The case of a 16-year-old young woman successfully suing her parents to assure that they will support her choice to carry her pregnancy to term is a fascinating one. It is a case where anti-abortion advocates base their claim on a woman’s right to choose!
Of course, there are few, if any, issues which rile folks up as much as the issue of abortion, freedom of choice and the dignity of human life. That actually makes sense, especially as the last two are among the most important issues about which people can think. Abortion simply becomes a real world issue where the tension between the two issues plays out.
As we wade into these waters today, let’s see if we can generate more light than heat, even though that’s typically easier said than done. Below are a selection of questions and responses from a live chat held earlier today, along with my response to some of the many comments that we did not address because time ran out.
Might pro-lifers at least stop equating pro-choice with pro-abortion? I don’t know anyone who is pro-abortion. I value life, but I’m pro-choice on this issue because I’m unwilling to judge a fellow woman and label her a murderer if she chooses abortion.
While my views are very much like yours, we need to be careful about two issues you seem to blow past. First, some people judge a woman who chooses abortion because they believe that she has in fact taken a full human life. Were you to believe that the fetus is in fact fully human, then you too would likely judge her to be guilty of manslaughter, if not murder-- at least I hope you would. The fact that we do not believe a fetus is fully human does not mean that we can simply or casually dismiss those who do, even as we remain committed to them not being able to compel us to submit to their view.
Second, there are plenty of people who are pro-abortion, as I have come to learn. In fact, I will never forget asking a regional director for Planned Parenthood when was the last time she had recommended a woman carry her pregnancy to term, and she could not recall. It was a chilling and disturbing moment. If the pro-life movement needs to be careful about imposing their views on others, and the certainly do, the same can be said for at least some segments of the pro-choice community.
It seems more likely this was a matter of expediency, a seizure of a particular argument in a particular case than a matter of shifting the basic goals. Is it hypocritical? There is an argument, but neither side is a stranger to that. I am expressing my distaste for how fluid “immutable” beliefs suddenly become when one sees an advantage.
It may be a matter of expediency, but that matter of expediency is a wonderful and teachable moment. It reminds us that even so-called “immutable” principles may in fact, be mutable -- under certain circumstances -- and that rather that either side fighting for those so-called principles, they should be advocating for values which could be honored in multiple and competing ways.
Interesting, most Americans know this, and that is why we poll out time and again, as being BOTH pro-choice and actively anti-abortion. In other words, the fundamentalists on both sides of this issue, as is the case with so many issues which divide the nation, neither represent our collective view, nor contribute to the making of policy which reflects that view.
I’ve always understood the two terms to refer to positions on abortion’s legality, not necessarily on its morality. There are plenty of people who believe abortion is wrong but also believe that it should remain legal, and I consider them to be pro-choice. Do you think that’s the case?
The distinction between what is legal and what is moral can be problematic for two reasons:1, the arguments advanced by both sides in this debate often and often quite purposefully blur that very distinction.2, while we say that we do not legislate morality -- generally preferring individual liberty over legislated moral norms -- that is clearly not always the case. In fact, we legislate all kinds of moral issues. We simply don’t talk about it as such because we tend to do so when there is broad agreement about the issue and simply assume “that’s just the way things should be.”
In fact, what we need is greater honesty about the fact that we legislate morality all the time -- sometimes from the right and sometimes from the left. We could also use a greater level of awareness that such debates are often not between good and evil, but between competing goods -- some honored more fully by so-called conservatives and others by so-called liberals.
When I was growing up, I was told that I could have access to birth control at any time with no judgments. If I were to get pregnant, I could chose whatever I wanted without judgment but that my parents would not financially support the baby. They didn’t want to raise any more children. If I could find the funds to care for a child (outside of their home), all the power to me...otherwise, I should get an abortion. I think this is completely reasonable. If you want to make adult decisions, you get to live with the adult consequences.
Let’s be clear, your parents were making many judgments in setting the policy they did, and without judging them, that must be acknowledged. Failing to do so is failing to take responsibility for their own judgments, presumably because judging makes them uncomfortable. Speaking of being adult, they should have taken responsibility for the judgments they were making, as should all folks who hide behind a veil of supposed non-judgmentalism.
I wonder if the term pro life is even accurate, as many of the people in the “pro life” camp are also pro death penalty,
While I may not agree with that stance, it is not inherently hypocritical, much as some like to charge. The stance simply reflects people’s belief that a fetus is a full human who has done no wrong and therefore should not be killed, while a tried and convicted criminal should, under specific circumstances, forfeit his or her life. Not my view, intellectually coherent just the same. Hope that helps.