Doodle: Abortion and an Unborn Baby Rhino

PoachingI am unaware of a single word that describes the leveraging of misfortune and tragedy to bolster your position in an argument. Though there are plenty of fitting adjectives that describe this sort of thing: insensitive, shameless, selfish and entrepreneurial—the worst kind. Just a month ago we saw two gut-wrenching mass shootings in America. To add to that devastating misfortune, many treated the national heartbreak as a stage to float gun law reform. American politics is not really my domain, and it certainly is not my topic for this post. It merely serves as a vivid example of the thing I hope to avoid doing in this post. In fact, my intention is not much to draw an analogy as much as it is to highlight a stark inconsistency. Here goes.

Almost two years ago, in November 2017, photos emerged of a rhinoceros (or rhino) that had been poached. The poachers  were disturbed while attempting to saw off her horn. For those living outside of South Africa, this is a regrettably common occurrence. So what was different about this incident? Soon after pictures emerged of the dead rhino it was reported that she had been pregnant. Tragically, not much later, pictures could be found online not only of the dead mother but of her unborn calf, which also died. It is an awful story. Poaching is devastating. Those pictures moved me in a way that previous photos of poached animals had not. By now, I am sure you can see where this post is heading.

You can still find the article on social media and news sites, with it resurfacing every couple of months, always met with unrestrained rage and vitriol. Here is a sampling of comments I have read on photos of the unborn rhino as well as articles:

  • ‘This is just wrong. Heartbreaking story’
  • ‘May those killers burn in hell, because that is where they will go some day’
  • ‘I hope the perpetrators are found and hanged in public for all to see’
  • ‘I hope that before they kill these poachers they murder their families in front of them’

Now I am not a poacher-sympathiser. Scrolling through some of the back and forth in comments sections has made me far too afraid. Though I will unapologetically say that the life of a rhino is not worth the life of a human. I want to make one simple point about this tragic event and the voluminous keyboard backlash.

Let me first state my point in the form of a question: how can we place a higher value on the life of an unborn rhinoceros than we do on unborn humans? In all the comments I read and conversations I have had about the Pilanesberg poaching not one person raised questions over whether the unborn rhino was actually a rhino. Sure, without the cow’s body it – evidently – could not survive. It hadn’t taken its first breathes or steps, nor did it express independence or autonomy. But the shrill outrage online never asked if this was actually an unborn rhino. To put it positively: everyone agreed that what made this tragedy worse was that it involved the death of not just one but two rhinos: mother and calf. The unborn status of the latter did not feature in the story as an unfortunate subplot—it made the headline. Yet, in the present debates around abortion, some of the most commonly plied rhetoric by the pro-choice side is that the unborn foetus is not human. The tragic poaching event from 2017 reveals how grossly inconsistent and shamelessly convenient such a position is.

Does your heart break when you see the photos or hear the story of the pregnant cow and her calf, killed by poachers at Pilanesberg? Mine does. For these kinds of happenings reveal the darker and rapacious side of humanity, as well as the low value we place on creation. But if that story upsets you, abortion should outrage you. Because it reveals the selfish ease with which we murder unborn humans. If poaching is evil, abortion is incomparably evil. For human life is priceless.

Doodle: Thanos and Abortion

Last year I wrote a satirical piece at Rekindle, 5 Steps to Feeling Better About Killing Unborn Children. Though a few readers called my approach insensitive and unhelpful, I remain convinced that satire has its place in debate—even this one. In case you missed that article, and do not plan on reading it, I tried to unveil the callous, cruel and murderous truths about abortion, particularly behind the pro-choice rhetoric. In this short doodle I want to outline a phenomenon I have observed in the incendiary conversations around this issue, at the personal and legislative levels. What is that? As lobbies push to have the option for abortion set later in a pregnancy, it seems to me that people on all sides are growing increasingly uncomfortably that we are killing children. But before we get to that, let us consider Thanos.

Marvel AvengersThe question I want to put to you, off the back of Avengers: Infinity War, is this: can we really call Thanos a villain? I am not contrasting his surprisingly deep and conflicted character with the cardboard cut-out nemeses typical of Marvel films. My question is concerning his mission, to restore balance in the universe by wiping out half of all living things. In fact, a recent article at Forbes actually argued that Thanos’ ambitions may not be evil or even wrong. “Look at our planet,” we can imagine someone saying, “it cannot endure humanity’s abusive consumption, devastating expansion and careless disposal of waste.” If only half of the world’s population simply vanished, with the click of a finger, surely we would find ourselves in a far more sustainable position. What Thanos set out to accomplish is arguably something desperately needed—at least on earth, I can’t speak for other species. So is he really a villain?

Despite the above, no one is rooting for Thanos. Because his life’s goal is nothing less than killing half of all living things. For this we deem him the villain, and most likely went to watch Avengers: Endgame to see his efforts foiled. Coming back to the matter of abortion, I think we can draw an uncomfortable contrast between how we view abortion and Thanos. Though the former is a disturbing fate for innumerable unborn children most of us are more concerned with the fictional genocide. Only, pro-choice advocates do recognise the similarities, which is apparent in the adapted defence and arguments we are hearing more and more.

