I have worked with teenagers for years and the most profoundly disturbed are those who have been unwanted and rejected by their birth parents. Even children who are successfully fostered and adopted are permanently marked, deeply troubled and insecure because they know they were born unloved and unwanted. At too early an age they learn that being loveable and cared about is not an inherent human characteristic. Being valued is dependent on luck and the goodness of other people.
They also harbour a profound sense of shame on behalf of their birth parents for being so inadequate. will they inherit this flaw? Unsurprising thoughts, when kids from secure, loving birth families are often upset if they just discover they were unplanned, because that means their mothers were unsure they wanted them. All children are deeply impressionable, probably because their brains need to be highly receptive to learn their world as quickly as possible.
Attachment disorder is often the result of such rejection, a condition, in its severe form, that denies its sufferers the ability to feel empathy with other human beings, to form meaningful relationships or even to act in socially appropriate ways and thus to stay on the right side of the law. A prison psychologist working in British women’s prisons told me that they are full of women with attachment disorder.
My own experience of the condition is that sufferers are so completely cut off from other minds, so lacking in empathy, that they struggle just to be likeable. They are cruel, uncaring, disloyal, selfish. In other words, they have been denied the basic right to choose to be a nice person. The profound, possibly life-long aloneness that confronts them is perhaps the most severe long-term punishment a human can endure without dying. We are social animals. Spending time with others who accept us is one of the most fulfilling existential experiences we can have.
I accept that many, many unwanted pregnancies do not end up this way. Many women come to terms with their pregnancy, many are flooded with hormonally boosted love for their new-born (assuming the courts don’t order the child removed at birth.) However, each time a court forces a woman through this process they are gambling, taking enormously high stakes risks, on the life of a future human being.
The woman wanting the abortion is not responsible for these risks because she does not want that possibility to become a reality. Of course, a miserable existence is preferrable to oblivion, but the choice between an unhappy life and murder is not the choice being made by an abortion. The bundle of cells and tissues that forms in the earlier stages of pregnancy is an adjunct to the woman creating it, despite visual similarities to a developed human being. It is not, and has never been, a human soul. Making the choice not to pursue that possibility, among the infinite possibilities that the future holds, is exactly the same as deciding not to have sex. It should be no more condemned than should abstinence. The responsibility lies with those insisting, for their own satisfaction, on creating a tormented life.