Monday, February 12, 2007

Abortion: Let the debate begin.

This is basically a response to the following article by a scholar:

So, it appears that once again someone wants to discuss the abortion debate. Makau Mutua held nothing back in his article “Time to lift the lid on the abortion debate” (Sunday Nation, June 25th 2006), and it appears that he is obviously pro-choice on the matter. Well, in that case, by all means, let the issue be discussed; however, note that some of the untruths and omissions that were evident in Mr. Mutua’s article will need to be spelt out and clarified.

Very truthfully, Mr. Mutua is right in pointing out that, “…The true measure of a civilized society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable.” And his list includes groups ranging from women and girls, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, the weak and the impoverished. However, it goes without saying that he is leaving out the most vulnerable group of them all: THE UNBORN CHILD. What could be weaker than a voiceless creature that has to derive all its sustenance and its initial being from another individual? Very clever omission! I believe that since Mr. Mutua has apparently lived in the USA for a while, he might counter the notion of the unborn child’s rights using the PERSONHOOD argument that seems to have become the rage these days in pro-choice arguments.

It is nothing short of astounding the lengths that people (ranging from philosophers, professors, doctors and a host of others professionals) would go to try to determine the point in time at which a human being acquires its “personhood”, which, hence, is the point at which it acquires its “human integrity” and thus is entitled to human rights. Science might be very advanced in the 21st century, but I would bet that this is one of the great mysteries that it will never be able to answer; goodness, even the provision of an arbitrary point is something that it can never hope to achieve.

Some scholars have tried to make “personhood” coincide with the onset of brain activity. This is why sometime last year the claim was made that an abortion of a child early in the first trimester would be painless for the child because its neurological development at that stage would preclude the sensation of pain. In essence, the argument here appears to be that if the “creature” is unable to feel pain or show brain wave activity then it is safe to dispose of it because it can’t be considered fully human. All the philosophical language in the world cannot gloss that fact over. It is said that Kenya is a third world country, but that is only according to its infrastructure and economic breadth; however, we are a first world country when it comes to issues of humanity, and I hope that no such notions (disguised as scholarly rhetoric) ever seep into our midst either in this century or the centuries to come. It is unbelievable that as advanced as the western world has become with regards to Developmental Biology, it still tries to sell us the idea that the embryo and the foetus are not just as human as the rest of us.

Mr. Mutua’s next line of defense appears to be the new breed of “enlightened” women MPs that have decided to broach the abortion issue (albeit on separate occasions). No less than Honourables Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua and Cecily Mbarire have spoken out on the issue. First of all, the author commits a grave mistake by vesting his argument in the integrity of politicians; their knack for offering quick fixes to endemically cyclical problems is a thing of beauty (remember the rushed Tobacco Ban!) Also, the author seems to forget that politicians are prone to throwing their weight on issues capable of garnering them political mileage; hence, when the author was so quick to believe that Hon. Ngilu faltered under the barrage she received from her peers, perhaps he should also consider that she is a politician, and perhaps just jumped ship before the electorate did away with her (I imagine that does not take a stretch of the imagination).

And kudos to Hon. Mbarire, for showing that we, the youth, are a misguided lot beset by western ideals. Of course abortion is a national epidemic, but even if we “…take the only humane course, that is to legalize and decriminalize abortion…” it will still remain just that: a national epidemic. Whether abortion is legalized or not, it will always suffer from the problem of unintended consequences – if it’s illegal, many young girls and women and ‘children’ will die each year and survivors will be left worse for the wear; if it’s legal, millions of ‘children’ will be killed, and this number will probably be further multiplied by the women who will opt for multiple abortions throughout the course of their lifetime. If the unborn child is considered “sub-human” this appears to be a fair trade, but a lesser conviction in that tenet would mean that this would be considered a ‘holocaust’.

It is insightful to see how the opposition to these MPs is seen as espousing religious zealotry and patriarchy. After all, “…opposition to a woman’s right to choose is a proxy for the patriarchy to retain its stranglehold on the destiny and the lives of women…” Firstly, the author needs to understand one thing: people can be both religious and rational. In fact, if science be the bread that feeds the author’s soul, he’d do well to remember that it was in fact religion that spurred the early scientists to their greatest heights of achievement. Secondly, it is absolutely irresponsible of the author to degrade women’s ability to give birth as if it were some sort of slavery. Granted, we men have not treated our women with the respect they deserve (I apologize in advance for my gender), but we can never forsake the role they play in shaping the lives of our children and society at large. As the old Swahili adage goes, “Asiyefunzwa na mamaye hufunzwa na ulimwengu.” What we men (born of this enlightened age) are supposed to do is support our women, renounce our manly privilege and hasten equal opportunity, show them that their value is not inherent in child-birth, and help them out both personally, and by introducing measures to help them raise the next generation of Kenyans.

