Wednesday, January 22, 2003

MY NO DOUBT CAREFULLY REASONED PERSPECTIVE ON ABORTION: Tony Woodlief had this wonderful post on the subject, which lead me over to the Megan McArdle-sponsored debate on the subject. And there were some interesting points in there. David Walser wrote this:

The Supremes took abortion out of the public's hands when they handed down Roe v. Wade. So it doesn't matter what a majority thinks about the topic, does it? And that's the problem. Many of us could better tollerate the public policy of allowing abortions if we felt we had some say in setting that policy. We don't.

It's a conversation we, as a country, were just starting to have. Call it arrested development if you will, but we are having a hard time getting past this issue in large part because the Supremes butted in and stopped the conversation. It's galling to have those on your side of the argument telling the rest of us to be mature and just get over it. From our point of view, not only was the wrong policy adopted it was done so in an unfair manner. Telling us to grow up just rubs salt in a wound that will not heal.

The newest Economist had an article that made a similiar point:

The continuing war over abortion in America stands in marked contrast to the situation in Europe. Most European countries have liberalised their abortion laws since the 1970s, and in almost every case that was enough to settle the debate. Europeans went about legalisation through new legislation and, occasionally, referenda. This allowed abortion opponents to vent their objections and legislators to adjust the rules to local tastes. Above all, it gave new laws the legitimacy of majority support. Most European countries offer abortion free, and justify it on the basis of health rather than rights.

America went down the alternative route of declaring abortion a constitutional right. This reliance on the Supreme Court rather than the usual legislative process left many anti-abortionists feeling that they had been denied their say. They remain as angry today as they were the day of the Roe v Wade decision.

Kate came up with this logically consistent, yet spectacularly wrongheaded argument:

Hmmm... Seems my "whoopse" (I think it looks better with the "e") comment was misconstrued. Every single rant against my comments are the "it's a human life" arguments. Again, this implies that there is something "special" about human life. If I don't think there is, then I why would I have any problem with abortion. I don't have any problems eating meat or wearing leather or the death penalty or euthanasia.

Therefore, "whoopse" is completely appropriate. If there is no moral wrong (and I don't think there is) there there is no problem with a cavalier attitude to abortion. I don't think it's "murder" and just because you THINK your right, doesn't make you right (on as similar note, it doesn't make me right either, but it's between me and whatever powers that be to determine that, and not you, nor the Government)
Why is Human Life better than any other type of life? Perhaps you have an argument, but you won't convince me.

Kirk Parker, no doubt open-mouthed, replied with this:

So, Kate, is it OK with you if I just say "Oops!" and rub you out? That seems to be where you're headed with your "nothing special about human life" assertion. Or maybe they'll put me in jail for a short little time, like they do now for cruelty to animals or failing to pay my property taxes.

To which Kate replied:

I was waiting for someone to give me that argument! Here is the difference. If we didn't make things like murder of people who actually live OUTSIDE their mothers womb illigal, it would make it very difficult to walk down the street (what with all the bullits flying and everything).

Life's not precious, but the prevention of anarchy is.

Please note: easy to make life
hard to prevent anarchy

Easy = not valuable
difficult or rare = VERY valuable.

At this point I strongly suspect Kate of living in San Francisco, or some other weird enclave. Will Allen had the best rebuttal:

Well, as I suspected, and as much as I hate to use such loaded terms, it is essentially correct to describe Kate's philosophy as fascist, in that the exercise of power, even the power to violently kill, is self-legitimating an end unto itself, since it produces a non-anarchic society. Order is maintained, so the purposeful killing of those deemed targets (by the state) for killing is automatically legitimate. In Kate's world, the slaughter of several hundred thousand Tutsis in Rawanda is more morally offensive than the slaughter of several million kulaks in the Ukraine because the Tutsis were slaughtered by a nearly anarchic band of murderers, while the kulaks were slaughtered through the actions of a recognized state. In fact, since the slaughter of the kulaks helped consolidate the power of the state which ruled the Ukraine, it logically follows that their slaughter was a positive good, according to Kate's philosophy. Rarely is the philosophical underpinnings of mass slaughter by the state so frankly acknowledged. When you sit down for dinner tonight, in the comfort of your home, reflect upon the good fortune that such a philosophy was dealt large setbacks in the past century, but don't think for a moment that it is gone. This Beast will be with us always, all notions of the End of History aside.

