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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

 

Abortion is a subject that I feel has been done to death, and honestly, detested talking about it in class. Much like anti-sex feminism, or discussion of female genital circumcision or racism, academic discourse on the issue almost always lacks a real perspective. I do not think it was any different in our class discussion. How many people in that room have had to choose? When I say had to I mean really had to, like the woman who was raped, or the mother who would starve her other children if she gave birth again, or the young couple who cannot even afford themselves, or someone deciding between their life and the child’s life. Choose is not I forgot a condom, I forgot to take my pill, or it just feels better without anything. The lack of a displayed voice that has had to deal with real choice seems to negate any conversation. This isn’t just a rant on class discussion though, I think a lot of anti-abortion discussion tends to ignore or leave out the voice of the affected. Conservative Christians, pro-life activists, they all discuss the life of the child, rarely the life that is affected by the birth of that child, or the decision making process that at times ends with abortion. Nor have the most outspoken, the most judgmental, and the most ready to condemn likely had to make such a decision. Yet these people shape our social norms and public policy, and on a smaller scale, direct class discussion. That is why I believe that abortion is every individual woman’s choice, to be made with her partner, if that person so wishes to be involved, regardless what the government says, or what societal morals prescribe.

To support my position I would like to examine the argumentation of Steven B. Hales and Judith Jarvis Thomson. Beginning with Thomson, we learn that although a fetus may have the right to life, that right does not come at the abandonment of concern for the rights of the mother (Boss 91). More than that, Thomson points out a major flaw in most abortion argumentation (whatever direction it goes). Setting a line between human being and fetus is an arbitrary line, with a thousand different reasoning for setting a thousand different lines (Boss 91). And, we only draw the line at defining the life of the child, but beyond life and death matters, we rarely define what is life for the mother. We place the rights of the child ahead of the rights of the mother (Boss 95). Moreover, Thomson reasons that pro-life argumentation assumes that woman invites a fetus into her womb, which is untrue in instances of rape or incest, and in unplanned pregnancy where all methods of contraception are attempted (Boss 97).

However, if women are allowed to have abortions, few questions asked, then that means they are completely able to shirk the responsibility of parenthood. In our society men are financially penalized for such a thing, and if they fail to pay that support, they are put in jail. Steven B. Hales reasons that there are three conflicting principles when it comes to abortion discussions. Firstly, women have a moral right to abortion, secondly, men and women are moral equals, and finally that parents have a moral duty to their children (Boss 118). So men have an equal moral claim to their children, because they are a parent with equal rights and responsibilities. So a man should have a say in whether or not his partner has an abortion, or if he takes sole responsibility for the child.

Although I personally agree with this position, there are a few issues that should be addressed. Firstly, should citizens be allowed to choose their own morals? Many governments seem to think not, making abortion illegal, not permitting man or woman the opportunity to freely choose. In the United States this is based on the Christian ethic that abortion is murder. I personally believe that one of the greatest gifts given to us by God was freewill, and that means we should able to choose our life path, and whether or not that involves children or not. However, many people argue that abortion is immoral, and that it is the government’s job to be the protectorate of the people. Insofar as rights of the father are concerned, the most obvious problem here is that a man does not incur the expenses of pregnancy, and I am not just talking about hospital bills and doctors visits. Pregnancy is like strip mining for the female form, a woman’s body is never the same after she gives birth. For some women this is an amazing and beautiful life experience, for other women, and myself included in this group, pregnancy is the last desirable thing on Earth, and the trade off does not outweigh the benefits.

Because most people’s ideas about abortion deal with religion, or their aversion to religious guidelines. This is extremely polarizing. However, we have to ask why that is such a bad thing? No matter how you look at it, with the ending of a child’s life or with the protecting of a mother’s life, or simply maintaining a way of life, the decision to have an abortion is an altering one. So shouldn’t people have strong convictions about why they make such a decision? This, I believe, is all the more reason for governments not to legislate the moral reasoning on this issue. The only compromise to allow all people to exercise what they believe regarding abortion is to have a personal choice remain personal.

Scientifically this reasoning upholds as well. Biologically, how do we define a person? Some, mainly people of a Jewish faith, believe that life begins at birth, others at ‘quickening,’ and still more believe that life begins at conception. This range of standards is because there is no solid scientific point as to when life begins; when a person actually exist in such a way that it can claim rights.

Bottom line is that no metatheorhetical method of argumentation will satisfy everyone, and one would have to work hard to persuade me that one method would even satisfy a plurality. Ethical relativism would leave out the dogmatist; absolutism would alienate those who believe we should be critically rational. So for a government, especially a developed, liberal, democratic one, to attempt to legislate something so volatile and polarizing seems absurd. The only one I could possibly argue for would be ethical relativism, because I believe in individual choice in this matter, and the choices should be made on each persons individual ethics. Individualism, the love child of the Enlightenment, the basis of our system, should be upheld over evangelical Christian ethics.

I also believe that ethical relativism is the only way to maintain the lovely line that separates church and state. It upholds all three parts of the constitutionality test. It would have a secular purpose: health care. Secondly, it does not inhibit religion, I hate to use the bumper sticker adage, but if you don’t like abortion, don’t get one! Thirdly, it does not entangle the government in religion at all, because it involves neither religion nor science into a personal choice. I do not believe this would overturn Roe v. Wade, but strengthen the secular Supreme Court ruling.

For a democracy, individual choice is key, paramount to all things important, like freedom of speech and religion. So it would be against the basis of democracy for the government to attempt some sort of absolute ruling on abortion. The best thing is to let the couple directly involved with the pregnancy exercise their individual choice.

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