It’s Blog for Choice Day!
On this, the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal in the U.S., Pro-Choice America (NARAL) asks, What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?
I will make it easier to be a pro-choice politician by spreading the word about the sensible arguments in favor of the pro-choice position. My approach has been to post this series of articles on this topic.
Today let’s ask why it’s always men advancing the pro-life position. It does seem unfair that the gender that isn’t personally inconvenienced by pregnancy is the one pushing the restrictions. (Okay—it’s not always men who are the vocal pro-life advocates, but it often seems that way.)
I remember a podcast by a popular Christian apologist during which a woman caller asked this question. The apologist (a man) seemed annoyed. He said that murder was murder. (I argue that abortion isn’t murder.)
More to the point, he said that his moral opinion was relevant regardless of his gender. I’ll agree with that, as far as it goes. But I think that the woman had an important point that is rarely acknowledged, since only a woman can have an abortion.
Let me try to create a symmetric male-only example. This apologist is of the age where he might have been in the draft pool during the Vietnam War. So let’s suppose it’s 1970, and this guy comes back from a tour fighting in Vietnam. Readjusting to life in America is tough, and he has nightmares and other symptoms of what we now call PTSD. His wife is sympathetic and, after some prodding, he shares the problem with her.
“Oh, you should go see Dr. Jones about that,” she says. “I’m part of a community of veterans’ wives, and I’ve heard all about that. He does wonders with returning soldiers, and he’ll fix you up in no time.”
Our hero hesitates, not comfortable discussing his demons with a stranger. “I don’t think so.”
“No, really. I’ve heard a lot about this, and that treatment should work for you.”
Tension increases as they go back and forth. Finally, he says, “Honey, I really appreciate your sympathy. I know you want to help. But you must understand that you will never, ever understand what I’ve been through. Put in 18 months in Vietnam and then we’ll have something to talk about. Until then, you really don’t get it.”
Similarly, our 60-something male apologist will never, ever completely understand what it’s like to be 15 and pregnant, faced with disapproving parents and ridicule from classmates and pro-lifers shouting “murder!” at the suggestion of an abortion, wondering how she’s ever going to get her life back on track.
If the male apologist wants to comment on the topic, that’s fine, but a big dose of humility (and sympathy) would make his position easier to take.
Next time: 16 Arguments Against Abortion, with Rebuttals (Part 2)
Photo credit: tsand
- Find the first post in this series about abortion here: A Defense of Abortion Rights: The Spectrum Argument
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Great comparison. It’s refreshing to see a male blogging for choice…. like you said, it’s usually the other way around!
Thing is… it isn’t always men advancing the anti-abortion position. It’s Christians. And half of all Christians are women. Christian women campaign against abortion the way that poor working class people in this country vote Republican. Perhaps if one of Michele Bachmann’s daughters were raped and impregnated, she might change her tune… but I doubt it.
You’re right–it’s not always men. As I noted above, the title is hyperbole (at least, a little). Still, we have a movement whose face is predominantly male critiquing a set of people who are 100% female.
Its all about control. If women aren’t allowed to take back the consequences of the choices they’ve made (Abortion), or prevent the consequences from arising (Birth Control/Condoms) then abstinence and more carefully thought out partners are there only choices. Essentially this is the conservative way of pushing morals on people beyond that of “Life”. They reason that teenage girls won’t get pregnant or at least as often if they know having sex will lead to pregnancy due to a lack of prevention methods and abortion. They then also reason that adult women will be less promiscuous for the same fears, and will be more careful in choosing their partners knowing that guy they would never marry but would love to f**k isn’t an option. This has no logical merit, it stems from a base feeling of jealousy among conservative men. They don’t want to think of their partners with previous men, or perhaps later men. There is no better way to prevent your daughter from acting like a slut than by making her have a kid every time she tries. That is the conservative logic spelled out.
I believe you have put your finger squarely on it when you say it’s all about control. I wonder how many men would be against abortion if the only practical alternative were penisectomy.
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I’d like to amplify on the reply from Martin. Being anti-abortion really has nothing to do with abortion. As you mention elsewhere, abortion is not even mentioned in the bible. It’s really all about sex. Sex is a sin, and the baby is the punishment. This is why contraception is also wrong. Anything that allows the punishment to be avoided cannot be tolerated. All the arguments about life beginning at conception, and so on, are rationalizations. As to why it’s always men — in our patriarchal society, derived at least in part from religion, it is always the men who define the laws and impose the punishments.
Valerie Tarico put out an article called “Righteous Abortion” that does a good job expanding on the point you raise about the Bible and sex. This article does a great job clarifying how what Christians say they want is not at all what their actions get them.
The thing is that pro-life isn’t just for the religious. I am about as “out” and outspoken as an atheist can be, but I am with the late Christopher Hitchens and disagree with abortion, and think the expression pro-choice is loaded and disingenuous.
It is a lie to say or imply that to be humanist or atheist one must be “pro-choice”.
I don’t think I implied that atheists/humanists must be pro-choice, but it’s good to have your position as a reminder of the variety in the movement. And to keep us honest.
What don’t you like about “pro-choice”?
“Pro-choice” is no more loaded than “pro-life” and was adopted for the exact same reason: It’s effective propaganda. Given the legal and legislative stasis on the abortion issue, both sets of advocacy groups perforce are all about WHAM (the unfortunate acronym that resulted from the catchphrase the US used during the Vietnam Era to describe how they were using more than mere military force in “Winning the Hearts And Minds” of the Vietnamese people).
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Human life begins at conception. Personhood isn’t a function of size, mental acuity, location, or viability. Simply because the pre-born are located in the Mom’s womb doesn’t disqualify men from caring for, and fighting to prevent the death of any innocent human person. A person is a person. Any man of conscience can see that.
QD: Thanks for your input.
Yes, a person is a person … but what is a person? You could get extreme and call a single skin cell a person because it’ll be clonable into an adult in a decade or so. But no one does that. I’ll agree that a single fertilized human egg cell is a potential person, but that’s quite a different story. Getting extreme again, you could extrapolate back to the twinkle in my eye–is that a person? Am I obliged to create babies every chance I get?
We’re getting hung up on words, I think–human, Homo sapiens, person, etc. All I’m saying is that a 1,000,000,000,000-cell baby, with hands and feet, eyes and ears, brain and nervous system, heart and circulatory system–and all functioning, by the way–is very different from a single cell. Let’s agree on that first and find the words to describe the spectrum. If you don’t like “person,” find another words for what the newborn is and the single cell isn’t.