Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Selling Abortion

It has been fifteen years since the Termination of Pregnancy Act legalised abortion on demand in this country. Yet it is only now that the government is seemingly acting on one of the provisos of the Act – namely, the banning of illegal abortion advertising.

In Cape Town, such lamppost banners have become a part of the urban landscape, all of which promise womb-cleansing and cheap and safe abortions amongst a myriad of other bizarre services such as penis enlargement and good luck. The government has resolved to bring the law to bear on such offenders, acting in concert with provincial government.

In terms of the legislation, and of the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa, only one organisation has been cleared to advertise in such a fashion – the Marie Stopes family planning clinics. Marie Stopes is a European Union-funded, not-for-profit organisation that provides abortion services in 43 different countries.

And fifteen years since government-funded abortions became part and parcel of our sexual culture, Marie Stopes--both the person and the organisation--offers us an intriguing avenue by which to assess the state of abortion in our land, and its meaning for our society, both politically and morally.

Marie Stopes, the person, was a British botanist turned women’s rights activist who came to prominence during the first half of the 20th century. She established a number of clinics that provided contraception for women and those clinics became the seed for a global organisation that helped to underpin a revolution in modern sexual ethics. Her name has become a by-word for the normalisation of abortion as a legal and commonplace medical procedure. Stopes was recently given her own 50 pence stamp in Britain honouring her life’s work.

Yet this was not without controversy, for the stamp evoked a new wave of criticism of the ethics of Marie Stopes. For Stopes was a eugenicist – she believed in the necessity of mass sterilisation and abortion so as to preserve the integrity of a superior culture. Stopes advocated a kind of left-wing fascism, that would endorse sterilisation of the feeble, as well as child labour of the lower classes.

To this end, on the eve of World War II, Stopes sent a book of her poetry to the National Socialist f├╝hrer of Germany, Adolf Hitler, saying, 'Dear Herr Hitler, Love is the greatest thing in the world: so will you accept from me these that you may allow the young people of your nation to have them?'

Stopes’ American counterpart and collaborator, Margaret Sanger (the founder of Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives roughly $300 million in government funding, with over 820 branches throughout the U.S. that account for over a quarter of the country’s abortions) has an ideological background parallel to her co-revolutionary. Sanger had connections not only with Hitler’s eugenics directors, but also with the Ku Klux Klan. In 1921 she wrote in a birth control journal how ‘eugenics is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.’ In 1939 Sanger wrote to a colleague with advice on how to market birth-control to African Americans, warning that they did ‘not want word to go out that [they] want to exterminate the Negro population.’ She also advocated that governments should control birth rates through the issuing of permits for babies. This was all justified by the belief that motherhood was a role engineered by a patriarchal society so as to oppress women, and was not in itself something that was innately feminine or even human.

The racism and bigotry that taints the pro-choice movement has begun to be noticed internationally. Shocking statistics were recently revealed by the New York Times that over half of all black pregnancies in New York are terminated. Meanwhile, in China, the United Nations Population Fund, assisted by the funding authorised by US President Barack Obama, aids and abets China’s one-child policy through an array of coercive abortions and sterilisations – while turning a blind eye to the systematic slaughter of Chinese baby girls who are unwanted by parents desirous of a son to perpetuate their family name.

It is becoming increasingly clear, therefore, that abortion has become the primary means by which to curb the poor and non-white segments of the world’s population. In other words, the aims and desires of abortionists such as Sanger and Stopes have been meticulously fulfilled – abortion is stemming the birth rates of the black, the yellow, and the impoverished. The lower classes of the globalised world are being systematically culled so as to allay their numbers in comparison with aging western populations.

This brings us back to our nation’s official and governmental approval of the activities of the Marie Stopes group - activities funded by the European Union and described by their founder in no uncertain terms as a kind of race warfare.

Officially, abortion is described by government agencies as a means by which to avoid unwanted pregnancies, so as to safeguard the right of a woman to choose and be protected from economic and mental distress. On a wider level, abortion has also been encouraged as a means by which to stifle the apparent threat of over-population.

But such reasoning is deeply flawed. Firstly, more children than ever before are now being born out of wedlock and outside of the security of a two-parent family. Without that social structure, a child’s future is deeply compromised. Abortion – and indeed large-scale contraception – has played a massive role in this deep social crisis because it encourages a view of sexuality that fractures sex from its natural and logical consequences, which are the conception and rearing of shared children. This leads to a vicious circle whereby the proposed solution to unwanted pregnancies only reinforces the culture that creates unwanted pregnancies, as well as the increased transmission of HIV-Aids.

Secondly, it is deeply hypocritical for western governments to favour abortion as a means of population control when they are attempting to stimulate their own birth rates as a means to secure their crumbling welfare states. Ultimately, overpopulation is a myth. There are enough resources for everybody in the planet. The problem is the distribution and stewardship of such resources. Population control thus acts as a band-aid for the real festering wound of unjust global economic practices; it is a devious kind of political misdirection.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect to this issue is the stark and stunning lack of political engagement with the moral ramifications of abortion. It is simply taken as a given, and this reveals some of the darker problems with our modern politics.

Aristotle believed there to be three natural and necessary political associations: the family, the village, and the state. All three were vital if humankind were to achieve the good life – the life of justice. Yet we live in a day when all three are facing existential crises. The family has been ravaged; the village is virtually non-existent; and the state is perhaps the most distrusted institution on earth.

The reason, if we are to follow Aristotle’s formulation, is blatantly obvious. Our politics no longer places the pursuit of the good as its primary concern. As a result, many of our institutions have lost their will to live, while others have simply become platforms for the gathering looted wealth – with a veneer of revolutionary rhetoric.

The abortion issue is therefore something of an icon for this modern political crisis. For when it comes to the issue of abortion, we do not ask ourselves whether the termination of human life in the womb is good or just, we simply ask whether it fits into a very flawed pre-packed parcel of supposedly liberal ideas. And so we find ourselves in the strange situation of simply swallowing the bitter pills of imperial masters such as Stopes and Sanger without pausing to ask whether we are being poisoned.

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