe concepts, an inherent immediacy to the concept of choice, of choosing. A future choice is not completely foreseeable, and unmakeable. A past choice is unchangeable, so the present is the ONLY choice possibility. And therefore the power of choice rests in the right now. This may seem to be redundant, or unnecessary, but to establish that choice is a determination of the future that lies with the immediate present is important. Now then, since we have established that with a certain amount of reasonability, I will move on to the next part of my ranting.

The very definition I used for choice implies a sort of consciousness, a minimum awareness of external circumstances and the separation of them from self. This is a minimum amount of awareness necessary to even establish the concept of self. That may be a bit esoteric for some people, so let me rephrase. In order to even establish the idea of self, yourself, or someone/thing else as self,  you must first be able to establish the thought process and idea of separation. The distinction of this from that, if you will. We often use those words without thought, and we instinctively know when one sounds wrong, but when pressed, I bet most people would be unable to provide a reasoning as to when and why you would use one instead of the other. Try it, try to explain in just words, no examples, of when you would use this instead of that, and vice versa. More difficult than it seems, yes? But yet you can do it instinctively, and you know that there is a separation between the two, even if you cant describe it. This is an example of that distinction. An inherent separation of 2 or more unitary ideas. The power of choice rests in separating self from the actions, in order to to have that opportunity, there must be enough consciousness to at least comprehend that  distinction, and I will state that it is the minimum necessary awareness for consciousness itself. The ability to determine the separation of self from all that is not-self. I believe, in a minimalist way, this is the definition of self-awareness. Anything without this has neither opportunity, nor power of choice. The privilege of choice is a different story, one of power and circumstance, but the definition of choice allows for any person/animal/thing that has such awareness the power of choice, and nature constantly provides opportunity. I will briefly mention that the constancy of choice is what gives rise to time, and is inherent to self-awareness. but that intertwining circular definition of time and choice is for another ranting, one which hits more upon Godel and the idea that no self-referencing system can be free of paradox. For now, I will stay with this definition, and leave the more metaphysical definition for the after-arguments. Right now, the minimum requirement for the power and opportunity of choice is that awareness of separation between self and all else. This is an important distinction, an instinctive awareness is good enough.

Choice, back to the heart of the matter. When making choices for other sentient beings that also have the ability to choose, the being taking that away is depriving the other of liberty, freedom, and they are reducing the sentience and consciousness of the being that is deprived to one of lesser status, an arbitrary and arguable reduction at best. When people do it to animals, we do it as a matter of conscience in order to feel better about the (arguable) necessity of killing other sentient animals for food or in order to usurp common living areas for only people to live in. This allows us to make a distinction between murder, and simple killing. Make no mistake, this is the only distinction, any argument other than this is a semantic one, a prettying up of the concepts. Structured choice produces similar reactions in all organisms, and we can easily group them as such, but in order to alleviate a moralistic inequality, we make a distinction between us and them. Now we get to the current political issue of choice in giving birth, the subject I opened this with.

I said at the beginning that i believed that every woman under the age of 18 should have mandatory abortions when impregnated. I hope that produces reflexive anger in people. I truly believe that is the responsible course of action given world population, natural resource use, and the psychological maturity of the majority of teenage girls who have the physical ability to give birth, but don’t have the mental development to properly give a child a sense of responsibility in the world. However, I do not believe I have the right to take away the inherent power of choice from the women who would, or would not, give birth. Their inherent right to make that decision is not something I can arbitrarily take away, nor can any society that makes claims to liberty, freedom and individualism. The right to choose is not given to the baby that is yet-to-be-born. Our previous definition of awareness precludes it. The pre-born (a term right-to-life folks use to give a sense of impending life, but I like it for different reason I will show in a moment) have not had the opportunity to establish a separation of self from environment. That precludes them from having the power or opportunity for choice, by previous definitions. They are pre-born, and therefore pre-aware, and pre-life, which places them, by any non-hypocritical definition, at a lower state of awareness and therefore right of choice, to even our animal friends that we routinely slaughter. An egg is pre-born, sperm is pre-born, DNA fragments floating waiting to be inserted into a cell is all pre-born. If that is the term, then pre-born is pre-life,  and has no rights at all. A rock has no rights, the basic chemical building blocks of life are all pre-born, and they have no rights, so without any non-arbitrary temporal distinction, pre-born is pre-life and pre-rights. Parents routinely make decisions for their children, and to take that right away from them is contrary to all belief systems that advocate for parental rights. A person has the power and privilege of making choices, but they cannot escape the consequences and responsibilities of those choices. A woman who makes the choice to give birth should do so knowing that she will have to take the responsibility of that child on herself, alone. A man cannot be involved in the personal decision to carry the child, and therefore should not be required to be responsible for the consequences of said decision personally. Society in general is by its nature, but individual males should not be making the decision to carry children to term, and also should be absolved of responsibility of the burden by legal requirement. That is a hypocrisy and laziness of the society requiring it. While I make no statement here about a moral obligation by a societal convention or paradigm, it should not be a legal requirement in a society that claims individual opportunity, liberty, freedom and responsibility. A man has no business telling a woman what to do with her body, and she has no business telling a man that he has to be responsible for her decisions, nor should the courts or other legal bodies. Her decision, her responsibility, her liberty and freedom. To take that right away is to reduce the consciousness of a woman to that of something lesser than man, and on a level with young children, and even animals. Every woman who believes she has the same rights as a man, and every man who believes that too, and that women are capable, intelligent, responsible, independent beings with the ability to reason, interact, and contribute meaningfully to society in a manner that is anything other than a lesser role to men should be standing behind this.

i intentionally left out medical definitions of life, or humanity, or even a breakdown of a development of consciousness. that was done beautifully by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan in the book Billions and Billions. (Also in Parade magazine) Rather than plagiarize or redo their outstanding work, I will just reference it here. For me, it is a simple matter: the rights of the actuality override the rights of the potentiality, so the right of a woman to choose, overrides the right of the pre-born. Period. I quite honestly do not believe in the existence of rights for non-viable pre-born, and have limited belief in the rights of viable fetuses prior to actual natural delivery. i understand this personal belief is contradicted by medical interference and practice, and many fetuses have become living people with modern medical intervention and assistance. For me, this is a compromise, and my conservative nature allows this as a compromise, knowing that to do otherwise would then be legislating religious belief, which I am against as a proud American.

Choice. It’s a requirement for sentience, consciousness, and for a fetus to go from pre-born, to fully born, or to go from being pre-born to fully un-born. It is also required to give women the inherent rights they deserve: to be fully equal, independent and capable human beings with all the same rights and responsibilities as men in a free society.

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