Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pro-Life, Pro-Choice

I'm not going to delete this post, because nobody should bury what they've said, but this isn't correct.  I was wrong here, and I'm sorry for that.  You can't find a moral absolutionist perspective on abortion, its impossible.

Once again, I will try to use my logical processes to solve a major political cultural debate.  This time, we handle a real big baddie:  abortion.

Something I've always found interesting is how "Pro-Life" and "Pro-Choice" can mean political polars, and yet, the literal definitions of these two terms do not at all mean anything close to any close to antonyms.  How can "life" and "choice" be opposites?  I would very much like to know which side of the political spectrum first thought of this brilliant bit of political framing.  On the one hand, they both terms make their positions seem to be in the most positive life.  "We're not 'anti-abortion', we're for the life the of the child!"  "We're not supporting abortion, we're supporting a woman's right to control her own body!"  The inverse also comes about.  If you're "Pro-Life", then your opponents must be "Pro-Death", while if you're "Pro-Choice", your opponents must "Anti-Choice", neither of which sounds like a term somebody would put on their bumper sticker.

Of course, one can have all sorts of fun breaking through the specific jargon of political framing on both sides.  Is the physical organism being abortion an "unborn fetus" or an "unborn baby".  Or it could be a "pre-born child" (that one, I must admit, is a little tortured).  Are you talking about "performing abortions" or if you want to be crude, "killing babies"?  Does abortion count as a legal right, or is it actually a form of "manslaughter"?  It becomes very difficult to argue any sort of logic when the debate is obscured though all these complexities of language.  Simply picking one side's terminology over the other side's can mean an implicit support, despite the content of your actual meaning.  Since I'm trying to be as neutral as possible in my commentary, I'll simply use the Associated Press's standard for the issue:  Pro-Life will be called "anti-abortion" and Pro-Choice will be "Pro-Abortion".

Worse yet is that the abortion debate has evolved into such a wide-ranged cultural divide.  Feminism, separation of church and state, privacy rights, the definition of life, Constitutional interpretation, Supreme Court authority, natural rights, bioethics, and the sanctity of life all have some kind of stake in the outcome of the abortion conflict, which most likely will never end.  Its a huge tangled web of hidden meanings and unknown factors hiding behind every single commentary in every form.  Most anti-abortion advocates have both a moral and a religious dispute with the practice, and most pro-abortion folks support it both on moral and feminist grounds, seeing reproductive rights as a major step towards woman's liberation.

The best way to divide up the abortion debate is to separate it into two key forms:  a political debate, and a moral one.  The moral debate is the most obvious to people and the most simplistic:  is abortion a morally correct action to take, and if so, under what grounds?  But there is more to this situation.  Even if you were to find that something is morally wrong, should the government be allowed to step in and regulate the situation?

Since the moral issue is somewhat simpler, I'll tackle this one first, to the best of my ability.  I think ultimately, from a very fundamental level, one's first reaction to abortion is that it is morally wrong.  And there's probably something to that initial reaction.  Notice how guilt is the single most common emotional reaction after an abortion*.  If there was nothing wrong with the act, there should be no guilt, shame, or depression following it.  When you finally get down to the very bare bones of abortion, you are depriving a human being of his or her yet unlived life only because giving birth to them is highly inconvenient.  Pregnancy is a major choice for a person's life, whether they keep the child or not. Though does it need to be considered a horrific burden?  That our society has come to view childbirth has a great burden - something to be feared - rather than the miracle of creation.  Of course, I'm speaking as somebody who will never be pregnant (and am just the slightest bit jealous) so I can't say I fully understand the magnitude of this event in life.  One should be proud to be reproducing, to be fulfilling the fundamental purpose of all life.  Only a person with a very grim view of this world could consider the act of creation as anything less than the most important achievement we humans are meant to fulfill.  I guess all I'm saying is that there is nothing particularly wrong with pregnancy.  Any society that sees this as a condition to be pitied, or abhorred, no matter what the circumstances, must not be a very healthy one.

Let's be honest, here.  Nobody really wants there to be abortions in the first place.  Both those for and against its legality will tell you that in a perfect world, there would be no abortions at all.  For those supporting its use, its at best a very tragic decision that only the woman** can make.

Of course, I can claim abortion to be a morally incorrect act when in general, but any specifics is where my voice immediately becomes silent.  I can't say that "Mrs. So-in-So" should not have aborted her baby, because I have absolutely nothing to say in that circumstance.  My voice is neither required or wanted.  Its not my decision, not my choice, and not where I or anybody else should be interfering.  I will advise that in nearly all cases of unwanted pregnancy that adoption is a far better decision for all involved***.

