?

Log in

No account? Create an account
abortion practicalities - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2003-12-06 16:02
abortion practicalities
Public
impassionedimpassioned
This is in response to a friend's blog post on abortion - I just wanted to post it on my blog. :~)

When I argue for abortion, I tend to sidestep the "embryo is a human too" argument, just like I sidestep the "animals have rights too" argument of vegetarians. That's stepping into ideology, and I think it's much more effective to argue the practicalities of the matter than to convince someone to change their belief system.

First, being a parent, and even being pregnant, is profoundly life-altering - and it's almost always the mother who is saddled with the changes.

Second, abortion may be gruesome (especially when pro-life groups put up ten-foot-high pictures of aborted fetuses all over Sproul Plaza), but so are fetal alcohol syndrome and other mental and physical disabilities that are induced by drug use, recessive traits, or generally not caring enough to be healthy during pregnancy. When I saw those posters on Sproul, I wanted to counter with pictures of major birth defects that are due to the mother not caring about her unwanted pregnancy ... maybe pictures of child abuse also. There are too many unwanted children in the world.

Finally and most importantly, women have been getting or inducing abortions for centuries. They recognize how life-altering having a baby is and will avoid having one at any cost. If abortions aren't legal, women who do not want to carry a baby to term will seek illegal and often unsafe alternatives, just as they have throughout history. (It is not reasonable to simply tell people to abstain from sex - it's too much against human nature. Utah's sex ed. program sums up to "abstinence is good" - the teachers can't even give more information unless specifically asked by students - and when I was in high school, Utah had one of the highest out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy rates in the nation!)

Arguing whether abortions are "right" or "wrong" will not change the fact that women will get them - but making abortions illegal will just increase the number of women who die horrible deaths from unsafe abortions. Coat hangers or bleach in the uterus, anyone?

*deep breath*
*steps off soapbox*

I like Micheal Moore's comment about abortion: men have no place to say anything against abortion, since they'll never have to actually deal with being pregnant!
Comment | 17 Comments | Share | Link






Johann
oddthink
2003-12-06 16:19 (UTC)
Begs the question
Alas, that seems to beg the question, i.e. assume what you're trying to prove.

I doubt many abortion foes are against it because of pragmatics; I imagine that they're against it because of their beliefs about souls or general sanctity of human life. In that case, arguing pragmatics is irrelevant, because it's a question of principle. Arguing the pragmatics in fact assumes that the principle is not a problem, hence it's begging the question.
Reply | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-12-06 16:32 (UTC)
Re: Begs the question
I don't know - I don't think I'm trying to prove abortion is right or wrong; I'm saying regardless of that, women will seek them.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Johann
oddthink
2003-12-06 17:06 (UTC)
Re: Begs the question
Fair enough, but I doubt anyone doubts that.

On second thought, the pragmatics argument is really the only argument that can be made. Sure, only some people will care about the pragmatics, but it has a wider appeal than pretty much anything else.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



nikita
hukuma
2003-12-07 00:47 (UTC)
Re: Begs the question
But I think it's not inconsistent to believe that a human life, even in fetal form, is sacred, but to fall on the side of keeping abortion legal. It depends on whether you believe that laws exist to represent our morals and principles, or whether they should be used to influence people's behaviour in order to create a better society. I can imagine a pro-life moderate who takes the latter position, and perhaps spends time discouraging people from having abortions, but realizes that outlawing it does more harm than good.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-12-07 13:21 (UTC)
Re: Begs the question
This is interesting - I like the stance that laws should represent our ideals rather than force us to conform to others.

And your "... human life, even in fetal form, is sacred ..." reminds me of a few other problems I have with anti-abortion arguments ...

In my last political and economic development lecture (*sniff*), we were discussing how, through our actions (or inactions), we show that we clearly value the lives of people in the U.S. - and even more so rich people - over people in, say, Africa. Two kids in Colorado died from flu a few days ago, and it makes headlines across the country - yet thousands of kids die every day from malnutrition and preventable diseases (when, in many cases, vaccines would only cost a few cents) and even when we know about the statistics, we ignore them. We may be aware that the GAP (and sister stores Old Navy and Banana Republic) has overseas sweatshop labor plants, but the lives and well-being of women and children overseas is not as important as getting that trendy pair of jeans at a low price. I'm guilty too in this cultural favoritism.

Another thing that puzzles me about the "sanctity of the fetus" argument is that about 30% or more of known pregnancies end in miscarriage - and in female sexuality, I learned that an estimated 50-70% of pregnancies end (with a slightly off-schedule, slightly heavier than usual menstruation) in the first few weeks, before the mother even knows about it.

The fact that a fetus is so dependent on its mother is one argument that pro-choice people have made for fetuses not to be considered human. (Thank you, sbtorpey, for your beautifully-put description of this dependence!) However, because it's now possible to sustain a fetus at least for a limited amount of time without a mother, anti-abortion groups argue that that makes it "more of a person," and some say that if Roe v. Wade was brought before the Supreme Court again (especially with the current political climate) it would be struck down.

