?

Log in

No account? Create an account
the incompatibility of pro-choice and anti-choice worldviews - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2007-05-07 19:55
the incompatibility of pro-choice and anti-choice worldviews
Public
abortion, anti-choice, contraception, feminism, language, politics, religion, sexuality, worldviews
I've realized that I could never effectively argue with most anti-choice activists about birth control and abortion because we would be making completely different assumptions about the world -- different and fundamentally incompatible paradigms, in Kuhn's terms (since I've been reading lots of and about him in my philosophy of science class). Their arguments about what the Bible says about sex and other topics hold no weight for me. My arguments about problems of abused and neglected children, overpopulation, and a woman's right to control the course of her life hold little or no weight for them.

The point where we might be able to actually speak to one another, rather than past one another, is the issue of viability and when "life" starts, but even there they take what I see as ridiculously extreme views such as "life starts at conception" or sometimes with the possibility of conception (thus, the fight against birth control as a preventative measure) that I can't possibly agree with, given the messy realities of life: so many fertilized eggs don't implant, so many proto-fetuses don't last even a week, etc.

Furthermore, if they take this stance, why aren't they attacking in-vitro fertilization as vehemently as they are abortion and birth control? Multiple fetuses are grown and then one (or sometimes a few, but certainly not all) is implanted, and the rest are discarded. Isn't that murder in their eyes? Shouldn't all viable fetuses be given the chance to live in that case too? Funny how the intention of the couple seems to change the morality of the fetuses: people who are going through in-vitro fertilization want to be parents while people practicing birth control don't.

Along those same lines, it's also very strange that some anti-choice people take childlessness to be irresponsible, while from an environmental perspective, I think that having children is the more irresponsible choice (which, of course, some eco-minded parents mitigate in various ways, as I hope I would too if/when I have children -- but all things considered, that's still another person using a lifetime's-worth of resources, which is not small even when minimized). And moreover, making sure that one has children at a point in one's life when they can be best provided for seems to be, to me, a lot more responsible than risking having kids as soon as one starts having sex, which for a very large part of the population is very young (even with abstinence-only education like I grew up with, as a recent study shows). Of course, the anti-choice people would say one shouldn't be having sex until one is prepared to have children (which is the often-unsaid corollary to most of their points), but that's a whole 'nother can of worms with its own set of worldview incompatibilities, and I'll save that for another post (though you're welcome to rail in the comments if you want to).

No wonder this is such a hotly-contested debate. Except that it's not really a debate at all.

(NOTE: I don't mean to imply that one side is more "rational" than the other, even though I have made it clear which "side" I am on. These sorts of disagreements happen all the time, in many areas. My main argument is that the incommensurability of worldviews prevent the two sides from even seeing eye-to-eye.)
Comment | 74 Comments | | Link






fanlain
fanlain
2007-05-08 03:24 (UTC)
(no subject)
I think people should wait until they can realistically afford and care for a child/ren more than just for the short-term future. I don't care if they are married or not but should ideally have a plan that makes sense and puts the child first. Many people don't; the rate of unplanned pregnancies is way higher than planned. Many don't take folic acid supplements or have a strong enough diet so you have a % of kids that are born unhealthy because the parents chose to be irresponsible when that could have been prevented (or is that God's fault?). And I don't like pro-life people that also don't support money going toward child abuse prevention - what the hell do they think happens to these unwanted kids who are born? How can they (or a God) justify that? I know when I was in elementary school, this is when I decided that if there is child abuse in the world and God tolerates that by allowing its existence then I cannot possibly follow or see a God. It's unacceptable.

There's just no way to make people responsible or accountable unless they falling into a serious enough extreme that it gets to be difficult to not do something. It's not like you can make the parents actually talk through their plans or even to make them make solid decisions when they aren't. Trying to regulate it won't work. I think the best is just a "to each his/her own"...I do like how I believe Planned Parenthood does make mothers wait a period before making their decision and sure that they are well-informed. But that doesn't work with every decision, especially once a child is born...this is how we get things like the Prussian Blue twins whose parents are very white supremacist and home schooling these girls and giving them very false information. These kids will be screwed over when they become adults or have a very narrow social group unless they rebel.
Reply | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2007-05-08 03:38 (UTC)
(no subject)
I agree. Funny that the policies end up punishing the child for parents' bad choices.

