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Something Borrowed–Short Interlude

with 8 comments

I actually have a lot of things to do today, and no real time.

But I wanted to comment on Michael Fisher’s comment about abortion.

Because it’s not just abortion that is showing signs of a coming crack-down.

It’s pregnancy itself.

Consider:  when my parents’ generation had children, women routinely had a cocktail before dinner throughout their pregnancies, and nobody thought anything of it.

These days, the local bartender, waiter at a fine restaurant, nurse in you child’s school is likely to inform Social Services of the fact that a woman is drinking even so much as a single glass of wine with her dinner, because the practice is automatically assumed to cause “brain damage” and “fetal alcohol syndrome.”

Of course, if such a moderate exposure to alcohol–or even a large exposure to tobacco–could cause brain damage and fetal alc0hol syndrome, the entire baby boom would have been born with FAS.

But it’s part and parcel not only of our increasing Puritanism about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, but of our increasing insistance that children belong to the state and the state has the right to regulate anything parents do to and with them.

And in aid of that, a woman who doesn’t “follow doctor’s orders” can be forced to have a Cesarian against her will, forced to stay in the hospital so that her food and drink habits can be monitored, have her child forcibly removed from her care at birth.

And no, I’m not making ANY of that up.  Not only have all those things happened, but they have been affirmed by the courts as legitimate actions by the state, in spite of the fact that there are no laws against a woman having a cocktail or smoking a cigarette during pregnancy. 

Hell, there aren’t even any regulations.

There’s been a lot of yelling over the last couple of months over Republican attempts to limit abortions by various intrusive means–the vaginal ultrasound is one of them–but the move to control and regulate women’s bodies in the name of the state’s interest in the unborn child started a couple of decades ago, and it wasn’t about limiting abortions.

In fact, given the extent to which a woman now loses control over her own body during pregnancy, abortion is practically the only defense she has against the state’s attempt to intrude on her decisions.

But I think these things are connected. 

I think that we as a people have largely been unhappy about the entire abortion issue–we allow it legally, lots of us claim it to be a woman’s “right” (actually, woman do not have a “right to” abortion, only a right to be free of government interference in getting one), but I think most of us respond to it, almost viscerally, as morally unacceptable.

And I think that, because of that, we’ve unconscious switched our gut feelings about pregnant women from one where any such woman is presumed to have the best interests of her child at heart, to one where any such woman is a potential violent predator against her child, whether she aborts it or not.

And none of that is “nonjudgmental,” nor does it indicate continuing social libertarianism in our future.

Written by janeh

April 19th, 2012 at 6:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses to 'Something Borrowed–Short Interlude'

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  1. We’ve always wandered back and forth between freedom and restraint, but always with variations. The Regency was followed by the Victorians who were followed by the flappers…I think I’m getting out of my depth wiht historical analogies now.

    People SAY it’s a terrible thing to be judgemental, just as they say it’s great to be tolerant. And they generally seem to say these things while being both judgemental and intolerant. There should be a saying to the effect that it’s a wise person who knows themselves, especially their own motivations.

    I think Mique put me on to Christopher Snowdon. I read ‘The spirit level delusion’ first, and then the one on anti-smoking. I like his stuff, especially the long lists of citations to the original research. In the spirit of the age, I will put forward MY reasons for disliking smoking – lifetime non-smoker and sufferer from carsickness when travelling with smokers – to demonstrate that my views are orthodox. But they aren’t. I’d had an uneasy feeling for some time that the restrictions on smokers were getting ridiculous, but no one I earlier would have considered my natural ally in such matters agreed. Then I read about the rotten state, well, really, the non-existance of good evidence that secondhand smoke is dangerous. But no one wants to know because no one’s actually thinking about it. Their expert says that the next puff of smoke you produce will give your child lung cancer (OK, I’m exaggerating slightly), you don’t stop and ask for citations or even wonder if this is even slightly reasonalble.

    I suspect that hounding pregnant women with bad science (and it is bad science, which is what’s so damn infuriating about it. Science shouldn’t be mistreated that way!) I could have stayed fairly comfortably with my early assumption that of course it was a woman’s right to decide what to do about a pregnancy. And I could deal with any niggling doubts by ‘protecting’ the children of smokers, drinkers and heroin addicts by imprisoning their mothers. So I’m a good person, really. I protect children and defend the rights of adult women and I don’t think too hard (or at all) about whether the moral code I’ve developed about women, children and fetuses actually makes any logical sense. I don’t need to, really. I just need to accept the prevailing opinions of others in my society unquestioningly.

    I see Christopher Snowdon has another book, one I haven’t read. I must order it.


