I recently came across a pro-choice organization called 4000 Years for Choice. This group seeks to make abortion appear to be something innately human, by highlighting how long women have sought out abortions and abortion inducing concoctions. I couldn’t help but be completely perplexed by images such as this:
The first thing that comes to mind is how ridiculous it seems to justify an act by how prevalent the act has been in the ancient world. I mean… really?! You know what else was popular in the time of ancient Rome? Slavery, human sacrifice, and mass infanticide. A real hotbed for morality. So what on earth would prompt this organization to promote ancient practices of abortion as proof that abortion is good?
In order to answer this question, I wanted to understand why infanticide seemed to be so common in the ancient world. The top article I found, published by Discovery, summarized a recent study on the practice and said:
The study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science,
explains that “until recently, (infanticide) was a practice that was
widely tolerated in human societies around the world. Prior to modern
methods of contraception, it was one of the few ways of limiting family
size that was both safe for the mother and effective.”
The article continues:
The findings add to the growing body of evidence that infanticide was
common in the Roman Empire. …
“Societies with extreme poverty may use infant homicide as a means to
conserve resources, reduce economic strain, or improve the quality of
life for the family,” they explained. …
The researchers suggest that the
practitioners may, in some cases, perceive infanticide as “mercy
killing, where the goal may be to alleviate suffering, not to cause it.”
Call me crazy, but this seems very similar to some common reasons for abortion today.
In a modern society, infanticide is clearly not an acceptable form of birth control, and we have come to ensure that one’s life is legally protected from birth. No longer do we allow the killing our born offspring as a way to address concerns about poverty and economic strain. But is this a real change, or have we merely shifted the killing to an earlier point?
It is our duty, as modern, moral and rational agents, to address the moral failures of past societies, and to continually take actions that are progressive, not regressive. Attempting to celebrate abortion in ancient Rome, a world rife with human rights violations, to me just highlights how important it is to move away from these destructive social practices, and to value human life and sustain it whenever possible.