I think perhaps more important for the abortion debate is not the moral issue, but the legal one.  Is this a place where we want our governments to have power over?  It is one thing to admit that a practice is wrong, but its another to go ahead and say it should be stopped, and a far bigger thing altogether to call on the government to end it.  That seems a little odd when you walk around listening to people constantly saying "there should be a law for X", but our system of government is based quite firmly on the idea that the government can take part in some areas, but not others. 

My feeling of the subject, and this is one that is shared by many, is that the government should not interfere in any situation unless there is compelling state interest for the common good.  For example, murder is outlawed here and everywhere because the government has a charge to protect the lives and welfare of its citizenry.  I suppose if fertility rates were dropping down to crisis levels, the government would have compelling state interest to ban abortion and force the population to maintain itself or expand.  But otherwise, fetuses are not citizens legally until birth.  As much as abortion is distasteful to me, equally distasteful is the government taking control of women's bodies and uses them as mobile incubators for the next generation without good cause.  The government can imprison a person, legally require them to take medication, but it has never had the power to control natural bodily processes beyond the will of the person.  I don't believe anybody does or should have that kind of power.

I think ultimately we have to conclude that there are no easy answers here, as there shouldn't be for a debate that's raged for half a century in this country.  If everybody could stop having abortions altogether, I think that it would be for the best.  But it must be done voluntarily, by their own will.  This is not an area for the government to be sticking its nose in, I believe.  I can't hope to make an ultimately final choice here, because either choice leads to such difficult consequences.  This is a case where both the right of the woman to control her body, and the right of the fetus to exist is under question.  Picking which one is more important is a difficult one.  Nobody really can know what the final answer is, because nobody has complete wisdom.  In fact, there probably isn't a final answer at all.  Who ever said that there was?  All one can ever do in this situation is to be true to himself or herself, and try not to judge too harshly if somebody decides the other way.

* There is now even a medical term for the emotion trauma:  "Post Abortion Syndrome" (PAS.  Suicide rates are particularly high following an abortion, by the way.  Not surprisingly, PAS is highly common amongst teenagers who have not fully emotionally developed.

** I dare not call any woman who has an abortion a "mother", like so some support groups and sources do.  They consciously decided against this job by killing their unborn children.  I don't want to be overly cruel, but calling these people "mothers" seems to be a perverted mockery of the word.  You can't be a mother to the fetus and have an abortion, that's the literal and figurative truth.

*** There's an exception to every rule of course.  In cases of severe birth defects to the point that quality of life would be one of constant pain, abortion is a very reasonable choice.


  1. The only reason I would support an abortion, is if the baby will have a major defect, or in simpler terms, it might harm the mother and/or baby in a non-normal way. Other than that, abortion should be illegal. After all, it's your damn fault you chose to get laid, that baby is the result of your stupidity. That would be my $0.02 CAD.

  2. abortion falls down to one very simple thing for me personally. it's about giving the baby a good quality of life and if you're not ready or you suffered rape or if you know it will have some debilitating problem in it's life then it's fair to have an abortion.
    if you have no reason to abort a baby apart from sheer carelessness, i'll say drunkeness too, then that is wrong because you're extinguishing a life that could have been.

    i disagree with the catholic view a rape victim should be forced to still have the child...
    in America it is a huge debate but in Europe it is seen as a necessity, i wouldn't say we're more casual about it as I went to a catholic girls school and watched every anti-abortionist propanda from the 1980s to now but after all that if I wasn't ready to give a child the best quality of life I could then I would consider abortion. and i guess that's my decision when it comes down to it.

  3. I dare not call any woman who has an abortion a "mother", like so some support groups and sources do. They consciously decided against this job by killing their unborn children.

    I presume this does not include those who chose abortion because their child would have suffered tremendously from incurable diseases if they had been born.

    I cannot make a coherent case on this, because I cannot hope to vocalise the grief I feel for these women who are confronted with this issue. I have seen those who have been torn apart because they have chosen abortion, or because they feel they cannot.

    I do think you do women who have this choice a disservice when you speak of an "inconvenience". We are talking about a decision which could make or ruin lives, either of which you take. Very few women take this lightly.

  4. (And Yuan punches me in the philosophical gut. Ouch, but necessary, it was obviously all full of crap.)

    Your presumption is correct. I wasn't thinking every angle of the issue, again. This post has actually been deleted altogether and re-written twice, if you can believe that.

    I was probably being too harsh when I used the word "inconvenience". (If I were a better writer, I could have made that thought with less blunt tools, but alas.) But I should point something out: having a child should never be considered "ruining your life". Its a major step in life, but it can never be the wrong one. If anybody ever looks at a pregnancy with derision, they are clearly mistaken, horribly so. Any society that limits a woman's options due to pregnancy is in need of reform, direly so.

