An interesting little column in Politics Daily got me thinking once again about the power of words and ideas. “Pregnancy is not the public’s business” takes a very dislikable but absolutely politically correct attitude toward pregnancy, motherhood and “choice.” PD’s bio for the writer, Lizzie Skurnick, describes her as “the author of Shelf Discovery, a memoir of teen reading that Publishers Weekly called ‘wildly entertaining.’” She also writes for Jezebel.com’s Fine Lines and is the author of 10 teen books. But she still seems to be missing something in her philosophy about pregnancy, adolescence and motherhood.
I am quite amazed at her penchant for dismissing with an irreverent attitude the very idea that pregnancy is a blessing and that the act of begetting is above all else a miracle to be experienced. Oh, I realize that my take on procreation is not the same as that of an avowed militant feminist. That is beyond argument. But some articles still astound me.
In her column, Skurnick tells us, “Despite the perennial political football Roe v. Wade, the majority of Americans irritatingly persist in thinking other people’s child-bearing and child-rearing choices are basically their own.”
One might suppose that her view results from the “comfort zone” mentality of those who believe Roe v. Wade and its companion ruling, Doe v. Bolton, resolved the difficult question of abortion years ago. But alas, the nagging question of why we are still discussing abortion is not answered but rather avoided by such thinking. After all, pregnancy is a topic only if pregnancy exists, and if pregnancy exists, then we are actually considering a mother and her baby, and it’s really that fact that some would like to avoid acknowledging at all costs.
I could be wrong, but I happen to think this is why Skurnick writes about a whole series of cable television shows that focus on various aspects of family life, from the Jon & Kate plus Eight saga to the Duggar family of 19 children. In the Duggars’ case, Skurnick does not overlook the fact that it is the Duggar family that prompted People magazine to ask, “How many kids are too many?” She also takes note of I’m Pregnant And …, a TLC show about dysfunctional people with problems that create quandaries for them because they are pregnant. Expectant mothers with a host of problems such as bipolar disorder, eating disorders and imprisonment are among the subjects for this reality television show.
While this writer has not actually watched any of these shows with intense interest, in one sense, I do see the reason why someone like Skurnick finds it troubling that pregnancy has become a hot television topic. It is after all, anything but a talking-heads subject, nor should it be fodder for reality television.
Pregnancy is a personal matter that used to be kept between a husband and a wife, who celebrated the news that they were parents nurturing a new human being’s life for the nine months it would take for them to actually meet their newest family member. Today, of course, this is frequently not the case.
Skurnick wraps up her overview by telling her readers,
In our reach-across-the-aisle era, it’s very easy to make the argument that putting pregnancy under the spotlight helps us open up the discussion about choice. But as these portrayals grow like their own little breed of Duggars, I’d like to have a conversation about why we have to have one. After all, if you’ve got to expose your choice to an audience to have the right to make it, you’ve already lost the battle.
This statement exposes the wrinkle in Skurnick’s logic. Her viewpoint comes from her perspective that the question of “choice” —that is choosing to continue a pregnancy or end it— has already been resolved. And in her world view, any sort of reality television program about any situation involving family or pregnancy is designed to continue a cultural conversation she believes should be over. I, on the other hand, believe that regardless of the numerous reality shows dealing with families and/or single parenting, there is nothing to be gained from avoiding the real question, which is not whether the Duggars should have more children or whether Octomom is a problematic figure or whether so- and-so has zits because she’s pregnant.
No, the question that all of these programs and Skurnick’s assessment of them avoid is simple: Why is abortion not ever exposed for the act of murder that it is? Why do these programs, commentators, lawmakers, judges and others feel compelled to discuss and carry on forever about other people’s situations and what could be wrong with their lives, without even the slightest consideration that it isn’t about pregnancy, it’s about human persons who are affected by a pregnancy in a way that changes their lives forever? That is everybody’s business, but, of course, folks like Skurnick don’t see that.
Do these programs dig a deeper hole in the public consciousness that makes it more and more difficult to respect the dignity of the human person? Is invading the lives and personal secrets of others driving a wedge between what is true and what is fiction?
Is it fashionable to parade one’s personal horror story or family problems within the context of a reality show so that one can achieve what artist Andy Warhol defined as 15 minutes of fame?
Is the public so sadly divorced from moral principles and life’s beauty that it is now preferable to be absorbed by someone else’s life so as to avoid confronting one’s own personal demons?
I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, but there is one fundamental fact of life that I do know. Abortion kills people. It is not an issue; it is not a decriminalized right, regardless of what the law says. Abortion is an act that results in death.
Despite the devices, productions, political maneuvering or bouts of denial that would suggest otherwise, sooner or later, one has to come to the unavoidable conclusion that pregnancy means motherhood, fatherhood and preborn childhood. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be discussing it.
Yes, it is now acceptable to kill that baby, but that baby is not a fiction, not a reality television show or a programming concept, but a real live person. Maybe that’s why Skurnick is so perplexed. Perhaps she simply has not chosen to sit down and reflect on why so much attention is being paid to pregnancy and “choice” by reality television programmers and so little attention to that baby whose mother is confronted not with a "choice," but a life-or-death decision.
Pregnancy by itself is indeed not the public’s business, but defending and protecting the human rights of innocent babies who are currently being dismissed from their lives without regret, recognition or sorrow is everybody’s business, and nobody should buzz off!
It might be the current fashion to exploit the personal lives of others (with their permission, of course) in order to ignore reality, but that does not change what abortion is doing to the national psyche. Why? Because as the wise poet John Donne once wrote, “[A]ny man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Ultimately, the power of Donne’s words and the tragic toll abortion has taken on our world will become all too real. At that point, let us hope there are at least some in our midst who can restore what is left of a society suffering from a terminal case of moral confusion and personal delusion.