On abortion, part trois
This will be a post about abortion and rape, although not in the way most people relate the issues.
In my last abortion post, I said a fetus cannot survive without the willing cooperation of the mother. It is simply not a viable organism on its own. I claimed that I have never heard a viable moral argument that would substantiate the anti-abortion position that a fetus is guaranteed the support of an unwilling mother. I realize that I was giving this specific line of thought not enough attention. Very few people outside of academic Ethics have heard of Judith Thompson’s “right to life” thought experiment which I have quoted here:
The fetus is an innocent person with a right to life. Abortion results in the death of a fetus. Therefore, abortion is morally wrong. In her thought experiment we are asked to imagine a famous violinist falling into a coma. The society of music lovers determines from medical records that you and you alone can save the violinist’s life by being hooked up to him for nine months. The music lovers break into your home while you are asleep and hook the unconscious (and unknowing, hence innocent) violinist to you. You may want to unhook him, but you are then faced with this argument put forward by the music lovers: The violinist is an innocent person with a right to life. Unhooking him will result in his death. Therefore, unhooking him is morally wrong.
However, the argument does not seem convincing in this case. You would be very generous to remain attached and in bed for nine months, but you are not morally obliged to do so. The parallel with the abortion case is evident. The thought experiment is effective in distinguishing two concepts that had previously been run together: “right to life” and “right to what is needed to sustain life.” The fetus and the violinist may each have the former, but it is not evident that either has the latter. The upshot is that even if the fetus has a right to life (which Thompson does not believe but allows for the sake of the argument), it may still be morally permissible to abort.
For those too lazy to read the above, Judith Thompson’s thought experiment quite eloquently shows that even if we assume that a fetus has a right to life (which I do not think it does, but is allowed for the sake of argument), it may not have the right to the means to support life, especially from an unwilling mother.
Ah, but then we run into complications. Mainly, the usual sexist line used by anti-abortionists when they are pushed up against a wall: “you knew the potential consequences for your sex act when you engaged in it, therefore, take responsibility for your actions you irresponsible whore”. Okay, so they usually do not call anyone a whore. That epithet is heavily implied by the statement itself, however, so I have no trouble raising my brows to the obvious anti-woman sentiments. It takes two to tango, and to reproduce, and so it should go without saying that the idea that the woman is the only named irresponsible party if she gets pregnant is incredibly misogynist. A large proportion of people that fornicate use birth control. Furthermore, I very highly doubt that the majority of people who have sex and then seek an abortion if fertilization occurs ever knowingly said to themselves, “gee, let’s go fuck and if we have a baby, oh well”. Usually, because those same people are using birth control. Notice that I explicitly use the plural we in that sentence. Boys and girls have different parts, and without them, babies are not made. This is hardly rocket science people! To assume that the women is the most responsible party for preventing reproduction, or dealing with the consequences if they occur, is so mind-boggling stupid, and sexist, that I really do not know quite where to begin. Of course, I have found quite a bit of anti-abortionist “liberals” who also rage against she-witches that steal poor menz hard-earned monies with the gun-enforced horrors of child support. Those people, if it wasn’t obvious, are MRAs, even if they do not yet know it. There is a very large and obvious hypocrisy in anyone’s logic if they think that I cannot see the double standard that is being anti-abortion because women have to be responsible for their actions and being anti-child-support because men don’t have to be responsible for their actions. And, if it wasn’t clear above, having sex with birth control is not consenting to pregnancy. How hard is that concept? I accept the risk every day that I might die by getting in my car and driving to work, but that hardly means that a court could excuse a drunk driver that hit and killed me by claiming that I consented to someone killing me. I hate that I have to state this, but accepting the minimal risk of something bad is not allowing that something bad to happen to you on the assumption that if it does, it is your fault. That’s called victim-blaming. Please knock that shit off.
Well all of this is well and good. What about women who thought they might want to get pregnant, and now find themselves in dire straights? Or women that forgot a condom and find themselves up the duff as the result of a little consensual hanky-panky? Here I bring in the topic of rape. Not to trivialize the issue, but there is an understanding in rape awareness circles that consenting to one sex act does not mean that you consent to another. Meaning that if I am engaged in some fun with my current partner, but I have quite clearly stated before that there will be absolutely no anal sex, and he hold me down and fucks me in the ass anyway, that’s rape. Even if I said okay to vaginal sex, it’s still rape. Vaginal sex is not equivalent to anal sex. Getting pregnant is not equivalent to becoming a mother. Is this concept really so bizarre? Just because a mother consents to pregnancy, or actively seeks it, does not mean that she consents to carrying the thing to term.
Furthermore, as in the case with rape, consent can be withdrawn at any time. If I consent to sex with someone, I I change my mind in the midst of foreplay, that doesn’t mean that he can just carry on and it’s not rape. I apply this same principle to pregnancy: just because I consent to have a child, and change my mind in the middle of the pregnancy, does not mean that I have the obligation to continue to term.
The really great thing is, all of the above arguments still hold true if we assume that a fetus is alive, human, and even has a right to life. Anti-abortionists, philosophically, do not have a leg to stand on. I feel quite foolish pointing this out, because it should be blindingly obvious.