What's it to ya?

The dating website OKCupid creates match percentages based on how participants answer participant-created questions. A popular question on the site is this: "Are some human lives worth more than others?" and a popular answer among the women whose profiles I've viewed is "Yes."

- - -

I don't generally like to talk about abortion on this website, for a few reasons.

First, because it's a very personal issue, and the internet is not a great place for discussing topics about which emotions are already pretty jacked up. Second, because as a man, it's not something that I'm ever going to have to deal with in my own body... I generally prefer leave that discussion (at least, on the internets) to women.

This didn't keep me from trying to write out a nuanced explanation of my thoughts on the matter back in 2009, expressing my frustration with what I see as a "Culture of Death" ...throwing in my two bits and then leaving them there until such time as something comes along to change my mind.

That hasn't really happened.

But this morning I came across a story that made me think about how a lot of women in this country seem to believe that some human lives are worth more than others. How such a high percentage of women say they would abort a deformed baby, and how -- in a very high percentage of cases of prenatally diagnosed down syndrome -- women do choose to abort the child.

Again... not something I'm having to deal with in my own body.

But when I saw the video embedded below, it made me wonder if in these cases, specifically, the ease with which we are willing to discard a human life because it is "abnormal" is yet another example of the mindset in which we view one sort of human life as being more valuable than another.

And I cannot help but feel in my gut that this is akin to the sort of ugly racism that is weakening and shaming this country, today.

I know it's a difficult issue, but I'd like to ask you to watch the video and ask yourself these questions:

"Would the world be a better place if Richie Parker had been aborted?"
"Is Richie Parker's life less worth living than mine, just because he hasn't any arms?"
"Are Richie Parker's parents better or worse off because they were handed the difficult task of raising such a child?"

I'm not trying to answer these questions for you... just putting them out there for your consideration. I'm not making a comment here on the law, nor am I attempting to weigh in on the screaming match that is "Women's Reproductive Rights."

I do think some things in life are worth getting worked up about... but that's not what I'm doing, here.

So, please... If you choose to comment... be gentle.


  1. "Would the world be a better place if Richie Parker had been aborted?" - This is not a legitimate question. You are asking us to imagine a theoretical person. Richie cannot be both alive, influencing the world and, at the same time, never have been born. There is no reality in which Richie was aborted but all the wonderful things he "would have" done are still around. There is no way to answer this question because if he was aborted we would not be here talking about him.

    Furthermore, your question can be rephrased thusly: "Would the world be a better place if Adolph Hitler had been aborted?" One might assume the answer is yes, but it is impossible to know. Perhaps an even greater evil would have come to power if Hitler weren't around. The question you pose simply does not work.

    "Is Richie Parker's life less worth living than mine, just because he hasn't any arms?" Again, I don't think this is a fair question. I can imagine a reality in which my physical debilities become so great that the pain of being alive seems less attractive than the relief of death. In that case, I might look at my own life and think it less worth living than someone who is healthy. There are cases where certain congenital defects are 100% fatal. One might view abortion in these cases as humane as they prevent the fetus further suffering. Is Richie's life less worth living? Of course not! But Richie doesn't represent everyone.

    "Are Richie Parker's parents better or worse off because they were handed the difficult task of raising such a child?" - This question does nothing to enlighten the abortion debate. He HAS parents! Two parents that clearly love him very much. They were able to care for him. That's great for Richie. I can honestly say that there are some people that are unfit to be parents. I have friends of friends that are meth addicts. They have a kid. He was regularly neglected until the state stepped in to remove him from the home. Are the meth-heads better or worse off for having a kid? Most of the time they don't even know they have a kid.

    The questions are great for Richie's story. But everyone's story is different. What works for Richie and his family may not work for everyone. I don't think answering those questions for RICHIE'S situation really sheds any light on the abortion debate at large.

    Kudos to you for facilitating a thoughtful discussion on such a heated topic :-)

    1. I don't really understand why asking you to imagine if the world would be a better place without Richie Parker is asking you to imagine a theoretical person. I'm asking you to imagine that a REAL person isn't here -- a la "It's a Wonderful Life."

      But you do raise an interesting question regarding Hitler, and the difficulty you pose is probably a better approach... because the real problem I have with erasing Richie Parker (or Hitler) is NOT that I think you (that is, the generic "you") should make some sort of value-of-life calculation according to some formula you've devised, and then conclude that his life IS worth more because he's an engineer and has had a happy family life -- it's that you would even make this calculation at all... that you would purport to be the arbiter of which lives are or aren't valuable enough to exist.

      We're too small, too finite to play God with the Lives of Others.

      I know it's very, very difficult, once we get down to the nuts and bolts of actually living with the consequences of what I'm proposing... but I look at human history and I see that every time people adopt a casual attitude toward the value of human life, things get ugly.

      I'm not just talking the ending of other lives, either. I'm talking the devaluation of life that allows us to live in comfort and ease on the bent and breaking backs of millions of factory workers, worldwide. I'm talking about the attitude that treats the environment with cavalier disdain -- that puts MY beliefs and desires of the moment ahead of the greater good.

      This is, to some degree, inescapable. We're all selfish monsters. Nonetheless... I do not aspire to accept the inescapable. I aspire to transcendence. And as Bono says, "If you wanna touch the sky, you gotta learn how to kneel."

      This would be my response to your second objection, as well. I, too, can imagine a situation where I would wish to die, or where I would hope for the release of death for someone I loved. That doesn't mean that I would be right in my assessment... that it would therefore be okay for me to take a life.

      A friend of mine lost a brother to that assessment -- to his inability to see any good beyond the hardship he was currently in. I feel a lot of compassion for him in that, having lived through long, long periods of depression, myself. Nonetheless, it's not too hard for someone NOT living inside his head -- someone with just a little broader perspective -- to see that he was wrong. That there IS joy beyond the pain of a moment. That life is bigger and better than he could see.


    2. CONT'D from above...

      These ARE hard questions... but that doesn't mean I'm up to the task of answering them. That I should take that burden on myself.

      My last question makes more sense, I think, if you examine it in the light of what I've been saying, here. My point is that despite the instinctive belief of many women that their lives will be better off without their down syndrome or otherwise disabled child, this is something THEY CANNOT KNOW.

      The child of meth addicts has certainly endured that which no one should have to endure. But does that mean that he can't have a rich life? That he can't be grateful for the gift of his own life? That WE should be the ones to decide that it would be better if he did not exist?

      My own life is immensely complicated because of the existence of my son. Because of him, I've felt more intense emotional pain than I would have ever thought possible. Would I BEFOREHAND have not had him if you'd shown me even just one hour of the pain I would come to feel. ABSOLUTELY. Because at that point, I was ignorant of the joy that was possible within the sorrow.

      But would I undo any of it, now? NO! In fact, the idea of NOT having him -- despite all the pain I've been through -- is absolutely HORRIFYING to me, now.

      My point is not to argue from the particular value I've received to a general principal, though. It is to argue from my ignorance toward greater humility.

      This might be where our viewpoints are diverging.

      Another place could be if you don't believe that there is any sort of God beyond your own capacity -- no reality beyond your ability to attain. If that's the case, then it could be that I sound like I'm talking nonsense, here. I'm not sure if my argument completely falls apart without a God. Without a Mysterious Beyond. Maybe, maybe not.

      It could also be the case that you agree with my conclusions, and are merely trying to point out what you perceive to be holes in my argument.

      I wonder.

    3. Oh, and thank you SO much for engaging... I do get tired of the sound of my own voice :)

  2. Seems like this sort of logic strongly entails Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts