Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogging for choice

Amanda Marcotte helped provide me with the biggest simplification in the "choice" argument; she pointed out that abortion is not a problem. A woman with an unwanted pregnancy is a problem. An abortion is one way to solve that problem.

The entire debate over abortion needs to be viewed from this perspective. The problem is a pregnancy the woman wants to terminate; what is the solution to this problem?

Now, I grew up believing abortion was wrong. But is its wrongness self-evident, or is it a result of a particular, chosen belief?

I say that a claim of inherent wrongness is a result of a particular, chosen belief.

The pro-life position is that "life begins at conception", which is stupid; life begins before conception. What they should be saying is that "personhood begins at conception" because there's nothing inherently wrong with destroying "life". We have to kill to live. Even plants are alive!

Well, personhood, as we understand it, doesn't begin at conception. At the moment of conception, you have a single cell. There's no brain; there's no heart; there's no lungs. There aren't even specific cells that will develop into a brain, heart, or set of lungs.

A claim that the destruction of that cell would be wrong is not self-evident. It certainly is a wondrous cell, but a lot of them die spontaneously, and no one cares. So, destruction of that cell isn't self-evidently evil.

Who gets to make the decision about whether the destruction of that cell is to be allowed?

If the state (or "the states", for those federalists in the audience) can make that decision, then the state is able to impose an arbitrary rule on its citzens. This is supposed to be a free country, founded on the principle that we, the people, are the ones who hold the power and that the government exists to serve us. That means the government can't impose arbitrary rules. There must be some compelling interest to enforce that rule. First and foremost, we have the rights. Then, the government can impose the necessary restrictions so we can all live in peace.

It's not self-evidently wrong to kill this cell, but it is self-evidently wrong to kill a newborn. So, somewhere between these two points, we cross the boundary into "self-evidently wrong". Somewhere along this line, the state has a compelling interest.

Of course, if you accept this, you have to allow early term abortions. Thus, the pro-life movement rejects it. This is the origin of "Life begins at conception". It's a purely meaningless talking point intended to cover for their desire to outlaw all abortion.

Oh, there are people who insist that they're sincere, and can point to their work to ban Emergency Contraception to prove it, but the fact of the matter is, we don't ever think of fertilized egg cells as people. We don't expect a woman to grieve over its failure to implant; we don't hold funerals or inquests; we think "it sucks, but she can try again if she wants a baby", which only the most callous of people would think in the event of a stillbirth or late-term miscarriage.

So, in a nutshell, this is why I'm pro-choice. This cold, hard reasoning that says "the state should not have the power to punish a person for making a choice that is not self-evidently wrong. Only the woman and her doctor should have the power to decide if an early-term abortion is an acceptable moral choice."

Once some time period has passed (and in the end, it can't help but be a bit arbitrary - face it, if you set the time as 180 days, what's the difference between the development there, and at days 179 and 181?), there's going to be a state interest, but there does need to be a health exception. We can't have legislators determining, sight unseen, how much risk to a woman's health is acceptable. If a doctor is willing to certify that it was necessary for the woman's health, that must be enough. Any other legislative test is certain to cause problems. Yes, this means some abortions might be performed that raise troubling questions, but it also means that we'll avoid risks to the health and lives of women that would result from a poorly worded law.

You might think, reading this, that I'm "okay" with abortion. I'm not.

But the abortion isn't the problem. The unwanted pregnancy is.

Pro-choicers say that you can take care of the problem in a variety of ways... in the early term, you can continue, or end, the pregnancy.

Pro-lifers say you don't get to choose; continue the pregnancy.

Pro-choicers have always tried to prevent abortions, by promoting contraception and education, allowing people to moake wise choices. But the won't try to force, coerce, or deceive a woman into continuing an unwanted pregnancy.

Many (certainly not all) pro-lifers try to prevent abortions through legislation, coercion, and deception. (Some pro-lifers do promote contraception and sex ed and so forth, and I'm glad that they do so, and I salute them for that.)

But that's the key difference. Pro-choice people see the unwanted pregnancy as the problem, and work to avoid the unplanned pregnancy. Pro-life people see abortion as the problem, and work to avoid that. And while some pro-life people are also pro-sex, a distressing number think that "avoiding the unwanted pregnancy" means "don't have sex, period, unless you're willing to carry the baby to term if birth control fails."

And, if nothing else convinced me, that would. When choosing sides in a battle, it helps to look around and see who's on your side. On my side are people who preach happy, safe sex, and education and informed choices. On the other are those who fight emergency contraception, who have "crisis pregnancy centers" dedicated towards pushing women away from abortions (regardless of the women's feelings on the matter), and those who claim abortion is murder, but have the hypocrisy to denounce those who use violence in an attempt to prevent those "murders".

I'm pro-choice for other reasons... but still, I like my side better.

Pro -lifers like the idea of social control. They like to believe they have a moral authority and an obligation to force it upon you. Yet they have no problem bombing abortion clinics and shooting doctors. However, they have yet to walk three steps in any womans shoes who have been faced with the grim reality that is or could be their life and/or the life of their child.
I did a piece on my site about this. I too was faced with a dilema. I made my choice, one that was right for me and my family. MY choice. I chose to have the child. MY choice. Funny thing though, I don't ever remember a single pro-lifer showing up at my door with formula, paid doctor bills (and his were huge!)or shoes.. nothing.

They also like to wave their bible in your face. Funny isn't it, what would they think if we walked into their church and started making our demands? Just askin'.
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