Sacrifice for the Sake of Sacrifice?

Ayn Rand thought that those who opposed abortion were thoroughly irrational, in the sense that they espoused sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice rather than sacrifice for the sake of real-life values.

Not so. Many of those who oppose abortion do so for values that can be achieved in the here and now, values that are easily definable and knowable.

What might those values be? To discover the answer to this question, one needs to understand the value of what is produced when an abortion cannot be obtained: the value of an unwanted child. Is an unwanted child a value? If so, to whom and for what?

One might argue that an unwanted child is a value to itself, but might others gain from the production of such a child, and if that is the case, might those same people gain from the production of a steady stream of unwanted children, from a society that virtually guarantees the production of a huge number of unwanted children?

There are many people, mostly men, who gain from the production of unwanted children.

How so?

First of all, the more children that are produced whether wanted or unwanted, the lower the cost of labor. Cheap labor is plentiful when people are plentiful given the laws of supply and demand.

But the tendency for the price of labor to go down when the supply of labor is high is greatly increased when that labor comes to age in dire straits. There is nothing better for potential employers than a labor market that is both saturated and desperate. What better way to guarantee a cheap and continual source of labor than to promote the production of lots of people by the poor?

Second, large numbers of unwanted children mean large numbers of unloved, unsupervised, and uncared for children who are easy to exploit and manipulate, children that can be abused with impunity because no one cares about such abuse. Obviously, the best-case scenario for the pedophile exists when huge numbers of children are warehoused in orphanages and other institutions away from the scrutiny of parents and relatives.

The man who is not sexually interested in children gains as well when women give birth to children they cannot afford. Beggars cannot be choosers and when women are desperate to feed their children they have little choice but to put out for the highest bidder, marry men they do not love, or worse still, hit the streets.

There are also psychological advantages to being against abortion. One can claim a high moral ground—concern for “innocent” life—and do so without exacting any costs whatsoever. Since the unborn conveniently exist within the bodies of others, “concern” for them doesn’t need to translate into any action. A pregnant woman can’t exactly deposit her unwanted embryo at your doorstep and demand you carry the “precious one” to term.

But the desire for cheap labor, cheap sex, and cheap righteousness doesn’t really do justice to the pro-life agenda.

Something far more sinister than what was detailed above or Rand’s altruism run amok (sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice) is behind it. Rand should have looked at a principle she understood very well: moral bribery. Moral bribery occurs when you use the good of your victims to keep them enslaved.

The Greatest Love of All

It amuses me to no end that religious people called their God a God of love, and by extension say that the highest form of love is “divine love.” What is the content of that love, what is its definition? What can love possibly mean to someone from whom it exacts no costs? What can love mean to an entity that cannot die or be hurt in any way?

Love is an investment of values. By that definition, the highest form of love is maternal love. The reason that love is the highest is because it involves the allocation of precious resources, resources that are precious precisely because they are limited. Such resources include not only a woman’s energy, time, and money, but her very body that she pours quite literally into the enterprise that is the development, birth, and suckling of a child.

Because that investment is so risky, so fraught with danger to her life, health, and independence, a woman must have the ability to decline making it in the first place. Without that power of refusal she is a hostage to the demand of men that she give up her independence as the price of their support. Women can be counted on to sacrifice for their children so if they can be forced to bear unwanted and unaffordable children, they can be forced to do whatever it takes to get them properly nurtured, even if that includes begging.

One might ask: What is the value of seeing a woman reduced to begging for her existence? The value is primarily the sense of power engendered in the person one begs to. A woman who must plead with her boyfriend to marry her, or plead with her husband not to leave her or to give her a better household allowance so her children might eat, or plead with religious authorities to provide for her and her “illegitimate” child, depends on the good graces of those she begs to in order to get her needs met. This gives the person begged to enormous power, and there are people who love that power and will kill to maintain it.

Most women will suffer a huge number of indignities, even degradations, to preserve the lives of their children. This is why control of reproduction is so critically important and why any misogynist worth his salt will strongly oppose abortion, and if he can get away with it, contraception as well.

Bottom line: There is and never will be “sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice.” There is always an agenda, even if unconsciously pursued. Someday, it will be possible to remove an embryo from the body of a woman without destroying it and in such a manner that will be both painless and inexpensive. This will be heartily and vehemently opposed by pro-lifers, because once it becomes possible to separate a living embryo from the body of a woman so that it is unable to compromise her life and independence, its existence becomes beside the point—and so will the pro-life movement.

Back to top

Rift Rants

Comments? Contact me.

© 2005 Laura J. Rift. All rights reserved.