Thursday, May 05, 2022

A safe and consensual discussion of abortion rights arguments I encountered online.

In recent days (for some reason) I have seen an increased interest in moral arguments on social media about abortion policy in America. I have seen a couple of arguments repeated in many places both on Twitter and Facebook. I would like to respond to those arguments, but I also understand that some people just want to get something off their chest. It may be a deeply personal and emotional topic for them or a loved one, and they aren't necessarily interested in engaging in a serious philosophical debate with me on the merits of the argument.

That's fine. However, if you are interested in my thoughts on the topic, or want to share yours without unintentionally traumatizing a rape victim by jumping on their thread with your essay about why their feelings are wrong, you are welcome to share a link to this blog post in order to respectfully engage with these topics in the comments of your post among your social media contacts.  I am disabling comments on the blog post itself.

Note: this was originally posted to Facebook.  I want to keep that discussion between people who know me, but I also want a public version so that others can discuss in their own circles.  This is the public version, but it is not the public forum.
Here are two screenshots that are either the literal arguments put forth, or are the basis of such arguments repeated elsewhere, along with my responses:

Regarding “If it was about babies”:
I agree that the political right in America is inconsistent in its values. It is important to keep in mind that political party platforms are not people: they are coalitions built on common goals and compromise (and often corrupted by monied interests), and do not represent a coherent set of values. Hypocrisy of an institution does not make every position that institution espouses morally worthless. 
It may, and should, influence how you vote. If you are a party-line voter for either major party in America, and ignore the primaries, you are contributing to the problem.
I personally am in favor of more taxpayer funded access to free or low-cost health care (and help with those costs for those who need it), and safety net programs. I don't think the "everything is free" socialist utopia from the screenshot is the best balance here, but the idea that human societies at large are responsible to care for their most vulnerable members because they exist as human beings in their care (whether or not they are "desirable") is morally correct for EXACTLY the same reason that parents (and families at large) should provide for the needs of their own children.

Regarding “It doesn’t matter”:
The best numbers I could find say that less than 2% of abortions are because of rape. In the case of rape there is a logical pathway to applying the reasoning of "bodily autonomy", since the sex was not consensual. 
In the other 98%, a couple willingly engaged in acts that placed sperm into a vagina, which (according to the laws of physics and biology) constitutes affirmative consent to the possible consequences.
So, over 98% of abortions are:
  • Oops, our birth control failed.
  • Oops, I wasn't thinking about the consequences of my actions and didn't use birth control measures.
  • I want a baby, but not this one; it's disabled.
  • I want a baby, but not this gender.
  • Etc.
The "bodily autonomy" argument claims that a MOTHER has no obligation to nurture her own child. This is legally and ethically false.
If I discover mid-drive that someone has crawled into my car and is taking a nap in the back seat, my moral and legal right to kick them out of my car to the side of the road is inversely proportional to how much they depend on me for survival. Usually that would be fine for an adult in a city, but if I abandoned someone in the middle of a remote desert area, or a blizzard, I might be charged with manslaughter or murder EVEN THOUGH they were trespassing in my car. If it were a child, I would probably need to contact the police or another authority (if I couldn't find a parent) and transfer them safely into their care. For an infant mistakenly placed down for a nap in the wrong car, I would need to do even more to ensure their safety while in my care, even though I did not consent to the role, and have NO RELATION to the child other than common humanity.
Our society rightly places responsibility on men who impregnate women to financially care for their offspring through child support, even if they did not want the child. The same is true for mothers: parents have an obligation to provide for and nurture their children, regardless of whether they meant to enter that relationship.
Again, in the case of rape, a bodily autonomy argument can be made, and most laws prohibiting abortion do carve out specific provision for cases of rape or incest (incest is usually rape or statutory rape) because of the possibility that mothers will see the pregnancy as a continuation of the violation of their bodies.
No right that you have is absolute. When the exercise of the rights of two people conflict, one of them must give way. I have a right to do what I want with my own property, but if what I claim as my own property is another human being? Suddenly I don't.
Human beings have a right to life. It is not absolute, but a prenatal human has a right to her own mother's womb. Is that right absolute? Also no. Some pregnancies are too dangerous for the mother and violate her right to life. But in general, attempting to construe normal human reproduction as a violation of the mother's rights is morally bankrupt.