Abortion Left and Right

Thanks to a tip from Fox News, I found an article in the UK’s Daily Mail titled, “Meet the women who won’t have babies — because they’re not eco friendly,” written by Natasha Courtenay-Smith and Morag Turner. The article reports:

[W]hen Toni [Vernelli] terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet. …

At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to “protect the planet”.

Incredibly, instead of mourning the loss of a family that never was, her boyfriend (now husband) presented her with a congratulations card. …

“Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” says Toni, 35.

“Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.” …

When Sarah Irving, 31, was a teenager she… she came to the extraordinary decision never to have a child.

“I realised then that a baby would pollute the planet — and that never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do.”

The Daily Mail article was published on November 21. Three days later, the Rocky Mountain News published Lisa Ryckman’s article, “Prayer as teen led to campaign for unborn.” Ryckman reports:

Kristi Burton was just 13 when she asked God for guidance and got it.

“I was praying, what could I do to help people?” Burton said, thinking back on that December day, sick in bed and looking through library books about community service.

“And I really think God brought that to my mind and said, ‘Save these people.’ “

Unborn people, she means.

Seven years later, that’s what Burton hopes to do, by amending the Colorado Constitution to define a fertilized egg as a person entitled to legal protection — a concept that has the potential to outlaw abortion.

(See also Ryckman’s article about the debate over the proposal and about voter demographics.)

At first glance, the positions of Vernelli and Burton seem to be diametrically opposed.

But the similarities of the women’s positions are more revealing. Neither activist holds that a woman should choose to have a baby based on what the woman deems best for her own life. Both activists believe that the choice over having a baby should be made self-sacrificially, with the sacrifice directed either to the planet or to God.

The environmentalist case against having babies rests on a view of man as a blight on the planet. The fewer the people, the better, according to this view. The religious case against having abortions rests on the belief that God infuses a fertilized egg with a soul. (Of course, many Christians also believe that the use of birth control is wrong, because it thwarts God’s control over the fertilization of eggs.) Neither view holds as significant the values, choices, and interests of the potential parents.

The religious and environmental movements seem to be converging, as Diana Hsieh reviews, though of course the basic motivations differ. However, while the Daily Mail finds “nothing in Toni’s safe, middle-class upbringing” to offer “any clues as to the views which would shape her adult life,” the article points out that Vernelli “excelled at her Roman Catholic school.” The transition is unsurprising, because environmentalism is a form of secularized religion. Nor is Baptist Pastor Mike Huckabee’s environmentalism surprising, given that the self-sacrifice demanded by environmentalism is so easily sublimated to the purported will of God.