Please visit the new home of Majikthise at bigthink.com/blogs/focal-point.

« Sunday Sermonette: Betty Friedan | Main | Flux Factory Auction and Gala »

February 05, 2006

Abortion is good

William Saletan and Katha Pollitt are arguing about whether the pro-choice movement should denounce abortion as horrible and icky. Saletan thinks we pro-choicers would make friends with moderates if we reassured them that we hate abortion as much as they do.

I don't care what's strategically advantageous. I don't hate abortion and I refuse to pretend that I do. Abortion is good. So are sex ed and birth control. And the women's health movement has always championed all three.

Those who exhort the pro-choice movement to "do more" to prevent unwanted pregnancy are either uninformed or disingenuous.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c61e653ef00d83471ef6153ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Abortion is good :

Comments

I agree. I've been following the Saletan/Pollitt debate with some interest. I'm glad to see that Pollitt is actually winning on points and is doing a good job of defeating Saletan's assertions.

I think abortion is right in terms of ensuring both the physiological and mental health of women. To dilute that stance by appending an unrealistic "yuk factor" would be to weaken the position.

We all have to hold our ground on this one.

Do you think that the law should in any way account for or protect fetal welfare (which is not synomymous with "prohibit abortion") once such concerns become relevant, developmentally, or do you think such issues are rare and small-scale enough that there is no need for any law on such matters: just individual conscientiousness? Or are such concerns not even morally relevant at all?

I'm heavily influenced by Judith Jarvis Thompson on the abortion issue. IME, a person's right to control their own body is so fundamental that the state never has a right to prevent the abortion of a non-viable fetus.

If the fetus could survive outside the mother's body, then it's fair to say that she has to have a c-section instead of an abortion to get that thing/person out of there. But these cases are better left to medical ethics than to the law.

"Abortion is good."

It is good people have principles so dear they justify losing liberty rather than yield the principles.

"Abortion is good."

Great, just great.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four."

Denying that abortion is good is basically denying reality on some level--if nothing else, you're denying that for women who choose abortion, abortion is good. I've never had a friend who had one for whom it was the wrong decision. Period.

Heh, by that measure, abortion is better than marriage, since half the people who get married come to divorce but the majority of women who get abortions are happy about their decision.

There is nothing wrong or inherently evil about abortion. There never has been. It's a surgical procedure, not an execution.
To take away a person's right to control their own body just because they have a uterus instead of a penis, is inherently wrong, and should be considered as evil.

Those who exhort the pro-choice movement to "do more" to prevent unwanted pregnancy are either uninformed or disingenuous.

Of course, they're not talking about promoting sex ed or birth controll. They're talking about moralizing at girls and women to keep their legs closed. I guess that's what you meant by disingenuous.

I was going to make a cute comparison about whether we should "promote" abortion the same way we do birth controll and sex ed, but I realised that with the exception of condoms (whose use we encourage more to prevent STD transmission, I think) we don't really promote those things so much as desire them to be freely and widely available.

I'll sign that statement:Abortion is good.

Elson, the issues are morally interesting, but to me, not legally interesting. Forcing women to have a c-section at the point of a gun? Or imprisoning the doctors? I have enough faith that those instances where a woman has a third term abortion on questionable grounds will be very very rare.

No restrictions or impediments whatsoever are acceptable. Not even worth discussing.

And incidentally, since viability will forever be approaching conception as technology advance, viability arguments are losers. Drop em. Not relevant.

It's a surgical procedure, not an execution.

Well meaning people will disagree with you on this. That is why we need to convince them that the burden of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term outweighs whatever rights might be ascribed to the fetus.

I'm sure that if we set things up so that men had to share this burden (including a 50/50 chance that they would wind up being the primary caretaker after birth and would go to jail if they screwed up...) we wouldn't have to have this discussion.

Assuming the woman wanted it, an abortion is good for the woman, bad for the fetus. A particular abortion is also probably in some way good or bad for someone or something else. It can get pretty complicated.

I don't find abortion in itself morally problematic at all (though I'm more of a Michael Tooley than a Judith Jarvis Thompson fan, in part becuase JJT doesn't actually argue or claim to show that abortion is not morally problematic). But, even given this, you don't have have to say that abortion, a particular medical procedure, is in itself good. Why? It's a serious medical procedure. Things can go wrong, it doesn't feel great, I'm told, and it can spoil your whole afternoon or whatever. So, of course, I'd rather less people be in the situation that they'd want to have abortions, just as I'd rather fewer people be in the situation that they'd want to have any morally unproblematic but serious and not fun medical procedure. But of course that's exactly Pollit's position. I think that probably more people should have abortions than do- that it would be the reasonably and even the morally preferable thing to do- but it would be even better if these people never got pregnant in the first place. But no one on the pro-choice side denies that.

I'll add that for me the only relevant morality of abortions is that it's good for me if the women I care about can choose abortions if they want.

Why? It's a serious medical procedure. Things can go wrong, it doesn't feel great, I'm told, and it can spoil your whole afternoon or whatever. So, of course, I'd rather less people be in the situation that they'd want to have abortions, just as I'd rather fewer people be in the situation that they'd want to have any morally unproblematic but serious and not fun medical procedure. But of course that's exactly Pollit's position.

