Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking the abortion debate to the next level

Like Stephanie Gray, more and more I’m encountering extremely selfish reasoning on the poor-choice side.

Pro-lifers used to think that if we convinced the public that the unborn were persons, we could turn the tide on abortion.

Feminists don’t think that way. They avoid the discussion about the fetus. There are many reasons for this. Of course they know they would lose if the focus turns to the unborn child. But for them it’s not at all about the fetus. So their strategy is to make the fetus, his humanity and his moral status irrelevant. They call the attempt to concentrate on the fetus the “fetus focus fallacy”.

As far as they are concerned, women are oppressed. Not fetuses. It’s all the patriarchy’s fault. Women’s choices are not their responsibility. Because these choices are the result of a patriarchal society imposing ideas and standards (including moral standards) that make women subservient to men. That is the only paradigm that matters to feminists: power and equality. Everything else is just details. If anything makes women unequal, it is wrong. Full stop.

Women’s reproductive capacity is ultimately what makes them unequal. Because it prevents women from competing with men on a level playing field. It makes them dependent on men. And that reproductive capacity is co-opted by men to serve their selfish interests. If women cannot control their bodies, they cannot control their destinies and therefore cannot be equal.

In that light, asserting that fetuses are persons is wrong. Arguing that abortion is murder is misogynistic. It can’t be. Abortion is what makes women equal.

Because feminists are strongly convinced of the principle that women must be made equal at all costs, they cannot examine the facts dispassionately. To them, the idea that fetuses are persons is made up. Asserting the personhood of the unborn child is a very convenient and self-serving way of making women subservient to the interests of others at the expense of their own autonomy, interests and self-fulfillment. And even if it is true that a fetus is a person: so what? Women are entitled to protect their interests, that is, to achieve equality. The imposed obligation to take care of a baby undermines equality because it prevents a woman from pursuing her interests: education, career, self-fulfillment and so on. Caring for an unwanted child is forced motherhood, the very epitome of patriarchal oppression . Because it is motherhood and the patriarchal ideas about selflessness that make women subservient. So it’s necessary for women to be “selfish”.

While most “normal” people don’t think that way, i.e. they don’t invoke the patriarchy, there is often a feminist undercurrent in mainstream arguments in favour of legal abortion. For instance, it is often argued that if abortion is made illegal, thousands of women will die from unsafe abortion. It is always assumed that the choice to seek out these quack abortionists is always made out of desperation and ignorance, and that women are therefore not to be held accountable for that decision to seek out what everyone knows to be a potentially dangerous operation. Attributing responsibility to their suicidal acts is somehow “blaming the victim”: How can women be responsible for their own deaths when they are forced to do it?  Evaluating the rationality of sticking a coat hanger up your crotch to solve your problem is considered misogynistic. Since women are universally recognized as vulnerable when they are pregnant (and most women have experienced that vulnerability) then whatever they do to solve that vulnerability must be okay. Desperation and powerlessness legitimize taking the life of a human being. When a woman is pregnant, penniless and alone, what else is she supposed to do but find a way to end the pregnancy?

The challenge for pro-lifers then is not just to prove that the unborn are human beings and that killing them is wrong. Besides doing that, pro-lifers must engage on the issue of feminism and dismantle the web of reasoning that leads to the conclusion that the dignity of women can only be upheld if they are allowed to kill their unborn children.

I think if pro-lifers were to hold debates about women, then the feminists would have no choice BUT to engage. When the discussion is about fetuses, feminists think they can ignore it. It’s all “fetus focus fallacy” and who gives a crap if fetuses die? But when feminism itself is directly challenged, they can’t afford to ignore it. Their very principles that are at stake. They cannot allow them to be challenged in the public square, otherwise it would undermine their whole cause, not just abortion itself.

Until feminist ideas are refuted systematically, then the arguments about the unborn being persons will always be interpreted through the feminist prism and they will be discarded as irrelevant by large numbers of people. Only when core feminist principles are challenged will they feel the need to respond and engage. And then we can show that feminist principles are not tenable. And once this is done, then we can make the argument for the legal protection of the unborn child.