Monday, April 05, 2010
I'm posting this for Women's Writes, which Shine co-created and explains like so: "We’re thinking that it would be really awesome if, on April 5, 2010, we all posted on issues that affect women."
So let's talk about abortion. This is a sensitive and divisive issue, but one that I have no strong opinions about. That's not because I don't think it's important—it's extremely important—but I think that it is such a complex and multifaceted topic that no simple opinion is a justified one, no matter how forcefully it is expressed.
I'll tackle a few sub-issues I think it is important to discuss. You may disagree, and you may have good reason to disagree. Because there are so many things to consider, I may very well have missed one that invalidates my opinion. I would be happy to be proven wrong.
I have heard it said that men should have no (or less) say in the abortion issue, because it is exclusively a female concern.
No. Abortion is a human issue. In most cases, creating a life takes two people—a man and a woman—and our laws, culture, morals, and logic all dictate that both should remain involved in that life for some time. Thus, any decisions about whether or not to end that life should involve both of them. The fact that it starts inside one gender and not the other is largely irrelevant in the larger human rights issues that come out of such termination.
To argue that only women have a have right to talk about abortion would be similar to arguing that only farmers have a right to talk about food. Or only minorities have a right to talk about racism. These are things that affect, and should be discussed by without dismissal, all of us.
I have heard it said that abortion should be a mother's choice, because it only involves her body, and she can do what she wants with her body.
No. Having a life inside your body does not mean it is part of your body. The timing of it is up for debate, but at some point we all agree that a baby becomes a living, conscious being, and there is no reason to arbitrarily place that point at the moment of umbilical chord snippage.
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When Luke Skywalker crawled inside the Tauntaun for warmth, he did not suddenly become a Tauntaun organ. If Darth Vader found Luke's arm hanging out of the creature, he wouldn't be like "aw shit, I really wanted to perform an 88th trimester abortion, but this is a Tauntaun rights issue now." And if he succeed, Han Solo wouldn't be like "well, I have no right to comment on Luke's death, since I am not a female, nor a dead Tauntaun."
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Defending a fetus, and/or weighing its value against the mother's choice and well-being, is an issue not only for the mother, but for other women, men, and indeed all people.
I have heard it said that people who vote for liberal political parties are pro-choice, and people who vote for conservative political parties are pro-life.
No. Like I said, it's a complex issue, and boiling it down to agreeing with the majority of people who share your political leanings is lazy and dangerous. Conservatism is correlated with religiosity which is correlated with pro-life leanings. But that doesn't mean one should follow from the other. I can think of perfectly secular reasons to be pro-life. Similarly, I can think of conservative (or even Biblical) reasons to be pro-choice.
The collections of beliefs associated with each side of the left/right dichotomy are, I think, more arbitrary than we give them credit for. A well-informed opinion requires rising above such simplistic groupthink.
I also think that indecision can be a perfectly well-formed opinion. And that's where I personally stand on abortion. It is too complex, with too many variables containing too much uncertain data, to make any blanket statements about what is always right or always wrong. Any definite propositions—even the ones I've made above—can be shot down with a counterexample.
My point isn't to express any specific viewpoint on the rightness or wrongness of abortion, but rather to emphasize that determining its morality is something that everyone needs to participate in, and it is not going to be easy.
See also: My post about abortion from 5 years ago that's not as good as this one.