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"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Thursday, 18 August 2011

Further Discussion on a Pro-choice Argument: "It's unfair to force a woman to carry an unwanted child"

So, I've been blogging all summer about my pro-life experiences, and my last post got the attention of some pro-choicers :) ... (and yes, I am happy about that. After all, what's the good of having an opinion if you never talk to people that disagree?) A pro-choice blogger named Beth posted an argument against my argument - well, it's not really my argument, I heard someone else use it and liked the idea and thought I'd take a stab at explaining it. You can find Beth's post here.

So I won't go through all the thought experiments again, you can go and read my previous post for that (or just read Beth's post, she explains everything very well).

Here is Beth's response to the Prankster analogy:

"What Prolife girl fails to acknowledge in this analogy is that the President of the Prankster's Guild isn't at the mercy of his biological design to commit pranks. Women, even when they utilize preventative measures, are susceptible to a condition that places their very existence at risk regardless of their consent. Judith Jarvis Thomson does a great job at demonstrating this point in the example below.
'If the room is stuffy, and I therefore open a window to air it, and a burglar climbs in, it would be absurd to say, "Ah, now he can stay, she's given him a right to the use of her house - for she is partially responsible for his presence there, having voluntarily done what enabled him to get in, in full knowledge that there are such things as burglars, and that burglars burgle."'"

Whew that's a lot of quotations there. Anyway, I believe that this analogy is flawed for three reasons:

1. A house is not meant to be burgled.
2. The burglar knowingly enters a house which is not built for him.
3. Burglaries are events which the victims cannot control.

The house in the burglary analogy is not built so someone can come and steal from it. A uterus is built to house and nourish an unborn child. That's why it exists. The very definition of a uterus makes that perfectly clear (btw Beth acknowledges this later on, I just thought I'd point it out again because it is a flaw in Judith Jarvis Thomson's argument):


noun: The organ in the lower body of a woman or female mammal where offspring are conceived and in which they gestate before birth; the womb.

So in the case of a pregnancy, the "burglar" (i.e.: the baby) is exactly where it belongs - inside the uterus. In addition, the child is placed within the mother. He or she doesn't enter the mother of their own volition, like the burglar, or like some person who, not paying attention to where they are walking, accidentally wanders into a house that doesn't belong to them. The baby has no choice in the matter - they are forced, by nature, to exist once a sexual relation has taken place. And they are quite literally trapped within the mother. These two facts - that the uterus exists, biologically, to nurture an unborn child, and that the child MUST exist within the uterus once it has been created, should have weight. A person who enters someone else's home does not enter a place which exists to nurture him or her. A person who enters someone else's home does so because they are capable of deciding to ... they are NOT dependent on the home for survival, and they were NOT forced into the home.

The crux of Beth's argument, I believe, is this: "Women, even when they utilize preventative measures, are susceptible to a condition that places their very existence at risk regardless of their consent." This is why, from her premise, a burglar analogy seems to work. After all, burglaries are things that people cannot control - if someone decides to burgle you, well, they've decided to, and if they're good at committing burglaries, they'll go through with it whether you try to stop them or not. And obviously that's unfair. But what Beth, and a lot of pro-choicers, fail to acknowledge is that consensual sex is entirely in the control of the two people involved. They are not victims of something that was forced onto them. The chose to have sex, and everybody knows that, biologically speaking, mammals have sex so that they can have babies.

Let's go back to the Prankster thought experiment. Here, pranking is the choice. It is analogous to deciding to have sex. After all, I could just as easily say that the Prankster, by his very nature, is extremely tempted to prank. And because he enjoys pranking so much, he must prank, because it is in his nature to. Unfortunately, he failed to prevent the victim of his prank from becoming dependant on him. Maybe he tried his best to make sure that it didn't happen. But, as there was always a chance that it could, he is still responsible for the victim's condition. If you were the victim, and you found yourself attached to the prankster after being kidnapped, and he told you, "I'm extremely sorry, but I tried my very best to make sure my prank would not cause you to become dependant on me, but my best efforts failed. This was always a risk, however small. And I love to prank - its my life. You can see why this had to happen. I know you're going to die, but I just can't let you use my body. I withdraw my consent.", would you decide that the prankster has no responsibility for your life (and your death)?

Using the example of a home ... a better analogy would be if you invited a person within your home, locked them within a room that could only open nine months later, and then decided that they were not welcome - and so killed them.

So, to summarize: babies are trapped, in 98% of abortion cases, because the mother and father did something that they knew was (biologically) meant to create children. They might have tried their best to prevent a child, but there's always a failure rate to any type of contraception (natural, pill, and barrier methods).