As Keaneau Reeves' character said in Parenthood (which, incidentally, was the best role evar for him -- spaced-out teenage stoner), "You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father." (As a side note, the version we had was recorded from Utah TV and was censored -- "butt-reaming asshole" was dubbed over as "washed-up deadbeat." I didn't know until now that the original quote was so ... colorful!)
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link | Expand



(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
threadwalker
threadwalker
2007-05-08 04:13 (UTC)
(no subject)
Politicaly my mother can rarely say this baldly- but as a public health professional specializing in reproductive health, my mother tells me that th only method of sex education that shows absolutely no sign of reducing pregnancy or spread of disease is "abstinence-only" education. Not only not significant effect, but no effect.

Also this is no more about the bible than it is about logic- not really. If people who talk about following the laws of the bible as stated actually did so they would still be stoning women for letting their hair show. It's about societies, culture, politics, power... and the arguments around those things are rarely logical.
Reply | Thread | Link



guardmisfit
guardmisfit
2007-05-08 04:19 (UTC)
(no subject)
As someone who has always been pro-life, I came to the same realization about the incompatibility of worldviews and thus futility of debate a couple years ago. When there is a debate, it isn't a debate, because neither side bothers to counteract the other's points, or even sees them as valid enough to address. I see abortion as taking away someone's life, and as such it horrifies me, but I can't in any way see not supporting child-abuse prevention, and do not believe that having children is at all necessary due to overpopulation, nor am I against birth control... that's not killing anything except a potentiality; that's silly.

I think the "having kids is responsible" notion came from the early days of the Christian church, when it needed to increase its membership to gain strength and thus needed parents to have a lot of kids that they could raise Christian. That definitely no longer applies... But then again, I'm not holding my view from a religious viewpoint, either, which probably changes my perspective on the issue from that of a lot of pro-life people. For instance, I'm not even sure what is meant by "their arguments about what the Bible says about sex". Last I understood, it said not to have sex unless you were married, which... doesn't seem related to abortion, but rather belongs under the sex-ed debate.

I'm also more strongly against abortion the farther along the pregnancy is; anyone who has seen a partial birth abortion cannot claim that it involves no child abuse and thus is a better alternative than being born.

Then again, never having been pregnant, I can't say that my views wouldn't change were it I that found myself pregnant tomorrow, and thus I would never judge personally anyone who did utilize that option until I've been in their shoes.

Also, it's not like I can't understand the other side of the debate... there's nothing wrong with my rationality; I just don't agree that a mother should be able to choose to take the life of her child before it's born when she can't decide to do so after it's born and fail to see how the two are different.

Regardless, it's a debate I never enter, as it is no more than an exercise in futility and frustration.


As a random side note, it also makes it hard to identify completely with a political affiliation, since I'm quite liberal regarding most other social issues ("most" meaning "all that I can think of at the moment") :P.
Reply | Thread | Link



The Water Seeker: distant
plymouth
2007-05-08 04:38 (UTC)
(no subject)
picture_keyworddistant
anyone who has seen a partial birth abortion cannot claim that it involves no child abuse and thus is a better alternative than being born.

The intact-dilation-and-extraction issue is such a red herring though. These procedures are rarely performed and when they are it is usually because the child or mother has some health risk that couldn't be detected earlier in gestation. I just can't see not allowing someone to abort a child with hydroencephaly, even if some people find the procedure by which is it done to be rather gruesome. Carrying a child to term that will likely kill the mother upon delivery and likely won't live to delivery itself is also pretty gruesome.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Liz
stellae
2007-05-08 06:51 (UTC)
(no subject)
I sometimes feel like a fence-sitter on the issue because I do see both sides as having valid points. I grew up in a world of abstinence-only sex education and in a religious community that supported it. And I spent enough time being deeply religious to have some understanding of how people do interpret the Bible and to see that those arguments, even if they are faith-based aren't completely lacking in rational thought (and actually are both deeply rationald and deeply emotiona).

(Also, I dislike the prejudice in the liberal Bay Area that Christianity is stupid and faith based decisions are simply stupid. One doesn't have to agree with a position to be able to consider its validity... but doing so requires respecting the axioms and internal logic of an opposing worldview. But that is a discussion for another time).

