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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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124 Responses

  1. tam
    tam February 23, 2007 at 8:23 pm |

    i guess i’m one of the people who grate on your nerves. while i am pro-choice, absent a medical need for it, i wouldn’t have an abortion – again. it is not being high-minded or condescending, it is my choice.

    yes, it is a medical procedure. but, different to other medical procedures, there is a loss of life. uhoh, i said the scary word, life, that pro-choice folk don’t like to talk about. but, it is a sad and unfortunate reality of abortion.

    it is a medical procedure often necessitated by social factors. of all the factors that you yourself listed, two of them are medical in nature. that is what makes abortion a tragic folks in my eyes.

  2. Marked Hoosier
    Marked Hoosier February 23, 2007 at 8:37 pm |

    I predict this post will be a massive comment magnet. :)

  3. macht
    macht February 23, 2007 at 9:00 pm |

    “Saying that you think the little ladies should have the right but you are morally superior enough to never terminate a pregnancy is condescending and completely unhelpful to the abortion rights movement.”

    What if somebody said something like “I think pornography should be legal, but I think it is morally disgusting” or “I think being able to get plastered at a bar should be legal but I think it is morally wrong to do so”? Are those condescending?

  4. macht
    macht February 23, 2007 at 9:02 pm |

    Both times where I said “legal” above should be “illegal” instead. Oops.

  5. macht
    macht February 23, 2007 at 9:03 pm |

    Never mind. I’m an idiot. I had it right the first time.

  6. Veronica
    Veronica February 23, 2007 at 9:18 pm |

    The abortion procedure itself, like most other medical procedures, is a moral good.

    Do what, now? I’m pro-choice. That argument is not working for me. What sort of weird-assed doctor-magic makes all non-coercive medical procedures inherently morally good? Have you seen Michael Jackson?

  7. twf
    twf February 23, 2007 at 9:26 pm |

    Applause.

    I used to be one of those “I’m pro-choice, but I would never have an abortion myself” people. It was built on a sense of superiority: that I’m not one of those people. Granted, I was a teenager then, and pretentious and smug in ways only a teenager can be.

    Then I had an unexpected, unplanned, unwanted pregnancy at 19 years old. Because of my previous smugness, it took me some time to come around to the obvious conclusion: time for an abortion. All my moral high ground went out the window.

    My abortion was the right choice. My abortion was a moral good in my life. The other choices available to me would have hurt me and probably others. No tragedy here, just good decisions and the wonderful privilege of having a beneficial medical procedure available to me and paid for.

    Not that I think we shouldn’t be working on lowering the unwanted pregnancy rate. Most prevention mechanisms, for instance, are significantly cheaper than abortion, and contraception is in-and-of-itself an even more moral good than abortion. Traffic lights and crosswalks are moral goods, and so is the cast that is applied when the traffic lights and crosswalks fail to prevent the accident.

  8. Emily O.
    Emily O. February 23, 2007 at 9:36 pm |
  9. Henry
    Henry February 23, 2007 at 10:05 pm |

    Marcotte asks why should one hand-wring about the morality of abortion when fighting to preserve the right to it, and the answer is very simple: Because it acknowledges to people who disagree with you that you that even though you disagree with them you regard an abortion as more than just the utilitarian removal of a clump of cells. Trumpeting the “moral good” of abortion basically reinforces stereotypes of strongly pro-choice women being selfish, callous regarding life and immoral, whether those stereotypes are true or not. That certainly harms the cause more than acknowledging that abortion is more of a dilemma than having heart surgery.

  10. Kyra
    Kyra February 23, 2007 at 10:06 pm |

    Veronica—the idea is that what it accomplishes makes it a moral good. The procedure in question, however, has this tendency to free a woman from several months of unwanted things happening to her body. This makes it a moral good.

    If a healthy person was anesthetized and a doctor cut open his chest and did something unharmful to his heart, this would be rather pointless, and morally neutral because it lacks purpose, it lacks a positive effect sufficient to make it a moral good. However, if that same doctor cut open the chest of someone with a congenital heart defect, and repaired that defect, that makes it a moral good—the doctor has, by means of the medical procedure, treated a condition that affected the patient in an adverse fashion.

    A medical treatment is often a moral good—not because it’s a medical procedure, but because it’s a medical procedure that has sufficient positive effect on a person inflicted with that disease to make it worthwhile to apply. It is a moral good because it provides the patient with a way to avoid the negative effects that they are trying to treat.

    Abortion, therefore, is a moral good because it is a means by which women can avoid the negative effects of unwanted pregnancy.

    PS—she said most medical procedures are a moral good, not all. An unwanted medical procedure, a harmful medical procedure, a pointless medical procedure, all vary by circumstance from morally neutral to morally wrong. But if the treatment is desired sufficiently to make the procedure worthwhile, the procedure in question is a moral good because it enables the patient to achieve a higher standard of living than she would have had were the procedure unavailable.

  11. Isabel
    Isabel February 23, 2007 at 10:38 pm |

    Agreed.

    I read an amazing zine a while ago called Jane: Documents from Chicago’s Clandestine Abortion Service, 1968-1973 about an organization of women in Chicago who banded together, learned abortion procedure first from an abortionist and then from each other, and provided hundreds of abortions to women in Chicago in the years leading up to Roe. It’s an amazing story, and at the end there’s an interview with one of the leaders of the organization, who takes the view that abortion does end a life but that quality of life issues trump “the dubious virtue of simply being alive” (I paraphrase); that is, that sometimes ending a life is the right thing to do if that life is an unwanted life. I personally don’t think abortion does end a life, but it struck me as a fascinating way to think about it.

    I do think that not everyone who says “I am pro-choice but could never get one” is thinking they are morally superior; I have at least one friend like that, and for her it’s not a moral issue at all, simply that she knows that an abortion would be something she personally would regret (as I know that I could not bring a pregnancy to term, at least not anytime soon). That said, this girl is one of my best friends and I know this from casual conversation with her, and I share your frustration with those who bring it into discussions specifically about abortion.

    Incidentally, I also know a girl who thinks of abortion as a necessary evil, but says if she got pregnant right now she would probably get one, which strikes me as a refreshingly honest perspective.

  12. Chris T.
    Chris T. February 23, 2007 at 10:45 pm |

    Although I myself have no place expressing the opinion that grates on your nerves — as I will never face that choice and can’t honestly know how I would act in that hypothetical world — I agree with tam (#1) that some women can make that determination for themselves, absent wildly unforeseen circumstances. Saying “I wouldn’t choose abortion” needn’t be a moral statement — it might just reflect that a particular women is financially secure, feels fit to raise a child, and would be committed to such a child given a wide range of fetal abnormalities.

    I would stress the possibility that something be comparatively good without it actually being morally good. I do believe it is good that the procedure is available, but I think the issue is far too complicated to call the procedure itself a moral good. There are a lot of edge cases — so many that it’s hard to talk about “average” abortions, in fact.

    I do emphatically agree that forced pregnancy is not a moral good, though. But I worry about a lot of the issues popping up right now, even as I support Roe v. Wade and think access to the procedure should be ensured and widespread. I don’t think it’s a moral good that many parents (and men are as involved in this bad choice as women) are choosing to terminate pregnancies because of Down Syndrome, for instance; I can easily see that creeping into far less serious diagnoses than that. At the same time I recognize there are far more serious diagnoses for which terminating the pregnancy might be the best option.

    As with any ethical issue, I just think it’s too complicated.

    (Disclaimer: This is Chris the ethicist talking — I recognize how limited my perspective is as a man, and that as a Christian clergy person I also come with theological baggage that may make it harder to see the issue clearly, even though I am pro-choice. I don’t mean to be pushy, just to add my voice. :-) )

  13. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl February 23, 2007 at 11:00 pm |

    When you scratch the surface of the saying “I’m pro-choice but I would never have an abortion” you find classism, elitism, and a desire to place yourself above other women (who are necessarily stupid and irresponsible, unlike perfect you).

    Because if you really felt that abortion was ‘wrong’ (killing an innocent life), you wouldn’t be pro-choice. If you believe that there is an element to murder to it, you have to be anti-choice out of desire to protect an innocent life.

    So why, then, would you “never have an abortion” yourself? It can’t be because you think that the fetus is a living human deserving of rights. Rather, you view this as a sort of one-upsmanship that you can use to measure yourself against and above other women. You’re richer: you would never have the abortion because you could afford the baby. You’re healthier: you would never have a genetic defect that could be passed on to the fetus. You’ve got better job security and a stable home life: Even if your job didn’t give you 6 month’s maternity leave (which of course it does), your husband’s six-figure salary would be enough to support all of you. You’re more responsible: Not only would you never get drunk, or take up an attractive person who hit on you, you would never forget a pill, or not wear a condom. Moments of complete animal sexual abandon are as foreign to you as driving a car more than five years’ old. And of course you’re the sort of person who should have a baby, because you’re white, naturally!

    When I hear people proclaim how they’re pro-choice but would never have an abortion themselves, all I hear are “I would never buy my child’s clothing at K-Mart — that place is so trashy. It’s Gymboree and Gap Kids all the way!” and “Little Madison won’t attend the city’s Public School because he’s gifted and will be attending the private school out in the suburbs. Besides, he’ll make a better class of friends out there.”

    You get the idea.

  14. DoctorMama
    DoctorMama February 23, 2007 at 11:04 pm |

    Thank you. It’s true; everyone seems to be horrified by someone calling them “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice,” but it CAN a good thing. It’s by no means always tragic. I’d say rarely tragic, usually sad, often an act of hope.
    Most people have no idea who has had an abortion, so they can more easily say “I would never.”
    If I hadn’t had mine, the trajectory of my life would have been so different, and, I believe, terribly wrong for me. The doctor who did it was so kind and nurturing that I have some actual good memories of the day, in the midst of the sadness of having to choose one path over another. Some people assumed I must regret having done it when I later had infertility, but I didn’t at all. If anything, infertility made me more pro-choice, because it drives home the point that context is all.

  15. Aura Kitten
    Aura Kitten February 23, 2007 at 11:36 pm |

    Yikes. You lost me with this one.

    I, too, have read the story of Jane ~ the underground abortion provider service.

    I do NOT agree with abortion; I do believe it is a loss of life in an extremely brutal manner — both to the mother AND to the baby. HOWEVER I have been willing to defend the legality of it because I know that women will seek it if their socioeconomic status presents significant problems with their carrying a baby to term; thus has it always been throughout history and it will continue to be so until we make our society significantly better for women. I also think that in many more cases than the average pro-choicer would care to admit, abortion is forced or the woman is coerced into it through various means, and NOT what she would have chosen if she had adequate financial and emotional support.

    So, therefore: I will defend abortion rights for women who choose it, but I would not ever have one myself, and I would rather fight for more social support networks for pregnant women.

    You may see this as the moral high ground, and it might be. But I think we are doing women a disservice if we focus exclusively on abortion and nothing else.

    Honestly, the way some “pro-choice” people have become so forthrightly pro-*abortion* these days is freaking me out. o.O

  16. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 23, 2007 at 11:41 pm |

    “AND to the baby”

    There’s a baby? Where?

  17. SixtiesLiberal
    SixtiesLiberal February 23, 2007 at 11:44 pm |

    Any movement which is or may be under attack, like pro-choice, should not chase away allies because their commitment to the cause is not pure enough. I only see abortion as a moral good in context of other choices. It’s just less bad than other possibilities in a given set of circumstances. I don’t see abortion as just another medical procedure either. Every woman I’ve known to have had a miscarriage felt more of a loss than just a heavier menstrual flow.

  18. ellenbrenna
    ellenbrenna February 23, 2007 at 11:45 pm |

    It is possible to recognize that abortion is killing without renouncing the label pro-choice. I do not think there should be any restrictions on abortion but to deny that it is killing is to deny its entire function which is to terminate pregnancy and end a developing life.

    You can argue about the value of that life if you want, you can argue that it cannot reasonably be protected through any legal scheme without compromising women’s rights to bodily autonomy and medical privacy but you cannot argue that you are not killing something.

  19. Reb
    Reb February 23, 2007 at 11:49 pm |

    I agree with you overall; the only quibble I have is with the notion that, “You don’t know what you would do if faced with an unwanted pregnancy.” I think many women very much do know what they’d do, and stick with it when/if they find themselves faced with the choice; some of them know they most emphatically do not want a child and would abort, some of them know that they would feel wrong about having an abortion and would keep it; “you don’t know what you’d do” is a reaction I’ve gotten from anti-choice people when I’ve said I’m pro-choice.

    Circumstances can definitely affect the decision, but I think claiming that women don’t or can’t know what they’d do if unexpectedly pregnant is presumptuous about how women behave, whether the woman in question does or doesn’t want an abortion.

  20. preying mantis
    preying mantis February 24, 2007 at 12:00 am |

    “It’s true; everyone seems to be horrified by someone calling them “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice,” but it CAN a good thing.”

    Using ‘pro-abortion’ instead of ‘pro-choice’ has some nasty implications, though. A woman being coerced into an abortion is just as much a denial of choice as a woman being forced to carry to term. Using pro-abortion instead of pro-choice ignores that other side of the coin–the parent, intimate partner, employer, etc., who tries to deny a woman the right to continue a wanted pregnancy. Being abortion positive is a good thing, yes, but there are way too many people who simply cannot get it through their thick skulls that supporting a woman’s right to choose does not translate into “Abortions for everybody, whether they like it or not!” for me at least to embrace the term in a wider context.

  21. MisFit Farm
    MisFit Farm February 24, 2007 at 12:03 am |

    We agree for the most part. The only thing we take umbrance with is the notion that “fetal abnormality” is necessarily a valid reason to exercise this choice. The ability of a mother, father or parents to support and meet the needs of a child is a valid reason to exercise choice. The potential health status or physical condition of a child focuses the issue on the wrong side of the equation.