And there was nothing further from Kate on the subject. Meanwhile Paul Snively wrote this:

As an adopted person, my experience with the abortion debate has always been surreal: like Megan, I insist on intellectual honesty in the debate, which means that I won't waste my time with people who try to insist that the fertilized embryo isn't a human being (sorry; once all of the chromosomes are there, it's a human being. The correct question to ask is at what point in the human being's development we grant it the rights that we accord to all human beings whom we consider to fall under the purview of our legal system). Even moreso, I won't waste my time with people who stick to the "it's my body" rant. It's not just your body; your fetus might not even have the same blood type as you do. And so on.

So that leaves us with folks like Kate and others who are honest about the domain of the discourse. They have my utmost respect for being honest and sincere. They also have my utmost revulsion for exactly the same reasons already ably articulated: insisting on the right to choose what they acknowledge is a killing on the basis of "whoops, I made a mistake." Thankfully my birth mother, whom I met a couple of months ago and finally got to properly thank, didn't think that way, and I grew up with one of the many terrific couples who desperately wanted children but couldn't have their own.

And that brings me to my final rant: why doesn't adoption feature more in the debate? Why is it all right for people to defend killing unborn human beings but so many of them become indignant at the suggestion that they carry to term and place their children for adoption? Why don't more on the anti-abortion side urge adoption placement?

Which I pretty much agree with. People are spending thousands to adopt foreign newborns, which is no doubt leading in some circumstances to mothers being talked into giving up their babies so middlemen can make money off them. If adoption figured more prominently in the debate, maybe more women would spend the time carrying their child knowing it was wanted and would be taken care of. Then again, maybe not; abortion is, at bottom, something convenient--like fast food or on-line banking or any other part of our wonderful market economy--and the women having abortions are not going to give up convenience for inconvenience, for staying in a convent for five months (you know what I mean, not a convent but something like it, some well-intentioned place where you give up your baby, no questions asked; I'm thinking of vast peaceful hospitals out in the desert somewhere, staffed by nuns and volunteer doctors, something idyllic that probably wouldn't exist in reality at all). I mean, maybe some women will, maybe enough to justify encouraging adoption.

I guess my take on abortion is that it is a modern convenience, and I can't think of any example of a modern convenience was replaced by an older, more time-consuming method of doing something. In this case abortion is the quick and easy solution, carrying the baby to birth the older, less convenient option. The less convenient option in a free society is only going to be taken on by people with a moral reason for doing so--so only some kind of moral revolution is going to get more people to take the adoption route. Adoption needs a Dorothea Dix to crusade for it, unless you want the government to take care of women while they're carrying their baby to term, or give them a tax credit or something, something to make it worth their while to create a life that isn't in their best interest to create--otherwise they wouldn't be considering adoption or abortion. Which might also require a moral revolution of some kind. There you go.

So the only reasonable defense of abortion is that it makes people's lives easier. The reasonable criticism of abortion is that it is the horrible grisly death of something tiny and defenseless; it's sort of the final frontier of the tyranny of Strong over Weak in our society. Sure, it's an important convenience, giving people a valuable escape route for their dumb mistakes, but the loss is a loss of potential people with varied and great life experiences, struggles that don't happen, nurture does not work out a new understanding with nature as it has to in an adoptive situation. For me that loss outweighs the slight life enhancement given those who already exist. And yet I cannot positively say I want abortion outlawed, just that options that result in "unwanted" children being born (who have waiting lists of prospective parents who want them) should be the ones that our society prefers and abortion should have a sort of stigma attached to it as the Option Of Last Resort. That sounds terrible--or at least not consistent--but it is what makes most sense to me. Abortion is a sacred cow that really needs to be knocked over.

No comments: