tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
A friend on Facebook linked to this article from New York magazine, about how Americans aren't as pro-choice as we'd all like to think. (Warning: somewhat NSFW image on the first page.) It's a thought-provoking article; I take the author's conclusion as being, basically, that pro-choice people ought to spend more time acknowledging the "moral complexity" of the abortion debate.

I couldn't possibly disagree more.

Of all the issues currently up for debate, I see abortion rights as being a pretty simple one. Yes, it may be unclear just when life begins and how much we ought to consider granting any putative rights to fetuses. However, none of that matters. There is nothing that can possibly justify the evil of government forcing women to be pregnant when they don't want to be pregnant. Whatever the harm resulting from destroying fetuses, it cannot exceed the harm to women when the law tells them their bodies aren't their own.

That it even enters into our minds to consider that supposed fetal rights might justify forced pregnancy is evidence that Americans haven't really assimilated the first-class citizenship of women.

This is not to say that the choice to have an abortion, or not, isn't ever difficult for an individual woman. But that's not what the abortion debate is about. The debate is about whether women should have the choice in the first place. Being pro-choice is about respecting the difficulty of that question and acknowledging that all solutions other than leaving it up to the individual woman whose body is at stake are worse than anything that can come of respecting women's autonomy.

Relatedly, I'd love to hear people stop saying that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. What I'd like to see become rare is women ruining their lives, and quite possibly those of their future children, because the pro-forced-pregnancy movement guilted them into turning a single mistake into a lifetime burden. (And yes, I do believe that much of the supposed emotional ambivalence about abortion is manufactured; advertising can be very effective at manipulating emotions, and to acknowledge that that manipulation exists is not to downplay the intelligence of the manipulated.) Once that's rare, once nobody brings a child into the world out of guilt, maybe then we can work on making abortion rare. Then again, I'm not sure that wouldn't be putting the cart before the horse. Maybe we could work on creating the kind of world where women can carry condoms, or take birth control when they're not in a relationship, without being made to feel like "sluts", and then abortion rates would go down as a side effect. It's just a thought.

When I say that we ought not to concede "moral complexity", I don't mean to say that persuading the public to accept reproductive freedom is going to be simple -- not at all. But that's because persuading the public to accept that women are human beings has never been simple, and won't be simple for a very long time. It's not because whether to force women to give birth is a morally complex question.
If you agree, consider donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which -- if done via the link -- will go towards my goal of raising $290 for the NNAF by my birthday! (End of shameless plug. If you don't use Facebook, you can donate to them directly, and that'll be just great too.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 03:51 am (UTC)
etb: (i am ur habitat)
From: [personal profile] etb
I think I agree with all of that, except that "destroying fetuses" sounds like "destroying" animals. With animals, I perceive "destroying" as a sign that the speaker feels that their death is potentially wrong and therefore must be cloaked in abstract language. I haven't noticed anyone talking about "destroying" ants or wasps or other things whose death is generally not considered problematic.

So I'd rather just say "killing fetuses" straight off.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 07:04 am (UTC)
etb: (dynamitage)
From: [personal profile] etb
Being killable (living) doesn't require independent existence. You can kill tissue; you can even kill cells. Is a fetus somehow less alive than the rest of the person it's a part of? Abortion kills living tissue—but that needn't be of any more moral concern than any other medical procedure that kills living tissue.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 06:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anemone.livejournal.com
I'm not precisely disagreeing here, but the problem is that both sides have made the abortion debate about when life begins. I've not heard pro-choicers argue that if you give the fetus the same rights as an adult, the legal right to an abortion would be unambiguous before 24 weeks. (After 24 weeks or so, a woman unambiguously has the right to end the pregnancy, but ending the pregnancy doesn't mean killing the baby at that point.)

That it even enters into our minds to consider that supposed fetal rights might justify forced pregnancy is evidence that Americans haven't really assimilated the first-class citizenship of women.

This is partly true, but also: people like babies an irrational amount. People you would never expect smile at them and coo at them. This is important for the survival of the species, because babies are really fucking annoying. If men could be life-support systems for fetuses, they wouldn't get free abortion passes either.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anemone.livejournal.com
People don't have to like babies; they just have to like sex.

Babies cannot survive on their own. They require every-two-hourly or so care for the first few weeks. They are disgusting, spewing vomit, poo, and pee at regularly intervals. They destroy the desire for sex in women, and may make sex painful. After six weeks of baby maintenance, you get...a smile. A year into the project, you get a baby who can reach more things. At two, they want to be useful, but mostly mess stuff up when they try. It's three before you can put them to work.

Maybe you could argue that only women need to like babies, but someone needs to like them. And if a man is living with a woman with a baby, he'd better like the baby. Even if he doesn't have to deal with the feeding or cleaning, the baby is going to interfere with his life substantially, and if he doesn't let it do so, then the baby will have a much higher chance of death.

It may be true that this time is more sentimental about babies than other times (and some cultures are clearly more so than others)--but to keep people from leaving their babies to be eaten by wild animals or dropped in the river, there has to be some sort of imperative that amounts to "care for the babies."

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 05:45 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tgies
As a baby, I am offended.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 06:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rebbyribs.livejournal.com
It's three before you can put them to work.

Really? My experience seems to be it's more like they sometimes want to help and can sometimes help without messing things up, but this is very limited.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-04 03:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anemone.livejournal.com
I heard that in the 1700s, at about three, kids on farms start getting simple chores to do (like feeding the chickens). Three seems to be a dividing line for other can-follow-directions sort of stuff, so I bought that as an approximate line.

In the modern lifestyle, it seems to me that there's less useful work for a young children to do.

