March 1, 2010

Another civil discussion about abortion (again, YES it can happen!)

Here is the second discussion I had last week on Facebook regarding the subject of abortion. For the first discussion, click here


James-Michael Smith:
More food for thought..."Even though we do not qualify or disqualify something as a person on the basis of what it can or can’t do, it’s still worth noting that fetuses display aspects of their personal nature while still in the womb."

Again, another omission: women were not seen as persons in their own right for most of history. And there are still many who continue to chip away at that personhood.

This is definitely true. I notice personality traits in Noah now that he had while he was still in my tummy. And he makes some of the same faces that he did in the 3D ultrasound. It's pretty amazing.

I don't think it's an omission, so much as an assumption. Of course women have been denied personhood (as have black people, Jews, Hutus, Serbs, Aboriginies, Native Americans, etc.). I think this is why the early pioneer feminists such as Susan B. Anthony were so vehement in their denunciation of abortion; it continued denying personhood to the most vulnerable persons in society (an around the world more females than males are aborted due to continued misogynistic practices and cultures). This is why, I believe, groups like Feminists for Life ( are so important in the abortion debate.

I would love to see the pro-life movement really explore women's personhood. I find that aspect often neglected. (And now, since abortion discussions are some of my least favorite ones to have, I will excuse myself.) :-)

I agree on both points, Katey. Pro-life should (and its best proponents do) seek to consistently fight the root causes that enable abortion-on-demand to be an option. More than picketing and rhetoric are required (though both of those were instrumental in both the abolition and women suffrage movements, and shouldn't be jettisoned).

I also agree that the conversation about abortion is not always comfortable. And while I respect your desire to not continue discussing it, I'm of the opinion that ALL opposition to culturally-condoned social injustices (be it abortion, apartheid or sex-trafficking) will result in uncomfortable and unpleasant conversation, but conversation that is necessary if people's views are to be challenged and ultimately changed.

Thanks for your comments!

I'm beginning to lose hope that there truly is any common ground in discussions about abortion. It often seems like it comes down to a discomfort with women's sexuality. Opposition to abortion is often teemed with a resistance to comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception, etc. Although I am in favor of abortion rights, I do believe... See More that we all should be working towards a world in which the situations that cause women to choose abortion are reduced significantly. That's why my current work is focused on increasing access to family planning for women around the globe.

So, it's not about discomfort for me as it is feeling like I'm often beating my head against the wall!

I think it's only the loudest (and most extreme) voices that find no common ground, Katey. That's why I constantly refer people to thoughtful opponents of abortion-on-demand who are in no way anti-woman (such as FFL). I think, as pro-life feminists have argued from the beginning of the movement, that abortion-on-demand actually works against women's rights and full-personhood because it implies that the 'solution' for women in responding to pregnancy is to 'be free' to act like a man (i.e. abandon the child with as few consequences as possible) instead of focusing on how to make men more accountible for upholding and honoring the parental role and responsibility a pregnancy should naturally entail.

I also agree that family planning is crucial (as do most abortion opponents I know); we just believe that once a life has begun, ending it willfully and not in an act of self-defense is not a viable option, anymoreso than the cultural practices of infanticed via exposure and abandonment.

Katey, very eloquently put. It's not an easy topic. Absolutely, i agree that access to family planning is pivotal. Sex education is pivotal. I, too, support choice, but think the reduction of the need by education is where it's at. it It's incredibly difficult to find common ground.

JMS, I find the site you've listed...I'm not sure..not necessarily thoughtful. Some of the medical references are sketchy, and the strident tone seem patriarchal and frankly, anti-woman. Hey, that's just me though.

The site's author is probably more conservative (culturally speaking) than I am and as a result, likely not as intentionally sensitive to such issues. Frankly, Evangelicals in general have been unbalanced and ill-equipped in the debate on abortion--often relying on slogans and fervor at the expense of empathy and respect. It's something that many of us lament and seek to remedy. But I agree with the site's casting the issue in what I believe is the correct context; that of a human-rights issue rather than a "religious" issue. That's why I also encourage people to check out non-evangelical approaches such as:

Libertarians for Life

Atheists and Agnostics for Life

and of course Feminists for Life

Here's a great quote from the following article that articulates where I stand:

"What would make abortion unnecessary? Flexible school situations, freedom from stigma, fairness in hiring, more flex-time, part-time, and home-commute jobs, better access to prenatal and obstetric care, attractive adoption opportunities, a whole garden of safe family planning choices, support in learning how to handle our sex lives responsibly, and help with child care and parenting when we choose to keep our babies: this is a partial list. Yet these changes will never come as long as we're lying down on abortion tables 1,600,000 times a year to ensure the status quo. We've adapted to this surgical substitute, to the point that Justice Blackmun could write in his Webster dissent, "Millions of women have ordered their lives around" abortion. That we have willingly ordered our lives around a denigrating surgical procedure--accepted it as the price we must pay to keep our life plans intact--is an ominous sign."

I will explore these sites as I seek to understand both "sides" of the issue.

I've always admired the late Justice Harry Blackmun. Unfortunately, I feel the particular quote is somewhat taken out of context, plus, after research, I do not find that he issued a dissent in this case, rather the opposite, nor can i find that quote anywhere online in legal documentation.
However, that does not mean it doesn't exist.

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

And thanks to you, Melissa for good discussion on an important and often-incendiary issue!

1 comment:

brandyglows said...

Heh, this post made me tear up a little. Not sure why. Refreshing, I guess. Thanks for posting this, JM. I agree with Melissa about Abort73, which is why I've felt hesitant to link myself with them. I really appreciate you suggesting other pro-life organizations that take a different route. Also, I love the substance of that quote and what it contains - and I wholeheartedly agree (though I must admit I don't know anything about the author).


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