Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
This weekend I came across an inspiring story at the feminist website Jezebel:
Saturday, a black and white puppy was put to sleep; his body was thrown in a dumpster. Sunday, the little dog was found alive and “as healthy as he could be.” Now he’s been named Wall-E, and being called a “miracle pup”...Happy ending sure to come!
A common theme among the comments was concern about the off-handed way in which euthanized pets’ bodies are disposed. One person wrote:
Over the years, I took in three of my parents’ dogs, euthanized as a last resort. I then buried them in the huge backyard, each with a special blanket and a lot of my tears. They all have their own gardens now. The dumpster? No, can’t even think of that.
Now I’m sad for the little pound puppies. Ugh ...
It was hard not to read the post and its comments without being distracted by the big, neon-colored elephant in the room. Unwanted life ... almost killed in a medical facility ... discarded carelessly and yet survived. Hmm. That reminded me of something. So I did a site search to see what kind of coverage the writers at Jezebel give abortion survivors who speak out about the circumstances of their births. If we see hope and beauty in the life of a dog that was saved from termination, how much more so would we see it in a fellow human being in the same circumstance?
If you’re familiar with the worldview of Jezebel, you won’t be surprised by what I found. There was almost no discussion of abortion survivors; the few mentions I did find were not positive. There was a post in the forums inciting scathing criticism of Gianna Jessen. A search on the term abortion survivor only showed one article, in which the term was dismissively put in quotes when referring to a pro-life ad featuring a person who survived an abortion attempt.
How can a group of people have so much compassion for an animal, and yet so little compassion for the thousands of unborn children who face worse deaths than that puppy each day?
As someone who used to support both Planned Parenthood and PETA, I think I have an idea. Something has happened in our culture that puts tremendous pressure on people to devalue unborn human life—and human life only.
Thanks to contraception, society tells people that sex does not have to have consequences. It tells women that they can simply choose to have sex without it impacting them in any significant way. It is psychologically impossible for someone who has accepted that “truth” to simultaneously believe that life within the womb is human, or even valuable: because if it is, if unborn life has any dignity, then when unexpected pregnancies arise, sex just had consequences. If attempts to avoid pregnancy fail (as they all too often do), and the newly-conceived life is fully human, then that “consequence-free” act just created a baby, and you’re now a parent.
Thus, those two statements—“sex does not have to have consequences if you don’t want it to” and “unborn life is human”—cannot both be true at the same time. We as individuals and as a society are forced to choose which of those two statements we’ll deem false. And unfortunately it’s usually the latter.
And I think that that’s how we end up with compassionate people extending their empathy to little animals, but not to little humans. What do you think is behind the disconnect when people value animals’ lives over unborn children’s lives?