My Beautiful Wickedness


Having an opinion
April 20, 2007, 8:54 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

“If you’re a man, should you have an opinion about abortion?” That’s an interesting question posed today by Sean Braisted, emerging from a discussion at Tiny Cat Pants. If I could get Blogger to cooperate, I’d have posted this over at his site — but I’ll have to do it over here and hope he comes to read it.

It’s not that I don’t think men should have an opinion about abortion. Hell, I have opinions about a lot of things. I have opinions about French film, Arcade Fire, Manny Ramirez’s IQ, and a hundred thousand other things. I just don’t expect those opinions to be determinative on another adult’s behavior. I expect that my opinion about my kid’s choice of capri pants when it’s 40 degrees outside (negative — go upstairs and change) will carry more weight because I am her parent. I expect that my opinion about the efficacy of skipping class rather than taking an exam will be determinative — I’m the professor. But in general? If I don’t have some sort of supervisory authority, I really don’t think that my opinion counts for much in directing the behavior of others, however much it is my crankypants right to sound off.

This is especially true of health care. The less I am personally affected, the less authoritatively I speak and the less weight I expect my opinion to carry. So, when I am the one with the uterus seeing the doctor, my opinion is most important, my doctor’s opinion next most immediately to be considered, my intimate circle of family and friends somewhat to be consulted, and everyone else outside the room hardly to be contemplated. I do not expect to be consulted about the best therapies for prostate cancer and I don’t seek a broad referendum on the subject. This is a medical condition that does not affect me and that really only becomes my business when a man close to me has a problem and seeks my support and advice. Otherwise not.

However, Sean asks how this might apply to other social issues, which I think is a good and reasonable question. (I assume he’s asking in good faith and not just looking for an intellectual football to kick around.) Here’s what I’d say:

Education? You may not be sending a child to school, but your health, security, automotive care, business transactions etc depend on people who do and who have received a public education. The quality of your life as an elderly person will depend on the existence of a reasonably well-educated workforce. Education is going to continue to cost money and will be financed by your taxes. Therefore, the quality of k-12 education must be of interest to you.

Taxes? You might not make a million dollars, but the basic truth of life is that stuff costs money. If you’re interested in “general welfare” issues (the most ardent libertarians enjoy paved roads and bridges over rivers even if they squick out on what I’d call “social” services), you’ve got to be seriously involved in conversations about what should receive tax support and who is going to foot the bill. Right now, we have a lot of conversations about what should and shouldn’t be supported. We have far fewer conversations about tax equity.

War? Are you going to be asked to pay for it, both now and in the future (as disabled soldiers require more and more medical care as they age)? Is paying for the war diverting funding from other programs you care about more?

Drug legalization? Do you believe that criminalization creates more problem than it solves? Are soaring prison populations a problem for you ( in cost, in clogged courts, in lost productivity, in the growing use of convict labor, in differential enforcement that overprosecutes black men for felonies while white men get off on misdemeanor counts, in skewing the voter pool thereby by denying suffrage to felons, etc)?

These all seem like things that are good to have an opinion about because I see that they directly affect people who are not currently soldiers, pot smokers, parents with kids in school, or millionaires. Abortion? Not so much…

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14 Comments so far
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Fair enough…so if one were to view a late term fetus as morally similar to a post-birth baby, does the society not have a reasonable role in addressing the ethical or moral implications associated with terminating the life of that fetus? I suppose I’ll put it this way; infanticide doesn’t effect me. I don’t lose out if some baby gets tossed in the ol’ dumpster, but on an ethical or moral level, it does effect our nation if we allow it.

Now, I’m not directly comparing abortions, even late term ones, to infanticide; however, I do think there are similar moral or ethical implications that need to be dealt with.

The common meme is that the State can’t compel a woman to carry out a pregnancy. Which, I think is true, because the state isn’t compelling a woman to carry out the pregnancy, it is nature that is doing that. What the state can do is compel doctors not to perform procedures which will unnaturally end those pregnancies.

So, because medical professionals are licensed and approved by the State, the state does have a right to dictate to those doctors what they can and can’t do. Now, then the question is, which ethical guidelines should we create for those doctors?

My position is, that a doctor should be able to perform an abortion either up to the end of the first trimester, or possibly up to the 20th week (I’m open on that front) for damn near any reason the woman wants. Beyond that, the doctor should have a compelling reason (health of the mother or fetal abnormality) to perform that abortion and stay within ethical guidelines we as a society dictate.

