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Before I start this, I should note that I have now spent more than ten hours trying to figure out how to write this post,  and I haven’t really come to any defined approach yet.

In some ways, I find it hard to figure out what I want to say about what happened.   In other ways, it’s easy enough to know what I want to say, but impossible to figure out what I think it means. 

But it does mean something, I’m sure of that.  So I should probably just get started.

On Sunday, I got myself into one of those positions on FB that happen because I am incapable of shutting up.

Starting fairly early in the day, I participated in two threads.  On one of them–the one run by a secular woman who is adamantly pro-choice–I defended the pro-life point of view.  On the other–the one run by a prolife person (more on him in a bit)–I defended the pro-choice point of view.

Yeah, I know.  I can’t help myself, really.

The thread run by the pro-choice woman ended fairly quickly, with a lot of eye rolling in my direction.

The thread run by the pro-life person lasted two days.

The pro-choice person is the son of a friend of mine who is herself very religious.  The son is an ordained Lutheran pastor who works for a pro-life organization as, I think, its communications director.

Whatever it is his position is called, he’s paid to promote the pro-life position in public life. 

Which means he should be a good person to go to to find out what the pro-life position actually is.

And I think I can say that he is, in fact, a good person to go to.

A few other people participated in that thread who were this man’s friends but not, as far as I know, professionally involved in the pro-life movement.  They were all, however, pro-life.

Before I get to what was said and how it changed over the long course of that discussion, let me make two things clear.

First, the bedrock bottom line fundamental principle of my moral code is this: people are ends in themselves.  No person may be used as the means to the ends of someone else without his consent, and this is ESPECIALLY the case when the use involves using the physical body (the blood and skin and bone, NOT the work or time).

Anyone who has taken a philosophy survey course knows that I cribbed that from Kant.   And that’s all right.  I think that, on that particular point, Kant got it absolutely right.

On the matter of abortion, I think there are two aspects.  One is the moral:  whether it is morally acceptable for you to choose to have one.  The other is the legal: whether your government should have the right to forbid you from having one.

On the moral issue, I’ve got a lot of convoluted ideas.  I have never had an abortion, and I can’t imagine that I would ever have had one.  I can’t think of a reason for an abortion–no, not even if I had been raped or the victim of incest–where I think I would have found it morally acceptable for me to have one.

The legal issue is something else. 

If people may not be used as things for the benefit of somebody else against their will,  then the fetus in the womb itself may not use its mother’s body against her consent.

And whatever the moral issue may be between the mother and the child, the LEGAL issue is whether the government can forbid her–can, in fact, force her to become a thing for the use of somebody else.

Because that’s what enforced pregnancy is.  It’s the legal equivalent of declaring that the pregnant woman is not human.  She is a thing.  And her only purpose is to be used as a thing by other people.

Therefore, whether abortion is moral or not, government may not be given the power to forbid it.

If you look carefully at what I have said here, you will notice one thing:  at no point am I saying that it is right to kill a child.

The right is to end the pregnancy only.

At the moment, that is only possible in most cases by using a procedure that does kill the child.  But that doesn’t have to be the way it will be forever. 

Technology marches on.  There’s no reason why we couldn’t develop technology that would terminate a pregnancy while keeping the child alive and capable of growing to maturity.

If there is something I don’t like about a lot of pro-choice rhetoric it is precisely that so much of it is ill-considered.  Some of it is ill-considered because it is: people just aren’t listening to themselves. 

Some of it is ill considered in reaction to people who claim that all women who want abortions are only looking after their “convenience.”

So we hear things like “what if the child is profoundly damaged and will be born handicapped?”

The problem is that those arguments lead easily to a “right to kill the child,” and are so used by moral imbeciles like Peter Singer (and lots of others) to claim a right to “post birth abortion,” where parents would be allowed to kill their children in the first month if those children proved to “lower the quality of life” of the family.

If it really were impossible to defend a right to abortion except by defending a right to kill a child, then it wouldn’t be possible to defend abortion.

But it’s not–it’s perfectly possible to defend the right to terminate a pregnancy without even implying that that means you have the right to kill the child.  Once the child is no longer in the womb, you are no longer pregnant, and would have no right to do anything with it.

This is an important point to remember.

Because one of the characteristics of discussions like this is the fact that everyone in them has had many discussions like them before, and has a firm idea in his or her own head about what the other side of the argument is going to be.

That means they also have stock ideas in their heads about how to counter and disprove what the other side is going to say.

And that can make it very difficult to hear what your opponent is ACTUALLY saying.

I therefore had to go through several rounds of “if I can kill the baby in my womb, why can’t I kill it once I was born?” before I finally got it through everybody’s head that the position I had outlined would not allowed it.

But that wasn’t any big deal.  It’s the kind of thing that happens in these discussions.

What got to me was what started to happen after we’d been at it for several hours, and I think that it might be the result of our having been at it for several hours.

One of the thigns I’m constantly trying to point out to pro choice friends is that the idea that pro life people are only pro life because they want women to punished for having sex is not true.

There are such people in the world, of course, but on the whole, I think most pro life sentiment is mostly based on the fact that “it’s a baby.”

And I still think that.

But by the end of that conversation, I finally understood where so many of my pro choice friends were getting the impression they were getting.

And the entire experience was very, very odd.

First I was told that a pregnant woman who had not been raped had “consented” to the pregnancy because she knew she could get pregnant when she consented to have sex. 

She knew she could get pregnant, so now she had to accept the consequences.

I pointed out that when you go skiing, you know you could end up with a broken leg.  That didn’t mean that if you got a broken leg, you had to just sit there and let nature take its course.  You could go to a doctor and have the leg set.  