On the other hand, I am well aware that there are a lot of issues that are at stake with something like abortion, or even birth control (because, depending on how one defines life, even oral contraceptives are arguably abortive in at least one of their mechanisms by hindering the efficience of the fallopian tubes so that a fertilzed embryo simply doesn't make it to the uterus in time to implant and thus is discarded as nonviable). Abortion especially is not an easy choice, for anyone, and where things become tricky is that I'd much rather someone who wants to have one be able to do it in a way that is as safe as possible and one that's not likely to cause future reproductive consequences.

I figure, then, that all I can do is decide what I would do for myself and let other people do the same.

I wish, sometimes, that people could really see the world from another perspective. That we could set aside our own worldviews and try to argue something with the logic of an alternate one, one that is completely different from our own.
Reply | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2007-05-08 07:49 (UTC)
(no subject)
I don't think I'd argue that it's stupid, but since I'm not religious, Bible-based arguments just don't work on me. Growing up I used to hear those arguments all the time, and came to realize that many don't realize how different a paradigm I'm operating in (especially when I'm an anomaly within a religious norm).
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link | Expand



tokyorose329
tokyorose329
2007-05-08 08:53 (UTC)
(no subject)
What saddens and frustrates me so much is that both pro-choice and pro-life advocates want EXACTLY THE SAME THING: FEWER ABORTIONS. Pro-lifers touting pro-choicers as merry baby-killers who dance a jig every time someone gets a D&C are despicable. No pro-choice acitivist WANTS people to have more abortions. They just want people to have them safely if they *need* them (and yes, what constitutes "need" is a slippery fish), but an ounce of prevention is still worth many, many pounds of cure in this case.
It's in the prevention methods that the difference of opinions becomes really infuriating. Abstinence-only sex education is almost criminally negligent. But the difference comes regarding the nature of sex itself. Again, we all share the same idea that sex is powerful and slightly dangerous and not to be taken lightly. But the religious-based arguments against sex are all based on the idea that sexual desire is unnatural and bad, and therefore the only way to handle it is to reject it except in very narrow, rarified circumstances. Conversely, the more inclusive programs teach that sexual desire is not inherently bad, but an urge like any other and can be managed in a variety of ways. And this lack of condemnation, I think, is what makes it effective. Because trying to stem the tide of adolescent and post-adolescent hormones is a losing battle. And trying to paint sex as bad and unnatural could potentially be as damaging as an eating disorder. We don't tell our kids that getting hungry or thirsty or lonely or tired is bad, do we?
Reply | Thread | Link



Liz
stellae
2007-05-08 10:08 (UTC)
(no subject)
I don't think that all religious based arguments against sex are based on the idea that sexual desire is unnatural or bad (though it's easy to make them sound like that as saying that is much easier than setting a double standard of 'sex is fun! but it's only supposed to be for married people!)... my readings of the Bible on the subject simply say that sex is meant to be enjoyed because it is to bring a couple closer together... and a lot of the arguments I've heard made, beyond simply 'God doesn't approve,' have to do with reminding people that sex can lead to a lot of heartbreak because it tends to create very strong emotions and emotional attachments between partners.

On the other hand, I think the kind of abstinence education that works is the kind that uses definitions of abstinence that are empowering... not 'I'm saying no because I'm afraid of what God/my parents/my teachers will do to me if they find out' but 'I'm saying no, right now, in this circumstance because I am not comfortable with having sex' and gives people freedom to find their reasons to have or not have sex... and also teaches people how to have sex safely so that whatever choice someone makes, he/she can feel empowered by it.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link | Expand



(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
Kris
anemone
2007-05-08 12:09 (UTC)
(no subject)
Furthermore, if they take this stance, why aren't they attacking in-vitro fertilization as vehemently as they are abortion and birth control?

They do attack these things. There are organizations to adopt frozen embryos, for one. And "they-don't-attack-it-as-much" argument isn't a fair one, either, btw. One has to concentrate one's efforts.

I have more thoughts, but it will take me a while to post them.
Reply | Thread | Link



Kris
anemone
2007-05-08 12:11 (UTC)
(no subject)
Also, I don't think it has anything to do with the Bible, not really. They'd believe the same whatever the Bible said.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link | Expand



Ping
zestyping
2007-05-08 14:35 (UTC)
(no subject)
I don't think of the debate between abortion rights groups and abortion prohibition groups in the way you present it here. If i understand your post correctly, it seems to say that the two positions are both internally consistent systems of ethics that happen to start from different axioms — like, say, Euclidean vs. projective geometry.

