tim: protest sign: "Down With This Sort of Thing" (politics)
Well, I got to help subdue a random loud and obnoxious pro-forced-pregnancy heckler at a reading by Judith Arcana that I accidentally stumbled into. Sort of, anyway.

You see, Arcana was one of the members of JANE, a group that helped women get abortions before they were legal in the US. Her reading had not much to do with this fact; it was about the relationship between political rhetoric and poetry, and why you ought to bother to write *well* if you're writing to persuade. But naturally some of her writing touched on her work in this group, and Mr. Pro-Forced-Pregnancy in the audience managed to derail the whole Q&A session, starting with asking whether Arcana was "glorifying" the abortion work she'd done; going on to talking about why women have the gift to be able to create life and therefore they're obligated to give birth; and, when a woman in the audience said, basically, that she had just taken emergency contraception and was going to have an abortion if that didn't work, and that she wanted to remind him that he wasn't just talking about an abstraction but about real people's lives, he ended up (after the Q&A session more or less got shut down early because it was impossible for anyone to start a discussion on anything else) trying to persuade her not to have an abortion.

So she, and a couple of other women, were doing a pretty good job schooling him. But when he got to the old chestnut, "and how do you know who your [embryo] is going to be, why, it could end up being someone who'll make a difference in the world and you'd never know," I got up, and said, "you know, I think this woman might be able to make a difference in the world herself if she can go on carrying out her life plans without having to drop them to raise a kid she doesn't want."

The guy had no response to this.

Which didn't mean he actually stopped talking, but it was still a moral victory.

On the one hand, let it be said that in Portland, Oregon, on a freezing night in December of 2009, strangers didn't hesitate to engage each other about political questions of great concern, and thus, democracy still lives on. On the other hand, in 2009, women's civil rights just should not be a matter for democratic debate. So, you know, I don't know. And even though it wasn't even what I had planned to hear this evening, I wanted to hear more of what Arcana had to say, and it was a shame that someone who has insights to share that I haven't heard before got effectively shut down by a white guy with an entitlement complex parroting simplistic received moralism that I have heard before, all because some people believe that freedom of speech means you get to make people listen to you regardless of who was actually invited to give the lecture.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
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.)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Two quotations from _The Honest Politician's Guide to Crime Control_ by Norval Morris and Gordon Hawkins (which, based on what I've read of it so far, everyone should be forced to read, or at least, everyone who is a political leader or votes for them):
And, particularly from these "sportsmen," we must never tolerate the argument that if the murderer lacked a gun he would kill in some other way. If they believe that, they should, on grounds of sportsmanship, throw away their guns and club the deer to death, knife the bears, and poison the ducks.

The sanctity of life is often also taken to refer to the life of "the unborn child." Yet the use of this expression is as if we referred to the reader as "an adult fetus." To say that a fertilized ovum or an embryo is a human being and therefore entitled to the full protection of the law is a prejudicial abuse of language. Nor do those who take this position ever maintain it consistently, for they never embrace the logical corollary which is that all abortive operations are murders and should be so treated in law.

For our part, in view of the fact that human reproduction is a continuum, such questions as "When does life begin?" are unanswerable, except perhaps in metaphysical or theological terms. Nevertheless it is quite practicable to draw objective distinctions between abortion, infanticide, and homicide; and in terms of these well-recognized distinctions we say that abortion should not be regarded as criminal as long as the woman desires its performance. We see no reason to regard some other arbitrarily selected point prior to parturition, in what is a continuous process, as having any particular significance.
I think I may have posted part of the second quotation before. But it's worth re-posting, among other reasons because I came across this Cat and Girl comic that [livejournal.com profile] pinkhairedcyn linked to that says the same thing, only with pictures.

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Tim Chevalier

August 2014

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