  22. macht
    macht February 24, 2007 at 12:21 am |

    Those are not medical procedures. Neither pornography not alcohol abuse are remedies to a situation which compromises one’s body, interrupts their ability to work, and incurs substantial cost.

    So? If somebody says “I think abortion should be legal but I would never have one” how is it any more condescending than “I think pornography should be legal but I would never look at it”?

    What if I switched it to the following: “I don’t think people should be legally required to give a kidney to their child, but I would if my child ever needed mine.” That’s not condescending, that’s just a statement about a moral choice I would make.

  23. Greg
    Greg February 24, 2007 at 12:54 am |

    “The individual making a choice which will be most beneficial to them is a moral good, whether that choice is abortion or birth or both.”

    I can’t agree with this. This is an endorsement of selfishness as a moral good. There’s a difference between something being okay, and something being good. Sometimes the sacrifice required of a person is small relative to the benefit to another. In that case, selfishness would be the wrong choice and selflessness the right one. Other times, like in nearly all abortions (that don’t involve strawwomen), the sacrifice required is much greater, so the choice between selfishness and selflessness is between an acceptable choice and a heroic choice. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and when that happens your actions are neither praiseworthy or blameworthy, they just are.

    That said, I do think that women in this society face too much pressure to place their own needs second (or third, or fourth) to those of others, and in the face of this pressure it’s important to endorse the notion that it’s okay to choose yourself. But just because it’s okay to choose yourself, doesn’t mean it’s good.

  24. Elli
    Elli February 24, 2007 at 12:57 am |

    it’s worth pointing out that open-heart surgery is not necessarily morally neutral. There are people who would rather die than be kept alive by tubes and machines, and people who believe that every disease and every health problem should have medecine hurled at it. If someone forgoes chemotherapy in favor of homeopathic remedies, this is not morally neutral – there are people who would, if the patient died, blame the doctor for not forcing them to sustain their life through disruptive procedures.

    this should be food for thought for anyone who thinks abortion is special and the only medical procedure deserving of controversy. It’s a procedure. Period. Whether I can get one or not should be of no concern to others.

    On the note of the posts above, I can certainly see myself getting an abortion, but I’m not about to turn down the support of those who won’t get one personally but don’t begrudge me my right to (and hey, those who *think* they won’t get one personally…you never know until you’re in the situation. Hell, if I woke up pregnant tomorrow I’m pretty sure I’d have an abortion, but in reality who knows if I’d suddenly find myself compelled to have the child? Point is, you don’t know until it happens.

  25. Tara
    Tara February 24, 2007 at 1:00 am |

    “That [outright viewing abortion as a moral good] certainly harms the cause more than acknowledging that abortion is more of a dilemma than having heart surgery.”

    But, why is abortion more of a dilemma than having heart surgery? Only because of politics (gender, race, and class), right? Or, more specifically, how heart surgery is differently framed than reproductive rights, right? I think that is what Amanda and Jill are highlighting: that we need to reframe abortion as something that fits in with the multitude of reproductive choices out there. Also, that the choice to have an abortion is neither positive or negative (but having the choice IS morally good ) — because it lets people exercise all those Enlightenment rights that so underpin our notions of freedom and democracy.

  26. Henry
    Henry February 24, 2007 at 1:09 am |

    But, why is abortion more of a dilemma than having heart surgery? Only because of politics (gender, race, and class), right? Or, more specifically, how heart surgery is differently framed than reproductive rights, right? I think that is what Amanda and Jill are highlighting: that we need to reframe abortion as something that fits in with the multitude of reproductive choices out there. Also, that the choice to have an abortion is neither positive or negative

    You know, there’s a very good chance of convincing a majority of people that abortion in most all cases should be legal (if they aren’t convinced already). But there’s no way in hell the majority of people, even in progressive circles, will ever be convinced that abortion is a completely morally neutral act. Sure, it’s a strategy, but it’s a losing one. It goes against too many peoples’ gut reaction too strongly.

  27. twf
    twf February 24, 2007 at 1:29 am |

    I would like to clarify my earlier comment: I was stating that I, personally, as a teenager, had the smug attitude that can go along with the statement of “I would never have an abortion, but I think it should be legal.” However, I don’t believe that all people who wouldn’t personally have an abortion and yet think it should be legal are smug and condescending. Right now, if I were to become pregnant, I would most likely not have an abortion, because I’m in a different financial and social position than I was at 19. Others believe abortion is morally wrong, and yet are pro-choice, and I’m all for those people. For example, religious people who don’t want to live in a theocracy, and understand what’s wrong with a theocracy, exist and can be allies.

  28. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 24, 2007 at 2:00 am |

    Did anyone notice that Amanda called her post opening the Overton window? She’s trying to increase the number of argument options that are available as “reasonable” by redefining the extreme (to something I assume she agrees with).

    If the right says “NO ABORTIONS EVER EVEN IF THE MOTHER DIES” is an extreme position, then people react to “health exceptions” as moderate.

    I believe the idea is that if liberals define “ABORTION IS A MORAL GOOD” as the extreme, then “abortions on demand” becomes the new moderate.

    The idea isn’t convincing everyone to adopt the extreme. It’s to redefine the ends of the political spectrum.

    I happen to agree with Amanda’s argument, but even if I didn’t, I don’t see how it’s a bad strategy simply to make the argument. No one’s saying that everyone has to believe it. Just some people are saying *they* believe it.

  29. Trish
    Trish February 24, 2007 at 2:17 am |

    I’m of the crowd where I think abortion should be an option to ANY woman who wants it, but ethically, I can’t say one way or the other what I would do if I had an unwanted pregnancy, let alone by rape or incest. I happen to be in a priveleged position, where I could probably swing an unwanted pregnancy, and probably would if my partner and I got pregnant. But it even raised ethical issues for me a few months ago when we had an ‘accident’ and I debated using plan B, I decided not to (first of all I’m cheap, second of all, I don’t like hormones, third of all, we would have made it work). I think its a personal decision that is not really a choice at all. It’s based on life chances and larger social structural forces as to whether women conceive an unwanted pregnancy in the first place and/or if they are in the position where having a baby is a real choice. I’m an atheist, but I have a pretty strict moral code and the point is, I don’t know how I would feel in that position, and to even attempt to argue that you could know is condescencion, I agree. On the other hand, I’m a vegetarian, I choose not to eat meat because I don’t want to hurt animals, I do think fetuses at a stage are similar cognitively to animals. So it would take some long and hard thinking in a given situation as to what would be morally ethical for ME, and that might very well be different for somebody else. That’s the beauty of it. Its not condescension that I lean slightly in favor of ethical arguments regarding a fetus but believe 100% in Roe v Wade. I think the fewer abortions in a society the better. That is a good end. But we can’t choose any means to achieve it. The religious right always believe the end justifies any means, we have a higher moral code, no end is worth the sacrifice of our basic human rights. Never will there be no abortions, they will always be necessary medical procedures and should be available and safe, and they will most definitely be morally justified. But to argue that abortion is a moral good (as an end in itself) logically leads to arguing that the more abortions the better. Does anyone here really believe that? I guess I just think empowering women would result in fewer abortions because it means giving them life chances and true control over their own bodies from a young age. This is tough.

  30. lucizoe
    lucizoe February 24, 2007 at 2:38 am |

    Pssst – aura kitten – socioeconomic status isn’t the only reason women choose to have abortions. Very often they simply don’t want to have a kid. Suck that little parasite out, I say.

    And I would really love to see your citations for all those forced abortions.

  31. owlbear1
    owlbear1 February 24, 2007 at 4:02 am |

    How about this then? “I think abortion should be legal but I hope I never have to make that decision.”

    I think you might be adding your own filter on to what many people mean when they’ve said what you’ve quoted.

  32. owlbear1
    owlbear1 February 24, 2007 at 4:07 am |

    Whoop, never mind. I see what you’re trying to get at.

  33. owlbear1
    owlbear1 February 24, 2007 at 4:15 am |

    One distinction between abortion and open heart surgery is the regularity with which one can under go the procedure. Same with an Appendectomy.

  34. Kali
    Kali February 24, 2007 at 8:31 am |

    I LOVE your point that saying “Abortion should be legal, but I would never have one” is a statement that comes from a position of total privilege. It’s a very easy thing to say when you’re sure of enough financial and family support to be able to raise the child that results from an unwanted pregnancy. I know a lot of people who say shit like that and I’ve never been able to put my finger on why it bugs me so much before. Thank you!

    (also, I used to be one of those people– Catholic upbringing. And I think it came from a place of patriarchy-induced low self-esteem; I really did absorb the idea that it’s somehow not quite nice, or selfish, to claim total rights over your own body, and total control over your own life.)

    Also, you know what bugs me even more? Women who would get an abortion in a heartbeat with no qualms at all if they ever got pregnant, but feel the need to come over all fainting-lily morally ambivalent about it if discussing the issue in front of men. That makes me mad to the point of grinding teeth– I can see how historically there was a need for that attitude, but these days? Get some guts, girl!

  35. justicewalks
    justicewalks February 24, 2007 at 8:58 am |

    Well, there’s no limit to the number of times someone can go under the knife to have tumors removed.

  36. Roy
    Roy February 24, 2007 at 9:31 am |

    I think that Jill is right on the money- abortion can be a good response to a bad situation. I have to take exception to one of the commenter’s remarks, though:

    Because if you really felt that abortion was ‘wrong’ (killing an innocent life), you wouldn’t be pro-choice. If you believe that there is an element to murder to it, you have to be anti-choice out of desire to protect an innocent life.

    This, I disagree with. People have a hierarchy of beliefs. It’s entirely possible to believe that abortion is a terrible choice to make- that the fetus has a right to life- but also think that, ultimately, the woman’s right to control her body outweighs the fetus’ right to life.

    This is actually fairly common thinking. I think it’s fucking evil for people to buy massive 12mpg trucks and drive them around by themselves, and I think it’s fucking evil for people to write books explaining why homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry or why group X, Y, or Z shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. In spite of the fact that I think that these people are acting in an evil fashion, I still support their right to do so, because, for example, the right to free speech is important to me. The right to free speech means that I have to tolerate certain acts that I think are morally repulsive..
    In that same vein, I know people who find abortion absolutely repulsive, but who think that the woman’s right to choose trumps their personal revulsion.

    I hope that isn’t too nitpicky, it’s just something that struck me as I was reading the comments.

  37. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil February 24, 2007 at 9:42 am |

    Pssst – aura kitten – socioeconomic status isn’t the only reason women choose to have abortions. Very often they simply don’t want to have a kid.

    This reminds me of an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine several years ago. The gist of it: woman discovers she’s pregnant, at 34, with triplets, and since she has a fifth floor walk-up, decides to selectively abort two of them. Of course, I’m massively condensing the story, but the letters that it generated were unbelievable. Basically, it was “I can’t believe you’re ruining this for the rest of us!” in the sense that the author had exposed some sort of secret–that women have abortions for what some people might deem entirely selfish reasons. And then there were the “I’m not pro-choice anymore if that’s the choice you make” and “Why couldn’t she carry the triplets to terms and give two up for adoption and have the joy of helping someone else start a family?” responses.

    (Normally, I’d try to add some sort of “useful” ethical commentary, but it’s only 9:45 and I haven’t had coffee).

  38. Julie
    Julie February 24, 2007 at 10:01 am |

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a smug thing. I’m one of the “I’m pro-choice though personally (as in, for myself) opposed to abortion”. While there are extreme circumstances in which I would have an abortion (clear cut risk to my life, extreme fetal disability, my existing children need a kidney and I’m the only one who can give it to them, etc…) the fact of the matter is I’ve been in a circumstance which commonly leads to termination twice (an unplanned pregnancy at age 19 with a boyfriend I had been dating for three weeks and a fetus with a fatal disability diagnosed in utero), both times considered it, both times wrestled with my beliefs on the subject and both times realized that abortion is not something I personally feel comfortable with. I’ve gone through four pregnancies and still feel the same way. I DO know where I stand and I’m comfortable with it, just as I’m completely comfortable with women who would have an abortion in those same circumstances or any other circumstance they deem appropriate. I know women who say they would absolutely and without question have an abortion if they got pregnant, and I don’t think they are smug or condenscending, I think they are comfortable with their stance on abortion, they know what they want their life to look like and they know what the best decision for themselves is.
    Now, that out of the way, I think it’s obnxoious to every single time the abortion debate comes up say “well, of course I support the right to an abortion, but I would never have one” or “Well, I support the right to an abortion but I don’t think it should be used for fill in the blank”. The fact of the matter is that I am 100% pro-choice and my opinion on what someone else does with their pregnancy is none of my business. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with it, just as it doesn’t mean someone else has to agree with my reproductive decisions, it does mean you have to respect my right to make them as I respect your right to do so. I don’t think women should feel guilty about their abortion and I don’t wish to stigmatize anyone who does so. That’s why I usually try to shut up about my own personal issues, they are besides the point and it doesn’t help the pro-choice movement if we have a bunch of us yelling about how much we hate abortion but we think it should be a choice.
    On the other hand it’s frustrating when people say “Your personal opposition to abortion shouldn’t impact what I do with my body” which I 100% agree with and then turn around and say ” Well, if you’re personally opposed to abortion, it doesn’t make sense for you to be pro-choice”. Seriously, WTF? My own personal values dictate that once a fetus has a heartbeat (no matter how primitive, despite it’s other lack of setience, despite the fact that I do not under any circumstances consider it a fully functioning human being, or equivalent to my already born children) I personally do not feel comfortable terminating, but I also do not feel that another woman should have to use her body to support a fetus against her will, because I believe women have agency and value and know what they are capable of. My belief in bodily autonomy overrides my belief that a fetus has a right to live, because I believe that true freedom cannot exist without autonomy over your body. It’s the same as the argument “If someone attached a tube to your body and required your bodily support to live for the next 9 months, do you have the right to remove them, even if it’s your child?” Absolutely, without question, you have to right to do that, just as you have the right to refuse to donate blood to keep someone else alive, or deny a kidney to someone else to keep them alive. I can say without a doubt, if my child need to be attached to me for 9 months or needed a kidney to live, I would do it, but I would never tell anyone else that they had to and to me abortion is the exact same concept.