The problem I have with most abortion prohibitionists is that their position seems to be incoherent. The two major stumbling points i can think of off the top of my head are (a) the definition of human life and (b) the rape exception, both of which are examples of ways that they contradict themselves.
Reply | Thread | Link



John
surpheon
2007-05-08 15:28 (UTC)
(no subject)
The two major stumbling points i can think of off the top of my head are (a) the definition of human life and (b) the rape exception, both of which are examples of ways that they contradict themselves.

The Roman Catholic pro-life position does not have these inconsistencies, and they are frequently the most vehement (and sucessful in generating legal restrictions and bans) of the pro-lifers. There is no rape exemption, IVF is wrong (and they fight it), the death penalty is wrong (and they fight it), etc. But a consistent argument does not make the basis assumptions any more correct.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Becca
rebbyribs
2007-05-08 16:51 (UTC)
(no subject)
I guess I see the abortion issue as one where my personal beliefs and decisions are quite different than what I see as good public policy.
Reply | Thread | Link



Kris
anemone
2007-05-09 13:15 (UTC)
(no subject)
Can you elaborate?
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link | Expand



jofish22
jofish22
2007-05-08 17:02 (UTC)
(no subject)
Just to add my voice to the cacophony: have you read Lakoff's book "Don't think of an Elephant"? It makes exactly the point you're making above (well, then, I suppose you could just skip it). His point is that the right uses the "Stern Father" model of parenting to understand society and the relationships between individuals and groups, and the left uses the "Nurturing Mother" model, and from that leap forth all sorts of differences and assumptions. I think you might enjoy it: it's pretty easy to read, and Lakoff is always emminantly quotable.
Reply | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2007-05-08 18:06 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yep, I've read it -- he luvs to talk about those metaphors in classes, too. :~)
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link | Expand



Jeff
lbchewie
2007-05-08 17:21 (UTC)
(no subject)
The point where we might be able to actually speak to one another, rather than past one another, is the issue of viability and when "life" starts, but even there they take what I see as ridiculously extreme views such as "life starts at conception" or sometimes with the possibility of conception (thus, the fight against birth control as a preventative measure) that I can't possibly agree with, given the messy realities of life

This line of thinking allows me to voice that such thinking is really fallacious through a reductio ad absurdum. If it is immoral to take actions to prevent the possibility of life (through abortion, contraception), then doesn't that mean that we're all personally obligated to conceive as many children as possible? By choosing to remain abstinent, even if only for a moment, we are all preventing the potential for human life to occur. Granted, there are some people who believe variations on exactly exactly this principle, and decide to have ridiculously large families. However, given the environmental and financial impact of explosive populatoin growth, this cannot be the only moral in play.

Meh, I think one of the only things that really happen from these types of "debates" is not so much to foster understanding for each other's point of view, because arguably "pro-choice" and "pro-life" camps are rested on what they believe to be solid logic. Instead, it degenerates into a bunch of people telling the other group what to believe and think. Whereas, if people want to live a "pro-life" existence, let them... but not at the expense of allowing others to make their own choices about difficult moral questions.
Reply | Thread | Link



Fata Morgana
chimerically
2007-05-08 18:08 (UTC)
(no subject)
All together now: "Eee-v'ry sperm is saaa-cred, eee-v'ry sperm is great ... " ;~)
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Kris
anemone
2007-05-09 11:52 (UTC)
(no subject)
I think part of it has to do with what one believes women should be doing with their lives.

If you believe (on some level) that women should be mothers, the abortion is a horrible thing. Not because of the fetus, but because it's a denial of one's proper role in life. So is birth control, really. On the other hand, practically speaking, there'd be major problems if all women went around having unprotected sex willie-nillie. So, to reconcile these two things, people sex outside marriage is wrong (with the implicit assumption that in marriage, there is financial support for children), and that abortion and birth control are wrong. (I'm not intending that this apply to everyone who is pro-life, but I think it does describe the pro-life/anti-birth control group.)

Once you've taken that stand, you need some logic. The question of when life begins is inherently a fuzzy one. The screaming baby is more real to most everyone than the unobservable zygote, and morning-sickness-causing embryo and the squirming fetus are somewhere in the middle. If you want to be against abortion, you argue that the unobserverable zygote is exactly like the screaming baby, at least when discussing the issue. (In practice, it's a bit different.)