And then easy as that, I could be forced to bring an unwanted pregnancy to term, or risk my life with an illegal abortion.

Anyway, I can't help but find it ... paradoxical that people fight for the lives of fetuses when so few of them make it to term anyway, and when others around the world are dying for no good reason.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



John
surpheon
2003-12-07 15:04 (UTC)
Re: Begs the question
Grabbing onto the thread heading away from the main subject, I really don't like the argument that the mass media can be used to judge our society's valuing of life. In an average season, 36,000 people die of complications related to the flu, and that rarely makes the news. Six deaths were reported this year just because they were unusual and fit into a "you could be next!" news bite.

I also seriously question the "just a few cents" for a vaccine premise. If it was just a few cents of vaccine, I wonder why someone hasn't managed to skim off some of the $44,000,000,000 given by Americans (only about $12 bil of that was government payoffs, the rest was private contributions that probably did something useful) last year to foreign aid to buy some vaccines. Who can I send money to do these vaccinations (obviously UNICEF, the Grameen foundation, Heifer Project, etc. are simply are not getting the job done)??? Maybe I should slip a few bucks to our Togo contact ;).

Where I have seen real poverty (OK, just the outskirts of Tijuana), they needed much more than just a lunch and a shot. They needed health care, just laws, education, infrastructure, non-corrupt leaders, etc.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-12-08 10:41 (UTC)
(no subject)
Hmm, I'm not really sure what the costs are - I'm echoing a sentiment I've heard elsewhere, without having anything to really back it up. Let's see what I can find ... UNICEF says that the six most common vaccines (measles, tetanus, whooping cough, tuberculosis, polio and diphtheria) cost about $1 each, plus up to $9 for transportation costs. Not quite pennies, but still very cheap ... and groups like UNICEF are reaching millions. The main treatment for the bugs that kill the most children - gastrointestinal ones - is simply (clean) water, sugar, and salt, because many of them just die from dehydration.

But you're right - just vaccines or treatments aren't enough. From what I've heard, overcrowded health facilities and a lack of knowledge of sickness is a pretty big problem: by the time you're able to be seen by a doctor, you're already close to death, if you can see a doctor at all. Couple that with increased susceptibility from malnutrition and things start to look more complicated. But a little education can go a long way ... and so can a little money toward health care. Paradoxically, the IMF often insists that countries taking out loans cut spending on government programs, which cuts those two very things.

Maybe we're measuring the wrong things. In class I learned that Sri Lanka has had a women's education program in place for a while now, which has resulted in decreased birth rate, decreased infant mortality rate, decreased deaths during childbirth, and increased health of mothers and children. But some deemed the program a "failure" because it didn't affect any of the economic indicators of Sri Lanka - probably because women's work in the third world often consists of subsistence farming, bartering, and childcare, and none of those generate revenue that is measured. (The U.N. and others often report these women as "unoccupied!")
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



John
surpheon
2003-12-06 17:32 (UTC)
(no subject)
The problem I see with this line of argument is it is too often used to argue an abortion should be no more of an issue than a root canal, so birth control is a lot like flossing - well advised to avoid an unpleasant procedure, but who doesn't have a few fillings? In the Soviet Union abortion was the typical, if not only, convenient birth control option (oh yeah, and the "100% effective" abstinence). I like being in a society that couches abortion more as a choice between evils with some weight to it, rather than simply an almost annual birth control procedure.

IMHO, should women be able to get a safe, medical abortion without having to deal with a horde of zealots with horror-show 10' fetus pictures? Absolutely. At the same time, should society put more effort into reducing the need for abortion than it puts into fighting tooth decay? Yes. That means good sex ed, universal access to birth control technologies, combating poverty, raising women's standard of living and supporting adoption programs. Doing that fights abortion. As your argument clearly states, trying to make it illegal is actually a pretty poor approach to fighting abortion...

Anyhow, there are counterpoints of varying level of mediocrity to your arguments:
First- Being a parent certainly profoundly affects fathers - at the most callous this is being enforced more and more by DNA testing.
Second- Stephen Hawkings should have been aborted.
Third- Female circumcision has been around for centuries; cultural relativism was killed by Nazism...

Doh! I almost Godwin'd it didn't I? Close enough, you win :) But I don't think we were too far apart to start with.
Reply | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-12-07 00:06 (UTC)
(no subject)
(Not Godwin enough to stop a reply :~))

At the same time, should society put more effort into reducing the need for abortion than it puts into fighting tooth decay? Yes.

I totally agree. Women should know that even "safe" abortions can, in rare cases, render women infertile (as happened with a close family member) or do other damage. It's definitely more invasive than preventative measures.

Even the morning-after pill can induce acute nausea and vomiting for days ... and some women's bodies react violently to hormonal contraceptives, IUDs and even latex.

