Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Only Position?

Kizz posted recently about (among other things) a recently passed Utah amendment which allows homicide charges against expectant mothers who induce a miscarriage. I was confused about why this was an anti-choice bill, so I asked for some clarification. The discussion is on her blog [HERE] (it’s in the comments, too) and an earlier post from her on the topic is [HERE].

First, a gigantic thank you to Kizz (and Miflohny) for making clear her (their) point of view on choice! I realized after reading information about the Utah amendment that I did not truly understand the American pro-choice position on reproductive rights.

From their explanations, I was able to do a little bit of research on my own. I wanted to do this because I wanted to make sure I fully understood all the points of view on the issue, and also because I’m not convinced of the inevitable truth of the statement posed originally by Lynn Paltrow on the RH Reality Check (view the entire article [HERE]

“[That human rights attach at birth] is the only position that ensures that upon becoming pregnant, women do not lose their human rights.”

I’m devoting some time to this issue so I can think out loud about it, and so I can get some public feedback about those thoughts. I want to make clear that I’m not about proselytizing here. My own opinions on the topic of reproductive rights are not fully formed, and most certainly are not staunchly defended. I am opening this conversation up to allow for some safe, respectful thinking to go on. Keep that in mind, in case it matters.

In reviewing some literature about abortion and reproductive rights, it seems to me that the issue of abortion from the pro-choice point of view is not about the procedure at all, but instead about one of equal rights. The statement above certainly supports this thought. From the pro-life point of view, the issue is also not about the procedure exactly, but rather about respect for the sanctity of life. (I would pause briefly here to ask anyone holding to these viewpoints who disagrees with this to please feel free to elaborate or correct me here. I’d like to make sure I’m on the right track).

When I consider these two points, I’m left with a question: Is there a position to take that promotes equal rights, but that also respects the sanctity of life?

I’ll admit that I haven't found one yet in any readings on the issue. As I was digging, I wondered if I hadn't found one because everyone talking about reproductive rights has simply kept to the clearly defined boundaries of “pro-choice” and “pro-life”. I also wondered if, perhaps, considering the question from a different place in the reproduction cycle might not yield such a position.

So, in that light, I’ve begun to consider reproductive rights from the procreative angle. I’ve only really started thinking about this, but I have the following thoughts I’d like to put forth for consideration:

A) Can we accept the principle that all people should be viewed to have innate worth, inalienable rights, and valuable ideas and talents to contribute to society?

B) Can we accept that all people should have individual control over their choices, understanding that also they bear individual responsibility for them?

C) Can we accept that decision to engage in consensual sexual activity is not a unilateral one?

D) Can we accept that the very act of sexual intercourse is biologically designed to create a fetus?

If we accept these as valid statements, then it seems that the following are reasonable corollaries:

1) The worth and rights of an individual should not depend upon anything, including their sex.

2) People should have individual control over their bodies, and the right to make their own decisions concerning them (understanding the part about bearing individual responsibility).

3) Sex is a form of social contract. Like all social contracts, it has common law understandings, but can be fully redefined between the individuals involved.

4) By engaging in intercourse, an individual tacitly accepts the possibility that a fetus may be created.

Are any of these corollaries inherently flawed? If so, how? I’ll pause in my thinking to allow some commentary (feel free to make it anonymous), and I’ll pick it up in a couple of days. Thanks for your help!


Laurie B said...

It takes some brains, plans and forthought to be heterosexually active and not become a parent. Sadly, in th esam scenario, it takes no brains, plans or thought to become a parent.

The good parents think about the bigger picture before they become parents.

the passionate hairdresser said...

I have different feelings regarding this. I don't feel abortion should be used as a form of birth control. That being said, if the pregnancy has occurred because of an instance of rape or incest, then abortion should be an option. I feel that it should be covered by insurance for medical reasons (multiple birth defects, that sort of thing). But, I also feel that there should be a simple test for people to take..a square peg/round hole sort of thing...if you can't pass this test, you shouldn't have children. There are so many people out there who have children because "Oh, shit! I got knocked up" as opposed to those of us who wanted (and got) children. Conversely, there are many people out there who want children and cannot have them...not quite enough balance in the universe, I think. I'm sure I'll get crucified for my opinions, but, there they are...

