Pro-Life or, if you please, anti-abortion movements aren't something I follow. Now, it appears that a relatively low-key pro-life campaign has started in Latvia, using the rather clever device of placing 27 statues of sleeping full term babies on the ground in a square near the Freedom Monument (a kind of entrance to the Old Town). Each of the babies had a small label in three languages, Latvian, English and Russian, stating what amounts to a kind of “Bioethics 101” problem along the lines of “my dad abused my mom, he drank, she had no place to go, no work...etc.”
Basically, the 27 bioethics “problems” (it is said that 27 abortions are preformed every day in Latvia) are meant to be thought provoking, though (I have glanced at most, but not all of them) they skip over such cases as rape, especially the rape of an underaged girl, incest and other examples where abortion is probably the only solution.
The installation also doesn't deal with issue of fetal viability, something best left to scientists, but basically a standard for determining that, up to a certain point in a pregnancy, the fetus is not able to live outside the mother, even with massive medical assistance. In other words, the standard determines that up to XY weeks of gestation, an aborted fetus would have no chance of living and its biological existence up to then must be weighed against the interests of the woman or young girl facing an unwanted pregnancy.
What concerns me is that these pro-life thought provokers may have another agenda, more in line with the hard-core religious right. At least one of the organizers of the installation and campaign is former Soviet-era Latvian dissident Jānis Rožkalns. He is a very brave and decent man (did time in the Gulag for his actions and beliefs). However, in the past more than 20 years, Jānis has aligned with at least one right-wing religious cause – opposition to gay rights, gay pride parades and the like. I participated in debate against him and another religious hard-liner, the Riga City Council member Jānis Šmits and a retired Catholic archbishop and Cardinal, Jānis Pujats. I took a libertarian position, that any and all public expression must be permitted.
It would certainly be good if this particular “pro-life” action was simply one to make people think whether abortion is a desirable form of “contraception”. Indeed, the next step should be actions to address the social problems in some of the examples given – preventing violence against women and the sexual abuse of under-aged girls, broad sex education for children age 12 and up, and an acceptance that adolescent sex is inevitable, therefore contraceptives must be available if all other “restraints” fail --Christian chastity advocacy, non-sectarian sexual ethics lessons, whatever.
So, giving the benefit of the doubt, let's see where this goes. But I have a nagging feeling, that under all this are people who would like to see abortions banned, to declare that an inviolable life starts at conception and that Latvia should be made into a sexually repressive theocracy.
I must say that abortion is a creepy thing for me. I would rather not have it as an inevitable choice for women or couples, but creepier, still, is the idea of law-mandated forced birth and the suspension of personal choice and autonomy for any woman the instant she becomes pregnant for any reason and under any circumstances. So given the choice, I tilt toward free choice.