Penicillin is good. Nobody wants to take it for the sake of it. It has side effects. It's much better not to get sick in the first place. But nobody's going to conclude that penicillin isn't good just because it's only valuable as a medical solution to a problem.

Medical procedures by their very nature are solutions to problems. If they were the sort of thing we'd do for their own sake, or things we'd do as part of a general healthy lifestyle, they wouldn't be classified as medical.

Nobody thinks that abortion is good for women who want to be pregnant. It's implied that abortion is good for those, and only those, who want it. But that's true for most good things. There are very few things in the world that are simply good for all beings as such. Obviously, abortions don't happen unless women end up in state they didn't want to be in in the first place.

But it's incredibly, nauseatingly hypocritical for people to say that the women's health movement doesn't do enough to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Planned Parenthood and other women's health providers are out there on the front lines every day providing all kinds of health services to help ensure that women have the maximum amount of choice over their reproductive lives.

Lindsay - Please reconsider your stance about c-sections when fetuses become "viable." No woman should be required to undergo a c-section if she's prefer an abortion.

Also, please reconsider your stance about whether a lot what gets called "reproductive health care" actually belongs in the domain of medicine. It's not exactly liberating to be dependent on the good will of licensed professionals whose expertise is irrelevant to the provision of care.

Hi Lindsay,

I hope it's clear that we in fact agree in the section you quote above. My only slight disagreement was one on rhetorical strategy- there are some fools and morons who seem to think that the "pro choice" side thinks abortion _as such_ is good, but of course that's as weird and unreasonable as thinking that having your wisdom teeth out _as such_ is good. Both are good to do if you need them, but no one wants it for its own sake. You'd think that would be obvious, but it's not to some anti-abortion people. So, I thought that it's not bad to spell that out slowly and clearly for those who don't get it.

I agree with BobK about reproductive health, not all of it is medicine. I think the reproductive rights movement is acutely aware that. Hence the fight to get Plan B approved for OTC, the emphasis on peer counselling,the drive for sex ed in public schools, and so on.,,

It is good people have principles so dear they justify losing liberty rather than yield the principles.

It is good people claim certain things are winners and losers based on prejudice rather than evidence.

If the fetus could survive outside the mother's body, then it's fair to say that she has to have a c-section instead of an abortion to get that thing/person out of there. But these cases are better left to medical ethics than to the law.

Why? Viability begins about week 22; D&E is effective through week 25, if I'm not mistaken.

Penicillin is good. Nobody wants to take it for the sake of it. It has side effects. It's much better not to get sick in the first place. But nobody's going to conclude that penicillin isn't good just because it's only valuable as a medical solution to a problem.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

The point about medical procedures being good only as solutions to problems is exactly on the button.

I think the whole viability issue is a red herring, though. A fetus may be viable at 24 weeks, but you're not neceesarily doing the person the fetus will become a favor by delivering then -- babies born that early have a very high risk of serious long term disabilities and medical problems. And then, with the mother unable or unwilling to parent, the baby, if it survived, would presumably be in need of an adoptive home. Talk about an ethical and logistical mess.

"Abortion is good." The liberty right to abortion is indispensable, hence good; whether aborting this or that pregnancy would be good, depends. It does remain our last moral line of defense against adding another actual human being to an overpopulated world, before the potential person becomes an actual one. It is also ugly, even grotesque -- as is any surgery. That no more makes it a social evil than surgery.
As for Jarvis Thompson, her if-you-disconnect-the-concert-violinist-he'll-die argument gives too much away in casting an actual, not a fetal potential person. Whether it should be lawful in the circumstances to disconnect would no doubt be fought out in the courts; whether one should choose to disconnect might be as problematic for many people (ethical egoists excepted.)

Viability arguments are a red herring, no question. I'm just saying that it's possible to imagine a case in which a woman wants to abort a full-term fetus for no reason. These kinds of fantasies are the ticking-timebomb scenarios of bioethics. I'd prefer to leave all abortion decisions between women and their doctors.

"...t's possible to imagine a case in which a woman wants to abort a full-term fetus for no reason." Antichoice people also speak of "trivial reasons" for abortion -- but surely just not wanting to be a mother, the status and whatever responsibilities go with it, is not trivial and some reason? Cf. "You refuse to adopt a child for no reason!"

If there were 100% effective contraception available, we wouldn't need the abortion option so much. However, there is no failsafe contraception available, so abortion must be kept safe and available. And even if there were failsafe contraception, there would still be situations in which abortions might be necessary. It seems to me keeping its value neutral, as opposed to "good" or "bad", is preferable.
But as we all know, we are sailing into waters in which medial personnel, like pharmacists and doctors, are starting to refuse woemn contraception.
I keep thinking there's some kind of atavistic biological thing going on here, with all these hysterical fundies screaming about killing babies. They're even calling it a holocaust, and riling up minority fundies. Last gasp for the right-to-life whites?

Isabelita, we're talking about the real world, not an ideal world, and in the real world, abortion isn't rare and nor is it neutral--it's demonstratably a social good. There needs to be MORE abortion in some places, such as countries where contraceptive use is spotty due to male dominance and lack of preventative health care.

The comments to this entry are closed.