Abortion in general doesn’t effect me, and in general I don’t think about it nor care that much about it. However, when the issue comes up, I share my opinion as, whether we like it or not, the issue is and will always be a political issue to be debated among our society. Pro-life men have no problem expressing their opinion, and if pro-choice males (and even though I support a few restriction I still consider myself pro-choice) were to step aside and not engage in the debate, it would be pro-life women and men versus pro-choice women…not exactly an even fight.

We can sit and talk about the notion of whether or not a state can compel a woman to give birth all we want, the simple truth of the matter is that the state DOES have the authority under current law to regulate certain types of abortion. Maybe they shouldn’t in a theoretical sense, but they do, and failing to acknowledge that and work from that frame of mind, serves nobody.

Comment by Sean Braisted

I’m not sure why this is so hard for you to understand Sean. No one is saying for you to not have an opinion about abortion, but when it comes to legislation, even you yourself admit that “Abortion in general doesn’t effect me” therefore it seems rather arrogant to think that one should be allowed to vote on the legislation in question.

Comment by Tman

You’re operating from a couple of false premises. It is not the case that abortion always has been a political issue in our society. The history of abortion legislation or social discussion would seem to bear out that the deliberate premature termination of pregnancy was of little interest to 18th century Americans and of only passing interest to most 19th century Americans. It became of interest in 20th century America for a number of reasons (eugenic concerns about who was terminating pregnancies versus who was having too many babies, regulation of the medical industry, fears of middle-class college women’s promiscuity, political traction/mobilization of evangelical Christian base)…but it’s not a given that it always has been or that it always will be. As medical knowledge changes and neonatology improves, the way we think about things now is going to have to change, as our current conversations have demonstrated. Moreover, I think the case has yet to be made that our society has an interest so compelling that it would overrule my basic presumption of bodily integrity and privacy. There will always be competing interests; you need to make a case that society’s interest in seeing me bear a child that my medical team and I have regretfully concluded is so damaged as to be non-viable (and that will be disconnected from its ventilator under futile care law provisions because insurance companies don’t wish to pay for severely disabled kids whose quality of life they view as minimal — so I’m to have the child, but then I’m to stand by and let it be killed?) outweighs my right to make medical decisions appropriate to my condition like other adults. If you’re looking for a real-life case to consider, you should read Cecily’s story: http://zia.blogs.com/wastedbirthcontrol/

Finally, I think you’re creating a straw-woman in arguing that “health of the mother or fetal abnormality” should be the guideline for late-term abortions. As all of these procedures are surgical, they must be done in a hospital, under anesthetic, falling under the oversight of the hospital’s ethical protocols for pregnancy termination, so this is already the case. The so-called ” third trimester convenience abortion” is a non-starter except for whackjobs.

I have other things to say, but I’ll chew and digest for a little while. Thanks for stopping by.

Comment by bridgett

Tman! Hey, welcome! At last we are agreeing on something. Good times.

Comment by bridgett

I’m not sure why this is so hard for you to understand Sean. No one is saying for you to not have an opinion about abortion, but when it comes to legislation, even you yourself admit that “Abortion in general doesn’t effect me” therefore it seems rather arrogant to think that one should be allowed to vote on the legislation in question.

Arrogant, no doubt, but nonetheless its a political issue, debated in the political sphere, therefore I will promote legislation that I think is best for all interested parties (little Timmy the gob of goo being one of them).

There will always be competing interests; you need to make a case that society’s interest in seeing me bear a child that my medical team and I have regretfully concluded is so damaged as to be non-viable (and that will be disconnected from its ventilator under futile care law provisions because insurance companies don’t wish to pay for severely disabled kids whose quality of life they view as minimal — so I’m to have the child, but then I’m to stand by and let it be killed?) outweighs my right to make medical decisions appropriate to my condition like other adults.

No, I don’t need to make that case, because as I said, I support fetal abnormalities (a non-viable birth would likely fall into that category) as reasons for late term (post 20 weeks) abortions. It may be a straw man to say that there are choice abortions post 20 weeks, and if that is the case, it should be no problem to prohibit them because they don’t happen. Just a “peace of mind” kind of thing for society.

Comment by Sean Braisted

Brittney,

See? I’m not unreasonable…:)

Sean,

Arrogant, no doubt, but nonetheless its a political issue, debated in the political sphere, therefore I will promote legislation that I think is best for all interested parties (little Timmy the gob of goo being one of them).

Do you see why this would annoy women now? Being arrogant about laws that have direct affects on the physical body of a woman is well, pretty stupid.

Think of it this way- if the government decided that all men shouldn’t be allowed to control their um, “semen development”, and the government has the right to restrict whether or not we “destroy” the semen unnecessarily (ahem), wouldn’t you feel that this is overstepping the bounds of reasonable government? And wouldn’t it br arrogant of women to legislate laws for or against it seeing as how it doesn’t affect there body directly?

