Tag Archives: Abortion

Put Up Or Shut Up

I will take conservative complaints about Planned Parenthood seriously the moment someone shows me a conservative pro-life organization that does half the work it does to provide birth control, test for STDs, and generally provide for reproductive health.

This should be an easy way for social conservatives to try and seize the high-ground. Undercut Planned Parenthood by taking away its lock on the uncontroversially good things that it does, and see if public opinion prefers an organization just like Planned Parenthood but without abortion.

But as far as I know, there’s no comparable organization. Which tells me that the people complaining about Planned Parenthood are either in the grips of bizzaro-world anti-feminist arguments against birth control, or simply don’t give a damn about people getting sick from STDs.

And for that reason, not just pro-choice people like me, but also pro-life people should see the attacks on Planned Parenthood as cynical and callous.

Oklahoma’s Abortion Law

Under a new law in Oklahoma, if you are a pregnant woman and your doctor provides false information during the pregnancy, you no longer have the legal right to sue.

What is sick about this law is that while passed by wingnuts who hope to prevent abortions by keeping women in the dark, it will harm many families who would have carried their babies to term regardless. Even a woman who has no intention of having an abortion regardless of fetal abnormalities might benefit from the ability to prepare for the task of raising a child with a disability.

I am relatively pro-choice, so my judgment may be clouded here, but I think that even someone who is anti-abortion should view this law as a step too far. For the implicit principle authorizing this law seems to be that if the government has an interest in deterring abortions, then anything is permitted to achieve that goal. This logic is all too common in American political discourse, but we must recover the capacity to deliberate about means as well as ends. Outside of thought experiments and casuistry, what justification is there for a doctor to lie so that he can manipulate his patient’s behavior?

I can only hope that there are few doctors who would take it upon themselves to deceive their patients in this way.

Quote of The Day

I may try and write about Rep. Bart Stupak’s amendment to the House health bill, which blocked insurance companies enrolled in the exchanges from offering abortion coverage, as it raises a few interesting questions.  However, I don’t have the time right now, so I’ll leave you with a revealing comment from Ezra Klein, in his post The Stupak amendment: As much about class as about choice:

And it did not block the federal government from subsidizing abortion. All it did was block it from subsidizing abortion for poorer women.


It’s incredibly clear what anti-abortion critics who praise Bristol Palin’s decision mean (but see Samantha Bee about the wording).  Under a legal regime that gives people a choice to engage in activities you view as immoral, you should praise individuals who refrain, even if you think the law should take that choice out of their hands.  This is especially true if their choice is outside of the statistical norm.  

(Nothing to see here, just a basic point of political analysis…)

Relevant Differences

I think that if you want an example of how to confuse the issues, you might try this post about abortion (via: jamelle). Money shot (disclosure or covering my ass or whatever–I’m rather wholeheartedly pro-choice):

This is not about babies, it’s about bodily sovereignty. Grown men are fully formed humans with the right to life, liberty, etc — but an adult isn’t allowed to use a woman’s body against her wishes, either. So whether the fetus is a blob of cells or a child is irrelevant.

This thought actually strikes me as a similar to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s violinist case (the full article is also available: A defense of abortion). A famous violinist has a terminal kidney ailment, but a society of music lovers discover that he can be saved if the two of you are attached by various tubes for nine months. Only your kidneys will serve to keep him alive, for obscure but indubitable medical reasons. One morning, you awake to find the operation performed. Detaching yourself will result in his death.

Incidentally, while many people responding to the paper take it that you are not obligated to stay in bed with the violinist, I find that conclusion absurd and appalling. In letting the violinist die, you’re prioritizing your next nine months over his life. Thomson asks what if it was nine years, or your entire life. I take it those alternatives show that his having a right to life cannot as such rule out your killing him, but they do not speak to your obligation in the case where it is only nine months (note that the appeal to your prioritizing references neither a ‘right to life’ nor a general utilitarian principle).

In any case, what is common to the cases, both Thomson and Daisy, of the internet, is that the both take an analogy past the realm where it makes any sense. The analogies only make sense to the extent that pregnancy is just randomly coming to be attached to another living human being, who might, for all relevant purposes be either a full grown adult or a fetus. If that were true, then the question to ask would be “how does the fetus’s supposed right to life bear on the question of what the mother should do?” But it is not the case that the relevant moral category is merely coming to be attached to another human being whose life depends on your forbearance. That it is not the same moral category is why I resist the inference from “you must keep the violinist alive” to “abortion is impermissible.” I should note that the same point about the moral categories involved applies strongly to many anti-abortion advocates. If I’m right, arguing for a right to life will not get us any insight into the moral situation involved.

If you want to substantiate the claim that viewing the matter as “x‘s autonomy and y’s right to life,” is impressively reductionistic, you could do worse than this post on adoption from bitch ph.d. I suspect she has managed to substantially change my thinking with a single blog post more often than anyone else.

(Side note: while I’m being cagey about what sort of category of moral thought applies to abortion, I’ll note that I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that the pregnancy results from consensual sex (in the cases where it does). So far as I get good intuitions about such things, which I don’t, a single sexed humanoid species that had asexual reproduction at unpredictable times involving a nine-month gestation would face a similar moral situation).

(Double side note: Thomson shows some evidence of feeling the limitations of “right to life” talk, but given that her paper is entitled “A Defense of Abortion,” we might worry that something has gone wrong–it is not clear what considerations she offers other than refuting the idea that the right to life rules out abortion.  But if the framework of the right to life is precisely what is mistaken, arguments within that framework will not matter all that much).