  39. B.D.
    B.D. February 24, 2007 at 10:35 am |

    Abortion is a technology of choice. As such there are times when it can clearly be the ethical thing to do (life of the mother, certain severe and debilitating genetic defects, rape). One thing that is clearly immoral/unethical is to deny a woman this an opportunity to use this technology in a clean and safe environment and force her to seek out dangerous/unhealthy forms of this technology. This choice has been and always will be available. The moral question is do we let women who make the choice to use this technology be maimed or die because we refuse safe access to it?

  40. Peter
    Peter February 24, 2007 at 10:36 am |

    I’m one of the “abortion is a tragedy, but” people – and I haven’t seen my viewpoint accurately described – probably because I don’t hear ANY of the “anti-abortion” voices speaking anything I would associate myself with.

    For me, the whole discussion has to back up a step. The real problem isn’t the abortion. It is the pregnancy. The problem is that we still live in a society where it is all to possible for women to have an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, and where the consequences of doing so can be extreme.

    I certainly don’t need to expound on the horror stories, but suffice to say, we don’t live in a world where either universal, reliable, and safe contraception is a given, nor where women can smoothly take a pregnancy to term, give the baby to a loving home, and return to their live uninterrupted.

    Until we live in a world where an unplanned pregnancy is effectively unthinkable (not socially or morally repugnant, but in actual practice), then I will not condemn a woman who chooses abortion.

    The anti-abortion side of the “debate” has effectively settled on “abortion is so bad we need to stop people from having sex” and it includes the idiocy of trying to stop anyone from teaching kids how their bodies work, defunding contraception, and all the rest that the wingnuts are up to.

    Nor do I in any way support the shaming of someone who has an unplanned pregnancy, whether they were taking steps to prevent it or not, until we DO have that kind of society in place.

    So no, I do not see abortion as a moral good. I see it as an unfortunately necessary safety net that is patching a hole in a social system that is thoroughly screwed up on the issues of sex and contraception.

  41. Kat
    Kat February 24, 2007 at 10:42 am |

    The “I think abortion should be legal but I would never have one” argument grates on my nerves. You don’t know what you would do if faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

    Exactly. Reality smacks you right in the face when the stick turns blue. That’s when your real thinking begins. There is that deep breath moment because you know you are poised at the edge of a major life change, whichever way you choose.

    i wouldn’t have an abortion – again.

    I said that too when I had my first abortion at age 20. At that age, I was pretty sheltered and woefully unprepared for sex (emotionally or in terms of birth control). I think I got pregnant on my 2nd try. Turning to my Catholic family, the reaction I got was “people can’t find out” so the next thing I knew I was having an abortion (that alone was a shattering moment for me, I didn’t realize that the way I had been raised was only for show). I had an abortion, but my mother wouldn’t bring me to the clinic because it was too shameful for her.

    Within a couple of years, I had married (probably in some pathetic attempt to gain acceptance again) and now I could have socially-acceptable babies. I had three very heart-wrenching miscarriages and then my son was born five years later.

    Not long after that, my husband and I separated and eventually divorced. During the separation, I dated someone else and, at 31, I wound up pregnant. It had been 11 years since my first abortion. It had been years since I had been on birth control, and my mind set from my single days (don’t want to get pregnant!) had over the years eased into my mind set from marriage (want to be pregnant!).

    So while I’m sure the lesson from my first abortion was tucked away in my brain somewhere, it had been pushed aside during the years of trying and failing to have a baby. Combined with being on an emotional downslide from my divorce, I wasn’t as careful as I should have been.

    At the time, I was just getting myself together to build a life for me and my then-2-year-old son, but raising a 2nd child as a single mother was more than I could do. So I had my 2nd abortion.

    (Which by the way my ex-husband made sure all of my family and his family knew about, because I was a dirty whore, but I digress…)

    I guess what I am saying is that your circumstances change whether you want them to our not. My first abortion was that “gimme” one, the one you get excused for because you are young and stupid. I hate that, its like we all get the pass to have ONE mistake, but you better not have another!

    I guess my point is never say never. Life has a way of biting you in the ass sometimes.

  42. Tapetum
    Tapetum February 24, 2007 at 10:59 am |

    Actually, now that I’m there, I’m finding myself increasingly annoyed by the “life of the mother only” exceptions. Pregnancies don’t come with little sticks labelled “Deadly” and “Not-deadly” to go with the little plus and minus signs. Who gets to decide when the risk to the mother is too great, if not the mother?

    I find myself in general agreement with the commenters here. Abortion itself is simply a procedure. Expanding the range of available choices to women in difficult postions is a moral good. “I would never have one myself” is a statement from all kinds of privilege, including one not mentioned much in this thread – health. How many women would be eager to carry that unwanted pregnancy if it meant their health was on the line?

  43. exangelena
    exangelena February 24, 2007 at 11:30 am |

    Although I do think that the morality of abortion is always an interesting and important topic to debate, I’m often disheartened by pro-choicers who start fighting with each other. Maybe you don’t like people who are politically pro-choice but whose personal views on abortion you disagree with, but wouldn’t you rather have them then people like the South Dakota legislature or like the people who will encourage and approve the appointment of another anti-Roe justice to the Supreme Court? Those people are determined and dedicated to affecting laws and policies that will indisputably hurt a lot of women, whereas the “I’m not pro-choice but …” crowd won’t.
    And Julie, you’ve written poignantly about pregnancy before and I agree 100 percent with your comment in this thread.
    FWIW, I know someone who donates money to pro-choice organizations, will never vote for a candidate who is not pro-choice and has written on behalf of pro-choice policies. However, she acknowledged that she would not be able to bear having an abortion, although she never had to face that situation. Some of her friends have had abortions and she has nothing but sympathy (and not condescending pity) for them, she does not think they are morally inferior to her or bad or pathetic women. And within the pro-choice mindset, shouldn’t she have the right to make a conscious, informed decision about what to do with her own body, even if that means not choosing to have an abortion?

  44. zuzu
    zuzu February 24, 2007 at 11:42 am |

    I can’t agree with this. This is an endorsement of selfishness as a moral good. There’s a difference between something being okay, and something being good. Sometimes the sacrifice required of a person is small relative to the benefit to another. In that case, selfishness would be the wrong choice and selflessness the right one. Other times, like in nearly all abortions (that don’t involve strawwomen), the sacrifice required is much greater, so the choice between selfishness and selflessness is between an acceptable choice and a heroic choice. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and when that happens your actions are neither praiseworthy or blameworthy, they just are.

    So, who decides whether the motives are appropriately selfless?

    This is the problem I have with the whole “abortion is a tragedy” mindset: it invites moralizing about what’s an “acceptable” reason for abortion.

    This was illustrated starkly by the outrage generated by the Amy Richards story FashionablyEvil linked to in #39. The woman got excoriated, absolutely excoriated, for having a selective reduction (not an abortion, technically, because abortion ends a pregnancy, and she continued with the single embryo). Not necessarily because she had the selective reduction — which after all is considered a responsible choice when fertility treatments produce multiple embryos and it’s determined that one or two babies will develop better than five or six. No, what prompted the storm of outrage was that she wasn’t willing to alter her life drastically in order to have triplets. She selfishly wanted to be able to continue to work, to not have to give up her life and her support network in the city to go live in isolation in the suburbs.

    So, suddenly, people who might have supported her choice had it been for the “right” reasons suddenly judged her because she said snarky things about not wanting to have to shop at Costco.

  45. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 24, 2007 at 11:58 am |

    The abortion procedure itself, like most other medical procedures, is a moral good.

    Since I disagree with statement, I disagree with all you said in conjunction with it. I think the modern medical establishment is driven by primarily by profit, which is why alternative methods are skyrocketing in popularity.

    The vast amount of surgery in the USA today is is unnecessary, if you figure in the cosmetic surgery stats and “standard procedures”. i.e. it is not a given that gall bladder removal, hysterectomies, etc are the best and only ways to deal with certain problems. This is totally a western bias.

    Bias up front: as a disabled child, endless surgical “corrections” were performed on me, most total bullshit. When my mother was near death, they came up with a cornucopia of meaningless procedures and tests to perform, thereby squeezing the last Medicaid dime out of her, until we pointedly made them stop and insisted on hospice care. Increasingly, many older professionals discover they can’t get work unless they get a facelift and lipo. I spent $120 a month on Nexium, until I learned about digestive enzymes, available at a health food store for about $20 every 3 months. Etc.

    Very disturbing comment, by someone who obviously has never dealt for years at a time with the medical establishment.

  46. Erin
    Erin February 24, 2007 at 12:02 pm |

    What if somebody said something like “I think pornography should be legal, but I think it is morally disgusting” or “I think being able to get plastered at a bar should be legal but I think it is morally wrong to do so”? Are those condescending?

    It’s sort of nice to say this in a context other than a discussion about rape, but it still sucks that it needs to be said. There is no analogy between my body and things. If you think that a copy of Barely Legal XVIII or a bottle of Johnny Walker red are sufficiently similar to the body of a pregnant woman to sustain an analogy, you are wrong. Those things are stuff. The use of them is the use of stuff. Women are not stuff, they should not be conceptualized as stuff to be used, and they should not have their bodies at the center of discussions as if they were some sort of public property that the majority of the group can decide what to do with by a show of hands.

    The only helpful thing about people who say “I support abortion, but would never have one” is that they’re not trying to legislate their personal feelings about other people’s decision-making. Worse, I think, are the people who want to “create a society where there is no need for abortion” – that society never has existed, and never will. Birth control fails; people have sex against their will; people are shortsighted, or forgetful, or, yes, irresponsible; things go medically wrong in horrible ways; or the woman simply never wants to be pregnant or never wants to be a parent. These things happen to teenagers and to women who thought they were menopausal, to single women, partnered women, and married women. Those women will always need access to a safe, legal abortion, and it’s foolish (and insulting to women) to think that that will ever change, and someday ALL women will want to be mothers, if the conditions are optimal.

  47. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 24, 2007 at 12:11 pm |

    And I would really love to see your citations for all those forced abortions.

    Millions, if you count the “one-child policy” in the People’s Republic of China. This is regarded as a moral good, too. But it is viewed as “forced abortion” by many women.

    As Herbert Mercuse said, roughly paraphrasing (can’t find it now), something regarded as “choice” under a repressive social system, often turns into an expectation and then, can become compulsory.

    All popular “choices” need to be thoroughly interrogated. And we need to protect the people who make any UNpopular choice.

    Sorry for the babbling. My first posts here, I think (?), but I’ve been reading a long time.

  48. Ruth
    Ruth February 24, 2007 at 12:21 pm |

    Abortion is not a ‘moral good’, it’s a ‘least-worst option’.

    It’s a lot like medical triage. In certain circumstances, someone (usually a doctor) makes the decision to allow someone to die because, overall, the option which includes the death of that person is better than any of the alternatives. However, you wouldn’t find anyone who had ever had to make that decision trumpeting the death that he/she allowed to happen as a ‘moral good’.

    In tha case of abortion, a decision is made, by the pregnant woman herself, because she is the only person in a position to judge, that ‘killing’ the fetus, although a bad thing in itself, is not as bad as any of the alternatives.

    Many women who have had to make such a decision will continue to regard the abortion as a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that they regret the abortion, or that they think it was the wrong thing to do in the circumstances.

    Most doctors who have ever made a triage decision to allow someone to die will always regard the death as a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that they believe they made the wrong decision, or that they regret making it. It means that they would rather the circumstances that led to the death being the best option had not arisen.

  49. larkspur
    larkspur February 24, 2007 at 12:22 pm |

    “Convenience” is often cited as an immoral reason for wanting an abortion, whereas I think it is a perfectly sensible one. My friend putting herself through college felt that completing her schooling and getting her R.N. degree before taking a pregnancy to term and raising a child was a sensible thing to do. It was inconvenient to be pregnant right then, but aren’t her reasons sound? Unfortunately, this was in 1967, and the illegal abortion caused so much subsequent scar damage that she was never able to have children. Which, to my mind, kind of turns that whole “what if Beethoven’s mother had aborted him?” argument on its head, in a very poignant way.

    I think I read in Michael Berube’s blog (please visualize the accent marks yourself, mk) that while his Jamie is beloved and treasured, an irreplacable, essential boy (with Down syndrome), he (Michael) could imagine the dilemma of a 40 year old unmarried woman of moderate means, whose fetus was determined to have Down syndrome. She might have been willing to be a single mom and love and raise a child, but due to her circumstances, and to the probability that she might outlive her child, and not be able to care for him or her, and facing the indisputably greater demands of raising a special needs child…she might choose to abort. And that, of course, he would support that decision.

    It depends. One size does not fit all. You either opt to trust an individual’s decision, or not. And if it’s “not”, then you have to deal with the inevitable disenfrancising of a sizeable portion of the population. This is not good.

