How Technology Could End the Abortion Debate
Imagine a world where plucking out a fertilized egg and incubating it to term is safer and less invasive than a first trimester abortion.
Photo: Philippe Put/Flickr
Opinion: Christopher Benek imagines a world where plucking out a fertilized egg and incubating it to term is safer and less invasive than a first trimester abortion.
On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, handed down two landmark rulings that legalized abortion in America.
The impact of those rulings has created one of the most controversial ethical debates in United States history.
In the future, however, I believe advancing technology will render this court decision uncivilized and ultimately will lead to abortion being outlawed in its entirety.
As a pastor, I have met with numerous women over the years who have voluntarily undergone abortion procedures. In all my years of ministry, I have never met anyone who thinks that having an abortion is a good thing in and of itself. The procedure is dangerous to the holistic health of the mother and it is fatal for the developing baby. Aborting a child is usually only perceived as the best option among a bunch of bad options.
From the accounts of the women I have encountered, the practice typically comes about as a result of a utilitarian ethic. Women who experience an unwanted pregnancy oftentimes find themselves without viable support networks that pledge to nurture them through the nine months of pregnancy, the birthing process, and the many years of child rearing that follow. Many women who face an unwanted pregnancy are often very young and see the pregnancy as an impediment to their immediate and long-term future. The medical costs many times seem insurmountable and only promise dismal debt. Sometimes the pregnancy can also be a harsh reminder of an abusive relationship.
Moreover, while pro-lifers love to march each year on Washington and hold elaborate fundraisers, the truth is that majority of the movement really fails to take steps that actually make a tangible difference in the individuals' lives of those who find themselves in crisis.
From what I have experienced of the pro-life movement, it has become rank with cronyism and often is more concerned about maintaining a culture of fear and political posturing than it is about actually helping to provide solutions to the problems that women face. There seems to be almost no effort, by the majority of pro-life activists, to work themselves out of their jobs for the good of humanity. Actually, the norm seems to be quite the opposite.
From what I have experienced of the pro-life movement, it has become rank with cronyism and often is most concerned about maintaining a culture of fear and political posturing
Maybe the biggest failure of all has come from the entity that I represent: the church universal. Churches are frequently the loudest opponents of abortion but often do the least to alleviate the problems that accompany unwanted pregnancy. Pregnant teenage girls are, ironically, often ostracized from the communities of faith. Churches do little to question the corrupt processes of the adoption industry in the US and the world. The social support mechanism that the church is uniquely capable of providing to young mothers and children are often neglected or even avoided by congregations. Personally, I see this failure of care towards families, women, and children as one of the great failures of the modern Christianity.
So with all of the aforementioned considerations, one can easily see the frustrations that come with each side of the abortion argument. But in the future, I believe these debates are going to be radically changed and ultimately abortion will be outlawed because technology is going to eventually sway public opinion to view abortion as inhumane to the family, the mother, and the child. This change is going to come out of the growing focus among scientists and technologists on indefinite life extension.
In many ways, these innovators are becoming the new advocates for acknowledging and protecting the sanctity of human life. Much of this advocacy results from an intentional focus on work that seeks to end disease, eliminate advanced aging, and ultimately defeat death.
Maybe the most noticeable acknowledgement of death as an enemy of humanity, outside of religious belief, comes through the modern scientific and technological movement of transhumanism.
Transhumanism rightly understood seeks, not a forfeiture of our humanity but, to discover and traverse across the scope of what it ultimately might mean to be human. This desire certainly promotes the extension and development of life, post maturation. Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude a philosophy that places such a high value on human life will also eventually extend into the early stages of life.
Because of this, a day is coming when advancing technologies will begin to change the public's perception about physical childbirth. Advanced technology will guarantee the success of a pregnancy while eliminating complications that often accompany physical childbirth—in other words, it will no longer be risky for the mother's health.
Moreover, future technology will also be able to one day remove embryos at the point of implantation, allowing women who have an unwanted pregnancy to easily have the embryo removed for technological nurture and later adoption.
The future holds a promise of a better, less harmful way for humanity as it pertains to the protection and support of all human life
These two changes will eliminate the current utilitarian concerns that women face with unwanted pregnancy.
The relative simplicity of future extraction processes as it pertains to the mother, coupled with the humaneness of this technological action toward the developing child, will render the current understanding of legalized abortion as not only immoral, but uncivilized.
Many people will, of course, still choose physical childbirth because of the psychological benefits that it has for the mother and the child. But this traditional method of pregnancy will become viewed as a more dangerous pregnancy option. As a result it is likely that the designation "pro-choice" will one day come to be attributed to folks who still want the option of experiencing childbirth physically.
The more conservative "pro-life" position will undoubtedly then also shift, at least for a season of humanity, toward being attributed to advancing technological methods outside of physical pregnancy. These pregnancies will be more stable, regulated, and risk-free.
Of course all of this technological development will likely result in a new forms of political posturing as society considers its responsibility regarding any number of budding social issues that will result from this new civic stance outlawing abortion.
For instance, society will have to address the needs of an increased orphan population. And while this will likely make adoption more accessible, it will also necessitate new regulatory measures to ensure child safety and quality of care. Such developing circumstances will also then likely create new opportunities for religious and civic entities to provide new forms of individual and community nurture and care.
On the whole though, minus our current affinities and loyalties to present abortion activism on either side of the isle, the future holds a promise of a better, less harmful way for humanity as it pertains to the protection and support of all human life. Humanity should rejoice in this prospect and look forward to the day when such technological advancement becomes a reality. But more than that, this position should be a goal that humanity scientifically and technologically advocates and strives towards presently, together. For whenever we can improve the overall well-being of humankind at any stage in life, we should attempt to do so. And, in this particular case, we should consider ourselves fortunate that our current failures to care for one another both politically and civically will one day begin to be redeemed through the tools of emerging technology that is driven by people actively striving to better humanity and our world.
Christopher Benek is the Associate Pastor of Family Ministries and Missions at First Presbyterian Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.