    @hammy: Logically, there's nothing really wrong with a child born of rape, as horrible as that is. Their father is a monster, no doubt, but they are completely innocent. If the mother can over the psychological trauma, they could see the child as something good coming out of an awful awful crime. Though considering the situation, I could understand not seeing it this way.

  5. One example I can give, obviously concealing any names, is that of a woman who already has two children. She is nearing the birth of her third child, from her divorced husband. She had planned to go to TAFE to gain an education and thus a higher paying job. Because of her pregnancy, and later the burdens of having to look after young children, she is no longer able to do so. She refused the possibility of having an abortion, but she also feels like a failure as a mother because she is now unable to support her children, and is completely stagnated in terms of education and social prospects. The unborn child is an unwanted reminder of her husband (who refuses to assist her), but she feels she must love it and do the best that she can: at the expense of herself and her other children.

    Because of this, she has slid into depression and has considered suicide. This behaviour is damaging both to her children and to herself. She does not wish to take antidepressants in case it harms the child.

    Of course, that is not to say all cases are like this, nor that her decision was right or wrong. But this is what I mean when I say that lives can be ruined by a decision.

  6. Yuan, you're my favorite commentator, you know that? Even if there were a thousand other voices here, I'm sure I would love your reactions the most.

    Even so, that poor woman should not be equating the child with her (horrible) husband. That child is not him, and is not even really his beyond the biological if he refuses to care for it and love it. But even if this woman has the baby, she does not need to raise it. If she cannot find a way to love it as much as her older children, she probably should not be its mother in the first place. Adoption, as always, is a better option.

    However, the problem is more complicated than simply choosing to keep a baby. Her husband and her had an agreement to stay together, or at the very least continue to support their children together so that they could mutually attain a better life. If anybody is at fault her problems right now it is clearly him, not the baby.

    In my country, at least, this woman would have numerous government options so that she could raise her children and educate herself. My baby half-brother's mother did so before she met my father, and she was abandoned by an equally despicable husband.

    Hopefully her family and perhaps a future husband can help her raise her children while she gains an education. I really do want everything to work out for the best for her and her children.

  7. This whole debate is rather dangerous, and saying the wrong things may lead to pissing everyone off.

    The "Abortion Law" states that any woman who wants an abortion may have one, if they want. Notice that I said "if they want". People seem to forget that the law won't force them to get an abortion, but that they are given the choice.

    Personally, I don't believe in abortion. To me, it's wrong. HOWEVER, I do believe we should give women the right to choose. Where are we to say what a woman can do to her body.

    But, of course, assholes like Glen Beck will argue that this is wrong on a religious level. Firstly, isn't our country based on the principle of a seperation of Religion and State. Secondly, let these people live the lives they want. Not one person can make the decision for others to live by.

    If it's anything to the conservatives, these people will go to hell, in your religion. Just take pride in that, and shut up.

  8. umm, what Xep said.

  9. Unfortunately, her problem is not so much in her situation as in how she feels trapped in it. She loves that child and her other children, but any decision she makes feels like condemning herself as even more of a failure. It is not the child she sees at fault, but herself.

    Leave her child for adoption? She's a failure for being unable to raise her child. Raise her children herself? She's a failure for being unable to provide better for them. Go to TAFE and educate herself? She's not looking after her children.

    Her thinking may seem irrational, but, alas, that is how depression is. That case is not an argument for either pro-abortion or anti-abortion, but for how powerless people can feel, despite seemingly having so many decisions, and the far reaching effects one's decisions and how one deals with them may have. It is not something we can blame solely on an individual or society. The very best we can do, I think, is in each situation to try to help the people involved as best we can.


    If it's anything to the conservatives, these people will go to hell, in your religion. Just take pride in that, and shut up*.

    I must disagree with that. The majority of people who are against abortion due to religious reasons believe strongly that it is for the good of that particular person. They cannot simply sit by and accept the damning of souls they could help. From their perspective, they are not limiting the rights of women; they're protecting those women and children from harm. Accepting something is wrong means you must do as much as you can to fight against it.

    I may not agree with their logic, but I think it's utterly wrong to typecast people who object to abortion on religious grounds the way you have. Most of them are people like us, who believe that what they're doing is right (the old "people should be protected from themselves" vs "freedom in everything" debate). No one who truly believes in the values of compassion and universal kinship that the grand majority of religions teach would wish another person to Hell.

    *Freedom of speech means giving a voice to those whose opinions are opposing to yours. They have the right to speak out.

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  12. Drat, Blogspot is being annoying. Sorry for the doublepost there.

  13. Don't worry, Yuan. My blog superpower allows me to delete the various copies.

    Perhaps I made the mistake of believing in enlightenment liberalism: that there was a singular way of organizing society so that all or at least most people could be made the most happy or at least morally clear. But as with all attempts at social engineering, somebody is going to get screwed. And badly. I suppose it takes a colder heart than mine to implement these sorts of things.