    I remember working in an office. The boss had a friend hanging around who I think was on the lam from some civil charges in another state. He was kind of a jerk who’d steal the next door office’s Wall Street Journal in the morning, return it to them all rumpled at noon, and be surprised that they cared. He was vociferously anti-abortion for any reason whatsoever, and would often barge into our conversations. So sometimes we’d bait him, just for fun. One Monday I came in and responded to the “How was your weekend?” with “Oh, it was fun! I had an abortion! Wasn’t pregnant. Just did it to piss you off.” Good times. (I know I cribbed that line from someone, but I can’t remember who.)

  50. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 24, 2007 at 12:24 pm |

    Actually it was Herbert MARcuse, who said it. Sorry. :p

  51. Erin
    Erin February 24, 2007 at 12:34 pm |

    I also have to say that I love this Overton window-stretching idea. Too often, we on the left watch the other side do it in slack-jawed amazement: “They said what now?!” It’s fun! What else can we do it with?

  52. appletree  » Blog Archive   » Abortion is Good

    […] rtality ratio, 1960-1996 (source) Jill has a tremendous post about how abortion is in fact a moral good. Once you think it through, it’s fairly easy. Abort […]

  53. macht
    macht February 24, 2007 at 12:50 pm |

    Erin,

    “There is no analogy between my body and things. If you think that a copy of Barely Legal XVIII or a bottle of Johnny Walker red are sufficiently similar to the body of a pregnant woman to sustain an analogy, you are wrong.”

    The analogy was not one between a woman’s body and “stuff.” The analogy was between one situation where a person says “This should be legal but I wouldn’t make it as a moral choice” and another situation where a person says “This should be legal but I wouldn’t make it as a moral choice.” I just don’t see how this is condescending.

    BTW, I changed the analogy a couple posts after that (post #24) to talk about a person’s body, rather than just “stuff,” if that helps you get past what you see as a bad analogy.

  54. Dianne
    Dianne February 24, 2007 at 1:09 pm |

    This is an endorsement of selfishness as a moral good.

    I can’t imagine a more selfish act than bringing a child into the world that you can’t afford and can’t raise with a reasonable expectation of a good life.

  55. Jennifer
    Jennifer February 24, 2007 at 1:23 pm |

    I really just don’t think women can know what they will do when they get pregnant, because life is what it is- ever changing, with new circumstances every day. I can say what I would do tomorrow, but in a month, I could be homeless, I could have a new job, I could have been dumped, I could realize I am a lesbian and come out of the closet, I could find religion, or I could get in a terrible debilitating accident. All are options, and all could affect what I do with unplanned pregnancy. I think it is rather smug to decide you would never have an abortion, because you just don’t know what will happen and what will be happening when you get pregnant. I have to agree with whoever said that “I would never have one” comes from a priviliaged position, knowing that you could carry the pregnancy and stay healthy, knowing you could afford or at least find a way to afford a baby, and knowing that you would have or could find the emotional support necessary. Not all women have those things. Those that do, come off as a little classist when they say they would never have an abortion. What they really mean is they would never need to have one. Congrats, but the rest of us might.

  56. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 24, 2007 at 1:33 pm |

    Millions, if you count the “one-child policy” in the People’s Republic of China. This is regarded as a moral good, too. But it is viewed as “forced abortion” by many women.

    So, you’re in favor of the government deciding whether or not a woman can continue a pregnancy?

    That’s what a lot of pro-lifers (not saying you’re one) don’t realize as they lobby to have abortion put under government control instead of in the hands of pregnant women: if you give the government the power to decide if a woman is allowed to terminate a pregnancy, that means that you’ve also given the government the power to decide if a woman is allowed to continue a pregnancy.

    China’s one-child forced abortion policy is the flipside of El Salvador’s draconians no abortions policy — both of them say that the government, not women and their doctors, should be allowed to decide whether or not a pregnancy should continue.

    Personally, I’m not comfortable giving any government that much power over the medical decisions of individuals. How about you?

  57. Reb
    Reb February 24, 2007 at 1:59 pm |

    I think it is rather smug to decide you would never have an abortion, because you just don’t know what will happen and what will be happening when you get pregnant.

    Question: is it equally smug to say that you know you would have an abortion, because you just don’t want kids? Those circumstances change, too, and you’ll never know what you want later in life. But I think that if it’s important to take a woman seriously when she says she doesn’t want a kid and would have an abortion, no matter the circumstances, it’s important to take a woman at her word when she says she wouldn’t have an abortion, either, regardless of circumstances.

    As for privilege, I agree that it’s very nice for people who can afford to have a kid, financially/medically/emotionally, to say they would never have an abortion; but I also know a handful of women who really couldn’t afford to have a child but decided to despite being young and financially unstable because they feel abortion is wrong. In other words, people who lack that privilege but make the same choice. I don’t always agree with what they’ve chosen (but then again, it’s none of my business) but I don’t think stating “I would never have an abortion,” is always a side effect of privilege.

  58. Hmmm....
    Hmmm.... February 24, 2007 at 2:15 pm |

    I’m pro-choice, but I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate on what could be seen as a basic fallacy to your argument…

    Let’s say your “moral good” argument is correct.

    Abortion, as a remedy to an unfortunate situation, and as a legitimate medical procedure, is seen as a moral good in the same respect that heart surgery is seen as a moral good.

    Wouldn’t therefore…

    Breast augmentation or botox injections, as a remedy to an unfortunate situation (poor body image), and as legitimate medical procedures, also need to be seen as “morally good”?

    Ridiculous? It follows the same logic…

    I don’t make moral judgements about a woman’s personal choices in regard to abortion. I agree that it is irresponsible for some in the pro-choice camp to say, without having to face the situation, that they know absolutely whether or not they would ever have an abortion if put into a situation where that choice needs to be made. But I don’t find anything wrong with a proclaimed pro-choicer expressing their belief that they don’t think that they would have an abortion if put into that situation.

    I think it is OK to have some personal moral reservations to abortion while still supporting a woman’s right to make that choice without the government’s intrusion, and I don’t think that necessarily makes one less “pro-choice”…

    One of my closest friends had an abortion when she was very young (13), and it was mainly due to a fear of her parents finding out about the fact that she was having sex. I don’t look at her as any less moral of a person than myself or view her decision as having been a mistake… it was she believed she needed to do at the time.

    But I also don’t expressly condone her decision or refer to it as “morally correct”… it’s not my place to make that judgement. Unlike emergency open heart surgery, there was a degree of electiveness with her decision. Whether she feels it was the morally correct decision for herself is up to her and her conscience. And I don’t try to be the judge of whether or not her conscience was correct on that choice.

    I view the morality of abortion to be a matter for individual reflection for any woman who is facing or has had to face that decision. For some, they view it to be morally wrong, and they elect not to have the procedure. For others, they view it as morally right and they elect to have the procedure. For the rest of us, it isn’t our place to condone or disparage that choice.

  59. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 24, 2007 at 2:19 pm |

    So, you’re in favor of the government deciding whether or not a woman can continue a pregnancy?

    Not at all. That was my point: it can go both ways.

    Personally, I’m not comfortable giving any government that much power over the medical decisions of individuals. How about you?

    But it’s happening already. My thing is disability rights, FTR.

    If a “baby” (fetus, whatever) is shown to be “defective” (and genetic testing is becoming more coercive every day, as we speak), then the issue of medical care–specifically, the lack of it–becomes the main reason for abortion. Since our government patently refuses to care for disabled people, that particular abortion becomes a coerced decision.

    Same is true for a pregnant disabled woman, often coerced into abortion since she can’t usually obtain assistance in the physical tasks of parenting.

    Hope you are understanding where I’m coming from. I try to be disability-centric in everything I write, which is surprisingly difficult. But it sometimes gives me a different, sorta sideways perspective.

    I see unquestioned support of “medicine” in this thread, which works in concert with the government at all levels.

  60. Julie
    Julie February 24, 2007 at 2:27 pm |

    I’ll acknowledge that privilege can be a part of it. Right now, I am a married woman with a decent education, a good job and a helpful husband. Yeah, if I got pregnant tomorrow it wouldn’t be good for us financially and it wouldn’t be great for me physically, but I could have a baby and it wouldn’t be a tragedy. At 19, with no job, nowhere to live, a boyfriend I didn’t know that well and parents that were going to freak out (my dad did not speak to me to for over two years), I didn’t have a lot of privilege and I still clearly recognized that for me, abortion was not the correct choice. I guess you could count “I don’t care what you do, but I won’t be mad if you have it” as support from the boyfriend, but that was pretty much the extent of it. I feel like it’s infantilizing to tell a woman “Well, you don’t know until you’re there” when they are 100%, clearly opposed to abortion for themselves. I wouldn’t tell someone who clearly does not want a child and has said “If I got pregnant, I would have an abortion” that she was condenscending, rude, smug and “didn’t know until she was there”. I would take her at her word and work to support her choices, because I think it’s rude not to and it doesn’t honor her as an individual human being to suggest she doesn’t really know herself as well as she thinks she does. I don’t take it as a personal slight when someone says “I will never have a child and here’s why….” even if it directly conflicts with all my reasons for having children, because I chalk it up to different beliefs and different values. I personally don’t feel like anyone needs my stamp of approval to have an abortion, so why does anyone give a shit if I would ever have one? If we want to talk about the abortion debate and how having people yell at the top of their lungs “Well, I wouldn’t have one of those horrible abortion procedures, but yeah I think everyone else should be able to if they want to” is not helpful, then you have my 100% full agreement. If we want to talk about how statements like “I’m pro-choice, but I don’t think abortion should be allowed in cases x,y and z” undermines women’s agency, I agree. If we want to talk about statements like “I don’t understand how anyone could have an abortion” and how that makes it hard for women who have had one to talk about, you still have my full agreement. When we get into what I personally feel about my own body, my own fetuses/children and my own beliefs concerning the two, it’s not up to someone else to decide. Period. That’s why I’m pro-choice.
    While we’re talking, there’s another side to the family support we’re not talking about. Let’s hypothetically say I got pregnant tomorrow and decided that an abortion would be the absolute right choice for me. My choices would be to do it by myself, pay for it out of pocket without using my insurance, never tell anyone close to me and live with it for the rest of my life OR I could tell my husband and my family and watch my marriage end and my parents disown me. Not all of us have people that will support the choice to have an abortion… my sisters and my parents support criminalization of abortion and would be appalled if I had one, in fact I wouldn’t have to worry about ever having a relationship with my parents ever again. My husband is exactly like me in his beliefs, in that he doesn’t believe women should be forced to have children but is personally opposed to abortion except in the most extreme of circumstances (life/health of the mother, etc…) and he would be devestated at the loss of our fetus and I doubt we would ever get past it. My personal opposition to abortion was discussed before we got married and while he wasn’t opposed to abortion at the time, we both agreed that any unplanned pregnancy would be carried to term. Silly, maybe, but I wanted him to know it wasn’t an option. When we were faced with a pregnancy where the child was going to die, he did tell me that whatever I wanted to do, he would respect my decision because I was the one who had to carry the child, so it’s not that he feels ownership of my body, it’s simply that I know he would be devestated if I chose to abort for reasons other than life/health and I would feel guilty for causing him pain and it would snowball and we would divorce.

  61. Jennifer
    Jennifer February 24, 2007 at 2:28 pm |

    Reb-

    Two thoughts:

    1. Yes, I personally don’t want kids, so I can say I would have an abortion under any circumstance, but, again, life circumstances do change, and there have been “childfree” women who change their minds based on those life circumstances. Certainly this is not all women, but there are some. I myself will be fertile for another 20 or 30 years, and while I would absolutely say I don’t want children, I do acknowledge that it is technically possible I will change. After all, people do reverse their vasectamies and their tubals (though generally these are people who already have kids, as I understand it)

    Also, and this may be a perspective shift, but it seems to me that it is a bigger choice to choose to have a child then to choose not to have a child. On the other hand, I remember Bitch PhD has a column from the opposite perspective.

    2. No, I would agree that for some women, it is probably other things- religion, society, the patriarchial mindframe, whatever, that convinces them that an abortion is a terrible thing. I am not convinced, based on the historical books I have read on the topic of abortion and even killing born children,* that, within a cultureless vacuum, abortion would be viewed as morally bad.

    I guess what it comes down to for me is that life circumstances can change what people decide to do with themselves, and their pregnancies.

    *These include When Abortion was a Crime, Mother’s Who Kill, and a few others I can’t remember off the top of my head

  62. cfrank
    cfrank February 24, 2007 at 2:31 pm |

    Many great thoughts on the issue. Thank goodness that women still have the right to choose for themselves!

  63. Roy
    Roy February 24, 2007 at 2:32 pm |

    I don’t think stating “I would never have an abortion,” is always a side effect of privilege.

    I agree.

    It’s certainly true that none of us can know for certain what the future holds, and that our circumstances could change such that we undergo a major paradigm shift- that happens.
    I don’t think that someone who says “I’m personally opposed to abortion but I support a woman’s right to choose” is doing anything different then if someone says “I’d never cheat on my spouse” or “I could never kill another human being” or any other number of “I could never” or “I would never” claims.

    The person isn’t trying to predict the future, in most cases. The person is really saying “Right now, knowing myself as I do, I don’t see that I would make that particular choice.”

    Sometimes people are wrong. Sometimes they’re not.

    Sure, a statement like that could be born out of classism, but it doesn’t seem like it is necessarily.

  64. Julie
    Julie February 24, 2007 at 2:34 pm |

    Ok, so what Reb said, exactly. She said it so much more succintly than I did too, so you can avoid my second rambly comment if you would like.
    I do want to quickly clarify that I do agree that abortion can be a very good thing for the woman who has one. I’m not necessarily one of the “neccessary evil” people. I understand it can be very good and very helpful. My biggest concern with this is the fact that a whole bunch of people seem to think that because I’m opposed to it for myself, I’m a rude, smug, condenscending person who is helping the anti-choice movement.

