Saturday, September 10, 2005

Society's Child
A Guest Post By Kate B.

A few posts down, Dawn asked the following question:

"Specifically, I would like to know, if a woman feels no instinctive maternal love towards her child, can she be called psychologically healthy? Or is the complete lack of instinctive maternal love a sign of mental illness?"

I'd like to expand that question. Why? Too often—in fact, almost completely—we focus on the woman considering abortion as if she somehow got into that situation alone, or as if she would be alone in dealing with the consequences. Thus, we say that whatever she decides to do about her pregnancy is solely her choice, or solely her problem.  But she didn't get pregnant alone. There was a man involved, somehow. The two of them had parents, teachers, friends, siblings, etc, all of whom contributed to the couple's understanding of sex, reproduction, birth control, and responsibility, and all of whom will still be around after the pregnancy ends, however that happens. One could even say that the couple in question are, together, the baby of an enormous extended family. We—the society that formed that couple—are its family.  We gave birth to them.

Nonetheless, we continue to talk about the issues surrounding abortion as issues of the pregnant woman's personal choice.  When we do this, we separate ourselves from the consequences of her choice, and also from our own responsibility in influencing her choices.  The line between respect and abandonment, between "It's her choice, not mine," and "It's her problem, not mine," is spider-silk thin, if it exists at all.

So I would like to expand Dawn's question.  Are we, as homo sapiens, instinctually communal, or must it be learned? And if a society—at the cultural and political levels, as well as at the levels of neighborhoods, churches, and families of which societies are made—feels no instinctive love, or at least an urge to protect, its children, can it be considered sane?

In other words, can a respect of humans that seems based solely on individual autonomy be considered sane?

If it can't, the typical pro-choice, "It's her problem, not mine" line of reasoning needs to be re-examined.  As does the (I hope) atypical pro-life stance "It's her problem (because she shouldn't have gotten pregnant/had sex/gone to public school/etc.), not mine."

We need to decide if the hands-off approach is sane, in light of our nature and instincts.  If it isn't, we need to come up with hands-on approaches for the couple in question and their children.

Because it can't only be about the woman—she didn't get here alone.