Friday, November 11, 2005

The Third Amendment

[Listen, Conservative Readers, this is going to quickly go someplace you don't like. I mean it. If you read beyond this warning, I don't want to hear ANY bitching about how you were blind-sided by the baby killing.] I've been thinking a lot about the Third Amendment--the poor, neglected middle child of the Bill of Rights--not as flashy as the first amendment, not as easily recognizable as the second. No criminals count on it. No one since the Civil War has even needed it. There it sits with its simple, antique protection against having to house soldiers in times of peace:
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
There's been almost no litigation pertaining directly to the third amendment, but I think it's time to dust this puppy off and put it back to work. It seems to me that, rather than hanging our right to end unwanted pregnancies on an unarticulated right to privacy*, we should be hanging it on the articulated right to decide who lives in our own damn house. Why? Because anti-abortionists have successfully reframed the abortion debate. They've argued in the court of public opinion that some mass of cells wholly dependent on a woman for its continued existence is a person in the same way the woman carrying it is and won. And, they've made a seemingly convincing argument that, if an embryo or a fetus is alive and a person in the same way a woman is, that it should have rights, especially a right to life. And, as long as the abortion debate is framed in terms of privacy, people who think they can legislate morality will feel free to butt into matters that aren't their business under the guise of protecting the "rights" of the unborn. And as long as pro-choice folks remain mealy-mouthed about things--when life begins, whether there are ever times when abortion is wrong, whether there might be something to be gained by kicking things back to the states--it seems like there's some room for negotiation and compromise. But there's not. So, fine. Let's say a fetus is a person. Then, when the rights of this person come into conflict with the rights of the woman, rather than the ridiculous state of affairs we have now, where the anti-abortionists argue that this pre-born class** of person is so unique that its needs take precedence over the rights of the woman, we can settle the matter like we settle any matter where the needs of two people come into conflict, by looking to the law. The Cult of True Pre-born Human-Hood As it stands now, we have something of a cult of true pre-born human-hood. Much like the cult of true womanhood that we had to suffer through in the 80s and 90s--in, I suspect, direct retaliation for Susan & Elizabeth getting all uppity in Seneca Falls--this cult is also based on the notion that some people are so precious and perfect that they must be protected from the rigors of the cruel world.*** Also suspiciously like the cult of true womanhood, this cult is based on the notion that such beliefs about this special class of people entitles society to monitor the behavior of women to ensure that nothing corrupts the perfect state of this special class of people. In other words, what pro-choice people need to be more cognizant of is that the kinds of "rights of the pre-born" that anti-abortionists argue for are not the same kinds of rights that real people have, but special rights that allow these pre-born "people" to infringe upon the liberty of women. Here's Some Stuff I Get Annoyed About Having to Repeat Sex is not some mysterious dirty thing that good girls only do when married and only whores do otherwise. Children are not the proper punishment for sex. Viewing pregnancy as the "proper" outcome of a sexual encounter and insisting that a woman attempt to carry a pregnancy to term as the proper punishment for daring to be close to someone and enjoy her own body is fucked up. It's not just fucked up for what it does to women. It's fucked up for what it does to kids. Kids deserve to be raised by people who want them. They are not little eternal punishments and it leads to a lot of terrible, terrible things when parents see them as such. As well, babies are not magic. Having one in you does not transform you into a good person****. My sister-in-law has one of the cutest, sweetest kids ever. She's still her. And that kid could melt the devil's heart, so that's saying something. Also, pregnancies are still messy, complicated, difficult affairs under the best of circumstances. It's not like getting a Coke from the machine, where you drop your coin in the slot and nine months later out pops something refreshing, with little effect on the pop dispenser. It's hard to get pregnant. It's hard to keep a pregnancy going. They fail all the time, and for reasons doctors don't always understand. Pregnancies are dangerous for women--not just because we're more likely to get murdered while pregnant--but because we still die trying to bring life into the world. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you head over to Redneck Mother's post, where she talks frankly about all the different ways her pregnancies went. Host & Guest So, I suggest that we reframe the debate in terms of guest and host. I might love to have guests. I might even announce that I'm open to the possibility of having a guest over on Sunday. Being open to having a guest on Sunday doesn't mean that I'm morally required to entertain guests on Thursday. It doesn't mean that the government can force me to have guests over on Saturday. And it doesn't make me a hypocrite if I didn't want guests on Thursday but am sad that the guest I was hoping for on Sunday never showed up. One positive side-effect to reframing the debate in terms of hosting a guest is that it helps make it clear that one, such as me, can be both pro-abortion and think that prosecuting people who commit crimes against pregnant women with two crimes (one against the woman and one against the "pre-born person") is a good idea. No one should be able to force a woman to host a "pre-born person," but just as clearly, no one should be able to force that woman to not host that pre-born person or to attempt to prevent her from doing so. Conclusion Since the government is specifically forbidden from forcing people to live with other people--according to the third amendment--it ought to stand to reason that the government cannot force a woman to host a pre-born person without her consent. We need to stop relying on an unarticulated constitutional right to privacy to protect our bodily autonomy, and start testing whether the third amendment is weighty enough to assure women's liberty. *Though, I should point out that that fount of all Santorum knowledge--my hero, Dan Savage--is leading the push for a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to privacy, which seems like a damn good idea, though I wonder how sex-hating cultural conservatives will ever be able to fuck if they can't feel legally and morally justified about getting angrily aroused at the thought of all the dirty things gays are doing to each other. **Yeah, I, too, find it funny that unborn people get special rights, but heaven forbid any other groups do. *** I suspect some of you may need a refresher course on the cult of true womanhood, so let me just remind you that it was based on the idea that there were separate spheres for men and woman and that men got to go out and be in the world and women stayed home and served as moral examples to their children. As wikipedia so astutely puts it: "The Cult of Domesticity identified the home as the 'separate, proper sphere' for women, who were seen as morally superior to and purer than men." See, we were supposed to be happy being confined to the house because we were special and both needed protection from the big bad world and were the only things standing between men and their almost inevitable corruption from said big bad world. As soon as they let us out of the house in the Jazz era, we took off all our clothes, danced lewdly, and drank a lot of gin--so you can see how happy we were to be sitting around at home while you hung out at the brothels. (One might notice a pattern here about women's responses to particularly repressive time periods--the flappers and the hippies both coming after bull-shitty returns to "traditional" values.) ****Though there's something really interesting about the cross-arguments that anti-abortionists seem to be making--both that pregnant women are vile and depraved and their unborn babies must be protected from them by the law and that, if only pregnant women seeking abortions were shown enough sonograms or given enough counseling, the magic of the baby would transform them into selfless incubators of joy.


Blogger Exador said...

There are so many things screwed up about this post, I don't know where to begin, but I'll be nice since you gave me a link. Thanks, B.

11/12/2005 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

What? You're opposed to lewd dancing and gin drinking?

11/12/2005 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exador left a bottle of cheap gin at Sarcastro's Home for Wayward Girls. So it may only be the lewd dancing.

11/12/2005 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Exador said...

I've explained my dancing style to B. I don't think it's anything that needs to get loose on the WWW.

I'm drinking gin right now, so obviously I can't be opposed to it.

11/12/2005 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

", I suspect, direct retaliation for Susan & Elizabeth getting all uppity in Seneca Falls" - Love it, B. Also, I'm enjoying the new look mightily. Interesting argument you've put forth. I'm going to have to think about this one for a while.

11/12/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

There are some holes, obviously, but I love the cult of unborn personhood so much I had to build a post around it.

Plus, the poor third amendment. It gets no love.

11/12/2005 12:16:00 PM  

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