  65. Julie
    Julie February 24, 2007 at 2:46 pm |

    Geez, I just can’t stop posting all of a sudden. I forgot to say thanks Exangelena… I appreciate knowing that you have read and enjoyed previous comments of mine. Pregnancy is one of my passions.
    Jennifer, I am one who given infinite resources would have a bunch of kids, because I love children and love being a mom. I am realistic enough to realize that resources are finite, so I have limited my childbearing to two living children right now but despite knowing it would be a really bad idea right now, am always slightly disappointed to get my period. Probably a big reason for the differences in perspective.
    And Jill, I agree completely with this

    The point isn’t condoning or disparaging the choice that an individual makes. The point is that it’s morally good that abortion is an option, and that it’s a moral good when an individual chooses the reproductive option that is best for them, regardless of whether that is abortion or childbirth.

  66. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 24, 2007 at 2:55 pm |

    One of my closest friends had an abortion when she was very young (13), and it was mainly due to a fear of her parents finding out about the fact that she was having sex. I don’t look at her as any less moral of a person than myself or view her decision as having been a mistake… it was she believed she needed to do at the time.

    Wait, so you think there are circumstances under which a 13-year-old child should have a baby?

    Yikes.

  67. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 24, 2007 at 3:08 pm |

    Hope you are understanding where I’m coming from. I try to be disability-centric in everything I write, which is surprisingly difficult. But it sometimes gives me a different, sorta sideways perspective.

    I can see where you’re coming from, but I disagree with you that the medical establishment’s priorities and the government’s priorities match up with each other at all levels. In fact, I think they conflict in many significant ways and there’s a lot of tension between the two. You do need some government regulation of medicine so doctors aren’t running around experimenting on human beings, but you also can’t let the government interfere in medical decisions unless they’re actively harmful.

    And, though I’m sure this will anger you, I see disability rights from both ends — I think the parents of a disabled child have rights as well. I do think that no one should be forced to bear a disabled child if they can’t handle it, because you end up with cases like this in the non-fatal scenario and cases like this in the worst case scenario. And that second case happened in Canada, where they have a much better health care system than we do.

    Not everyone can successfully care for a disabled child, especially a profoundly disabled one who requires a lot of medical intervention (surgeries, respirators, etc). That may say something horrible about us as human beings, but that’s the case.

  68. Erin
    Erin February 24, 2007 at 3:10 pm |

    Macht, I don’t have a problem with people who say “fine for thee, but not for me,” so I don’t have a problem with the underlying premise of your analogies. What I do have a problem with is that, when discussing issues that are considered “women’s issues,” people (generally men), start to jump out the “stuff” analogies. And I think it’s not condescending, but flat-out wrong.

    When a woman has too much to drink and gets raped, it’s not like a guy leaving car doors unlocked or flashing cash in a bad neighborhood. When people make moral judgments of a woman for making a medical decision, it isn’t like making judgments about people’s decisions to drink or to drive fast or to use pornography. It’s possible, but not likely, that if I have a beer right now, it will cause something that will change my body for the next 9 months and the path of my life forever. Even though people moralize about both, and even though both may be controversial topics, what they’re moralizing about isn’t the same, and I think it cheapens the gravity and eliminates a lot of the complexity that surrounds the decision to abort a pregnancy. Faced with that decision, a woman is facing the choice between leading two entirely different lives, and I’m not sure there’s anything analogous to that.

  69. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 24, 2007 at 3:27 pm |

    Mnemosyne, not able to discuss those cases and remain rational, so I’m out.

    But I will say: my mother was told I would be a “vegetable” too, and I’m not.

    Disablism infects all prognoses regarding the quality of a disabled child’s life. Thus, I don’t believe anything they say.

    Every single word is a lie, including “and” and “the”…

  70. Julie
    Julie February 24, 2007 at 4:18 pm |

    Yeah, I understand that completely Jill. I used to be really bad about it, the “I’m pro-choice but…” until I realized that it was not only not relevant but actually unhelpful. There are appropriate times to bring it up and inappropriate times, and I would say it doesn’t belong in most abortion related discussions. We are definately in agreement there.

  71. shannon
    shannon February 24, 2007 at 4:31 pm |

    I don’t think abortion is a tragedy, but it is a little bit sad. To me, the death of a fetus is like the death of a dog or a cat. It can be sad, and people should have their space to grieve, but sometimes you just can’t keep them.

  72. Christina W.
    Christina W. February 24, 2007 at 5:05 pm |

    Blood transfusions are a life-saving medical tool. But some people, including many Jehovah’s Witnesses, would never agree to accept one on moral, personal, or religious grounds. Rather than having my nerves grated by such an argument, I have great respect for these people. They have strong personal feelings but nonetheless are willing to accept that the greater good is served when they keep from imposing their beliefs on others.

    The issue is more complicated, of course, than you make it out to be. It’s not just a matter of personal autonomy, women’s rights, and the like. Unlike with heart surgery, there is a potential for another, separate individual human life. Abortion rights necessarily entails a balancing of a woman’s interests against the interests of the unborn child. Reasonable people can disagree on how to balance those competing interests.

    For those people who place the value of a fetus equal with that of an already-born human, abortion is not “itself a moral good” and it can never be done with the consent that you think is necessary. Instead, its death imposed on an unconsenting life.

    I’m not one of these people, of course. I’m pro-choice. But I think its a fallacy to dismiss the other side’s argument so easily. Abortion is different than heart surgery because it IS different from one reasonable perspective (in that it involves two individuals rather than one). And for these people who believe a fetus is a life, it IS a moral issue more than it is one of medical access. For example–we could harvest organs from the poor to provide to the rich. The fact that this is a medical procedure does not mean that it’s not also a moral issue.

  73. Karen
    Karen February 24, 2007 at 5:14 pm |

    There’s a difference between the circumstances under which a woman goes in for an abortion and the abortion itself. The circumstances that lead to abortion are almost always bad ones. Unwanted pregnancy. Fetal abnormality. A wanted pregnancy gone wrong. Economic status. Rape. Incest. Intimate partner violence.

    I have to say this exactly what I think, and it’s the best way I’ve ever seen my opinion phrased. That said, I really don’t see how it’s possible to separate the procedure from the circumstances that lead one to use it. It would be a much better world if, say, we could treat Down’s Syndrome completely or there were perfect ways of addressing domestic violence or having a baby wouldn’t interfere with one’s education. I think that’s what most of us mean when we say that abortion is usually a tragedy, because what led up to is always is. The problem I’ve got with the antis is that they never consider why a woman would want an abortion, always saying it’s just “selfishness.”

  74. Span
    Span February 24, 2007 at 7:58 pm |

    I used to be of the “support the right to choice, but it’s not what I would choose” school. Then I had a late period at a time when I was totally and utterly unprepared to have a child and all my “moral objections” fell away. Now I know that I could make that choice, and that I am very glad it is available.

  75. Pseudonym
    Pseudonym February 24, 2007 at 9:01 pm |

    The “I think abortion should be legal but I would never have one” argument grates on my nerves. You don’t know what you would do if faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

    Nope, I don’t get it. How is that any different from this? “You might say you would never support capital punishment, but you don’t know what you would do if faced with the violent murder of a family member.”

    Saying that you think the little ladies should have the right but you are morally superior enough to never terminate a pregnancy is condescending and completely unhelpful to the abortion rights movement. […] Abortion is a medical procedure and, like most medical procedures, is preempted by some sort of negative event.

    You say it, but the fact that you’re still talking about abortion in terms of “rights” shows, I think, that you still don’t truly believe it. If you’re right, and you truly think that abortion is just a medical procedure, then “abortion rights” makes no more sense than “chemotherapy rights”.I’m not from the US, and where I live, abortion isn’t a big deal. We have nationalised health care; after all, basic health care is considered a human right. We also generally believe in free (as in freedom, not as in no cost!) access to contraception and accurate sex education.We generally don’t talk about abortion in terms of “rights” because it simply doesn’t make any sense. Open heart surgery is not a “right”, and it’s not a “choice”, as if you could have it whenever you want it. It is something which should be available if you need it, but it can be avoided (though not prevented, obviously). As an aside, if the government is paying for it, then the government has a direct financial interest in encouraging prevention of heart disease, such as promoting good diet and exercise. And that’s a moral good.

  76. Hmmm....
    Hmmm.... February 25, 2007 at 12:17 am |

    In response to Mnemosyne:

    Wait, so you think there are circumstances under which a 13-year-old child should have a baby?

    Yikes.

    No, I don’t think that there are any circumstances in which I, or anybody else, should dictate to a woman facing this decision what she “should” do… I can’t really be pro-choice and believe that it is my place to make that decision for them.

    But I can still hold an opinion about it. I can’t imagine any circumstances in which I would view the decision to carry a pregnancy to term would be advisable to a 13 year old girl. And I would never judge a 13 year old girl’s decision to terminate a pregnancy as “morally wrong”… I don’t believe that is my place.

    But I can still hold personal moral convictions on the matter and maintain an identity as “pro-choice”… notice, I didn’t say “pro-abortion”.

    I do not support abortion… I support a woman’s right to make that choice for herself without government intrusion.

    I also do not support the use of cocaine. But as a libertarian in this area, I support an individual’s right to choose to use cocaine without government intrusion.

    Now that may mean that there’s no room for me in the pro-choice camp, but if you kick out everybody who doesn’t share identical philosophical beliefs about the specific morality of abortion itself – not on the right to be able to choose to have an abortion – then the pro-choice camp will dwindle significantly in numbers.

    I think it is acceptable to hold a view that the right to choose is morally good without necessarily saying that making that specific choice is morally good. Which isn’t meant to tacitly imply that I believe that making the choice to carry to term is inherently morally good, either. I see either choice as morally neutral, matters for the individual to resolve with their own conscience.

  77. catfanatic
    catfanatic February 25, 2007 at 2:25 am |

    re: Jill’s #76 clarification-about how saying, “I’m pro choice but” reinforces the idea of abortion as morally wrong.

    I can understand being annoyed if the reason people say this thing constantly is in order to highlight their own “moral superiority”. Kind of like someone at a COYOTE meeting saying “I would NEVER do such a thing but I support the rights of other women to have sex for money”.
    But if the thing that irks you is that they are constantly highlighting the idea of abortion as “morally wrong”, is it because this draws attention away from the moral wrong of forcing women to carry pregnancies against their will? Or is it the very definition of abortion as “morally wrong” that offends?
    And if it is the very definition of abortion as “morally wrong” that irks you-then why might that be?
    I think part of the problem is that people have used “morality” as a way to hurt other people. Take prostitution for example-the “moralists” might show their “love and concern for sinners” by trying to reform them, but as for the unreformed and unrepentant sinners, they “get what they deserve”. Hence why the rape and murder of prostitutes is treated like it’s nothing.
    Same with abortion-once the “moralists” deem it “morally wrong” whatever suffering women experience due to illegal abortion or being forced to carry to term-is deemed “just deserts” Same with homosexuality- they label that as “morally wrong” which means they ignore the beatings and killing and scapegoating and whatever other violations of human rights and sufferings gay people experience. Inherent in their “morality” is the idea that “sinners” get the “punishment they deserve”

    But when it comes to abortion-I don’t like to step on an ant if I can avoid it-(and I’m not being morally superior when I say this since I have killed many ants and am not a vegan) but I can appreciate that degree of spirituality and respect for life. So I can also see the spirituality of appreciating human life at the “moment of conception”. But when it comes to childbirth-choice is essential. If a woman chooses to have children that’s great, if she is forced to have children then she is being bred against her will as if she is cattle. Choice is essential to woman’s basic humanity.

    I think if pro-choice people actually take to treating unborn life as if it’s a tumor or a parasite, then it’s a victory for the woman haters. They succeeded in killing our spirituality.

  78. Linda
    Linda February 25, 2007 at 3:25 am |

    First of all, I think it’s great that you started this thread, and are putting things in the kinds of terms that they need to be put in. Weighing in (and I don’t care that I’m relatively late to the thread :o)

    “There’s a difference between the circumstances under which a woman goes in for an abortion and the abortion itself. The circumstances that lead to abortion are almost always bad ones. Unwanted pregnancy. Fetal abnormality. A wanted pregnancy gone wrong. Economic status. Rape. Incest. Intimate partner violence.”

    I agree with what a few others have said on here: I have some issue with this one, because I think it’s unfortunately “ghettoizing” the reasons why women have abortion, and it ends up supporting the idea that abortion is only something you really have a right to if you have compelling reasons like the ones you listed above.

    Why does a woman’s reason have to be compelling? Since it’s her body and her life, why won’t “I don’t want to continue this pregnancy” do? I had to meet with a counselor prior to an abortion at 20, and she asked, “what are your reasons for wanting this procedure?” I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I don’t want to have a baby,” with a clear tone that that was all the reason I needed. (I got the abortion, of course.)
    I know other women whose reason was simple: Not right now. Too young, haven’t done enough in life yet. Not with this partner (not together long enough, relationship not there yet), not with this job or this point in my education. Or even where there was a steady, stable partner, a good job, and everything else — but it just wasn’t the right time. (And for some women, it’s: no babies, at all — just not the women I knew.)

    I do have respect for the wide range of viewpoints represented by people who are reluctant about abortion for themselves but fight to defend the right for it, and I agree that this dividing line — woman’s right to have abortions, regardless of one’s own opinion on the matter — is a right one to draw. But I think this conversation comes in because we are trying to debate among ourselves, as we should, what morality is behind this reluctance and squeamishness about abortion, and why we find ourselves giving in to it at all. Take Julie’s comment, for example, about what she would do if she found herself pregnant now:

    Right now, I am a married woman with a decent education, a good job and a helpful husband. Yeah, if I got pregnant tomorrow it wouldn’t be good for us financially and it wouldn’t be great for me physically, but I could have a baby and it wouldn’t be a tragedy.

