Tristyn Bloom has an interesting piece (actually from a while back, but I just ran into it) which makes the point that the perceived need for abortion in our culture is in part tied to our society's deep belief in the importance of planning and controlling our lives.
I think the reason people continue to defend abortion is because, essentially, of existential terror: fear of what will happen when something unexpected, uninvited, unplanned bursts into our lives demanding action. I think that is a crippling psychological problem that doesn’t even rise to the level of morality, that we can’t just tell people to suck up and get over.We live, historically speaking, in a particularly rich and safe time. That's good. We're peculiarly fortunate compared to many who came before us. Yet it allows people to convincingly imagine much of the time that if they do everything right, that nothing will go wrong.
We often hear that a problem with young people today is that we are irresponsible. We don’t have a sense of duty. We don’t have a sense of order. We’re immature. I think that the problem is actually the opposite.
To accept that life would be the irresponsible choice, and that’s the framework from which a lot of people are operating. They see themselves as accepting consequences, as responsible. They have a semblance of a moral framework and we can’t ignore that just because it’s completely the opposite of our own. And this isn’t just about whether or not you accept a child. I think that we are so enslaved to a plan, and a routine, and a vision of our lives, we can’t embrace the unsettledness, openness, flexibility, and folly it takes to have an actually pro-life culture in every instance.
If you look at even the language used — “unplanned pregnancy” because that is the strange case. The normal case is the planned pregnancy. And this is understandable in two ways. One, it’s a concession to comfort and the economy of family. Not everyone in the pro-life movement is against contraception, for example. But the other, I think, is a psychological necessity because two, in a certain sense we are very unwilling to admit that we are all essentially accidents.
Especially for secular people, or people with different theological assumptions, that is what the creation of life kind of amounts to. Scientific materialism seems to force us to admit this. And I feel that on some level modern parents compensate for this meaninglessness by investing their child with meaning through planning. You were chosen. You were fated. You were designated. They are compensating for the meaninglessness of the way conception happens by choosing it on their own and by actively bestowing that significance upon them. We are the little gods of our own children. And we extend this to everything in our lives. In our education. Where we live. What we do. How we eat. Everything imbued with meaning by the fact of being chosen. And these choices, in turn, define us back to ourselves.
We have contraception to make sure that we don't get pregnant before we're ready. We have various forms of fertility technology which are supposed to assure that we can have children when we want to. We test and scan and try to identify any "defective" children before birth so they can be eliminated.
From a Christian point of view, I think that can wander into the idolatrous. In the end, we did not create the world. We are responsible for our own actions, but don't control the world or the things that happen to us.
A lot of the Christian life as it's translated into modern middle class America is very prudence focused: Wait until you meet the right person so that your marriage will last. Don't have sex until you get married. Find a job that will allow you to support a family.
Natural Family Planning, which the Church urges Catholics to understand in order to allow them to exercise prudence when necessary in spacing their children, requires a great deal of self control and prudence when used by fertile couples to space children out.
None of these are bad, they are all good exercises of prudence, but in a certain sense it can mean adopting the prevailing culture's emphasis on control.
Now, as in all things, there's an opposite extreme. Some Christians hold that any attempt to exert prudence in regards to having children is wrong, and married couples should make absolutely no effort to space their children. I think this represents a failure to use the prudence and reason which God has given us. It's all very well to trust God to provide for us, but one of the ways that He provides for us is by giving us the capacity to make wise decisions.
The golden mean in this regard is to live prudently, yet at the same time recognize that by exercising ordinary prudence we in no way inoculate ourselves against the unexpected. The fates are capricious, and having exerted prudence in no way guarantees that we shall be be safe from them. The better that we are able to understand that, the better we will be able to embrace the unexpected turns which the embrace of life entails.