Mrs. Chili said...

I have found that my views about abortion have changed significantly as I have grown. I'll probably chime in when the discussion warrants it.

Wayfarer said...

Laurie: Education is certainly an essential component of this discussion, and one I'll work my way to as we go. The thing is, how we educate people depends (or should depend) upon what we want them to know and be able to do. That's in part why I'm putting the discussion out there. I want to understand so I educate properly.

Beth: Abortion is a complicated issue the way we are tending to look at it culturally (and it's important to note here that other cultures view the issue through very different lenses). The more I read , though, the more I sense that the true problems people have with the issue seem to be as I described them, not the procedure. You and Laurie seem to say the same thing: That having children in no way requires real thought. Biologically, that's as it should be. Socioculturally, it certainly muddies the waters.

Chili: I look forward to your opinions whenever you are willing to share them. Thank you!

Kizz said...

The discussion already seems skewed given the implication that the pro-choice side does not respect the sanctity of life.

"it seems to me that the issue of abortion from the pro-choice point of view is not about the procedure at all, but instead about one of equal rights. The statement above certainly supports this thought. From the pro-life point of view, the issue is also not about the procedure exactly, but rather about respect for the sanctity of life."

Wayfarer said...

Kizz: Thank you for pointing out how that statement came across! I did not mean to imply that pro-choice advocates did not value the sanctity of life. Rather, I was trying to say that pro-life advocates seem to place the sanctity (preservation) of life above any other consideration when dealing with reproductive rights. *

Please know, Kizz (and everyone else), that I am trying to look at this issue with the supposition that the two values (equal rights, sanctity of life) should not have to be mutually exclusive. If I write something that implies otherwise, please call me on it (respectfully, as Kizz did). I will not take it personally. It's why I've invited you into my thoughts: To help make them clear and concise.

Does my statement still seem skewed, Kizz?

* I recognize this is a sweeping statement, and that exceptions to this exist. My contention is that this would be a fair characterization of the position in general.

Miflohny said...

I applaud you for thinking openly about this issue. I would say, that there is a problem with your "sanctity of life" statement, however. Both because people who are pro-choice can be very much motivated by their belief that life is sacred, and also because there isn't a shortage of people who are pro-life who, unfortunately, place absolutely no value in the life of the woman who is pregnant. Too many don't believe in abortion for any reason - even if the pregnancy could would cause the death of the mother. Thank goodness this does not describe the vast majority of people who are pro-life, but it describes quite a few.

Wayfarer said...

Miflohny: The point of view you describe certainly exists, but I find myself initially hesitating to agree that it represents anything more than the end of the pro-life bell curve. Since I don't know for sure that it is, though, I'll dig around and see what I find. I'll report back.

Thank you for adding to the discussion!

Kizz said...

You're only going to address that portion of her comment? What about "because people who are pro-choice can be very much motivated by their belief that life is sacred?"

Wayfarer said...

Kizz: I left the first part of the Miflohny’s comment alone because I thought I’d stipulated it in my reply to your first comment in this post. I apologize for not making my thought more explicit. Let’s try this:

I accept that the “pro-choice” view is not intended to devalue the sanctity of life. That a supporter of choice does not place the birth of an unborn fetus above the rights of its mother should not be construed to suggest that life (or even potential life) is not valued.

Is it fair to say, as a mainstream pro-choice statement, that the freedom to choose to give birth to a fetus is more important than the fetus itself? That’s how I’m interpreting the literature, but I want to make sure I’m being accurate.

Kizz said...

It's you're opinion, it's a way to state it but I'd be hard pressed to call it fact. The tone of your suppositions, if not the strict wording, implies many things: 1. Life begins at conception, 2. pro-choice and pro-abortion are the same thing, 3. the pro-life (your term, I prefer anti-choice) movement values "respect for the sanctity of life" above the pro-choice movement if not exclusively. The net effect is that, for all that I'm getting that you're trying to set the two up as equally valid, it sure sounds as though your personal stance is pro-life/anti-choice so I'm kind of waiting until you get it all out and I hear the punch line.