The notion of sexual irresponsibility has also been raised as another issue to support abortion. I mean, can you imagine saddling a woman with a whole unplanned pregnancy, while the perpetrating male gets off scot-free? If anything, this is an indictment of the sexual revolution that is sweeping over the country. People have their rights, and they want to have ‘free sex’ without bearing any consequences. Nothing in this life occurs without any consequences, and in this case, we should not use our misguided choices to justify punishing an innocent being that did not ask to be formed. Short of a change in lifestyle, the only way to address this issue is through tough legislation that would force such bawdy men to pay greatly for their consequences by committing them to pay for the upkeep of the child. However, I am not trying to go the route of the USA where women trap men so as to get alimony payments from them; rather, I believe that the mother of the child should also be ‘forcefully’ committed towards equally working to support and care for the child, especially financially.

The most laughable fallacy raised by the author is the fact that only rich women are able to afford abortions, even if they are illegal, thus punishing the poorer women who are denied the same luxury. I dare say that even if abortion was legalized, these same poor women would still be unable to afford the procedure (in case you haven’t noticed Mr. Mutua, we live in KENYA!) Perhaps Mr. Mutua would recommend some form of government subsidy to cover for the cost of these abortions. Yes sir, don’t use our tax money to build our roads or send a child to school, but instead invest it in destroying the life of a fledgling Kenyan who couldn’t possibly relish the task of living in dire poverty! Such false sympathy for the poor is so laughable it reminds me of the time one of my colleagues at a college (in the US) informed me of how one of his American classmates remarked that “…the world would be a better place if we just killed all the poor people…”

Bottom line, poverty is a vicious cycle, and it needs immediate and extreme measures to be implemented if we want to alleviate it. Our MPs should remember that the next time they spend their days uselessly bickering or raise their emoluments for no reason at all; that money could actually achieve a lot more wisely invested in the lives of ‘future Kenyans’ than it can in the hands of a few politicians.

I would like to conclude by focusing on two more of Mr. Mutua’s statements: one, “Kenyans must also understand that their country is secular, and its laws must accommodate all, including those who are non-believers;” and two, “No society can fully develop unless it endows all of its citizens with the full compliment of human rights.”

Kenya may be secular, but even before the issue of infusing the law with religion is considered, the author should remember that every human being has a basic understanding of NATURAL LAW. Natural law, in fact pre-dated some of the rules laid out in the Bible; hence, when Christ commanded that we love others as we love ourselves, He was simply reiterating the natural law tenet that stated that “we treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated.” Amazing that such wisdom was already in existence before the Son of God even walked the earth! Basically put, in a secular society, life is still highly regarded and snuffing it unnecessarily is never acceptable. Come to think of it, in a society devoid of any God, is there a more “sanctified” object than human life itself?

Of course Mr. Mutua is a professor of law so he had to argue about us being given our full human rights. Perhaps, the professor needs to become a student yet again, because he has forgotten the basic fact that our rights are judged by the effect that they have on our fellow citizens’ rights. Therefore, since we do not exercise our rights in a vacuum, we cannot disregard the effect they will have on others (as in, the unborn child a woman happens to be carrying). The arguments are really endless against abortion, but for those who need a visual aid, one need only reflect on the slippery slopes that it leads to in nations that choose it as a way of life: a diminished view of life, which has resulted in louder calls for Euthanasia, Gender selection (with people now being able to pick their baby’s sex) and one cannot forget the inverted population pyramids that are beginning to typify North America and Europe. Is it a wonder that some of these governments have to offer their own citizens incentives so that they can have more children? Is it a surprise that these governments are going to have to rely on more immigrants to perform their labor as their geriatric populations begin to far out number their youths?

My dear Kenyans, take heed of the lessons the world has to offer; and especially, learn from the mistakes that the developed countries have made and steer clear of them.

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