With pregnancy, you could accept the consequences by going through with bringing the baby to term, but you also had abortion available to you. 

At that point, a young woman broke in to say that with a broken leg there would be a lot of pain and a long time recovering, but abortion is “instant.”

In other words, the problem with abortion was that it was too easy.  But if that is the problem, then this is what my pro choice friends think it is–a complaint that women aren’t being punished enough, that they don’t hurt enough, when they choose to have sex.

This line of argument was all the more bewildering because it completely contradicted another line of argument being made by the same people at the same time:  that abortion hurts women, that they end up suicidal and in pain for years and years afterwards, so that abortion should be stopped to protect women from all that pain.

But if abortion causes so much pain, then it’s not instant and it’s not easy.

Pick one, you can’t have both.

The discussion went from there in a round of escalating silliness.

The person whose thread it was would outline a scenario–she has sex, she knew she could get pregnant, she just doesn’t feel like being pregnant, so she kills the baby for her convenience.  That’s what you’re advocating, right?

I would repeat my principle–no one may use the physical body of another person agaisnt her consent, and therefore she may end that use for any reason whatsoever–and then I would get.

You’re not answering my question!

But, of course, I was.  Yes.  She may end the pregnancy for conveniece, or for health or because she feels like it on Tuesday.  Nobody may use her body in any way or for any reason if she does not want it to be used.  She has an ABSOLUTE right of refusal, and if the only way to end the use ends up killing somebody–then it does.

Part of the problem was that I was not using the arguments he was used to hearing, so that his automatic responses didn’t fit.  Part of it was that I wasn’t cringing at his formulations.  When he demanded to know if she could “kill her child” for her “convenience,” I said she could terminate the pregnancy for any reason at any time, and I didn’t try to find excuses for silly or shallow reasons.

It doesn’t matter what the reasons are that you don’t want somebody to use your body.  If you don’t want it, you don’t want it.

She’s just being selfish! somebody said.

And I said, yes, she may sometimes be being selfish, in a few different meanings of that word.

We hit about the twenty-seventh round of “you’re not answering my question!” when I seemed to finally get through–but what came out was not an acknowledgement of what I was saying.

It was the demand that he (our host) wished women WOULD stop letting men use them like things.

Then he deleted the thread, and the argument was over.

I came away thinking that we hadn’t actually gotten to his core objection to abortion until that very last bit–that what was really bugging him was that women went out and had sex because they wanted to and seemed to think that doing that was “all right.”

In his mind, they were deluded–they didn’t really want the sex, they were only letting themselves be used as things, which is all the men in their lives saw them as.

Now, I am myself.  I’ve got my vices, but promiscuous fornication was never one of them, and really isn’t at this stage of my life.

On the other hand, I don’t tend to take sex all that seriously.  It’s an activity.  Some people like it more than others.  Some people think it Means a Lot and some people think it’s a hobby. It’s a perfectly natural.  What’s the big deal?

And although I think there’s at least a partial biological explanation for the fact that more women than men take sex seriously, I also know that’s an average.  I have surely known women in my life who just like sex. 

And I can find who bunches of women like that in history without even breathing hard.

It was obvious by the end, though, that this man felt very seriously about sex, and had a lot invested in the (mostly unstated) idea that women never just felt like having sex for fun, that the only reason they would seem to like sex for fun was because some man had duped them into it.

It was, in the end, one of the oddest conversations I’d ever had in my life.

It was one of the oddest conversations I’ve ever had in my life. 

And I now know where my friends get their impressions.

Written by janeh

June 24th, 2014 at 10:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Controversial'

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  1. I too have had similar experiences in similar discussions. People just can’t seem to comprehend your response. They say, “but it’s killing a human being!” When I agree, and say, “but it’s a better choice than making the woman nothing but a vehicle” they just don’t get that I can encompass killing a human being as a lesser evil.

    That seems to overwhelm their ability to reason further. I don’t need to deny the humanity of the fetus to still believe that the woman involved has greater rights.


    24 Jun 14 at 11:49 am

  2. I think it’s hard to understand that the woman has greater rights than the fetus because we talk so much about equality, and that situation is automatically unequal.

    I know how Jane deals with the inequality, by valuing the right to autonomy over the right to life (using ‘rights’ in a broad sense; I find the expanding usage of ‘rights’ to be a bit problematical).

    Personally, I’d put the values in reverse order – life over autonomy.

    But communication is difficult, particularly on issues which everyone has discussed so very, very often, and heard just about all the arguments so very, very often.


    24 Jun 14 at 2:15 pm

  3. From a moral point of view, I consider a fetus to be a living human being. From a pragmatic point of view, a law against abortion is now unenforceable and I don’t believe unenforceable laws should be on the books.

    IIRC, back in the 1970’s we had pro-abortion people asking how a shapeless collection of cells could be a human being and philosophers asking what would we be saying if a pregnant woman developed transparent skin so that we could watch the fetus develop. Now we have ultrasound imaging.

    We do seem to be conflicted as a society. The TV news (Sydney) last night was talking about a hospital buying a special incubator for very premature infants. We seem willing to spend money in the half million dollar range to save a child born at 26 weeks while still saying that its OK to have a late term abortion.


    24 Jun 14 at 7:23 pm

  4. “But if abortion causes so much pain, then it’s not instant and it’s not easy.”

    I’ve posted before about my indirect but uncomfortably close enough experience with an abortion very reluctantly undergone by a former girlfriend who felt she had no choice in the matter for a variety of reasons that were probably compelling at that time in her circumstances. Anyone who believes that abortion is “instant” and “easy” is a damned fool.

    My friend’s whole life since has been one of remorseless regret.


    25 Jun 14 at 10:13 am

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