Sunday, March 19, 2006

My Late Reply to the Uncle and Kleinheider

My god. I leave the continent for five seconds and return to find that Say Uncle and Kleinheider both have used the time to argue against me and remain unrefuted by me. Well, I'm back and, boys, I've got some questions. For the Uncle: 1. Tubal pregnancies can't be carried to term. Is ending those pregnancies "heinous, disgusting and deplorable"? 2. Is it "heinous, disgusting and deplorable" for a doctor to abort one fetus in order to give its twin a better shot at making it to term? 3. Is it "heinous, disgusting and deplorable" to abort a fetus with disabilities that will mean that it will die a horrible and painful death shortly after being born? For Kleinheider: 1. You say
However, abortion is violence. It is murder. Once you have established that, as Uncle seems to, the negotiation must stop. At that point you must stand on principle and find a way to accept and/or alleviate the consequences of a prohibition that is morally and ethically necessary.
What is the proper punishment for women who have abortions? Life in prison or the death penalty? 2. You still have not addressed my concern that you don't believe that women can have full citizenship. So, I'll bring it up again. If a fetus has a right to life that ALWAYS trumps the right of the woman to do with her own body what she likes--including not carrying a pregnancy to term--you are saying that women have rights only as long as they don't infringe on the rights of the fetus. There is no other group of people singled out by the law and told that their rights can ALWAYS be curtailed by another group. Your position leaves no room for the woman's rights to ever trump the rights of the fetus, therefore making me a different, lesser kind of citizen than you. Maybe you believe this--that the state has such a compelling need to control what happens in a woman's uterus, that women cannot be citizens to the extent that men can, but I'd appreciate you saying this out loud. If you believe that women are equal under the law to men, how can you abide by the state controlling one of her internal organs?


Anonymous Jack said...

I'll take a shot at your concern about women having full citizenship, and I'll go at it two ways.

1. The right to life is the most important right. Do you disagree? After all, it's the first right enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. The right to life nearly ALWAYS trumps other rights, which is one reason the death penalty is a punishment of last resort, unless, of course, the defendant is poor or a member of a minority. But I digress. When you talk about "the right of the woman to do with her own body what she likes ... including not carrying a pregnancy to term," you're going back to that rhetorical trick of treating abortion as a "medical procedure." Where does the right to do what you please with your own body stop? Are you for drug legalization ... all drugs? As in, as long as I just want to take my angel dust and destroy all my furniture in peace in my soundproofed apartment, why should anyone be able to stop me? And more than just legalizing it - if someone should make the mistake of trying to stop me ... does my right to do what I want to do with my own body trump that person's right to life? If the cops come after me and my 30 kilo stash of crack - that I never sell to anyone! I'm just a heavy user! - do I get to shoot the cops? Should I be able to shout out "It's my body, motherfuckers!" as the pigs go down in a hail of bullets?

2. Here's a group of people singled out by the law and told their rights are curtailed: criminals. You do the crime, you do the time. Your right to liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and sometimes your right to life are gone.

You just threw up your hands, I know, but bear with me. It's just an analogy. What I'm saying is this: you know, when you have sex, that you could become pregnant. It's a risk, and after all these years and a variety of inadvertently hysterical sex ed videos, a pretty well known one. Is it unfair that it can happen to women and not to men? Yes, it damn well is. But that's biology, and nature's laws don't give you any input. It doesn't make you a second class citizen. It means that unfortunately ... you bear the risk of your own decisions in a world where abortion is illegal. If you don't like it, don't have sex. Get sterilized. Avoid the risk. It's absolutely in your power. Of course, that's not true for rape or incest, so I think you're on to something in, say, South Dakota. But otherwise, I just can't buy it.

3/19/2006 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'1. Tubal pregnancies can't be carried to term. Is ending those . . .death shortly after being born?'

As i said in my post, those are just details. If a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its ass when it hopped. There are many specific scenarios to violate any rule. Etc.

3/19/2006 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger W said...

Jack put his finger on my main problem with your argument B. This second class citizen argument of yours isn't working for me. You lose a right as a consequence of a decision you make. That happens to people every day. Unfortunatly, Jack's criminal analogy is the most apt, but I'd lose my right to go in Kroger if I just went in and started breaking things.

I also don't really think that using the extreme situations to argue against the more likely situation (abortion as birth control) is doing you any good. All you're doing is proving the necessity of a medical/rape exception.

3/20/2006 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Hurray, Jack! I'm glad you're here. You have a way of phrasing things so thoughtfully that I feel like I get a really good sense of the contours of my own argument as I react to yours. Thanks for that.

And, just as a side note, I do think that all drugs should be legalized. Like prostitution, it should be legal, regulated, and taxed--as a matter of public safety and in order to really undermine the criminal apparatuses that are now attached to them.

But that's not your main point. However, in reading your comment, I think you end up alluding to what really scares the shit out of me about the whole abortion debate.

As I've said before, I think it's a legitimate moral stand to say that abortion is "heinous, disgusting and deplorable," even if I disagree and think that there are a lot of common conditions under which a woman might have an abortion where it is the best of a lot of bad options for her. Which is why, as much as I disagree with the Uncle, I have a hard time bringing myself to fight with him.

But Kleinheider's position leads us to a situation, as you've illuminated in your examples, in which we treat all fertile women as potential criminals, who may, if not closely regulated, kill their unborn children.

Well, even now, most women don't have abortions. And, as we've talked about, there are very effective ways of reducing abortions--such as making sure people have accurate and thorough information about birth control.

But, even if every woman only ever had sex willingly and only when she was completely ready to have a baby, there would still be occassional need for abortions--such as in the examples I asked Uncle about.

That's just a fact of nature as well. Pregnancy is not risk free and even wanted pregnancies don't always turn out like we hope.