Now, since I don't really have any actually research to back it up, and I don't even have a three-year-old, I would be willing to believe I'm wrong.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 07:17 am (UTC)
etb: LiveJournal's usual status (degraded)
From: [personal profile] etb
People don't have to like babies; they just have to like sex. (From a survival-of-the-species point of view.)

People have to like babies enough to take care of them; otherwise they'd all starve to death.

It seems entirely plausible to me that fetuses being shaped like babies has something to do with anti-abortion sentiment (compared to, say, the lack of similar moral concern about amputations).

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 07:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rebbyribs.livejournal.com
Well, I think people might not see laws restricting abortion to only cases of rape, incest, or the life of the woman is in danger as "forcing women to give birth" because the women who were not raped were not "forced" to get pregnant in the first place.

That it even enters into our minds to consider that supposed fetal rights might justify forced pregnancy is evidence that Americans haven't really assimilated the first-class citizenship of women.

Maybe it makes sense if pregnancy is viewed as a mere temporary inconvenience for the woman versus the permanence of death for the fetus?
We do have other laws that sometimes force people to do things they wouldn't otherwise do - going to war (the draft), paying taxes, etc. (I am pro-choice and against the draft, so I'm not saying I think forced pregnancy or forced military service are good ideas.)

Maybe we could work on creating the kind of world where women can carry condoms, or take birth control when they're not in a relationship, without being made to feel like "sluts", and then abortion rates would go down as a side effect. It's just a thought.

You think advertising could be effective there? (It seems like something the makers birth control could get behind.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 09:22 pm (UTC)
talia_et_alia: Photo of my short blue hair. (Default)
From: [personal profile] talia_et_alia
Two notes about this concept of "abortion is not ok unless there's horrible extenuating circumstances", that would probably change how I engage with this issue:

1. I don't think I've seen a discussion of this that conceded that mental conditions might be sufficiently dangerous to the mother's health to qualify as an exception. And that's fucking stupid, since I hear you can't always take your meds while pregnant. (Not to mention the gender dysphoria, but that's a personal problem.)

2. Personally, I don't separate cultural attitudes and debate around abortion access from those around contraception, birth control, and sterilization. It's not just that people have sex and don't always want a child to result, it's also that women who want to prevent pregnancy can't do so easily, cheaply, and without social stigma. And I hear sterilizing already-marginalized women is a great way to prevent abortions.

I might be less rabidly pro-choice if I lived in a different society, but I don't.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 10:02 pm (UTC)
talia_et_alia: Photo of my short blue hair. (Default)
From: [personal profile] talia_et_alia
Oh, sure, there lots of further complexity there: some women can't use some sorts of birth control, some don't want to do anything that permanent or unfamiliar or drastic, and yeah, some just don't want to for their own reasons. (Which aren't my business.) But the overall attitude of 'no, women all want to be baby machines! but we can't let you nasty undesirables get away with it, coerced sterilization for you!' is so, so problematic.

I'm also thinking 3rd-party stigma doesn't cover all of it: the hassle of trying to negotiate condoms and other safer-sex measures with every sex partner, every time? That sounds obnoxious, and I can see why some people wouldn't do it.

This past weekend someone I know was reading _Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage_. I wonder if it would go well in dialogue with with _Taking Chances_, having read neither.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 09:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rebbyribs.livejournal.com
I thought that most of the religious right did think that adult men should refrain from having sex, except within marriage (and that the point of marriage was to make a bunch of babies). The abstinence-only education in schools is for teenage boys too, right? I guess I thought it was really more an anti-sex point of view than a simply misogynistic one.

The number of people who advocate rape/incest exceptions is, of course, further evidence that opposition to abortion is not about the morality of killing a fetus, but about passing judgments on women's morality. If killing a fetus is murder, it shouldn't matter how that fetus was created! So, almost nobody even entertains the notion that fetuses and adults have equal moral standing, which means that the supposed "moral complexity" of the question of when life begins is a red herring, and that we shouldn't engage with a disingenuous argument.

I've wondered if it might be about eugenics by limiting the reproduction of rapists. That's something I'd think about if I were pregnant by rape, but I don't know how common that thought would be for other people.

I think I largely agree with you, just not on the only bit. So I feel like I'm being kind of petty by trying to argue about it at all, and I should probably desist.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-02 10:06 pm (UTC)
talia_et_alia: Photo of my short blue hair. (Default)
From: [personal profile] talia_et_alia
....They do know that some women do carry to term under those circumstances, yes? And not all of them adopt the child out, even? I mean, yeah, I'm comfortable saying most women would find it unpalatable to carry their rapist's child. But women make a dazzling array of choices in this world, and it's really not that hard to imagine a rationale for doing that.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-04 04:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anemone.livejournal.com
I thought that most of the religious right did think that adult men should refrain from having sex, except within marriage (and that the point of marriage was to make a bunch of babies). The abstinence-only education in schools is for teenage boys too, right? I guess I thought it was really more an anti-sex point of view than a simply misogynistic one.

They *say* that, and probably even mean it, but the consequences of sex outside of marriage have always been greater for women than for men. (Unless, perhaps, the men were having sex with a woman married to another man.) There's a certain respect men who have lots of sex get. Women who have sex with lots of men are a different story.

I'd say that the abstinence-only thing has its origins in a misogynistic world view that can't be supported given their belief about basic equality of the two sexes. Given this clash between two sets of beliefs, they seek a way of expressing their misogyny that doesn't sound misogynistic to them. So, they say anti-sex stuff, because then they can say it's no more anti-woman than it is anti-man.

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