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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

To Want, or Not Want, A Pregnancy

So I apologize for a long happens. 

However, to dive back into some curious intellectual stimulation, I have a little article to share with you. In summary, it is a young woman who decided to do a social experiment on a college campus by wearing a baby suit for a few days to record the reactions of other students. She wanted to see if a baby would be as well-accepted and celebrated on a campus as Prince George was for Kate and William. Her thesis after the experiment of the college/university mentality was this, “It’s ok to have sex, but an unwanted pregnancy is still considered shameful.” (Please feel free to read the whole article, as it will help with the context of this post.) 

I began to think about this article more, beyond the disappointment that this young woman experienced in her social rejection. Why was it that she was shunned, exactly? It seemed as if people felt like she was infectious, or somehow could spread her "condition."

This lead me to consider why it is that people would assume that her pregnancy is a disease, or a condition, rather than... a pregnancy. The logical answer was that the assumption was based on the desirability of the child. Kate and William wanted to be pregnant - therefore, pregnancy is a normal state, even a good one. A young student couldn't possibly want to have a child - therefore, the pregnancy was a disease. 

This thought process was also enhanced when I heard of a MSNBC host who stated that the beginning of life could not be determined by science. Her exact quote was, "When does life begin? I submit the answer has an awful lot to do with the feeling of the parents, a very powerful feeling, but not science...." (Please feel free to watch the video.)

This seems to be the same mentality that the young woman was experiencing in her campus/university experiment; the feeling of the parent must be one of embarrassment, shame, doubt, disappointment, or desperation. The feeling of the parent clearly isn't excitement, joy, gratitude, peace or contentment. 

However, this begs an important question. What is the rationale being employed here? Is it as simple as people assuming things about others? Is it simply that this young girl is probably pregnant out of wedlock, probably doesn't have a stable job, probably will need financial assistance to raise this child, and probably doesn't have the father in the picture? Would it be more accepted if the pregnant girl had obvious signs of wealth and was holding hands with the man who was probably the father? In some ways, I think we can guess that people would be more accepting if it appeared that the child was in the context of a good relationship, but that still goes back to the element of desire versus accident.

A Catholic perspective on conception is based on principals drawn from Aristotle and from St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as obvious modern science. Two cells (egg and sperm) meet and are fused into one, new cell. This new cell has new DNA, a new program or structure that immediately begins to unfold. The cell begins to divide. The cell is active, mobile, busy. It is clearly animated. It has movement and growth. It is not a rock. We hold that trees are alive because they have animation, and grow. They have souls, in the sense that they have a form for their matter. They certainly do not have souls like animals, who also do not have souls like people, but these creatures that grow are animated, and clearly alive. So we can understand the newly formed cell. There must be a soul, some kind of animus, that is the potential that is written into the cell structure - the form that will be expressed over time as the cells divine and take shape, forming the person who has just been created. Catholics hold that at that moment when the two cells are fused, conception takes place, and a new person is created. This means that a soul is infused by God. We are always an "embodied soul" - a soul and a body, form and matter, which are together at the beginning and remain so until we die. 

In that context, I look back at the comment of the news host: life begins based on the feeling of the parent. Then I look at the experiment done by the young woman: life is only acceptable and worthy of celebration when it is desired. Are these not the same thing, in essence? 

Where a certain group of people would understand the power of God to be what affects life, another group would replace the idea of "God" in the process of life with "man." It is the mother, or the father, or the parents, or some other outside person, who determines if this is a life, and the value the life has. Isn't that exactly what we see within the culture of abortion? It is a medical doctor's opinion, or the feeling of the mother, that determines if a child lives or dies, and this is predetermined on the very "existence" of a child in the womb, versus simply understanding the baby as cells/tissue/fetal matter, etc... 

I think it's rather obvious, actually. If you remove a cause, you remove an effect. Remove God as a cause, then the effect is not necessarily a human life. If you replace the cause with man, then the effect is determined according to man. 

I believe this is the general consensus of how many people perceive unborn life. I would venture to say that the young woman's experiment revealed more than simply "students aren't supposed to be parents." I think it points to a much larger rationale that is accepted overall by society today, and that is that we do not have an origin or an end that is God. This means we are free from the idea of "god." This means that man has free reign to determine his own standards, values, and structures. This means that if man has decided that “It’s ok to have sex, but an unwanted pregnancy is still considered shameful,” then this is a moral truth that will be upheld and supported. It also means that if ten years from now there is a swing in society to reclaim a certain level of femininity that protects the mother in the work place and in the school from feeling isolated or diseased, because she is empowered to want her baby at any point, then that will be a moral truth that is upheld and supported until whatever next wave of rationale takes hold. The problem with no cause and no end is that there is no permanent truth that is accepted throughout the intermediary time (that would be, life). You are born, and you die. In between, good luck! That's what being a free human means. How you feel about something is measurable only against the popular societal rationale, because it is man, and therefore, society, who determines the moral compass. 

There were many other elements of the young woman's story that I would like to have considered, and perhaps at another time I will. However, I think this very broad idea raises some interesting questions for us. If even science, which for so long has been what replaced "god" in our culture (as it was able to do everything that "god" could supposedly do), has now been pushed to the sidelines as something to be referenced only when convenient, and it is nothing but man's "feelings" that determine truth... well, where do we think that mentality will lead us? Assuming that a mother doesn't want her child, and therefore treating her as if she were infected with an unfortunate disease, does not seem like a very cultured, accepting, educated or principled society. Seems like an unfortunate thing to go through, as is evidenced by the young woman's feelings at the end of her experiment.

Maybe we need to consider the bigger questions a little more deeply, or even, at all.

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