Which is why I still believe that this is exactly about a busy-body state. It seems to me like we believe that most abortions are had by flighty, careless girls who think only about pleasure and not about responsibility who are then manipulated into having abortions by the evil folks at Planned Parenthood or other "abortion mills." Hence the reasons we want them to have to see pictures of fetuses and be legally obligated to tell their husbands and have ultrasounds and councelling and waiting periods. We want only women who "deserve" abortions to have them.

I think this is the bogeyman that anti-abortion folks are fighting--the woman who is careless and thoughtless and selfish. And that's why I keep bringing up all these other circumstances under which a woman might have an abortion. It's just not that easy.

And criminalizing abortion is an attempt to force order onto chaos. In reality, it's not easy to bring a life from fertilized egg into viable baby. Something like eighty five percent of fertilized eggs never even implant (and yet, as I keep pointing out, I never see these pro-lifers mourning the loss of life each of my periods could potentially represent, which continues to lead me to believe that they must not actually believe what they say when they say they believe that a fertilized egg is a life the same way a baby is a life, because, clearly if they saw what appeared to possibly be the remains of a dead baby in a trash can, they'd be mournful and outraged, even if that baby died of natural causes.) and women spontaniously abort all the time.

Pregnancies are dangerous. In the U.S. they are less dangerous than they used to be and less dangerous than they are in other parts of the world. But they are dangerous. Anyone who's ever seen a woman giving birth knows that it's terrifying and extremely painful.

Why does the state have the right to compel me to go through that? Because I dared to have sex?

Again, do we really want to live in a society in which children are the proper punishment for sex?

Because that seems to be the unspoken objection to abortion that you guys have--how dare these women want to have sex and escape having babies.

I mean, W., abortion is birth control. No one who's not wanting to avoid being pregnant is having an abortion. To argue that abortion as a form of birth control is the most common kind of abortion is weird. What other kind of abortion is there?

My point is that there are lots of reasons why women might feel that this is their birth control of last resort. To make them prove to everyone in society that they "deserve" the abortion is the essense of a busy-body state.

Anyway, I think y'all don't like my second class citizen argument because it's tough to refute. Sure, Jack argues that life is the most important right because it comes first in the Declaration of Independence. But one could just as easily argue that it comes first for aesthetic reasons--you start out with an accented syllable on "life," followed by two weaker syllables on "li" "ber" and a strong accent again on "ty" and then two weaker syllables with "and the" and strong again on "pur" and two weak with "suit" and strong on "hap" and two weak with "i" "ness."

I don't think you say for sure that they're in order of reason of importance or in order for poetic reasons.

Does a person's right to life always trump another person's liberty? I think those rights are supposed to be balanced, that the state cannot rightfully declare that one group's right to life always trumps another group's right to liberty, without that second group ending up, by definition, with fewer rights than the first group.

3/20/2006 07:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Jack said...


Pleasure to be here, and thanks for the welcome. Lightning post (we're not all on vacation!) so apologies in advance for grammar / spelling errors.

You misunderstood what I said about the right to life. I'm not basing my argument on that old Declaration. I just stated that the right to life is the most important right, asked if you disagreed, and then used the Declaration to illustrate how we as a society think about rights. I know better than to base my argument to you on some conclusory statement by a bunch of dead white guys. It appears that you may disagree, so here's an actual argument as to why the right to life is the most important right.

1. Without it, all the other rights are meaningless. How can you have a right to liberty if you don't have the right to live it? Can we pursue happiness if our lives can be snuffed out at any moment? Just thinking about it makes me unhappy. No right to life leaves you with just two things: jack and shit. Sorry, I like to use my name in my work. Just like the Backstreet Boys.

2. It's rather difficult to compensate for life if you fuck up in taking it away. You can pay someone off when you wrongfully imprison them, or toss them some money if you take away property, etc. Money can buy a lot of things, and of course economists are confident that they can put a value of human life. They may even be right: however, that's not relevant here, because nobody as of yet has figured out how to pay the person whose life has been taken away.

I agree with you - the right to life needs to be balanced against other rights. But what you're missing is that they're not of equal weight in that balancing - your parsing of the syllables aside - and that's where your argument's fatal flaw lies. My liberty interest isn't inherently equal to your right to life: on its own, it just can't compete.

3/20/2006 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Jack, you make good points, but I just can't get past how gross it is that the state has the power to tell me I have to give birth.

Don't get me wrong. I think that bringing a life into the world is one of the most amazing things a woman can do. But it's just not without cost for the woman.

If she wants to do it, I think we all should give her all the support and help we can.

But if she doesn't want to do it, it's really gross for the state to force her to.

I just can't get past that--that if I have sex with you, that gives the state the right to compel me to give birth.

Having sex is not illegal or wrong. So, how does it end up with me ceding the right to my body over to the state for it to control in order to ensure that the state gets the result it wants out of any possible pregnancies?

3/20/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger W said...

To argue that abortion as a form of birth control is the most common kind of abortion is weird.
No B, I don't think it's weird to argue it that way. I suppose technically all those medical reasons count as birth control, but I'm referring more to the idea of abortion as a backup in case the condom busts or you forget to take your pill. Not birth control because you might die giving birth.

I don't think most abortions are 'flighty careless girls' who were pushed into it by Planned Parenthood, but I do think that most of them are 'because I don't want to be preganant right now'. I'm not in the minority in that belief, so any argument you have has to take that into consideration. I don't think you can use medical exceptions to make the rule.

Maybe I'm wrong on that one, and perhaps I just don't have have the right perspective because I'm a man. But the men are the ones that need to be persuaded so I think you need to make a better case.

3/20/2006 05:21:00 PM  

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