A Set-Back for Argentina and Progress
Argentina encountered a fork in the road last week and took a wrong turn.
A hair raisingly tight vote in the Senate (after succeeding in the House) to allow abortion up to 12 weeks didn’t pass, a loss for Argentinian women wanting jurisdiction over their own bodies. If progress were an international race it would put Argentina just behind Ireland with their recent (successful) referendum to legalize abortion.
That said, at least Argentina is trying to move forward and equalize women – it’s ahead of everywhere else in the Americas, bar Surinam, Uruguay, and Cuba. Canada is cool for women, of course, and we’ll leave US reproductive law out of this particular article.
It’s indicative of a deeper divide in Argentinian society – like in most societies – between the forces of regression and progression.
Naturally, heading the effort against women’s rights is the Catholic Church, whose intergalactic head the Pope was born in Argentina. It’s worth taking note of this institution. Without the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the scientific and humanistic revolutions we in the West would almost certainly be living in a Taliban/ISIS type dystopia – as the Bible, the “word of God”, actually calls for. A Handmaiden’s Tale is an advanced, progressive view of the Bible’s vision of a true, pure society.
Unluckily, Islam hasn’t had the benefit of these revolutions so the Taliban and ISIS actually exist in real time at Islam’s sharp end. Christianity didn’t become decent, didn’t stop burning heretics and endorsing slavery on its own. As philosopher Sam Harris says: ”That door doesn’t open outwards,” – it was kicked in by the Reformation, the Enlightenment, etc.
It’s important to understand where Christianity is coming from in these arguments. With the “door kicked in” and religiosity very much on the run, these days the Church is content with merely ensuring the poorest and sickest people on earth, the most wretched and vulnerable, mainly in Africa, don’t have access to condoms to control their health, families, lives, and futures. Let’s not forget the pedophilia-industrial complex administered from the phony state of the Vatican. And still the damage they do now is less than it used to be!
Of course, when it comes to abortion reasonable people can differ as to exactly when what is effectively a blood clot comprising a few stem cells turns later, sometime within nine months, into a small human with chubby fingers.
Perhaps science can provide a bright line in this question of when “humanity” begins? Actually it can. Current medicine defines consciousness as reverberating neural activity between the thalamus and the cortex at 25 (twenty-five) weeks. That is, electro-chemical signals, communication really, between (what will become) the emotional parts and the reasoning parts of the developing brain.
Understand something can look like a baby without being one. Until 25 weeks what we have is something with no sentience, no capacity for thought or suffering, no ego, nor any of the precious things we associate with newborn humans and animals. Until that magic moment of neural activity at week 25 we have a sort-of human shaped mass of reflexes (like your knee’s reflex when tapped), automatic systems like digestion, processing of water molecules in the kidneys, peristalsis, and that cute little reflex which narrows our pupils in bright light.
At 25 weeks it’s like there’s the frame of the house being constructed, half connected up with plumbing and wires, but no electricity. There’s
“nobody” home until week 25. The line in the sand even pro-choicers have staked in Argentina (and many identical debates) is half that benchmark – twelve weeks.
This neurological timescale is important because it bright-lines exactly how fanatical the “pro-life” side are. The (American) pro-life virtue signaling Christ clappers consistently lie about the above facts of embryology in their literature.
For instance: a heart doesn’t make a person: it’s just a pump despite the emotional valiance we impose on this differentiated muscle tissue. A functioning conscious, a sentient brain does make a person – or start to at least, again, at 25 weeks.
Regards the religious “potential” argument: that this parasitic agglomeration of human cells will someday, maybe (if not self-aborted by the host as 1/3 of pregnancies are) become a human just doesn’t fly. With that logic every acorn must be treated as an oak tree, every masturbated spermatozoa should be afforded equal rights and parking privileges on 8th Ave. None of these are the case.
At heart the disagreement is about what conservatives find “sacred”, an arbitrary concept also applied (in this country) to the 2nd Amendment, the flag, borders and other often meaningless symbols as the moral hill they’re wiling to die on.
Not much will change in South America and Argentina for a few years when more liberal, secular, human values will tip the scales. They’ll take another vote and it’ll pass: we see this pattern over and over again. Already Argentina’s attempt is making waves in Latin America, sadly a region running a high temperature from the pathology of religiosity.
Further, middle class Argentinian women will still be able, like your correspondent did as a tourist, to take a fast boat an hour across the sparkling Mar del Plata (“Sea of Silver”) to Colonia, Uruguay, where, due to the sane policies of that country they’re able to get safe medical care to control their reproduction. Denying them that, for the sake of a non-sentient blood clot deemed sacred by Bronze Age fairy tales is as merciless as preventing a cancer patient from excising a tumor, assuming tumors were “sacred”.
It figures that Uruguay has led the Americas in gay marriage, drug legalization and other social policies. If you want to applaud a country that really respects human freedom put your hands together for Uruguay. And the beaches are excellent.
There are always two directions to move in ethics: if we move forward, informed by science and medicine and real facts, our species prospers and needless suffering is reduced. If we move backwards, as Argentina just did, we’ll keep walking blindly into hard objects.
David Anderson is an Australian-American attorney in New York City. He studied politics and psychology in Melbourne and Washington, D.C. His work appears in TMV, Forbes, Counterpunch and Democracy Chronicles.org