    I’m definitely not singling Julie out, but what is behind this view? Choosing to have a child should be consciously thought out and embarked upon, not something that a woman gets sprung on her by default — that’s actually a measure of women’s liberation in society. By saying “oh, I could have a baby” you are denying the question of your own will, your own desire for your life, and your own plans — shouldn’t those matter more than they are being posed? And isn’t this arguing, again, that there are “okay” reasons for a woman to choose abortion (always posed in negative terms like bad relationship, no good job, too many children already, etc) and not okay reasons, such as her own life plans and desires for herself and her body?

    That’s why it matters that we get the science right on this one, and get the difference between a fetus and a baby. And that’s why it matters that, if we really want to “go there,” so to speak, we have to get even beyond the individual and get into what kind of society and morality are behind opposing abortion, and then ask why we would want to have any common ground with that? It’s that conversation that will enable us to strongly, fiercely, stand up to and defeat the anti-abortionists of the world, for whom outlawing abortion is just a door to a whole Chamber O’Horrors for women.

    (For more on this, see the great piece, “The Morality of the Right to Abortion … and the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It” at the insightful and important Revolution newspaper web site. And for one of my favorite books on the matter, check out Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality by Bob Avakian.)

  79. Tara
    Tara February 25, 2007 at 3:58 am |

    Well, there’s no limit to the number of times someone can go under the knife to have tumors removed.

    Thank you for making this excellent point. Abortion is a medical procedure like the one you mention (which may have a politics surrounding it…but i doubt many are making the same moral claims about the person getting the procedure done). The only reasons that abortion is made into such a moral debate is because of the sexism and religiousity structuring this society. These are ideologies, and not neutral viewpoints.

  80. B.D.
    B.D. February 25, 2007 at 9:32 am |

    The only reasons that abortion is made into such a moral debate is because of the sexism and religiousity structuring this society.

    Exactly. And Jill, thank you for working through your thoughts on your post as well. Abortion is a technology and as such is morally neutral. Choosing to have an abortion may be a moral good. Having the option to choose to have an abortion in a safe and clean environment and performed by a trained and knowledgeable health care provider is absolutely a moral good.

  81. Matt
    Matt February 25, 2007 at 9:33 am |

    What do you believe a moral is? Or i should ask…What makes one act moral and the other immoral?

  82. exangelena
    exangelena February 25, 2007 at 11:14 am |

    Assuming that women who are pro-choice but say they would never get an abortion (for the sake of brevity, I’m going to leave out the menz, because they obviously can’t have abortions) are elitist, condescending and egotistical strikes me as similar to how pro-life people think that all women who get abortions are irresponsible, self-centered, promiscuous murderesses. Individuals may come to the same conclusion for different reasons, especially on an issue as emotional, complex and controversial as abortion.
    There are some women who think they would never get an abortion, or are even pro-life, but when they have an unplanned pregnancy change their minds. Some of them become pro-choice, or readjust their beliefs, or they go into denial (it was probably blogged about here in the past, “no abortion is moral except my abortion”). And there are some women who are firmly pro-choice, but if they have an unplanned pregnancy, they may come to the decision to go through with it.
    Personally, I believe that life begins before birth, so I would probably not have an abortion. However, I’m pro-choice because I don’t think that everyone has to agree with my beliefs about when life begins.
    I actually think some of this debate is contrary to pro-choice rhetoric. Women should be able to make decisions (or have long-term ideas) about what they want to do with their unplanned pregnancy, even if they come to a conclusion that you disagree with. And individuals have variable experiences, beliefs and situations, so no one can try to psychoanalyze a whole set of people because they share a fairly amorphous belief (as in “I’m pro-choice but I would never have an abortion”).

  83. Nick Kiddle
    Nick Kiddle February 25, 2007 at 3:48 pm |

    When I say that I would never have an abortion, I’m talking about all the years when I was infertile-by-circumstances and longed for a child. A late period never signalled panic for me, it signalled rising hopes that ended up being painfully crushed. I can’t imagine the circumstances that would take the joy out of getting pregnant for me, although I freely admit in the spirit of you-never-know that the circumstances could come about.

    I think if pro-choice people actually take to treating unborn life as if it’s a tumor or a parasite, then it’s a victory for the woman haters.
    I tried to take back the term parasite with the xCLP’s name (Cute Li’l Parasite – the x is because she’s no longer parasitical on me.) My ex, who talks the pro-choice talk as well as anyone who will never have to make the choice himself, was horrified that I could possibly refer to a wanted baby in that way. (I don’t know how that relates to your argument, but it’s another data point for you anyway.)

  84. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 25, 2007 at 4:05 pm |

    “I think if pro-choice people actually take to treating unborn life as if it’s a tumor or a parasite, then it’s a victory for the woman haters. They succeeded in killing our spirituality.”

    Some of us aren’t spiritual. Our discussion of abortion from that belief system makes us automatically woman-haters? Feh.

  85. Hmmm....
    Hmmm.... February 25, 2007 at 4:23 pm |

    It seems the debate here is narrowing to one of the most fundamental questions of the overall abortion debate in society… the question being, “at what point does life begin?”

    While there is all kinds of medical data to support the pro-choice stance that the life of an embryo and then a fetus is not a viable life independent of its host, that still leaves open the question as to whether or not this is indeed a lifeform at all. Which I think is a matter of perspective.

    I think there are pro-choicers out there, like myself, who personally believe that life does begin at conception, and thus hold the “I’m pro-choice but would never personally have an abortion” viewpoint.

    Which leads to the response, “if you believe that life begins at conception, how can you consider yourself ‘pro-choice’, since that means you support the right to kill an unborn life?”

    What I believe is that though I hold the personal belief that life begins at conception, I recognize that there are others who do not share this belief. And I do not necessarily consider their belief wrong so much as different from my own.

    Which side is right? I don’t know… but I know that for myself, this is what I believe, though I don’t expect others to share my belief, because I don’t claim to be right for believing this.

    Since I recognize that there are equally valid, but different beliefs than mine about when life begins, I cannot take a stance that would subject others to my personal beliefs – this, I believe, would be immoral on my part… thus I must be pro-choice.

    So again, I state that yes, absolutely it is a morally good thing that a woman is allowed to make her own personal choices in regards to whether or not she would have an abortion. At the same time, I don’t think that a woman who thinks that she could not have an abortion because of personal convictions is being immoral. Nor is a woman who feels compelled to have an abortion, under ANY circumstances, behaving immorally.

    That, in my opinion, is the difference between being pro-choice and pro-abortion. What is morally good is that a woman be free to make her own decisions based on her own convictions, not that she should make one particular decision or another.

    And back to the 13 year old case from earlier… while I personally may not foresee a situation in which a 13 year old “ought” to carry a child to term, I don’t believe it is my place, or anybody else’s, to decide for that 13 year old what she should do about it, either way. If she wants to have an abortion, she should be free to, without any moral condemnation for that choice. If she wants to have the child, however misguided a decision many might believe it to be (including myself), she should be free to have the child without anyone else’s intervention or moral condemnation.

    And the same holds true for a 31 year old, happily married, financially successful woman who just doesn’t want to have kids, even though I might personally see it as a “viable” option for her.

    Morally good is the ability to make a choice without pressure from anyone, either way… not about dictating which choice is the correct or incorrect one. That is up to the individual and their own conscience. Otherwise, we run the risk of deciding for others that they “should” have an abortion, and again take the choice away from them. If a poor welfare mother who society says has no business having any more kids gets pregnant and decides that she wants the kid, that should be her choice, without moral interference from anyone. Just as I think it would be morally wrong for someone from the right to tell her that she is “wrong” for having an abortion, I would also contend that it would be equally wrong for someone from the left to tell her that she is “wrong” for choosing to carry to term…

    That is the moral superiority of being pro-choice… we don’t dictate for women what the morally correct choice for them is, we allow them to make that decision on their own.

    This allows someone to be personally opposed to abortion, while simultaneously in support of a woman’s right to choose their own beliefs and actions on the matter.

  86. Hmmm....
    Hmmm.... February 25, 2007 at 4:42 pm |

    Question, back to the origin of this post…

    The original statement from the group we’re speaking about is:

    “I’m pro-choice, but I would never have one.”

    To be honest, I haven’t heard many people say these exact words… what I have heard from many, however, is the following, similar, but not quite identical statement:

    “I’m pro-choice, but I don’t believe I could ever have one myself.”

    Though they sound similar, they are actually quite different. Much has been said that it is easy to make the statement “never” if they have never been in the position to make that choice or haven’t had to face circumstances where they would need to consider having an abortion.

    But is it wrong for an individual to believe that they wouldn’t have an abortion, though they won’t make an absolute statement including the word “never” in their statement? Is this a fair compromise?

  87. JackGoff
    JackGoff February 25, 2007 at 5:29 pm |

    I predict this post will be a massive comment magnet. :)

    First thing one sees:

    95 Responses

    Mark wins this thread, with special bonus marks [pun intended?] for being the winner at comment 2. I know return you to the inanity.

  88. JackGoff
    JackGoff February 25, 2007 at 5:30 pm |

    know

    heh

  89. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 25, 2007 at 5:57 pm |

    Fetal abnormality.

    Not a single person questioned the use of this insulting phrase. Instead, it has been approvingly quoted over and over.

    Just wanted to say, since apparently it hasn’t been said here before: being “abnormal” is not the worst thing in the world.

  90. Hmmm....
    Hmmm.... February 25, 2007 at 6:03 pm |

    TRUE STORY:

    Ten years ago, my aunt and her husband (do I call him my ex-uncle? The aunt is my blood relative) got a divorce, largely because of this specific issue.

    They met in their first year in law school, became boyfriend and girlfriend, and then five years later they got married, after they were both established in their careers. Before they tied the knot, they discussed their desires when it came to children and a family… they both agreed that they wanted to have 2 or 3 children, once they felt financially secure enough to provide them with the life they wanted to provide. They were both staunch liberals, and they shared a common ideology on abortion – that women should legally have the right to make their own choices with their bodies.

    After 2 years of marriage, they decided that it was a good time to start a family… between both of them, they were making nearly $200K per year, and they had plenty of money saved up. So my aunt got pregnant, and they were both initially very happy about it.

    Something changed with my aunt in her third month of pregnancy. Though everything was in place as they planned, she suddenly had a change of heart about having children. Though she wasn’t experiencing any complications in her pregnancy, she just she didn’t want to have a baby anymore… not ever. She didn’t want to have to deal with raising children.

    But she also felt she needed to discuss the matter with her husband before doing anything about it. He was heartbroken. He offered to do whatever he could to make raising children easier for her, including being a stay at home Dad if necessary. He told her that if he could carry the baby himself, he would. But he couldn’t convince her to carry the pregnancy to term.

    She told him that she wanted an abortion… though he was opposed to that choice personally, he knew that as a pro-choicer, that the matter was ultimately her decision. He made no effort to stop her, though it obviously troubled him a lot.

    It was at this point that their marriage changed… he tried to let go of it, but it just drove him crazy. He loved her very much, and she loved him very much, but they were becoming incompatible for each other. Having children was something personally very important to him, and by my aunt’s own admission, had been at one time very important for her as well. She changed, though he didn’t.

    For the next two years following the abortion, he tried in vain to convince her to reconsider whether or not she wanted children. He never morally condemned her choice to abort, even though he was personally opposed to it. They agreed not to discuss the matter any further, since it was done. But he still desperately wanted to have children. Though he preferred to have children of his own and from her, he offered several compromises. He suggested that perhaps they could either find a surrogate mother who would use his donated sperm, or if that was unnacceptable, they could adopt a child as a second option.

    Though she considered both options, and she loved him very much, she knew that she did not want to be a mother under any circumstances. Again, he was heartbroken.

    Telling her beforehand that this was not what they had agreed to before they got married, he filed for a divorce. She was very distraught – though she didn’t see eye-to-eye with him when it came to children, she was still in love with him, and didn’t want a divorce.

    Today, though she has moved on, she is still unhappy about the fact that they got divorced. She does recognize that his concerns were legitimate, but she just doesn’t think that a divorce was necessary.

    I bring that up, because as a man, I don’t know how I would feel if I were in the same situation as my ex-uncle was in…

    I am pro-choice, but I would like to have children myself someday – it is something that is important to me. I want to marry someone someday with common beliefs as myself politically, including in regards to abortion. I want to marry someone who wants to have children eventually, and I would make sure this was discussed beforehand.

    Now, if I were married, and my wife became pregnant, and it was something we mutually agreed to beforehand, and we were in a financial position to support a child, I can’t say that my reaction would necessarily be that much different than that of my ex-uncle.

    If my wife came to me as my aunt came to her husband and told me that she wanted to have an abortion, I don’t think I couldn’t be bothered by it, or pretend not to be bothered by it. Though I would ultimately support her in whatever she chose, I don’t think I would be happy about it if she chose to abort.

    And if the matter continued down the same path as my aunt and her husband’s, with my wife telling me that she wanted no children ever under any circumstance, I don’t think I could stay married to her…

    Would I be morally wrong for this? Could I still consider myself pro-choice in spite of my personal feelings regarding what could have been my child?

    I don’t think men should be making these decisions for women as a whole. Furthermore, I don’t even think men should be making these decisions for even their significant others. But I don’t think that men shouldn’t be allowed to have any feelings whatsoever on the matter.

