Thursday, September 4, 2008

Remember Kids, Sex is Bad: Sarah Palin and the Reinjection of the Abortion Issue

I have tried very hard, since opening this blog, to avoid writing about the issue of abortion. This is not because I do not have strong opinions on the subject, but rather because I believe it (along with gay rights) has become a litmus test issue which is more important to the two sides of America's ideological fence than many more important issues.

It is not that I believe the issue of abortion is not, itself, important, but rather that it (like many other social ills) is a side effect of problems of economics and education that cannot be addressed except by directly dealing with the problems of economics and education. The discussion of the abortion issue, divorced from issues of economics, education, and sociology, is like a church meeting in which half the members yell their point of view, half the members yell back with their own, and the final result is a deadlock which only serves to anger both sides.

However, John McCain has seriously returned the issue to the presidential table with the naming of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate. Since Senator McCain says he knew about the family situation of the Palins before making his choice, I am forced to assume that McCain has done so deliberately. Abortion is a divisive, wedge issue which will have very little effect on the real problems of America as a whole but which will win votes.

I am not going to write about Governor Palin's family situation. There are plenty of places you can read about it online. Instead, I am going to write about my own feelings on life and how it informs my ideology.

I am Pro-Life in the broadest sense of the term, the original meaning intended before the anti-abortion movement took it as their badge of honor: I believe that the taking of a human life is a moral wrong. Abortion after the fetus is scientifically 'a person', murder, capital punishment, assisted suicide, and war are all morally objectionable actions. I do not subscribe to the 'Just War' theory of many Christians (though I do believe there are necessary wars, necessity is not the same as justice) and I would never kill myself nor ask another to help me do it. Were I to be left in a coma by accident or illness, my living will would say in bold letters: Don't pull the plug, period!

However, the issues of abortion, war, and suicide are not simple. World War II was necessary to prevent people who could casually massacre millions of their fellow human beings from ruling most of the modern, industrial world. Suicide is a personal moral choice and must be the most difficult moral choice in the world, and some religions have a very different view of suicide than the Western Judeao-Christian interpretation. Abortions are going to happen whether they are legal or not, and horrible things can happen with illegal abortions.

With the possible exception of hard-line feminists who believe that a woman's right to absolute control over her reproduction is more important than a potential child (and I believe, deep down, most of them have qualms), not one liberal who supports reproductive rights and the right to choose thinks abortions are a good thing or a desirable thing. The entire point of the majority of the advocates of reproductive freedom is that a woman should have access to all necessary tools and knowledge to avoid an unwanted pregnancy in the first place. The true agenda of the Pro-Choice movement is not the right to abortion, but the right for a woman to choose whether or not to become pregnant. Abortion is not a substitute for, or a means of, birth control. It is a last resort when birth control fails (which does not happen as often as the right would like you to think, and is usually the result of human error) or when no other options were allowed in the first place.

The issue of reproductive freedom, of 'A Woman's Right to Choose,' is not abortion. It is the plain and simple fact that motherhood can be, has been, and continues to be used as a tool to prevent women from enjoying the freedom of choice enjoyed by men. The notion that a woman needs a child to be fulfilled and that she needs a husband to take care of her and her children is not one easily escaped. A co-worker of mine, a nineteen year old girl with a clear view of her desired life and career, will frequently say such things as 'eventually I have to get married.' When she describes her life goals, she talks of her desire to go to school and to become a pharmacist, not the desire to be a housewife or even to marry at all. Yet her upbringing in the border South has preconditioned her to believe that she 'must' get married, and she believes that she will. This is a cultural trap, one which the feminist movement wishes to escape. This is a not a desire to escape responsibility, as there is no choice which carries more responsibility than that of an abortion, but rather the desire to choose one's responsibilities to the same degree as men are allowed in our society.

As a believer in equal human rights, the simple fact is that only a pregnant woman can make this choice and it is wrong for men to make that decision for her or to make the government punish her or restrain her from making her own decision. The government cannot prevent abortion, it can only make them more difficult and dangerous.

Being Pro-Life, I therefore have to side against the criminalization of abortion: it leads to more death, not more life.


Bayushi said...

I happen to agree, wholeheartedly, with your last paragraph.

I'm leaving your beliefs alone, they're yours and you obviously have every right to them.

However, there's one statement in there that's pretty wrong. It's not only hardline feminists who believe that a potential child is less important than a living adult.

In Judaism, a baby is not considered human until two weeks after birth. Part of this is historical: when so many babies died so easily and so quickly, and so soon after birth, it made no sense to consider it as a counted human until it had been alive for some time. In fact, in some of the laws in the Bible, it points out that if you harm a pregnant woman and she miscarries, it's not murder, but if you harm a pregnant woman and the woman dies, it is murder.

Chris Richards said...

After re-reading my own post, I can safely say the following:

I didn't make the statement you attribute to me, I believe that a potential child is 'less important' than a living adult (or, in far too many cases, a living CHILD, since the majority of unwanted pregnancies occur among the teenage or barely-adult population) myself.

My statement was that most liberals do not consider abortion a positive good or argue that every pregnant woman who isn't ready for a child have an abortion. They believe freedom of conscience demands that the mother make her own choice.

Do you disagree with that?

I /did say/ that many hardcore feminists believe that a woman's absolute right to personal control over her own reproduction is more important than the life of a potential child, but this is not the same issue as comparing the mother's health or life with the child's health or life. I do believe that the right to an abortion IS an essential part of a woman's freedom from economic and social control, but I believe that the choice of whether or not to have an abortion is something to be taken very seriously. I think most liberals feel the same on that matter as well.

Dina said...

I have to correct this specific statement.

In Judaism, a baby is not considered human until two weeks after birth.

It is incorrect. While female infants don't undergo the same sort of ritual that males do, at the age of ripe eight days old--there is still that mark of that specific age. I'm speaking of circumcision, of course, which is a pact with God. The act of circumcision itself is one's promise to God to live as a Jew in His service for the rest of days. You don't undergo such a ritual being "inhuman".