Likewise, those who are pro-choice find themselves (usually, though I don't think this necessary) in the position of saying the morning-sickness causing embryo (and possibly the squirming fetus) are not alive, while the screaming baby is. (Again, logically. In practice, it's different.)
Reply | Thread | Link



Becca
rebbyribs
2007-05-09 18:02 (UTC)
(no subject)
I think it's interesting that you (and many others) phrase the question in terms of "when life begins". In terms of cellular processes at least, the baby, fetus, embryo, zygote, and gametes (as well as most of the other cells in the human body) are alive.

I think of it more as a question of when does the zygote/embryo/fetus/baby acheive personhood, and that's a really slippery question. I guess I'd be inclined to say that the ability to respond to stimuli and the development of self-awareness are two big criteria, and there's a large grey area in between.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link | Expand



Caefus
caefus
2007-05-09 16:46 (UTC)
(no subject)
If I understand the tone of your post, you seem a little frustrated with the lack of valuable dialogue between the pro- and anti-choice perspectives, and that the only viable point the two sides can argue on is the definition of when life begins. I would like to echo the same frustration and say that since I’ve moved back to the valley of Moroni, the discussions I’ve been having with conservative friends and family in regard to abortion usually wrap around the notion of individual accountability, which is of course a huge religious doctrinal point for the LDS church. Mormons don’t like people who mooch; they really don’t like people who can’t live independently, and at the core of discussions, I usually find that life conception or life quality usually has absolutely nothing to do with their argument. For them, it’s not a matter or mercy for the ‘unborn child’, it’s about justice for the mother (usually more so than the father). It’s not about the loss of human potential via abortion, it’s about a mother getting out of her literal god-given responsibility. And if you pay attention to physiological response during these discussions, I usually see the anti-choicers verge on the level of a 3rd-grade temper tantrum in the response to an injustice. I rarely see a sense of mourning or a reaction of genuine loss in their face. That’s why I have a really difficult time believing that the intentions of pro-life argument are to promote the betterment of the human condition – their most emotional points of contention are that of punishment and justice.

And on the flip side, 70-year-old grandmas and grandpas with really complicated emotional mental feelings who are surrounded by a close-nit group of grieving friends and family with equally complex and sophisticated emotional feelings suffer from the entirely unnecessary indignant mental and physiological degradation of entirely curable diseases. How do the pro-life movement help promote the cause of the suffering elderly? Yeah, they fight against funding research because they privilege the life of a microscopic spec of flesh that has less feeling than a spider about-to-be-smashed on the wall than their 70-year-old grandma with an entire family tree of individuals grieving and hurting at their suffering. I personally feel that the pro-life argument has some serious dissonance that needs to be dealt with in regard to quality of life and true humane accountability.
Reply | Thread | Link



(Anonymous)
2007-05-13 08:57 (UTC)
When life begins
I really enjoyed the whole discussion as I think we really need to talk about these issues. I personally consider myself as a pro-life person although I do not really like labels. Labels are made by politicians and always make extreme cases and opinions and help making statistics ...

I subscribe to what many commenter said about what is to be considered as a central issue. I agree that the point is when life begins, because depending on this we might talk about an object (a group of cells) or a human being.

I personally think that life begins when the egg is fertilized from that point on we can consider that group of cells as a human being. Then everything else follows, like who has the right to decide on that life?

I also agree to other opinions expressed in the comments like that of the 'unwanted child' but for which I think there are viable solutions (like giving the child to a couple that cannot have children).

Also I think that things are not always black and white as depicted in the original post. Although I am pro-life I also think that sex is good and should be explored freely with "the courtesy" of not implying someone else's life into play. I am in favor of anti-conception systems like condoms or women pills to avoid the union of the egg and the sperm (sorry for my poor language here but I lack some vocabulary).

As we do not want to be played in our own life, we should not do that with others' lives. Conception should be a responsible choice. People should not be forced to be parents if they do not want to but fetus should not be killed also because somebody said: "Oops!".

Then all the corollary of extreme cases like: the mother was risking her life to give birth to a sick child, I think are just rhetorical cases taken by politicians to justify their point. If we really want to look at statistics then we should consider the fact that the majority of abortions are those of healthy fetus that are simply not wanted.

My two cents.

Mauro
http://www.i-cherubini.it/mauro/blog/
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



(Anonymous)
2007-06-22 17:54 (UTC)
Hi
Hi! Hi! Hi!


Reply | Thread | Link



browse
my journal
September 2013