Wednesday, October 24, 2012

an accidental thesis on abortion.

so earlier tonight, i got too tempted to restrain myself and i ended up responding to a couple of particularly provoking facebook posts. turns out i accidentally wrote out my thesis on abortion, so i figured i'd share it with you.

(abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44.)

names removed, here's the pro-life argument that got me going...

I was adopted nearly from birth. At 18, I learned that I was conceived out of a brutal rape at knife-point by a serial rapist. Like most people, I'd never considered that abortion applied to my life, but once I received this information, all of a sudden I realized that, not only does it apply to my life, but it has to do with my very existence. It was as if I could hear the echoes of all those people who, with the most sympathetic of tones, would say, “Well, except in cases of rape. . . ," or who would rather fervently exclaim in disgust: “Especially in cases of rape!!!” All these people are out there who don‘t even know me, but are standing in judgment of my life, so quick to dismiss it just because of how I was conceived. I felt like I was now going to have to justify my own existence, that I would have to prove myself to the world that I shouldn’t have been aborted and that I was worthy of living. I also remember feeling like garbage because of people who would say that my life was like garbage -- that I was disposable. - from my friend conceived in rape, and I think she should live! Totally Pro-Life!"

Whenever you identify yourself as being “pro-choice,” or whenever you make that exception for rape, what that really translates into is you being able to stand before me, look me in the eye, and say to me, "I think your mother should have been able to abort you.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. I would never say anything like that to someone. I would say never to someone, “If I had my way, you’d be dead right now." - Rebecca

"'I think your mother should have been able to abort you.' That’s a pretty powerful statement." how exactly is that a powerful statement? that's simply a reiteration of the pro-choice position in the context of a situation where abortion often takes place.

implicit in every pro-choice position is an admission that "my mom should've been able to abort me." i would imagine rebecca has significantly invested her identity in a reflexive defensiveness, so i wouldn't bother getting personal and trying to convince her, but there is nothing particularly insensitive about that position. now telling someone who is pro-choice "you're mom shouldn't have been able to abort you," that is probably way more incendiary, since it implies their mom, who they most likely respect, isn't morally or intellectually fit to make the right decision.

which brings me to a point of confusion, in rebecca's case wouldn't she agree that her mom made the right moral decision in a morally ambiguous situation? isn't that ultimately a pro-choice argument? i would imagine the emotional turmoil in the context of forced carriage would be infinitely more complicated, since it leaves open the questions like "did my mother not want to have me? was i burden? was i born out of a double-coercion, first by rape, then by the government forcing my mother to term? did my mother's pregnancy ruin her life? was i born with the weight of having ruined someone's life?"

the fact that this doesn't seem to have occurred to you leads me to believe you fundamentally misunderstand the pro-choice position.

the moral context we ascribe to a child is incredibly complex. would you pull a baby from an unconsenting mother's umbilical cord, shackle it in handcuffs, and charge it with theft of the mother's sustenance and trespassing on her property? of course not, because we do not ascribe the moral context of an adult to a child, infant, or fetus. it is morally ambiguous.

you play on the moral ambiguities yourself by posing the question "at what point should a woman not be able to have an abortion?" but again, the moral ambiguity is the linchpin of the pro-choice position. and the (or at least my) pro-choice argument is that "where there is moral ambiguity, the government should not mandate it's or even the majority's morality, but should leave the morally ambiguous choice to the individuals most familiar with the situation."

unless you can find me a fetus capable of weighing in on complex philosophical questions like when life begins, guess who that is? the mother. that's why it's offensive to women when you claim that despite the mother being intimate with the details of the situation, the male-dominated government's moral position supersedes her's.

if you truly understand the pro-choice position, then you'd realize that no one sees this as a righteous defense of babies. to someone who's pro-choice, you're trolling on people's walls essentially going out of your way to say "sorry, but i don't trust that you, as a woman, have the ability to make a respectable decision in this morally ambiguous situation." it relegates women to a position of unthinking vessels for men's progeny. personally, i find that way more offensive than "your mom should've been able to abort you."

but seriously folks, who needs those dumb vessels anyway? there are binders full of women just begging to carry (pun intended) out god's will.

(when women have abortions.)

and here's a little subsequent tit-for-tat:

Interesting thoughts Chris. I don't think the ability of the fetus to weigh in on the decision has any relevance. If it did, those with mental illnesses or in a comma would be left to die b/c they cannot reason at the moment. Or, if it was based on just having a beating heart, 10+ patients of mine should not be here now because I was operating on them while we were waiting for their heartbeat to return. Each of these patients had a right to life, whether they could reason or not in their present state, and same goes if their heart wasn't back to beating yet....both are similar to the young fetus who is also not reasoning in the present, and the heartbeat we are waiting to kick in.

thanks, long time no chat. your arguments are thought-provoking too which is why i was so tempted to respond, so thanks for them.

i think you might still be missing the point on mine though. the pro-choice position is not that the comatose *should* die anymore than babies *should* be aborted, it is that those most intimately involved with and thus familiar with the situation should make the decision. in the situation you pose, the logical conclusion to a comatose person would be that the family should decide, which is exactly what happens when families in consultations with doctors take them off life support, despite there existing the possibility that life is viable.

if we're logically consistent, i guess we'd be on different sides of the terri schiavo debate. but again, what's funny about that case is the premise that "those most intimately involved should decide" was actually generally accepted, the argument was actually over who that was, the husband or the parents.

oh sorry, i think i missed a point now. i get what you're saying: the fact that some patients are guaranteed to have a heartbeat and "we're just waiting for [it] to return" makes them the moral equivalent of fetuses. sorry i can't agree with you there.

my argument has nothing to do with the viability of life, it has everything to do with moral ambiguity. of course there's no moral ambiguity over whether or not we can kill someone under anesthesia, but there is with whether or not a woman is obligated to carry a fetus to term, which is why the comparison falls apart.

...and voila, there you have it. my accidental thesis on abortion. good election time reading i suppose.