    I don’t think a man who wants to have children and has the financial capability to have children and has a loving a nurturing relationship with a woman who has said she wanted children should be expected to stay in a relationship if her stance changes after they are married and she willingly becomes pregnant. And I don’t think this necessarily makes him anti-choice, either.

    Is that a piggish misogynistic stance? Are men allowed to feel anything when their sperm is involved? I’m not asking if men should be allowed to legislate anything – I don’t believe that they should, which is why I’m pro-choice – but are they entitled to have feelings about this or react to the issue in the way similar to my ex-uncle reacted to my aunt? Is that immoral?

    I will never dictate for another woman what the right or wrong decision is for her in regards to abortion, it’s not my place… but if it’s a woman I am involved with, should I be allowed any say in the matter, even if not the ultimate decision? Am I allowed to be unhappy if a woman I love chooses to have an abortion when carrying the pregnancy to term would have been a viable option?

  91. Hmmm....
    Hmmm.... February 25, 2007 at 6:31 pm |

    I want to further qualify myself in regards to my last post. When I was 23, my girlfriend at the time and myself had an accident… a condom broke (turns out leaving those darn things in a hot glove compartment ain’t the brightest idea). She got pregnant. Since neither one of us was in a situation to be able to care for a child financially at the time, we mutually agreed that abortion would be the best option… at no point did I tell her to have an abortion, I simply told her that I would support her either way. She asked me if I wanted her to have an abortion, and I told her that while I wasn’t sure how I would manage to be able to support a child at that point, that I would do whatever I needed to do, either way. I made sure she knew that absolutely the choice was hers, and that whatever she decided to do, I would support her. She ultimately decided after a few weeks that she wanted to get an abortion, and I was a bit relieved. We went to the so-called “free clinic”, and I paid for the procedure, and I did everything I could for the next few weeks to be as nurturing as possible to her, because I knew the entire experience was emotionally traumatic for her.

    Though eventually we split up, it was a relatively amicable break-up as those things go, and we remain friends today. Since the break-up didn’t occur until nearly 2 years after our “incident”, I firmly believe that the abortion had nothing to do with why our relationship ended… we simply grew apart over time.

    While I wholly believe that the rigght decision was made at that time, I can’t deny that I felt a little conflicted inside about it all… I knew that at that point, that an abortion was absolutely the right choice for her, and also a choice that was beneficial to me. But part of me still wonders today what it would have been like if things had circumstances been different (perhaps if we were trust-fund kids or something), if she had decided to have the child and I became a young father.

    It’s neither here nor there. What happened happened, and I still fully support the decision that was made under the circumstances. But I just don’t know how I would feel if a planned pregnancy under societally and financially perfect circumstances with a wife or partner who also wanted children beforehand were to decide that she wanted to terminate. I don’t know if I could be “ok” with that…

  92. Julie
    Julie February 25, 2007 at 6:52 pm |

    Well, MrSoul it may not be the worst thing ever, but in some cases it can be pretty bad. My son had no kidneys, underdeveloped lungs, no anal opening, a hole in his heart, scoliosis, the entire contents of his abdomen were outside of his body, and one of his legs was inverted (in other words his foot was twisted so it faced backwards). There really isn’t a word to describe it that’s strength based or happy sounding, he had a severe and fatal abnormality.

  93. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 25, 2007 at 8:44 pm |

    Well, MrSoul it may not be the worst thing ever, but in some cases it can be pretty bad. My son had no kidneys, underdeveloped lungs, no anal opening, a hole in his heart, scoliosis, the entire contents of his abdomen were outside of his body, and one of his legs was inverted (in other words his foot was twisted so it faced backwards). There really isn’t a word to describe it that’s strength based or happy sounding, he had a severe and fatal abnormality.

    And the term “fetal abnomality” is applied to him, and to me, as well as to someone with only a finger missing. All are regarded as equally “abnormal.” How abnormal are we “allowed” to be, or is no abnormality permitted, ever?

    Do any other born-freaks post here, or am I the only one?

  94. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 25, 2007 at 8:58 pm |

    “How abnormal are we “allowed” to be, or is no abnormality permitted, ever?”

    By who? Who’s allowing? And what?

    I don’t see anyone advocating government decisions on which fetuses should be carreid to term and which not. Presumably, the gestating female gets to decide, and presumably they’re going to have different choices about what’s “allowed” or “permitted.”

  95. JackGoff
    JackGoff February 25, 2007 at 9:10 pm |

    MrSoul, I feel it must be pointed out that your existence or, indeed, anyone’s existence is a red herring here. None of us had the inborn right to use someone else for life support. Same for EVERYONE. Regardless of what happens to other people, your mother wished to supply the life support needed to bring about your birth. Women who do not wish to do this with their own bodies should not be forced to on account of the fact that you exist.

  96. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 25, 2007 at 9:19 pm |

    “How abnormal are we “allowed” to be, or is no abnormality permitted, ever?”

    By who?

    Indeed, by who? Whoever classifies “abnormalities”, obviously. I am not the one who initially used the word.

    The medical establishment assigns this status to fetuses, one assumes, based on certain quality-control standards.

    Who’s allowing?

    Whoever has decided we are inferior to the “normal.” The “normal” classify the “abnormal”, right? Us “abnormals” aren’t usually consulted.

    And what?

    Deciding which fetuses are acceptable and which aren’t. As I said above: Quality control in the uterus.

    I don’t see anyone advocating government decisions on which fetuses should be carreid to term and which not.

    By not providing medical care to everyone, they do make that decision, de facto.

    Presumably, the gestating female gets to decide, and presumably they’re going to have different choices about what’s “allowed” or “permitted.”

    I am aware of that. I was asking people here, what they mean by “fetal abnormality”–since it was approvingly quoted several times, as if it was understood. What criteria do the “normal” people use? ANY abnormality, or what?

    One person replied very specifically, and I appreciate that.

    I’ve been reading Conceiving the New World Order: Global Politics of Reproduction - by Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp, which is really interesting, regarding some of these questions.

  97. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 25, 2007 at 9:23 pm |

    MrSoul, I feel it must be pointed out that your existence or, indeed, anyone’s existence is a red herring here. None of us had the inborn right to use someone else for life support. Same for EVERYONE. Regardless of what happens to other people, your mother wished to supply the life support needed to bring about your birth. Women who do not wish to do this with their own bodies should not be forced to on account of the fact that you exist.

    Well, duh. FTR, I was demonstrating for legal abortion before you were born.

    I am talking about the basis for choice. If other choices can be interrogated, why can’t this one?

  98. zuzu
    zuzu February 25, 2007 at 9:50 pm |

    I am talking about the basis for choice. If other choices can be interrogated, why can’t this one?

    Because it’s none of your business.

    Women should be able to have abortions for any reason whatsoever without apology, regardless of whether you approve of their reasons or not. Why? Because it’s a personal medical decision, not a political statement, when an individual woman has an abortion.

    Each abortion is a unique event, made in the context of the woman’s individual circumstances. She may have an abortion because she doesn’t want kids; she may have an abortion because the fetus will be born with a condition she’s just not prepared to deal with even with free medical care; she may want to avoid ruining her own health; she may want to avoid having to tell abusive parents; or she may just want to be able to go on vacation. Whatever her reasons, they are her reasons alone, and, if the right to abortion means anything, they should no more subject to public scrutiny than her reasons for having any other elective surgery would be.

    And if support for abortion rights means anything, it means supporting the right to abortion for any reason, even — indeed, especially — if you find those reasons repugnant.

  99. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 25, 2007 at 10:41 pm |

    “I am aware of that. I was asking people here, what they mean by “fetal abnormality”–since it was approvingly quoted several times, as if it was understood. What criteria do the “normal” people use? ANY abnormality, or what? ”

    Personally, I would use a relative definition: those medically classified abnormalities that the pregnant woman wishes to use as a factor in her decision about whether or not to carry the pregnancy.

    If a woman wants to abort a fetus with a missing finger, because to her that’s a significant fetal abnormality, then — okay. It’s a fetus. It’s not a person.

    If she wants a sex selective abortion, okay. It’s a fetus. It’s not a person.

    If she wants to abort a fetus growing with no brain, then okay. It’s a fetus, not a person.

    I understand that you’re interrogating the definition of normal versus abnormal, and I think that’s good and useful — in a variety of contexts, including this one. However, just because the definition isn’t going to be totally concrete or alike from person to person, I don’t think that makes the phrase useless or even particularly problematic. It describes a certain basis of decision making, even if not with perfect boundaries.

  100. Rabbit
    Rabbit February 25, 2007 at 11:11 pm |

    This has been a great discussion, both here and at Pandagon.

    It has really struck a chord with me because I’m really freaking tired of pretending like I give a crap about embryos. Conceding that abortion is a terrible thing is like allowing that intelligent design should be taught in school. If your personal belief is in a creator/life begins at conception, fine. If you are opposed to legislating your belief, great! I have a lot of respect for you. But it’s entirely irrelevant to what should be (or not) legislated.

    I guess I’m just sick of being told I’m a selfish, calloused bitch because when I hear embryo, I think mMs long with a tail instead of a precious little baby.

  101. Rabbit
    Rabbit February 25, 2007 at 11:14 pm |

    Of course what I meant is “I.D. should be taught in biology class.” Sorry!

  102. Hmmm....
    Hmmm.... February 26, 2007 at 1:23 am |

    I am talking about the basis for choice. If other choices can be interrogated, why can’t this one?

    Because it’s none of your business.

    I agree that a woman’s basic right to be able to choose for herself, under any and all circumstances, and for any reason, even those some might personally find repugnant, must be preserved.

    However, the right to have that choice does not mean that their rights negates anybody else’s free speech rights to have an opinion which condemns those choices, provided that their speech does not prevent the woman from having safe access to their legally protected rights to have an abortion. I do not support Operation Rescue or the scare tactic methodolgy they use. And I do not support a group that would march civilly and non-threateningly across the street from an abortion clinic. However, provided that they are not actually interfering with a woman’s access to the clinic, I do support the anti-choice groups right to utilize their First Amendment rights, no matter how much I might personally disagree with their stance.

    I have personally never condemned any woman for having had an abortion, and I have had several friends who have had them, as well as an ex-girlfriend who had one. I did my best to be as supportive as a male friend or lover could possibly be in regards to supporting their decisions. Granted, all of these situations involved situations in which an abortion seemed like a reasonable and logical choice to make. I don’t know what I would think if someone I knew had an abortion for no real reason at all. If it didn’t involve my sperm, I probably wouldn’t say anything at all, but that does not mean that I would endorse their choice, either… I would see it as a “none of my business” thing…

    But someone earlier said:

    Wait, so you think there are circumstances under which a 13-year-old child should have a baby?

    To answer that question… yes, I do think there are circumstances under which a 13-year-old should have a baby. There’s only one circumstance that matters… what does the 13-year-old want? If she wants to have a baby, she should be free to CHOOSE to have a baby without coersion or force from anyone. At the same time, if she wants to have an abortion, she should also be free to CHOOSE to have an abortion, she should be free to do that as well without coersion or force from anyone.

    This is why I have a problem with declaring that abortion, the procedure, in every instance, is a morally good thing… it seems to imply that had any woman who has had an abortion had made the decision to carry the pregnancy to term, that they would inherently have been making a morally bad choice.

    Being pro-choice means supporting the right to choose, not endorsing a particular choice one way or the other. Once we start declaring one choice more moral than the other, we become anti-choice. We start becoming the arbiters for which situations involving others in which an abortion is the right choice for them.

    The decision is about whether or not an abortion is the “morally good” choice is up to the individual to decide for themselves, without any intervention from those who would strong discourage them from aborting or those who would strongly recommend them to abort.

    It isn’t our choice… it is the individual’s choice and theirs alone.

  103. Roy
    Roy February 26, 2007 at 1:57 am |

    This is why I have a problem with declaring that abortion, the procedure, in every instance, is a morally good thing… it seems to imply that had any woman who has had an abortion had made the decision to carry the pregnancy to term, that they would inherently have been making a morally bad choice.

    I’m not quite sure that follows, but it’s certainly not the stance that Jill originally endorsed. I point to:

    The individual making a choice which will be most beneficial to them is a moral good, whether that choice is abortion or birth or both…

  104. Hawise
    Hawise February 26, 2007 at 9:14 am |

    Hmmm- fetal abnormality needs to be interrogated because it is a choice, as all other choices need to be interrogated. Not because you or I have any say in a woman’s choice but because an informed choice is better than an uninformed one. Also because laws surrounding these choices need to be looked at and dealt with in fair and informed ways.

    Would I have had my autistic son if I had known it was a possibility? Yes, but it would have been an informed choice and as research develops, families will add that to their list of things to be aware of, as with all other genetic probabilities.

    Would my mother have carried my never-known brother/sister to a late term spontaneous abortion if she had had an option of a sonogram? Unknown, it was not an option at the time but if the reaction of her doctor at the child’s birth is any sign, she would have been advised to terminate. This was at a time that abortion was illegal and the risks to her and her doctor enormous.

    My problem with the pro-‘life’ position is that it is predicated on the belief that as a woman I have no moral compass of my own and need to have one forced down my throat. I am also against it because it takes away one of the incentives to know more about human development because if we have to carry to term regardless of the situation then what is the point of knowing. And last, because if I read one more self-serving parent justify their abuse/murder of their child based on their religious belief and their inability to do anything about it, I have no idea what I will do!

  105. L'Ombre de l'Olivier
    L'Ombre de l'Olivier February 26, 2007 at 10:32 am |

    The Moral Good of Abortion

    Over at feministe there is an interesting essay – inspired by something at pandragon – entited Abortion is a Moral Good. It is actually very good and I agree with a lot of it. This is why I am, in general, pro-choice, and in favour of legal abortion….

