On the topic of abortion: Roe V. Wade anniversary

As many of you who know me personally know, I studied philosophy and bioethics at university. My bioethics focus was primarily on feminist issues, primarily those surrounding reproduction issues. You may or may know also know that I worked on the front lines of the debate, walking people through the screaming lunatics that would surround clinics and harass the women attempting to get in for any number of procedures, abortion being a tiny percentage thereof. I stared down more than one lunatic with a weapon, and can’t even begin to count the number of bruises, scrapes and emotional battering I took doing it. It was my belief then, and now, that the job needed to be done, and I refused to turn away when it was a job I could do.

My views about abortion have gone through some changes and modifications over the years, but I still support the right for a woman to make that choice.

Ethically, I have issues with the concept of “personhood”, and how one defines it…and when. In a perfect world, contraception would be foolproof and failproof, rape would never happen, little girls wouldn’t be impregnated by older relatives, and a woman would have complete control over her body.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. And as long as that remains true, every woman has the right to decide when or if she will become a carrier for another being.

There are bigger issues at stake than just the issue of abortion, when abortion is being discussed. At issue is the concept of control and paternalism, and morality. If the state denies women the right to abortion, is the state willing to raise the child? Do we want state creches? Is the state willing to absorb the entire cost of that child, from diapers to daycare, from shoes to university? What legal role does the biological father play? Should there be a
mandated DNA databases so that we can always define who the biological father is? What responsibility does the state have to create and maintain such a database?

How do we determine which life is more important? Currently, women are the ones to bear the primary burden of childbearing. Until our culture changes, then women should have the choice to choose whether or not to make that decision. Here’s where the anti-choice arguments fall down. They offer no solutions for what should be done with unwanted children. They offer no solutions for how women who don’t want to be pregnant should pay for prenatal care, the expense of giving birth, the compensation for risking their lives, or how the child should be dealt with once it’s born.

Antichoice laws make possible laws like the one in Texas that mandate postmortem prenatal ventilation. In Texas, it’s the law that if a pregnant woman is killed, the corpse must be ventilated through the term of her pregnancy. The most egregious of these cases involved a teenage girl who had been raped by her stepfather. She killed herself by hanging. The state kept her ventilated for months until it was clear that the fetus would be unviable. For the record, no fetus has been successfully delivered from an extended postmortem prenatal ventilation.

Basically what these laws say is that a “woman as person” contributes nothing but a uterus to a pregnancy. It devalues women, it devalues personhood, it devalues motherhood.

The fight to keep abortion legal is much more than a fight about abortion. It is a fight about the right of women to control their own destiny, their own bodies, and their own privacy.

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