I.e.: the child is a natural consequence of their act. It exists in the uterus, and has no choice but to exist, and cannot leave. Like the prankster, deciding that the dependant cannot stay is effectively creating them to die. I think most people, in the case of a born baby (who is still dependant on the mother's body for well-being and survival through nursing)  would not advocate for the child to be born and then killed. Infanticide is recognized as being horribly cruel - even in eras long past where the dependancy of a newborn child on their mother's body was much stronger (especially if no other pregnant mothers existed for miles around - which I'm sure happened to some people at some point). Formula did not exist in Roman times, when infanticide was widely practiced, and yet we still condemn the practice.

Anyway, I disagree that the home analogies demonstrate that "a woman is capable of participating in consensual sex without consenting to the use of her body afterwards", as it is she and the father who created the trapped child in the first place. People entering your home uninvited are not created by you. People-seeds drifting through the air like pollen are not created by you. A child, resulting from your consensual act, is created by you. You put the child in a situation of dependancy, and that child exists exactly where it is supposed to be. I fail to see how this could not result in the mother having a responsibility towards her child. A responsibility which includes not killing her child. This is not "punishing" women for their biological design - this is recognizing that a woman HAS a biological design, and that knowing her biological design, she should use it wisely. It's a similar to the idea that a person with STD's has a duty to inform his or her sexual partners of his or her disease, since he or she could unwittingly infect them, even when using precautions.

Equal rights to life DO exist for both the women and fetus, but the person providing the housing does not ultimately have the right to decide whether or not to share her body if she is the one who put the other in that situation. A single human being is obligated to share their body (or home) with another if they are the one who created that dependancy (i.e.: trapped the person within the home). Of course Cillian Murphy isn't morally obligated to kiss a dying Beth - he is not Beth's father, he did not cause Beth to become sick, and his lips are not meant to kiss Beth's lips. A father and a mother both create their child, and so have a responsibility to that child. In the case of born children, this is recognized through child support and anti-child abuse laws. In the case of unborn children, it is not. We pro-lifer's are just trying to change that. :)

P.S. Notice I never once said "RABBLE RABBLE Sanctity of Life RABBLE RABBLE. Exit." Ugh.
But I just had to comment on her last paragraph, because I absolutely love it ... actually no, I don't. Unlike the rest of her post, which I thought was well-written and very civil, it made me really angry. I'm hoping that the following paragraph doesn't mean what is says, and instead it is simply a poor expression of how life is not fun or easy or even very beautiful sometimes (and if that's the case, I absolutely agree). But anyway, I felt I had to respond to this just in case.

"For anyone who still suffers from the fanatical delusion that life is sacred, I cordially invite you to visit Sudan, Congo, or Somalia. A quick vacation in one of these spots should cure you of any fantasies that persuade you to believe that life is in any way, shape or form, sacred."

If read at face value, I think this is perhaps one of the meanest things that I've ever read. So because these people are suffering, because they are trapped in a world where they are offered very little relief from their suffering, their lives, and consequently our lives, are not sacred? The very reason such suffering is so horrible and tragic is because their lives ARE sacred. If they aren't, as Beth has claimed, then can we go and bomb the living daylights out of these people so that their suffering can end? I don't think so. Killing the poor is obviously not an acceptable solution for poverty. Why? Because life is sacred (or valuable, or precious ... pick your adjective). I have a friend from Iraq, another country that has gone through some terrible suffering. Luckily, his immediate family managed to escape when he was quite young. The rest of his family only recently managed to leave the Middle East and come to America. They went through a lot. They witnessed a lot of unnecessary suffering. They lived through a lot of unnecessary suffering. Their lives, and the lives of their countrymen, are still sacred. They are still precious, they are still valuable, and they are some of the most joy-filled people that I know. They would challenge anyone who claimed their suffering makes it otherwise.

P.P.S. I thought I'll also include a simple mathematical statement that pro-lifers use a lot. To have a right to bodily autonomy, you must be alive. Therefore, Right to Life > Bodily Autonomy. In fact, Right to Life > All Other Rights, because you cannot have rights if you were never alive / never existed. Ergo, the Baby's Right to Life > the Mother's Right to Bodily Autonomy. Combine that with the mother's (and father's) responsibility to the child that they created, and I cannot understand how 98% of abortions, performed for reasons other than rape (which is not addressed here), can possibly be acceptable.

Oh! And one more thing ... a pro-choice society could never exist in Narnia. C. S. Lewis was a Christian apologist, and thus pretty much pro-life. :) [if you followed the Twitter conversation, you'll understand]

1 comment:

  1. Sweet quote: