Friday, November 10, 2006

Pro-Life Loses in Idaho

Did you guys follow this story? I'm just catching up.

The losing gubernatorial candidate in Idaho (Marvin Richardson...except... not so much)officially changed his name to Pro-Life, so that's what would appear on the ballot. And people wonder why I claim that much of the pro-life movement is unrelentingly ridiculous. Honest to Pete, if someone would make a reasoned, calm, woman-respecting, pro-life argument, I'd listen respectfully. I have listened respectfully when I've heard them in the past. I haven't quite been persuaded but I wouldn't be inflammatory. I promise. But so much of what they do is this nonsense; it's really hard to take them seriously.

I would love it if there were fewer abortions. The way to do that is to have fewer unintended pregnancies. One way to do that is to educate young people about contraception and to make it easily available. And yet, until recently, heaven only knows how much taxpayer money has gone to support abstinence-only sex education in the classrooms -and beyond.

I hope that with the newly configured Congress, the far right (including Mr Pro-Life from Idaho) will have less ability to define the discourse and that effective sex education will once again be in the classroom.


Kimberly said...

Andrea--I share your feelings on abortion, I believe, but the best argument against abortion I've ever seen is Don Marquis' "Why Abortion is Immoral." It's a non-religious argument that what makes killing a fetus wrong is the same thing as what makes killing an adult wrong--it deprives the fetus of a "future like ours." On this view abortion isn't ALWAYS wrong, for instance, just as homicide can be justified to save one's life, abortion could be, too, but it's usually wrong. I don't agree with him in the end, but it's a reasonable view and his argument is interesting. Here's a farily accessible summary:

Michael said...

One biggish flaw in that argument, though, Kimberly, and that's that there's no question that an already-born human possesses full human rights such that killing him/her is criminally culpable in most cases. It's far from clear that a fetus possesses those rights. And if we go to the position that killing a fetus is tantamount to killing a human being, we'd find ourselves in the bizarre situation of prosecuting people for masturbation, non-procreative sex, and, I suppose, menstruation for women, since all of those things involve killing or at least "wasting" cells that have the potential to have a life.

I'm not quite ready to go down the "Every Sperm Is Sacred" route.

Andrea Rusin said...

Well, it's clear that a fetus doesn't have RIGHTS. Rights are granted by civil authorities -by definition to citizens. Citizenship is defined by the state, pretty much however it wants to. Frex, here, one way to be a citizen is to be born here. BORN. Unless we're going to run around naturalizing fetuses -a bizarre proposition- we have to wait for birth to have citizens. And the rights of a citizen -unless I'm missing something.

I don't think he is arguing for technical rights so much as trying to make a rational claim that's familiar to us as Catholics. There's innate worth and dignity in life. You have to pick somewhere for it to start, since we really can't know. Err on the side of caution and pick conception. I think that's his argument.

And it's not without merit. Having been a pregnant person twice, I know that there is joy over and connection with a "thing" that's not (to my mind) a person yet. And it's all about potential. Ending the pregnancy would have ended that potential and caused horrible sadness.

The weakness in my own pro-choice position (it may not be a flaw, but it's a place I'm not fully satisfied) is right there. There's no question that a pregnancy turns into a person -a full-fledged darling little baby. Where is that potential too close to real.... hell if I know.

Michael said...

"Err on the side of caution" is essentially my position. But until I can find a thoroughly scientific reason that that should be the case, I can't demand that the government enact my take on the matter into law, thanks to the First Amendment, which I'm very glad we have.

Clearly, the way to decrease the number of abortions is, exactly as you said, to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies--and that's got to involve fact-based education for everybody, beginning well before they're even considering becoming sexually active. It would have to include all sorts of things that aren't even directly relevant to sex--like how to make rational decisions in the face of peer pressure, developing the necessary self-esteem and self-respect such that no amount of pressure or BSing is going to get the boy/girl in question to cave in and do something s/he doesn't want to do or isn't ready to do, etc.

And the next time someone tells me that because I'm Catholic I have to vote for the "pro-life" candidate, I'm going to ask him/her which is more important: saying they're against abortion, or actually doing something effective to reduce the number of abortions performed. Given that the abortion rate tends to decline under Democratic administrations and increase under Republican ones, that makes voting decisions incredibly easy--at least if you ignore all the bullshit "pro-life" rhetoric. (And don't even get me started on the inconsistency of opposing abortion on pro-life grounds, but standing four-square behind war and capital punishment.)

Kimberly said...

I don't agree with Marquis, I just think he has a rational position worth taking seriously. It's still wrong. ;) The argument really is--it's wrong to kill us, because you deprive us of a future that we had a right to expect. [He's talking here of natural rather than civil (state-granted) rights.] Once you have a sufficiently developed fetus, it has the same sort of "expectation" (obviously not in a literal sense) of a future, and to deprive it of that is wrong. He sets the "crucial point" at something like 8 days out from conception. I forget how he decided where the important point was (I think it had to do with a certain cell configuration). No problem with masturbation for him--and he doesn't think conception is the important point. It's not quite the Catholic argument (as I understand it).

I hear you on the "where's the line" worry, Andrea. I've always been a fan of the idea of reducing unwanted pregnancies to reduce abortions. I know of NO ONE who has a casual attitude toward them. Why can't we all work together on the stuff we agree on rather than spend so much effort and vitriol on the places where we disagree? (Okay, I understand, they see themselves as "saving babies" and it's hard from that place to do the more pragmatic thing).

"Err on the side of caution" is essentially my position. But until I can find a thoroughly scientific reason that that should be the case, I can't demand that the government enact my take on the matter into law, thanks to the First Amendment, which I'm very glad we have.

Bless you! I wish more people could make distinctions like that (and not just about abortion).

Andrea Rusin said...

Boy. Natural rights...natural law.... it seems so obvious somehow. There ought to be natural law, but we inevitably get in SUCH a jumble when we start to talk about it. It always makes me nervous when someone (or some, you know, hypothetical church) rests arguments solely on that.