Inspired by this Jeffrey Feldman post, I’m putting together a post about abortion, evolution, and the dislike by some scientists of framing. Feldman argues that reframing abortion is necessary to deal with anti-abortionists like Rev. Joel C. Hunter:
Abortion continues to be one of the most hurtful and divisive facts of our nation. I come from the part of the faith community that is very strongly pro-life. I know you’re pro-choice, but you have indicated that you would like to reduce the number of abortions. Could you see yourself, with millions of voters in a pro-life camp, creating a common ground, with the goal ultimately in mind of reducing the decisions for abortion to zero?
(an aside: Stop referring to religion as ‘faith.’ It’s disingenuous. I’m done playing nice with this issue. Now back to our regular programming.)
I’ve never understood Cutler’s position: as long as women can get pregnant, some will think the most ethical decision based on their own individual circumstances is to get ‘unpregnant.’ Given this reality (after all, countries where abortion is illegal still have “decisions for abortion”), we will never reduce abortions to “zero.” So, then, the issue is what number of abortions is acceptable, or more accurately, which abortions are acceptable.
Now we’re in the ambiguous judgement zone. For example, some anti-abortionists think there should be an exception for fetuses resulting from rape. I suppose that’s because the ‘rape-exceptionists’ think rape is ickier than abortion, even though the fetus of a rapist would appear to be as ‘innocent’ as any other fetus. Others will take it farther: abortion is alright, as long as the woman isn’t ‘irresponsible’, which typically means having more sexual partners than the person passing judgement. And when you read this case given by ScienceBlogling Dr. Signout, assigning ‘icky’ and ‘slutty’ judgments to that particular scenario just seems downright impossible.
It’s not clear what Cutler actually wants, since he already has the right and freedom to convince women not to have abortions. Does he want increased contraception education? How about federal subsidies for birth control as part of Medicaid (and maybe legislation requiring private insurers to reimburse contraception)? Or does he simply want to badger people into agreeing with him theologically?
Because that’s worked so well….
Update: Go read Amanda.
It’s amazing how many people in the pro-life crowd are also anti-contraception and anti-sex ed. It doesn’t quite add up.
No, I disagree. The issue is which abortions are preventable, and how we might go about preventing them in the future.
Brian gives two excellent examples: contraception and sex education. I also don’t see why many people in the so-called “pro life” crowd are against the cervical cancer vaccine, since that would almost eliminate another reason why abortions are performed.
But, of course, many in the supposedly “pro life” crowd are pro-war and pro-capital punishment.
Brian – it adds up quite nicely if what you’re after is women always pregnant, insane w/the demands of many children, too stressed to do more than fall into bed and much too tired to demand anything out of life other than being a submissive “helpmeet”. It doesn’t add up if, like you, you are a rational humanist.
I’m not sure they meant to, but the anti-abortion crowd tends to force itself into a “Pregnancy is a fitting punishment” position. They talk about “responsibility”, but at the core, the argument always comes down to “You got yourself knocked up, and it’s time to pay the piper,” which is sorta a horrific position for someone to hold (But a popular one for some reason. I have some conservative-but-libetarian friends who feel very strongly that abortion should be allowed in all cases, but hold the caveat that, “If a woman doesn’t use protection, she deserves to get knocked up”). When the argument stays back in the realm of “Is this murder?”, I can get with it: I believe that it’s not, but there’s an argument to be made that it is, and if you accept that argument, well, all the other stuff sorta falls away. I mean, murdering babies is something very close to everyone can comfortably oppose.
But the argument isn’t there, and it isn’t there largely, I think, because that argument hasn’t gotten us anywhere: the question of where life begins (or, perhaps more accurately, where life becomes a person) isn’t something that either science or religion can put an absolute answer to.
A couple of years ago now, I came to understand my own attitudes on abortion in a new light, and I think that there is a reframing of the argument that makes sense and might finally get us somewhere in the debate:
The problem is that we’re focusing in the wrong place. The thing that’s “icky” (I’m more partial to the term “an abomination” myself) isn’t the abortion — it’s the unwanted pregnancy. If we can force the argument into being for- or against- unwanted pregnancies, I think we’ll stand a better chance, if not of actually converting anti-abortion advocates over to the side of pro-choice, then of forcing those with a legitimate ethical concern over terminating a fetus to detach themselves from the views that want to restrict sex education and availability of contraception.
That’s my dance. Every time someone comes out against abortion, they should be asked, point blank, “So, does that mean you think that babies should be born by mothers who don’t want them and resent their very existence?”, or “So, you’re in favor of unwanted pregnancies?”
“If a woman doesn’t use protection, she deserves to get knocked up”
And if a man fails to use it he deserves to be castrated?
forget being pro-choice, be anti forced birthing!
Ross, I think you’re onto something here, but I don’t think you’re quite there.
The key in reframing abortion is to understand that it’s not about rights or even unwanted pregnancies. It’s about public health. Abortion is a medical procedure, so it can’t be understood separate from other public health issues, like contraception and sex education.
Abortion simply isn’t a hot button issue for most developed countries (the USA and Catholic-dominant countries like Ireland excepted), and I think the reason why it is in the USA is that the USA simply doesn’t understand public health.