  106. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 26, 2007 at 12:51 pm |

    However, the right to have that choice does not mean that their rights negates anybody else’s free speech rights to have an opinion which condemns those choices, provided that their speech does not prevent the woman from having safe access to their legally protected rights to have an abortion.

    I’m in agreement.

    I am pretty much an anarchist, and I think people should be able to do whatever they please. But you know, I ask similar questions about heroin, meth, pot, sex-for-money, porn, and so on. I think it’s good to interrogate ALL of these, even though I think they should all be legal and as you say, none of my business. But as a political person, I’d be a fraud not to examine the reasons for these behaviors.

    LOTS of things are none of our business, but are you saying they should be completely off-limits to analysis? I think silencing discussion and the consequent dearth of analysis is why the right wingnuts have been kicking our asses in the public square, but that’s another issue.

    Anyway, I highly recommend the Ginsburg/Rapp book I mentioned earlier. They believe any time the “abortion is a moral good” argument is raised, it is trouble. (I probably wouldn’t have replied if I hadn’t been reading it.) In the USA at least, it has always been considered “good” for some women to have abortions, and for others NOT to have them. In light of this, considering abortion “morally good” could work to reinforce the status quo, since many people already believe certain women (poor, disabled, immigrant, Muslim, whoever) should be having abortions, and not more children. I grew up hearing sentiments like this, and it isn’t as uncommon as you might believe.

  107. Huperborea
    Huperborea February 26, 2007 at 6:09 pm |

    On the Isle of the Amazons, there is no middle gro

    Hippolyte and Myrine, err, I mean, Amanda Marcotte and Jill of Feministe, have had it with “pro-choice” Caspar Milquetoasts…

  108. Christina W.
    Christina W. February 26, 2007 at 10:39 pm |

    The only reasons that abortion is made into such a moral debate is because of the sexism and religiousity structuring this society. These are ideologies, and not neutral viewpoints.

    This comment, which someone said above, is simply not true. It really conveys a lack of understanding of other’s viewpoints. Remember, about half of Americans think abortion is wrong. Though some of these people base this on sexism or religion, most do not. Abortion, unlike other medical procedures, involves the balancing of two distinct life interests. Many people consider a fetus to be a human life, and thus oppose abortion for the same reason they might oppose murder, war, or the death penalty. Because abortion entails a balancing of the interests of one life against that of a potential life, there is bound to be reasonable disagreement. This disagreement will never be overcome by belittling those who don’t share your views.

  109. violet crazy girl
    violet crazy girl February 26, 2007 at 11:34 pm |

    So? If somebody says “I think abortion should be legal but I would never have one” how is it any more condescending than “I think pornography should be legal but I would never look at it”?

    It isn’t, except that pornography is less stigmatized by a long shot than abortion, so by putting yourself above “those pervy porn-watchers,” you’re not exactly vaulting up the social ladder (well, most social ladders, at least.)

    This is the case with any statement of the form, “I think X should be legal, but I personally wouldn’t do it.” The latter clause just doesn’t do anything except push you into a better-regarded moral class than others.

    What if I switched it to the following: “I don’t think people should be legally required to give a kidney to their child, but I would if my child ever needed mine.” That’s not condescending, that’s just a statement about a moral choice I would make.

    That’s absolutely condescending. I mean, can you imagine this conversation?

    You: “I don’t think people should be legally required to give a kidney to their child, but I would if my child ever needed mine.”
    Me: “Oh. I certainly wouldn’t. I’d hope there’s a donor available.”
    You: “…”
    It’s the sort of statement designed to broker nothing but agreement, because really. What kind of person wouldn’t give their child a kidney?

    Wouldn’t therefore…

    Breast augmentation or botox injections, as a remedy to an unfortunate situation (poor body image), and as legitimate medical procedures, also need to be seen as “morally good”?

    Provided they actually help the problem, yes. There’s rather a bit of debate on that issue. In any case, women shouldn’t feel pressured to have or not have (plastic surgery|abortion)—it should be a choice based purely on what they feel is best, absent coercive influences of any sort. For this to be the case, (plastic surgery|abortion) should neither demonized nor canonized as the right choice for everyone.
    It isn’t inconsistent to say, “chosen abortion is a moral good,” and, “women’s economic circumstances often rob them of the agency to choose,” and summarily set about attacking both problems.

    Poor self image is a mental issue, not a physical one. So breast augmentation would not fix the situation. Therapy might help, though.

    I’m probably being overly pedantic here—and I’m sure you know this—but it’s not that simple. Sometimes there is a mismatch between someone’s mind, body, and social image, and those issues tend to be too intertwined to make for neat categorization. (This is related to issues regarding access to medical care and surgery for transpeople, which is a way longer discussion.)

  110. JM
    JM February 27, 2007 at 4:23 am |

    On what basis do you make that determination, Christina? I have honestly never met an anti-choicer who came right out and said that their based their opinion on sexism, and yet I have also never met one who didn’t eventually come out with “I believe in exceptions for rape and incest because she didn’t choose to have sex and shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences.” I’m really curious on how you can know that most opposition to legal abortion isn’t based on sexism. That’s a blanket statement as well, although I’m not qualifed to judge whether it’s simply not true or based on a complete lack of understanding of others’ viewpoints (I have my suspicions).

    This disagreement is never going to be overcome, anyway. People just look at it too differently, and everyone belittles everyone else’s views, as you yourself belittled her view. It’s kind of unavoidable. I honestly don’t believe that abortion involves balancing two distinct life interests, and even if I did that argument wouldn’t be comperable to murder, war or the death penalty in my opinion simply because no one is entitled to use anyone else’s body for life support. I understand that others feel differently and can’t understand how anyone can disagree with them. So?

    The point is, it may be a moral issue for you or someone else, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a moral issue or a rights balancing issue for me. We look at things very differently, and we don’t have to accept each other’s framework. You get upset when it’s suggested that the fundamental issue is women’s rights or misogyny, saying it’s just automatic to assume that that’s not true, yet at the same time you say we have to accept the reasonableness of the argument and righteousness of the assumptions of another argument whether it makes any sense to us or not, beause it’s just automatic to assume that it is true. That doesn’t make much sense to me. And that is what I see Amanda doing, reacting against this narrative that says the terms have been defined, you must recognize our fundamental truths as universal, abortion is tragic and involves two lives and killing and selfishness and convenience and is not not not about sexism, and saying that she has a different view and doesn’t have to accept these tropes she doesn’t necessarily believe in just because she doesn’t exactly have the power to control the terms of the debate.
    I don’t think the debate is helpful, simply because it’s never going to produce agreement and it’s pointless to keep going around and around over it instead of just agreeing to disagree and let everyone have their own conscience. But I do agree with Amanda that as long as it has to be talked about, there has to be a counterview to the most popular perspective of moral ambiguity and qualms. Because that’s a respectable view, but it’s not universal.

    “I think silencing discussion and the consequent dearth of analysis is why the right wingers have been kicking our asses in the public square”

    Yep, with analysis like “Saddam tried to kill my dad, macaca” and promoting discussion along the lines of “I don’t like your bumper sticker, I’m stripping you of your citizenship, declaring you an enemy combatant and remanding you to Gitmo for torture” yes, that’s why the right wingers are kicking our asses, we just don’t have that kind of sophisticated analysis or open discussion. And for anyone who asks, “Silencing discussion? WTF?” well, we may not be silencing discussion in any technical or literal sense, and we may have no power to do that even if we wanted to, but I’ve seen someone raise an eyebrow after someone says something, and if that ain’t censorship, I don’t know what is. Okay, I need to go and drink all the vodka in the world now.

  111. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 27, 2007 at 9:42 am |

    Me: “I think silencing discussion and the consequent dearth of analysis is why the right wingers have been kicking our asses in the public square”

    And for anyone who asks, “Silencing discussion? WTF?” well, we may not be silencing discussion in any technical or literal sense, and we may have no power to do that even if we wanted to, but I’ve seen someone raise an eyebrow after someone says something, and if that ain’t censorship, I don’t know what is. Okay, I need to go and drink all the vodka in the world now.

    Nature abhors a vacuum.

    If we don’t discuss the reasons for abortion, they sure will. Which spin do you prefer?

  112. zuzu
    zuzu February 27, 2007 at 10:53 am |

    I am pretty much an anarchist, and I think people should be able to do whatever they please. But you know, I ask similar questions about heroin, meth, pot, sex-for-money, porn, and so on. I think it’s good to interrogate ALL of these, even though I think they should all be legal and as you say, none of my business. But as a political person, I’d be a fraud not to examine the reasons for these behaviors.

    Nice of you to class abortion with drug use, prostitution and pornography.

    Though that illustrates nicely just why a lot of women don’t like to talk about having had an abortion at all, let alone their reasons for it.

    LOTS of things are none of our business, but are you saying they should be completely off-limits to analysis? I think silencing discussion and the consequent dearth of analysis is why the right wingnuts have been kicking our asses in the public square, but that’s another issue.

    What’s the purpose of the analysis? To understand, or to shame?

  113. Noli Irritare Leones  » Blog Archive   » Well, I never

    […] « Opera update Well, I never Jill of Feministe writes, in Abortion is a Moral Good The “I think abortion should be legal but […]

  114. MrSoul
    MrSoul February 27, 2007 at 4:31 pm |

    Nice of you to class abortion with drug use, prostitution and pornography.

    I classed it with other activities that were once illegal (and still have all sorts of restrictions applied) and have historically had Draconian laws applied to them.

    What’s the purpose of the analysis? To understand, or to shame?

    And what is the purpose of your question–sarcasm? I don’t often understand sarcasm, so if no reply was actually intended, again, I apologize.

    My reason for analysis: To figure out how to improve the quality of people’s lives, and to put that knowledge into practice.

    I’m not sure I understand where your hostility is coming from, but I’m sorry if I have offended you in any way.

  115. Christina W.
    Christina W. February 27, 2007 at 9:16 pm |

    On what basis do you make that determination, Christina? I have honestly never met an anti-choicer who came right out and said that their based their opinion on sexism, and yet I have also never met one who didn’t eventually come out with “I believe in exceptions for rape and incest because she didn’t choose to have sex and shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences.” I’m really curious on how you can know that most opposition to legal abortion isn’t based on sexism. That’s a blanket statement as well, although I’m not qualifed to judge whether it’s simply not true or based on a complete lack of understanding of others’ viewpoints (I have my suspicions).

    While I’m adamantly pro-choice myself, I have met many adamant pro-lifers who are neither sexist nor blinded by religion. It’s not a blanket statement to say that it’s unfair to make a blanket statement! By the way, people can believe abortion should be restricted to rape/incest cases because they believe the interests of protecting the mother outweigh the other interests. Remember, abortion is about balancing. DIfferent factors tip the scale at different places for different people.

    This disagreement is never going to be overcome, anyway. People just look at it too differently, and everyone belittles everyone else’s views, as you yourself belittled her view. It’s kind of unavoidable.

    You might be right that the issue will never be overcome. But a substantial consensus on abortion has been reached in much of the world. That right there is proof that some sort of agreement is possible. I did NOT belittle her view. I simply pointed out one falsehood, and asked her no to belittle the views of others. I completely respect and agree with her view on abortion, I just don’t think it’s productive to falsely impute questionable motives on whoever disagrees with you.

    I honestly don’t believe that abortion involves balancing two distinct life interests,

    I think it’s more or less a scientific fact that abortion, at least in certain stages, involves balancing two distinct life interests. Of course, the mother is one life. While the fetus can’t necessarily be called a “life,” it’s settled knowledge that it is a potential life that will almost certainly become a life absent affirmative intervention. It’s also settled law in the U.S. that the fetus IS a life interest. Regardless of the value that you place on the fetus’ life interest, you can’t deny that it has a life interest.
    and even if I did that argument wouldn’t be comperable to murder, war or the death penalty in my opinion simply because

    no one is entitled to use anyone else’s body for life support. I understand that others feel differently and can’t understand how anyone can disagree with them. So?

    Once a person is born, his parents are both legally and morally obligated to support him. When a person is in danger, there is often a moral and legal duty to rescue. Social compacts often dictate that the society has the duty to support the indigent and helpless. Although I see how this can be distinguished from being entitled to use anyone else’s body for life support, I think there’s not much to commend such a line. When one conjoined twin relies on the heart of another conjoined twin, should the latter be able to terminate the existance of the former? Apparently you are basing your understanding on the moral precept that humans do not have the duty to support life. But that’s not an absolute truth–it’s an opinion.

    The point is, it may be a moral issue for you or someone else, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a moral issue or a rights balancing issue for me.

    I think it’s a moral issue for everyone. Your morals prioritize women’s rights. My morals prioritize practical policy. The pro-lifers morals prioritize the protection of potential life. It is ALWAYS a moral issue and ALWAYS a rights-balancing issue. In fact, almost everything is always a moral issue and always a rights-balancing issue. You completely discount the rights of the unborn fetus. That’s fine–my viewpoint does that as well. But that in itself is rights-balancing.

    JM, at the end of the day we are both pro-choice and agree. i think your opinion is based on firmly held moral beliefs rather than any rational calculation, and I respect that. I’m pro-choice for practical reasons–after an unwanted conception, abortion is th best tool we have for avoiding many personal and societal harms. I’m willing to seek to explore and understand the opinions of others and to see the abortion question in its true complexity. The moral absolutists who say as a God-given precept that “noone is entitled to use anothers body for life support” are not much different than those who say as a God-given precept that “noone can destroy the life of a fetus.” No end is served by discounting prolifers as sexist, mindless church followers just as no end is served by painting prochoicers as godless murderers. Even if you don’t seek agreement or consensus, I think we should at least seek understanding. Belittling others only contributes to the hostile polarization.

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