    19 Apr 12 at 11:27 am

  2. (actually, woman do not have a “right to” abortion, only a right to be free of government interference in getting one)

    A quibble. That’s a good sound libertarian description of the situation, and while I could argue against it, that’s not my intention today. The problem is that it’s NOT a description of the present mess. A right to be free of government interference gets us to freedom of speech and the press. It does not promise me or anyone a megaphone or a newspaper.

    “Free of government interference” is not the government pressuring medical schools to teach the “procedure” or hospitals to provide the “service.” It does not extend to taxpayers paying for that particular “reproductive right” nor requirements that employers and insurance companies do so, nor that pharmacies be compelled by law to sell abortifacient drugs. It can’t even be stretched to the killing of children capable of living outside the womb. “A right to abortion” is exactly the correct term for what is being pursued by the cultural and political left, and is entirely consonant with other “rights” as they understand and advocate them.

    That is, they are rights which can be imposed on people.

    I have lost and probably will continue to lose the political and cultural struggles of my lifetime. But I will not give my enemies the cheap victory of accepting their euphemisms. “Pro-choice” indeed!


    19 Apr 12 at 5:24 pm

  3. Well, I rarely disagree with you, Robert, but on this I do, at least in part. I certainly agree that under federalism, states ought to have the right to allow (or forbid) abortions within whatever parameters they wish. I also agree that no government, federal or state, should be able to force doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacists et al to provide abortion services.

    But, if safe and reasonably accessible abortion services are prohibited, either by governments or the actions of zealous religious or other anti-abortion terrorists, women can’t have the right to regulate their own fertility, and surely that is a natural right if ever there were one.


    19 Apr 12 at 8:39 pm

  4. “People SAY it’s a terrible thing to be judgemental, just as they say it’s great to be tolerant. And they generally seem to say these things while being both judgemental and intolerant. There should be a saying to the effect that it’s a wise person who knows themselves, especially their own motivations.”

    Two excellent books on the subject of judgmentalism and tolerance:

    Theodore Dalrymple’s “In Praise of Prejudice”

    Frank Furedi’s “On Tolerance: A Defence of Moral Independence”

    As you say, Cheryl, people make judgments every day, and cannot survive without them. And Furedi argues essentially that “tolerance ain’t tolerance”, at least not as it is currently preached by the condescendi. In his view, the virtue of tolerating people’s rights to hold opposing views has morphed into demands that people must tolerate those opposing views. Over-simplified, of course, but that’s the gist of it.


    19 Apr 12 at 8:52 pm

  5. michaelwfisher@cox.net

    20 Apr 12 at 5:21 am

  6. Re Michael’s article:

    A third approach (aside from pro = see grey area and anti = doesn’t see grey area) is to consider that if there is a grey area, what then? What is the down side of carrying out an abortion? If it is (A) removal of a non-human clump of cells, no problem. If it is (B) destruction of a human being, well, maybe we should avoid abortion BECAUSE there is a grey area, and the only way of avoiding the possibility of doing B is to avoid doing A AND B. In other words, acknowledging that development is a continuum doesn’t solve the moral dilemma.

    On a quick skim-through, it seems to be a decent enough article, though – the author is careful to say things like ‘more nuanced than what I hear from the soul-based moralist’ instead of fulminating about those narrow-minded idiots who can’t understand the idea of a continuum, of which I’ve read way too much. He doesn’t get that nuance actually increases moral complexity, and I suppose I can’t fault him for noticing but not accepting that there are are sources of moral teaching other than his.

    I think the Canadian politicians who refused to replace a struck-down law on abortion were right, and not (well, maybe not) just afraid of a political wildfire. We don’t, technically, have one, which makes most people on all sides of the debate equally happy and equally unhappy.


    20 Apr 12 at 8:59 am

  7. I meant the only way to avoid B, if a fetus is seen as a human point on a continuum, is to avoid A, since there is no way to ensure that the correct spot on the non-human fetus – human fetus continuum is identified in order to avoid destroying an innocent human being.

    I shouldn’t have used letters for the positions. It makes my argument confusing.


    20 Apr 12 at 9:02 am

  8. Mique, that is precisely the argument I didn’t want to get into. But I’d be cashiered by the Euphemism Watch if I didn’t point out that you’re blurring what I feel to be an important distinction. A woman may “regulate her own fertility” by refusing sex or marriage, by the use of contraceptives or by having her tubes tied. She may also “regulate her own fertility” by having the skull of an 8 months fetus crushed and arguably by exposing her offspring on a mountaintop or dropping the child in a dumpster. To lump all these actions together as a single “natural right” does not advance the debate.

    Language should be used to enlighten, not to conceal.


    21 Apr 12 at 5:38 am

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