When are they going to develop a male birth-control pill, anyway? (I was discussing this with zestyping a while ago - despite feminist cries of unfairness, it does seem like female ovulation is the "weak link in the chain" - it's just one little egg to control, rather than millions of sperm! ...)
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



John
surpheon
2003-12-07 10:25 (UTC)
(no subject)
I like to think that the "silent majority" falls into the category of legal abortion, but effective action to make it very uncommon. The male birth control pill is finally on the way! Some options are under test in Seattle at my alma mater, the UW. Of course, it is a hormonal solution that sounds like it could be as fun as the women's version, so the doc's can't put away those vasectomy snippers yet!
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-12-08 10:47 (UTC)
MHC
Wow, awesome - it's about time! Thanks for the link! :~)
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Olego
olego
2003-12-06 18:26 (UTC)
(no subject)
I like your argument.
Reply | Thread | Link



torpeytude
sbtorpey
2003-12-06 20:35 (UTC)
An animal-rights-type vegetarian (and Catholic) weighs in
This may seem cruel, but here's my take on the idea that aborting a fetus is taking a human life. Legally, I should have the right to stop someone from living in my body and using its resources for his or her own purposes without my permission. If the only way to stop this person is to kill him or her, so be it. Our law is pretty forgiving if I shoot someone who's entered in my apartment against my permission; it ought to be at least as forgiving about my actions toward someone living off my body without my permission. Maybe I'd come out of the situation unharmed, but I think I'm the one who should decide whether I feel generous enough to take that risk.

Ethically, my responsibilities toward this person may depend heavily on what role I played in getting him or her into this situation, but the idea of having the government make the call about that role makes me queasy.

Of course, I hope a lot of people who find themselves unintentionally supporting another human being will have the courage and generosity to help out the tiny stranger who's utterly dependent on them by sharing their bodies and their lives for the better part of a year. But I don't think it'll do much good to try to force anyone to do that. As a society, we'd be much better served by organizing our universities, workplaces, and social welfare network so that people don't have to choose between this generous act and all their longstanding academic and professional dreams.

Unwanted pregnancy is simultaneously a statistical reality (given our cultural norms about the time between onset of adolescence and the appropriate age for starting a family) and an abidingly shameful thing in our society; that's probably why it tends to be an invisible thing on many of our more elite campuses. Yet we all know that no birth control method is perfect. I'd like to see us find a way to celebrate people who do something as shockingly counter cultural as actually carry one of these babies to term, but maybe that would just traumatize all the more ordinary people who look at their chances at scholarships and fellowships and grad school or job offers down the line and decide they just can't take the risk of sacrificing their own life to save someone else's.
Reply | Thread | Link



pr0lix
2003-12-06 20:57 (UTC)
Men and abortion
"men have no place to say anything against abortion, since they'll never have to actually deal with being pregnant"

I do agree with this quote, but usually I don't hear men having arguments about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. Usually, I hear them having an argument about whether or not they should have a say in a specific person's abortion (i.e. the woman pregnant with their child).

Obviously, a baby isn't the same thing as a saved game on an X-box; and the last time I checked, it was rather difficult for a man to have a baby without a consenting female. So while I don't agree with it, I find it slightly amusing that a man might, say, sue a woman for property damage after a successful abortion. Of course, since these sorts of things can get incredibly complicated (see bottom), I don't think there is any good option other than placing the decision solely in the hands of the female.
Reply | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-12-07 13:33 (UTC)
Re: Men and abortion
That's true - I've talked to enough men who would definitely want to at least know if they fathered a child, and would prefer to be able to discuss options before the mother ended the pregnancy. But certainly many politicians and religious leaders, who happen to be mostly male, condemn abortion. Some of these same people argue that women are naturally made to have children, so if one has aspirations to something else but has the misfortune to get pregnant without planning to, its her duty to have the child. Obviously feminists have problems with this, as they do with any so-called "natural" gender distinctions. This one is just a lot more difficult to argue than the rest because, well, it's true that only women can be pregnant. It's one of the few irrefutable ways men and women are different. Feminists just say that's no reason for women to be forced to compromise their dreams, while men have no such obligations.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Kris
anemone
2003-12-07 16:55 (UTC)
squirming...
So while I don't agree with it, I find it slightly amusing that a man might, say, sue a woman for property damage after a successful abortion.

I'm definately pro-choice, and I believe the decision has to rest with the woman for much the same reasons that Sarah mentioned. But the idea that the fetus is owned by either party and could be treated like property makes me squirm.

I disagree with Micheal Moore, myself. Merely because I am capable of being pregnant doesn't, IMO, change my right to interfere in the pregnancy of another.

(Not that I'm advocating anything other than that women have the right to choose, but I do sympathize with fathers. If the woman carries to term, men have to pay child support. If she chooses to abort, they lose that potential child. And they have no say in which one it is. Men's choices end when they have sex, and women have a little longer.)
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



one two three two two three
dirtyindiewear
2003-12-07 17:25 (UTC)
(no subject)
this is how i've always felt about abortion.

i wish it wasn't necessary. i think it should be a last resort. but i think that making it illegal would be extremely dangerous.

we already have an overstuffed-underfunded foster care system in the US. imagine how much worse the system will get...
Reply | Thread | Link



browse
my journal
September 2013