Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Abortion

I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm broadly pro-choice. I'd prefer if abortion was limited to the first trimester and beyond that in cases of severe risk to the mother's health. I realize this is an arbitrary distinction, but it's a tricky issue.

All considered, I think the pro-life folks have a more defensible position, but I'm sympathetic to the concerns that women should have control over their own bodies. And I don't want girls dying from back alley, coat hanger abortions. The question is where to draw that line? And again, I've drawn it uncomfortably at the first trimester as compromise between the two. Some of my pro-life readers will probably say that I'm trying to split the baby, so to speak, but so be it. I just can't take the pure pro-life stance even if I think it is by far the stronger theoretical position.

But what prompted this post is what always makes me uncomfortable with being pro-choice -- the writings of feminists when any restriction on abortion is up for debate. In this case, it's in the health care bill. What makes uncomfortable is their tone that gives precisely zero consideration that aborting a fetus is at all different from removing an appendix.

In today's NYTimes we have this:
Democrats were told to stop talking about abortion as a moral and legal right and to focus instead on comforting language about reducing the number of abortions. In this regard, President Obama was right on message when he declared in his health care speech to Congress in September that “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions” — as if this happened to be a good and moral thing. (The tone of his statement made the point even more sharply than his words.)

I think the main issue with abortion discussions is that the moral argument, if taken to the two extremes, is eventually a loser for abortion. What I mean by that is if we were presented with the two most extreme choices, 1) allowing abortion right up until birth and 2) never allowing any, the grotesqueness of the first position would so overwhelm any and all reasoning that pro-choice people could offer would be overwhelmed by visceral human revulsion.

To say that abortion is legal is one thing. It is. To say that therefore, because it is legal, that it is also moral or that the use of federal funds must be allocated for it is just wrong. Plastic surgery is legal, but the health care bill ain't gonna pay for it. It seems wrong to me to make somebody who finds abortion morally abhorrent pay for them through their tax dollars.

I understand the argument on the other side. Access to reproductive health is a right. But, and readers will know this about me, this is one of the reasons why I hate positive rights. Somebody has to provide them. That somebody is the government. A government which is funded by people who disagree about moral and ethical issues and you end up with these types of things.*

I guess my point here, and I'm making it in a rambling way, is I respect a woman's right to choose, but it must be balanced against the rights even potential people have. Because of how abortion has been legalized and defended in this country (Dance this is one of the reasons I don't like courts making decisions like this) many pro-choice feminists are heavily invested in deeply disturbing ideological assumptions and political activities. For example, the assumption that fetuses are completely devoid of moral value. And on the activities front, both sides of the debate have elevated the fervor around Supreme Court appointments. If abortion had moved through the legislatures or Congress, then Supreme Court appointments would still be contentious, but not like it is now.

I just feel deeply uncomfortable when the position I hold is shared by people who argue that a woman's right to choose doesn't have to be balanced with the rights of the fetus because the fetus doesn't hold any or only holds negligible moral value. That assumption or assertion strikes me as cynical, self-serving, and at the deepest level -- inhuman.

* My main issue with positive rights is that it presumes an institution exists to provide them, which is not the case with negative rights. And that institution is always the government, which is frequently less effective at providing things than private industry.


George Pal said...

Providing abortions and funding is now the moral position? Obviously to be opposed would be immoral. How do Mss. Michealman and Kissling get away with this? Then slavery wasn’t bad, it was legal, therefore moral, therefore a right, and by today’s thinking would be deserving of being publicly funded – so why all the guilt?

This intrigues me - how many of our said feminist moralists’ brain cells would have to be killed off, do you suppose, to achieve such a successful dichotomization of the brain, and still allow them to live long useful lives? And are such operations covered in the health care bill?

Anonymous said...

George, sshhh- you need to use words I can readily understand - I had to look up dichotomization. Gesh, never forget I went to finishing school and art school and therefore lack any education.


"Providing abortions and funding is now the moral position?"

Yes. Damn straight. Did you miss this by Thomas Sowell this week:

"An e-mail from a reader says that liberals like to take the moral high ground, even though their own moral relativism means that there is no moral high ground."

The paleo-fems like Michealman, Kissling and never forget Smeal who has never had sex with a man so how could she understand an unwanted pregnancy or a dreaded 'back alley' abortion are hard at work making their turkey necks wiggle over the unconstitutional aspects of the Stupek Amendment. Totally ignoring how unconstitutional Roe V Wade is.

Those dried up prunes make me laugh.

FYI, if Roe V Wade were overturned, it does not mean we revert to back alleys. First, there's always Bermuda. Then there are always the States that will allow abortion. And to always put the need for legalized abortion on the life of the mother is dishonest. If the life of the mother is really in question - it ceases to be abortion in the classic terms.

Which is the intentional killing of an innocent who is unborn.

Mrs. P

Anonymous said...

George, did you see this from The Corner:

George, did you see this:

Hamilton’s Folly [John J. Pitney Jr.]

Prof. Marci Hamilton of the Cardozo School of Law writes that the Stupak amendment “violates the Constitution’s separation of church and state. The anti-abortion movement is plainly religious in motivation, and its lobbyists and spokespersons represent religious groups, as is illustrated by the fact that the most visible lobbyists in the Stupak Amendment’s favor have been the Catholic Bishops.”

By this standard, Professor Hamilton would have to conclude that the 1964 Civil Rights Act is also unconstitutional. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with other religious leaders and groups, led the fight for its enactment. “We needed the help of the clergy, and this was assiduously encouraged,” said Senator Hubert Humphrey. “I have said a number of times, and I repeat it now, that without the clergy, we couldn’t have possibly passed this bill.”

Sen. Richard B. Russell of Georgia, a segregationist, agreed with Humphrey that the clergy were the bill’s most visible lobbyists, but he was not happy about it. He complained that the clergy were using “powers of the Federal Government to coerce the people into accepting their views under threat of dire punishment” — a “philosophy of coercion” that he compared to the doctrines of Torquemada “in the infamous days of the Spanish Inquisition.”

A more sensible view of the relationship between religion and politics comes from a distinguished attorney who has taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago:

[S]ecularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King — indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history — were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The legal scholar is Barack Obama. And so those who argue along Professor Hamilton’s lines are echoing segregationists and opposing the president.

— John J. Pitney Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. With James Ceaser and Andrew Busch, he is co-author of Epic Journey: The 2008 Elections and American Politics.

11/12 04:19

Mrs. P

George Pal said...

Mrs. P,

I’m pretty sure finishing school and art school trump never finished school and ‘been in the Art Institute of Chicago’.

I hadn’t seen the Corner article and thank you for bringing it to my attention. Had I an ounce of industry I would collect such examples and finish up my theory that phenomena such as Prof. Marci Hamilton can be scientifically explained by Quantum Superposition.

I’d explain it to you but I’m not sure I understand it myself.

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