    @Xepscern, don't think that just because somebody is arguing for or against something on religious grounds that their intentions are any less valid or their motives are not pure. When did religion get to be seen as so inherently evil?

  14. When Israel started blaming everyone for their own problems, instead of just dealing with things like Japan?

    Seriously, religion is spinning out of control these days, with the recent Priest-on-child rape news circulating around the world. The media should just STFU.

  15. I'm afraid that if I say anything on this topic that I'll just continue to argue until I'm blocked from making comments, so instead I'm going to ask you, BlueHighwind, for your opinion on the Health Care Reform bill now that it's been signed in to law, and the possibility that it will be declared unconstitutional because it forces people to buy Health Insurance?

  16. @Drake

    Then isn't it equally unconstitutional to have Car Insurance, which is also required by all who own a car? If you own a car, you have to get Car Insurance. If you have the risk of getting sick(which coincidentally or not, everyone does), you have to get Health Insurance. It's called logic. Besides, if the federal government keeps its word and everyone does indeed get health insurance... then you, or at least me, I just have to ask myself, who wouldn't want Health Insurance? Who wouldn't want Medicare when they grow older? The American people may possess many things in their intellectual analysis of everything Obama does, except one thing, a bit of common sense.

  17. Here's a point about health insurance vs. car insurance: you don't HAVE to have a car. If you care to do so, you can go city transit, and avoid car payments, insurance, mechanic, gas... All things that you can just forgo when needed WITHOUT government retaliation [going car-less, of course]. Health care, on the other hand, is for one not generally needed at certain ages: when one is 20ish, odds are they're not going to be needing health insurance [assuming they have no chronic conditions or they don't live live relatively dangerously, all that's needed is shots and the occasional prescription]. If something REALLY goes wrong, no one will deny them care - and when someone is young and just starting their career, the extra money really helps. And there are some who DON'T want medicare when they get older - who wants to be shelling out EXTRA money to the fed. government?

  18. I'm not entirely an expert on health care, but I do know that some of its provisions are things I can agree with. For example, stopping health insurance companies from crazy rate increases, dropping aid for no good reason, refusing insurance for those with pre-existing conditions, that's all good. Making sure large employers offer their employees healthcare, is also a good thing. Extending Medicaid, okay. Unfortunately, I'm not much of an expert in economics, so I really don't know much about what this bill would do in the long term. This is why there isn't a post about it.

    Annoymous, one of the bill's provisions is that you stay on your parent's plan up until age 26. There are also subsidizes insurance plans for you to purchase if your income is at a certain level (say when you're "just starting out"). I guess living without health insurance is a right people should have, but why would anyone want to? That seems incredibly stupid and irresponsible.

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  20. I followed you from Slacktivist.

    A couple of points:

    1. The AP is full of sh!t. As you point out no-one is "Pro-abortion". The "left" is, as it says, pro-choice -- it should be the mother (yes, mother, as she is the one giving life to the embryo) who makes an informed decision. The "right" is NOT pro-life -- many are in favor of the death penalty for a multitude of crimes, and most are opposed to sex education, which is the best way to reduce abortions.

    2. As a male, you don't know what emotions women have before or after an abortion. On Slacktivist, we have several who viewed it as a necessary procedure, with no guilt whatsoever. As for those who do feel guilty, don't the anti-abortion protesters, with their fake photos of "abortions" and screams of "baby-killer" bear some blame?

    3. I don't consider abortion "morally wrong". I consider a choice, perhaps easy, perhaps hard, that a woman makes, and it is not for me to judge. AT ALL.


  21. Pro-life americans need to take a stand together with one voice on this issue! We need to continue to stand on our convictions because it i right!

    i signed a document with 400,000 other signers taking a stand against abortion!

    sign it here:

  22. Although I agree that abortions should be avoided where possible, I maintain a pro-choice stance.

    As for the oft-raised issue of the stage at which the abortion occurs, I am of the opinion that it becomes human as soon as the nervous system develops, and no earlier. What is the most important aspect of humans? The brain and nervous system. This is the only truly unique thing about of our species, the only thing that really makes a human a human. Consequently, as far as I am concerned, the arbitrary cluster of cells is not a human until some of those cells differentiate into human neurons.

    Of course, there's the "when does LIFE (as opposed to humanity) begin"? There is no start point. The egg is alive, the sperm is alive, the cluster of cells is alive, and eventually, some of hose cells will lead to eggs and sperm that are alive. There is no such thing as a life-start cutoff. As a result, the only two boundaries that I have any respect for are fertilisation - no life difference, but it's the point where the cells become diploid rather than haploid - and the nervous system. All other boundaries right up to the obviously valid one of birth are irrelevant.

    But, you know, this is just my opinion.