Comment by Tman

Tman,

If semen were comparable to a late term fetus, no I wouldn’t think of it as overstepping to discuss the ethical implications of that destruction. However, semen is not the same or similar to a late term fetus (though I would argue that there are similarities between semen and a recently fertilized egg).

Masturbation and semen ejection is a part of the natural process, late term abortions are not.

Here is the crux of the issue. I am fine with choice so long as the embryo or fetus is not past a certain stage where in they developed the characteristics of a human (brain development), or they are viable (I’m not fully decided which I support), however, after that stage, then the question is should the state protect that fetus from harm by defining the parameters for destruction of that fetus?

If we disregard the fetus and look at this solely from the perspective of the woman, yes, I’m an asshole. However, I don’t think its unreasonable to ethically contemplate what separates humans from fetuses. Does an umbilical cord negate any and all of the characteristics that fetus has to a newborn baby? Does the state have a compelling interest to attempt to protect said fetus the same way it protects all other people post birth? These are questions which can be contemplated, even absent a uterus.

You know where I stand, I know where you stand, nobodies mind is gettin’ changed.

Comment by Sean Braisted

“Masturbation and semen ejection is a part of the natural process, late term abortions are not.”

Depends on the method used for the um, “ejection”. I think we both could come up with some scenarios wherein it would not be “part of the natural process”. This is a dumb point. I was only using the analogy to show you a situation wherein women would not be affected physically, and hopefully you would see why it’s so arrogant to have either sex legislating for things that don’t affect them physically. By your next comment, my efforts clearly failed.

“If we disregard the fetus and look at this solely from the perspective of the woman, yes, I’m an asshole.”

Congratulations.

“These are questions which can be contemplated, even absent a uterus.”

No, they aren’t. Without the uterus, we aren’t even having this conversation. I don’t think you truly understand that fundamental aspect of this whole debate.

You know where I stand, I know where you stand, nobodies mind is gettin’ changed.

Good for you. Be strong in your opinions, even if it makes you an asshole. I will stil disagree with you, but I don’t think you’re an asshole, just a little naiive.

Comment by Tman

No, they aren’t. Without the uterus, we aren’t even having this conversation. I don’t think you truly understand that fundamental aspect of this whole debate.

I do understand it, I just disagree with your interpretation of the debate.

Comment by Sean Braisted

It’s not an interpretation, it’s a fact. There would not be a fetus without the uterus. This fact is not open to interpretation.

Comment by Tman

Tman,

Indeed, that is a fact, but your interpretation that the personal opinion of the woman with the uterus always, under all circumstances, outweighs the states interest in protecting the fetus in that uterus is open to interpretation.

Comment by Sean Braisted

It shouldn’t be, and that’s my point.

It’s arrogant for men to think that we should be able to legislate on things that don’t directly affect our bodies. I tried to use an analogy for men, but apparently that missed as well.

If the gender roles were reversed, I have a hard time believing we would even be having this discussion.

Comment by Tman

In Bridgett’s response she says, “I see that they directly affect people who are not currently…”.

Well any man can potentially be a father, so then I guess abortion law would affect him.

Why should I not be able to vote for a law that has the potential to directly affect me?

Comment by Jamin

Just for some clarity into my previous comment. Here is the pre-comment I posted on Sean’s blog.

As usual in the abortion debate there is one man who does matter but is always left out; the father. When I was 20 my girlfriend and I had to make a very hard decision. Were we going to have the unplanned baby or not? We had only been dating for a couple of months and this news came as a shock to everyone.

Being thrown into that decision was a life changing experience. We decided to have the baby and now we have a beautiful 7 year old son. It was a decision that we came to together and I’ve never regretted it. I would venture to guess that a lot of the time the reason that abortion is being considered is because of a situation like my own. We came to the decision that we did because we were both 100% sure that we were committed to loving this child unconditionally and doing everything we could to make his life as wonderful as possible. Not every couple in that situation will be as sure as we were, but that decision is theirs’ to make and no one else’s.

The problem with leaving the father out of the decision making process is that if the child is born, then the dad is responsible for that child for the next 18 years at least. You would hope in all aspects forever, but at the very least financially. Why should the father have no input on a decision that will affect his life, as well as the potential child’s for the next at least 18 years? Because of one orgasm? That seems ridiculous to me. It’s unfortunate that the male doesn’t have to share in the physical process of the abortion, because then of course it would be much fairer.

So the only fair solutions that I see are to make sure that the father has input in the decision making process or absolve him of financial duty. Clearly the first option is the one that I support and I hope that consideration makes it into the debate.

Comment by Jamin




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