Wayfarer said...

Let me try to respond properly to each of your points:

1. In asking for confirmation of the statement in my last post (the last question in the post) as a mainstream view only, I was tacitly trying to express my understanding of two things: First, the spectrum of views on this topic is broad, and no single statement will encompass the entire rainbow of opinions, and second, there isn’t anything about this issue that can be called objective fact. I would argue that anyone trying to claim to the contrary is imposing a comparison of apples to oranges.
2. You are implying things not intended to be implied.
a. That life begins at conception is not something I have addressed at all in my own still-forming opinions to this point. It is, in fact, entirely irrelevant to the discussion as it stands at this moment. Whether it becomes part of the equation later or not is too far ahead for me to see. I accept that it is part of the pro-life view, however, and my question in this post was intended to communicate that.
b. I have not equated the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-abortion” anywhere in my discussion. I have only stated that the “pro-life” view, broadly speaking, places a higher value on the rights of an unborn fetus than it does on anything else. To imply anything from this relative to the “pro-choice” view from that statement uses invalid logic. It assumes first that the terms “pro-life” and “anti-choice” are the same (they are not, as you point out) and, second, that the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are opposites (only the terms “pro-choice” and “anti-choice” are opposites). To make a connection from any of these statements to “pro-abortion” is further invalid because there’s been no connection made between either “pro-choice” or “pro-life” and abortion. In fact, I try to make clear than neither stand is specifically about the procedure of abortion at all.
c. Similarly, I have not compared the “pro-life” viewpoint about the sanctity of life with that of any other viewpoint, and do not intend to do so. That would require the same invalid logic.
d. I am intending to do exactly as you suggest—to consider both points as valid and as having common ground that makes Paltrow’s statement not an inevitable truth. I’m not at all convinced that to do the latter is possible, though. That’s why I’m doing this. If I had fully formed opinions on abortion and reproductive rights, I’d just put them out here and be done with it. This is not, I promise, just some elaborate means of winning an argument.

Miflohny said...

The point of view that there should be no right to abortion, even if the woman will die if she doesn't have one, is, unfortunately, the point of view of the vast majority of the leadership of the "pro-life" movement. Whether the rank and file agrees or not, the rank and file doesn't hold the power and the rank and file isn't voicing a strong opposition to that view. So they may call themselves "pro-life," but there isn't anything pro-women's-lives in their views.

Wayfarer said...

But doesn’t that create an unfair relationship between the individual and the movement as a whole? We’re all Americans, but if the vast majority of our leadership says we should go invade Iraq, are we as rank-and-file Americans to be painted with as supporting the war simply because everyone can’t hear our voice saying otherwise? There are a great many reasons why someone at the bottom of the totem pole might not voice loudly strong opposition to a view held by the power base. Just as there are people who, as supporters of choice, are also believers in the sanctity of life, there are also those who, as supporters of the lives of those-yet-unborn are also believers in the reproductive rights of women.

The labels I use in this discussion are not meant to apply to individuals. They are only meant to be convenient general descriptions of the movements in their most inclusive senses. There is no way to properly capture all the individual shades of grey of any of these points of view, and I think that to do so is to miss the forest for the trees. If there is a way beyond the division, it will have to come from someplace other than the movements of “pro-choice” and “pro-life”.

Miflohny said...

As I said in my previous comment, I don't think the vast majority of people who would call themselves "pro-life" have no respect for the woman's life, I felt the need to comment again because it is simply not true that the people who ONLY value the life of the unborn, with no exception for the life of the mother, are the end of the bell curve. They are the leadership of the movement, and not just some of the leadership, but the vast majority of the leadership. And, thus, it is an important point not to be disregarded.

(I would also say that the vast majority of those who are pro-choice are believers in the sanctity of life - but they don't limit that sacredness to the unborn.)

Wayfarer said...

Miflohny: I'm going to spend some time really thinking about your comments, so I can keep them prominent in my mind as I move forward. I tried to read them again after I read your most recent post, but I didn't feel like I internalized them well. I suspect it's because it's late and my brain is full.

Thank you for emphasizing their importance.