BabyIn my previous post I pointed out how pro-choice rhetoric majors in women, progress and prefers impersonal ways of speaking about the unborn (foetus, cells, etc.). But as the option for later and – in some abhorrently distressing places – full term abortion becomes a reality it simultaneously becomes harder to deny what is happening. We have all seen the pictures. Those are babies. In many cases they would survive outside the womb. Murder of unborn children is being sanctioned and most people with any sense know it. It is here that a shift takes place. For as long as the aborted life bears no marks of human life or form people were fairly comfortable to affirm a woman’s right to choose. But now many people are finding that harder to swallow, let alone stomach.

Re-enter Thanos. Stripped of the rhetoric he is simply a murderous tyrant. He wants to kill half of all living beings in the universe; we, on a smaller scale, want to kill babies without it unsettling our consciences. So we do what he does: justify it. How? Socioeconomic factors. So pro-choice advocates ask questions such as: what kind of access will the child have to education; will this perpetuate poverty and crime cycles; and what about the life that the mother will never have? These considerations are not unlike those employed by Thanos when he wiped out half the universe. Yet we despise him for that. We call him evil. We long and hope for justice. Sadly many people only possess that sober assessment when it comes to a fictional universe on the screen, and tragically lack it when it comes to earth.

5 Steps to Feeling Better About Killing Unborn Children

The old guard, out-dated media, hate-filled Christians, and a few pesky psychologists – as well as psychiatrists – have for too long persuaded the general public that abortion is harmful. Fortunately in recent times this oppressive narrative has been overturned. If we ignore the fact an unborn human is killed during an abortion, they certainly have become “safe, pain-free, and convenient.” But another phenomenon has been harder to deal with: our consciences. It is almost as if we know that killing another human out of self-preservation is wrong, even evil. So I have assembled a few of the choicest ways to get around your annoying conscience, arranging them into five easy steps.

1. Use cold, scientific, and dissociative terms

Firstly, you have to stop using phrases such as unborn child and words that make you uncomfortable, like ‘human,’ ‘baby,’ and ‘life.’ What you need to do next is depersonalise and dehumanise whatever is growing inside the womb. The word foetus is a great tool when doing this. No one gets attached to a foetus, surely a foetus does not have feelings or significance. I would go as far as saying you should give up the word abortion, opting for termination. You know, like when you cancel your contract with MTN or Standard Bank. You could go even further and refer to it simply as an operation, opaque enough that you could be speaking about the removal of an appendix. The bottom line is you must choose your language carefully, which will help you to think less about taking the life of an unborn, helpless child.

2. Major in women and forget the foetus

women's reproductive rightsThis step will sound both extremely selfish and selectively narrow, but you need to make abortion a matter of women’s rights, freedoms, and challenging the patriarchy. This is a very effective step because it proves that anyone who values a foetus does not value women. In fact, anyone who tries to tell a woman that terminating her unwanted growth – similar to cancer really – is wrong is a chauvinist and bigot. Who gets to tell others what they can and cannot with their bodies? Oppressors. This rhetoric provides a remarkably impressive smokescreen, entirely obscuring the fact that another body is even in the frame. If you find that this step is not working, either to ease your conscience or defeat your opponents, just remember that it is always those with power who get to choose, with no regard for the weak. And those weak-minded fundamentalists and even weaker foetuses have no say.

3. Forget the evils of ‘service providers’ such as Planned Parenthood

This is a very important step if you are to successfully sear your conscience about certain abortion practices and clinics. We do need to first consider the undeniable facts: Planned Parenthood sells the organs of terminated foeti. Now, this may sound like something that Nazi doctors would carry out, experimenting on hapless Jews and other minorities in the 1940s. But it is not, because they are experimenting on foeti, not humans. Though it is odd that the organs and tissue harvested from whatever is growing inside those pregnant women can be matched with and even given to actual human babies. While working towards forgetting the obvious evils done in these clinics we can also learn from these practitioners: they are remarkably calloused to the point that it is strength, like a worker’s blistered hands. Just listen to how they speak about killing unborn babies (crushing spines and dismembering foeti), without a hint of remorse. Powerful. Nietzschean.

4. Speak about victory, progress, and triumphs

planned parenthoodMany doctors around the world and throughout history have laboured tirelessly to preserve the lives of children growing inside the womb. Simultaneously – and somewhat ironically – vast progress has also been made in the field of abortions. This might seem disingenuous. On one side doctors are caring for these foeti and on the other they are killing them, yet both are commended. But let’s overlook this peculiar paradox and speak exclusively about historical victories, such as Roe versus Wade and Casey versus Planned Parenthood. Thanks to these momentous triumphs women have reclaimed their reproductive rights and bodies. Simultaneously the shackles have been thrown off of medicine, meaning its advances can now be used to kill those it was designed to and initially sought to protect. Progress indeed.

5. Believe the lies

I am not here revisiting Planned Parenthood (above), or medical professionals who have successfully grown wealthy by butchering humans and trading their body parts. I want to finish where we started. Many people who have had abortions might try and tell you they regret it, will never forget it, and suffer intense emotional scarring as a result of it. What should you make of this? There is no doubt that the vast progress in the field of medicine means abortions are standard and safe procedures, resulting in little or no pain. Your body, future reproduction, and sex life will not be endangered. But will you be able to walk away both physically and emotionally whole? Yes, of course. What do those people who have had abortions and spend their entire lives regretting them really know? This is arguably the hardest step, because it involves the killing off of your conscience. If you are unable to do that, then abortion – for whatever reason – will always haunt you. So believe the lies: convince yourself that killing an unborn, defenceless, and  miraculous new life will not affect you, permanently.