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Many Routes To Pro-Choice

This David Schraub post and my reaction to it in his comments make an interesting study in how differing reasoning can lead to the same place (for an earlier installment, see me vs. Hugo Schwyzer on vegetarianism). Schraub and I both went through an evolution from being conflictedly pro-life due to concerns about fetal personhood, to being committed to the pro-choice position. (Incidentally, this is why I get annoyed when some bloggers write with the assumption that nobody could possibly believe the fetal personhood argument against abortion and treat it as purely a disingenuous, bad-faith rationalization of misogyny.)

Schraub's evolution occurred through becoming more pragmatist, in the sense of adjusting his moral commitments to each other without holding any firm foundational principle. In the process of this, the fetal personhood concern lost the power to sway his position -- because of uncertainty about when personhood occurs, the strong clash with the value of the mother's autonomy, and a J.J. Thomson-inspired questioning of whether saving a life always trumps other concerns.

My own position, on the other hand, started out more pragmatist. Fetal personhood swayed me only because I had made a conscious decision to avoid, as much as possible, having an opinion on abortion because I found the abortion debate to be hugely unproductive and thus a waste of my energy when I could be actually changing someone's mind on another issue. Given my lack of attention to resolving the existence and weight of fetal personhood, I felt like I might as well err on the side of caution and lean pro-life. Later, however, I realized that I had committed to a strong moral principle -- a form of preference utilitarianism -- that gives a definite standard for personhood*, and I had acquired enough factual information about fetal development that I couldn't honestly claim not to be able to draw the conclusion that abortion is, at least in most cases, morally justifiable.

* I've been meaning to write a longer post about the fact that I actually find the whole Kantian/Christian framing of moral questions in terms of beings who do or do not have "personhood" or some other form of inherent moral value -- and thus the whole "considerability" debate in environmental ethics -- to be a distraction. My reasoning doesn't say "fetuses don't have preferences, therefore fetuses are not moral persons, therefore fetuses don't have inherent value, therefore it's not wrong to kill them." Rather, I cut out the middle-man and say "fetuses don't have preferences, therefore it's not wrong to kill them."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before you read this understand that I was an officer in my state National Abortion and Reproductive rights Action League in the 80's and 90's. I was always considered the most radical in the room and argued Choice as a Civil right to back door the ERA in as I believe women should be a suspect class under the constitution the same as African Americans. I've always likened the argument from the point of the genetic slavery of women since they are being forced to combine their material against their will. So, suffice to say I hope I am wrong.

In light of the Casey decision and the current events of the Democratic Primary this issue may be moot, or at least is pretty close to it.

Casey set the bar of Choice to the technological level upon which a fetus can exist outside the womb. Therefore, according to Casey as soon as an artificial wormb has been created, Roe v. Wade will be contructively overturned.

The Democratic primary caused a division between Choice advocates (motsly white upper class women) and Choice allies: African American pollitcians. In attacking Obama in favor of Hillary, and labeling any Choice supporters of Obama as traitors, the Choice advocates alienated many here-to-fore reliable AA congressmen who were already feeling the heat to change their traditional stance by the newly conservative radicalized black churches within their district. (For the past 20 years the right has been effectively reaching out to poor and working class black churches with no opposition by the more liberal religions) Soon, I suspect you will see normally liberal black congresspersons voting against gay marriage and Choice.

Of course the response might be, well the Choice groups will have to raise money and influence the elections. That will be difficult. Due to the failure of Choice organizations to reach out to women of color in the 80'-90's, pro-choice organizations have a relatively small financial pool to draw on. Also, again due to the aforementioned primary, Women of color have again been informed in no uncertain terms that Feminism does not include them. I fear that in the minds of too many black women this election will go down as the time that white women Feminists revealed their racism ingratitude for African American support and their contempt for African American women. If I am correct, and I hope I am not, you will see more African American women sit out on Choice and Gay marriage.

Now the argument could be made that it was older white women, but they are the ones in power in feminism generally and choice organizations in particular. In times of economic hardship where there already exists a general maliase on the part of young white or black women concerning feminism, what are the odd that young white feminists will organize to take over the Choice institutions and what is the likelyhood their older, more financially able, sisters will relinquish it.

Therefore, in the end, the choice issue has already been constructively decided. The patient, I fear, maybe dead and just does not know it yet.

6:19 AM  

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