Saturday, August 08, 2009

Pro-choice vs. Pro-abortion

The strategy that seems to be at work in some of the pro-life responses to my attempts to a) make sense of the highly difficult abortion issue and b) understand how those views relate to the issue of voting, is to conflate all deviance from the standard pro-life position into the most extreme version of the pro-abortion view possible. What results is a kind of pro-life purism, either you are for us or you are against us. The pro-life position here means a) fetal life has the same value as life after birth, b) therefore all abortions are murders, c) Roe v. Wade was wrong, not because the Court failed to affirm the right of the fetus to life, but because it overstepped its boundaries and affirmed the right of the pregnant woman to privacy
d) the way to fight against abortion is to vote for Republican candidates, who will not only have a more restrictive executive abortion policy, but will nominate "strict constructionist" or "originalist: justices to the Supreme Court who will reverse Roe and empower states to enact abti-abortion legislation. Any skepticism about any of these propositions makes one a fellow traveler of Peter Singer and George Tiller.

But you can push pro-life purism even further. You can refuse to support anti-abortion legislation that leaves an exception for rape and incest. You won't save very many fetuses that way, but at least you'll keep your moral purity. I suppose if you follow the logic of "abortion is murder" to its logical conclusion, you would have to make abortion a capital crime and try both the pregnant mother and the abortion doctor for murder. I don't see any pro-lifers advocating that.

Now there are people who simply do not value fetal life. A good example would be the person I quoted who wrote a review of Pro-Life 101, who said that if the fetus is in the woman's body, she has the right to kill it, period, end of story,, and if there were a million people housed in his body, he would have the right to holocaust them. Or Barbara Ehrenreich, who said “The one regret I have about my own abortions is that they cost money that might otherwise have been spent on something more pleasurable, like taking the kids to movies and theme parks.”

And then there's Obama, whose pro-choice credentials have certainly been touted, and who has earned those creditials with some of his statements and actions, but has also said this:

"...I have repeatedly said that I think it's entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don't think that "mental distress" qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions."

Does this sound like someone who just loves to see fetuses die? And yes, I know about BAIPA, etc.

Strict pro-lifers are in the minority in America, and I think they always will be. However, pro-lifers, plus all the people who might recoil at abortion legislation but consider the loss of unborn life as genuinely tragic, constitute a majority in America. Sometimes the criminal aw is the best tool in response to a moral problem, and sometimes it isn't. There seem to be many things we can do to bring the number of abortions in America as close to zero as possible. Unfortunately, when you vote, you've got to consider all the issues. I am sure there were plenty of people who voted for Obama who held their noses when it came to his views on abortion. But if your overall political sympathies are closer to Obama than to McCain, I can't see holding your nose about everything else in order not to hold your nose on abortion.

Many people who are, strictly speaking, pro-choice, hate abortion. They want to see the number of abortions brought as close to zero as possible. To call them friends of baby-butchers is the triumph of ideology over common sense.


Gordon Knight said...

If abortion is murder, or even if it is a significantly bad thing, then the natural approach is to do what one can to limit the number of abortions. The best way to do this, with the least suffering, is to make unwanted pregnancy less common. So why don't many of the anti abortion people work hard for the greater availabiity of birth control? Why do they fight for "abstinence only" sex education?

Anonymous said...

Probably because greater availability of birth control actually increases risky behavior, but of course, you probably already knew that.

Smokering said...

Gordon, I agree: given that lives are at stake, teaching the actual biology and scientific and ethical information surrounding birth control seems necessary and sensible. I'm not the only pro-lifer to think so, either.

Gordon Knight said...

Anony: Actually from what I undestand its the opposite. There are lots of studies showing that the abstinence only sex. ed. does not work.

By "risky behavior" do you mean sexual activity or pregnancy?

I would consider that the important thing, especially from a pro life perspective, would be minimizing unwanted pregnancy. if the concern is about sexual activity, well.. that is another issue.

Smokering: Thanks and yes I know there are prolifers that agree with you. I am just baffled at those who don't. Even if we take the Catholic view and hold that artificial birth control is wrong in itself, it is hard to argue that it is anything like the wrong, from the pro-life standpoint, of abortion)

akstewgal said...

I read your blog it was very interesting.

I'm pro-life and Catholic, so I think I can offer some insight to some of the things you were talking about (the whole nose plugging thing). For me I was willing to vote for McCain (even though I thought we should toss both of them out and have a re-do). But my main focus was on abortion. Obama is to friendly with Planned Parenthood who he promised he would sign in FOCA. My disagreement with this is, it would mean tax payer money would be killing innocent people, and even if the doctors and nurses disagreed with it, they would still be required to perform the abortion.

Now you can say I'm a one issue voter, but if you don't have life, what do the other issues matter if you are dead?

It would be like someone saying I can fix the economy, ensure there is no unemployment, there will be no hungry people, our boarders will be protected, and we can live in a Utopia society. However the only way we can accomplish this is when ever anyone sees a Mexican, you have to shot them.

Would anyone vote for this person? Even if they could do all that they say, would people willingly go out on to the streets and start killing other people?

Now you can say that Obama isn't saying this, but when you legalize the killing of children in their mothers womb you might as well be. I think what gets me the most is that Obama claims one of his favorite presidents is Abraham Lincoln, who was the person that said all people are equal white and black. Even though in those days blacks were even considered sub-human they were property like a table or chair. Yet Obama is willing to say that children in the womb are sub-human and don't deserve any of the natural rights that we who have been living outside of our mother's womb do.

There is so much potential in life, and so many dangers in abortion (which by the way has no medical benefit). Why would anyone chose abortion?

My view is most women don't chose abortion, it is pressured on them by the people who say they love them. When the guy who helped get her pregnant says she is on her own and her parents say it is your problem. Does she really have a choice?

Aaron said...

"Many people who are, strictly speaking, pro-choice, hate abortion. They want to see the number of abortions brought as close to zero as possible."

If someone *really* wanted to bring the number of abortions as close to zero as possible, shouldn't the person be pro-life?

Consider the following 2 positions regarding action P. Position #1 states that P is immoral and should never be morally permissible. Position #2 states that P might be immoral at least to some extent, but in certain cases it is necessary, and thus is sometimes permissible.

If someone wanted to bring the number of Ps as close to zero as possible, shouldn't the person subscribe to position #1, since, of the 2 positions, #1 tolerates P less than #2?

Of 2 possible worlds, where everyone is pro-life in 1 world and everyone is pro-choice in the other, wouldn't the world that is pro-life have the number of abortions much closer to 0 than the world that is pro-choice? So if someone wanted to have the number of abortions as close to 0 as possible, wouldn't they go with the option that is less tolerant of abortion? The more people who are pro-life, the greater the chances of reducing the number of abortions to 0.